ADEBAYO WAHEED examines the issues surrounding the gubernatorial ambition of the Minister of Communication, Barr. Abdul Raheem Adebayo Shittu, and his chances of becoming the next governor of Oyo State.
Ahead of the 2019 governorship election in Oyo state, contenders for the plum seat in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have commenced underground moves. This is to ensure that they emerge victorious in their quest to succeed the incumbent governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, whose second term expires on May 29, 2019.
It was gathered that no fewer than 34 members of the ruling party have indicated their interest in the coveted seat, but only 10 of them had showed up at the party secretariat to declare their intentions. However, the party has narrowed the very long list down to top seven candidates. Although, some of them have not publicly declared their interest, it is believed they have strong interest and can be highly favoured because of their antecedents and age.
They are Zaccheus Adelabu, 40, an accountant and former Commissioner for Finance; Bimbo Adekanmbi, 43, an accountant, a former Deputy Chief of Staff and currently the Commissioner for Finance and Adebayo Adelabu, 47, former First Bank CEO and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
Others are Adeolu Akande, 52, a Professor of Political Science; former Deputy Chief Press Secretary to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Special Assistant Research and Communication to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Chief of Staff to Governor Ajimobi; Yinus Akintunde, 54, a business man with keen interest in real estate, energy and environmental consulting, who was a former Commissioner for Works and Transport to Governor Ajimobi; Niyi Akintola, 57, a lawyer and former Deputy Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly and Barrister Abdul Raheem Adebayo Shittu, 65, a lawyer and former member of old Oyo House of Assembly.
Shittu was also a Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs under Governor Omololu Oluloyo; Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General to former Governor Rashidi Ladoja and currently, the Minister for Communication.
He is expected to publicly declare his governorship ambition in the first week of September.
The 2019 governorship election in the state is taking a new form as the the coveted seat has been zoned to Oke-Ogun area of the state. It is expected that the area, Oyo North, which comprises of 10 local government areas will produce the next governor of the state.
A look at the leadership of the state since the advent of the current democratic dispensation showed that Oyo South has produced more governors of the state than any other zone.
However, as the 2019 election approaches, the major contenders for the governorship seat from the zone include former governor, Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala; a former editor of the Guardian newspapers, Debo Adesina; a former Chief of Staff to Governor Ajimobi, Prof. Adeolu Akande among others, who are yet to publicly declare their intentions to contest.
But already, the APC ticket has continued to breed crises and as a result of the crises, some of the aspirants from Oke Ogun area are now dumping the APC for another political partyies.
The situation took a new dimension when Governor Ajimobi supported the agitation of the Oyo North senatorial district also referred to as Oke Ogun axis of the state for the governorship seat in 2019.
Like in every other states of the federation, there is already a gentleman agreement for the rotation of the governorship seat among the three zones and it was against this background that Oke Ogun is staking claim to the seat, insisting that it is their turn to produce the next governor of the state.
Governor Ajimobi had during a programme at Okeho in Kajola Local Government Area, publicly declared his readiness to support the zone to produce the next governor. He, however added that the Oke Ogun zone should solicit the support of the other two zones, especially the Ibadan people whose population was put at 52 per cent of the state population.
Of the seven aspirants allegedly listed by the APC for the race, though, all of them are qualified, but one can say that the present Minister of Communications is more qualified for the plum job, but his relationship with the governor and the leadership of the party in the state left more to be desired.
What is the measure for qualification? Is it education, age, experience, acceptability or fresh ideas? Is it about how to bring about a new Oyo State? All of them are qualified, but the believef is that Shittu is the only candidate to beat.
In regard to experience, he is the only aspirant who has been a member of the state House of Assembly before, who has on two occasions been a commissioner, who has contested for this position twice in 2011 and 2015 and the minister from Oyo State.
No other candidate combines all these critical positions. And these positions are about experience.
Considering his credentials, some political observers believed that he is qualified for the job, while others did not see him being nominated by the party or the governor because of his antagonist posture.
They believed that it was only the presidency that can make his governorship ambition a reality.
The minister has not been in good terms with the party leadership and the governor due to his hard postures on government activities.
His roles during and after the conduct of the local government election and party ward and state congresses was not in the best interest of the party.
Though, Shittu rejected the outcome of the exercises, the damage had been done, as he cannot boast of having candidates at party executives at ward and state levels.
Also, his petition to the national leadership of the party over the conduct of the local government election and congresses and the alleged excesses of the state governor was described as an aberration.
As a result, it was rumoured that the minister had joined a sinister group within the party, Unity Forum, whose members have defected to African Democratic Congress, ADC, a development which he denied.
For some times now, both the governor have been at each other’s jugular, struggling for the control of the soul of the ruling party in the state.
Interestingly, Governor Ajimobi is a senior brother to the minister. Shittu’s relationship with the governor’s family did not start with him; it started with Ajimobi’s most respectable father, who was like a father to the minister. They were both members of the Oyo State House of Assembly at the same time and because of that history; one will expect that their relationship could be better than it is.
Apart from having been a colleague to his father, Pa Gani Ajimobi, the minister happens to be oldest political actor in the state, in terms of years of political practice.
He started politics around 1978, while he was still a student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun Stste.
As at that time, the minister was in court, holding meetings together with late Pa Obafemi Awolowo and those meetings included committee of friends, which later became the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.
As young as he was, just a little above 20, he participated in the writing and formulation of the policy papers of the UPN, which became the four cardinal points of the UPN. And consistently since then, he has been in politics, as a matter of fact, because he has consistently been in politics since then, it affected his legal practice, because he considered politics as the noblest profession that anybody can engage in.
In 2007, when Rashidi Ladoja was governor of Oyo State, he was at a time an Attorney General of Oyo State. It was during that time that Governor Ajimobi contested for the governorship of the state.
By the time Ajimobi was contesting, and because Chief Ladoja, was not given the ticket to contest under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ladoja gave Ajimobi all the support of his people, because he announced publicly that everybody should vote for Ajimobi, and people massively voted for him. That was his first outing and he was voted for massively by the grace of Ladoja at that time.
When he lost, Ladoja said that as the Attorney General of the state, Shittu should set up a legal team that will fight for Ajimobi, who obviously had been robbed.
Shittu set up a legal team, and appointed Niyi Akintola, SAN, to handle the case. N25 million was paid to assist Ajimobi in his case, despite the fact that he had contested under the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and the minister was in PDP, for everyday that the case comes up in court, he always personally appeared in court to assist Akintola in the case.
From the tribunal, they moved on to the Court of Appeal. Again, the minister was always in the court to give support, and solidarity again. Unfortunately, despite these supports and sacrifices, Ajimiobi lost at the Appeal Tribunal.
According to Shittu, all that transpired then “made us to become friendlier”, thereafter they remained friends, till 2011, when President Muhammadu Buhari founded the defunct Congress for Progressives Change, CPC.
While Shittu became the governorship candidates of the CPC, Ajimobi was the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. They contested together and that was the point of division, when things started going asunder.
Ajimobi won that election clearl,y and the minister went to his house to congratulate him.
Shittu once said, “The pact that we had at the meeting when we were establishing APC was that all parties were to contribute membership into the exco of APC in all the wards of the state, but he used some kind of machinery to deny us and the CPC bloc didn’t have any input in the formation of the executive.
“Of course, a few people who joined his team or group were given very juicy positions, but, I as leader of the CPC was not given a hearing; he did that to secure for himself an overwhelming support at the primary.
“When he eventually was said to have emerged, I challenge his emergence, in court as the candidate of APC on the basis of the faulty position or formation of the APC exco, that became the delegates for the primary election.
“I was still in court when my nomination as a minister was announced. Ordinarily, you would have expected him to be happy, because that would have saved him from the headache of court case on his neck, but unfortunately, instead of him being happy about it, he launched an attack against me, that he will make sure that I was not confirmed by the Senate.
“He also went to Mr. President to persuade him not to use me as his minister, saying that I, Adebayo Shittu, did not work for the APC in the 2015 election, that I only worked for Buhari.
“And this was the election that I was the chief collation officer for the APC in my local government area.
“Eventually, I became a minister, and ever since then, as the only minister from the state, I automatically become a senior person/officer of the party, but I have never for once been invited for any political meeting in the state. And I was excluded from all meetings.
“Of course, when I was eventually confirmed as a minister, I went to him to extend my olive branch, and he asked me if I would love to live in the Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, but I said no, I have an apartment somewhere that I will like to make use of and what remains for me is the rent fee and he said how much and I said N8 million and he said as soon as he can raise the money, he will let me know, and I thank him so much and left.
“And before he could send that money, a legal adviser, who is my junior brother by name Niyi Raji, from Iseyin had paid the money and also furnished the house for me. Later it was Alhaji Yunis Akintunde who said the governor has given him the money, and I said ‘Yunis, the house had been paid for already, but I have some books that I want to publish, am an author, I said I have seven books that I want to publish, I said you know the printer is your brother go and help me send the money into his account so he can published the books for me’.
“I appreciated him, and later along the line I started hearing different kind of stories that he cannot support me for governorship, that if I become the governor he will be in jail, I never told anybody that that will happen.”
Shittu said that when the reconciliation committee of the APC was taking too long to work in Oyo State, he initiated a reconciliation committee to meet him in Government Lodge in Abuja.
He said, “When I got there he was not around, I called him to tell him that I came, but he said he was coming then he invited Teslim, Hon. Segun from Ogbomoso, Odebunmi and this Oyo man, Kamil, so they were all there and I said ‘governor, the said allegation that you heard about me, say it to my face now where you got it from, so probably I may challenge the person’. I said by my nature, I don’t poke nose, I don’t maltreat people.
“I said, ‘my governor, don’t listen to “won ni won pe” (dem say)’ and he said there is no more fight that I should go and tell my people that there is no more fight, that we have reconciled, and we left in a peaceful and conducive atmosphere. Three days later, I called to thank him, for that meeting.”
Another bone of contention between the duo was the conduct of local government elections, ward and state congresses of the party.
Shittu said at the dusk of his leaving office, “he is now desperate to organise local government elections and even as against all the democratic principles, then it becomes an issue, I have always criticised him; you could recalled sometime last year, the APC state exco announced that the people who are interested in contesting local government elections, should come forward to buy forms, and that a day should be fixed for the primaries.
“But, he insisted that there cannot be primaries, that he will have to choose who represents the party and I will always challenge him, that that it’s not proper and not democratic to be using the process of choosing the candidates.” Recently, the minister said that APC will die in Oyo State if he was not given the governorship ticket. He said this while reviewing the status of the APC in the state vis-a-vis its internal wrangling, and concluded that the party would lose next year’s gubernatorial election in the state should he be denied the party’s ticket.
According to him, a ray of hope for the election was brighter if he secured the party’s ticket for the 2019 gubernatorial election, especially as his members, who had defected to the African Democratic Congress (ADC), would return to the party, but anything to the contrary would spell doom for the party.
The Saki, Oke Ogun-born lawyer and former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General emphasised that Governor Ajimobi had messed up those of them in the “Unity Forum” group up in the last party congresses, reason he went to court to seek redress, while many others justifiably defected to the ADC.
He said: “I concede to the fact that those who left for ADC had good reasons to do so, particularly because when the then leadership of the party messed us up as members of the “Unity Forum” then, one expected the leadership of the party to take a proactive step of bringing all of us together and discuss with us. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
“So, those who left had good reasons to leave because of the clear injustices that were meted out to us. A lot of the people who left were members of the House of Assembly and the National Assembly. They still have aspirations and with what happened at that time, it seemed as if they were at the end of the road.
“Of course, I too have my ambition, but I believe as a strong fighter who will not run from fighting, I believe in fighting for justice within the system, and that was what took me to court to fight for justice. So, I am still a member of the party and I will remain a member of the party under President Muhammadu Buhari.
“And I am very confident that I and others, who remain, will triumph. I cannot but assure you that once I get the ticket of the party for the governorship election, all these members who have left will certainly come back into the APC fold. And I think that I can conclude with all sense of responsibility and humility that as the APC stands today, I am the only aspirant who can win for APC, the state of Oyo in the general election.
“I can assure you that if I am able to get the ticket of the party, like I have told our leaders, APC in Oyo State has only two options: either I get the ticket, and since I enjoy the confidence of the generality of our people in Oyo State, I will be able to win Oyo State for the party. The only other option, I will say, although, I stand to be corrected, by the election result when it comes, is that if I don’t get the ticket, then APC can forget about Oyo State.”
But in a swift reaction, a political pressure group within the APC in the state, the Pathfinder, kicked against the comment credited to the minister that APC will lose Oyo State governorship election if he is not given the ticket in 2019, describing his utterance “as rather unfortunate and quite unbecoming of a committed party man”.
The group’s Public Relations Officer, Akeem Agbaje, while asking the mMinister to honourably resign”, stressed that the statement was an indication that the “minister is not fit to occupy the seat of a serving minister in an APC-led government .
He said, “It is rather barbaric and uncouth for a man presently serving as a m on the platform of our great party APC, enjoying the b of the Pparty and still throw stones at the glass house.
Mr Adebayo Shittu should stop playing God. He should be made to face the music.”
The Pathfinder called on the minister to “honourably tender his resignation letter with immediate effect, since he has publicly declared war against the party that made him”, adding that his statement has tagged him a mole and he is no longer to be trusted.
It also called on the Presidency and the President to watch out for the mole within and ensure that Shittu is sacked in the best interest of the party.
The group added, “We know Mr Adebayo Shittu is one leg in and one leg out of the APC, his affiliation with an eaglet political party, African Democratic Congress is already public knowledge which is the major reason why he wants to discredit the credibility of our great party, to pave way for his blind ambition, but we are determined to nip his dubious actions in the bud.”
Though, President Buhari hads approved the leave of absence for the minister to contest the governorship election in Oyo State during the 2019 gubernatorial election, but his chances of getting the party’s ticket is slim unless there is miracle.
The President who received Barrister Adebayo Shittu’s letter notifying him of his intentions to contest governorship election in Oyo State in the forthcoming 2019 general election reminded him of his stand to conduct free, fair and credible election in 2019.
Buhari thanked the minister for his service under his administration and his contributions to the party during and after the 2015 Election.
He wished him well in his ambition to become governor of Oyo State, assuring him that all the security agencies and INEC will have his full support to conduct free, fair and transparency elections come 2019.
The letter reads in part, “As you are aware, I am committed to free and fair elections. Our policy is to support all the APC candidates. I wish you well to be governor of your state. Be rest assured that INEC and all the security agencies will have my full support to conduct free, fair and transparent election in 2019.”
But with or without the Presidency’s support, it may not be easy for Shittu to clinch the party’s ticket in the state, but whichever way the pendulum swings, the minister has vowed not to the leave the party.
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