IN OYO, IT'S BETWEEN AJIMOBI AND AKALA
As the Action Congress of Nigeria in Oyo State begins the process of picking its governorship candidate for the 2011 polls, there is no doubt that Senator Abiola Ajimobi is the man to beat among the motley crowd of aspirants jostling for the party's ticket and a chance to take on the incumbent governor in the state, embattled Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala.
Aside Ajimobi, others of note among the aspirants include Dr. Adebayo Adewusi, a former commissioner in Lagos State during the tenure of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Femi Lanlehin who was a special adviser under Tinubu before his ill-advised defection to Peoples Democratic Party and Mr. Soji Akanbi. Adewusi is dis-advantaged by the fact that his Ibarapa zone commands only three local governments and lack of any serious political structure.
Lanlehin on the other hand is from Ibadan like Ajimobi. But he is generally unknown to the generality of the people. Further more, he does not have any serious political clout, financial muscle or the following that could make him a threat. He appears to rely more on emerging as a compromise candidate in case there is a stalemate.
It has even been suggested that virtually all the aspirants knows that the party ticket is for Ajimobi to pick while they are in the race to negotiate for other positions. That partly explains the low visibility of many of them
Many things are going for Ajimobi. For one, he is the best known of the lot; having been a one-term senator whose achievements in setting up training centres for youths in the state has not gone un-noticed. Both the state's political elite and the masses are predisposed to him and it will be a terrible mistake for the Action Congress to think any other aspirant aside Ajimobi has the wherewithal to confront Akala with his power of incumbency and the massive war chest he now commands. Indeed, it would seem that Action Congress' best chance relies on the progressives staying united rather than staying apart in a pocket of political parties.
Perhaps more important is that he is believed to have won the 2007 governorship election in the state under the aegis of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) before the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) employed federal might to manipulate the election results to rig him out. Till today, many Oyo State indigenes and residents still talk about the injustice that was visited on the amiable senator who took the setback with philosophical calmness.
It is also clear that the senator who single-handedly funded his campaign in 2007 is the only one among the aspirants who has war chest to finance what is likely to be an expensive campaign without having to depend heavily on the party.
Having been on ground since 2007, Ajimobi is the only aspirants with the largest and strongest political structure which cuts across the state. No less important is the fact that the unspoken feelings in the party is that only a candidate from Ibadan and with a Muslim background has the best chance to send Akala packing from Government House, an impression which is not lost on Asiwaju Tinubu who has insisted that the best aspirant must be allowed to emerge as the party's flagbearer in Oyo State and elsewhere
There are observers in Oyo State however who think that the leader of the party in the state and a former governor of the state, Alhaji Lam Adesina may prove a stumbling block to Ajimobi's ambition, a factor which led some of the aspirants to joining the race hoping that they may reap from the feud. Ajimobi and Alhaji Adesina used to be together in AD before Ajimobi moved to ANPP to contest in the 2007 gubernatorial polls.
But it will appear that this problem has been solved by the recent reconciliation of the duo by the leadership of the party led by no other person than Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande whose intervention has since brought back to good health the relationship between Ajimobi who in his secondary school days was a student of Alhaji Adesina. This new rapport explains the frequent visits by Senator Ajimobi to the former governor's Felele, Ibadan residence in recent times.
The party's state leader Alhaji Adesina appears to have realized the inevitability of the fact that only the best of the lot can defeat Akala at 2011 polls when he was said to have told some party chieftains that he was only interested in the best of the aspirants emerging and that he was not going to stop anyone who can give the party the best chance of winning the governorship election.
The city's ancient sources of pride, relished by the entire people of the South West, like the Cocoa House, the cocoa dome, the glamorous Johnson Building, and the sprawling cinemas are vanishing into thinner memories, by the sheer overwhelming rancor, heaps of dirts, the lifelessness of the night life and the overall lack of luster in the city's grim images. The picture is replicated in most parts of the state. Oyo city, one of Africa's oldest empires, also remains a ghost of her princely past. The town's roads are rickety and the city lacks any adoring landmark traceable to the government sitting on top of over five billion naira cash every month.
Yet, the state has recently been put under greater siege by armed robbers, many of who some observers trace to the after effect of the numerous armed gangs employed at every political contest in the state. The two most prominent traditional rulers in the state, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Odulana and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, who presides over one of Africa's oldest dynasties, are at logger heads with the state governor. Recently, the Alaafin alleged grand plans to eliminate him, a plot he traced to the state government. The government however denied the allegation.
Lacking affection of Oyo people who are put off by his pedestrian style of governance, Akala is embattled and vulnerable. But victory for Action Congress of Nigeria in Oyo is not automatic. It is only by picking an electable candidate with a proven political pedigree. Ajimobi is the closest to that in Action Congress. But the greatest mistake the party can make is to pick the wrong person its governorship ticket.
Bolaji Ojewale is a student at the University of Ibadan