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Guber Poll: Misconceptions About Olusola Oke


Since the emergence of the former Attorney General and commissioner for Justice in Ondo State, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, as the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate, the political climate of the state has changed. The chess-game and permutations within the opposition All Progressives have taken a different positions and dimensions.

However, the state's political hemisphere has started witnessing unprecedented heat since the time the Independent National Electoral Commission announced the date of Ondo Governorship poll, but more momentum has been added since the ruling party took a definite position on this impending poll.

The reason for this new twist is not far -fetched. First, Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, hails from Akure, the capital of Ondo state, the most densely populated area with swing votes that can earn PDP victory. This, I think was the most tremulous of all the indices that would shape the outcome of the election, particular to political tacticians within the APC.

Again, talking of personality, Jegede stands tall among his peers. He is a technocrat of note, a renonwed legal practitioner and someone whose name is known to most big shots in the Nigerian politics. It is on this premise that handlers within APC was planning to come up with someone with unimpeachable integrity to march the PDP candidate in all spheres of human endeavour.

Though, I am neither taken aback nor felt confounded by these political intrigues, taking cognizance of the brand of politics we play in Nigeria, an ardent political analyst like myself  could not afford to overlook some of the issues contained in this battle of wit. The one that interests me most was the well publicized theory by some contenders in opposition that one of the APC governorship aspirants, Barr. Olusola Oke is too new in the party to be entrusted with the party's ticket.

Oke, an astute and highly generous politician, with high network across the three senatorial districts of the state and immense national recognition, hailed from Ilaje in the south senatorial district. He joined the party from the PDP after its abysmal failure in the 2015 general elections. He had since joined the myriad of contenders jostling to clinch the APC's ticket.

Political analysis that have been dissected in many of the national dailies lend credence to the fact that some of the old figures cum aspirants in the APC were afraid of the popularity of Oke and this devilish and parochially-inclined theory was quickly propounded to plummet his rising profile by portraying him as someone that cannot be trusted with power, having not spent enough time in the party to test his loyalty.

Though, those harbouring such unwarranted fear have reasons to nurse such bearing in mind the trajectory of the country's political system as regards defections and change of platforms by some governors even after winning elections, of which APC stands as the highest beneficiary.

The APC was consummated through the fusion of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressives Change, All Nigeria's Peoples Party and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance. The role played by President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in this noble and historical political alignment would remain ever indelible in the annals of history. But as lofty and apt as this political move was, the defection of five PDP governors into the party prior to the 2015 general elections further fortified the party and put in good stead to dislodge the PDP. The APC through its former National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed issued series of statements to salute the courage of the governors at that time. They even went ahead and made them the leaders in their respective states, even at the expense of the old members.

My take away from the foregoing scenario has been that the party cannot afford to play double standards under this context. How could some people been given leadership positions at the point of entering into the party while some are being branded as potential traitor and new comers under similar circumstance? Oke coming to APC was akin to that of the five governors and it will not only be a disservice but will be disastrous for the party to treat him unfairly in his quest to clinch the ticket.

I am not oblivious of why the party leadership is taking a second look at Oke's flying the party's flag, the role being played by some PDP defectors at the National Assembly has been seriously disturbing. But this should not be a basis for outright and blanket condemnation of PDP defectors in the party, because Oke represents a modest and decent face of Nigerian politics, who abhors desperation and divided loyalty.

Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry how Oke as the National Legal Adviser told the power that be that the manner through which former Governor Timipre Sylva, who had ruffled feathers with Dr Goodluck Jonathan was unconstitutional and tantamount to abuse of office. With that statement, it could be inferred expressly that Oke can speak truth to power. He could have decided to play the ostrich by playing along with the presidency to amass wealth and juicy positions.

Even as the second most popular politician from the Ondo south, coming closely to the late Olusegun Agagu, Oke ought to have used his connection to get senatorial ticket under former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and  the late Umaru Yar'Adua's regimes. Rather than doing that, he decided to seek modest party position and supported other candidates in the spirit of peace and fairness. If there is any politician in Nigeria that can be trusted, I think Oke is favourably the person and I think the theory was mischievously fabricated to create unnecessary tension and confusion in APC and rob it of victory.

The National leaders of the party, including our revered Asiwaju Tinubu have warned against discrimination in the party. At a time when people were warning the party to guard against accepting PDP defectors, Tinubu came out in unequivocal terms that there is free exit and entry in political parties as guaranteed by the 1999 constitution. Considering this, I don't think Oke had breached any law or committed any political sacrilege to have either defected or sought governorship ticket on the platform of the APC.

The National Chairman of our great party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has told everybody in clear terms that there is no new comer in APC. He said all members, since the point of entry shall enjoy the same privilege like others, which goes a long way to nullify and neutralize whatever effects the theory would have had on Oke's chances in the party's primaries.

The party had displayed its honesty to show that nobody can be alienated in the party. The recognition granted to the present governors of Benue State, Dr Samuel Ortom, Kogi, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and host of other senators who were given tickets after defecting from PDP went a long way to buttress the fact that the party loath discrimination under whatever guise.

Oke joining the APC has been of tremendous advantage to the party. It has been a magnetic force attracting other PDP bigwigs, including Dr Olusegun Mimiko's political allies into the party. The likes of former Presidential Adviser, Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi, Senator Akinyelure and host of others could have said to have drawn their bravery and confidence to joining APC owing to Oke's bold move, having known him as a man who doesn't give to flippancy or take rash decision.

It would be apt and not preposterous for the party leaders to ask those ranting that Oke is a new comer to mention bigwigs their names have attracted into the party, because politics they say, is a game of number.

In the last governorship poll, Oke against all odds came second behind Governor Mimiko. This came at a time when PDP was being treated like a leper in the state coupled with the fact that the incumbent governor's popularity was at its peak. He won in Ilaje-Ese Odo and Okitipupa local governments. This underscored Oke's acceptability and deft political move. A deep pundit could decipher so easily that Oke would go places now that APC has become a darling party which was well accentuated in the outcome of the last general elections in the state. Mimiko's political prowess has also nosedived and as things stand today, Oke remains a candidate to beat.

The APC must be good student of history. It must act in conformity to the popular adage that says if a young person falls, he will look at the front, but an elder will look back and find out  what actually causes the downfall. The party must dissect the reasons that led to its poor outing in the 2013 governorship poll. Part of it had been that it took the most jejune and most naive decision in picking a neophyte like Barrister Rotimi Akeredolu(SAN) to face an old horse like governor Mimiko.

Governor Mimiko had participated in all the elections held in the state since 1999 and had held several key positions like commissioner, Secretary to the State Government, Minister and now a governor, and only an experienced politician like Oke, who understands the dynamics of Ondo politics can march him up in all departments, provided the party stands by him.

The APC in Ondo State is one big family. Political struggle and tussle is as old as the world itself. Scrambling for ticket shouldn't be a basis for people to resort to desperation or throwing of tantrums at perceived opponent. Though, such may be profitable to some, but it will not be in the overall interest of the members, particularly the people who are patiently waiting to align with President Buhari at the centre.

I want to advise the APC aspirants to be cautious and embrace the politics of issues, rather than character assassination. Oke himself once said, “I am ready to support whoever emerges at the primaries because the party is supreme. If the party decides to conduct either primaries or consensus, I will still abide by the outcome. I am a team player and someone who believes and respect party supremacy”. What other things do these people wanted to confirm that Oke is a leader with outstanding characters and generosity of spirit?

A leader doesn't emerge by number of years he has spent on earth or in a system. At every stage in life, leaders will emerge and this is based on consent of the people, because John Locke after the 1866 industrial revolution said: “the power of the crown is determined by its acceptability among its people”. If the APC members in Ondo State decide to pitch their tent with Oke during the primary, I think it will only be tantamount to democracy in action and nothing more.

Even Oke had at various forums diffuse  the fear being entertained that he could dump the APC and return to PDP after winning the poll, saying he is at home with the APC and the performance of President Buhari.

“I think I am too civilized to be nomadic at my age. I can't win election in APC and return with the people's victory to the PDP, a party that is on the brink of collapse with the division and polarization within its ranks. I will remain for APC come rain, come sunshine. If I win this election, I will consolidate the democratic gains for the people, rather than looking the way of returning to a beleaguered party.

“With my experience in politics, political party is just a vehicle to contest election and it won't determine your performance in office. You can only perform well as a governor based on your personal character and not on the basis of your political affiliation”, Oke said.

Written by Dr Joseph Adeola.

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