When Alao-Akala upped stakes in Oyo governorship race
Former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State, once again, threw his hat into the ring as he formally declared his intention to run for the governorship seat in the state in the 2019 elections. DAPO FALADE writes on the event.
IT is no longer news that a former governor of Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, last Wednesday made public his desire to once again return to his familiar terrain, the Oke Oyinbo Government House, where he once held sway, from 2007 to 2011, governing over and directing the affairs of one of the states in the country, nay the entire Black Africa. The interesting part of his declaration to contest the 2019 governorship election in the state was in view of the fact that he had for quite a while kept his followers and supporters in the dark concerning his plans for the 2019 elections.
For the record purpose, Alao-Akala, an Ogbomoso-born politician, was the governor of Oyo State between 2007 and 2011 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He had earlier served as the state deputy governor between 2003 and 2007. The man, who variously goes by the appellations, Man of Destiny and Oyato Governor, in seeking to fulfill the vision of his wife and his desire to once again govern the state as constitutionally allowed, put his popularity to test at the polls in 2015, this time, on the ticket of the Labour Party (LP).
However, unlike in 2011 when he missed the crown by the whiskers, Alao-Akala came a distant third in the 2015 contest as his immediate predecessor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, came second and the incumbent, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, emerged victorious to become the first person ever in the political history of the state to win a second term (and back-to-back for that matter), thus rightfully earning the synonyms, Pegunrun and Koseleri Governor.
Alao-Akala, a retired top law enforcement officer and renowned grass roots politician, beat a retreat to rue over his electoral losses and re-strategise on his political future. He formally moved to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2017 to become an ally of his once-upon-a-time-political foe, Governor Ajimobi.
Putting an end to several months of speculations on his ambition, Alao-Akala, while addressing a crowd of supporters who gathered at his Bodija, Ibadan residence, said he accepted to, once again, vie for the governorship seat of the state, this time on the ticket of APC. He said his decision was predicated on three reasons namely, pressure from his supporters, groups, including the Akala Support Group and the Destiny Group as well as friends to throw his hat into the ring; after due consultation with members of his immediate family; and after having received a clear mandate from God that he should seek for the votes of the electorate and take over the mantle from the incumbent, Ajimobi, on May 29, 2019.
The public declaration of the intent of the former governor to contest the 2019 election was in response to a Letter of Offer to Contest presented to him by the Akala Support Group at his residence that Wednesday morning. The Destiny Group had at a stakeholders’ meeting, held on March 29, 2019 at the Premier Hotel, Ibadan, impressed it upon him the need to contest the governorship election.
“In the past few months, the political arena has been agog with intense politicking by governorship aspirants to occupy the Agodi Government House. When I had the privilege of occupying that office several years ago, I endeavoured to put smiles on the faces of the people of the pace-setter state with the available resources. I make bold to say emphatically and unequivocally that my laudable accomplishments in virtually all sectors speak volumes and which, without mincing words, had earned me the sobriquet of Oyato Governor
“Patriotic people of Oyo State, for quite some time now, I have been inundated by telephone calls, text messages from well-meaning citizens and subjected to intense pressures by the Destiny Group, corporate bodies, political associates and friends alike to stage a comeback to the governorship seat of our dear state.
“Consequently, with all sense of responsibility and with a view to consolidating and surpassing the achievements recorded so far by Governor Abiola Ajimobi towards making Oyo State better, I, Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, having communed with my creator, the Almighty God, my immediate family and due consultations with the critical stakeholders, do solemnly offer myself to contest for the governorship seat of Oyo State come 2019. So, help me God,” he said.
Chairman of the Akala Support Group, who is also a senatorial aspirant, Dr Fola Akinosun, while urging the party to rally support for Alao-Aakala and ensure that he emerge as the APC flag-bearer, said, “I can boldly say without any fear of contradiction that we have gotten to a stage in development when whoever aspires to the leadership position cannot afford to ride on primordial considerations and esoteric myopia (such as have characterised our body polity until recent times)”.
Various other speakers at the event also stated their reasons on why Alao-Akala should once again vie for the governorship office: Comrade Olu Abiala, a former chairman of the Oyo State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) who described himself as a ‘repentant enemy’ of the former governor said, he was speaking “on behalf of the civil servants in the state, civil societies and over 5,000 supporters who had gathered to appeal to you consider coming back continue the good work.”
Mr Wale Ohu, a leader of the Destiny Group, said it took him and other members of the group a lot of efforts convincing the former governor to re-contest. added that a coalition of different Akala political groups which believe in the ideas and ideals of their principal came together to work under a single umbrella called the Akala Support Group to ensure that the former governor contest governorship election in 2019.
Chief Kazeem Adeyinka, Baale of Foworogun in Ona-Ara Local Government Area, said, We have been pressing it on the former governor, Otunba Alao-Akala, to re-contest in 2019. We started from the first meeting in Premier Hotel. When we did not hear from him, we decided to come here and meet him at home. Our first success was that he permitted us to come and we are here to talk to him. We believe we would have good news that will put smiles on our faces.”
Farmers were not left out as the Iyalode of Oyo State Farmers’ Association, Chief (Mrs) Wunmi Balogun, made reference to Alao-Akala’s initiatives which she said gave the farmers high returns on their produce. Also Chief Agbo Adeyemo, a former chairman of Ibarapa Local Government Area who represented former council chairmen in the state at the event, said the record of the former governor remained unmatched since he left in 2011.
Indeed, by joining the fray, Alao-Akala, who once said he lost the 2011 election to the accident of his place of birth, has upped the stake in the quest for the Oyo APC sole ticket to contest the 2019 governorship election. He would be contesting with other aspirants, most of who are young and largely from Ibadan, the state capital which has the largest voting strength.
Not oblivious of the challenges of age and geographical factors posed to the governorship aspiration of Alao-Akala, Dr Akinosun admonished that Oyo APC should grow beyond the primordial considerations that the governor must always come from a particular part of the state, noting that the people of the state ere no longer interested in the place of origin, but in the qualities of the aspiring governorship candidate, his track record and ability to deliver.
“My personal position is that all the youth aspirants to the office of the governor are qualified, going by their intimidating CVs, but they are mostly new names in grass roots politics. They have the money, but they have not been trained to use it for the masses. Rather, they have waited till now that they have governorship ambition. They could get tire and abandon us halfway if they do not pass through the proper training.” he said.
Alhaji Jimoh Ashiru (popularly known as Jimoh Rewire), a political leader from Sepeteri, Saki East Local Government Area, said Alao-Akala is the best candidate that can ensure victory for APC in the 2019 elections. He enjoined the party leadership not to allow sentiments to becloud their sense of judgment, adding, “The election would have been 60 per cent won with Alao-Akala as the candidate of our great party.”