THE announcement, on Wednesday, of Honourable Babatunde Oduyoye as Special Adviser on Strategy and Political Matters to the Oyo State governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, could be described as another chapter in the series of the good news coming from the Pace-Setter State.
The appointment of Oduyoye of the Afenifere and Majerita Hotel fame, came just a day after the successful hosting of a Stakeholders’ Security Summit involving all the six governors of the South-West states by the Oyo State governor in Ibadan, with most observers hailing the host governor for his candid, undisguised position on the need for a united front in tackling insecurity in the region. The appointment, like an icing on the cake of the good news, had also followed the adulations for the governor on how he has been able to keep his promise to workers and pensioners in the state by ensuring the payment of June salaries on the 25th of the month.
For anyone watching the politics of Oyo State closely, especially since March 9, 2019, when an end was put to the misadventure of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state following an eight-year rule characterised by executive arrogance and disdain for the people, there is no doubt that a new set of individuals with Omoluabi culture and good antecedents will be needed to assist Governor Makinde in his task of healing the wounds inflicted by the immediate past administration.
Of a truth, the government of Senator Abiola Ajimobi had inflicted many wounds on the psyche of Oyo State people; from running a government without human face to turning the exalted seat of state governor to a platform to denigrate and run royal fathers, elders, students and others in the state down through unguarded speeches and comments, the state and its people received several blows from the past government. In return, the people pounced on the APC in the last general election in the state, giving their votes to Makinde, a fellow hugely respected for his humility, respect for elders and humaneness as could be seen in his good relationship with people.
Following the recent approval of the House of Assembly for the governor to appoint 12 Special Advisers, Makinde struck his first chord on the guitar of good governance, appointing Hon. Oduyoye, a former House of Representatives member representing Ibadan North-West/Ibadan South-West Federal Constituency between 1999 and 2007. The appointment of Oduyoye, who served as Minority Whip of the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007 has since been hailed as a step in the right direction for the governor and indeed, the state, going by Oduyoye’s antecedents as a political strategist, bridge builder and man for all people.
But those who did not know Babs as Hon. Oduyoye is fondly called in his days as the President of the Students’ Union of the University of Ibadan or during his stint as the Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere when the organisation was troubled by the hawks hell-bent on sabotaging it back then, would not understand the import of his appointment by Governor Makinde. There, will, therefore, be a need to deconstruct Babs for those who never had the opportunity of meeting him, the youths and especially political mischief-makers, who would read one or two meaning to an appointment that should be commended.
With Oduyoye’s appointment as a Special Adviser on Political Matters, Makinde should be commended as being insightful enough to know those he could trust in the task of reclaiming the glory of the state. I doubt if there is any politician of worth in Oyo State, spanning all political divides, that will claim not to know or respect Oduyoye for his humble disposition, respect for plurality of views and ability to build consensus.
The Oduyoye personae began to fascinate me many years back, when after two terms in the House of Representatives and fresh on the back of being actively involved in frustrating the Third Term Agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he refused to join the Senator Bola Tinubu bandwagon that betrayed the Afenifere elders and sabotaged the AD in 2006/2007. Not only did Oduyoye, who used the AD platform to contest the Oyo South senatorial seat in 2007, stay put in the AD with the Yoruba leaders, he refused to join the ‘madness gang’ that former ‘progressives’ in the South-West had become in the name of seeking political relevance.
Apart from refusing to join the fray of self-styled progressives changing parties like diapers in the name of seeking national relevance, Oduyoye, in a fashion atypical of Nigerian politicians, kept his distance from governments, only making strategic interventions once in a while when he felt the need to. But like a statesman that Oduyoye can be said to have become at a young age of 56, he maintained deep connections and relationship with political actors, providing insights on how they could better lead Oyo State and live up to the tenets of good governance encapsulated in Awoism. In this department, Oduyoye kept himself busy and engaged, with his Lister, Ring Road, Ibadan residence turning to a meeting point for politicians with progressive leaning and conservatives with open minds. It was also in this department that the former lawmaker began a drive for a coalition of forces that could challenge and unseat an incumbent governor in the state. From 2007, when he and some other like minds met with then Senator Ajimobi on the need for a coalition against the PDP government of Alao-Akala to 2015, when his advice to key political actors in the state on the need for a coalition against the APC government fell on deaf ears and led to Ajimobi winning his reelection bid with less than 38 per cent of the votes, Babs had always been in background working for a rainbow coalition that can take the wind off the sail of a non-performing government in the state. Eventually, that dream coalition succeeded in bringing about a governor after the people’s heart in Makinde in 2019, with Oduyoye carving a niche for himself as a political strategist and one of the key men behind the curtain in the election, which political scientists describe as ‘a well-planned onslaught against bad governance.’
Like all strategists, Oduyoye had espoused the sound teachings of power dynamics and political engagements, keeping an open mind on issues, allowing a cross-fertilisation of ideas from people across different political party platforms and making friends with a retinue of media practitioners, academics and other professionals with whom he continually engage and run ideas and perspectives through. It will not be out of place to say that no politician in Oyo State could boast of the number of politicians, media professionals and academics in Oduyoye’s circle of friends despite not possessing a fat account to service such friendship after leaving office as most politicians do.
Apart from the former lawmaker’s strategic engagements before the landmark 2019 governorship election in which he came all out, after 12 years of hibernation, to deploy his political artillery in support of Makinde’s aspiration, Oduyoye had played the silent role of a stabiliser in the days before and after the coalition of political parties that birthed the PDP victory in the March 9, 2019 election. Indeed, Oduyoye had guided the AD to support the candidature of Makinde, whose election he described as being a departure from the executive arrogance of the APC government. It is interesting to note that as far back as 2016/2017, Babs had embarked on a personal campaign shopping for a younger element as governor of Oyo State. He was one of the first persons to advocate a generational shift in the politics of Oyo State, ruling himself too old at 54 then, to govern the state. Interestingly, that conviction coupled with the humility and other Omoluabi traits in Makinde had convinced Oduyoye to join hands with others in support of Makinde’s candidature, leading a strong charge in the campaign as a strategist and mobiliser across the state.
It is for these reasons that many who understand the politics of Oyo State describe Oduyoye’s appointment as strategic. In fact, the strategic nature of Oduyoye’s appointment can be better grasped when viewed from the prism of a former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Oyo State, Mr Ojo Adebayo, who has assumed the status of the biggest private critic of the Makinde administration in few weeks. The former commissioner had described Oduyoye as a great manager of men and resources and an Omoluabi to the core, ruling that the APC would need to go back to the drawing board with the appointment of Oduyoye. It is a fact that the folds of those calling themselves progressives in Oyo State politics will take a huge hit with the like Oduyoye finding his way into the PDP government of Makinde. His appointment is also a testimony to the fact that Oyo State under Governor Makinde will not be business as usual, as he has demonstrated his deep commitment to progressive politics through his passion for Yoruba emancipation and the Afenifere cause. The appointment of Oduyoye will, no doubt, be expected to be the first in the series of many progressives that will people the Makinde government and bear attestation to his testimonial as a progressive in PDP.
But Beyond Oduyoye’s appointment being a threat to the opposition in the state, owing to the fact that he understands the terrain and knows the rule of engagements, the Makinde’s government has gained an individual with brilliance, candour and a commitment to service. The governor would have in Oduyoye a loyal individual passionate about the progress of Oyo State. He would get a return on investment in appointing a man who is largely driven by the passion to deliver good governance to the state and with the right set of connections that can be leveraged upon in the interest of the state.
For Oduyoye, the appointment is a call to service and a nudge to remain committed to the progressive ideals for which he has been renowned and respected in the years past.
- Ayandele writes from Saki, Oke-Ogun, Oyo State