By Femi OGUNLANA
The battle for the Ogbomoso North/Ogbomoso South/Oriire federal constituency is beginning to take shape with an array of bigwigs lining up to have a shot at the seat especially on the platforms of the two main political parties – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC). The political field is getting agog for the battle ahead which will likely be different from what had been witnessed in the past in terms of the huge financial war chests being deployed in addition to the influence of heavy weights expected behind the scene.
Three main challengers have emerged against the incumbent, Captain Jacob Adejumo Ajao who won on the platform of the former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala-backed Action Democratic Party (ADP) in 2019. There is no doubt that this will be the most keenly contested House of Representatives’ election in Ogbomoso to date. At the party levels, nomination of party candidates will be tricky because these are aspirants loaded with cash and already making their impacts felt in the constituency in a humongous way. In fact, party lords will have an herculean task navigating the enterprise because of the sure tempting offers from the aspirants right from now till when the primaries (or whatever) will be conducted. Moreover, the contest will be open as the influence of godfathers is fast waning in Ogbomoso politics; as an instance in the past the name Akala alone will easily win political contests but for the fact that the old war horse is not likely to contest any elective office in 2023 the political field will be left more open. Akala’s political empire appears tottering (or so it seems) with several former allies deserting his camp for “greener pastures,” though Akala as a person remains a darling of the people but the magic has waned and so, political contestants in Ogbomoso of today are luckier to take the political field in an era not excessively dominated by his influence. Though he still remains the greatest of this generation as far as Ogbomoso politics is concerned it will be foolhardy to suggest that the candidates Akala supports will have an easy ride come 2023, rather they (the candidates) must have high electoral value themselves if they hope to leverage on Akala’s influence. So, Ogbomoso is becoming a no man’s land, reduced of Akala’s dictatorial direction. Perhaps however the “Tiger” of Oyo politics will prove this wrong.
So much for the variables in that regard, now let’s look at the shape of things as they crystallize in the two main political parties – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC). Within the PDP, two major aspirants have shot ahead – Mr. Solomon Akinwale Akinwole and Mr. Femi Onireti; it is not yet clear whether Hon Segun Ogunwuyi who was the party’s flag bearer in 2015 and 2019 winning one and losing one will throw his hat in the ring for the contest again even as he ranks highest among PDP juggernauts from Ogbomoso in the books of Governor Seyi Makinde presently. It is an open secret that Hon. Mulika Akande-Adeola, former Majority Leader in the House of Representatives is having issues with the governor, Engr. Makinde though the state’s helmsman has several times tried to dismiss the claim but their body language points to the contrary. He attended the recent 60th birthday party of Mulika in Ogbomoso but he spent little time at the ceremony and his speech to deny any rift with the woman failed to convince anyone. His input in the birthday party was also said to be inconsequential.
Meanwhile, it is incontrovertible that the two gladiators – Mulika and Ogunwuyi are the two leading light of PDP in Ogbomoso, but while Ogunwuyi enjoys favours from the governor, Mulika has greater influence among party members and so is more firmly rooted in the control of party machineries.
For the APC, Akala holds the levers and as things are, he will determine the aspirant who will become the flag bearer of the party in the contest for the Ogbomoso federal constituency. However, APC is not bustling with House of Reps’ aspirants as at present; only one aspirant is prominent and that is Engr. Muftau Open Salawu. The candidate of the party the last time, Hon Gunju Ojo who lost the election is not likely to vie for the position again, leaving the field in the party to Open Salawu. What is not yet certain however is on which platform the incumbent legislator for the constituency, Hon Jacob Adejumo Ajao, will re-contest, and if he will even re-contest as things seem to be silent on his side.
In the meantime nonetheless, we will take a look at the leading politicians who may vie for the seat come 2023.
Femi Onireti recently berthed in the PDP though he has been hobnobbing with the leaders of the party, especially in Ibadan since towards the last general elections, and contributing money-wise to the electoral victory of Engr. Makinde in 2019 as well as towards the electioneering campaign of some other candidates in Ibadan, where he was based before travelling abroad years ago. Onireti, an international businessman, has been making some impactful strides that are no doubt endearing him to the populace. Only last week Sunday, he donated three boreholes to communities in the three local governments making up the constituency, which won him a lot of acclamations. He has been promoting social welfarism not minding the fact that he never held any political office. Some three months ago, he also staged an empowerment programme, which benefitted scores of people including women, widows, youths and others. Prior this time, he paid hospital bills of patients who were unable to settle their hospital bills at Bowen University Teaching Hospital, BUTH (formerly Baptist Medical Cemtre, BMC), Ogbomoso. He similarly visited the leprosarium in Ogbomoso where he donated food items and other household needs. This is aside his pecuniary assistance to the needy persons. He is so much involved in social intervention programmes to alleviate the plight of the masses. .
Interestingly, he is close to Alhaji Lamidi Mukaila a.k.a. Auxiliary, the Oyo state Motor Park Manager. Auxiliary was one of the guests at the empowerment programme Onireti held the other time slept over in Ogbomoso for Onireti. Onireti said he became an acquaintance of Auxiliary during the last general elections as they supported the same candidates in Ibadan. He is sure making a strong inroad into Ogbomoso’s political terrain even as he integrates himself into the PDP mainstream. He has cash to dispense but he goes about with humility, a dignified approach and simplicity and carries on un-harried. He often says, “It is not do-or-die, if I have my way, all well and good and if not I will carry on.” Meanwhile, he will have Wolekanle to battle for the PDP ticket.
Mr. Solomon Akinwole Akinwale is another strong force vying on the platform of PDP. His wallet is likewise heavily lined and has not been idle as well. Wolekanle, as he is fondly called is the Chief Executive Officer of AA Luxury Suites, Aroje, Ogbomoso and is CEO, Black Edge Consultancy. He is another new entrant into the politics of Ogbomoso and he is dominantly stamping his feet with his brand of politics as well, that is humanitarianism. He was the secretary to Ogbomoso North local government during the short-lived council executives elected during the controversial council election by late Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Shortly after Governor Makinde threw those elected chairmen out Wolekanle defected to PDP from the APC.
His intervention programmes included organizing free JAMB lessons for students and paying for their JAMB forms, financial support to the less privileged and so on. He is also the organizer of the annual Ogbomoso Ajilete Carnival, which commenced last year in which top Fuji acts and other top musicians perform to thrill fun-lovers just as he finances Ogbomoso United Football Club which recently played in the final of the Olubadan Cup against 3SC. Wolekanle is racking up influence in the political circle as well as among the common people. After he joined the state’s ruling party (which he probably pitched tent with to avoid going head to head with Open Salawu within APC), he was on the move conversing with leaders of the party across the state. The Wolekanle brand is penetrating the hearts of the people and is being entrenched as a powerful bloc within PDP. He is a formidable opponent to any aspirant and his rivals will surely sweat to go against him. .
Nevertheless, he is being associated with thuggery and hooliganism, which is giving him a negative image as a proponent of the politics of yesteryears. This is an area he needs to work on, to wean himself of the uncharitable tag to change his wrong perception in the minds of the people.
Muftau Open Salawu is becoming a household name in Ogbomoso politics. He is currently the leading contender in the APC and against any interparty opponent, he is capable of deploying an enormous financial war chest. His business interests cover many sectors of the economy: hospitality, real estate etc. In Ogbomoso, he is the owner of Destination Luxury Hotel and is said to be gearing up to commission a 200-room hotel in Abuja next year, he has a big estate in Lagos; these are just few of his areas of businesses. He first reached public consciousness as a politician in Ogbomoso towards the 2019 general elections when he showed interest in the House of Reps’ election on the platform of APC, but he was persuaded to leave the stage for Gunju Ojo, then Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly who eventually lost to ADP candidate, Adejumo Ajao. But Open Salawu’s failure to clinch APC ticket did not deter him, and he did not refrain from supporting the party’s candidate, he contributed financially to the campaign of Gunju Ojo making huge cash donations and supplying about 1,000 campaign fez caps believing his time would come. Now, he sees his time coming, in 2023, and so, he never relented, he continues to touch lives with eleemosynary deeds.
He last week, on the day Onireti was commissioning boreholes, awarded scholarships to students of secondary schools which would take the beneficiaries through higher institutions; twenty-one JSS 1 students were beneficiaries! That same day he sponsored a religious programme at Olokoto in Oriire local government where Buhari Omo Musa, a popular cleric from Ilorin ministered. As his business interest is extensive so is his philanthropic activities. He has ingratiated himself with the leaders of APC in Ogbomoso particularly with the former governor of Oyo state, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala and barring any last minute twist of event he will be the candidate of Akala in 2023, according to findings. With the support he could garner if his candidature sails with other topnotch leaders of the party in the constituency he will be the candidate to beat. Another boost to his candidature is the promised support from Gunju Ojo. But how deep the progressivism advocated by APC sits well with Ogbomoso people is another factor that will play out in the contest.
JACOB ADEJUMO AJAO
Jacob Adejumo Ajao, the incumbent legislator representing the constituency is neither here nor there. Feelers from Alao-Akala’s camp point out that he is estranged from the former governor putting his position at risk. In 2019, he won on the platform of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), the party Alao-Akala defected to after failing to notch up the ticket of the APC. Ajao was picked as the candidate of ADP and with the full support of Akala he triumphed in the election even though Akala shortly before the governorship election returned to APC but without compromising ADP candidates in other elections. As at today however, the question is yet to be settled – where does Ajao belong? ADP or APC? His godfather is the leader of APC in the state, will he feather the interest of ADP or APC in the 2023 elections? APC is not ADP! In ADP he was alpha and omega but APC is a different ballgame, it is a bigger, more complex establishment with several other powerful interests. Up till this moment, there is no record of Ajao defecting officially to APC, he is ensconced in ADP. It is a puzzle that needs to be solved to know how his game will play out in 2023. If he re-contests on the platform of ADP, he can’t make any headway, will he be stranded? He needs to make a bold move before it is too late.
However, in terms of dividends of democracy, things seem silent on his end, he is into his 19th month as federal legislator, he has not staged any empowerment programme, at least that is the major yardstick by which we determine the performance of our legislators as at today, how large is the empowerment programme, but Captain Ajao is yet to unfold any, there are similarly no records of his facilitating projects to his constituency and generally, he is seen as dodging his constituents perhaps due to excessive pecuniary demands. He is incommunicado! Though he has been unrelenting in his drive to make roads motorable, he continues to rehabilitate intra-community roads, projects he embarks upon with the grader he provided prior his election, a feat never performed by an individual in this clime until his arrival on the scene. But people want action from him and this is the plank on which his 2023 adventure will depend.
OLAMIJUWONLO ALAO, BARRISTER BANKOLE, JOHN OKE AND OTHERS
Olamijuwon Alao, the scion of Alao-Akala dynasty has also been rumoured to be eyeing the coveted position towards the 2019 contest. He has served as interim and executive chairman of Ogbomoso
North local government during the tenure of late Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
However, Lamiju as he is popularly called by the people has not been able to carve a niche for himself and so is relying sole on his father’s goodwill to make progress in politics and neither does he have a structure of his own nor builds a goodwill of his own. He is not known to be involved in eleemosynary activities or social intervention programmes to worm himself into the hearts of the people. Should he win the ticket of the APC it would be seen as being imposed by his illustrious father and that may further alienate supporters from the Bobajiroro of Ogbomosoland. That is why Lamiju remains an outsider in the race to clinching the slot for Ogbomoso federal constituency.
Barrister Adekunle Bankole, son of Chief Johnson Adebayo Bankole, the greatest politician to have come out of Oriire local government, arguably, has also served as chairman in Oriire local government, where he made some impact.
But he has carved his own path in politics coming out of the shadows of his father and through some welfare programmes he has been connecting himself with the electorate. Of the PDP, he is said to have the ears of Mulika Akande-Adeola but the former Majority Leader cannot singlehandedly decide who wraps up the PDP ticket for the position and it is a fact that Barrister Adekunle cannot mobilize the kind of resources at the disposal of some other aspirants in the party. But the dynamics may change more so when his council has never produced a federal legislator and politicians there are seriously clamouring for the slot.
Mr. John Abisoye Adisa-Oke also a member of the PDP from Ogbomoso North is a board member of the Best Legacy College of Education, Ogbomoso, established by his late father Isaiah Abisara Oke in 2002, who also vied unsuccessfully for the slot of legislator to represent the constituency.
John Oke, a Lagos-based business man is currently a member of the Oyo state Local Government Service Commission. Used to be very close to Mulika but he has joined the Senator Hosea Agboola group and that may affect his chances in Ogbomoso. He has awarded scholarships to students in the past but whether he can get the PDP ticket remains to be seen.
Those are the men jostling for the Ogbomoso federal constituency seat come 2023, their individual’s pedigrees point to the fact that a titanic and exciting battle looms.