Photo caption: Dr Saka Balogun
Ogbomoso North: The way the cookie crumbles – recap of high-powered politics that shoved out Saka Balogun
Dr Saka Balogun, an octogenarian, a veteran politician, with robust experience, having served as Presidential Liaison Officer during the administration of President Sheu Shagari (1979-1983) and as Chief of Staff to Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala (2007-2011), stands out as a prominent leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not only in Ogbomoso but Oyo state as a whole. At the inception of Governor Seyi Makinde administration he was appointed as chairman Elders Advisory Council.
In Ogbomoso socio-economic milieu he occupies an eminent position, his is a voice highly respected and revered, and deferred to.
But last week he suffered a severe pummel in the political ring as his preferred candidate for the chairmanship seat in his local government Ogbomoso North despite his strong push got shoved aside, a development equivalent to humiliation.
Dr Balogun had openly supportedt he incumbent vice chairperson in the local government, Alhaja Adija Oritoke Aremu.
“Rainbow,” as Aremu is fondly called had taken a bold aim at supplanting her boss the chairman Alhaji Akanji Kabiru Ayoade, who desperately sought a second term. The battle became fierce as other leaders and members of the party took sides.
The party chairman Hon George Gbadegesin Ogunlade who was once Leader of the Legislative Arm in the local government also nursed the ambition but he was prevailed upon to step down for Rainbow with a promise he would be made her vice. So, it was a straight fight between Kabiru as the chairman is popularly called, and Rainbow, so it appeared.
Balogun and other leaders like Hon Temi Adibi (chairman of Oyo state Signage Board and a former legislator in the House of Representatives), Hon Jacob Ajao Adejumo (immediate past representative of Ogbomoso federal constituency in the lower chamber of the National Assembly), Chief Akinwole Akinwale (PDP candidate for Oyo North senatorial district in the last general election), Engr Abu Salami (a former House of Reps’ contestant) and so on all queued behind Rainbow determined Kabiru must go.
But they did not carry majority of the party exco members along who ogbomosoinsightonline.com was told were rooting for Kabiru. Alhaji Kareem Gbadegesin a.k.a. Agbeti, the powerful Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Alao-Akala as well as John Oke also known as Legacy who served as member Civil Service Commission in the first tenure of Makinde and aspirant for Ogbomoso federal constituency, also staunchly backed Kabiru.
The ensuing political brinkmanship was brawly. Inescapably “Baba Saka” was drawn into the muddy waters of the selection. Meetings were held in Ilorin capital of Kwara state and elsewhere to perfect the ratification of the choice of Rainbow. The other group was not idle too, scheming endlessly for the emergence of Kabiru and gunning meticulouly for primary election as the last resort.
On Tuesday July 18, the leaders gathered at Balogun’s residence at High School area to approve the candidate. The Kabiru camp sensing the looming shortchange of their candidate mobilized to the venue chanting war songs and in the end disrupted the meeting. They claimed the leaders who formed the bulk of the selection committee were for Rainbow.
Swiftly Saka Balogun re-fixed the meeting venue for his Ibadan residence bent on endorsing Rainbow. The leaders in his camp all hopped into their cars for the assignment. And the deal was sealed. Rainbow was endorsed on Wednesday July 19.
Meanwhile as the shenanigans unfolded the Chief Imam and some others also threw weight behind Kabiru on the premise that in the four other local governments in Ogbomoso zone Christians would emerge as candidates and so the only one remaining where the two aspirants are Muslims, “It must not be a female” even though likewise a Muslim.
Kabiru’s camp widely denigrated the personality of Balogun, they dragged him, called him names. They advised him to take a bow from politics. The aura of reverence round him was brazenly shredded reminiscence of when late Alao-Akala during an interview by The Insight (print version of this medium) in 2020 described him as an “archaic politician” though the former governor later apologized.
It was then the party hierarchy at the state level directed primary elections be held in council areas consensus candidates could not be picked.
This appeared to satisfy the whims of the aspirants. The Kabiru camp had called for primaries. When contacted a day to the scheduled primaries Rainbow said she was ready. Ogunlade the party chairman who had also backtracked to pick the chairmanship nomination form had also told insightonline.com that he was “fully ready for the primary.”
Engr Muftau Open-Salawu, the Babalaje of Ogbomoso, who defected to PDP from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2022 following the alleged imposition of Hon Lamiju Alao-Akala as House of Reps’ candidate for the party in Ogbomoso federal constituency, later showed his hand. Well oiled financially his profile quickly rose as he warmed himself to Governor Makinde. He gradually rose in status being primed for PDP leadership in Ogbomoso North. Less than two weeks ago his name popped up as Executive Assistant on Project Monitoring to the Governor, a post believed will make him have unfettered access to Makinde.
He now upped the stake as he allegedly egged on Ogunlade back into the contest. The erstwhile party chairman had explained he initially wanted to slug it out with Kabiru and Rainbow but shelved the idea when he realized he would have to cough out N1.3m to purchase nomination form and resign his position as party chairman while however denying being propped up to deputize Rainbow.
On Thursday July 20 when primary election was supposed to be held the determination of the fate of the aspirants in Ogbomoso North shifted to an arena where the governor was present. Open-Salawu proposed Ogunlade. Saka Balogun insisted on Rainbow. A hot debate ensued.
Open-Salawu who is Giwa Adinni Musulumi of Oyo state reportedly launched a salvo by arguing that people looked at him as a religious fanatic but “l have several aides who are Christians and l am now supporting a Christian to get the chairmanship ticket.” Balogun nonetheless refused to shift ground adamant it must be Rainbow.
At that point the governor was said to have demanded another Muslim aspirant since Baba Saka and some other party leaders had dismissed Kabiru. “Moreover, it appeared the governor was not enamoured with Rainbow,” a top party source revealed, “because of her alleged closeness to Halleluyah” (Senator Hosea Agboola, a top gun of the party in the state, from Oke-Ogun axis, and a former senator who represented Oyo North.
Makinde who appears to want no powerful chieftain in his sphere probably developed aversion for the choice of Rainbow on the basis of that. This bolstered the chances of Ogunlade and the leadership ascension of Open-Salawu.
No other Muslim aspirant obtained form and sales of form had closed. That drove Balogun into a quandary, he was thrown into dilemma.
Moreover, someone reportedly pointed out to Makinde that over 65% of the candidates from across the 33 local governments already are Muslims “and so if that of Ogbomoso North is a Christian as in other council areas in Ogbomoso zone, if looked at state wide, the Muslims still have an advantage,” for those who care about that.
So, since Balogun group could not present another Muslim aspirant in the face of the rejection of the two leading Muslim aspirants the lot fell on Ogunlade, nay Open-Salawu who stuck to Ogunlade. The governor signed his nomination.
For Baba Saka and his warlords, and Agbeti, Legacy, Kabiru and Rainbow, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.