In the nation’s polity, nothing compares to having credible leaders that can walk the talk. The advent of the Christian Missionary in Abeokuta in 1842 and by extension, other parts, led by Rev. Thomas Birch Freedom, a Methodist, resulted in the speedy growth and development of the state.
Though the major preoccupation was evangelise and win more souls for Christ, but much emphasis was placed in education and this has made Ogun State a leading light among comity of states. It widens the horizons of the people, a savoury development which made them blaze the trail of excellence in all professional callings.
No wonder, education forms the core investment of the state and it has remained the educational capital of the country that has helped, in no small measure, in producing Ogun State great icons and pioneers (both living and late) who have made their footprints in every sphere of human endeavour.
Among them, namely Mr Alexander Akintola Sapara-Williams (the first Nigerian lawyer), Hon. Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu ( the first Nigerian Judge to sit on the Supreme Court Bench), Sir Adetokunbo Ademola (the first indigenous Chief Judge of Nigeria), Chief Obafemi Awolowo, SAN (the first Nigerian lawyer to head a Regional Government, Chief Simeon Adebo (pioneer Permanent Secretary, Head of Service and Permanent Representative of Nigeria at the United Nations), Prof Wole Soyinka (Black Africa’s first Nobel Laureate), Adeoye Lambo (a one-time Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organisation), Prof Anthony Asiwaju (renowned historian), Chief Joseph Odunjo (foremost author), Professor Afolabi Olabimtan (educationist), Dr Tai Solarin (foremost educationist), Chief Godwin Kolawole Ajayi, SAN (a foremost Legal Luminary) and Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke (first female SAN), etal. Since the creation of Ogun State on February 3, 1976, different administrators, be it military or civilian; have made their marks in the sand of history while contributing significantly to the growth and development of what is now known today as the ‘Gateway State’.
Granted that the military has no business in governance, but its incursion in the nation’s polity has always been seen as an aberration, truncating the smooth running of the day-to-day administration. Following the abatement in military interregnum in 1999 and the usher in, of the Fourth Republic, the assemblage of various bed fellows that fuse into different political platforms, at that time, clearly presented a rehash of the intrigues that often characterised the nation’s home-grown democracy. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP) held sway as the only veritable platforms with national spread, across the six geo-political zones.
In Ogun State, the political development wasn’t worse off, Aremo Olusegun Osoba started on a sound note; initiated and implemented rural development programmes and projects, as his administration’s major thrust of governance and as the only panacea to uplift the people out of penury. As parts of rural development initiatives, electrification of villages, without elements of bias, but cutting across board, made the administration acceptable by all and sundry in a bid to integrate the dwellers into the mainstream of governance. But not long, the administration was short-lived, while the dream became shattered. The administration was thrown out of office, following the outcome of the 2003 general elections which declared Otunba Gbenga Daniel (aka OGD), winner and Osoba couldn’t return for the second term.
OGD made an in-road in fast-tracking growth and development with his welfarist and populist programmes and projects which impacted positively on the lives of the people. He spent eight years (from 2003 to 2011) in the saddle, but his reign wasn’t a smooth sail, without opposition from his arch-rival, Amosun. Amosun, who was a bosom friend while on the same political platform of the PDP with OGD as governor, at the formative stage, couldn’t hide his disdain for the latter.
Despite Amosun being away in Abuja as Senator, who represented Ogun Central at the National Assembly, he was always in Abeokuta to wage war of attrition against his estranged friend. But, in his desperate and subtle bid to clinch the number one seat ticket of the state, Amosun stopped at nothing but to dump the PDP and defect into the All Peoples Party (APP) which subsequently morphed into the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). When his governorship dream couldn’t be realised in the 2007 general elections, he worked and cringed his way into the heart of a former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who later became the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), for a soft-landing.
Through the interventions of the incumbent helmsman (Abiodun), Tinubu and some other notable chieftains of the Action Congress (AC) in 2010, Osoba, who was then, the state leader of the party, was adamant to accept and allow Amosun fly the party’s ticket in order to wrest power from OGD, on account of his antics, boiling down on vindictiveness, penchant for deceitful act, likely insubordination, arrogance, amongst other negative traits. Following several entreaties, Osoba bowed to the popular wishes and demand to allow him, being a strong politician with clout, to slug it out squarely with the anointed godson of, and a successor to OGD, GNI, in the 2011 general elections.
True to type, with the deployment of arsenals, especially financial muscle, at the disposal of the AC, he drubbed the candidate of OGD, Isiaka, who jostled for the governorship ticket on the platform of the People’s Party of Nigeria (PPN). GNI didn’t just lose out, but his emergence, prior to the build-up, was a contention which didn’t go down well with the leaders of the party who frowned at his preferred choice by his godfather (OGD) for the governorship race without their input.
To a large extent, the unsavoury development led to a huge crack within the party’s leadership which subsequently polarised the PDP structure and culminated into the birth of the PPN, the platform on which GNI contested, while Gen. Tunji Olurin (rtd) who had the support of an erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo and other staunch members, ran on the PDP platform.
Having assumed the mantle of leadership, he started out on a sound note, with various developmental projects and programmes which had made many people to believe he had come on a rescue mission as reflected in his administration’s popular slogan, “Mission To Rebuild Ogun State” (MITROS). Worrisome was the next stage that was set in his political career. He unleashed political vendetta on perceived enemies and arrogated the office to himself.
He operated the state like a one-man show. At every elective office during the contest, he had no regards for the leaders and elders of the party, because he unilaterally decided and drew the lists of those he wanted. These ambivalence and maverick stance played itself out when he decided to field his anointed godson (Hon Abdulkabir Adekunle Akinlade) as successor, without recourse to the set party’s guidelines, preparatory to the buildup to the succession processes in mid-2018. Internal democracy wasn’t allowed to take its full course, but subject to a one-man show in determining who took or got what from the polity.
Despite overtures by concerned stakeholders to make the National leadership of the APC intervene and axe him for the brazen display of anti-party activities, he still had his way, because he had taken cover under the Presidency. He played the role of a devil’s advocate in a bid to rock the boat when he entered into a secret alliance with a factional leader of the PDP in the state, Hon. Ladi Adebutu, an Iperu-Remo kinsman of Governor Dapo Abiodun.
Ogbonnikan writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State