With his re-election for a second term in office after a gruelling campaign and a rout that put all his opponents in their place, Governor Seyi Makinde has emerged the new political leader in Oyo State, writes Southwest Bureau Chief BISI OLADELE
Providence, political mastery and destiny have combined to reposition Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde as the new political leader in the state.
When he came as a rookie, throwing his hat in the ring as the candidate for Oyo South Senatorial District under the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) in 2007, little did he know that he would inherit the political leadership crown from the then top players – Rashidi Ladoja and the late Abiola Ajimobi and Adebayo Alao-Akala.
Now, Makinde has taken the crown in the most popular manner after providence made his first tenure as governor witness the demise of two former governors Ajimobi and Alao-Akala. A foremost traditional ruler, who also wielded tremendous political influence Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111, also joined his ancestors within the period, leaving the terrain for only Ladoja.
Ladoja announced his retirement from partisan politics in 2021, with a declaration that his doors were open to politicians from all parties who sought his counsel. The decision projected him as an elder statesman who was a go-to for growing and aspiring politicians for guidance. Governor Makinde, who was the major beneficiary of the coalition which Ladoja coordinated in 2019, continued to defer to him as an elder whose support and advice mattered so well.
But the tide turned two weeks before the March 18 governorship election, when Ladoja reportedly endorsed the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Teslim Folarin. He also called on the people of the state to vote for Folarin in the election.
However, Makinde did not just trounce his well-known opponents in other political parties, but also opponents within his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including Ladoja, who earlier projected himself as a non-aligned force. They were roundly defeated across the length and breath of the state to establish Makinde’s supremacy and popularity.
Hence, for Makinde, his March 18 electoral victory was not just for a second term and defeat of all oppositions, it was a sweet victory over the last man standing above him in the political firmament of Oyo State.
Winning in 31 of the 33 local governments in the state, Makinde polled 563,756 to beat his closest rival, Teslim Folarin of the APC, who scored 256,685 votes. Accord Party candidate Adebayo Adelabu got 38,357 votes.
Makinde’s total votes were up by over 48,135 compared with the 515,621 votes he garnered in 2019. The result, in the era of Bimodal Voter Authentication System (BVAS) which has reduced election manipulation to the bearest minimum, confirmed the general acceptance of Makinde’s governance approach and mastery of the political game.
Now that he towers above every political gladiator in the state, Makinde has naturally stepped into the shoes of the new Oyo State political leader through acceptance and cooperation across political parties.
According to him, the incoming administration which is tagged Omituntun 2.0, is a film that will be a lot better, sweeter and more effective when compared to Omituntun 1.0.
He said: “Right now, I am just overwhelmed. I want to thank the good people of Oyo State for the confidence they have reposed in this administration and my ability to lead them. I also want to say thank you to all my friends and colleagues throughout the country who did one thing or the other for us to support this administration.
“For me, I think the reward for hardwork is more work. So, for this second tenure, we will work harder for the people of Oyo State more than we did in the first tenure.
“Like I said on the campaign trail, Omituntun 2.0 is a film that will be a lot better, sweeter and more effective when compared to Omiuntun 1.0.
“So, I want to say thank you to my leaders, elders, our supporters, who have done really well. This victory is dedicated to God and to the good people of Oyo State…
“We thank God and the people of Oyo State because before the elections, there were many wars. The godfathers, powerful and notable people in the state stood up and merged against us but we told them that we do not have any godfather but that we have God the Father and the people of Oyo State. And now everyone can see that a person with God is the majority…
“We actually had 63 percent of the vote and that is unprecedented. It is just the people. They made up their minds to support us and this almost four years, we have listened to then, we did not come across them as all-knowing. We told the people of Oyo State that we may not be right all the time but we committed to be honest with them all the time. I think it’s just an appreciation of that, that gave us all of this support and success.”
By the time Makinde is sworn-in for a second term in office, he will be the only living two-term governor in the state, coming after his predecessor the late Abiola Ajimobi, who governed the state under the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and APC. With his status, and friendliness with the incoming Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s administration, Makinde’s image will loom large in Oyo State and his influence will be massive.
Reflecting on the situation, the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the PDP, Amb. Taofeek Arapaja, said Makinde’s emergence as the new political leader in the state is divine. He explained that the governor departed from past political culture where governors patronised leaders at the expense of the people, pointing out that Makinde rather stood with the people, hence his emergence was smooth and overwhelming for his opponents.
He said: “Governor Makinde’s emergence is God ordained. When God sends you on an errand, He supports you with all you need to get there. Makinde is a governor that stands by the people. Before now, governors did not want to offend leaders, hence they did their biddings. But Makinde stands by the people, making them happy by providing what makes life better. Some godfathers wanted the election result differently against the wish of the people from who legitimacy is derived. His own style of leadership is collegiate. He listens.”
Arapaja believes that the governor will succeed as the new leader because he always puts the people first.
“We are going to embrace the people. The stakeholders have to be well-managed because politics is a game of number,” he added.
An APC chieftain, Sen . Soji Akanbi, also agrees that Makinde has emerged as the new leader but only of the PDP. He described him as the rave of the moment.
“Yes, he is a new leader because he has retired some politicians; he has emptied them. He is the rave of the moment; he has become the force to reckon with.
“With the two giant parties (PDP and APC), Makinde can only lead the PDP. We in APC will go back to the drawing board and a new leadership will evolve,” Akanbi said.
For Makinde, fortune has pressed on him a new leadership role, and a limitless opportunity to earn a level of greatness most people struggle to achieve without success. How he manages the new role will determine if next generations will remember him for good.
(Culled from The Nation)
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