By Oladele Ayodele
The Southwest geopolitical zone of the country is noted for its political elitism and clear-cut bearing on national issues. Its people are always, almost unequivocal in the choice of, not only their leaders, but, political parties and voting pattern. A cursory spool-back of political trends from the first republic to the present dispensation reveals a rather peculiar but factual mass movement of the people from one political party to the other as it suits their purposes: the First Republic was an all Action Group (AG) affair – what else with the enormous influence of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his progressive-minded disciples? Despite the national outreach of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the second republic, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) was the party to beat as it maintained its firm grip of the old Western Region in the so-called LOOBO States (Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Bendel and Ondo). M.K.O. Abiola’s Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) controlled the zone in 1992 tinted only with the conspiracy that saw National Republican Convention’s Sir Michael Otedola win in Lagos State. The preference for a specific party continued in 1999 as the Alliance for Democracy (AD) had a clean sweep of the votes while the mutual drift played out in 2003 with resounding victory for the PDP leaving only Lagos State and same in 2007 albeit court cases that reversed some of the electoral results. In 2011, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which later coalesced with other three political parties and metamorphosed into the All Progressive Congress (APC) held sway safe for Ondo State.
The Ondo State scenario was one that proved bookmakers wrong. Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, the incumbent governor of Ondo State was played out of the governorship race by the PDP prior to 2007 election and, confident of his political clout, played a long shot and decided to pitch tent with the Labour Party (LP). Though he ‘lost’ to PDP’s machine in the said election, the Appeal Court later reversed the result and declared him winner. The singular ‘effrontery’ to contest and win on a platform of a rather relatively ‘weak’ party stepped up the Labour Party’s profile not only in Ondo State but other neighbouring States. Also, Gov. Mimiko’s five-star performance which centred on fighting poverty, creating equal opportunities for all strata of the society either rich or poor and targeting the masses for social integration further oiled LP’s machine and the bug for third force party caught on in the neighbouring States especially Ogun State as some politicians used the platform to contest political offices in 2011. This development however tallied with erstwhile calls from concerned citizens for a third force party that will comprise true progressives, checkmate the consuming outlook of the ruling party and deliver quality dividends of democracy.
In preparedness for 2015 election, Ogun LP, desirous of contesting and winning election this time around began the search for a credible and perceptive leader. Its leaders both at the State and National levels were quick to identify the former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel who later agreed to their advances after some months of persuasion. At a stakeholders’ meeting held in Akure on the 15th of January, 2013, the national leadership of the party, led by its Chairman, Chief Dan Nwanyawu, pronounced Otunba Daniel as the leader of the party in the Ogun State urging him to use his consummate leadership qualities to fashion out a sturdy, formidable political bloc that would ensure victory for the LP in 2015. In the words of Chief Nwanyawu, “You can’t throw Otunba Daniel’s eight years of first-rated performance just like that, we are convinced he can do it. If we want to win and not lose election, then he is the perfect choice”.
Expectedly, while his followers who defected to the PPN following unresolved crisis in the wake of 2011 election are still unalloyed in their support, a sizable chunk of the present PDP members in the State who believe he is the one who can do it having handed them victories in 2003 and 2007 are also back in the fold. A break-away faction of the ruling APC members who shared his Afenifere background and disenchanted by the pallid and unfocussed policy thrust of the present administration are coming in in droves as the aboriginal Labour Party members who are also convinced that he possesses the winning formula became politically energised with the coming of the former governor.
Since the pronouncement of Otunba Gbenga Daniel as the leader of the party in Ogun State, there had been unprecedented human traffic flowing in and out of the regal Asoludero Court; while some come in the open daylight, others came at odd hours: A group of youth activists cum social workers spread all over the States submitted themselves as volunteers for the project, emissaries from the states’ workforce, professionals, industrialists, artisans and traders all have been making cagey contacts and sending body languages with the believe that a change is in the making. Recently, the State Vice Chairman of the Party led by its State Deputy Chairman, Comrade Michael Adegbola brought the whole party structure in the State in a solidarity visit to Otunba Daniel describing him as a phenomenal political asset stating that Daniel’s choice as the leader of the party has given the party itself more leverage in the comity of political parties in the State and beyond.
Reminiscent of his entrance into the political arena over a decade ago, Otunba Gbenga Daniel’s swaying aura, enigmatic posture coupled with his outstanding performance while in office have always tilted the political gauge in Ogun State. As he has overtime fitted into the appellation of ‘the issue’ in Ogun politics, political debates have always centred around where he and where he doesn’t belong. As he leads a coalition of three major political opposition with a faction of the ruling party’s against incumbent Governor Ibikunle Amosun, pundits are wise to say it may be a different ball game come 2015.
Ayodele writes from Atan, Ijebu North East Local Government of Ogun State.