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THE DIE IS CAST

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The race for Ogun Central senatorial seat has taken a new dimension, as Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Dr. Femi Majekodunmi, Mrs. Titi Oseni-Gomez and incumbent Senator Lanre Tejuoso get set for what promises to be a crucial battle. Correspondent ERNEST NWOKOLO, who has been monitoring the situation, reports.

THE race for Ogun Central senatorial seat has never generated so much interest. The expression of interest of Governor Ibikunle Amosun for the seat has raised the stakes in the battle. But, Dr. Femi Majekodunmi, an aspirant for the seat on the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), has declared that Amosun does not pose any serious threat; as it would be easier to defeat the governor than any of the other aspirants eyeing the seat.

At least, five persons have expressed interest for the seat. On the platform of the APC, there are aspirants: Governor Amosun and the present occupier of the seat, Senator Lanre Tejuoso. The ADC also has two aspirants: Dr. Majekodunmi and former Speaker, Chief (Mrs) Titi Oseni-Gomez. Until recently, Oseni-Gomez was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). She has since switched allegiance to the ADC, which appears to be a formidable platform in the state. Former member of the House of Representatives, Kayode Jelili Amusan of the PDP is also eyeing the seat in 2019.

Time is ticking away. The Ogun Central seat is peculiar and has always been keenly contested among contenders, because of the elites’ influence. This is understandable. The district is socio-culturally and traditionally designated as Egbaland and comprises six local governments. Egba people are culturally delineated into relatively distinct groups such as Ake, Owu, Oke-Ona, Gbagura among others.

Over 100 years ago, the area had existed as a country of its own; with an independent government called Egba United Government (EUG) until the British made it part of Nigeria in 1914. It is peopled by highly enlightened, educated and politically-sophisticated personalities and has had the rare grace of giving Nigeria great sons and daughters like former President Olusegun Obasanjo; head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan; winner of the annulled June 1993 presidential election, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola; Nobel Laurette, Prof. Wole Soyinka; the Ransome-Kutis; among others.

As the area that hosts the administrative capital of Abeokuta, the senatorial district has enjoyed relative numerical advantage over the other districts. All of these set the district apart in more ways than one.

Since 1999, no senator that represented the district has had the chance to return to the Red Chamber of the National Assembly for a second term. The previous senators include are: Femi Okunrounmu, Alliance for Democracy (AD), 1999 to 2003; Senator Ibikunle Amosun, PDP, 2003 to 2007; Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, PDP, 2007 to 2011; Senator Gbenga Obadara, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), 2011 to 2015; and the incumbent Senator Tejuoso, APC, 2015 till date.

Senator Obasanjo, who is a former commissioner and a daughter of former President Obasanjo contested for a second term in 2011, but lost. In fact, she was roundly trounced, even in her wards and polling booth by Obadara. Iyabo Obasanjo is of Owu-Egba extraction.

Obadara, who is from Ake area, also tried to return to the Red Chamber in 2015 on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), but he too was floored by the incumbent Senator Tejuoso. Obadara who hails from Odeda town was until recently plotting to return to the chamber, but appears to have backed down; perhaps after weighing the odds against him.

Senator Tejuoso is of Oke-Ona extraction of Egba and a son of reigning Oba Adedapo Tejuoso. The governor’s ambition to return to the Senate on the platform of the APC had compelled him defect to the PDP. But, he has since retraced his steps.

But, he has not been fully welcomed back to the party, having been initially expelled and lampooned as a disloyal member. He indicated recently that it was President Muhammadu Buhari that advised him to return to the APC.

The medical doctor-turned politician has been in the same party with President Buhari since the time of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and they have both lost elections together three times before winning at the forth trial on the platform of the APC.

It is believed that the President and the lawmaker’s father, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, are close friends. How this would pan out to ensure the success of his second term ambition is a matter of conjecture.

Tejuoso faces a daunting task:  he will have to struggle to wrest the APC ticket from Amosun, who is believed to have used his influence as governor to snatch the ticket, even before the battle begins.

The alternative is for him to seek the ticket of another political platform for the election. But this is unlikely, because he has given his word to President Buhari that he would not leave the APC, as long as the President remains with the party.

Tejuoso is now banking on the fact that the Ogun APC chapter may subject all aspirants for the contest to direct primary, to select the candidate as directed by the National Working Committee (NWC). But, confronting the all-bulldozing Amosun at the primary, if ever any is going to be conducted, is not going to be an easy contest for the Oke-Ona Prince.

He said: “I cannot leave the APC. I will only leave, if President Buhari leaves. When the incident (defection) happened, Mr. President called me and told me he wants me back in the party. What happened is just a misunderstanding within the local political scene (Ogun State) and it has been resolved.

“You know Ogun State is known in Nigeria to be the first in most things. It has been established that for democracy to thrive and to catch up with that of the developed nations, direct primaries is the answer. Since Ogun State is always the first, I am sure my governor will surely support it, because he always wants the best for the state.

“I am sure he will lead and others will follow and we are going to do direct primaries by God’s grace in Ogun State and I am sure my governor will agree. So that everybody in the party can have their say and choose whoever they want. Anybody who offers themselves for an elective position should let the people decide that he or she is competent enough. So, let everybody vote.

“It shouldn’t be a scenario of where few people will just be gathered somewhere and somebody will then tell them what to do. We want a change and that is what our party is preaching. We want direct primaries; we don’t want indirect primaries where some people will be owing some people, because they are the one who helped them achieve the success they have achieved.”

Governor Amosun, probably buoyed by the assurance that he had garnered sufficient political clout over the years, is plotting to break the jinx and make the difference by returning to the Red Chamber, 12 years after he had vacated the Ogun Centra seat.

But, he too faces herculean tasks. As an incumbent whose tenure is drawing to a close,  Amosun, as was the case with  his predecessors in the twilight of their administrations, is experiencing diminishing returns of people’s goodwill.

Besides, he has many battles to fight, such as winning the state for his party in 2019 and successfully installing a successor-governor in Abdulkabir Adekunle Akinlade whose candidature has not been well received across the state. The senatorial battle would be an added burden.

All of these are germane to Amosun’s dream of elongating his political relevance, by ‘retiring to the Senate’ like other governors elsewhere in the country.

Amosun is also busy trying to fine-tune his political structure, to ensure that his successor does not whittle down his influence after he has helped him to climb the ladder of power.

All of these would task Amosun’s skills, resources and even expose all his flanks for possible attacks from political foes and the governor’s political foes have never been in short supply.

Barely a week ago, Amosun had kept political opponents in a protracted guessing game about his next move would be, using subterfuges. But last week he declared for the Ogun Central Senatorial seat. He announced his intention during an APC stakeholders meeting in Abeokuta. He told the gathering that he would purchase the party’s senatorial form and then “test his popularity” in 2019 on the field again with other contestants.

The boastful Amosun seemed to be banking on his strong connection with Abuja, political ruggedness, his achievements in the last seven and half and a huge financial war chest to win all battles in 2019 and become a member of the forthcoming 9th Senate.

But, Majekodunmi (from Ake) who disclosed that his quest for the seat was borne out of the need to be a “strong voice for Egba people and Nigeria” at the Senate in 2019, boasted of defeating Amosun on the field, saying the political momentum in the state has changed and that the change is not on the governor’s favour.

The general medical practitioner and businessman who also doubles as a Director at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), promised  to make a “resounding difference at the Senate and get things done” to improve the lots of his people and Nigerians.

Fielding questions on Amosun’s plan to return to the Senate after completing his tenure as governor in 2019 and the threat such poses to his ambition,  Majekodunmi said it would be easier to confront the governor on the field and floor him than any other candidate.

The Chairman, Kejide Hospitals Ltd, said the political momentum in the state today has shifted, unlike what it used to be yesterday when it was so good on the side of Amosun.

His words: “I will defeat him (Amosun). I will defeat him and there won’t be any bitterness about it. The idea that he wants to go back to the Senate is (now) true, unlike what we hear as rumour about the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) (Taiwo Adeoluwa).

“Whoever it is, be it Amosun, it will be easier to defeat Amosun than any other candidate. The situation with him now is not as good as it used to be. Many are leaving. So, I will defeat him hands down without any bitterness.”

The Bagbile of Egbaland also gave an indication why the people would vote him to represent them and not other aspirants, because with “quality legislations”, which he pledged to champion, if elected on the platform of the ADC, would help address some of the major socioeconomic challenges facing Nigerians.

Majekodunmi lamented the increasing suffering of his people and the rest of Nigerians due to what he described as “corrupt legislation”, lack of good governance, insecurity and misplaced priorities, adding that people-oriented legislations, if put in place and implemented, could reverse the situation.

For Oseni-Gomez (Ake), who happens to be the first and only female Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly (2003 to 2008), said she is in the race for the Senate to serve her people better.

There are indications that the outcome of series of consultations across political circles, associates, leaders, elders and good people of the senatorial district, carried out by the aspirant are prodding her to go on with her ambition.

Oseni-Gomez said she is going to the Senate to use legislative means to “reverse the persistent disappointments in the polity and free the people from the present political system that was built on untruths and propagandas”.

Who finally takes the seat?….Time will definitely tell.

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