Oyo 2015: Gladiators in battle of posters

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In this report, DARE ADEKANMBI previews the battle for the control of Oyo State, particularly the governorship polls on February 28, 2015, and the dynamics that may determine the colour of the political firmament in the state.

Fresh ripples have been in the polity with the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the time table for all elections in the country beginning with the governorship battles in Osun and Ekiti states this year. Of keen interest in states is the general governorship election scheduled for February 28, 2015. Consequently, the pronouncement has fast-forwarded horse trading, intrigues, and consultations among political actors, as they go for the broke in the elections. Viewed from the prism of politicians, the year 2014 is crucial as it will show a preview of what will play out in 2015. In Oyo State, therefore, the battle for the control of the political capital of defunct Western Regionbegan on New Year’s day.A visit to Ibadan, the state capital, will leave no one in doubt as to how the land lies ahead of the February 28. As citizens and residents of the state woke up to savour the fresh air of the first day of the year, they were greeted with posters, in strategic places and corners in the metropolis, of would-be governorship aspirants planning to unseat the incumbent government of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

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A dissection of the posters of governorship hopefuls so far released in the state shows that the veterans in the politics of the state are not tired yet and their names have been coming up on the Ouija board. First, it was the posters of the immediate past governor of the state, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, that festooned the state. Contrary to speculations that Alao-Akala was contemplating leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the logo and emblem of the umbrella party were on the posters. The message in the poster read: Ajumobi o kantaanu, eniori ran sini nii seni lore. Loosely translated, the Yoruba proverbial expression means filial connection doesn’t automatically attract favour from kith and kin; it is the destined that shows one favour. Clamour for an Ibadan candidate for the governorship position was one of the factors that cost Alao-Akala re-election in 2011.

Instructive in the expression, is the pun (play on words) on the name of Governor Abiola Ajimobi. The mantra of the administration has been k’Oyo le da, Ajumose gbogbowani o, meaning the transformation of Oyo State is a collective responsibility.

Following was the poster of former governor Rashidi Ladoja which had emblazoned on it the expression, Welcome back to the Government House.

The expression is considered to have laid to rest speculations as to whether Ladoja will run or anoint a candidate for the election. And since its strong showing in the 2011 elections, Accord Party, which was hurriedly introduced into the politics of the state months before the elections, is said to have enjoyed tremendous acceptance across all the districts in the state. The former Oyo governor and national leader of the party has been receiving in, defectors from the ruling APC and the PDP, almost on a monthly basis.

Ladoja and Alao-Akala’s posters revved up political discourse in the state and the two titans had their surging public opinion further soared, prompting those ostensibly sympathetic to the ruling APC to quickly react with a counter-poster containing the images of Ladoja and Alao-Akala and with the expression, 2 wrongs don’t make a right. By this expression was meant that the two former leaders had been tested and tried as governors and should not be re-cycled for the state.

The pro-Ajimobi supporters did not stop at reacting with posters, as they also took to the electronic media, where they laboured not just to launder the image of the governor but also reel out his achievements. In one of the commercials said to have been sponsored by a caretaker chairman, the punning ofAjimobi’s name was portrayed as a misconception of the true meaning of the governor’s name. “Ajimobi is not synonymous with Ajumobi; the former means Ajimobibi i re (One who appreciates well-born-ness) and the latter, filial relationship.

Just when the people of the state and observers of the brickbats thought the war of posters had ended with the reactions of the pro-Ajimobi loyalists, new posters obviously sponsored by pro-Ladoja and pro-Alao-Akala supporters dotted the political landscape of the state on Monday, this week. Images of the three leading gladiators in the race: Ajimobi, Ladoja and Alao-Akala were in the posters. The message being couriered to the people of the state through the instrumentality of the posters was contained in its graphology. Ladoja and Alao-Akala, were placed together on the left side with Ajimobi on the other side. The inscription of the left side images is “Two Good Heads”, while the statement on the other image reads “are better than one.”

The last may not have been heard and read about the poster battle in Oyo ahead next year’s election. What has become obvious in the build up to the race is that the pattern, in the view of pundits, is likely to a follow the 2011 template. Except there is a potent third force that is made of a generation of young Turks on a new state-wide platform, the three main parties that will do battle for the governorship position in the state in 2015 will be PDP, APC and Accord Party.

It will be recalled that Ladoja and Alao-Akala had set up a joint committee of 14 members to explore the possibility of a working relationship in 2015.

The outcome of the committee’s report is still being awaited and this has fuelled speculations that the alliance might have collapsed due to irreconcilable differences over who clinches the most-prized position-governorship post. In recent comments, the gladiators have debunked insinuations that the pact had died naturally. The ruling party has labeled the alliance, the gang up of sparrow and squirrel, questing for undeserved mandate of the people.

From what has been seen so far, issues-based politics has been pushed to the back seat, as it is only personalities that are being X-rayed. This, to some, is a foretaste of what to come in 2015. And to other observers, the 2015 game in Oyo will be “as it was in 2011, so shall it be in 2015,” a reference to the next government of the state being formed through a broad-based coalition as was done against Alao-Akala in 2011.

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