Abiodun walks a tightrope in naming cabinet in Ogun

Prince Dapo Abiodun of Ogun state. Photo/Twitter/dabiodunMFR

Contesting and winning elections may appear to be the easiest part of the governance architecture of a state or country as the Nigerian example shows. While President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to name his cabinet almost two months after being sworn in, many other state governors suffer a similar fate.

The reason is not far-fetched as they are trying to do a delicate balancing act so as to satisfy all parties and groups that helped in winning the election that brought them to office. This is a result of the fear of a possible backlash of aggrieved groups who may hold the aces in the next elections.

Prince Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State seems to be in a similar situation as he grapples with how to carry along all political shades that helped him win the election as he beat the former incumbent, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. He stopped him from installing his godson, Mr. Adekunle Akinlade of Allied People’s Movement (APM). Amosun had based his strange political support for another party on what he said was to ensure “the spirit of fairness, justice, equity, and peace in Ogun” in the March 2 gubernatorial election.

In fact, there are many contending heavyweights that enabled Abiodun to coast home to victory in the last election. And given the nature of Nigerian politics where the winning election is an invitation to sharing in the spoils of office and not necessarily for development, Abiodun and many other governors like him may have found out, quite late in the day, the stark reality of a broad-based coalition for election victory: feasting among the sharks.

It seems Ogun people may yet wait for a little while longer for him to have a cabinet in place. What he has, however, smartly done is to appoint some of his insider men to avoid possible backlash. Secretary to the State Government, Prince Olatokunbo Alabi, is among the smart moves Abiodun has made towards stabilizing the ship of state while he resolves the commissionership tangle.

Among the contending forces in the state that would make selecting his cabinet members a tough call include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is currently the most senior political figure from Ogun State. Osinbajo, alongside other All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwarts, stopped Amuson in his track from having his wish of foisting Akinlade on the party and making him governor.

Although Osinbajo lived and played his politics from Lagos State where he served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice under former governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, he still has a stake and says in what happens in his home state. This is in consonance with the fluid nature of politics in the Southwest, where an individual can operate in two or more states at the same time without the usual state-of-origin query. So, the vice president will certainly have a say in who makes Abiodun’s cabinet. Even if Osinbajo is not keen, those in his camp will want a piece of the political action and not be left out.

A former governor of the state, Chief Segun Osoba, is among the APC stalwarts who stopped Amosun from having his way; they succeeded with Abiodun. He certainly will have a big say in who is in the cabinet. As a two-time governor of the state, Osoba wields huge influence and has strong followership. Viewed also from the perspective of age, Abiodun may be desirous of deferring to him, a situation that may annoy younger elements in the party. How Abiodun relates to the old man may have a tremendous impact on his administration.

Acclaimed national leader of APC, Tinubu, is another strong factor that may be causing unnecessary delay in Abiodun naming his cabinet. The APC strongman worked hard with others to ensure Abiodun’s victorious. Tinubu’s determination to play godfather in the Southwest ensures he has his hand in every political pie in the region. He cast aside his enmity with Chief Segun Osoba to see to Abiodun’s victory. Osoba had angrily left APC for Social Democratic Party (SDP) but would later return to the party to join his former ally Tinubu to thwart Amosun’s move.

Also, Tinubu’s support for Abiodun has its roots in Senator Solomon Adeola’s rested ambition to contest for Ogun governorship in the 2019 election. He had stepped down for Abiodun possibly on the instance of Tinubu’s bidding. Adeola is said to have donated his campaign machinery to Abiodun to ensure his victory. So both Tinubu and Adeola have to make in Abiodun’s cabinet make up.

Another factor that may make Abiodun’s cabinet selection thorny is Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) input in the election of Abiodun.

A former governor of the state, Mr. Gbenga Daniels, had an impact on Abiodun’s electoral fortunes when former Senate President Bukola Saraki was preferred over him as Atiku Abubakar’s campaign organisation. Miffed that he had been so badly treated, Daniels returned home, but instead of continuing to work for his party, pitched his tent with Abiodun. He has had the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) breathing down his neck with corruption charges and possibly saw his chance to return to the centre by working for APC. His party PDP in the state had its own internal, self-canceling crisis that made it easy for him to jump ship.

With APC’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, offering a corruption-cleansing olive branch to any opposition politician willing to join his party, Daniels saw his chance in Abiodun and worked for his victory alongside others. Thus having worked, Daniels would not like to be denied the spoils of office. He could insist on having his own men and women in cabinet positions to justify the risk he took by ‘retiring’ from his party PDP.

There is also the Senator Buruji Kashamu factor in Abiodun’s victory. He is believed to have been a PDP dummy. Kashamu fought a brutal battle for the soul of PDP in Ogun State that stalemated the party in the 2019 elections. Being the lone ranger in the locust days of PDP when the party was a pariah, Kashamu had a sense of entitlement to whatever goodie comes the way of the party. But the national chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, and his henchmen had other ideas and backed Mr. Ladi Adebutu in the parallel state congresses that were held, with Kashamu emerging in the other. The matter went to court.

While PDP insisted on Adebutu, Kashamu’s name was on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) list of candidates for the March 2 election to the dismay of the PDP hierarchy. However, some allege that Kashamu played a spoiler role and weakened PDP’s electoral chances in the state for his friend Abiodun to emerge victoriously.

Kashamu was the first to concede defeat and congratulate Abiodun on his victory, saying, “Yes, it was a struggle against arbitrariness, injustice and the overbearing attitude of some of our (PDP) political actors. We put in our best. But from the outcome of the election, our best was not good enough. May Almighty God take control of the rest.

“On the outcome of the election, it was clear to all that while our opponents were on the field, we spent most of the time going in and out of court because some persons think they could use their wealth to ride roughshod over us. We thank God they did not succeed. We fought like men and contested the election against all odds. While my friend and brother, Prince Dapo Abiodun had the backing of the Federal Government and the political generalissimo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”

Whatever Abiodun does, he already has APM to contend with as stiff opposition to his government. APM has picked holes in Abiodun’s alleged borrowing of N7 billion to pay workers’ salaries. The banking hawks are also hovering, with one already urging him to borrow more as a means of developing the state. From all indications, these may not be rosy times for the prince.

These are the delicate political landmines that Abiodun must navigate as he picks his team to govern Ogun State. But as he grapples with the long list that may have been thrust onto him, he must be careful to take the overall interest of the common people to heart. He must come up with people who will help him fulfill his electioneering promises. That way would his reign receive applause from the ordinary people who voted for him. Pandering only to godfathers is a recipe for average performance, as experience has shown across the country. Abiodun can live to his princely tag by taking a different governance route to endear himself to the people and write his name in gold.

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