By Femi Ogbonnikan
The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the forthcoming general election in Ogun State, Oladipupo Adebutu, is not the kind of candidate one would like to take seriously for whatever the motivation of his ambition to govern the state.
Although he has cleared some of the legal hurdles before him, his campaign message to the electorate who will probably queue behind him in the March 11, 2023 gubernatorial election is not resonating. Instead of presenting a well-articulated programme of action for the state’s economy, education, agriculture, industry, healthcare delivery, infrastructure, and human capital development that could pass the test of time as an alternative to the agenda of the present administration of Governor Dapo Abiodun, what we have largely witnessed since the beginning of campaign activities is his penchant for brick-batting and unnecessary vituperation.
In his latest sabre ranting, Adebutu called for the conduct of a drug test for all aspiring public officeholders. A very nice suggestion at that. But when propped further if he could genuinely beat his chest that he would pass the test, he developed cold feet, saying “I don’t drink heavily but I am not a Pope.”
What a funny answer? The fact is, if you have what it takes to govern, you do not need to be a Pope to lead. No. Being a Pope and a good administrator is not the same thing. They are two different callings entirely. One is focused on the terrestrial world, while the other is a whole life spiritual journey. In other words, politics is of the earthly world. And to play politics of development, what is simply required to lead is a track record of performance, requisite knowledge, a clear understanding of the ethos of good governance, integrity, good character, presence of mind, and the capacity to galvanize the stakeholders to achieve a common objective for the good of all. These are eternal rules for the delivery of electoral promises. Unfortunately, on all of these fronts, Adebutu has failed the first litmus test comprehensively.
We all know the outrage that trailed the leakage of the document detailing the terms and conditions attached to the secret power-sharing formula he signed with his running mate, Hon Adekunle AbdulKabir Akinlade. By that questionable act, the fate of the two candidates in this coming poll has been sealed and delivered pronto, for the electorate already know far ahead of the election who is worthy of their votes.
By any stretch of the imagination, Ogun is not one of the states where any individual or a collective group can hoodwink the people. For being so desperate to the point of sharing the common patrimony of the people even when they have not earned their mandate, they have clearly shown that they cannot be trusted with public office.
For so long, cronyism and rent-seeking have been an integral part of our national politics. But the enlightened people of Ogun State have collectively resolved to change the old narrative.
Recently, Adebutu was overheard pontificating on who to vote and not to vote for. However, in his latest exposé, he deliberately omitted drunkenness as one of the hallmarks of irresponsible behaviour that is underserving of a good leader. Let nobody make mistake about it, under the influence of alcohol, the unthinkable can happen. But trust the Ogun State people, they cannot trivialize the serious business of governance to the point of electing somebody who does not have the full presence of mind to manage the affairs of the state.
At whatever level, governance is a serious business. It is not a tea-party affair. That was the point Governor Abiodun was trying to stress in his recent public outings held in Sagamu and Ewekoro local government areas of the state, stating that the Oke-Mosan governor’s office is not a “beer parlour”. It is certainly not, and it cannot be.
And rightly so, because in corporate governance, responsibility, accountability, openness, transparency, and self-discipline are essential elements of good administration. For being who he is, all of these virtues are already encompassed in the Building Our Future Together mantra of the Abiodun administration.
This, he had demonstrated, in different areas of infrastructure, agro-allied industry, affordable housing, provision of accessible healthcare delivery, social welfare scheme for the vulnerable, human capital development, youth empowerment, job creation, land reform as well as the socioeconomic transformation of the state, among others.
As a popular dictum goes, “The taste of the pudding is in the eating.” In the last three and a half years of the present administration, Ogun State has had a taste of good governance where people are put at the centre of government policies.
For sustenance of the legacies already built by the administration, the good people of Ogun State have spoken in unmistakable terms that they want the rhythm to continue for the consolidation of the achievements that have been recorded in critical areas of development in the state.
As campaigns get underway, these are the issues that are supposed to be put in the front burner and which should form the basis of any meaningful discourse, not the ranting of an individual who has already lost the moral standing to lead the state. PDP as a leading opposition in the state lost the opportunity to present a formidable candidate to challenge Governor Abiodun in this election the day its leadership failed to arrive at a consensus on how to organize a rancor-free governorship primary.
Being unable to build a united house, the warring factions decided to hold parallel primaries where their separate candidates emerged. Since then, the party has been embroiled in a prolonged internal crisis that culminated in the emergence of different factions.
While a faction of the party which claimed to be authentic body held its primaries at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta where Ladi Adebutu emerged as the governorship candidate, the other group which produced Segun Sowunmi held its primaries at the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Abeokuta. Yet another splinter bloc organized its exercise at the PDP secretariat in Ogun State, with two contestants — Bayo Dayo and Wole Adeyanju — although the latter stepped down for the former.
Like the proverbial bird that perches on the line, neither Adebutu nor his other rival contenders has known peace since the onset of the lingering crisis. All efforts made by the party leadership to reconcile the warring factions have met a brick wall as none of those involved in the disputed selection process is ready to let go.
Lawal on his part has been entangled in a protracted litigation battle. Leading some 370 aggrieved delegate members of the party, he had approached a Federal High Court, Abeokuta, requesting that the election be nullified based on the claim that the delegates were not those elected at the congresses held at the Ward, Local Government, and State Levels, claiming that if they had been allowed to cast their votes, they would have voted for him. Consequently, he asked the court to nullify the earlier exercise which ordered a fresh one. All of this seems to have been laid to rest with the last judgment of the Appeal Court, ibadan. In spite of that, however, peace still remains elusive to the party.
Even the Ogun State chapter of the APC had a score to settle with the PDP until lately when the leadership decided to pull out of the case filed against Adebutu, Akinlade, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the Federal High Court, Abeokuta.
The decision to withdraw from the suit, according to a state signed by the Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Tunde Oladunjoye, followed the compliance of the INEC with the judgment of the Court refusing to recognize Hon. Ladi Adebutu and Hon. Akinlade as candidate of the PDP.
Taking for granted that the matter has been laid to rest, Adetutu is going nowhere near the Oke-Mosan government house. Expectedly, he was enraged when Governor Abiodun teased him by declaring that “Oke-mosan is not for drunk. We shall not use your money to drink beer, we shall not use money for gambling. We shall use our money judiciously.”
This is not about what Abiodun said and what he did not say. It is about the people’s distrust and loss of confidence in the capacity of the PDP and its candidate to provide a credible alternative to the present government.
Whatever the mouth-watering promise Adebutu has to offer the electorate in this election, it is not going to change anything. Its imminent defeat is looming larger by the day because a party that cannot put its house in order cannot be trusted to lead the state or the country. For crying out loud, the PDP has comprehensively failed on all fronts. It lost the confidence of the people the day it decided to trample on the standard rule of engagement enshrined in its Constitution by the founding father.
Being unable to show a good example of how to respect the rule of law, by being so insensitive to the ethnic diversity of the country, the PDP has cast doubt on its capacity to lead the country out of the current quagmire.
This is without prejudice to the rights of the electorate to choose their leaders based on conviction about the attitude, integrity and forthrightness of the candidates seeking votes. In Ogun State, Governor Abiodun is ever ready for a competitive election having justified the mandate freely given to him by the people in the 2019 general election. The standing signature of his performance could be seen in all facets, including the foundation for economic prosperity, industrial transformation, infrastructural development, ease of doing business, the atmosphere of security, and inclusive governance.
Sure of his victory, he has been criss-crossing the state not only to woo the electorate for his second-term but to also give an account of his stewardship in the last three and a half years. He has been holding town hall meetings to brainstorm with the stakeholders on his vision to move the state to the next level. And the response has been quite impressive and encouraging. In all areas visited so far, his effort to seek people’s endorsement of his re-election has been greeted with a resounding success.
While doing that, he has never failed to reassure the opposition of a level playing field throughout the electioneering period. Since he does not have any skeleton to hide, he has brought humility and civility to governance by providing room for constructive engagement.
As a peace-loving person, he has made several appeals for a peaceful campaign process devoid of violence knowing fully well that the wish of the people will ultimately prevail in his favour. This is more so realizing that an election is a process that must be allowed to run its full course without any undue interference.
Thus, as some people are busy throwing mud with little or no provocation, Governor Abiodun is focused on the onerous task of bringing the dividends of democracy to the doorstep of every Ogun State citizen, knowing also that he cannot get to his desired destination by throwing stones at every dog that barks at him.
The race is open and steadily progressing. But people must know that they cannot win by mere subterfuge, or being rascal. Instead, those who aspire to lead must do so with knowledge, decency, and decorum. That way, we can together build a state of our collective dream. Adebutu missed the point by thinking that he can pull down the Abiodun administration with frivolous allegations to ascend the seat of power.
Ogbonnikan writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State capital