DAUD OLATUNJI writes on the hot race for the Ogun State governorship seat, particularly the ordeal of Biyi Otegbeye, a loyalist of former governor Ibikunle Amosun. Otegbeye is facing several legal battles in his bid to clinch the African Democratic Congress ticket
When the going was good, Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun and Biyi Otegbeye of the African Democratic Congress, related well.
In fact, a year after Abiodun assumed office, he appointed Otegbeye to a board in the state.
On November 10, 2020, Abiodun appointed Otegbeye as chairman, Agric Development Corporation.
However, the friendship went awry on May 22, 2022, when Otegbeye declared his intention to contest the state governorship seat in the All Progressives Congress.
This decision was seen as an attempt to take the rug off the feet of the landlord of Oke-Mosan, the seat of power in Ogun.
Abiodun became the state’s governor in May 2019 and is seeking a second term in 2023 on the platform of the APC.
The ripples between the two private-sector commanders erupted following the interest shown by Otegbeye in the coveted seat already occupied by Abiodun.
The first known battle took place at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, the venue of the APC governorship primary.
Apart from Otegbeye, the deputy governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Adekunle Akinlade, also showed interest in contesting the party’s governorship ticket with Abiodun.
The primary was held, and Abiodun was declared the winner of the lone contest as the other co-aspirants stayed away from the venue. But, despite that, Otegbeye got one vote, which was later cancelled controversially.
This cancellation deepens the gulf between the duo, as Otegbeye took the matter to court but later withdrew it for his known reason.
Some sources hinted to our reporter that the electoral committee for the governorship primary decided to cancel the one vote so as not to give any chance to any of the aspirants against Abiodun in case of any eventuality.
This thinking seems to have got acceptance from the Abiodun camp, as he ensured that no one came in second at the primary. Every other aspirant scored zero, but Otegbeye, who got one vote, was later denied that vote. It was cancelled.
Otegbeye joins ADC
Otegbeye, who enjoys the backing a former governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, moved to the ADC.
The ADC’s popularity ballooned immediately after Amosun publicly declared his support for its governorship candidate in 2023.
Amosun, who was featured in an interview on BBC Yoruba, declared without mincing words that while he would throw his support behind the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, he would work for Otegbeye against his party’s governorship candidate, Abiodun.
Amosun’s public support increased the popularity of the ADC, which had become one of the mushroom parties.
It was gathered that the ADC had held its primaries and produced the governorship candidate and others before Otegbeye joined the party.
According to the findings, Otegbeye was fielded as the party’s governorship candidate after a series of negotiations that were later resolved.This was done at the twilight of the deadline for the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The list was accepted by INEC, and Otegbeye was named as an ADC governorship candidate alongside others.
But the names have been expunged from the INEC list as ordered by two courts.
On November 24, a Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta disqualified Otegbeye and all 19 candidates of the African Democratic Congress, for the House of Assembly.
The suit was filed by the Labour Party on the grounds that the party did not comply with the Electoral Act.
The court said the ADC failed to adhere to the Electoral Law.
Also, a few weeks after the judgment, the same court gave the same order in the suit filed by the APC, asking the INEC to delete all ADC candidates’ names, including Otegbeye’s, from its database.
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Apparently reacting to the legal encumbrances he is facing ahead of the election, Otegbeye lamented that himself and other candidates for the 2023 polls were facing 24 cases filed by ADC opponents in courts.
He disclosed that there were 24 litigations against him and his party filed by APC and other opposition parties.
Describing them as frivolous, he said that they were filed to distract ADC from its goal of winning the 2023 governorship poll.
Otegbeye, speaking at a dinner held in honour of the ADC national chairman, Chief Ralph Nwosu, which he hosted in Abeokuta on Sunday, predicted that all the suits would fail.
According to Otegbeye, the opposition initially did not take the ADC seriously, until a month ago, when they started seeing its large followership.
According to the candidate, the ADC has faced a series of intimidation and threats since then, which has helped strengthen the party in the state.
Reacting to the allegation by the ADC, Abiodun through his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, said Abiodun did not have time for freebies and frivolities like this.
Somorin, in a statement sent to our correspondent, said, “Does the ADC exist in our state until two months ago? When GNI, the party’s funder and facilitator, saw the light and joined us after we won the election in 2019, the party ceased to exist.
“The remnants could not form any serious political association, let alone contest local government elections or conduct any party primaries.
“Are you aware that the scion of the Tunji Otegbeye political dynasty, Dr. Leke Otegbeye, has volunteered to mobilise for the DA’s reelection (Dapo Abiodun)?.”
He even said, “If the renowned social welfarist were alive, he would have endorsed Governor Abiodun for a second term given his track records, what else?”
“Let the National Chairman play no blame games for either sympathy or empathy here. It won’t work. No serious-minded politician waits until the eve of an election to play political kinetics to curry favour or play the victim for sympathy.”
The APC also reacted to the allegation, saying the state “is too sophisticated for such larceny.”
The state’s publicity secretary, Tunde Oladunjoye, in a statement, said “the allegations are laughable. ADC is a toddling party in Ogun State.
“You can even see that their petty, wild, and weird allegations had to be made by the national body.
“The party is suffering from self-imposed confusion and hasty miscalculation.”
Despite the setback suffered at the courts, the National Chairman of the ADC party, Nwosu, assured members that the party will contest the 2023 general election.
Nwosu called on the party faithful to keep hope alive and continue working assiduously for the victory of the party in the coming election.
According to the national chairman, it is the considered opinion of our legal representatives that the judgments were drenched in advertent inaccuracies, especially when interrogated with existential contexts, points of law, and even recent precedent.
He said, “Subsequently, we have filed for redress at the Court of Appeal, and we are confident that the orders of the lower courts shall be overturned and all our candidates will be revalidated.
“ADC has been targeted in the state, but I can assure you that justice will prevail. Some desperate people want to thwart the finest element of democracy, the power of the people to vote whom they want, believing they can manipulate and corrupt the systems and persons.”
Meanwhile, Otegbeye declared his intention to unseat the incumbent governor by 2023.
Otegbeye, who claims to be unsettled by the yearnings of the Ogun people clamouring for change, said that his will to use the most coveted seat in Ogun State is nothing short of a call to duty.
“Why would he, Otegbeye, not answer the clarion call as a patriotic citizen when the people are constantly lamenting their decisions from three years ago?” Otegbeye asked.
Abiodun was endorsed by all the traditional councils in the state, which were Ijebu, Yewa, Awori, and Egba. Over 200 traditional rulers have pledged their support for Abiodun’s second term.
At present, the people of the West are sharply divided into two; the first group is of the opinion that it is the turn of the Yewa-Awori region, which has not produced a governor of the state 47 years after its creation.
The other group is of the opinion that the region should wait until 2027, when Abiodun will have completed his two terms in office. ,
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