One of the biggest shocks for Nigerians during the 2019 presidential election is that President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC was defeated in Oyo state by PDP’s Atiku Abubakar.
That the state has an APC government in control makes it more embarrassing for the ruling party that had enjoyed massive support since 2011.
The question party leaders would be asking themselves now is how did we get here? How did APC lose its goodwill in Oyo state?
In 2018, when the governor of Oyo state, Abiola Ajimobi made known his intention to return to the Senate, many wondered if he had any idea how risky that would be for his party.
Many said the governor had begun to overrate his own popularity and his political clout due to his ability to break the second term jinx in 2015.
What the governor failed to consider is that he rode on the Buhari wave of 2015 to break that jinx as his victory then had less to do with reward for performance.
Moving on, the expectation was that he would consolidate on that victory by winning the people over. But then, he did not feel he had lost them in the first place?
Somehow, Oyo people continued to get the arrogant vibe and the height of it was his resolve to get the APC ticket for the Oyo South senatorial election and deny the incumbent, Sen. Soji Akanbi an opportunity to return.
Here was the problem. Soji Akanbi had succeeded in winning the hearts of thousands of Ibadan people with his performance in the red chamber and his closeness to the grassroots.
A senator who would comfortably sit at a vendors’ stand and relate with the people should never be underrated but Governor Ajimobi and the APC didn’t get the memo.
Oyo South holds the key to winning Ibadan and indeed Oyo state in any election and when the 2019 results started rolling in, this reality hit them.
Ordinarily the battle for the Oyo South senatorial seat would have been between APC and PDP, and as usual, it would have been no contest in APC’s favour.
But Senator Adesoji Akanbi would not be bullied by the governor. He went into the race on the platform of African Democratic Congress (ADC).
He had the least financial muscle compared to APC and PDP, with a newly created party whose logo is still unidentifiable, and he had just three months to build a new structure.
Senator Akanbi lost that battle but ensured that Governor Ajimobi, the sitting governor lost the war.
PDP’s candidate, Dr. Kola Balogun won with 105,720 votes, a far cry from about 147,000 votes Soji Akanbi scored in 2015 to win the seat.
Oyo South became the only senatorial seat APC lost in Oyo state and the party became the biggest loser in the game of courage.
Ajimobi scored 92,579 votes, while Soji Akanbi polled 49,437, both splitting a whopping 142,016 between them.
Despite the Atiku wave, the PDP would have needed about 36,296 votes to match APC if they had not discarded Akanbi.
The truth is that PDP could never have knocked APC out in Oyo South Senatorial District if Soji Akanbi had not injured them first. PDP’s inability to win any other senatorial seat explains the cost of APC’s division in Oyo South.
And it got worse for the APC as the PDP went ahead to win the presidential poll by a painfully narrow margin with votes garnered from Ibadan metropolis – the Oyo South votes.
The Soji Akanbi factor also ensured that in a presidential race that ADC had an unknown candidate, they scored 40,830 votes in Oyo state and finished third nationally with 97,874 votes.
With that result, SOJ, as he is called by his supporters, is being celebrated across Ibadan.
Governor Ajimobi has not been forgiven for his battle with the Olubadan of Ibadan land. The royal family and some core Ibadan people are yet to forget the embarrassment which they blame the governor for.
Akanbi’s refusal to chicken out of the battle with Ajimobi just validated the chieftaincy title conferred on him by the Olubadan as the Okanlomo of Ibadan land. Okanlomo means “the rare son” to whom they are now grateful
Going into the governorship election on March 9, the APC now knows there is fire on the mountain because PDP’s Seyi Makinde seems to have gained the upper hand against their man, Adebayo Adelabu.
The bad news for the PDP as well is that the Atiku tsunami has been badly deflated by their loss of the presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The bad news for both parties is that both Adelabu and Makinde have similar qualities – both are fresh, young, exposed, well-educated and successful in their careers.
Now, it is time for both parties to fall back on a Soji Akanbi of Oyo South to secure an alliance that can greatly help them to capture Ibadan metropolis.
Whoever misses out on the SOJ alliance must not miss out on former governor and governorship candidate of the ADP, Adebayo Alao Akala who also offers great influence in Oyo North with votes from Ogbomoso.
PDP will be looking to capitalize on the APC division in Ibadan, milk the animosity against Ajimobi in the state and remind the people that a vote for Adelabu is a vote for Ajimobi’s third term.
However, a reunion in the APC now can change the game in their favour, but will PDP allow the reunion to happen?