OLUSOLA BALOGUN, an Abeokuta, Ogun State-based publicist, writes on the role played by Chief Tolu Odebiyi to secure votes for Prince Dapo Abiodun in Ogun West during the last general election to emerge the governor of Ogun State in spite of all odds.
That Prince Dapo Abiodun is the new Governor of Ogun State is no longer contentious. But what fascinates is how the multi-millionaire oil magnate defied daunting odds to triumph at the March 4th 2019 fierce gubernatorial contest.
Abiodun, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), defied sniffling opposition from both African Democratic Congress (ADC), Gboyega Nasir Isiaka and Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Abdulkabir Akinlade.
Isiaka, popularly called GNI, is a veteran of two previous gubernatorial contests in 2011 and 2015. He enjoys the backing and endorsement of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, while Akinlade, known as Triple A, has the powerful backing of the then incumbent, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
GNI is well-known to voters across the state having gone round twice to solicit for votes for the top job in the state. Triple A, on the other hand, was representing Yewa-South/Ipokia constituency at the House of Representatives. He was backed by a well-oiled political machinery personally driven by senator Amosun.
Intriguingly, Amosun professes to belonging to APC. Ordinarily, the incumbent governor ought to be backing Dapo Abiodun, who won the Gubernatorial Primaries conducted by the APC aparachit and was handed the ruling party’s governorship flag.
Senator Amosun didn’t. He rather backed Triple A, who he handpicked as his successor at a controversial primaries.
The stage was therefore set for an epic political tango.
To further complicate the task before Dapo Abiodun was the widespread belief among indigenes of Ogun West geopolitical zone that the 2019 gubernatorial contest should produce one of its sons or daughters as governor.
The argument is that no-one, dead or alive, from Ogun West, had ever ruled Ogun State since its creation in 1976.
Conversely, two persons from Ogun East had ruled the state. The late Bisi Onabanjo and Gbenga Daniel had, between themselves, ruled the state for over 12 years. Dapo Abiodun is from Iperu-Remo in Ogun East.
The choice of Dapo Abiodun therefore pitched the APC as a party against the Yewa-Aworis of Ogun West.
Both GNI and Triple A, interestingly, hail from Ogun West.
It therefore became Herculean for Dapo Abiodun and the APC to navigate the Ogun West political landscape and score the requisite votes needed to be declared winner of the contest.
The situation posed a serious moral burden as many political leaders from the zone were wary of being publicly identified with Dapo Abiodun and APC. The die was cast!
However, at the end of the electoral battle, Dapo Abiodun scored a total of 56, 931 votes or 32 per cent of the total votes cast in Ogun West senatorial district for the election.
A major component of that victory can be attributed to the dogged fighting and political savvy of Chief Tolu Odebiyi, a former Chief of Staff to Ex-Governor Amosun, and Odebiyi’s irrepressible supporters.
Tolu Odebiyi is not without a political pedigree. The real estate mogul is the son of Senator Jonathan Odebiyi, a second Republic Senator in Yewa-Awori zone.
Odebiyi wasn’t fazed by the ethnic and sentimental blackmail swiveling around Ogun West at the time. He decided to toe the party lane. He decided to back Dapo Abiodun and the APC.
In deciding to toe the party line by supporting the APC choice, Tolu Odebiyi wasn’t being insensitive or selfish. He was being principled. TOD, as he is popularly called, doesn’t believe in political prostitution.
Interestingly, this firm belief in party supremacy runs in the family. His father too is a strong believer in party supremacy.
In 1982, Chief Jonathan Odebiyi, unexpectedly lost the gubernatorial primaries of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN) to late Bisi Onabanjo.
After the painful loss, several political parties tried to cash in on Senator Jonathan Odebiyi’s popularity, and made overtures to him to leave UPN and embrace a new party.
However, instead of dumping UPN, he stuck to the UPN and even assisted Onabanjo to win the general election.
History has a way of recreating itself. Ahead of the 2019 gubernatorial polls, Tolu Odebiyi had thrown his hat in the ring to rule Ogun State. He was one of the eleven aspirants from Ogun West that joined the gubernatorial train when the APC called for nominations.
He was however schemed out by party leaders in the state who, for some shadowy reasons, handed the ticket to Triple A.
But the party hierarchy faulted the process that produced Triple A and conducted another primaries which threw up Prince Dapo Abiodun.
Like his father, Tolu received several overtures from rival political parties who were bent on capitalising on his electoral potentials. Again, like his father, Tolu snubbed them but rather chose to team up with the candidate of his party.
And he worked assiduously for the success of the Dapo Abiodun governorship. He left no-one in doubt as to who he was supporting for the governorship position and where his heart belonged. Tolu was everywhere campaigning with the APC flagbearer.
He deployed his political machinery and network within Ogun West to work for the success of the APC in all elections.
Strikingly, Tolu after winning his Senatorial election, could have played the proverbial ostrich. But not the son of Jonathan Odebiyi. Tolu deployed men, material and money to ensure that Dapo Abiodun got the required votes from Ogun West to be declared winner of the contest.
Indeed, despite the stiff opposition by GNI and Triple A in Ogun West and the suffocating ethnic atmosphere pervading in the senatorial zone at the time, Dapo Abiodun still scored 12, 890 in Ipokia (which is the homestead of Hon Akinlade); 2, 657 in Imeko-Afon (the local goverment of GNI); 8,804 in Yewa South; 24, 838 in Ado-Odo/Ota and 7,742 votes in Yewa North local governments in the senatorial districts.
Undoubtedly, Tolu Odebiyi is a rising political icon in the state and a loyal party man who presented Prince Abiodun with a staunch ally at the most critical time of DA’s political career.
*Balogun is a professional publicist based in Abeokuta, Ogun State.