The 2nd edition of the Oyo State Gubernatorial Debate organised by Ibadan-based private radio station, Splash FM pitched the major gladiators in the race to the Agodi Government House against one another and the day was not without its own peculiarity. OLAOLU BILAU was there for WESTERN POST. He shares his experience…
Last week, all roads led to the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, venue of the much publicised debate which was also broadcast live on radio. Many of the guests arrived on schedule and filled some section of the large capacity conference centre. Security was water-tight and those who did not come with the invitation card that would have admitted in were turned back.
Of the five political gladiators in the race, only four of them attended the debate. They were Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Rashidi Ladoja of Accord, Engr. Seyi Makinde of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Senator Teslim Folarin of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Otunba Adebaoy Alao Akala was absent.
It was an opportunity for the major contenders in the governorship contests to advertise their plans and programmes before the people of the state, but the programme also afforded the candidates to trade tackles on some controversial issues.
Governor Ajimobi Rode on Crest of Performance
Being the incumbent, Governor Ajimobi rode on the crest of his performance in office, dishing out statistics after statistics on the achievement of his government. Notable among the successes which the governor emphasised were the restoration of peace into the state, infrastructural development, procurement of tractors for farmers in the state, purchase of ambulances, employment of doctors among others.
Makinde’s SDP Focusing on Poverty Eradication, Banking on Private-sector Experience
Makinde was cool, calm and collected in his responses to questions from the panelists led by Prof. Francis Egbokhare. Expectedly, was business-like in his approach to issues perhaps due to his background which is in the private sector, specifically oil and gas. This may also be responsible for the SDP candidate’s reference to the need for Oyo State to generate its own electricity locally to drive industrialization as well as the growth of small and medium scale enterprises, which he said would solve the problem of unemployment. No doubt, what the youthful engineer is bringing into governance is his private sector experience and humanitarianism.
Folarin: ‘The Link between the Young and Old’
The PDP governorship candidate did not hide his disdain for some of the policies of the Ajimobi-led administration, which he had consistently faulted. At every point in the debate, the former Senate Leader had very strong words for the incumbent so much that the governor had to complain bitterly to the panellist to caution the PDP candidate.
Senator Folarin however, made it clear that of all the candidates, he has age on his side. He said: ‘’ If you look at Oyo State, four governors have ruled the state since 1999, three of them are still trying to come back as governor, but I, Teslim Folarin, I see myself as the link between the young and the old’’.
The PDP governorship candidate revealed that the last four years had afforded him the opportunity to traverse the various geo-political zones of the state, where he met the people and had fruitful discussions with them on their needs and challenges so that he would be able to tailor his programmes to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
Accord Candidate Was Matured in His Responses
His delivery, though less audible, showed experience, a point to which governor Ajimobi alluded.
It was obvious that Ladoja was not happy with the way the state was being governed, he chastise the current administration for using consultants at the expense of the civil service, a development the Accord candidate said had destroyed the public service.
Senator Ladoja even went as far as saying Ajimobi was not always truthful, an euphemism that the governor is a liar, but Ajimobi was so courteous and you only hear him saying, ‘’Egbon, egbon (brother).
Ajimobi to Ladoja: You Returned over N5m through EFCC’
When Splash Fm ace presenter, Edmund Obilo asked Governor Ajimobi if Senator Ladoja actually refunded over N5m, which had been a subject of controversy between the duo, the governor said: ‘’ I maintain without any equivocation that Senator Ladoja-led government, including himself returned more than N5m. EFCC came in because some people wrote petitions, they came and arrested all the people involved, including himself’’.
Ladoja: ‘It’s a Lie… You Inflated Cost of Mokola Flyover’
In his characteristic manner, Ladoja responded in a crisp: ‘’I, Senator Rashidi Ladoja did not return one penny. The checks displayed by Oyo State Government were not from me.’’
On the alleged inflation of the cost of the Mokola Flyover built by the current administration, governor Ajimobi came under fire from Ladoja, who insisted the cost was on the high side and that ‘for every N1 that Ogun State (which also built a bridge almost at the same time) spent, Oyo State spent N6’.
Ajimobi’s defence was that the initial estimate of the project which was N2.1bn had to be reviewed upwards to N2.9bn due to inflation caused by increase in price of petroleum products.
Ladoja even went as far as saying Ajimobi was not always truthful – an euphemism that the governor is a liar, but Ajimobi was so courteous and never took offence and was even saying, ‘’Egbon, egbon (brother) e je ki n soro, sebi e ti so ti yin’’ (you have made your point, let me make mine).
Senator Folarin who had initially got the governor a little bit upset by his constant reference to Ajimobi’s government inadequacy was paid back in his own coin when he asked how it was possible for such dastardly act at Soka in Ibadan, (a den of ritual murderers) to have been perpetrated under the governor’s watch.
Ajimobi responded with a question, ‘’ I will also like to ask him (Folarin) how come himself and some crooks went to remove Senator Ladoja from office’’. The crowd roared with laughter.
Senator Ladoja however, made it clear that his impeachment had nothing to do with the former Senate Leader and that it was Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who masterminded his removal because of the third term saga, while Gov. Ajimobi explained that Soka existed before his government came onboard, saying he met a woman who said she’s had her eight child at the murderers’ den.
It was indeed a momentous event as there were innuendoes, nuances and the likes which the candidates surreptitiously threw at one another, though it did go beyond rhetoric and at the end, they hugged one another amidst cheers from the audience.
The Oyo State Gubernatorial Debate may have come and gone, but the memories of the event would for a long time linger on in the minds of the people of the state as a debate where all the contestants displayed high sense of political maturity and agreed to show true sportsmanship.