The last-minute decision of Abiola Ajimobi, Governor of Oyo State, to back Bayo Adelabu rather than Joseph Tegbe for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was not without money changing hands, SaharaReporters has been told.
Months before the primary election, Ajimobi egged on anyone who indicated interest in succeeding him; however, as the primary election drew nigh, it became apparent that he was tilting towards Tegbe over Adelabu.
A source had told SaharaReporters back then: “Each time anyone went to him to say he wanted to run in 2019, the Governor always encouraged them. He would answer, ‘Of course you are qualified. You schooled and you work in a reputable company; go ahead’. Now, those aspirants misconstrued the Governor’s encouragement for endorsement, not knowing that he had been telling all them the same thing,” he said.
The source had also added: “However, if he has his way, he would go for Tegbe. Bayo is very close to some Ibadan establishments — highly powerful people who would profit if he becomes Governor. These people are now using every opportunity to lobby the Governor, telling him Bayo would make a good successor.
“But the Governor knows that Bayo is already a billionaire, so it would be hard to control Bayo because Bayo has the money and the clouts to confront him should the need arise. You know how governors are always fearful of their godsons rising against them in future.”
SaharaReporters understood that Ajimobi had told those close to him that his successor must be a God-fearing person. This “God-fearing” meant someone who belongs to a mosque or church, or who has people he respects, people whom he would listen to should he be reported.
Meanwhile, Bayo, the grandson of Adelabu penkelemesi, is understood not to be that kind of person; “he is a neutral person”. He was born Muslim but his wife is Christian. In fact, he has never been to either a church or a mosque. However, Tegbe attends the Cathedral Church of St David.
It was a surprise, therefore, that Ajimobi would eventually back Adelabu. Eventually, Joseph Tegbe was one of three aspirants — the others are Sola Ayandele, and Owolabi Babalola — who withdrew from the race right at the venue of the primary, the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, on September 30. The fourth, Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), reluctantly withdrew deep into the primary, leaving Adelabu as the sole candidate for the ticket.
SaharaReporters has now been made to understand that Ajimobi came under intense pressure from power brokers in the state and in the party — the likes of Oba Otudeko, Founder and Chairman of Honeywell Group and Chairman of FBN Holdings Plc; Bisi Onasanya, former Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Bank of Nigeria Limited; the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III; and Bola Tinubu, National Leader of the APC.
“What really happened was that Ajimobi was supposed to settle for Tegbe,” said a Government House source.
“Shortly before the primary, the likes of Otudeko, Onasanya and co mounted pressure on Ajimobi to drop Tegbe for Adelabu. Ajimobi was given $10million; that is N3.57billion. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. It is an open secret in the camp of the decision-makers of Oyo politics.”
The source explained that when Ajimobi wanted the money, he didn’t demand it directly but through the backdoor.
“Ajimobi did not directly ask for the money. When they were talking to him to support Bayo Adelabu, talking about his grandfather, Ajimobi said it wasn’t about grandfather but that Tegbe had been around for a while and he had spent so much money. So, later, they asked him how much Tegbe had spent, he didn’t tell them. Eventually, they organized the money for him.
“It was not Adelabu who dropped the money directly, but it was his money all the same. It is an open secret. In fact, Ajimobi’s wife opposed the idea of collecting the money. He warned that Adelabu would betray them. But the Governor’s reply was ‘And so what’? Is there someone who cannot betray you? I’m almost 69. If he betrays us, it is his government.'"
According to the source, Ajimobi is currently out of the country.
"He travelled out only recently and will return on Tuesday," he said. "He said he wanted to rest from the primary election stress. But even then, he has been silent on governorship campaign going forward."
When contacted by SaharaReporters, Bolaji Tunji, Ajimobi's Special Adviser, Communication and Strategy, denied that the Governor received money to support any candidate.
"You will realise that during this period, a lot of unsubstantiated claims would be made. On this one, there is nothing like that," Tunji said.
"The Governor does not need to be bribed to back any candidate. He is the leader of the party and he is in firm control of the party structure. He does not need to collect money from any candidate. In any case, the exercise that producedAdelabu was transparent, free and fair as attested to by everyone at Lekan Salami Stadium, venue of the exercise."