Tuesday the 3rd of February 2015 was the day of the Gubernatorial Debate, between the aspirants for the April Gubernatorial Elections in Oyo State, the debate, which was held at the five thousand capacity international conference centre of the University of Ibadan, featured four of the five leading aspirants interested in leading Oyo state for the next four years, . Engineer Seyi Makinde of the Social Democratic Party, Senator Rasheed Ladoja of the Accord, Senator Teslim Folarin of the Peoples Democratic Party and finally Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the All Progressives Congress. Here are my thoughts on the candidates and the event itself.
On The Atmosphere
The atmosphere was generally pleasing. The choice of the venue and the resultant choice to make the event strictly by invitation made the debate enjoyable. The audience apart from the very few times it got carried away generally behaved well. I even expected to see one or two loons that would have trouble with the police, but I saw none. No candidate or their supporters will have a cause to complain about harassment. This would not have been possible in Oyo state a few years ago. Progress
On the panelists
The panel contained its fair share of prominent social commentators and academics. The questions were astute and intelligent and it gave an air of credibility to the whole process.
However first of all the aspirants should not have been allowed to sit down. The candidates were too relaxed (I even caught Senator Ladoja catching two winks one time, but you should probably not take me and my histrionic imagination seriously) and it dulled the edge of the debate. The contestants should have been kept on their toes, literally and figuratively. They could have been given podiums to lean on. That would have made them more alert physically and mentally
Debate is synonymous with argument. It is confrontational, “in your face.” shots should be fired, tempers are allowed to flare, (within the limits of decorum of course). The panellists’ questions didn’t do that. The questions were far too academic and it felt like the aspirants were doing auditions or job interviews. The aspirants just droned on ad nauseam about how what they have done, what they are doing and what they will do. Perhaps this was due to the composition of the panel and maybe the debate should have been moderated by Journalists rather than academics given that journalists have a more practical experience of drawing answers from politicians especially ones they might not otherwise want to give. Academics are a bit too Ivory Tower for this kind of stuff. Perhaps that is why I couldn’t help feeling that I was at a long campaign rally instead of a governorship debate.
Edmund Obilo’s performance was a master class on what a debate should be, and he illustrated the point I made earlier point about how debates should be left to journalists and not academics. He was in his “bull’s-eye” element. He fired shots at all the aspirants like an expert marksman and allowed the aspirants to fire shots at each other too. It isn’t really surprising that Edmund’s segment was the part most attendees remembered but it is ironic that his segment only lasted twenty minutes. It should have been the whole debate. He lit up the arena and that was ace.
On the aspirants
First of all the aspirants all came late. Engineer Seyi Makinde of the Social Democratic Party was the first to arrive, after him came Senator Rasheed Ladoja of the Accord, then came Senator Teslim Folarin of the Peoples Democratic Party and finally Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the All Progressives Congress. I could go on about the habit of politicians especially coming late to events but that will take another article entirely, and then Dr Adebayo Alao-Akala of the Labour Party did not even show up at all
For whatever reason, I feel the aspirants with the exception of Governor Ajimobi, were rather unprepared. Of the four, only the APC candidate, Governor Ajimobi came with his own writing materials, the organizers had to find writing materials for the others later. Add that to their overly relaxed postures and the kind of questions the panellists asked, and what you get is aspirants who couldn’t mentally keep up with the panel designed to question them; Senator Folarin was particularly guilty of this constantly telling the panellists to “come again” or “rephrase”. It says a lot about how much our leaders have still not come to realize the value of public debates, not to talk of preparing for them.
On the aspirants’ performances,
I feel Governor Ajimobi of the APC got off far more lightly than he should have, and that was due to the nature of the debate itself. Since the questions were more like an audition rather than a debate, Ajimobi’s status as an incumbent put him at an advantage, he had plenty of facts to demolish his opponents and what he lacked in facts, he made up for with his aggressive swashbuckling and bravado. Only senator Ladoja, who had also been Governor before held his own against Ajimobi somewhat
I think Senator Ladoja was a bit laid back as compared to Governor Ajimobi, not only that He also lacked the latter’s attention to detail, and He did acknowledge this himself, saying that Governor Ajimobi was good at using and manipulating statistics to back up his claims but his experience bailed him out of tight corners on occasion but he did okay, again he also got off more lightly than he should have.
I am not a people’s Democratic Party member, but I would be interested in the criteria that Senator Teslim Folarin was selected as the party’s flag bearer for the elections. PDP in Oyo State used to pick candidates who were closer to the grassroots, who had lived and mixed with the people, Folarin looks rather elitist, not like PDP candidates in Oyo used to be (which by the way is progress), He was by far the eloquent of the lot, but he generally looked as if he would rather be somewhere else. He was far from convincing and from the replies he gave he looked so far out of touch with the common people that it was almost comical (I have not attended any of his rallies yet so I will just speak from what I saw at the debate). It seemed that rather than convince the audience of his own qualifications, he was intent on getting on the nerves of his APC counterpart. The audience didn’t enjoy it very much either, but it wasn’t surprising, given that that is what their two principals have been doing all year, getting on each other’s nerves.
Engineer Makinde, looked the most unprepared of the four. A lot of the questions caught him like a deer in the headlights— unawares. It was obvious that he wasn’t a man of many words. Even though he articulated his thoughts well enough, and his strategy looked well mapped, he seems to still be thinking like a private citizen/ engineer instead of a politician. Of the four, his chances of winning the elections are the lowest, if he perchance he does win; he would have a long way to go in order to learn the intrigues of governing a state like Oyo State. For instance his main focus was on poverty alleviation. It is alright for him to believe as an engineer, that poverty is just like any problem, which must have some sort of practical solution, but everyone knows that throwing infrastructure and money at poverty will not make it go away (there are still poor people in America after all). More so in the Nigerian system where drawing a plan is one thing and implementation is another, where Governors regardless of party must dance to the music of the man in Abuja and where they are more often than not swimming upstream, with arms tied behind their backs. Governors are made of stern stuff and I doubt if Engineer Makinde has the requisite backbone or balls.
If the result of the Splash FM Gubernatorial Debate is anything to go by, the battle for the Agodi Government House should be a straight fight between Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the APC and Senator Rasheed Ladoja of the Accord. Teslim Folarin (PDP) and Seyi Makinde (SDP) are outside shots for this one. Dr. Alao- Akala was not available to be analyzed and besides debates do not count on who wins elections. It is the ballot box that will determine who carries the day. Great citizens of Oyo state over to you.
If you want Graduates to go into Agriculture you must make sure they earn as much as those in banks
I expected my successors to build on my results; I can say I managed the resources of the state efficiently during my tenure
Senator Rasheed Ladoja (ACCORD)
We believe in Primary Health care and have taken a lot of measures in taking care of the people
A good leader takes his people where they want to go. But a great Leader takes his people where they want to go.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi (APC)
The state of our schools show the ineptitude of the present government, if I become the governor of this state, we shall declare a state of emergency in the State’s education sector
I see myself as a bridge between young and old I represent the change the people of Oyo clamour for.
Senator Teslim Folarin (PDP)
Our programme of action for Oyo State is signified by the acronym HEAPS Healthcare, Education Agriculture, Physical Infrastructure and Security
Oyo State can have a stake in mining companies operating in the state. Citizens and contractors must be involved in Mining
Engineer Oluseyi Makinde, (SDP)
All images courtesy of our friends at whatsupibadan.com @whatsupibadan