By Bankole Ojoobanikan
Modele Sarafa-Yusuf is a television host, journalist and entrepreneur. She had the feat as the woman sportscaster on a national TV network in Africa, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). In the area of her new love, which is politics, she has decided to stamp another feat . That is, as the first female “Governor ” of Ogun State, Nigeria. Modele wants to be active in the politics of her home state, Ogun, Nigeria. For this, her admirers are bidding her to: “Run, Modele Sharafa, run!” It is a smooth, usable refrain to urge on the broadcaster and former Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun. This is happening at a time when, as 2023 inches closer, every interested aspirant, some serious while many are crawling out of the woodworks, are throwing their hats into the ring. It is a democracy and election time again when activities are in dramatic swing, like a mimosa in full bloom.
Sarafa-Yusuf joined telecommunications company, Globacom, in January 2004 as Senior Manager Sponsorships. Her exit from the telecommunications industry came as a “mystery” to many, just like her foray into politics, but who can stop the former lady of the tube not to try her luck? It is her constitutional right. After all, there is no sin in giving it a trial. Even though many of her former colleagues believe she may not have the temperance required as a politician; who said she cannot learn the rope? Politics has its learning curves, she needs to enter into the murky waters and pray she comes out unscathed. So therefore Modele Sharafa, run, you must run!
Heeding the call of her people on, 2 March 2022 when she declared for the Ogun governorship. That was during the gathering of a few market women and men in the Adire/Kampala market, Asero, Abeokuta, and Ogun State.
One cannot blame her for making her intention known to the people. Modele did not want to take the electorate for granted so that her political career would not end like that of Candido da Rocha, one of the richest men in Victorian Lagos in the colonial days. Due to his wealth, his friend, Herbert Macaulay, nominated him as a candidate in one of the elections of the time. And when da Rocha met the electorate, he told them: “I am Candido da Rocha, your candidate for the House. Vote for me if you like. And if you don’t, all well and good.” That statement ended his sojourn in politics as he lost the elections by acquiring just 20 votes!
Modele has been engaging people. In other words, she has, of late, been on consultation circuits with prominent Nigerians, selling her candidature. On 25 March, she paid a visit to Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, a Federal Commissioner (Minister) of Information, in Gen. Gowon’s government, who she referred to as a living legend. Modele said with eclat: “Today, Papa Clark hosted me and Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, current Deputy Governor, and Delta State governorship aspirant to lunch. He prayed for us and broke kola nut in the Ijaw tradition. I am truly honoured to call Papa E.K Clark my friend and I pray for longer life in continued good health.”
On 23 March, she was with Prince Tajudeen Olusi, son of a late Oba of Lagos, King Sanusi Olusi. The political leader, as she narrated, was a councillor in Lagos Island shortly after independence and remains one of the leaders of APC, as well as the chairman, of the Council of Elders in Lagos State. He also chairs the Governor’s Advisory Council, a key decision-making group in the state’s political arena. “An encyclopedia of politics in the South West, and indeed Nigeria, Baba Olusi has been giving us some politicking and election-winning tips!” She said.
In continuation of her consultations with major stakeholders in Ogun State, Modele, on 12 March, had the privilege of meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his presidential library where she discussed her plans for the Ogun State governorship position. The calibre of people she met gave her the confidence to “run, Modele Sharafa, run!”
Even though some of those she visited are not from Ogun State and did not have influence in the political structure of the State, she has to give her campaign a national outlook. She must be seen to have commanded political influence outside her place of birth, even though she hasn’t stood for any election in the State. This, to me, smacks of delusion of grandeur for a politician seeking a state election, to start consulting outside as if she is trying to vie for a seat in the President or seeking support for a United Nations appointment!
Like many Shakespearean characters, Modele has her tragic flaw- her character. Her relationship with Governor Dapo Abiodun attests to this. It started this way. Modele’s father, Alhaji Buhari Osinaike (1931-2017), a public servant in the old Western Region and Ogun State and Governor Abiodun’s late father, Dr Emmanuel Adesanya Abiodun, were great friends.
It was based on this that when Modele lost her job at Globacom, Governor Abiodun brought her close. After providing her with business opportunities, especially in the area of diesel supplies, he eventually made her Special Adviser on Information. She was to assist Governor Abiodun to provide a credible structure within his communication channels. Anyone that is saddled with this responsibility must have good interpersonal relations, devoid of egotism and personal flaws or human foibles. When she couldn’t have her way, she decided to keep her distance without removing her straw from the milk of the government.
She must fight back and the time to fight back is now, a disposition which tends to prove that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Therefore, she aligned with the political machinery of her benefactor’s enemies. It is a fundamental fact of political contest that a sure way of political Waterloo is to have fidelity with a losing group. The unfortunate part of the effort is that the group members are urging her to “run, Modele Sharafa, run!”
When The Cable asked if she would step down for Abiodun, she responded “We will cross that bridge if and when we get there.” She added: “For now, he hasn’t said he will run for the second term. I also wonder why people think that a second term is a ‘given’. If it was, the constitution would give an eight-year term — but it doesn’t. The constitution says a governor should spend four years, give an account of his stewardship and then come out to test his popularity and get a possible four more years.
“Governor Abiodun may yet support a good candidate and I don’t see why he wouldn’t support me if that’s the case. He knows my capabilities and my love for the state. I also supported him when he ran, so I am hopeful that he would return the favour — as a gentleman should.”
Can she win? She said “I know they say politicians are incurable optimists but I believe strongly that we can win and retain Ogun state as a progressive state. Before we made this declaration, we did a survey — a poll — and among other things, we asked the people if they would vote for a capable woman as governor. Sixty per cent of the respondents said they would — unconditionally; 2 per cent said they could vote for a woman, depending on who the woman is. Only 1 per cent said they would not vote for a female candidate and some of the reasons they gave include the fact that a woman might not have the money to run for office or the strength to undertake the rigours of electioneering campaigns. So, if about 8 per cent of respondents said they would vote for a capable woman as governor, we knew we were on to a good thing.”
Now, the major obstacle Modele will have is the Governor who stands firm like the Rock of Gibraltar. There is no defeating a winning team. The Ogun electorate do not pay good with evil. In other words, with Governor Abiodun’s great achievements in Ogun, the voters will surely pay him back with a second term electoral victory. For Modele to think she can defeat the incumbent is like trying to deliberately knock her head against the brick wall. The electorate are not blind at all!
A few of the Governor’s landmark achievements are worth mentioning here. No fewer than 34 roads spanning over 270km had been reconstructed, while another set of 41 roads had benefitted from rehabilitation covering over 322 km. He rehabilitated the 42-km Shagamu, Abeokuta interchange and the road in Arepo Journalists’ Estate. When President Muhammadu Buhari visited Ogun State early this year, he commissioned many projects, among which were: Gateway City Gate; the 42-Kilometre Sagamu Interchange-Abeokuta Road; the 14km Ijebu-Ode-Epe Expressway and two Housing Estates for low, medium, and high-income earners at Kobape and Oke-Mosan in Abeokuta.
In the area of health, Abiodun’s administration has invested heavily in health infrastructure and human capital development. No fewer than 100 Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) have either been rebuilt or newly constructed and adequately equipped, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. On housing, already, over 1,300 units have either been completed or are at different stages of completion. The target is about 3,000 units by 2023.
The security architecture in the state had been enhanced by restructuring and reinvigorating Ogun State Security Trust Fund, with new legislation and made it private sector-led, with the view to ensuring the security of lives and property of Nigerians. In response to some security challenges such as herders/ farmers skirmishes and kidnapping, his government set up the Joint Security Intervention Squad (JSIS), a special task force, and deployed additional resources to the trouble spots. The State Security Network, Amotekun, has also been inaugurated and activated to complement other security agencies,”
In the area of agriculture, over 26,540 jobs were created through the linkage of farmers and youths to agriculture opportunities through intervention programmes. The Ogun State Government provided input and facilitated the crediting of beneficiaries with over a 1.5billion Naira in the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and the FGN/IFAD/Ogun State Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP). Ogun State was declared the perfect location for the proposed Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone, SAPZ by the African Development Bank, AfDB. This was jointly re-established in March of 2021 by the AfDB and the International Fund for Agricultural Development during their working visit which applauded the Government’s initiative of the ongoing Ilishan-Remo Agro-Cargo Airport project.
At the airport, Governor Abiodun once said: “It is much more than a cargo airport. It is an aerotropolis. There are indications that it will soon be declared the non-oil export terminal of the country. That airport also sits in what is our Special Agro-Processing Zone. We have been nominated by the African Finance Development Bank as one of the states to jump-start the special Agro-Processing Zone project. We bidded for it, qualified, and it was not an appointment. We had to make a business case to justify that and we are doing just that. We have that in that airport. It means that we will have the airport and processing companies, agro-processing companies will be there because the airport is located at the centre of the state, bound by the Lagos-Ibadan expressway on one side, Sagamu-Benin expressway on the other side, and so access to the airport is right there. More importantly, we have our plantations there. We have our palm oil, rubber, and cocoa plantations there. I am sure you know we are the number one cassava producing state in the world right now. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has indicated its willingness to come to the place. We expect an Air Force Base there too. So, that Agro Cargo Airport will provide means of livelihood for an estimated 25,000 people.”
With these intimidating achievements of Governor Abiodun, it will be an uphill task for Modele, a complete greenhorn, to think she can defeat the Governor in an election. It is like trying to stop a moving train with bare hands. Not a few analysts posited that she should have honed her skill under the tutelage of a winner, a fulfilment of the time-worn aphorism that the young who knows how to wash his/her hands clean will dine with elders. For now, no one born of a woman can defeat the Dapo Abiodun political juggernaut in Ogun. This is not an empty boast; it is the reality.
Therefore, those that are pushing her to “run, Modele Sharafa, run”, may be asking her to run into the political scrap heap of history or complete oblivion. Since politicians are incurable optimists, Modele may be playing the obstinate hunter’s hound that gets lost because it fails to listen to its master’s whistle. Then, it may turn out to be: “run, Modele Sharafa run and sail into political wilderness or irrelevance.”
* Bankole Ojoobanikan, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abeokuta