At first, they called him a political neophyte, positing that when he came face to face with the “superior” politics of those before him, he would crumble. But in 2019, he did what most have thought impossible, he conquered the ruling APC in Oyo State, which was, at that time, backed by Federal might, the might of incumbency and the might of the southwest. Not only did he win the election, he won convincingly by a margin of over 150,000 votes.
Some were quick to insist that he only won in 2019 because of the coalition that came together on the eve of the gubernatorial elections to endorse him. In fact, the coalition thought themselves so powerful that after he won the elections, they insisted on being “settled” with juicy appointments and contracts. But Seyi Makinde would have nothing of this entitlement spirit, choosing instead to take the high road of good governance.
His actions, as expected, drew the anger and ire of this political class, and in the buildup to the 2023 elections, they made it quite clear that the coalition had collapsed and thatMakinde was now running on his own. Perhaps they did not consider the goodwill that Seyi Makinde had garnered in his over three years as governor.
This goodwill was brought to bear as Seyi Makinde started, first his door-to-door campaigns and consultations in all the seven geopolitical zones of Oyo State and then his Local Government Area to Local Government Area campaigns. Everywhere he goes, goodwill follows him. Indeed, as stated in his About Page on his website, “like a flame cast on dry leaves in the peak of harmattan, he ignited a political consciousness that spread hope and a renewed belief in good governance in the minds of the people of Oyo State.”
Some say he runs a populist government. He responds that he runs a people-centred government that makes decisions based on data, science and logic. Others opine that they love his governance but hate his politics, mostly because he has made some political decisions that they disagree with. For instance, his recent romance with the G5, a group of governors within the PDP also identified as the Integrity Group. But in their grief, they acknowledge the importance of the person they “hate”. Why should they be bothered by what Seyi Makinde does or does not do if his every move is unimportant to them?
Despite the grievances and misgivings against him, Seyi Makinde’s profile continues to rise among his people. Everywhere he goes, shouts of “Seyi Lekansi”, “4+4”, or his campaign slogan, “Omituntun 2.0”, fill the air. His opponents at the forthcoming elections have been told they should spend their money on other important things. This is the advice they appear to be taking as their campaigns have been quite subdued. But for a few posters, radio and tv appearances and party consultations, the opposition, backed by the coalition that supposedly propelled Seyi Makinde to power in 2023, seem to have lost their steam.
Less than 40 days to the March 11 poll, the question friends and foes alike ask is not whether Seyi Makinde will get a second term but by how much margin he will win. Seyi Makinde himself claims, he wants to win by a 500k margin, this is ambitious but not inconceivable. He has done thingsright, by the standards of people who voted for him the first time, and enough even by the standards of people who are not fans of his politics.
Going by polls conducted in November and December 2022, he leads the pack with an over 50% approval rating. And if elections were to hold today and all the other parties collapsed their structure to form a coalition against him, they still would not have enough votes to unseat him. Just yesterday, he released what some have called a death stroke, his Oyo State Roadmap to Sustainable Development, 2023 – 2027, which he described as his new covenant with the people of Oyo State.
We all wait with bated breath for the March 11 gubernatorial election in Oyo State to see whether the polls match the outcomes. Before then, Seyi Makinde continues to pull crowds on the campaigns and spread the gospel of Omituntun 2.0 as he goes from Local Government Area to Local Government Area.