Politics in Nigeria from years immemorial have introduced so many giants and shakers, who have influenced events in their own ways. Some lasted for a long time while some came and left the scene quickly. Very few have continued their dominance from the 3rd republic till now and some have kept their dynasty intact for so long a time. However, history will never forget the ones who have stuck to their ideologies and continued to support their people and political parties all along, despite time of trials.
In the category of the latter, one name comes to mind easily in the politics of Ondo State; Honourable Chief Olabisi Johnson.
Crisis began brewing in the ruling party in Ondo State, the People's Democratic Party (PDP), in 2014, following the defection of the then incumbent governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, from the Labour Party against the wish of many members of the state's chapter, especially the aspirants seeking tickets for various political positions in the 2015 general elections. The State's party structure was then handed over to Dr. Mimiko by the powers in Abuja which brought in another defector, Chief Clement Faboyede, as state chairman, while the ones considered mainstay faction had Mr. Ebenezer Alabi as chairman. Mr Alabi would go on to resign on 9th of December, 2014 to allow Chief Faboyede continue as chairman. This internal wranglings did not help the fortune of the party during the 2015 presidential polls as President Muhammadu Buhari's APC won in Ondo State as against the expectations of PDP winning in the state where the party's presidential campaign coordinator for South West was the governor.
In a country where crisscrossing across political platforms is the order of the day, it is then worthy of mention for a man who believed in his ideology and his ability to achieve that on a singular platform.
From 1999 till date, a political figure in Ondo politics, who have stuck with his party, in sweet and hard times, when other big-wigs like the Segun Adegokes, the Olusola Okes, the Olusegun Mimikos, Yele Omogunwas and Co have being dancing to tunes played by different political parties, is Honourable Chief Olabisi Johnson, popurlarly known as OJ Wonder.
This rather silent shaker and quintessential politician clearly controls a stake in the Ondo PDP as seen in the results of 2015 presidential election and the following House of Assembly elections two weeks after. In the build up to the elections, Chief Olabisi and his teeming supporters had vowed not to accept then Governor Mimiko as the leader of the party, either will they allow their candidates be bullied out of the race for different political offices. The tension peaked towards the presidential election which obviously affected the result coming from Ondo State. Dr. Mimiko, sensing his proteges vying for various house of assembly seats might lose to the APC in the election, quickly reached out to the leaders of the other PDP divide, including Chief Olabisi Johnson and a truce was made. The result of that on the election was PDP candidates went on to win 24 of the 26 seats in the House, leaving APC to have the remaining 2 seats. Such is the influence of the man, OJ Wonder. If anything is to be said of a man known not to have held too many elective positions in Ondo State, it is his ability to build grassroots relationship and ability to mobilize in numbers political followers. Chief Olabisi's first foray into politics dates back to 1987 as a local government secretary of People's Solidarity Party (PSP) and he was also elected a councillorfor Ondo Ward 4. He joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1988. In 1996, he became the Chairman of the old Ondo local government (now Ondo East and west local councils).
A philanthropist and one who is ready to use his belongings to support the cause of his people and party. Chief Olabisi have, for years, donated a large space on Brigadier Ademulegun Road to the PDP for use as meeting venue and also for campaigns. He is also referred to as "Father of employment" because of his knack for using his influence to help young people get employment, irrespective of their educational status, citizenship and political affiliation. People will not forget his time as chairman of both Ondo state local government service commission and Ondo State LG Pensions board. He also served as members of National insurance commission and Federal Medical Center Bida, as many youths got jobs in several federal and state agencies with his influence.
Mr. Akintade Bosun, while describing Chief Olabisi Johnson, said he has not known many politicians who have believed in his people and cared for them as much as Chief Olabisi does. He went on to say he regard him as one of the powerful politicians to have come out of Ondo town, Dr. Mimiko being the other. Another respondent who prefers anonymity claims that Chief Olabisi has supported and helped so many young people he can not count. He hailed OJ Wonder for showing faith in the PDP through thick and thin, hehoped that the party will reward his loyalty by recognizing him as the most influential leader in Ondo State. Another indegene reminisced how Chief Olabisi Johnson, as chairman of Ondo local government, will gather people at the community square monthly to give account of stewardship of his administration and also take feedback directly from constituents to determine what project will be taken up next. He operated an open and inclusive government.Ludwig Borne said "Goodwill is the one and only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy.", such is what Chief Olabisi rightly enjoys the goodwill from his people at home. He has won several awards both home and abroad, one of which is the bestlocal government chairman, Ondo State Governor's award (1997).Chief Honourable Olabisi Johnson is a politician, whose influence cannot be wished away and his stature is difficult to diminish. He was instrumental in the recent unification of PDP in Ondo stateespecially in Ondo City, where he led PDP faithfuls in company of another chieftain of the party, Chief Segun Adegoke, on a unification rally. The different factions came together, promised to deliver and restore the party back to where it used to be. As we approach the 2019 general elections, it will be interesting to see what role he plays in the politics of Ondo State and Nigeria. Either he decides to present himself for a position or he plays the background manager, only time will tell.
Data and opinions presented here are from the various respondents that were interviewed for the purpose of this article.
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