Emerging factors seem to be moderating earlier narratives on how the Osun governorship race is turning out, especially the outcome of the June 18, 2022 governorship election in Ekiti State, which was won by the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Abiodun Oyebanji.
The emergence of former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as APC’s presidential candidate has boosted Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s confidence. The party is expected to reap from it.
Again, the new strategy of vote-buying adopted by the parties in Ekiti, of which the ruling APC had upper hand due to its superior financial power, may also reduce the impact of Labour Party and Accord Party to mere underdogs in the coming Osun poll.
Observers are now saying that instead of the initially projected four-horse race, the contest is actually going to be between the incumbent governor and Senator Ademola Adeleke. The two parties have proven organised political structures and financial resources to prosecute the election.
If the electoral umpire and other transparency watchdogs go to sleep regarding vote-buying, Ekiti might just be child’s play, with APC going all out to use resources to secure second term for the incumbent. The APC also has the advantage of the federal support. The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had said it was ready to match naira for naira and dollar for dollar, if the need be to win the race.
Tinubu’s particular involvement in Osun is for more than one reason. The national leader would need to secure Osun ahead of next year’s presidential poll. The former Lagos governor will also put his all into Osun to secure his ego. For instance, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Lasun Yussuff and the immediate past governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola have not reneged on their desire to see Oyetola bite dust. The two formidable leaders in the state have not hidden their disdain for Oyetola and the manner he sidelined them in the affairs of Osun APC.
The poor outing of Accord Party and LP in Ekiti gubernatorial election is not encouraging to their Osun chapters. There is not much on the ground in Osun to suggest that the two parties will do better in the coming election.
The fact that PDP also came a distant third in Ekiti election is not a good signal to the Osun chapter even though the dynamics that played out on June 18 may not work out in Osun, due to PDP’s wealth of experience in the state. The infighting in Osun PDP is also not as destructive as that of Ekiti, where former Governor Ayo Fayose saw himself as the Alpha and Omega of Ekiti PDP, which was the main reason the party performed woefully in the state.
The crisis that divided Ekiti PDP into two when former Governor Segun Oni, angrily left the party to pick up the ticket of Social Democratic Party (SDP) is also visible in the Osun chapter, where Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi also angrily left PDP to become candidate of Accord Party. It is hoped that the lessons from Ekiti should have dawned on all of them by now, that running away to form small cells only helps to diminish their capacity to win and be part of a winning party.
The only winning formula for smaller parties is to align and take advantage of the bigger parties. But this may be difficult to attain because the former deputy speaker and candidate of the Labour Party recently said if there is going to be an alliance, he must be the candidate.
The Guardian learnt that the faction of APC led by incumbent Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Aregbesola is angry that their principal’s name was deliberately excluded from the Osun Governorship Campaign Council. A reliable source in the camp said, “I cannot say yet whether we are going to be totally committed to Oyetola because as we speak, Aregbesola’s name was obviously omitted in the campaign council without any reason.”
Some skeptics said what has kept the former deputy Speaker going is his conviction that the aggrieved groups in APC would join him to wrest power from Oyetola, especially those who say the governor is unnecessarily stingy with funds. As at last week, Aregbesola’s camp appeared more disposed to aligning with Adeleke than Yussuff.
For instance, a former commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Kolapo Alimi, who served under Aregbesola, recently defected to PDP instead of joining the former deputy Speaker.
Both the LP and Accord Party, as matters stand appear not to have much chance in terms of structure, logistic and funding, which the ruling party and PDP can boast of.
Geo-political strength is something Oyetola and Yussuff have to demonstrate in Osun Central where they are both from. If Yussuf were strong here, Oyetola would have to struggle for votes in the district.
Nothing as of now shows that Yussuff is going to be a pushover here, apart from the fact that his platform is new and weak. It is up to the governor to capitalise on that, while Yussuff could market his name recognition to constituents.
Yussuff has not been seen organising open campaigns across the state. In fact, he doesn’t have many campaign billboards across the state and neither does he have many supporters, who are speaking for him, compared to his counterparts.
He is more heard on radio programmes outlining his policies and programmes. Some have wondered why his campaign is so cold, as if he has an agenda to play a spoiler.
But Yussuff, while reacting, denied any plan to step down for any candidate.
SENATOR Adeleke could take advantage of his Osun West district, where the electorate is insisting should produce the next governor. They said apart from the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, no other governor had come from the district.
Aregbesola is from Osun East, other past governors including Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Chief Bisi Akande and Oyetola, are from Osun Central. Adeleke would have had a smooth ride in the district but for the defection of Ogunbiyi from the PDP to Accord.
There is some respite for the governor, as far as geo-political mapping is concerned. Senator Iyiola Omisore, the incumbent National Secretary of APC is from Osun East. Omisore has a task to see the governor survive, as he had done with his bulk vote in the last election, if only he can cut Aregbesola to size, and payback the governor’s support that enabled him (Omisore) become national secretary.
Possible realignment and fresh alliances
There has been a gale of defections from and to APC and PDP and Accord Party.
Loyalists of Aregbesola are moving to Osun PDP. Their defection followed the spate of protests that trailed the controversial State and National Assembly primaries of APC, where the Senator Abdulahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) is yet to release the results of winners and losers, despite public outcry and protests by aspirants and other party members.
For instance, a lot of APC members have defected to PDP in notable places like Osogbo, Olorunda, Iwo, Egbedore, Ede, Ila, Irepodun, Ife Central and Ife East local governments of the state.
Alimi and his followers numbering over 2,000 defected to PDP. Alimi served as commissioner under the administration of Aregbesola and is Secretary of The Osun Progressives (TOP), a faction of the APC loyal to Aregbesola and agitating for the restructuring of the party. He was one of the lawyers that defended Governor Oyetola when he was challenged over the 2018 governorship election.
The PDP is not exempted from the gale of defections as over 500 members of the major opposition moved to the APC in Boripe Local Government Area of the state when the campaign train of Oyetola visited Boripe Local Government Area.
In the same vein, another PDP chieftain, Chief Sakariyau Oyediji recently led over 1,000 of his supporters to join Accord.
Against this backdrop of defections, there are chances this may increase the chances of parties and candidates while others may not have much electoral impact.
Speaking on the defections, the Director General of the Oyetola Campaign Council, Senator Ajibola Bashiru and the Special Adviser on Political matters to the governor, Hon. Sunday Akere, said APC was not losing sleep over the exodus of APC members to PDP.
They said the action of the defectors, especially Kolapo Alimi, is inconsequential and will not have any effect on APC in the election.
On security, PDP, LP and Accord Party have expressed concern that the government in power is demonstrating unrestrained desperation to retain power at all cost.
Chairman Media Committee of the Adeleke Campaign Organisation, Prince Diran Odeyemi, said the major fear of his principal is not vote-buying but security.
He pointed to instances where campaign billboards and posters of opposition candidates and that of Adeleke, are destroyed everyday, alleging that APC would destroy few of its campaign materials as a justification to destroy en mass those that belong to other parties. “We have made several reports but the security personnel are doing nothing.”