WAHEED ADEBAYO examines the chances of the major contenders for the number one political seat in Osun State ahead of Saturday’s gubernatorial election
In the next few days, precisely on Saturday, September 22, the people of Osun State will through their votes determine who occupies the Okefia Government House, Osogbo, after the incumbent governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aragbesola leaves office.
The incumbent governor had been occupying the Government House in the last eight years and after the expiration of his mandate, the place becomes vacant for another tenant whose tenancy is expected to last for another four or eight years, as the case may be.
As Aregbesola’s tenure inches towards its final weeks, precisely to terminate on November 26, it is clear that there will be a vacancy at the Government House and that another tenant or occupier should move in.
Historically, since its creation, the state had witnessed five governorship elections and even before election would hold, many keen political watchers would have predicted correctly where the pendulum would swing.
As the participating political parties and candidates are putting finishing touches to their strategies and campaigns to occupy the number one seat in Osun State, there are different factors that will come at play and determine the chances of the candidates.
By the records of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, no fewer than 12 political parties are jostling and fielding candidates for the governorship election, however, only five of them, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC; the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; the Social Democratic Party, SDP; the Action Democratic Party, ADP; and the African Democratic Congress, ADC, are prominently positioned to make appreciable impact.
Other participating political parties, which are also visible, include the Alliance for Democracy, AD; and the Accord Party, APC and the Labour Party, LP, among others.
Prior to this time, the tempo of campaign activities has reached a feverish peak, as most active political parties and their standard bearers have moved from one community to another to rally support of the prospective voters for their aspirations.
Also, many groups, including the INEC, the civil society organisations, CSOs and media houses are sensitising the people of the state about the poll.
Security agencies are also firming up their operations and educating their men and officers to be deployed for the exercise on how to carry out their duties on the day of election.
Also, various debates have been organised for the contestants with a view to selling their manifestoes to the public, while candidates of the various political parties and their supporters have continued to engage the people through door-to-door campaign and political rallies to sell their manifestos and programmes.
However, rather than having an issue-based campaigns, their campaigns had focused largely on accusations and allegations and counter-accusations and counter allegations against one another.
It was observed that many of the contestants hardly discuss their manifestos, programmes and how they will tackle the challenges facing the state when they become the governor.
Equally of note is that defections from one political party to another has continued unabated, while it was gathered that most politicians moved from one party to the other mainly because of their inability to realise their ambition on a particular platform.
Some of the issues that have generated heated debates among the electorates about some of the candidates and their political parties ahead the election include: certificate scandal, zoning of the governorship seat to Osun West senatorial district, welfare of the public workers and pensioners, debt profile of the state and the so called ‘Lagos agenda’. There is no doubt that these issues have been highly politicised.
As a result, both the candidates and their supporters are engrossed with issues they believe will determine where the pendulum may eventually swing and what each of the candidates have going for him.
It was gathered that many factors and happenings will combine to determine the candidate that will succeed Governor Aregbesola.
Some of the strong contenders are Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, APC; Moshood Olalekan Adeoti, ADP; Senator Iyiola Omisore, SDP; Alhaji Fatai Akinade Akinbade, ADC; and Senator Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke, PDP.
The APC governorship candidate, Oyetola, was Chief of Staff to the incumbent Governor Aregbesola for almost eight years, until about three weeks ago, when he resigned the appointment to contest for the governorship election.
His candidature was aimed to continue the tempo of socio-economic development of the state, started by the Aregbesola administration and to also break new grounds.
For over 30 years, he served as a technocrat in the competitive private sector, and has added eight years in public office to that experience.
Political observers believe that the combination of these two critical areas of experience positions him well for the exalted position of the governor.
He is also said to be calm and exhibits control over serious challenges. It is also believed that he is going to leverage on his exposure that travels beyond the shores of the state and Nigeria would afford him.
However, being a major part of the Aregbesola government might be a minus for him. His opponents believe that the issue of salary and pension arrears would always stare him in the face and may affect his chances. However, recent serious effort by the incumbent administration to pay the backlog of salaries and pensions with the release of the last Paris Club Fund may douse the tension occasioned by this development.
Though the APC administration made the workers see reasons for a fashioned modulated salary structure, which it said was caused by the serious economic challenge facing the nation and which was not peculiar to Osun alone, it is feared that some public servants may still habour ill feelings, because for the harsh effect of the economic reality on their wellbeing.
It therefore seems that the major concern of the APC candidate is the issue of debt profile of the state, which the opposition has capitalised upon and has described as “reckless.”
But the APC insists there is justification for the several loans secured by the Aregbesola government, because of rapid and even infrastructural development in massive road construction and other sectors, including education, health, among others.
Also, the APC said the loans had helped the state to beat high cost of construction if the state were to wait till it would have enough savings to do the projects.
Another major issue in the state politics today is zoning, as some people from Osun West senatorial district are clamouring for zoning of the plum office to the West.
But some informed opinion leaders are saying that what is needed is the “best” not the “West.” They said in democracy, the people should be allowed to decide where the next governor will come from.
Another important factor is the so-called ‘Lagos agenda’. But the APC candidate to who this allegation is primarily directed at maintained that it could not be denied that he was born in Iragbiji, the headquarters of Boripe Local Government and raised and schooled in Osogbo, the state capital from elementary to secondary school before proceeding to the University of Lagos to read Insurance.
He said it is even an added advantage for the state to have its successful indigenes in various sectors of the economy since their exposure, expertise, accomplishment will ultimately impact on the state, if such an indigene has opportunity to govern.
This is even more so, if the said indigene has always been in regular contact with the grassroots and has for many years made investments in the state. He described the insinuation of a Lagos agenda as political, “being promoted by very few with selfish and personal interest.”
The ADP governorship candidate, Adeoti, is a thorough bred and a grassroots politician, who had held several grassroots political positions in the past, including the Chairman of Iwo Local Government, Chairman of the defunct Action Congress, AC, that later transformed to Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, on which platform, Aregbesola, came into power on November 27, 2010, following the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Ibadan, Oyo State, which sacked the PDP-led Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s administration.
He was the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, of Aregbesola’s government for almost eight years before he resigned and defected to the ADP, because he said the APC primary was “manipulated in favour” of another aspirant. He is a major advocate of Osun West agenda, saying the zone had been short-changed for far too long.
But his political opponents described him as pursuing a selfish interest rather than supporting the principle adopted by the party; which is that the contest should be open to all the zones.
However, it was feared that to garner enough votes from his base, Osun West, may remain a Herculean task for him, since he has other major contenders from his home base.
His second major challenge may be how to convince the other two zones to support his aspiration. If we add these to the level of acceptability and the limited spread of his party, compared to that of the other major candidates, his chances may only be described as dicey.
As an individual, however, he is experienced and popular enough not to be dismissed with a wave of the hand. His party is not as strong however.
The SDP governorship candidate, Senator Omisore is an engineer and a PhD holder. He was deputy to former governor of Osun State, Abdul-Kareem Adebisi Akande, between 1999 and 2003 on the platform of the AD.
He was impeached towards the tail end of the Akande administration, but staged his comeback to the political space when he was elected the senator representing Osun East senatorial district, otherwise known as Ife/Ijesa zone, from 2003 to 2011.
In the Senate, he was Chairman, Appropriation Committee. In 2011, he attempted to return to the Senate the third time but lost to Babajide Omoworare of the defunct ACN. Omisore in 2014 had a strong governorship contest, but lost to the incumbent governor, Ogbeni Aregbesola, who then was seeking a second term in office.
He defected from the PDP to the SDP to pursue his ambition, when the former denied him the ticket. His entry into the SDP was dramatic and controversial, but he maneuvered to secure the party’s governorship ticket.
Omisore is from Osun East, where the incumbent governor, Aregbesola, comes from. This factor, according to his political opponents, may work against his victory, because his choice of candidate for the people would make the zone spend about 12 to 16 unbroken years in power. This is allegedly not palatable to those agitating for zoning of the governorship to Osun West, believed not to have had equal representation in the exalted position. Also, it is believed that the PDP family, from where he had defected may split his votes. But he is very strong in Ife zone of the Osun East.
The ADC governorship candidate, Akinbade, an engineer, is from Osun West senatorial district. He was a former SSG under the Oyinlola administration for over seven years.
He was also the chairman of the PDP that ushered in Oyinlola government into power in 2003. During the military rule, he was Commissioner for Works under three military administrators; from Anthony Udofia, to Anthony Obi and Theophilus Bamigboye.
He defected from the PDP to LP to actualise his governorship ambition in 2014 and returned to the party about three months ago, only to defect again to his present party, ADC, where he got the governorship ticket.
He is an experienced grassroots politician, but it is feared that his votes may be split because he is from Osun West, where Adeoti, another major governorship aspirant, the PDP governorship candidate, Senator Adeleke, the running mate to the APC candidate, Gboyega Alabi, and other political heavy weights also come from.
The PDP’s candidate, Adeleke is very new in the state’s politics, except for his late elder brother, Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, on whose structure he is using. After late Adeleke’s death, he came on the political scene, using his family goodwill and sympathy for the tragic nature of his brother’s death to win Osun West senatorial bye election.
The Iwo axis of the West was said to have conceded the senatorial seat to Ede, believing that when it is time for the 2018 governorship seat, Ede will do same for Iwo. But the story changed and Iwo may not support Ede for the forthcoming poll, as no fewer than three candidates are from that zone for the seat.
Also, the recent forged certificate scandal involving him has continued to hunt the PDP candidate, though the court had given him the go ahead for the election when it ruled in his favour over the matter.
His critics however alleged that he had not done much to prove to the public that he had the credentials to rule Osun.
The bickering among the PDP members over the result of the party’s primary, where Adeleke emerged with very narrow margin, is a factor.
It is believed that Ogunbiyi was robbed; though the issue had been laid to rest only about a week ago, some political analysts said this might affect PDP’s chances.
Another blow to Adeleke’s chance was the defection of his kinsman, the former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Adejare Bello, to the APC. Bello came to the APC with hundreds of his supporters that should be working for the victory of Adeleke.
Taking all these issues and developments into consideration, political observers believed that the struggle for power in Osun State today is between the APC and the opposition parties.
According to observers, there is the need for the opposition to come together in terms of coalition to defeat the APC.
Some observers contended that whichever party eventually wins may not have a landslide victory, but may only have a very narrow margin, as every candidate is counting on his homestead and exercises the hope of getting support from other parts of the state, particularly places like Osogbo and others with a huge voting strength. The game therefore remains dicey.
The fact remains that whoever will occupy the Okefia Government House must not only be accepted across the state, but must be ready to surpass the achievements of the incumbent governor.
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