Saturday’s governorship election in Osun state is unique not because it goes into history as the first to be contested by 48 candidates but for the fact that unlike most two-way horse race, there are four strong candidates. Political pundits say any of these four individuals could emerge as the successor of Rauf Aregbesola, the incumbent governor.
There are 1,682,495 registered voters in the state which has 322 wards and 30 local government areas. The major contenders have supporters across board and have strength and weaknesses in these areas. The party fielding the candidates are also testing their popularity ahead of the next general elections. For the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it is another opportunity to clean out the remaining blemishes in the electoral process and get it right before 2019.
In this piece, we analysed the factors working for and against the major contenders in Osun.
Oyetola, former chief of staff to Aregbesola and a cousin to Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the ruling party, is a candidate to watch out for. Despite the controversy that greeted the party’s direct primary election through which he emerged, the APC flagbearer ran a campaign that made his opponents envious.
In his camp are the incumbent governor, the master strategist of Nigerian politics, widely known as Jagaban and the party which controls government at the centre. President Muhammadu Buhari led 13 APC governors to the state to campaign for him. Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna state, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, said some of the governors would remain in Osun till the poll is over. This shows the robust support he enjoys at the moment. It’s pointless arguing that his financial war chest is heavy. The PDP even alleged that the Federal Government secretly released N19.8 billion Paris Club refund to the Osun government few weeks to the election. Aregbesola later ordered the payment of full salaries.
Some residents of the state see the APC candidate as intelligent, likable and gentle but this doesn’t mean that he is set for a smooth ride. He carries some huge burdens that may weigh him down. Critics have used his link to Tinubu to de-market him. Foot soldiers of other contestants are creating the impression that a vote for Oyetola is an indirect transfer of the lean resources of the state to Tinubu.
Tinubu’s attempt to deflate this argument almost worsened the situation. During a visit to Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, Ataoja of Osogbo, the traditional ruler, Tinubu said the state does not have the kind of resources that interest him. The comment sent a wrong signal across but Tunde Rahman, spokesman of the APC leader, did what could be seen as damage control and the issue went out of the radar but there could be protest votes on Saturday.
Aregbesola’s loss of goodwill in some parts of the state is also one thing not going well for Oyetola. The current government in the state is being accused of poor welfare condition of public workers and pensioners. Having subjected a majority of voters who are public officers or their loved ones to half salaries for a few years, Oyetola is being haunted by some policies of the government he served.
The PDP as the major opposition is leaving no stone unturned to snatch the state from the ruling party. PDP lost Ekiti, its only south-west state to APC two months ago and is ready to take Osun to send a strong signal across. Adeleke, its standard bearer, came to prominence after the death of his elder brother, Isiaka. The deceased who died a serving senator was nursing his governorship ambition.
Though a political neophyte, the 58-year-old trounced his APC opponent to clinch the senatorial seat for Osun west district. The sympathy for his brother and height of distrust for APC in the state worked in his favour in the senatorial election but some believe that the goodwill is fast eroding.
His absence at the debate organised by the BBC Yoruba and Channels Television did not also help his cause. It sent a wrong signal across and gave his opponents oxygen to pounce on the man whose streetwise tendency has earned him the nickname “dancing senator”.
At a mega rally for Oyetola in Osogbo, Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the APC, taunted Adeleke that governance is not for dancers. Oshiomhole threw the crowd into frenzy when he said the PDP candidate was busy dancing “skelewu” during the debate.
The elite in the state are said to be displeased with Adeleke’s flair for dancing at the slightest sound of music. Razak Jimoh, a PDP member who spoke with TheCable, said people take Adeleke as unserious.
“He doesn’t have the experience in terms of governance, leadership or working experience. He has never done a job of his own,” Jimoh said.
“Right from time, he has been relying on his elder brothers, late Isiaka and Deji Adeleke. They are the ones taking care of him; he doesn’t have his own enterprise.”
The outcome of the party’s primary election which he won with a slim margin might affect him in the race. Some aggrieved members of the party feel the election was won by Akin Ogunbiyi, his major contender, but rigged in Adeleke’s favour.
With a case in court over a scandal involving his secondary school certificate, Adeleke is facing an in-house battle.
The PDP candidate, however, said no amount of intimidation or any oppressive act can stop his electoral victory. One thing going for him is the zoning argument, which is gradually gaining ground. Some of the people feel it’s the turn of Osun west, where he is from, to produce a governor.
Also, the crack in APC could sway votes in his direction as those who do not want the ruling party might see him as an option. Analysts say his strong financial resources might also be a plus for him — with the support of his wealthy family. The involvement of Davido, his superstar nephew in his campaign, can also sway him some votes, especially among young persons.
Omisore, former deputy governor of the state is representing Social Democratic Party (SDP) after defecting from PDP. He is the most experienced politically, having served as a deputy governor in the state two decades ago. On different occasions, Omisore had contested to be governor without success — he was the major contender against Aregbesola in 2014 but despite the massive support from the government of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, the APC carried the day.
In the Osun east, where he comes from, he’s sure to pull a crowd of voters. With Ife controlling about six local governments, Omisore has a fair chance. That is where his political structure lies and he understands the terrain.
But there’s still a huge divide within his party which started after the primary election that produced him and another candidate. Having taken over the party echelon, he became the candidate. Aggrieved members might also work against him. Even with his experience, he might not be able to pull enough financial resources to outwit candidates of APC and PDP.
The Ife politician is still battling with his alleged role in the controversial death of Bola Ige, former minister of Justice, in 2001, as it is being raised anytime he contests, although Omisore has consistently denied having hands in the killing.
At the governorship debate, he said, “I believe that it shouldn’t be an issue that occurs every four years during campaigns. After elections now, (they won’t) ask that question anymore. It should be an issue that has been laid to rest.”
One of the adverse outcomes of the APC direct primary was the defection of Mosood Adeoti, an aspirant of the party and former secretary to the state government. After the emergence of Oyetola, he shifted his tent to Action Democratic Party (ADP) and secured the party’s ticket. The 65-year-old was the pioneer chairman of the (AD) in the state.
Although he could be termed inconspicuous among the major aspirants, the fact that he is from Iwo where the zoning clamour favours is enough to get him considerable supporters. His political experience as grassroot politician makes him a strong contender in the race.
But he obviously doesn’t have the monetary strength to give the two major parties a tough fight. Some members of the ruling party were said to have followed him when he defected, but some residents of the state are saying that the Iwo man was an integral part of the Aregbesola administration having served for seven and half years and so cannot exonerate himself from what they described as anti-people policies.
Notwithstanding, vying on the platform of a less visible party gives him a limited shot at the highly-coveted position but how this plays out on Saturday would be interesting.