The frenzy that currently typifies the campaigns ahead of the July 8 bye-election in Osun West senatorial district, Osun State, has peaked as the respective candidates of the contending parties struggle to outdo one another. Yinka Kolawole writes
As the people of Osun West senatorial district, Osun State, count down to their by-election scheduled to hold on July 8, a lot is already beginning to define the turf in clear muscle-flexing campaign mode.
First, Chief Ademola Adelekeâ€™s campaign train was attacked in Gbongan, the headquarters of Ayedaade Local Government Area of the state, a development that brought fright into the exercise.
And immediately this happened, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of being behind the attack on its candidate.
PDP in a statement by its state Chairman, Mr. Soji Adagunodo, claimed that hoodlums believed to be working for the APC attacked the PDP campaign train in Gbongan and at Ode Omu in their efforts to frustrate the partyâ€™s candidate.
But the APC in a swift response denied sponsoring the attack on Adelekeâ€™s campaign. The APC Secretary in the state, Alhaji Rasak Salinsile said his party knew nothing about the attack.
Soon after this engagement, the PDP raised yet the alarm over alleged plan by the APC to scuttle the process of free, fair and credible poll and would later call for a postponement of the election.
PDP chair, Adagunodo at a press conference in Osogbo, alleged that some electoral officers were conniving with scores of APC chieftains to disenfranchise eligible voters in areas considered the strongholds of the PDP, by allegedly deleting their names from the votersâ€™ list.
He further alleged that the APC had concluded plan to distort the allocation of ballot papers in such a manner that those meant for specific local governments, wards and polling units were diverted to wrong locations to delay the commencement of voting and by implications, disenfranchise many voters.
He frowned at the allegation that some chieftains of the APC had â€œprocured the service of notorious thugs from within and outside the state to unleash violence in specific areas like Ede North, Ede south, Egbedore, Irewole, Iwo and Ayedaade local governments on the day of the election.
â€œWe have credible information about the plans of APC and the state government to arrange the kidnap and or arrest of leaders of the PDP in certain local government on the eve of July 8th by-election. As we speak, certain chieftains of APC have compiled names of their party members and sympathizers to be accredited by INEC as election observers and monitors.
â€œYou will recall 181 of these same elements from Osun State were arrested somewhere in Imo State in 2013, while traveling as fake observers for the Anambra governorship electionâ€, he said, alleging also that the APC candidate in the election, Senator Mudashir Hussein, had clandestine plan to bring thousands of non-residents from Abidjan, Cotonou, Togo and Ghana as voters.
He therefore assured his party members and supporters in the ten local governments that make up the senatorial district of efforts at the national headquarters of PDP to guarantee credible exercise, saying â€œwe shall not allow anyone no matter how highly placed to subvert the freewill of the electorateâ€.
Similarly, the PDP has also spoken against the allegations of plans for violence ahead of the election made against the PDP by the APC chair, Mr. Gboyega Famodun.
â€œWe wish to state that the allegations are not only false and malicious but a clear indication that the APC is jittery, having seen its imminent electoral waterloo in the forthcoming elections. Our party which neither controls any security apparatus nor maintains a hidden force cannot be planning violence ahead of an election that will afford the good people of Osun State an opportunity to take back the stolen glory of the state.
â€œIt is the APC state government, under Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola that maintains a terror group called â€˜State boysâ€™ in the last 7 years. It is the APC that has notoriety for issuing threats of fire and brimstone ahead of elections. It is the APC and Ogbeni Aregbesola that are on record to have called on innocent voters to use charms and amulets against even security agents in previous elections.
But the APC candidate, Hussain, raised the bar of debate when he said Adelekeâ€™s assertion on a live radio programme on the Rave FM, where claimed that his late brother was not a beneficiary of his large heart and obedience to partyâ€™s position, was sheer bunkum, adding that Adeleke was incompetent to speak on the negotiations that produced his late brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, in 2014.
According to him, â€œFor Senator Adelekeâ€™s brother, Ademola, to come out today and claim that I did not step down for his late brother is a clear indication that he is totally ignorant of the issues that led to his brother coming to the APC from the PDP, where he and his loyalists had been disgraced.
â€œHas he forgotten so soon how a serving minister of police affairs at the time, who was a loyalist of Omisore, threatened to beat him to coma but for what he knew was Adelekeâ€™s poor health then? If he is so sure that their familyâ€™s so-called empowerment of Ede people or Osun West people was so strong enough to win him election, why not stay in PDP and fight it out?
He further said Adelekeâ€™s statements on the live radio programme already showed the strategy of deceit being employed by the PDP candidate.
â€œWhy is he announcing N250m scholarship scheme for Osun West students now? Why not before? If he had so much money and was ready to help, why is he at this point using his brotherâ€™s shadow to deceive the people?
â€œAPC has said it and we mean it, humiliating defeat awaits Adeleke come July 8, 2017. Adeleke accused some people that they are Lagos-based! How else does a candidate prove to be shallow? Assuming we are Lagos-based, where is he based. He is based in America. What knowledge of the Osun West does he possess to know what really are their needs?â€
The APC believes that the allegation of rigging was the product of â€˜sick mentalityâ€™ of the Osun PDP and its supporters, whom it said were psychologically tormented by the obsession to win Osun West senatorial seat by any means possible.
Thereâ€™s no doubt about the fact that the election of July 8 is going to be a make or mar for the two major parties â€“ the APC and the PDP â€“ hence the seeming â€œdesperationâ€ by both of them to outdo each other. While the PDP needs it for a great comeback, especially that the governorship election is also due next year, the APC needs it to reaffirm its place in the state since the party and government are believed to have lost their relevance considerably in the last few years.
Thus, either way, the July 8 election is a crucial one for both the APC and the PDP and whoever wins it, might have taken a major leap into the possibility of winning the governorship election of next year or at the very least, constitute a huge influence in what happens in next yearâ€™s election. But unfortunately, whilst the weight of incumbency might have been demystified on the part of the APC given what the economy has become in the last over seven years, the PDP does not have an impressive presence either because of the humiliation it has so far suffered or the tag of corruption and incompetence hanging on its neck.
But the most interesting twist to the election is that it seems more of a manifestation of the power struggle within the APC than one between the APC and the PDP. There is the possibility that if Adeleke wins the election, he might later cross over to the APC and align with his own camp of the party.
However, if Hussein wins, it would further strengthen the other camp of the party, which is being rumoured to be pondering a defection to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the countdown to 2019. So, whichever way, the election is both crucial and critical to the survival of both parties, moving forward.