Next weekend, Osun State would take a major decision when her people would file out to elect the next governor of the state. More than the tension and the anxiety that gripped the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State, the whole of the nation appears to be on tenterhooks as Osun either maintains the status quo or moves on to a different ideological leaning. From Lagos to Abuja and other parts of the country, everyone has an interest in the choice of governor Osun seeks to throw up. This is also largely because whatever it is, being the closest crucial election to next year’s general election, the exercise would be used nearly accurately to gauge the subsisting mood and be able to extrapolate into 2019. In all, 48 out of the 91 political parties are fielding candidates for this election. Yet, in the 48, only five parties are somewhat reckoned with, without necessarily dismissing the possibility that any of the 42 others or some combined could spring up surprises. This is why in projecting the likely outcome of the exercise, it is important to note that there are many shades that would give life as much as some dynamic meanings to the election, write Shola Oyeyipo and Yinka Kolawole
OSUN ELECTION AND ITS PECULIARITY
No one in the political camp of former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would feign ignorance that the Osun State governorship election coming up on September 22, would be another test case of his political sagacity and relevance in the South-west geo-political mathematics.
Since venturing into the Nigerian political space, at no time had the authority of the APC leader been so challenged as when his former party, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) went into the merger that gave birth to the ruling APC.
Apparently wary of the reality that Tinubu wields a lot of power with his relevance in South-west politics, not only were there deliberate efforts to curtail him in the region, he has been prevented from expanding his coasts as he had done before. At the same time, some forces within the party have been making frantic efforts to burrow into his base and as it is, they appear to have been gradually depleting his base.
The cases of Kogi and Ondo States and partly Ekiti are clear indications of that and they are the best references of a well-orchestrated gang-up to ‘cut Tinubu to size.’
In Kogi State, for instance, Tinubu’s protégé, House of Representatives member from the Ikeja federal constituency, Lagos State, Hon. James Faleke, who was the running mate to the late Alhaji Abubakar Audu in the governorship election, was denied the opportunity or right of benefitting from the victory of his principal, who died at the tail end of the election when they were clearly on the cusp of victory.
Though the incumbent Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello came second in the APC governorship primaries, he eventually emerged the APC candidate and became governor after a Supreme Court judgment validated his candidature, Faleki, however, alleged that some highly placed government officials had “exerted pressure on judges.”
The force working against Tinubu is the cabal in the presidency, believed to have been aided by some of Tinubu’s former protégés. Thus, the Buhari boys or Abuja boys as some call them challenged and defeated Tinubu again in Ondo State after allies of the president allegedly came together to outdo Segun Abraham, who was Tinubu’s alleged choice.
It was from that point that Tinubu’s disapproval for the immediate past National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun escalated. In fact, that was when he started a strong campaign that Oyegun must resign, before his eventual ouster during the last national convention, which produced a former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole as the APC national chairman.
THE ROAD TO THE PRIMARIES
After all these, the Osun State governorship election presents these two contending forces (Abuja and Lagos camps of the APC) with another battleground and with the rate events are unfolding, it is already showing that there would be more intrigues in the days ahead.
Already, the ruling APC in Osun State has suffered a mass exodus of its members to the Action Democratic Party (ADP). Surprisingly, the defectors included the state deputy chairman and eight members of the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the APC.
Apart from the purported over 6,000 members, comprising 580 local government executive members from 25 council areas of the state and 5, 620 ward executives that Alhaji Moshood Adeoti boasted defected with him, the Special Adviser to outgoing Governor Rauf Aregbesola on Cooperatives, Mr. Gbenga Awosode, also resigned his position and membership of the APC. His agenda is to pursue his political aspiration in the ADP.
Thus, the gale of defections is nothing but a reflection of the covert power-play among the forces fighting for the control of state within the APC. But with Tinubu and Aregbesola having full control of the APC structure in Osun, it was easy for the Chief of Staff to Aregbesola, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola to emerge the APC candidate.
Oyetola is Tinubu’s cousin. He polled 127,017 in APC’s first-ever direct primary. Deputy Speaker, House of representatives, Yusuff Lasun recorded 21,975 votes to come a distant second and the Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Najeem Salam came third with 17, 958 votes.
But believed to be enjoying the support of the ‘Abuja Boys,’ even before the primary, former Secretary to the Osun State Government (SSG), Adeoti, had accused the party of manipulating the process. He alleged that the process had been skewed to favour Oyetola and that the so-called direct primary was a mere endorsement charade for him.
Certain that he has what it takes to defeat Oyetola, Adeoti defected to the Action Democratic Party (ADP), which he prescribed as “home to all progressives.” His joining the ADP opened the floodgate of defections from APC.
Interestingly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not necessarily do better. The party has been engrossed in deep-seated crisis over the choice of its gubernatorial candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
Though the lawmaker purportedly won the party primary election with just seven votes, the rift that has trailed the election has unsettled the party and might have grossly limited the chances of the party at the election. Like Adeoti of the APC, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi too maintained that the electoral processes were manipulated to favour Adeleke.
For some time, the crisis did not abate. In fact, a committee headed by former Senate President, Senator David Mark, which among other things advised Adeleke to cede the deputy governorship seat and the Osun West senatorial ticket to Ogunbiyi yielded no fruitful result. Adeleke did not agree to the terms until the current President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki intervened and resolved the crisis. Presently, the PDP is fine.
In the Social Democratic Party ((SDP), its candidate, a former deputy governor, Iyiola Omisore, emerged amidst crisis. although Omisore is making waves as an alternative candidate to candidates on the platforms of the two major parties, fact is that during a primary election conducted by the party at its secretariat in Osogbo on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, Munirudeen Atanda emerged winner, but Omisore despite being on the ballot, Omisore boycotted the process.
But when another election was conducted, he won. The confusion, however, is that as in case of the election at the party’s secretariat, the election that resulted in Omisore’s victory was witnessed by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, while the returning officer and chairman of the party’s electoral panel from Abuja, Prof. Rufai Alkali, announced Omisore as the winner, the Osun State SDP chairman, Ademola Ishola, declared Munirudeen Atanda as the winner on Wednesday, saying the claims of factions in the party should be disregarded.
In all, Omisore, the senator who represented Osun East senatorial district between 2003 and 2009 suffers a no-love-lost relationship with the Osun State chapter of the SDP since his entrance into the party in April 2018. His sins are in two folds. First, he is seen as working to hijack the party structure and second, he is considered as relating more cordially with the SDP headquarters in Abuja.
Relative to most of the other major political parties, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) primaries held for its gubernatorial aspirants were not acrimonious. In the end, it threw up Mr Olugbenga Akintola as the party’s standard-bearer.
There were only two aspirants: Olufemi Kehinde and Akintola and both men had agreed to accept the outcome of the elections. INEC officials monitored the peacefully conducted exercise and the party has worked silently, hoping to pull a surprise by leveraging the wrangling in the other parties to win the election.
SITUATING THE EXTRAPOLATIONS
As things stand today, the September 22 governorship election is a battle among the quintuple of APC’s Oyetola, PDP’s Adeleke, SDP’s Omisore, ADP’s Adeoti and AD’s Akintola. Although some bookmakers have said the AD, ADP and SDP candidates lack what is needed to beat either the APC or PDP, the political profile of PDP’s Adeleke, who inherited the structure of his late brother, Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, is currently facing huge challenge over allegations that he lacked the required educational credentials to contest the poll.
While Justice David Oladimeji of the Osun State High Court, dismissed the suit brought against him by the duo of Rasheed Olabayo and Idowu Oluwaseun, his boasting that the court couldn’t stop him from contesting despite admitting the “document” submitted by Adeleke contained “some serious and damaging irregularities,” is considered a very negative commentary that could ultimately affect his chances at the election.
For Adeoti, being a politician, who climbed through various stages of political leadership as councilor, local government supervisor, party administrator and later SSG, he passes as a grassroots politician, and also considering that he enjoys the support of some forces within the party, he is expected to put up a formidable presence in the election. The question, however, is would that be enough to give him victory against the forces supporting his major opponent, Oyetola?
Interestingly, Oyetola is also a grassroots player. That he enjoys the support of outgoing Governor Aregbesola, Tinubu, a larger number of APC supporters in Osun, and the informal sector, are all to his advantage, but some of those factors equally pose as his albatross.
For instance, there is a swelling protest among the electorate that having dictated Aregbesola to Osun people from Lagos, Tinubu should not have the liberty to ‘impose’ who succeeds him. This is more so because a significant proportion of voters do not agree that Aregbesola performed above average. There is also the fear among the civil servants that if Oyetola succeeds Aregbesola, they might continue to earn a modulated salary. This is also capable of reducing his chances among the people in the public service.
The issue of zoning is another big factor. Oyetola is from the Central senatorial district. A lot of people from the West senatorial district, which is yet to produce a governor since the fourth republic, are agitated. Central produced two former governors in the persons of Chief Bisi Akande and Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola and it is why leaders from the West are not supportive of Oyetola. This is in the view of the fact that Adeoti is from the West.
There is no doubt that the Osun election promises to come with serious political scheming, planning and considerable use of money between the forces behind Oyetola and Adeoti, but where no truce is found, Senator Omisore of the SDP stands a great chance to pull off a surprise that might earn him ‘cheap victory’.
As a former deputy governor, who has remained a consistent face in the Osun State politics over the years, he is also known to have a war chest and electoral value. He cannot be considered as a pushover. He stands the best chance to harvest the proceeds of an unresolved political face-off between Oyetola and Adeoti’s backers in the long run if their forces are not harmonised.
For those familiar with Tinubu – the godfather of Lagos politics – he is politically witty. He plans far ahead. And with him and Aregbesola on the same page on this, not a few people are waiting to see how the election plays out.
Would it diminish Tinubu the more or will it serve as another opportunity to assert himself in South-west and national politics? Surely, not a few people are waiting to see what becomes of the Osun governorship election, even as the gang up against his preferred candidate, Oyetola thickens.
X-RAYING THE CONTENDERS
Of the 48 political parties, fielding candidates in the September 22 governorship election in Osun State, only five candidates are strong contenders. They are Adeoti, Oyetola, Adeleke, Omisore and Akintola
He resigned as the Chief of Staff to the Governor Aregbesola. He is considered as a man of many parts with vast experience in finance management, business and public administration. He is believed to be a man of deep conviction and a religious devout, who has progressed in his endeavours through hard work and uncompromising stand on integrity.
Born in Iragbiji, Boripe Local Government Area of Osun, he attended Ifeoluwa Grammar School in Osogbo for his secondary school education, which he completed in 1972. He proceeded to the prestigious University of Lagos, where he bagged a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Insurance in 1978. He capped his education with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 1990 at the same University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos. He had his mandatory one year National Youth Service between 1978 and 1979, at Potiskum, in the present day Yobe State, where he lectured at the Staff Training Centre.
In 1980, he joined Leadway Assurance Company Limited as an area manager and worked there till 1987. He took another step by taking his expertise to Crusader Insurance Company Limited as Underwriting Manager between 1987 and 1990. He moved again in 1990 to Alliance and General Insurance as Technical Controller and served in that capacity till 1991.
In 1991, he established his own Company, Silvertrust Insurance Brokers Limited. He was the Managing Director since its founding until his appointment as Chief of Staff in 2011.
His other forays in business include Executive Vice-Chairman, Paragon Group of Companies, which has an interest in oil and gas, mining and real estate from 2005 until 2011. He was also Chairman of Ebony Properties Limited. He had been a Director of Pyramid Securities Limited, until 2011, among other business interests, before his appointment as a chief of staff.
The idea of continuity within the APC resonates around the Iragbiji born technocrat-turned politician. In his favour, he doesn’t come with the sort of baggage with which a professional politician is associated. He is a Technocrat as well as a progressive politician. He was a founding member of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Osun and has been a chieftain of the party through its metamorphosis to Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now APC.
Also working in his favour is strong party structures across the state. APC has been in power in the last seven and half years and their tentacles still cut across the state with a comfortable majority in the State House of Assembly, Seven out of Nine Federal House of Representatives Members and all the three senators from the state.
His personality and frame of integrity and steadfastness also work for him. He appears decent and mature politically, aside those who want to settle scores with Governor Aregbsola and Tinubu, his political godfathers, people hardly ascribe negatives to him.
Unfortunately, his chances are very slim, because of zoning. Also, the crisis within the party based on the recent direct primary used and the issue of modulated salaries being paid to the workers in the state, coupled with his link to Lagos do not make him look good.
Former SSG to Aregbesola, Alhaji Adeoti has the best of chances in view of his political antecedents. Having climbed the ladder of political leadership from being assistant secretary of the Unity Party of Nigeria; supervisory councilor of various departments in Iwo Local Government Council Area to later serving as state chairman of Alliance for Democracy and later, the pioneer state chairman of Action Congress and Action Congress of Nigeria from where he was later appointed to serve as Secretary to the State Government, a position he held for over seven years, he has properly cut his teeth in the state
He has the people, especially those at the grassroots behind as his strong political constituency. His strong political connection with the grassroots as reflected in his ability to identify a minimum of fifty politicians from across each of the 332 wards in Osun State does not come cheap. His ambition to be governor is financed by his friends and party members, who believe in his political sagacity and those, who see him as the only one among the lot they can relate with.
Of all the governorship candidates, Adeoti is the only one who has no other house outside the state. He is the only one also who had held party offices including building a new party from the scratch and having to traverse all the nooks and crannies of the state, mobilising members into the new party of the Action Congress. Also counting in his favour was his several incarcerations by a former PDP administration of Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola for daring to wrest power from the party. He almost single-handedly ensured the emergence of Aregbesola as the Action Congress gubernatorial candidate in 2006.
Born in Iwo on February 27, 1953, he attended Baptist Day School and Laito Primary School in Iwo for his elementary education and L.A Secondary Modern School, Iwo. He also attended Baptist High School, Iwo for his secondary education and the University of Benin for his B.Sc in Business Administration in 1984. He served as a graduate assistant at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State and held several political positions and appointments as mentioned above.
Adeoti’s chances too are not as robust, because of his sudden exit from the ruling party. Yet, he remains a beautiful bride as a grassroots politician.
Former secretary to the state government during Oyinlola’s administration and immediate past SSG to the current government, Fatai Akinbade of the ADC is from Osun West senatorial district and loved immensely by his people from Ogbagba in the west senatorial district. Coming from Osun West could have assisted his cause but for his defection from PDP about four years ago. It might affect him greatly. Also, Akinbade is financially handicapped. But the issue of Zoning counts greatly in his favour.
He was deputy governor in the state during the Chief Bisi Akande tenure. Omisore, from the east senatorial district of the state, is believed to have a huge financial war chest to prosecute the project that would propel him for the job. Unfortunately, he appears to have an image problem with the people, albeit based on mere perception. His chances are however very high. Yet, if the agitation for zoning is sustained, it may affect him. But he currently appears to enjoy support and love from his people of Ife. There is also the strong belief that he might eventually take the day being the oldest in the race.
The agitation for Osun west candidate could assist Senator Adeleke. Unfortunately, he appears to be having image problems too and this could affect his chances in the race. Aside from his public perception, there is also a certificate issue, which is another big crisis on his hands, even though the court has taken a position on it. Also against his candidacy is the fact that he has no defined structures that could assist him. He is counting only on his late brother’s supporters and structure.
Nonetheless, luck might come his way because of the love people have for his late brother, Isiaka Adeleke and by extension, his family. By and large, all appears set for the Osun election next weekend. The State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Segun Agbaje, said recently that a majority of the non-sensitive materials that would be used for the election had been received from the INEC headquarters, Abuja, and had also been distributed to the INEC offices across the state.
It is therefore hoped that even more than the Ekiti election, the actors would be well behaved in the Osun election, regardless of some of the shortcomings that reportedly typified the Ekiti election. But whilst the gladiators pontificate and their supports kowtow, the outcome of the Osun election is germane in many respects to the 2019 polls, the presidential run especially.