Oyetola: What Manner of Victory?

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Oyetola and National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole during one of their campaigns

Although candidate of the APC in the just concluded Osun State governorship election, Gboyega Oyetola has been declared winner of the election by INEC, he carries with him huge moral burden and integrity question, writes Olaseni Durojaiye

And so the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Gboyega Oyetola, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) the eventual winner of the Osun State governorship election, effectively returning all the South-west states into the fold of the APC. In the results of the re-run election declared by INEC, the APC polled a total of 1,160 and the PDP polled 325.

In the final analysis, Oyetola scored 255,505 votes to beat Senator Ademola Adeleke of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with 255,024 votes. But what will hug the headlines and enjoy tremendous share for some time is how and manner the APC and Oyetola procured their arguably pyrrhic victory.

It was indeed a hard won victory given the maneuverings, deft political moves and horse-trading that the APC had to deploy, leading to the re-run elections. As one observers described, “APC deployed war armaments in its APC. What they did to secure victory was a new study in political science: give it whatever it takes.”

INEC’s declaration of the initial election inconclusive had set the stage for the maneuverings and horse-trading that preceded the re-run election. Given that two of the polling units in which the re-run election took places were in the perceived stronghold of candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Iyiola Omisore, who came a distant third in the first ballot, many pundits had predicted that he would be a factor in where the pendulum of victory swings. And it so turned out but, twists and turns that went into it was beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations.

National leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu had subtly hinted at the level the APC would go when he said, “In the face of the storm, we stay calm. When the stage is set we display the ideas that stood us apart. The inconclusive election in Osun State is an opportunity for us to really appreciate democracy. The people are the voice that echoes all the way.

“Our party (APC) is pleased to be administrator of a robust democracy where the rule of law is sacrosanct and the will of the people is allowed to prevail. We will not relent in our effort to see Gboyega Oyetola emerge victorious in the re-run election. So, we urge our supporters to go out as they have never done before to see it come to fruition. We are grateful to all of them to have pushed us this far, but we need more to make us victorious when we get to the finish line.”

Giving vent to the saying that the race is not for the swift, Senate President Bukola Saraki kick-started the sub plot, courting Omisore first. He had visited the former PDP stalwart in his Ile Ife country home ostensibly to persuade him to collaborate with the PDP and deliver votes from the two polling units in Ife North and Ife South, where re-run elections were to hold. The move failed to bear fruit.

Shortly after, Omisore put up what observers interpreted to mean ‘Initial grandstanding’ insisting he was committed to his thematic charter, which borders on good governance for the people of the state.

The APC moved in shortly after, albeit tactically, first by sending governor-elect of neighbouring Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, with the demeanor of a seasoned diplomat to go and prepare the ground for the real deal.

Fayemi and Omisore left the latter’s Ife home together in the same vehicle for unknown destination after the meeting. Also, Omisore didn’t make any public appearance or personal statement till the APC media minders released photos of him sandwiched between APC stalwarts including the Adams Oshiomole, National Chairman of the APC early morning of the eve of the election, in Osogbo, the state capital.

Others in the photo released were Governors Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State.

Sources in the know said the deal was struck at the Osogbo meeting, which lasted about 46 hours of deft negations and political horse-trading. The source added that, while the talks went on, Omisore’s whereabouts was only known to a very few ultra-loyalists of Omisore.

One of them was a former Police Affairs Minister in the Jonathan administration, Jelili Adesiyan, according to the source. Adesiyan’s name would come up later. THISDAY gathered that one of APC strategies going into the meeting was to keep Omisore out of the reach of the PDP.

Grapevine sources alleged that in the high-wire politicking that went on behind the scene, the APC agreed to offset a substantial part of the SDP candidate’s campaign expense, offer him the Osun East Senatorial Seat in 2019 under any party he preferred, a number of cabinet slot in the Oyetola administration and two House of Representatives tickets in the state, one of which would go to Adesiyan.

He was also alleged to have been promised presidential pardon from further prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for his alleged role in the DasukiGate saga. THISDAY could however not independently verify this particular claim.

Omisore returned to Ife same Wednesday and addressed a press conference during which he pledged his support for the APC and directed his supporters to vote for the APC in the two polling units in Ife North and Ife South.

He stated at the conference that, “We have accepted to support the APC for victory in the re-run election tomorrow and thereafter form a coalition government,” adding that “The All Progressives Congress (APC) went on to record a clean sweep in both polling units in Ife.”

In polling unit 012 in Olode Ward of Ife South Local Government Area, APC won with 812 votes to PDP’s 310. The APC desperation continued into the re-run.

Reminiscent of the “Do or die” assertion of the of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the run up to the presidential election that produced President Umaru Yar’Adua, the APC in collusion with security operatives allegedly chased known PDP members underground in the polling units where the re-run elections were to be held.

The police, several sources corroborated, colluded with the men of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC) and political thugs to scare away perceived supporters of the PDP. In one polling unit in Orolu local government, APC members reportedly went to the polling unit with white handkerchief tied to their wrists, a subtle signal that they would vote for the APC. Those without the white handkerchief were turned back. PDP agents were reportedly nowhere near the polling unit.

In a bid to cover its tracks, police personnel on election duties arrested and later released a reporter with an online news portal, PREMIUM TIMES, Kemi Busari, who was manhandled by security personnel for taking pictures.

Another reporter with GALAXY Television, Seun Falomo, who was accredited to cover the election, was manhandled by police personnel posted to the INEC headquarters.

Observers interpreted the desperation to retain the governor’s seat in the state as a clear signal of its mission going into the 2019 presidential election. Many were appalled at the length the ruling party went to win the election and also decried the level of shenanigan it deployed even enlisting the support of security agencies, who were supposed to be neutral.

But clearly, the victory has placed a monumental moral burden and integrity question on Oyetola. It is clear that he would be governing a sharply divided state and would be depending on a divided civil service to implement his policies. How well he is able to marshal the people behind him would define how he is perceived, whether as Oyetola or as an appendage of Aregbesola, whose administration he was a part.

How far he goes in rewriting the history and re-tweaking the perception deficit of the APC in the state will be largely dependent on the policy measures he chooses to pursue in office, including how he handles the contentious issue of workers’ salary and pensions, and his achievements. All of this he will have to balance with the state’s lean purse and debt profile even as analysts insist that the road ahead of Oyetola will be rough and tough.