A Special Report on the September 22 Governorship poll in Osun State
By Tajudeen Hamzat
As polling opens Saturday morning for the Osun gubernatorial polls, one thing is clear: the people will lose.
And this is quite sad given how much the common people of the south-western Nigerian state have invested in Project Democracy within this dispensation.
Riding on the crest of his Awoist affiliations, former Deputy Governor of the old Oyo State, Chief Bisi Akande was elected Governor in 1999. However, in what has continued to be seen as a controversial break with tradition, the rival Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola took over the mantle in 2003.
In 2007, the then immediate past Commissioner for Works in Lagos State who is now the outgoing Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola fought a literal street battle to take out Oyinlola. With resources apparently creamed from Lagos and a flurry of alliances with other power brokers and interests in the state (including first civilian governor, Isiaka Adeleke), Aregbesola was able to fight on until the courts eventually pronounced him in 2010 as having been duly elected. He was sworn in and also went on to secure a second term in 2014.
In all of these, Aregbesola however had one other very strong backbone: the common man on the streets. Long weaned on the social welfarism of the Action Group/Unity Party of Nigeria eras, the people stood staunchly with Aregbesola in their firm belief that this was indeed another Awo who had come to judgement.
And in the mould of the convoluted neo-populist politicking that Aregbesola’s mentor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had become quite adept at, he was quick to throw down t them some juicy carrots now and again. There were the free sallah rides from Lagos to Oshogbo and back, the ‘free education’ scheme and the the O-YES Direct Labour Employment Scheme.
However, much unlike the more prudential and pragmatic Awolowo who rigorously worked out the funding mechanisms for his welfarist projects, the new collect and spend populist was doting almost exclusively on receipts from the contorted Federation Account that in itself was further subject to the vagaries of the international oil market.
And of course with the bubble having been long bust, Osun has been in parlous financial position with government literally unable to pick its bills.
Accentuating the drama, only days before the polls, the APC-led Federal Government quickly stepped in to ensure that pre-eminently, a sizeable chunk of workers outstanding wages were paid. Do not look too far for why this was done as President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed it himself at the gubernatorial rally in Osogbo on Tuesday: ‘Osun State must not fall.’
Given this background therefore, as the people of Osun go out to vote Saturday, and with political actors and gladiators across the state swinging into actions to ensure that their party wins the gubernatorial seat, punditocrats say that there is indeed not much to cheer or expect after the winner would have been declared.
Notably, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had picked the Chief of Staff to the present Governor Rauf Aregbesola, Isiaka Oyetola as his successor-in-waiting while controversial Senator Ademola Adeleke will fly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag.
Ordinarily, this would have been a two-horse race but we are also not forgetting that another very big name in the contemporary Osun political field, Senator Iyiola Omisore, and one who has been contesting for the office of state governor under the PDP over time, but who decamped recently to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) where he got the party’s ticket, is also locking horns with Oyetola and Adeleke for the governorship seat.
And as the heat ahead of the elections got hotter, Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, withdraw from the APC’s primary and resigned his membership of the party to pick the governorship ticket of the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
Be that as it may, Political observers in the state have concluded that the tussle for the state governorship is between Oyetola, Adeleke and Omisore.
The candidates hail from the three senatorial districts in the state making it a tough battle as each of the principal candidates has been digging in to comprehensively win their districts so as to enhance their chances of winning the eventual grand tally of votes in the election. Oyetola hails from Osun Central, Adeleke from Osun West and Omisore from Osun East.
The individual’s strength and political parties influence will also go a long way in determining the formal winner of the election. On this score, APC being the ruling party, is considered to nominally be the strongest cross-cutting party in the 30 local government areas.
On his part, Oyetola is believed to be the engine room of the policy thrusts of the Aregbesola administration and is therefore being positioned as one who is set to continue the work of the Governor. In some quarters the governor, is well rated in the areas of health, education, road construction, agricultural upliftment and civil service reforms, among others. However, the verdict on the revenue side has been unflaterring and even Oyetola has to answer on what he had done in the build up to this messy situation as well as what he would do differently going forward.
Indeed, many believe that the Governor embarked on many of his projects at the detriment of the state’s financial status leaving it in huge debts which for example very grossly affected civil servant’s salaries who at a time were unpaid for almost two years!
On the other side, Oyetola’s main opposition Adeleke, is from a political family with mass followership and is also a current senator who is running on the strength of calls for power shift power to Osun West. It is equally to be noted that Ademola was not a politician until the controversial death of his elder brother, late Senator Isiaka Adeleke who was the first civilian Governor of the state.
Ademola has however gained public acceptance from EDE where he hails from after the death of Isiaka when he was called to take over the senatorial seat of his elder brother. He moved over from the APC and won the resultant contest under the PDP from where he is also now contesting as Governor.
The Adelekes having built a strong political dynasty made Ademola the favorite from his zone, though winning the primary almost broke the party after his co-contestant, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, believed that he should have won the contest and insisting it was rigged but the national leader of the party, Dr Bukola Saraki has waded in and settled the rift.
One major threat for Adeleke is his educational qualifications which has been a major concern. The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Bwari, Abuja on September 13, 2018, ordersed the West African Examinations Council, WAEC to produce Adeleke’s results in five days else he may not be allowed to participate in the election.
The controversy revolves around the fact that he may have not participated in the May/June 1981 WAEC examinations that he claims he had written. However, despite the threat, he has continued with his campaign.
Meanwhile, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) has promised to respond adequately to the court order mandating it to confirm whether Ademola Adeleke, Osun State Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate wrote the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in 1981.
No doubt, Adeleke is hugely popular in Osun West, especially in his Ede hometown. Moreover, he also has the means to prosecute an electoral battle.
Omisore, on his part, is definitely a big politician in Osun with vast supporters in Osun East, which he once represented at the Senate.
Being a former PDP and decamping to SDP might not guarantee that all his supports move with him to his new party which may weaken his political strength.
Some voters in the state are believed to be unwilling to having anything to do with him, no matter his party due to the stigma attached to his name that he was one of those who killed one of Nigeria foremost activist and lawyer Bola Ige.
With a depleted support base and weak party structure, Omisore’s quest to govern may remain a mirage else he has strategies a better way of winning.
Speaking with a resident of the state who pleaded anonymity, he said “Having contestants from the three zones is going to make it a tough battle, looking at it from the area of incumbency, APC may emerge. But taking that out Omisore has an edge even more than Adeleke”.
Another resident, Kabeer Leadsman Oloyede who spoke with The Difference, said “The opposition formerly as it was in Osun State, the Grand PDP (better put) could have sunk the ruling APC to the lowest ever. But since they have been polarised, into ADC with Fatai Akinbade, SDP with Iyiola Omisore and the Grand PDP of Ademola Adeleke, they have readily paved way for the ruling APC coupled with its power of incumbency. Considering the current atmosphere in OSUN, APC has the best blend to return”.
As the day gets closer, Osun state is lightened up by the aspirants as campaigns have taken over the state. Come September 22, electorate will head to the voting polls to decide who the cap fit.
In all of these however, discerning observers say that with the huge debt profile being left behind by Aregbesola, the unsustainable monthly salary bill, the lack of a political will to reduce the size of the civil service, the numbing level of poverty in the state, the gargantuan challenge of weaning the people away from the social welfarist frame of freebies being provided by government and the associated challenge of the state not having a very politically astute voting and governance-monitoring public, it is indeed a herculean task to get a governor that will deliver real benefits to the state.
To paraphrase the economist, it is therefore ‘with a heavy heart’ that we declare that the real losers of this scheduled governorship contest will indeed be the people. Condolences.
Outgoing Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola