In this piece, TUNDE ODESOLA examines the variables that may determine Osun governorship election on Saturday
Next Saturday’s governorship election in Osun State is on all lips for various reasons which include the ridiculous and the altruistic. The election, like the bulbous aquatic creature, octopus, could be hinged on eight legs. What do the Osun election and the octopus have in common? The octopus has eight legs just as Osun governorship election is taking place in the eighth month of the year. Considered as the world’s most intelligent invertebrate, the octopus has a wide range of techniques through which it thwarts attackers. In like manner, the Independent National Electoral Commission has devised some strategies to thwart plans by unscrupulous politicians to rig the election as INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, on Wednesday vowed that the Osun election cannot be rigged. The virtue of the octopus was brought to the fore at the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa when Paul, the Octopus, made stunning accurate predictions that brought him global attention as an animal oracle.
Unlike Paul the Octopus, proffering an accurate prediction for the all-important election would be a Herculean task but a little journey down history lane and a look at emerging political issues could open a window into where the pendulum might likely swing on August 9. The eight legs of the octopus include:
The real battle
Although Osun is the epicentre of the election battle, the battleground is Nigeria and the ultimate prize is the Presidency. The election is about Jonathan and Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the likely presidential candidate of the APC. The election is about the North seeking to reinvent itself in a reordered Nigerian polity, where it is fast losing hold on power. Jonathan, however, seems to be having an edge with the gale of impeachments hitting APC-controlled states, the North-East insurgency diminishing the possibility of conducting elections in the region and the recent victory of the PDP in Ekiti.
The Jonathan presidency is largely perceived by the Yoruba as anti-South-West with the lopsidedness in federal appointments against the people of the region. Only, the post of the Chief of Staff, a non-constitutional and non-executive role, is the highest a Yoruba ever got in the Jonathan presidency. Leaders like PDP Board of Trustee member, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, have dismissed the insinuation that the president had treated the Yoruba with disdain, insisting that the President has appointed some Yoruba persons into important offices. Speaking during his defection on Tuesday, Oyinlola lamented that Jonathan did not appoint a Yoruba into any of the top posts in the country. He also said, “Omisore is greedy. I don’t know who killed Bola Ige o. The person nominated by Omisore to replace me as national secretary of the PDP was with him in prison (when he was standing trial for Ige’s murder); the person he nominated as minister of police affairs, (Jelili Adesiyan), was with him in prison too. The person who is being nominated to run for Osun-Central senatorial district post (Kunle Alao) was also with him in jail. The state chairman of the party, (Gani Olaoluwa) was also with him in jail? It is only his deputy governorship candidate (Adejare Bello) that did not go to jail with them. Are we saying that if you don’t go to jail you can’t lead? The inability of the Jonathan administration to solve the problems of insurgency and insecurity has become an albatross for the PDP.
Osun political history
Historically, the emergence of Isiaka Adeleke in January 2, 1992 as the first executive governor of Osun State on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, a party peopled by self-styled progressives, and the ascension of Bisi Akande to power as governor in May 29, 1999 on the ticket of the Alliance for Democracy set the political foot of Osun on ‘progressive lane.’ But when Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former Military Administrator of Lagos State, whose father was an ardent Action Group supporter, emerged governor in May 29, 2003 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, the political landscape of Osun was set to be dominated by the ‘conservatives,’ an appellation, by which the PDP is largely called. However, there is an insignificant line of difference between the ideologies of the PDP and the All Progressives Congress as defection by politicians from both political parties is as easy as stepping through a door. Actions by politicians of the two leading parties depict lookalike Siamese twins.
When a Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan sacked the Oyinlola administration in November 2010 and proclaimed Rauf Aregbesola as governor, the statewide thunderous jubilation and excitement that greeted the sacking showed that the electorate was done with the PDP. The mass appeal of the APC as a political brand in Osun came to the fore during the 2011 general elections when the party, operating under the name of Action Congress of Nigeria, swept all elective posts even as its presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, thumped the eventual winner, President Goodluck Jonathan, in the state. Osun was the only state in the South-West where the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission boss won in the federation.
In the 2011 Osun-Central senatorial election, the candidate of the ACN, Sola Adeyeye, defeated Oyinlola by 80, 526 votes, scoring 129, 527 votes against the former governor’s 49, 001 votes. The candidate of the PDP in Osun-East senatorial election, Iyiola Omisore scored 51, 315 votes while ACN candidate, Jide Omoworare, scored 119, 852 votes, leaving a marginal difference of 68,537. Like Oyinlola, Isiaka Adeleke conceded defeat in the Osun-West senatorial race as he congratulated ACN candidate in the election, Mudashiru Hussain, who defeated him by 44,881 votes with Adeleke scoring 77,090 votes and Hussain scoring 121,971 votes. Displaying a rare sense of sportsmanship, however, Oyinlola, Isiaka and Omisore accepted the result of the election and congratulated the winners.
Certainly, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since 2011. The PDP, whose members were booed on the streets after the ouster of the Oyinlola administration, has come on powerfully onto the political scene. The APC no longer maintains a vice-like grip on Osun politics as a result of some of its policies and the resurgence of the opposition under the leadership of Omisore, who has spent resources and time to build and maintain the party’s structure. Omisore said that the APC had opened a campaign of calumny against him by continuously labelling him as the killer of the slain Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, despite being discharged and acquitted by a law court because the party knows that it stood no chance against his popularity and acceptability.
The demolition of several buildings in the capital city, Osogbo, did not go down well with the people of Osogbo, whose support for Aregbesola was colossal. Also, the religious chaos caused by the wearing of the ‘hijab,’ a face covering by Muslim students in Christian secondary schools and the attendant resistance by Christian faithful left the public image of the government with a black eye. Similarly, the merging of public schools and the evolution of a single uniform for all public schoolchildren drew the ire of a large number of Osun people, who saw the policies as bad and ineffective. Some groups protested the school merger, saying it would erode the heritage built by proprietors and old students of such schools. The infrastructural achievements of the Aregbesola administration in the three geopolitical zones of the state cannot be overlooked, however.
The peopling of the state executive cabinet with members, who are relatively not known to the masses, is another reason why people are not happy with the administration just as a good number of such members do not connect with the electorate as local politicians would. This coupled with the global economic meltdown and the attendant shrinking of federal allocation has made the masses to call on Aregbesola to stop ‘tarring roads’ and embark on ‘tarring stomachs.’
Massive deployment of military men for the election has not gone down well with the people of the state, who detest the siege mentality foisted by the soldiers. The deployment may be counter-productive for the ruling party, whom many see as being behind the action. Aregbesola is being seen as a victim of PDP-led Federal Government highhandedness and he has been gaining voters’ sympathy on this account.
The establishment of the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme and the employment of 40, 000 youths as volunteers is seen as a deft stroke by Aregbesola to not only engage youths but also to increase his support base. The PDP criticised the scheme, which it described as servitude, promising to make Osun youths gainfully employed if elected into office.
Obasanjo, Oyinlola, Adeleke, Akinbade factors
Although former President Olusegun Obasanjo is still in the PDP, his political loyalists are in the APC. The National Chairman, South-West APC, Segun Oni, who is a former Governor of Ekiti State, is an Obasanjo loyalist. The same thing goes for Oyinlola, who accused Jonathan of not trusting him despite his loyal service to the PDP. Investigation shows that the PDP wields considerable influence in Odo-Otin, prior to Oyinlola’s defection. His defection is likely to affect the fortunes the PDP in Odo-Otin, in particular. Known for his control of Ede and Egbedore councils in particular, the defection of Adeleke was a big minus for the PDP, whose leaders he accused of beating him up and threatening to kill him. Also, the defection of a former Secretary to Osun State Government under Oyinlola, Fatai Akinbade, to Labour Party has been a big talking point of the election because Akinbade is seen essentially as a grass-roots politician with numerous supporters.
The PDP is wont to say it is not missing any of its past leaders who had defected. Specifically, Omisore said, “Aregbesola lost this election over a year ago. The PDP is winning the election. If they (defectors) were with us before and we lost, maybe it is time we changed our tactics so that we could win. You can’t continue to give the same drug to a patient that is not getting well.” The state Chairman of Osun PDP, Gani Olaoluwa, and the party’s Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Diran Odeyemi, said the party will not miss any member who defected just as he described Oyinlola as a “political traitor, who is never consistent.”
APC, Tinubu factors
The APC has been lampooned by the PDP as a party that thrives on the imposition of candidates and also of being under the iron-grip of its national leader, Bola Tinubu. If the Osun election was held four months ago, it would have been a close call between the two leading parties. But the APC, in the last few weeks, has been able to settle areas of disaffection among the populace which include payment of salary arrears, payment of pensions and compensation to people whose buildings were demolished in the urban renewal scheme of the government. A national leader of the PDP, Bode Goerge, called Tinubu the Emperor of Bourdillon, “whose daughter must be Iyaloja, whose wife must be a senator, whose in-law must be in the House of Reps; who must control everything. But the people are wiser now.”
Both Aregbesola and Omisore hail from Osun-East senatorial district with the former hailing from Ilesa while Omisore hails from Ife. Ijesa communities have six councils which include Oriade, Obokun, Ilesa-West, Ilesa-East, Atakumosa-East and Atakumosa-West with a voter population of 241, 807 while Ife communities with Ife-Central, Ife-East, Ife-North and Ife-South having a voter population of 266, 891. However, the massive support of Aregbesola in Osogbo local government councils with 182, 250 voter population cannot be overlooked.
When addressing a stakeholders’ forum, which included Aregbesola in Osogbo, on Tuesday, Jega expressed satisfaction that 70.13 per cent of the voter population had collected the Permanent Voter Cards translating into 986, 117 voters. He assured that INEC will conduct credible election in Osun.
Pray, who among the 20 candidates in the election would Octopus Paul have picked if he were still alive? May be Paul would have been able to tell if the election would be greeted by violence and bloodshed.