Osun poll: Return match among familiar foes
July 16, 2022
BOLA BAMIGBOLA examines the strengths and weaknesses of the top contenders in today’s governorship election in Osun State
Today’s governorship election in Osun State will be one of a kind; with no fewer than four out of the 15 candidates seen as top contenders.
In the recent governorship polls in the state, the race has mostly been between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. But this time round, it is believed that the candidates of the Labour Party and Accord Party are also strong contenders.
The incumbent governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, is seeking re-election on the platform of the APC. His continued stay at the Oke-Fia Government House is however being challenged by Senator Ademola Adeleke of the PDP; a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Lasun Yusuff of the Labour Party; and Chairman, Mutual Benefits Assurance, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi, contesting the election on the platform of Accord Party. In addition, Mr Goke Omigbodun, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, is equally seen as a strong candidate.
Other candidates contesting the poll include Adesoji Adeleke of Boot Party; Bayonle Ademola of Young Progressives Party; Saliu Oyelami of New Nigeria Peoples Party; Femi Adesuyi of Zenith Labour Party; Samuel Abegbe of National Rescue Movement; and Busuyi Ayowole of Peoples Redemption Party.
Out of the 15 candidates, only Oyetola and Adeleke have been candidates in the governorship poll in the past, and that was the 2018 poll that brought in Oyetola for his first term in office. The election was keenly contested and the winner won with mere 482 votes.
The Returning Officer in the 2018 election, Prof Joseph Fuwape, declared that the APC candidate, Oyetola, won the election with 255,505 votes while Adeleke of the PDP polled 255,023 votes.
Prior to the rerun ordered in seven polling units across four local governments by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Adeleke had won the election with 353 votes. He had scored 254,698 against Oyetola’s 254,345. But the game changed after the rerun, which was primarily a contest for about 2,637 votes. Oyetola was then declared the winner.
Meanwhile, the fact that Ogunbiyi and Lasun are participating in the exercise for the first time is not in anyway does not take anything away from their chances. In the debates and during their respective campaigns, both men worked very hard to emerge victorious at the poll.
Oyetola is seeking re-election after almost four years in office as the governor. His supporters, relying on his performance, personae and promises, are confident that he would win again. Before his emergence as the APC candidate in 2018, the race to picking the ticket was a rough one given the way some strong political forces opposed his emergence. But against all odds and with the support of some bigwigs from within and outside Osun APC, he won the ticket and the main election, although after a run-off. Having served for eight years as the Chief of Staff in the administration of his predecessor and incumbent Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, Oyetola settled in quite easily. Some of the issues that plagued the tenure of his predecessor, like payment of modulated salaries, pensions and some controversial educational policies, were dealt with, drawing applause from his supporters.
But as the governor was manoeuvring the intricacies of governance, dealing with and resolving issues affecting the state, various party matters arose leading to division in the APC right from the state level to most wards alongside Ileri Oluwa, which is the campaign group of the incumbent, and The Osun Progressives, where Aregbesola’s men have converged.
The first major sign of division in the ruling party appeared when some people who were recognised as core Aregbesola’s men were allegedly not considered for appointment when Oyetola was forming his cabinet.
The supporters of Aregbesola felt many agreements reached before the election were not honoured by Oyetola, which aggravated the disagreements between the two groups.
Aregbesola felt a former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Najeem Salam, should have been appointed Secretary to the State Government going by the hard work he put into Oyetola’s campaign. His loyalists were also of the opinion that former commissioners: Lani Baderinwa and Kolapo Alimi, who served in Aregbesola’s government, should have been reappointed into the new cabinet going by their commitment to Oyetola’s election.
The division in the state chapter of the APC, which became more evident during the party’s congresses in 2021, got worse days before the last February APC governorship primary with Aregbesola’s open declaration of support for Moshood Adeoti, the man who served as Secretary to the State Government under him as governor.
Oyetola’s emergence as the APC candidate, despite the opposition mounted by Aregbesola and his supporters, rather than bring to a close the rancour ravaging the political party, worsened the crisis. It is believed that the crisis in the party also poses a threat to his re-election in the today’s election.
However, in addition to his performance, which his supporters would describe as remarkable, the incumbency factor might also work for him, given that his many appointees would work for his reelection. Besides, the APC maintains that the party structure in the state has remained strong.
His achievements in office, especially in the area of health, infrastructure, youth empowerment and efforts of his campaign team, led by the lawmaker representing Osun Central in the Senate and spokesperson for the Red Chamber, Basiru Ajibola, are also some of the factors that might work in his favour.
Also, the positive perception about the governor, especially among the elite and some opinion leaders, put him in a good position as he is mostly seen as calm, hardworking and a serious-minded administrator. His relationship with religious leaders, traditional rulers, workers and student groups has also been cordial.
However, there are some noticeable threats to Oyetola’s re-election; his sour relationship with Aregbesola, leading to the division in the APC.
While Oyetola’s supporters are quick to downplay the threat this poses to their candidate’s victory, especially with the way Aregbesola’s candidate in the primary lost the election, the Interior Minister still has a good following across the state. But the Aregbesola group offered a ray of hope; it said through its leadership that its members would support the APC, even though it didn’t mention Oyetola’s name.
He served the remainder of his elder brother’s tenure of office from 2017 to 2019 as a senator. The older Senator Isiaka Adeleke, who was elected into the Senate in year 2015, passed on in 2017. Adeleke then got PDP’s governorship ticket and won the poll. After more than two years of political hiatus, he returned to the state from the United States, armed with a degree in Criminal Justice that he earned from Atlanta Metropolitan State University.
Since coming back, Adeleke has been campaigning to become the governor. A lively character popularly known as the ‘Dancing Senator’, he has pushed his quest to be governor with seriousness and has met people that matter so he could win the election in the state.
The major strength of Adeleke’s governorship project is the solid platform the PDP has in the state and the acceptance the Adelekes enjoy in the state. Other factors are the bloc votes from Ede, where he hails from, and the strong war chest to prosecute the expensive political venture, courtesy of his billionaire businessman brother, Dr Deji Adeleke.
Even with the party being out of government since 2010 in the state, the PDP still has the spread that can pose a good challenge at the governorship poll and Adeleke is already leveraging that, reaching out to the party structures across the state to get them to back his ambition.
Similarly, the votes coming from the two local government areas under Ede, his hometown, could help his quest if his kinsmen could retain that cohesion that made them to give the PDP candidate bloc votes in 2018 will help Adeleke’s quest.
As good and realistic as Adeleke’s chances at the poll are, his political party had been battling some challenges, ranging from court cases to rancorous primary which led to the exit of Dr Akin Ogunbiyi and his supporters, who have since joined the Accord Party.
The issue of who is the authentic candidate of the PDP for poll instituted by Mr Dotun Babayemi, who emerged the winner of the parallel primary, is still pending before the Court of Appeal, causing a distraction.
Owing to the manner the primary that produced Adeleke was managed, ex-governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, his deputy, Erelu Olusola Obada, Alhaja Shuaib Oyedokun and the South-West PDP Vice Chairman, Soji Adagunodo, were clearly inactive during the campaign.
He was a leading aspirant for the PDP ticket in 2018 but lost the ticket to Adeleke by seven votes. Ogunbiyi, since joining Accord Party, has been moving round the state seeking support for his governorship bid. He left the PDP few days to the party’s governorship primary, alleging the absence of a level playing field for the aspirants by the national leadership of the party.
Some key members of PDP also left the party and joined Ogunbiyi in Accord Party, making it easy for him to have a smoother integration and spread, especially in major towns across the state.
Ogunbiyi, who is the Chairman of Mutual Assurance Benefits, an insurance company, hails from Ileogbo in Osun West Senatorial and the agitation that the district should produce the governor is part of the attractions to his candidacy. His decision to pick a retired broadcaster and Muslim cleric, Kunle Jimoh, from Osogbo, as running mate appears a masterstroke and is having an obvious positive impact going by the way many people, especially within Osogbo, the Osun state capital, have been identifying with the Accord Party recently.
He is wealthy and, with the support of his friends and associates, he could finance his campaigns without difficulties. He is connected across the state and beyond, and he enjoys positive public perception. While many people see the APC and the PDP as the parties to beat, Ogunbiyi remains a strong contender in the election.
Also, he will be relying on bloc votes from his hometown of Ileogbo, which has a relatively low voting strength. That, according to some observers, may not help his candidacy, bearing in mind the fact that Oyetola and Adeleke are both expected to have maximum votes from their hometowns and local government areas, but his goodwill and campaigns are expected to yield good fruits for him.
The former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives has been going about his campaign without fuss, but with good focus. His brilliance and well articulated campaign promises have endeared him to many people and his capacity to mobilise support across the state is never in doubt.
Many of those supporting his ambition are members of the APC that left the party with him when he defected. Good knowledge of the voting pattern in the state and his understanding of his people are expected to him and his party, the Labour Party, at the poll. Tough-talking Yusuff has remained confident of victory at the poll, but the limited structure of the LP may pose a big challenge to his quest.
It is expected that the former federal lawmaker would get votes from his hometown of Ilobu, but many strong politicians who were his key men in his days in the APC, have refused to join him in Labour Party. Regardless, he and his supporters are confident of victory.
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