By Omoniyi Salaudeen and Lateef Dada, Osogbo
All is now set for another epic battle for the control of Bola Ige Government House, Osun State. Precisely, by 12 noon, Saturday, July 16, the curtain will finally draw on the four-year tenure of Governor Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, leaving the coveted seat up for grabs.
On that day, the electorate will file out in their numbers to elect the candidate of their choice who would oversee the affairs of the state for the next four years.
As contained in the final list released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 15 political parties have indicated interest to participate in the governorship election.
These include the Accord Party, AAC, ADP, APC, APM, APP, BP, LP, NNPP, NRM, PDP, PRP, SDP, YPP, and ZLP.
A cursory glance at the figure shows that all contending forces are males with six of them having females as running mates, which is a complete negation of the 30 percent affirmative action on women’s participation in politics.
In line with the INEC regulations, the field is wide open for all political parties to campaign and persuade the electorate for votes. But not all the candidates are taking full advantage of the window of opportunity provided by the electoral umpire.
Out of the 15 listed contenders, only the standard-bearers of the APC, Governor Oyetola, his rivals in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ademola Adeleke, former deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Akinade Ogunbiyi and Accord Party (AP) respectively are visibly showing signs of seriousness in their campaigns. Others have literally consigned themselves to the back seat.
Watching from the sideline, many political pundits see the contest as a straight fight between the APC and PDP.
This is particularly bearing in mind the crowd being pulled by the two parties in their electioneering as well as their dominance in all the local government areas of the state.
As Sunday Sun observed, the presence of other political parties has not been so much felt in most parts of the state compared to APC and PDP.
For the APC, in spite of the obvious advantage of the power of incumbency, Governor Oyetola has been unrelenting in his vigorous campaign for re-election for his second term.
In the same way, Ademola Adeleke has left no stone unturned in his effort to wrest power from the APC-led government. In one of his campaign tours of the state, he was quoted as saying that the election would be fire-for-fire, which perhaps explains the reason he took the battle to Boripe Local Government, the governor’s country home, with a massive crowd of his supporters.
Nonetheless, the political atmosphere in the state has been very peaceful. However, one thing most political analysts have found to be an aberration to the Yoruba culture of respect for traditional rulers is the open partisanship of some Obas. While it is customary for candidates to pay homage to town monarchs before going on an open campaign tour, some notable Obas in the state have misconstrued the gesture to mean an opportunity to showcase their bias or favour for the visiting contenders.
For instance, Adeleke recently got a shock of his life when his campaign train stormed the palace of the Owa-Obokun of Ijesaland, Oba Adekunle Aromolaran, only for him to be told pointedly that Ijesaland was for the APC.
An overzealous Adeleke had lamentably poured out his mind about the poor living condition of the people, as well as the deplorable state of the roads within the Senatorial district. “Ilesa as a senatorial district ought not to be like this. I want to assure you that when I win come July 16, it will change. When we were coming to the palace and the people thronged out to meet us, we noted that the suffering is too much. The roads in Ilesa are also bad even the road that leads to the palace is in a bad condition. We will do the needful,” he enthusiastically declared.
But instead of a reciprocal commendation for his show of concern, Oba Aromolaran pointedly turned down the overture, saying: “We don’t need money from anybody.”
“You said the other time that the people of Ijesa are suffering, we are hungry truly, but God will continue to feed us. In Ijesa, we are independent of the government; we built the palace ourselves without collecting a dime from outsiders. The current governor wanted to give us money, but we did not collect. The only thing we demanded from the governor was to help us inaugurate it.
“We don’t need any money from anybody. We built a hospital for the aged. The appeal I want to make is that when you become the governor, don’t forget us. I am grateful for you visiting us, we are very fine.”
While Adeleke and his supporters have had to take the unintended brickbats with a pinch of salt, the outburst of the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, who also recently declared that PDP made him the crowned king, has no less elicited negative comments from certain quarters. Some concerned stakeholders in APC see the declaration as an open endorsement of Adeleke as his preferred candidate.
The Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba Abdur-Rasheed Akanbi, in his usual eccentricity, took the trend a notch higher by organising a special prayer for Governor Oyetola, pledging to deliver 90,000 votes for the APC in the July 16 poll.
This is aside from a recent meeting of some traditional rulers held at the palace of Olu of Ile-Ogbo, Oba Abeeb Agbaje, where the monarchs in attendance unanimously endorsed the candidature of Governor Oyetola, directing the Muslims, Christians, traditionalists, artisans, motorcycle and Okada transporters, students, applicants, civil and public servants, men, and women organizations to support and vote for Oyetola in the coming governorship election.
With the growing show of partisanship, there is a widespread insinuation that the whole charade must have been masterminded by the Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Oyetola’s hometown Oba, who many observers have accused of rallying his colleagues to support his son and also persuading other sons and daughters of the town to vote massively for APC.
Other than the negative consequences the worrisome trend of open politicking by some Obas might likely have on the institution of traditional rulers, electioneering in the state has been quite peaceful and orderly without any incident contrary to the earlier apprehension about the possible outbreak of violence among the supporters of the two leading parties.
As the campaign is gradually winding to a halt, opinion is divided as to which of the two leading parties-APC and PDP is likely to coast home to victory. On a balance of scale, it might be safe to say that it is too close to call. But some factors are possibly going to work in favour of the APC.
One, APC as a ruling party has a strong structure across all the local governments in the state. In a circumstance like this, it is much easier for the party to mobilise grassroots support because of patronage of office.
Secondly, the apparent show of solidarity by the Southwest governors elected on the platform of the APC as well as the recent victory of the party in the recent Ekiti State election could be a morale booster for both the electorate and the supporters of Oyetola at large. There is also a high possibility of a bandwagon effect on the voting pattern.
As already demonstrated by the APC campaign council, both the local and national are united in their efforts to lead the party to victory.
While the electioneering lasted, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano states were very much on hand, leading Oyetola to every nook and cranny of the local governments to woo the electorate for votes.
Again, with the newfound relationship between Governor Oyetola and his predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the coast now appears to be clearer for the party.
Aregbesola, who heads the splinter group, ‘The Osun Progressives (TOP), was said to have reportedly warned his members not to work against the APC. That is already a big plus for Oyetola.
Speaking with Sunday Sun, the Chairman of Ede North Local Government of the TOP, Oladejo Afeez, who recently joined Oyetola’s faction, said that his decision was informed by the directive given to them by the Minister of Interior who directed them to work for APC. Afeez, while confirming a change of disposition, said: “Yes it is true that I have left TOP together with my people in Ede North Local Government. Aregbesola said we should not work against APC and we should not decamp to another party. I will rather stop being in politics than decamp to PDP.
“All the party executives, including the women leader have followed me to join Oyetola.
“Since our leader has told us not to work against the party, we should stay in the party and work for the candidate of the party.”
In the face of all this, no one who has been watching the campaign train of the PDP will undermine the formidable force of Adeleke. With his impressive performance in the last election, he still enjoys a considerable following across the state.
However, his main challenge is the internal wrangling within the PDP, as the disaffection arising from the governorship primary still remains largely unsettled. Almost all the founding fathers and chieftains of the party have vowed not to have anything to do with Adeleke.
Adeleke caught the anger of the party stalwarts when his supporters allegedly attacked former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was suspected of working for the emergence of Dotun Babayemi as the party’s standard-bearer, warning him to steer clear of the governorship contest.
Since then, Prince Oyinlola, former deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun, a former member of the Board of Trustees of (BOT), Senator Olu Alabi, and some other party chieftains have distanced themselves from Adeleke and his campaign activities.
Also, another co-contestant in the 2018 governorship election, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, has left the PDP to pick the governorship ticket of the Accord Party (AP).
Political observers have described the gale of defections that recently hit the PDP in the state as a big minus for Adeleke. Those who defected to APC include the running mate of Senator Adeleke in the 2018 governorship election, Albert Adeogun, and the factional chairman of PDP, Hon Wale Ojo, among others.
It is not exactly clear where a factional governorship candidate of the PDP, Dotun Babayemi, currently stands in the present scenario.
While, on one hand, he has been calling for support for the PDP, on the other hand, he has been found to be conspicuously missing in Adeleke’s campaign rallies.
When contacted, the Director of Media, Omooba Dotun Babayemi Campaign Organisation, Kayode Oladeji, said “He (Babayemi) is campaigning for the party because it is the logo of the party that is written on the ballot and not the name of the party candidate.”
Though APC has equally recorded some harvest of losses in recent times, including a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Kolapo Alimi, political watchers say the figure could not be compared with the defectors to the APC.
This, they say, calls for concern for the PDP and its candidate. While nursing the wounds, the Senator representing Osun East, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, who has been a strong member of PDP in the state, is equally said to be having a face-off with the Adeleke family over an alleged plot to deny him the return ticket in the just concluded primary. It is on account of this, Sunday Sun gathered, that Fadahunsi has dissociated himself from Adeleke and consequently refused to partake in all the campaign activities of the PDP.
These are bound to have some negative impacts on the success chance of the PDP in the coming election except there is a quick resolution of the lingering crises ahead of Saturday’s poll.
Regardless of the changing dynamics of the power game, optimism is high that the INEC would conduct a free, fair, and credible election devoid of violence as recently experienced in the Ekiti State governorship election held last month.