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Osun guber: Grappling with peculiarities, making history

By Leo Sobechi, (Assistant Politics Editor)
29 July 2018   |   4:17 am
With the September 22 gubernatorial election barely 55 days away, Osun State remains in the cusp of history, as it carves a separate electoral identity for itself.

Senator Iyiola Omisore

With the September 22 gubernatorial election barely 55 days away, Osun State remains in the cusp of history, as it carves a separate electoral identity for itself. The state became the first within the All Progressives Congress (APC) and in the country to adopt direct primary in the selection of a candidate for the election.

That is the good side. While the state promises to throw up a four-horse race, staring candidates of the ruling APC, major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), fledgling African Democratic Congress (ADC) and revived Social Democratic Party (SDP), it has thrown up two candidates in one political grouping.

It is not yet clear whom, between Senator Iyiola Omisore, a veteran gubernatorial gladiator, and Mr. Munirudeen Atanda, would ultimately fly the authentic flag of SDP, but that factional reality has become part of the intrigues leading to the Osun gubernatorial poll.

Also, within the ruling APC, outgoing governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, seems to have learnt useful lessons from recent elections in neighbouring Ondo and Ekiti States, where outgoing governors found it hard to enthrone their preferred successors.

In displaying great tact and caution, the governor cleverly avoided throwing himself onto the arena. Up until last week when APC held its direct primary election, Governor Aregbesola had left his succession plan a subject of conjecture.

But, the emergence of the incumbent Chief of Staff to Osun Government House, Gboyega Isiaka Oyetola, as the standard bearer of APC brought about the very thing Aregbesola tried to avoid. Like what obtained in Ekiti, immediately Oyetola appeared on the scene with full force, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Kazeem Adio, resigned his appointment, crossed over to ADC and clinched the party’s ticket through a voice vote of members.

Feuding On Their Master’s Record
Prior to the primary elections that threw up the former Chief of Staff, Oyetola, and SSG, Adio, speculations had been rife that both men and the Speaker of the House of Assembly were the likely persons being considered by Governor Aregbesola.

But, the governor had kept things close to his chest, while displaying overt reluctance to dabble into issues regarding who should succeed or even fly the APC flag, in apparent bid not to make himself the fulcrum of the September 22 election.

Consequently, the emergence of two former members of Aregbesola’s cabinet on the ballot for the gubernatorial contest helped to narrow the election as a referendum on the outgoing governor’s performance in the past eight years.

Perhaps, in a bid to requite the governor for preferring Oyetola to himself, Adio used the opportunity of his acceptance of the mandate of ADC stalwarts to cast aspersion on governance of the state.

While stressing that he is prepared to serve and banish poverty, Adio declared: “We are here today because we have seen the need to change the status quo in our land. We have the backing of Almighty God, and we shall get to the Promised Land, a land where poverty is banished, a land that is characterised by progress, a land that is characterised by development.

“A land where salaries are paid as and when due and where pensioners can go back to their various homes and be happy to have something to fall back on, a land where we can grow what we eat and be proud of it, a land where we can embark on profitable ventures and be assured that we have reaped that which we have sowed. Osun State belongs to us and it is high time we took it back. ADC is the only reliable political vehicle that will take us there.”

On his part, Oyetola who polled 127, 017 votes to defeat other 17 aspirants, including Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Yussuf Lasun, tried to make a distinction between the administration he would run and the one he served as Chief of Staff.

He said: “With deep humility and a sense of duty I accept your verdict that I should carry forward the torch of our party in the next elections. You have settled for a man steady in his ways, firm in his convictions about the purpose of government, which is to promote the welfare of the people, protect their rights and provide good governance.

“We have only won the battle. The war lies ahead of us. Our opponents from other parties increase their arsenal to fight with us. But we are ready. We are tested. Like the broom sweeping away the rot, we are set and ready.”

Against the background of what played out in Ekiti when the former PDP spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, switched over to APC after losing the ticket to the Governor Ayo Fayose’s deputy, Prof. Olusola Eleka, would the bifurcation in APC, which threw up two gubernatorial candidates help to determine the ultimate winner?

Division In Rival Camps
The setting in Osun, as the state inches closer to the D Day of September 22, is that all the four major candidates in the gubernatorial contest are products of primary recriminations.

Apart from Oyetola versus Adio rivalry, within the otherwise major opposition party, PDP, the standard bearer and Senator representing Osun West in the Senate, Ademola Adeleke, is still grappling with legal and moral challenges put forward against his nomination by his rival in the primary, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, who lost to him by a margin of seven votes amid many cancelled ballots.

Not only that Adeleke’s 1,569 votes were too close to Ogunbiyi’s 1,562, both men have continued to make their rivalry the main feature of PDP’s participation, a situation that could mostly likely rub off negatively on the main ballot.

Ogunbiyi believes that he was robbed of victory, not only by the alleged refusal of the primary election committee, headed by Bayelsa State governor, Henry Seriake Disckson, to recount the ballot, but that Senator Adeleke was not qualified academically to participate in the gubernatorial contest.

The Senator has been refuting claims by Ogunbiyi that he does not possess a school certificate. Ogunbiyi had filed a suit at Osogbo High Court praying for the disqualification of the Senator on the grounds that the document he submitted as evidence of his educational qualification up to school certificate level does not meet the basic qualification stipulated by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act.

Senator Adeleke at a press conference addressed by the Director, Media and Public Affairs of his Campaign Organisation, Mr. Olawale Rasheed, directed Ogunbiyi and all those doubting the veracity of his academic qualification contact the Secondary School he attended

Rasheed disclosed that although the aggrieved aspirant appealed against the result of the primary election, “the panel after due consideration and examination of the appeal, upheld the election of Senator Adeleke as the flag bearer of the party and subsequently forwarded his name officially to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The situation in SDP is more curious. While a faction of the party last Wednesday at the party secretariat returned Mr. Munirudeen Atanda as the standard bearer for the September 22 governorship election, another faction elected a former deputy governor, Senator Iyiola Omisore for the same gubernatorial poll.

The state chairman, Chief Ademola Ishola, assured stakeholders that what transpired at the State Secretariat of SDP was the authentic primary urging them to ignore claims that another faction exists in the state.

But the national chairman of SDP and former Presidential candidate of Alliance for Democracy (AD), Chief Olu Falae, extolled the emergence of Omisore as the party’s candidate, stressing that with the Senator on the ballot for the gubernatorial poll, victory would come the way of the party on September 22.

The national chairman, who said he was committed to ending the rift in the Osun State chapter of SDP, spoke while handing over the certificate of return to Omisore. He declared that the ceremony “erases the doubt as to the position of the party’s national leadership on who would be flying its flag at the coming election.”

As in the APC primary, SDP adopted direct primary during which Omisore polled 123, 485 votes against the 1, 802 for Atanda.

Falae in his remarks informed Senator Omisore: “You are going to be riding the white horse to the Government House in Osun State. Your excellency we feel as a party, your experience, your pedigree, your antecedent, that you are the man for the job and the people of Osun state deserve this person with the knowledge to turn the state around, because the government in place has failed the people.”

Omisore, who contested against Aregbesola in 2014 on the platform of PDP, defected to SDP in controversial circumstances, fueling speculations that some eminent Yoruba leaders must have advised the move to curtail the expansionist designs of another leader in the zone.

Battle Of The Fathers

One unique feature of the Osun gubernatorial poll is that apart from the fact that there are perceived limitations to the power of incumbency, out of the four major parties in the race, two have the backing of two eminent Yoruba leaders.

While Falae is the national chairman of SDP, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is the national patron of ADC. The paths of the two leaders crossed in 1999 when the contested the Presidential election at the onset of the fourth republic.

They set tongues wagging not long ago when the former SGF, Falae, visited the Abeokuta home of the former President at the height of the search by Obasanjo’s inspired Coalition of Nigeria Movement (CNM) for a party platform for the 2019 poll.

Although Obasanjo says he is out of partisan politics, he was instrumental to the adoption of ADC as the preferred platform for CNM.

Against the background of recent experiences in Ekiti where the two major political parties, APC and PDP fought the gubernatorial election with ancient animosity that heightened apprehensions in the polity, would the setting in Osun be markedly different?

And given the fact of the backing of two eminent Yoruba leaders, would the voters in the state seek an alternate route to express their preferences on who leads them in the next four years by considering candidates of SDP and ADC? Even at that, would they go for experience as Falae pointed out or choose the new way, which Obasanjo believes ADC offers?