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OSUN 2018: The gathering storm of an epic battle

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osunIn this report, OLUWOLE IGE takes a look at the politics of Osun State ahead of the 2018 governorship election, x-raying the different camps the intrigues and power play in the political parties and the factors that will shape the race for the Government House.

Though the prevailing atmosphere in Osun, one of the South-Western states, created on August 27, 1991, appears peaceful and calm right now, beneath the tranquility lies the gathering storm of a fierce political battle that will ultimately determine the political party and individual the will succeed the outgoing governor of the state, Mr Rauf Aregbesola.

The two dominant political parties, namely the All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), power blocs and other relevant stakeholders have begun to sharpen their arsenals and are discreetly deploying measures to have an edge in the governorship poll tentatively slated for September 22, 2018.

Watchers of the unfolding events are of the view that the critical contest may have a significant effect on the political compass in Nigeria, ahead of the 2019 general election, bearing in mind that the progressives made a historic inroad through the November 2010 judicial victory of Aregbesola. A Federal Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State, had declared the governor winner of 2007 governorship election between him and former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, after protracted legal fireworks at the election tribunal.

From the perspectives of residents of the state, including traders, artisans and the ordinary people on the street, the imminent gubernatorial poll may be viewed as a struggle between the APC and PDP for the soul of Osun, with some pundits holding the view that with the emerging realities from the nation’s political turf, underdog political parties such as the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Accord Party (AP), Labour Party (LP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) would also play key roles in the electoral decision. This, observers noted, would be the case going by the negotiations, realignments and horse-trading ongoing in the two major parties.

In the APC, festering crises rocking the party, which have fragmented it into more than two factions and the PDP’s failure to resolve its age-long differences, which has been inhibiting its efforts to organise congress at the local government and state levels, have reduced political tempo in the state.

While the APC, under the leadership of Mr Gboyega Famodun, has not fulfilled its promise to lift the ban on formal declaration of interest by aspirants to contest the governorship election, the PDP is still enmeshed in deep-rooted dispute on which faction would control the party structure and machinery between the group loyal to the erstwhile factional chairman, Honourable Soji Adagunodo and the one loyal to Dr Bayo Faforiji, which is believed to be under the control of a former deputy governor of the state and erstwhile chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Dr Iyiola Omisore.

Regardless of the ongoing effort by the peace and reconciliation committees constituted by the APC and the PDP to restore unity and cohesion among their rank and file, the hope of a positive result of such developments are yet to be seen among the two political parties. Meanwhile, the political godfathers, power brokers and stakeholders in the state are not leaving anything to chances in their spirited moves to determine where the pendulum of power would swing in the September 22 governorship poll.

Another burning issue that has been dominating public discourse is the contentious issue of zoning. For some time, there have been arguments over the zoning of the governorship ticket to Osun West Senatorial District. This may have been informed by the dismal outing of the APC in last July 8, 2017 by-election, which was conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fill the vacant seat of the district as a result of the sudden demise of Senator Isiaka Adeleke, on April 23, 2017. Adeleke’s younger brother, Ademola Adeleke, who was a member of the APC until few weeks before the poll defected to the PDP and won the election. The thinking in some quarters is that zoning the governorship ticket to Osun West might sway victory to the side of either of the two major political parties.

But another school of thought has argued that eligibility, competence, practical knowledge of modern day governance and effective political leadership of Osun State should not be submerged by the calls and agitation for zoning. They hold the notion that any interested aspirant, regardless of parties, age and other prerequisites, should be free to contest in the poll.

As the election day draws near, the political forces in the state have begun to move into camps, with several influential individuals and personalities already returning to the planning table to map out strategies towards winning the election.


osunThe Aregbesola camp

From the body language of Governor Aregbesola, it is easy to deduce that he may have made up his mind to throw his weight and the power that incumbency confers behind his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola. Unconfirmed sources informed Sunday Tribune that this development followed a marching order allegedly given to Aregbesola by his political mentor and leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, a few years back to ensure that Oyetola emerges as the standard-bearer of the ruling party. Though the state chapter of the APC and media handlers of the governor have described such claim as untrue, some other aspirants in the APC, namely the incumbent Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Najeem Salaam and the Secretary to the Osun State Government (SSG), Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, are not too comfortable with the unfolding conjecture.

Barring any unforeseen circumstance, political observers are of the opinion that the foundation for Oyetola’s emergency as the standard-bearer of the APC in the yet-to-be-fixed primary exercise might have been tactically laid with the conclusion of the January 27 parliamentary local government election, which was won by the party’s candidates in all the 389 wards.

As of the time of filing this report, chairmen and other principal officers of the 31 local governments, Area Council and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) have been elected among the councillors that won the poll, which was premised on parliamentary arrangement. Findings show that virtually all the councillors are loyalists of Aregbesola and by the virtue of the constitution of the party these people including the cabinet members, lawmakers in the House of Assembly, senators and federal legislators in the National Assembly on the platform of the party would be automatic delegates in the governorship primaries. From these postulations, the governor’s group may have in its kitty a sizeable number of delegates, who would vote to determine the governorship candidate of the APC, a development that has been said to be capable of swinging things in Oyetola’s favour if eventually the governor decides to fly with him.

A source close to the government, however, informed our correspondent that Aregbesola, being an experienced politician whose dexterity and mastery of modern politicking endeared him to his numerous followers, “is not ready to keep all his eggs in a basket.” It was hinted that the governor had been weighing other options, provided the Oyetola project, which has already assumed the popular sobriquet “Ileri Oluwa,” meaning God’s promise, fails to fly. Few of his cabinet members who have also been said to be eying the governorship seat include the incumbent Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of the state, Dr Ajibola Basiru, have been said to be painstakingly studying the unfolding events with a view to falling in line with their principal’s plan for the governorship poll. But an insider, who confided in Sunday Tribune said Basiru, who is believed to have the ears of Aregbesola based on his closeness to the governor, might apart from being keen on becoming governor, be using his ambition as a pedestal to negotiate for other positions ahead of the 2019 general election.

Similarly, another member of Aregbesola’s cabinet and Commissioner for Finance, Mr Banji Oyebamiji, it was gathered, is being pressured by some groups and stakeholders in Osun West Senatorial District to throw his hat in the ring.

There are other gubernatorial aspirants outside the state in the APC, including Dr Abiodun Ishola Saka-Layonu (SAN), who is the current chairman, Governing Council of Waziri Umaru Federal Polytechnic, Birnin-Kebbi, in Kebbi State. Based in Lagos, findings indicate that he is perfecting moves to mobilise mass support and appeal for his governorship ambition.

Commenting on the factors that would come to play in determining the APC’s choice of its candidate, however, the party’s Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy in the state, Mr Kunle Oyatomi, said: “APC in Osun is a very responsible and disciplined political party, which will take into serious consideration the quality, loyalty and competence of whoever will take over to continue with the good job that Aregbesola has already done.”

He continued, “a saboteur cannot qualify. An undisciplined person cannot qualify and a person who is not ingrained in and with all the developments that have taken place under Aregbesola cannot be trusted to succeed him. Anybody who has motives inconsistent with and is treacherous in the main, against what Aregbesola has done, can never be the party’s choice in Osun.

“Also anyone who is looking outside Osun APC to win the party’s nomination will fail and therefore cannot succeed Aregbesola. The APC in Osun is supreme. It will determine in due course what its preference will be from all available options.”


Lasun Yussuf

The current Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Honourable Lasun Yussuff, leads another group within the Osun APC. Apart from being a governorship aspirant, he is presumed to also have a large followership and a considerable number of foot soldiers mobilising for him ahead of the party’s primary.

So far, he is about the only member of the APC who has publicly declared his ambition to succeed Aregbesola and has embarked on visitations to relevant stakeholders including influential traditional rulers across the state.

Though he is said to be on a different page with the governor on several grounds, a development which observers of political events in the state noted might make the governor work against his aspiration, Yussuff is believed to possess a huge financial war chest and a great political clout garnered as a result of his closeness to the power base in Abuja.

 ‘Third Force’ can’t stop PDP in 2019 ―Adebutu

 Bisi Akande

While the permutations over the need to zone the governorship seat to Osun West and the reported endorsement of Oyetola by the Lagos stronghold of the APC had been ongoing for some time, one individual that appears to have kept people at sea on where he belongs is a former governor of the state and former interim national chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande. While many believed that he would often be on the same page with Tinubu politically, Akande has not declared his support for any particular canddate, with those close to him noting that “what is paramount to him now is the need to resolve the rancour among the groups, stakeholders and members of the APC in Osun.”

The former governor recently expressed his unequivocal confidence in the ability of the Tinubu-led peace committee of the APC to resolve the crises within the party, not only in Osun, but also in the entire country.


Iyiola Omisore camp

It is no longer news that Omisore is the only governorship aspirant in his group of the Osun PDP led by Dr Bayo Faforiji. Conscious of the need for peace among the factions of the party in the state, our correspondent reliably gathered that he has been making overtures to Hon. Adagunodo’s side so as to harmonise their political differences. Whether this move will succeed, however, remains to be seen, as the latter has insisted on holding a congress where the members would decide the fate of the party. This development came as the peace and reconciliation committee set up by the Prince Uche Secondus-led national leadership of the party is yet to come to Osun, amid meetings with both sides in Abuja. To show his seriousness in his renewed bid to contest in the coming governorship poll, Omisore and Aregbesola recently renewed their hostilities, as the duo went on offensive over some issues relating to the governance and management of Osun State, especially its mounting debt.


Adagunodo camp

Though the Adagunodo camp, peopled by many leaders of the PDP drawn from the three senatorial districts such as Senator Olu Alabi, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, Senator Ademola Adeleke, Honourable Adejare Bello, Dr Muyiwa Oladimeji, Honourable Busayo Oluwole Oke, Chief Oluwole Oludaisi Aina, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade and Chief Lere Oyewumi, to mention a few, had in the past expressed its readiness to cooperate and embrace peace, its insistence that due process and internal democracy be followed in electing leaders of the party from the local government to the state level is one of the reasons the party has not had an executive. To those in this group, only adherence to the tenets of internal democracy can restore peace to the troubled party.

A list of the gubernatorial contenders in the Adagunodo’s faction include Bello; a former speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly; Akinbade, a former Secretary to the Osun State Government (SSG); Senator Olasunkanmi; Hon. Albert Adeogun, a member of the House of Representatives; Oyewumi; Chief Nathaniel Oke (SAN); Professor Adeolu Durotoye and a host of others.


Olagunsoye Oyinlola

Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former military governor of Lagos State and former civilian governor in Osun, and a chieftain of APC who recently declared his support for the Coalition for Nigeria Movement, championed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is another major force in the politics leading to the 2018 governorship election in the state. Oyinlola, who had, following speculations that he was planning to contest the governorship election, met with his followers at his Okuku country home in Odo-Otin Local Government Area to put to rest the speculations, opened the lid on the zoning debate in APC when he insisted that the successor to Aregbesola must come from Osun West Senatorial District and that he must not be over 50-years-old.

While speaking in Ede recently, the former governor and chairman of the board of the National Identity Card Management Commission (NIMC) clarified that he had no particular candidate in mind when he pushed for the zoning of governorship ticket to Osun West Senatorial District. He tasked the people of the district to beam their searchlight on a young eligible man, who can succeed Aregbesola.

He promised to back any competent person presented by the zone, disclosing that he had gauged the feelings of the people of Osun through reports from his political allies, saying “out of 27 years of existence of Osun, the West had only been  there ( governorship position) for just 22 months. The aspiration of the founding fathers of the state is that no part should be marginalised. I don’t mind if I stand alone. I have told my political family to find somebody young from the West who can lead the state after the tenure of the governor. I said that is the man I will want you to bring to me.”

 Aregbesola, Omisore renew hostilities over Osun roads

Senator Ademola Adeleke

Ademola, the younger brother to the late former governor of the state, Isiaka Adeleke, is the senator representing Osun West Senatorial District in the National Assembly. Credible sources within the PDP and political circles in the state have, however, confided in Sunday Tribune that the ‘dancing senator’ is discreetly nursing a governorship ambition. Though his interest in the race is still being kept under wraps, some people in the know said he may be the joker or trump card that the PDP may eventually use in the September 22 governorship poll.

The challenge, however, is whether he could repeat the success recorded in the July 8, 2017 by-election, which was said to have been won as a result of his late brother’s goodwill, political influence and popularity, coupled with the voter sympathy that followed the refusal of the APC to give him [Ademola] the ticket.

Apart from these individuals and groups, many other major factors will shape the 2018 governorship election in the state. These factors, including the ongoing zoning debate, how quickly the two leading parties are able to resolve their differences before the poll, the quality of candidates on display and the ability of the emerging new parties to galvanise support and convince the electorate will play major roles in who becomes the next governor of the state.

For instance, the governorship aspirant of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and former member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Kehinde, in a recent interview with Sunday Tribune maintained that the next governorship election in the state should not be about political parties but about individuals and personalities and what they stand for.

Kehinde, who maintained that it was high time the state became liberated from the shackles of bad governance and directionless leadership, stated his resolve and plan to transform the state.

The post OSUN 2018: The gathering storm of an epic battle appeared first on Tribune.

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