Keen observers of Osun politics are never caught by surprise about its unending drama especially during election seasons. Things got to the climax during the preparations for the 2003 elections which saw some of the darkest and lowest periods in Osun political history. This period saw unimaginable forms of barbarism, savagery, and disorder manifest in the shape of broad daylight election rigging, political thuggery and violence, and series of assassinations (and disappearance) of well-known political figures including the yet-to-be-resolved murder of Chief Bola Ige, Cicero of Esa-Oke, former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
As though these were not enough, 2007 elections in the state refused to win turn pessimists to optimists as all known attempts in the books were deployed to steal the people’s mandate by the powers that be. Nothing was spared to achieve this objective. Fortunately, in 2010, the tables turned when the Court of Appeal, sitting in Ibadan, against all odds, delivered a landmark judgment in favour of Engineer Rauf Aregbesola, the rightful winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election. Needless to say that Rauf Aregbesola will later win the 2014 governorship election to become the first governor in the state to be re-elected in a free and fair election since its creation in 1991. The rest, as they say, is history!
This background is necessary, first, for those who may not be too familiar with developments in Osun since 2003. And, second, for those who may be familiar, it serves as a reminder about the immediate dark (and bloody) past on her path to the present.
With Governor Aregbesola’s successful completion of tenure later in 2018, understandably, the competition among other contestants for the exalted seat is gradually heating up.
The political landscape of the state shows that two leading parties- All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- have fairly equal strengths and weaknesses. For analytical purposes, we may add the Social Democratic Party (SDP) who will fancy its chances with the party’s latest acquisition of Senator Iyiola Omisore, a former deputy governor of the state. While the two APC boasts of the current governor Rauf Aregbesola and a retinue of influential figures in the state, the PDP on its part lays claim to the governorship seat with its profile as the former ruling party in the state. Also, of the three Senatorial seats in the state, APC has two as against PDP’s one which it got in the recent landslide victory (winning 9 out of 10 LGAs) in the Osun West Senatorial by-election. On the surface, things may look rosy for the ruling party, but things are in fact, murky especially for lovers of the party if it fails once again to respond to the challenge from Osun West. The recent by-elections in Osun West show that there have been questions APC strategists are not answering. And this is very strange!
This writer is not a big fan of “zoning” in electoral democracies. But, as a keen observer of Nigerian politics (which is strongly based on primordial sentiments), this author thinks there are good reasons why the APC must zone its ticket to Osun West.
First, let us do some political reality checks. The 2014 governorship election results show that the APC candidate won elections in 22 out of the 30 local government areas of the state scored a total of 394,684 to defeat PDP’s Omisore (as he then was) who got 292747 votes from 8 LGAs mainly from Osun East and two from Osun Central. The difference between the two candidates is 101,937 votes. From this, let us remove the votes from the 10 LGAs in Osun West and give them to Omisore. With Omisore winning (assumedly) 18 LGAs against Aregbesola’s 12, this will produce one of two situations most political strategists will prefer to avoid: first, a possible re-run, if the votes from Osun Central (especially Osogbo) will still be strong enough to charge APC on in the election. The outcome of such situation would have been largely unpredictable. Second, with 18 LGAs against 12 and with PDP armed with the power of “Federal might”, the party may just kiss the governorship goodbye like it happened in Ekiti. And with the 2015 elections in sight, the morale of the party’s supporters would have been seriously dampened!
Let us also take a look at the merits of the argument of the people of Osun West for the governorship. Late Senator Isiaka Adeleke was elected during the Third Republic under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as the first executive governor of the state for a period that unfortunately ended after 13 months. In the Fourth Republic, Osun has had a total of three Governors: Chief Bisi Akande (1999-2003), Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (2003-2010) and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (incumbent). Of all these, both Akande and Oyinlola from Osun central while Aregbesola is from Osun East. Other zones have spent 19 years against Osun West’s 1 year! Isn’t it just logical and natural for the Governorship to return to Osun West after over 25 years of waiting, yearning, and agitating? Who best should lead this charge if not the APC? Who benefits more from returning the exalted seat to Osun West than APC? If not now, then when? If Osun West will get it soon, how SOON is soon? For how long should people from Osun West wait and endure? How are we so sure their patients aren’t running out?
Let us look at another possible scenario. If the PDP fields a candidate like Senator Nurudeen Adeleke (who recently signified his intention to join the gubernatorial race), who is from the influential Adeleke dynasty in Ede and APC fields a candidate from another zone, even if APC can brag about bulk votes from Iwo, that will still be a big gamble it does not want to take going by figures from the latest Senatorial by-election and the damage may be incalculable. Even though Iwo has been the traditional fortress of progressives in the Osun West, recent experiences should have taught the APC leaders the bitter lessons of assuming too much that “Iwo will always respond”. To avert a messy situation in the forthcoming election, APC leaders should field a strong candidate from Osun West. If they are to take my line of arguments and field a good politician from the zone, such may serve two strategic functions: first, it will placate the seeming eternal yearnings of Osun West people on their chance to produce the governor; second, it will neutralise the threats parties like the PDP might pose thereby reducing complications that might arise from other unpredictable areas like Ife which might prove really damaging to the APC’s chances.
APC leaders will be engaging in a big gamble should they fall for the temptation(s) to choose their flagbearer from Osun West. Too much is at stake in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state. Some of us are old enough to know the consequences of returning to our immediate dark past. One good reason to return to this past will be APC’s choice of flagbearer outside Osun West. This will be a massive gamble with terrible implications!
Olalekan Waheed ADIGUN is a political analyst and author of the fast-selling book WITNESSING THE CHANGE. He can be reached on +2348136502040, +2347081901080 or email: [email protected] . He tweets from @adgorwell. He blogs at http://olalekanadigun.com/