The outcome of the governorship race would no doubt determine Aregbesola’s political future. Although he is not on the ballot, the battle is for him to win or lose
If the likes of Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, Senator Bayo Salami, Mr. Peter Babalola, Alhaji Azeez Adesiji and Dr. Ademola Ekundayo were still in the All Progressives Congress (APC), the incumbent governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola would have been sleeping with his two eyes closed, waiting for the party’s “anointed” candidate to be sworn-in November.
Adeoti, immediate past Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Adesiji, former state deputy chairman of APC and Dr. Ekundayo, chairman, APC Integrity group, alongside their armies of supporters were on hand in 2014 to sway victory in favour of Aregbesola when he contested against Senator Iyiola Omisore. But today, they have parted ways with the governor and the APC.
The outcome of the governorship race would no doubt determine Aregbesola’s political future. Although he is not on the ballot, the battle is for him to win or lose, especially that his hope of returning to Lagos, from where he intends to go to the senate after his tenure as governor appears sealed for now.
He came in 2010 through a court verdict after three years of legal battle to reclaim his mandate. By 2011, he faced what could pass for a real contest test for the first time. Though he was not a candidate, he proved that he was indeed in charge, as he ensured that the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Presidential candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu won in Osun, the only state in South West won by the party during the 2011 presidential contest. He also ensured that virtually all the legislative seats at both state and national levels were won by his party.
How about his performance? “Put the resources available to him side-by- side with resources available to other state governors, especially in the South West, you cannot but give the man a pass mark. Look at the schools he is building, how many do we have in Ogun (State)? Look at the roads too. I think the man has tried,” a chieftain of the APC and a former journalist from Ogun State said.
Perhaps, Aregbesola’s performance may have been responsible for his re-election in 2014 in spite of the fact that he went into that election owing workers arrears of salaries. He polled 394,684 votes, and winning in 22 of the 30 councils. His closest challenger, Senator Iyiola Omisore of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 292,747 votes, winning in just eight councils.
Following his victory in 2014, however, the governor appeared to have introduced some level of arrogance into the governance and politics of the state. This, many believed might be responsible for the humiliating defeat his party and his anointed candidate suffered in the hands of the crisis-ridden PDP at the time, during the last Osun West Senatorial by-election.
Recent happenings however show that he appears to have learnt a lesson or two from that devastating defeat. Although, he appears to no longer talk arrogantly to political associates and supporters, there are, however little or no efforts by his government to appease Iwo, where the party suffered a surprising defeat in the election. Incidentally, Adeoti, who is running on the ticket of his new party, Action Democratic Party (ADP), after defecting from APC, hails from Iwo.
The governorship contest is slated for Saturday, September 22. And it is likely going to be keenly contested by four major parties. They are the ruling APC in the state, the PDP, the SDP and the ADP. Of the four major parties, only the candidates of APC and ADP agreed to speak when approached for an interview. All efforts to get candidates of SDP and PDP proved abortive. And even when questions were sent to them electronically, they did not respond.
Like in every state of the country, Osun too is politically divided into three senatorial districts: Osun West, Central and East. Its first civilian governor, late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, who spent about two years in office, hailed from Ede, in Osun West. Next was Chief Bisi Akande, from Ila Orangun in Osun Central. He spent four years, but lost his re-election in 2003 to Brigadier-General Olagunsoye Oyinlola (rtd) from Odo-Otin council, also in Osun Central. Oyinlola spent seven years.
Cumulatively, Osun Central alone has had 11 years governing the state. Aregbesola is from Ilesa council. By the end of his tenure, Osun East where he comes from would also have had eight uninterrupted years governing the state. Therefore, if the zoning sentiment in the state is anything to go by, Osun West should ordinarily be the next senatorial district to produce Aregbesola’s successor.
Adeoti, who is the candidate of ADP, is from Iwo, in Osun West. The zoning sentiment favours him. But all his life he has never worked anywhere. He is what is called in the local parlance as a “professional politician.”
Though ugh a grassroots man, he could not dispense any political patronage even as SSG, sources close to him say. But they also claimed that from day one, Aregbesola and his supporters made deliberate effort to “strangulate him politically, “a charge Aregbesola’s men have consistently denied.
On the other hand, APC candidate, Gboyega Oyetola, has been Aregbesola’s Chief of Staff (CoS) since 2010. He is from Iragbiji, Boripe council in Osun Central. Because he is from the central, a zone that held the position for 11 years, the zoning sentiment in the state does not favour him. He is a cousin to the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But he appears to have also “given a good account of himself over the years,” as a seasoned administrator. Apart from the issue of zoning, the internal insurrection within his party may be his greatest albatross in the march to victory.
PDP on its part is fielding Senator Ademola Adeleke. Apart from being younger brother to the former governor of the state, late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, the younger Adeleke is seen largely as a political nonstarter. He won the last Osun-West senatorial by-election purely based on sentiment and owing largely to the political benevolence of his late brother. His alleged certificate forgery saga is also not helping his case. Like the APC where there is already internal insurrection, the PDP’s internal wrangling may also dim the fortunes of the party. But like Adeoti, the zoning arrangement favours him. He is also from Osun-West senatorial district.
Senator Iyiola Omisore’s ambition to govern the state is as old as the his- tory of the state. In 1999, but for the intervention of Afenifere leaders, he would have picked the ticket ahead of Akande, who later emerged candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He was made deputy governor. But towards the end of the tenure in 2003, crisis broke out and they went their separate ways. He defected to the PDP. In 2014, he ran on the platform of the PDP but lost. Now, he has defected to the SDP.
Like Oyetola, Omisore is also not from Osun –West. Although zoning does not favour him, any of the leading candidates that negotiates well with him, may carry the day. He is in firm control the four councils in his Ile-Ife area. Like APC and PDP, some members of the SDP are up in arms against Omisore over the party’s ticket. Regardless, the race appears a tight one and it could go either way – APC, PDP and ADP.