Never before in our annals has an election become very important with two major sides vigorously campaigning and unwilling to leave anything to chance. I’m talking of the governorship election scheduled for Saturday, August 9, in Osun State or if you belong to one of the combatants’ camp, State of Osun. I think it was the Ekiti State governorship election of June 21 that turned the notch up for the one in Osun.
An election that the incumbent, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) until then had believed was a slam-dunk for him suddenly assumed an importance that he was not prepared for at least in his campaign plan. Fortunately, he had an extra seven weeks to turn the tide in his favour and next Saturday will show whether he has done enough. Surprise is a very important strategy in war, and with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) active campaign and preparation, the stage is set for a titanic battle in my home state.
From the way the media has been reporting the election, one could be forgiven if you think there are only two candidates, Aregbesola and former senator Iyiola Omisore of PDP. But there are 20 candidates contesting in the election. From those who represent such esoteric parties like Action for Democracy, African Democratic Congress, Citizen Popular Party, to Unity Party Nigeria, they are all jostling for the nod to lead Osun State for the next four years. Truly only four candidates have shown enough determination in demonstrating their interest – Aregbesola, Omisore, and Fatai Akinbade, a former secretary to the state government and Segun Akinwusi, a former head of service in the state. Akinbade was muscled out of the race for PDP ticket just like a former house of representatives member, Wole Oke, and former governor and senator, Isiaka Adeleke.
But while Oke stayed back in PDP and has been campaigning for Omisore, Akinbade left for Labour Party and Adeleke teamed up with APC. Some had canvassed Oke’s candidacy because as a fellow Ijesa, he might pull the rug off Aregbesola’s feet; this was not to be, however. Two years ago, I told some friends that it would take a tectonic shift to defeat Omisore in PDP primaries as he controls the party structure in Osun. Surely, Akinbade’s exit will leave some scratch on the PDP but I don’t think it will be a big dent that can affect its performance in the election. The real deal, however, might be Adeleke, from Ede, where both APC and PDP deputy governorship candidates are from as he has enough local support to swing the election in the two local governments of Ede.
One of the permutations that will determine this election is the list of registered voters as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last week, which show that 754, 828 female were registered while 661, 394 male registered giving a total figure of 1, 407, 222. This shows that women are more important, theoretically, on Saturday than men. Osogbo local government has the highest number of registered voters – 110, 000 – possibly because of the civil servants residing in the capital, followed by Ife East with 81, 430. Olorunda, another local government in Osogbo, has 71, 580 while Iwo local government has 66,657 and Ifelodun with headquarters in Ikirun, has 57, 591.
Generally, an incumbent runs on his record in office and Aregbesola’s own, like most office holders, has been a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. His schools’ reclassification policy must rank highest as an ill-conceived policy devoid of a political communication component. It is a testimony to the religious harmony of the state that the action did not snowball into a greater crisis beyond demonstrations and counter demonstrations. There have also been some bogus projects that remain uncompleted leaving the state as one huge project with rising debts. A private meeting with Aregbesola last year left me with the impression that he is his own greatest opponent and would perhaps, be well served with a well-oiled communications team to ensure his policies are communicated better. I think he could also have managed his relationship with civil servants, teachers, lecturers, and pensioners better.
The albatross against the PDP candidate remains the Bola Ige murder of 2001. While he has been tried and acquitted, the matter would not just go away and like it or not, it is a factor in this election. I hope the state would be well served through this election and that whoever emerges will be the true wish of the electorate. The heavy security presence will not only send away those who want to cause mayhem but can also deter voters from coming out to exercise their rights. To the voters, no election is worth your life, cast your vote and make it count, simple.