As Oyetola, Adeleke renew bitter rivalry for another keen contest

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Uba Group

Uba Group

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

For the second time in the political history of Osun State, Governor Gboyega Oyetola, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress and Senator Ademola Adeleke, the candidate of the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party are gearing up to go head to head for the governorship seat of the state.

The Independent National Electoral Commission has picked July 16, 2022 for the gubernatorial poll in the state. It’s not surprising why the forthcoming poll has drawn attention of the nation to the state. Aside from the fact that the two dominant political parties are warming up for another round of epic battles, their candidates (Oyetola and Adeleke), who had fought a fiercely contested ‘battle’ for the governorship position in the controversial 2018 poll, would be settling scores on July 16.

The stage is naturally already being prepared for the fire this time as the two contenders have started flexing muscles. While Oyetola is not resting on his oars in ensuring that he, once again, outsmarts and defeats Adeleke, the latter has boasted of landslide victory this time and asked the incumbent governor to start preparing his exit from the Oke-Fia Government House.

The first battle

Recall that INEC declared the 67-year-old Oyetola, the winner of the 2018 Osun governorship election at the end of a supplementary election which was held in seven polling units across four local government areas of the state. The APC candidate won six of the seven units amidst allegations of harassment and other forms of malpractice.

At the end of the tally of votes, the APC candidate scored a total of 255,505 votes while the PDP candidate scored a total of 255,023 votes.

Although Adeleke had led his APC rival with 353 votes at the end of the first round of ballots, the table turned the other way after the election was declared inconclusive and supplementary voting was conducted. This done, Oyetola overtook and beat Adeleke with a total margin of 482 votes.

Besides leading in the number of votes cast, the APC also led in the number of local governments won, winning a total of 16 local governments as against 11 won by the PDP. The Social Democratic Party, who had in the middle of the poll, through its then candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore, who just two days ago got elected as the National Secretary of the APC, asked its members to support and vote for Oyetola, won two while the Action Democratic Party, won one.

“Now that INEC has released the final list of candidates eligible to participate in the poll with Oyetola and Adeleke being approved as the candidates of APC and PDP respectively, both flag bearers have been carrying out covert plans to wrestle each other down”

INEC had scheduled the rerun after declaring the main election inconclusive; saying the margin of votes was less than the number of cancelled votes in seven polling units. Three of the units were located in Orolu local government, two in Ife South, one in Ife North and another one in Osogbo local government. INEC cancelled the elections in the polling units due to irregularities ranging from ballot box snatching, manual accreditation and missing result sheets.

It could also be recalled that the supplementary election which gave the edge to Oyetola was marred by irregularities and intimidation perpetrated by political thugs despite the huge deployment of security operatives at the polling units. Despite the irregularities reported by journalists and observers, INEC officials at the collation centre said the election went on smoothly. To this end, the INEC returning officer for the governorship election, Joseph Fuwape, declared Oyetola winner of the election during the announcement of the final results.

Having rejected the final results, the 61-year-old Adeleke, alongside his party, headed to the tribunal where he was declared the winner. But, Oyetola appealed the verdict of the tribunal. In May, 2019, the appeal court gave judgement in favour of Oyetola. The court had set aside the entire proceedings of the tribunal, saying the panel was not well constituted. The Supreme Court also upheld the victory of Oyetola, after five of the seven judges on the apex court panel agreed with the judgement which favoured him while two disagreed.

Candidates’ political tactics

Meanwhile, now that INEC has released the final list of candidates eligible to participate in the poll with Oyetola and Adeleke being approved as the candidates of APC and PDP respectively, both flag bearers have been carrying out covert plans to wrestle each other down. Though INEC has fixed April 17 for the commencement of campaigns by political parties in public, candidates have already deployed foot soldiers to commence subterranean moves to canvas for support for their principals.

As the INEC devolved Continuous Voter Registration exercise to wards, the major political parties have been galvanising residents of the state to register and get their Permanent Voter Cards. Some are being assisted with transport fares to the location of the registration while others have mobilized party leaders at wards to ensure that citizens get their PVCs.

Another thing that PDP and APC share in common while they appear to renew their bitter rivalry ahead of the election is the internal schisms in these major parties. Both of them have been torn apart into camps with several court cases threatening their peace. As they go for the topmost political office in the state, Adeleke and Oyetola already have political enemies that would want to pull them down in making their dreams come true.

Challenges for Oyetola

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For Oyetola, enemies within his party are already known. They have already given him a red card since the beginning of his inception. His predecessor and current Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has openly declared that Oyetola wouldn’t taste a second term. Though Aregbesola and his loyalists in The Osun Progressives, failed to frustrate Oyetola from clinching the party’s governorship ticket, they are yet to depart from their plan of unseating the governor.

Also, the numerical shrink in the Osun APC political family is not a good omen for Oyetola. Last week, one of the governorship aspirants in the party, Lasun Yusuff, resigned from the party weeks after losing out in the primaries. The former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives is said to be planning to prosecute his ambition in one of the minor political parties. Yusuff’s pull-out at this critical time when Oyetola needs more party members and chieftains in his fold, does not count favourably for the APC candidate.

Another challenge Oyetola would have to contend with is the agitation by people of Osun West Senatorial District to produce the governor. After Senator Adeleke, Osun West has not produced another governor. In 1999, Chief Adebisi Akande from Ila-Orangun in Osun Central became the governor and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola from Okuku also in Osun Central became governor in 2003. Aregbesola from Osun East took it from Oyinlola in 2010 and handed over to the incumbent Governor Oyetola from Iragbiji, Osun Central, in 2018.

The people of Osun West, where Adeleke belongs, have lamented that they have been marginalized and are determined to produce the governor of the state this time, to the disadvantage of Oyetola.

With widespread complaints of hardship since the inception of the ruling APC at the central government, there are people who just want a change of government and prefer a new governor from another party in the state. This set of people appeared to have been tired of the APC and want to taste PDP again. So, their sympathy will be in favour of Adeleke. Also, this category includes those who did not benefit directly from Oyetola’s administration and want a power shift so that the benefits can rotate to another set of people in the state.

Oyetola’s strength

As a member of the ruling party, Governor Oyetola would enjoy some level of federal might by gaining some assistance from his party men at the centre while he would also be able to use power of incumbency as the sitting governor of the state who controls resources and security apparatus in the state. The governor, being one of the five APC governors in the South West will leverage on this connection at the poll. Previous elections in the state were not without the involvement of the federal government and the Abuja factor often plays a major role, though it may not be public knowledge.

Indeed, in January 2019, while canvassing for votes for a second term in office, President Muhammadu Buhari reminded the people of the state how APC won the Osun election through ‘remote-control’. Buhari made the disclosure during a meeting with monarchs led by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan at the banquet hall of Osun State Government House. But the president, while appealing to traditional rulers in the state to support his re-election, however, did not explain what remote-control meant.

Buhari had said, “I know how much trouble we had in the last election here. I know by remote control through so many sources how we managed to maintain the party (APC) in power in this state.”

Oyetola’s current performance would surely work for him during the governorship election. Since he became governor, Oyetola has been paying the salary of workers fully and regularly, revatislised the primary health centres and recently constructed a flyover in Osogbo among other projects. Many believe his performance would earn him a second term.

“The people of Osun West, where Adeleke belongs, have lamented that they have been marginalized and are determined to produce the governor of the state this time, to the disadvantage of Oyetola”

Adeleke’s challenges

For Adeleke, the division in Osun PDP and lack of support from majority of party leaders and chieftains may be his undoing. Dotun Babayemi, one of the governorship aspirants in the party is still claiming the party ticket despite INEC’s recognition of Adeleke. If the intra-party crisis is not resolved and elders of the party brought together to support Adeleke, it may spell doom for him.

Apparently, majority of the aspirants that struggled for the PDP ticket including the former Secretary to the State Government, Fatai Akinbade and the popular businessman, Akin Ogunbiyi and their supporters might not be working for Adeleke given the circumstances surrounding the primary election of the party, while Babayemi who was declared the winner of the parallel primary election of the party might also be a big issue.

Top leaders of the party that matter including Senator Olu Alabi, Alhaji Suaib Oyedokun, former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Deputy Governor, Olusola Obada and Tajudeen Oladipo are all with Babayemi and it might be hard for Adeleke to face the election without the support of this set of political leaders in his party.

Another serious issue is Adeleke’s certificate. This was a major subject during the last governorship election in the state. His opponent used the issue to distract him as they insisted that he was not qualified to contest for the election. The certificate issue is also coming up now and it may be used again. However, the PDP candidate claimed that he has obtained a certificate from an institution abroad.

Adeleke’s advantage

No doubt, Adeleke has continued to enjoy the goodwill of his brothers – late Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke and Deji Adeleke. The late Senator Adeleke was the first civilian governor of the state while Deji Adeleke is a businessman and father of popular musician David Adeleke also known as Davido.

Before he died, Senator Isiaka Adeleke was a very prominent politician in the state and had a lot of followers. Majority of those supporting the young Ademola Adeleke now are doing so because of the senior Adeleke, given their relationship with the deceased. Most people are of the opinion that if not for his late brother; Ademola would not be able to contest for governorship because he was not a politician initially. But, when he finished the senatorial tenure of his deceased brother, Adeleke was able to provide empowerment opportunities for his constituents and this would count for him positively.

If the zoning agitation by the people of Osun West is anything to go by, it will favour Adeleke. Also, Senator Adeleke enjoys the backing of all serving public office holders in the party including Wole Oke, Bamidele Salam and Francis Fadahunsi.

Oyetola, Adeleke trade tackles

Adeleke said Oyetola is already jittery of electoral doom since the INEC approves him as the candidate of PDP. He added that the people of the state have already given the governor a ‘red card.’

Speaking at the PDP secretariat in Osogbo at the unveiling of an ex-chairman of Osun East Local Government Area of Osun State, Kola Adewusi, as his running mate, Adeleke said, “Osun people should come out and vote for me during the poll. It is clear Oyetola and his party is afraid of contesting against me.

“They should not be afraid yet. They should wait till election day. They will see the people of the state have given Oyetola a red card. By the grace of God, I will be announced as the winner of the contest.”

He also extended an olive branch to all co-contestants in the primary, urging unity for victory in July. In a statement by the Director of Media and Strategy of his campaign, Olawale Rasheed, the PDP candidate noted that the publication of list of candidates is the final stage of the struggle for the party’s ticket, calling on all aspirants within the party to join hands with him as mobilisation commences for the state elections.

Senator Adeleke who charged Osun voters on the new era of government’s responsiveness, compassion and care said, “It is time for us as a party to join hands to face the APC to secure a landslide victory in July.

“We have disagreed among ourselves. Now is the time for us to forgive and forget. We are not enemies; we are brothers. In brotherhood, we shall contest and win. So I call on our elders, leaders and fellow aspirants to strengthen and expand this winning train,” he affirmed.

While assuring party members across the state of his determination to lead the party to victory, Senator Adeleke repeated his earlier red card to Governor Oyetola, saying “the game is up for the usurper in the Abere Government House. Our people are ready to vote and elect me as governor because they know me, they have my record as a senator, they know I am pro-people, they know my agenda is for them. Osun people know I will return government to the people, away from anti-people interests that exploit and pauperise them,” the statement noted.

Reacting, Governor Oyetola said Adeleke’s remarks were jokes of the century adding that the people of the state are behind him (Oyetola) to continue in office.

Speaking through the state Commissioner for Political Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, Taiwo Akeju, the governor added that Adeleke could not be governor since he (Oyetola) has impacted positively on the lives of the residents.

“Adeleke’s statement is a joke of the century. Oyetola is doing well for the people and they want him to continue. Adeleke will be defeated even in his Ede hometown,” Akeju said.

Though there are still issues against the emergence of Adeleke and Oyetola from their respective parties, barring unforeseen circumstances, Adeleke and Oyetola would represent PDP and APC as they are the recognised candidates by the national leadership of both parties and INEC. The people of the state wait how the struggle would pan out this time.

Possibility of other forces

There are strong indications that aggrieved governorship aspirants including Lasun Yusuff and Akin Ogunbiyi may defect to other minor political parties to prosecute their governorship interests. Pundits disclosed that Yusuff resigned from APC because he was not able to get the party ticket and that he has been making underground consultations to team up with other political parties in order to make him their governorship candidate since the opportunity is still open with the INEC for parties to replace candidates.

Also, Ogunbiyi, reliable authority disclosed, would be moving out of the PDP to another minor political party to contest the governorship seat.

If Babayemi ends up totally losing out in PDP and the reconciliatory efforts did not yield any desired results, there are chances that he may also look for an alternative platform to test his might. If these are anything to go by, then, another keen contest, like that of 2018, is being expected.