Countdown to Osun poll: Parties orchestrate defections of disgruntled opposition members

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… as camps split in PDP, APC

Uba Group

Ekiti result, presidential candidates’ domino effect looms

Uba Group

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Intense politicking, including underhand intrigues, is being employed by various parties to snatch victory in the coming July 16 governorship election in Osun State, The Point has learnt.

Political gladiators in the state have embarked on a series of lobbying and poaching of parties’ loyalists, urging them to defect to their political parties, citing the all too well-known disagreements in their parties as enough reason.

Checks by The Point revealed that most of the people who have fallen for the tricks and antics of the governorship candidates are mostly the aggrieved party chieftains and loyalists.

The parties, though broken and thoroughly fractured as a result of internal contradictions, are not just revving up their reconciliation mechanisms, but have also perfected the art of orchestrating and exacerbating the existing divisions within opposition parties with a view to profiting from such internal face-offs.

The method being adopted is to deliberately stoke the fire of misunderstanding in the camps, and especially, in the strongholds of formidable opposition personalities. The deployment of this “newly developed weapon” as a source described it, has heightened ahead of the election.

Speaking to our correspondent at the weekend, a chieftain of the ruling party, who craves anonymity, said the victory of the ruling party is assured because it has dealt a “bad blow” to the opposition parties, especially the leading opposition using the system.

“We have no problems at all. Members of the opposition, especially the PDP will continue to defect to the APC. We have a newly developed weapon. We know there are many who are disenchanted within the party. So we talk to those who are approachable and once you get one person, that person will bring another person. And it has a chain reaction. You saw what happened last week now. Another one like that will happen again just before the election day.

“And two things are working for us in the APC, the result of Ekiti State governorship election has really bolstered our confidence. Secondly, the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the Presidential flag bearer of the APC is working magic here. Just little talk and they are ready to defect. This is 2022, not 2018 and many of them know that the chances of APC retaining the office are brighter than before,” he confided in the paper.

“The method being adopted is to deliberately stoke the fire of misunderstanding in the camps, and especially, in the strongholds of formidable opposition personalities. The deployment of this “newly developed weapon” as a source described it, has heightened ahead of the election”

DEFECTION GALORE

Over 500 members of Osun PDP recently moved to the APC in Boripe Local Government Area of the state when the campaign train of Oyetola visited the area. In the same vein, another PDP chieftain, Sakariyau Oyediji led over 1,000 of his supporters to join the APC.

A few days ago, Osun PDP suffered a monumental and devastating setback when no fewer than 10, 000 former leaders and members of the party from across the state defected to APC. The defection programme took place with fanfare at the popular Nelson Mandela Freedom Park, Osogbo.

Among the defectors were Wale Ojo, the factional state chairman of the PDP; Albert Adeogun, running mate to the PDP candidate in the 2018 governorship election in Osun State and former member of the House of Representatives; Ayodele Asalu, popularly known as Asler, House of Representatives aspirant in Ede Federal Constituency; Soji Ibikunle, the former PDP stalwart in Odo-Otin Local Government Council Area of the state and Lanre Arogundade. Most of the defectors are from Adeleke’s Ede stronghold.

Some of the defectors accused certain forces in Adeleke’s family of favouritism and bias. They said it was majorly responsible for their decision to leave the PDP. This was coming just a few days after Dotun Babayemi assured that his supporters would be working for the victory of the party in the coming governorship election.

Insiders revealed that some of the elderly members of Adeleke dynasty were partly responsible for the defection of some top chieftains of the party, especially in Adeleke’s hometown, Ede. It was gathered that one of the Adelekes favoured some National and State Assemblies aspirants over others, which later resulted into the emergence of the favoured aspirants.

“CBN"

OSUN PDP POLARISED

Real unity and cohesion seemed to have eluded the Osun PDP since the party lost out in the 2018 supplementary election in the state. There had been apportioning of blame among leaders and core chieftains over the major opposition party’s defeat in the last gubernatorial poll. The leadership crisis that befell the party contributed more to its disarray. The removal of former chairman, Soji Adagunodo and the appointment of Sunday Bisi further polarised the Osun PDP. Leaders and members pitched tents where their principals and godfathers belong. This development was greeted with pockets of litigation.

The acrimony in the party continued, worsened and more pronounced to the public when the party conducted parallel governorship primaries in March, this year. At that point, popular leaders of the party publicly demonstrated their grievances by backing out of the mainstream camp.

While those supporting Adeleke gathered at Osogbo City Stadium for its primary, other party bigwigs including former governor of the state, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Shuaib Oyedokun, Erelu Olusola Obada among others declared support for Dotun Babayemi, who emerged factional governorship candidate. However, the national leadership of the party, the Independent National Electoral Commission and the court pronounced Adeleke as the party’s candidate.

As if that was not enough, the controversy that characterised the National and State Assemblies primaries further depleted the party as some aggrieved aspirants accused the party leadership of manipulations and shortchange in the process. Some aspirants, just like the case in the APC, protested against the outcome of the primary election exercises.

The results of these crises and the efforts by competing parties to snatch its members have led inexorably to the gale of defections recently witnessed in the PDP. It started openly on the eve of the governorship primary when Akin Ogunbiyi, one of the governorship aspirants announced his discontinuance from participating in the exercise. A few weeks later, Ogunbiyi defected to the Accord Party and was offered the governorship ticket for the July 16 election.

The defections are in spite of a recent promise by Babayemi, who said himself and other aggrieved leaders including Oyinlola; National Vice Chairman (South West) of the party, Soji Adagunodo; Board of Trustees members; Shuaib Oyedokun and Tajudeen Oladipo, Olu Alabi and Fatai Akinbade, erstwhile Secretary to the State Government, among others, have asked their supporters to work for and vote for the PDP at the poll.

Although Babayemi didn’t mention the name of the party’s flag bearer, Ademola Adeleke, he reiterated his deep involvement and that of his teeming supporters across Osun in the ongoing electioneering campaigns of the party towards emerging victorious in the exercise.

But one would be wrong to think the gale of defections that has been witnessed in the last three weeks, was only in one direction. It has actually been both ways as the two major parties are neck-deep in crises.

HOW TO ACHIEVE VICTORY, BY PDP CHIEFTAINS

A chieftain of the PDP confided in this paper that if the ruling party hopes to make July 16 a walk in the park, then it should better get ready for a shocking reality.

“We know where their strength lies. We have sorted that out. There is no way IleriOluwa can win the election without the support of TOP and that critical group is with us now. Let them do whatever they want to do. The fact is that nothing like 2018 will happen again. And we know they are not together, we know those who are important to them and we have them. Many are not ready just yet to show their faces, but you will be surprised at the result,” a source told The Point.

The revelation seems to tally with the recent defections of APC members especially, strong loyalists of Aregbesola to Osun PDP which created a ripple effect in the state’s political circle. A lot of APC members defected to PDP in notable places like Osogbo, Olorunda, Iwo, Egbedore, Ede, Ila, Irepodun, Ife Central and Ife East local governments of the state. The movement is seen as very significant because of the level of political awareness and sophistication of those areas. One of the defectors whom PDP ushered into its fold is a staunch loyalist of Aregebola and chieftain of APC in the state, Kolapo Alimi and his followers numbering over 2,000.

Alimi was the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs under the administration of Aregbesola and Secretary of TOP. He was one of the lawyers that defended Governor Oyetola when being challenged before the court by Ademola Adeleke after he was declared winner of the 2018 governorship election. Even though Alimi didn’t get the support of Aregbesola before porting, he said the defection was necessary because he was sidelined by the Oyetola’s camp.

Another APC member, Lekan Oyeyemi and hundreds of his supporters defected to the PDP, accusing the leadership of APC of not showing concern for the welfare of its followers. During his declaration, Oyeyemi said, “it is appalling that anyone not of Lagos cronies of APC is seen as a second class citizen, even in his fatherland. Such a trend if not checked by the voting strength of the youths would amount to ceding our right to crude impostors.”

In Ife East Local Government Area, a former chairman of the party, Kayode Ogundele and his counterpart in Ife Central, Adeleke Enitilo, also defected to the PDP, just as the coordinator of Ileri Oluwa Vendor in Ife Central, Mrs. Ojuolape Olagbaju, joined the fray.

Speaking on behalf of the other defectors, Ogundele said, “Our decision to join “Imole Team” was borne out of their love towards making Osun great as the PDP is the only party that can give the people of Osun the change we deserve. We are very comfortable with the leadership style of Professor Wale Oladipo, he is a leader of many parts. We are going to put everything in our custody to make sure PDP wins the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Osun.”

“Ife is the hometown of Iyiola Omisore, the National Secretary of APC as well as the hometown of Oladipo. The area is going to be keenly contested by these political chieftains”

Ife is the hometown of Iyiola Omisore, the National Secretary of APC as well as the hometown of Oladipo. The area is going to be keenly contested by these political chieftains.

The division in the Osun chapter of the ruling APC started on a large scale after the emergence of the administration of Governor Gboyega Oyetola, the candidate of the party in the forthcoming poll. The struggle for leadership of the party caused a serious feud between Oyetola and his predecessor and incumbent Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola. Loyalists of these two political heavyweights in the state also parted ways. While those of Aregbesola floated a caucus known as The Osun Progressives or simply TOP, which ushered in a factional party leadership in the state, Oyetola’s loyalists also pitched their tent with a group called IleriOluwa. TOP had argued that it broke away from the mainstream party when its pleas for restructuring of the party allegedly fell into the deaf ears of the governor and the party leaders.

This current infighting in APC appeared to have gotten to its head recently when the party primaries became very controversial as aspirants accused the leadership of the party of manipulations, impositions of candidates and refusal to release the results of the primary elections conducted for the National and State Assemblies. It could be recalled that the governorship primary of the ruling party had resulted in legal tussle and defections.

While Moshood Adeoti, the governorship aspirant of the factional APC in the state dragged Oyetola to court over the latter’s emergence, a former aspirant, Lasun Yusuf, felt aggrieved and defected to the Labour Party where he has clinched its gubernatorial ticket for the July 16 poll.

These orchestrated defections are being touted as possessing the capacity to positively or negatively influence the chances of parties and candidates while others may not have much electoral impact. For some of the defectors, the election of July 16 will be an acid test of their pedigree and reach at the grassroots. This is because some stakeholders have always held that many of them have been riding on the back of certain political godfathers to command respect or that they existed only under the shadows of their principals.

In the case of others, they would have the chance to prove or announce their arrival as power brokers or kingmakers in their constituencies depending on the outcome of the elections in their domains because the recent defections seem to have been strategic and in areas with peculiar voting patterns and huge volume of voters in the past.

In the meantime, most stakeholders believe it is premature to make a categorical conclusion on the comparative advantage of the current political realignment across the parties, particularly the APC and the PDP. This, they explained, is because of the likely domino effect of the outcome of the Ekiti governorship poll and the possibility of fresh alliances in the coming days even though candidates of Social Democratic Party, Accord, Labour Party, Goke Omigbodun, Akin Ogunbiyi and Lasun Yusuf respectively have said they would not step down for either Oyetola or Adeleke.

Though many campaigners and supporters of all governorship candidates had argued that they were not losing sleep over the plethora of defections as they boasted of victory in the poll, stakeholders now say the recent development has the capacity to spring a surprise on July 16.

However, some political analysts argued that cross-carpeting is not new to the political terrain of Nigeria adding that those who left to one party or the other might still return to their former political parties if they lose out.