BY DAPO AKINREFON
2014 is still far away for many, but not so for Osun State political gladiators who are quietly drawing strategies for what promises to be an epic gubernatorial contest.
WITH just two years to the governorship election in Osun State, the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are gearing up to outwit one another in the coming election.
Following the removal of the immediate past governor of the state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola from office in 2009, the state chapter of the PDP it once seemed would be steeped in lethargy.
It was perhaps a reflection of their estimation of the poor fortunes of the PDP that a number of senior officials of the party recently decamped from the party to the ruling ACN.
Indeed in political circles the defection to the ACN on Tuesday 13th November 2012 at the open field ofGovernmentTechnicalCollege, Osogbo has set tongues wagging about the fortunes of the party.
The defection was the second major movement of politicians from the PDP to ACN in recent time after the Chief of Staff to then Governor Oyinlola, Elder Adebayo Babalola dumped the party along with his supporters for the ACN in the early days of the Aregbesola administration.
The exercise shook the PDP to the foundation as it was hardly expected. It also affected the fortunes of PDP in the 2011 general elections because the party was unable to win any of the state and federal legislative seats from the state.
Babalola’s movement was in the wake of mutterings before the Court of Appeal judgment that the PDP was favouring a particular candidate for the gubernatorial ticket.
The recent movement involved close to 8,000 PDP members led by Chief Adekunle Oluawo, a former Chairman of the State Water Corporation under the administration of Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Among those who moved with him were Hon Rasheed Olaolu (Ede North); Hon Akeem Kajogbola (Ede South); Dr. Adedokun Ademola (Egbedore); Chief Akinyemi Amos (Ejigbo); Hon Abidogun (Ayedire); Hon Ogunmodede (Olaoluwa).
Others included Moshood Oluawo (Ifelodun); Sulaimon Ayantoye (Ayedaade); Dr. Omisore Ayo (Ife East); Ezekiel Adebiyi (Atakumosa West); Dr. Ayotunde Omisore among others.
They were received into the fold of ACN by Governor Rauf Aregbesola supported by other chieftains of the party led by the Acting Chairman, Elder Adebiyi Adelowo.
Aregbesola’s second term
The now open secret that Aregbesola would seek a second term in office has not in any way deterred the aspiration of PDP members to slug it out with him in 2014.
Indeed, perceptions around the state of non-performance hanging on the ACN administration is even making the contest for the PDP ticket tougher.
Indeed, the PDP is not resting on its oars to give the ruling party a run for its money and has retooled its structure and machinery to tackle the ruling party.
It has especially positioned itself to act as a formidable opposition and it is no surprise that the party is almost always keen to join issues with the ruling party.
The PDP contenders
Remarkably, many of the aspirants who were in the race before theAppeal Courtjudgment in 2010 are preparing themselves for another run.
Among them are Mr. Tunde Odanye, ex-Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Prof. Wale Oladipo; Fatai Sarumi, Lati Bakare, Senator Iyiola Omisore and Chief Fatai Akinbade.
However, of the lot Senator Iyiola Omisore and Chief Fatai Akinbade seem to be the more favoured.
Akinbade, the erstwhile Secretary to the State Government during the seven year tenure of the Oyinlola administration was also at one time chairman of the party in the state.
In the two positions, Akinbade was able to muster much goodwill and dispense favour, developments that made him closer to the grassroots.
He is also said to be very popular both within and outside of the party and is regarded as humble, personable and accessible.
The former deputy governor of the state, former chairman of senate committee on appropriation is known to have structures in all the 30 local councils areas of the state aside from enjoying the sympathy of majority of the elders of the party who believe that he is one candidate that would give the ACN flag-bearer a run for his money.
While he is currently garnering support from all and sundry, theIfeborn politician who is known for pursuing his ambitions irrespective of whatever inhibitions, is undoubtedly going to be a deciding factor in the days ahead.
But even more than any other thing in deciding the fortunes of the party in 2014 would be matter of unity. It is no surprise that Omisore and some other party elders have been working round the clock to mend fences and soothe egos wherever they are found.
For many in the PDP, the belief is that if Aregbesola could do it from outside, indeed, it can still be repeated.