Osun and 2015: The game changer

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By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

The victory of the All Progressives Congress, APC in last Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Osun State reinforces the opposition against a seemingly rampaging political train of President Goodluck Jonathan

Itwas a welcome relief to the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Those who saw him yesterday morning as the result of the Osun State governorship poll was declared said they saw a man greatly relieved but reinforced for the battle ahead.

Gov. Rauf Aregbesola of Osun celebrating his re-election in Osogbo on Sunday

Gov. Rauf Aregbesola of Osun celebrating his re-election in Osogbo on Sunday

Besides being an elixir to the opposition that was badly traumatized by  defeat in Ekiti a month ago, the Osun victory acts as a spring for the opposition towards the 2015 presidential prize that was being considered a foregone booty of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The message  yesterday was that 2015 is still within play.

Despite earlier claims by the APC that the presidency was determined to rig the election in favour of the PDP’s Senator Iyiola Omisore, the outcome of the election showed the limit to which President Goodluck Jonathan would go in forcing his will on the electorate.

Overwhelming presence

The overwhelming presence of security men in the state in the days ahead of the poll did not impede the electorate from exercising their will on who governs them. That indeed, is a reassuring sign for many Nigerians and the international community that the 2015 election could be a free and fair election.

Indeed, ahead of the polls last weekend, the APC and its flag bearer, Aregbesola, had in the face of the strong presence of security men around the state betrayed clear signs of unease.

The APC’s national spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in statements painted the impression of the determination of the presidency to rig the election in a clear determination to reshape the political configuration of the Southwest ahead of the decisive 2015 election.

Such panic caused the opposition party to summon all its elected office holders and political appointees from across the country to show presence in Osun State from last Tuesday as a way of boosting the morale of its supporters in that state.

The PDP’s candidate was also lifted by the presence of strong detachment of the security forces whose presence helped to suppress whatever advantages the incumbency factor would have given to Aregbesola.

Omisore also had his friends from the Senate including Senators Enyininnya Abaribe, Ehigie Uzamere and some others to lift his heart.

But the most decisive factors were the voters on ground who at the end of voting on Saturday showed their preference for the incumbent.

The outcome was, however, not a rout as the Aregbesola camp had predicted it would be without rigging.

That underscored the agitation among some PDP loyalists who had sought for an alternative candidate.

Omisore, a former deputy governor of Osun State had before this election been on the winning side of all the gubernatorial elections conducted in Osun State. He was deputy governor to Chief Bisi Akande, strongly supported the immediate past governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola in 2003 and 2007, but, however, came short in delivering himself into an office he had in the past helped others to enter.

Though a very lively man with sound education, the factors against Omisore were mostly fanned by perceptions about him arising from his trial for the murder of Chief Bola Ige, a former attorney general of the federation. Omisore who was acquitted of complicity in that murder, however, did little to clear that perception. Besides, his political foes helped to fan the negative perception about him.

Oyinlola, the immediate past governor of the state who himself had a grudge against the PDP rubbed in the Ige wound on the people when he questioned why President Jonathan had surrounded himself with all those who were questioned over the murder of Ige.

“The candidate of the PDP was arrested for killing Ige. He was arrested and detained. “The national secretary of the [PDP], Professor Wale Oladipo, was also detained in connection with the killing. The Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan, was also detained.

“The chairman of the party in this state, Ayobami Olaoluwa, was also arrested. So, why is everyone who was in detention given appointment or put in a position of authority? We need to ask the government,” Oyinlola said.

Great minus

Linking anyone or party with the death of Ige was a great minus especially given the adoration that Ige continues to draw from most parts of the state.

The election was also an opportunity for political enemies  in the Southwest to hit at him. Tinubu had by every indication mounted the platform of political leadership of the Southwest with the dominance of his party in five of the six Southwest states. After the loss of Ekiti, his political empire was trimmed to four states and the prospect of losing Osun, had in the last weeks of the campaign become an exciting lure for Tinubu bashers in the region.

Internal dissent

It was especially so, given that Aregbesola was generally considered the closest of the APC governors to Tinubu.

The internal dissent to Tinubu in the Southwest was especially fanned by vestiges of Afenifere, the socio-political organization through which Tinubu, himself emerged as governor of Lagos State in 1999. But the former governor’s alleged role in splintering Afenifere after his emergence as governor helped to create animosity that today irks many Yoruba leaders.

Even though many Afenifere leaders did not come out openly to antagonise Tinubu and Aregbesola ahead of the election, some of them were enthusiastically waiting to celebrate the downfall of the APC in Osun.

Celebrating  the downfall

APC leaders who learnt from their laxity in Ekiti were well prepared for Osun and went out of the way to woo known and unknown enemies.

PDP on the other hand did not help its candidate with the clear animosity towards rebels in the party. The treatment of Oyinlola and another former governor of the state, Senator Isiaka Adeleke subsequently proved to be one of the major problems for the PDP on Election Day.

Though Oyinlola did not muster enough votes to win his booth, Adeleke’s grip on Ede, one of the largest towns in the state helped to firmly deliver the town to the APC. After being lured into the PDP gubernatorial contest, the former governor was allegedly forced out by what he claimed to be impediments put on his way. That was the beginning of his defection to the APC, a move the PDP would now regret not to have stopped.

One APC source revealed that Adeleke was the candidate the party feared most could trouble Aregbesola. But even after he withdrew, the PDP hierarchy in the state failed to soothe him giving him room to defect.

Tinubu, the APC national leader and the many presidential aspirants in the party would be very gleeful with the outcome of the polls. Yesterday, a source said Tinubu was himself very bouncy as he saw the result as a vindication against the aspiration of his internal foes in the Southwest. For the presidential aspirants, the outcome of the election gives hope that their permutations of forging a Southwest and Northern alliance against the PDP remains feasible.

For President Jonathan, the permutation may have been that whatever loss of support he may have suffered in the North would be gained in the Southwest. Now, it is back to basics.

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