By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
It was in March 2008 that the immediate past national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Vincent Ogbulafor boasted that the PDP will rule for the next 60 years. Two years on, the party that once looked so invisible is turning into an endangered specie if not in the country, then in the politically active Southwest region of the country.
Friday’s court judgment upturning the result of the 2007 gubernatorial election in Osun State earlier in favour of the PDP is the latest setback for the largest party in Black Africa. The party which won five of the six States in the Southwest is today left with only two States, Ogun and Oyo States.
To carry the flag of legitimacy and credibility as a national leader of the PDP ahead of the 2003 election, erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo had reportedly sought the understanding of the then ruling party in the region, that is Alliance for Democracy (AD) for a working alliance.
Former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba while confirming the solicitation made to the then AD governors by Obasanjo in an interview with Vanguard had inferred some measure of duplicity on the part of the former leader. While Osoba and his fellow AD governors gave heed to the alliance, the then governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu reinforced his own electoral trenches.
Tinubu’s vigilance paid off as he was the only survivor in the political blitzkrieg by the PDP that swept through the Southwest in 2003.
As the unique survivor in the PDP onslaught of the region, Tinubu became a rallying point for the recovery of the politics of progressivism.
In the 2007 election Tinubu by several accounts strengthened the hands of the progressives in all the Southwest States while at the same time defending his core constituency in Lagos from the “do or die” politics earlier proclaimed by the then outgoing leader of the PDP, Obasanjo.
He is believed to have encouraged his associates, some his staff in Lagos to contest elections in their home States in the Southwest.
Rauf Aregbesola who was his Commissioner for Works in Lagos fought what was described as a bloody battle for the governorship of Osun. Besides the lives lost during the election, the credibility of the electoral system and the judiciary were severely tested by the dispute in Osun State.
Following the proclamation of Olagunsoye Oyinola as the winner of the election, the AC appealed on the fact of what it claimed to be the blatant rigging that characterised the election and the falsification of results.
Ondo State became the first to be recovered on February 23, 2009 when the Court of Appeal annulled the election that brought Chief Segun Agagu to power and returned his bitter rival and Labour Party candidate, Segun Mimiko as governor. Mimiko had received the moral support of Tinubu in his bid.
Ekiti was “liberated” on October 15 this year when the Court of Appeal delivered judgment that sacked Eng. Segun Oni as the governor of the State and proclaimed Kayode Fayemi as governor.
But Osun was probably most controversial. One notable case was the declaration that Oyinola won 14,497 votes in Boripe Local Government Area whereas the total number of registered voters was 12,631.
Aregbesola presented the evidence of falsification of the results in as many as 10 local government areas, where he claimed that the PDP falsified the results to leverage his lead in the rest of the State.
With the weight of evidence presented by Aregbesola, the arbitration of the election petition inevitably became a political matter that soon turned into a scandal for the judiciary. Not only was justice delayed, the allegation of the exchange of SMS correspondence between Oyinola’s lawyers and some members of the Osun State Election Petition tribunal raised no small controversy.
Friday’s judgment has undoubtedly put the PDP as the minority party in the region and lifted Tinubu to a position of glory. From his prime position as a notable leader of the region he is now appropriately positioned to negotiate something perhaps of national significance for himself in the months ahead.