By Dapo Akinrefon
On Saturday, the people of Osun State will head to the polls to elect a new governor for their state.
The race for the next occupant of the Abere Government House, Osogbo, has thrown up many candidates.
Indeed, the recent governorship election in Ekiti State, in which the incumbent governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), conceded defeat to Mr Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has made the Osun election very interesting.
However, there is optimism that the hitch-free and peaceful conduct of the Ekiti election will be replicated in Osun.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has repeatedly assured that the Osun election and the 2015 general elections will be free and fair.
INEC has earmarked 332 registration areas, 3,010 polling units and 3379 voting points for the election.
The electioneering campaigns have been characterised by allegations of attacks, plans to manipulate the electoral process; mudslinging; and claims of introduction of belly infrastructure to induce the electorate.
The two rival parties-the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressive Party, APC – have been at each other’s throats over alleged moves to tinker with the electoral process in their favour or cause chaos in the state.
Their spokespersons have, however, made attempts to absolve their principals of any wrong doing.
Though as many as 19 political parties are presenting candidates in the election, the race is mainly between the PDP’s Iyinola Omisore, a senator, and the APC’s Rauf Aregbesola, the incumbent governor. Aregbesola and Omisore are from the same senatorial district, Osun East, which the PDP candidate represented at the Senate until 2014.
Aregbesola’s runing mate in the election is Grace Titi Laoye Tomori.
Omisore is pairing with Senator Rafiu Adejare Bello.
Other candidates are Babatunde Oralusi (governor) and Hon. Adekunle Rufai (deputy) for Action Alliance; Niyi Owolade (governor) and Opawuyi Bolaji Abdulganiyu (deputy) for Accord Party; Olufemi Adeleke Hammed (governor) and Famiran Lawrence Olusola (deputy) for ACPN; Senator Sunday Olawale Fajimi (governor) and Ogundele Kamarudeen Adeyemi (deputy) for AD; Comrade Ojo Gbenga Gabriel (governor) and Comrade Adebiyi Adedayo Segun (deputy) for ADC; Agboola Azeez Obasanjo (governor) and Oseni Kazeem Adebisi (deputy) for APA; Akintunde Adebimpe Adetunji (governor) and Oladitan Olabode Joseph (deputy) for APGA.
Also running are Alhaji Rafio Shehu Anifowose (governor) and Raji Sofiyat Bodemi (deputy) for CPP; Akinbade Fatai Akinade (governor) and Adenipekun Michael Isola Tunde (deputy) for LP; Chief Babatunde Adetoro (governor) and Faremi Raphael (deputy) for MPPP; Afolayanka Olanrewaju Jimoh (governor) and Akinlabi Babatope Sunday (deputy) for NCP; Prince Adefare Segun Adegoke (governor) and Mrs. Adebowale A. Mujidat (deputy) for NNPP; Oludare Timothy Akinola (governor) and Wayilat Titilade Adeleye (deputy) for PDM; Ganiyu Abiodun Lawal (governor) and Mrs. Grace Mabayoje Ojofakuade (deputy) for PPA; Funso Toyin Bunmi (governor), Phillip Samuel (deputy) for UDP; Adeoti Ibrahim Abiodun (governor) and Salokun Folasade Bukola (deputy) for UPN; Prince Victor Olusegun Adeniyi (governor) and Mrs. Christiana Oluwatoyin (deputy) for UPP while Akinwusi Olusegun (governor) and Alhaja Rashidat Taiwo Olaigbe (deputy) are for SDP.
INEC has accredited 29 local and foreign observers for the election that would stretch through the 30 local government areas.
The Ekiti episode
The outcome of the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti State took many by surprise.
The APC didn’t see defeat coming, but the PDP believed it was the better outcome.
The Ekiti experience was a wake-up call for both the APC and PDP in the Osun election as neither wants to be caught unawares.
With the introduction of the belly infrastructure, both parties (APC and PDP) made attempts to deploy this ‘new strategy’ in their favour.
Whether this strategy will fly or not will be known on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the candidates have outlined their action plans, vision and mission for the people of the state.
The PDP has vowed to replicate its victory in the Ekiti election in Osun.
Its candidate, Omisore, has been selling his vision to the electorate.
Apart from representing Osun East Senatorial District in the Senate, he was also a deputy governor under the Akande administration.
The PDP candidate has been involved in the emergence of some former governors of the state.
In 1999, Omisore was actively involved in the election that saw Chief Bisi Akande come on board as governor, and he deputy governor.
After falling out with his former boss and party, the Alliance for Democracy, the Ife-born senator pitched his tent with the PDP, where he was involved in the campaigns and eventual victory of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola in 2003 and 2007 respectively.
He picked holes in the achievements of the incumbent governor, outlining the fresh ideas he has for the people.
His words: “The truth is that the so-called O’Yes participants have not been paid for the past eight months; in that regard he has failed. Opon Imo has been withdrawn. I join other well-meaning people to demand for its withdrawal all over the state because Opon Imo has 17 subjects and 87.7 errors, that’s the reality.
On Opon Imo, the governor spent N8.4bn. He gave the contract to one of his sons. Doing this is not the problem, but the reality is that a dangerous work, capable of destroying our students, was done. It has 17 subjects, and 84.7 per cent errors.
For example, in mathematics, algebra to be specific, there is no single graph inside Opon Imo, no single diagram and so on. I am a mathematician, you cannot teach mathematics without illustrating figures.
It’s not possible. No single table, when you go to physics, same story. And in chemistry, nothing. The idea was driven by profit, Opon Imo, in chapter 4 (history), says history of the Songai Empire, what you will read in the body is the history of Mali. That’s the character of Opon Imo, I have written to the British government, that they should withdraw the recognition of Opon Imo: I have gone to the UNESCO. It’s an embarrassment. They’re being withdrawn from schools now. In O’Yes, he’s owing them salary.
“A good and effective governor must focus on developmental issues. You must be driven by developmental issues, developing human capacity, the people’s capacity and not by misapplying people’s money. Can you image a governor sewing school uniform for N14bn, depriving the small traders, the clothes sellers on the street, depriving tailors on the streets? He’s taken food from one million Osun indigenous, men and women. These are people who voted for him. All because you wanted to siphon money. All these things have made him to fail. He came to Lagos Airport Hotel to showcase Osun Airport, spending about N4bn, but nothing on the ground to show for it.”
Commenting on his plans for the people, he said in an interview with Vanguard: “Unlike Aregbesola’s government that everything is Lagos arrangement, even carpenter, bricklayers, welders are brought from Lagos, I have two principles -equity and accountability-and four strands of development: develop viable human capital, arrest technology for commission and leadership, partnerships, promote regional operation and national integration.”
“The PDP candidate continued: “Then you now go to my eight cardinal programmes. The first is education. Education in Osun State is in comatose. There is confusion following the merger of schools. Now, children have to walk four or five kilometers going to school. UNESCO said you encourage student to school within one kilometer distance of where they live.
“I have a pact with the people. I don’t want to take you through the whole story. But I have progammes that cover education, health sector, gender development, human capacity development, youth evolution, agriculture, infrastructure, commence, transparency and accountability in governance as well as traditional rulers involvement in governance. I have it all in what I call eight points agenda”.
In his inaugural speech, Governor Aregbesola said he would run an ‘unusual government’.
Initially, many did not understand what he meant.
He was misunderstood from all sides when he, among other things, changed the name of Osun State to the State of Osun, introduced a new education policy and state anthem, and declared October 23 as a day for traditionalists.
Mixed reactions greeted initiatives.
While his opponents attacked the initiatives, his admirers applauded them.
But for Aregbesola, the six-point integral action plan derives from the cardinal development action points defined by his administration to realize the development agenda for Osun.
Since his assumption of office in November 2010, the action plan has been the foundation of the programs of the state government.
The plan seeks to banish hunger, banish poverty, banish unemployment, promote healthy living, promote functional education, promote communal peace and progress.
These six points are defined as integral because the delivery of the development vision requires a combined implementation of each of the points.
As such, to engender the development promise of ‘freedom for all, life more abundant’, Aregbesola explained: “Our people must be able to easily feed themselves so as to banish hunger, sustain a dignifying lifestyle so as to banish poverty, have a job to be engaged with so as to banish unemployment, easily access health care services so as to promote healthy living, acquire market relevant skills so as to promote functional education.”
In addition, he noted that there should be peace and harmony for the benefit of “our people, our visitors and businesses in our state so as to promote communal peace and harmony.”
The first three points at a glance will appear “absolutist” in character. This character, according to the governor, defines the “absolute optimism” required to inspire his administration and people to salvage the society from the abysmal and non-dignifying status our land has found itself in recent times.
“This tone does not underestimate the challenges ahead rather it seeks to set as ambitious as possible a vision for our leaders and people to restore our dignity as a virtuous, independent and prosperous people,”the governor said.
Just like Omisore, Aregbesola has also been involved in the enthroning of a governor.
He was involved in grassroots mobilisation for the emergence of former Lagos state governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in 1999.
He was the coordinator of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation, BATCO, with base in Alimosho local government area of Lagos State.
This earned him the juicy position of Commissioner for Works, a position he held onto for eight years.
Being Tinubu’s staunch loyalist, Aregbesola was also involved in the electioneering campaigns and eventual victory of the current governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN).
As a matter of fact, Aregbesola still holds sway as far as Lagos politics is concerned and his loyalists still go to him for advice and guidance.
Akinbade, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP), was erstwhile Secretary to the State Government, SSG, during the Oyinlola administration.
He fell out with his party, the PDP, when the signals were clear to him that his ambition of getting the PDP ticket was not achievable.
Finding solace in LP, he felt it was time for him to bid his first love farewell.
In the course of his campaign, Akinbade has pledged to provide free health care for pregnant women in the state if voted into power.
The former SSG said that the focus of his qualitative free health programme, if he became governor, would be on pregnant women so as to reduce maternal mortality rate and ensure safe childbirths in the state.
In a recent interview, the LP candidate dismissed the speculation that his party was entering into an alliance with one of the major parties.
Setting the records straight, he said: “That is another falsehood. I am not joining them and I will never join them for the coming election. I have nothing to do with them. I have no pact with anybody and I will never have pact with anybody.
“I will stand this election on my own because I cannot afford to destroy the destiny of the people who God has commissioned me to raise”.
INEC and security agencies
The a gitation by the opposition parties in Osun for the removal or redeployment of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ambassador Oloruntoyin Akeju, in the build-up to the election yielded fruit. The grouse of the PDP in the state is Akeju’s alleged closeness to the national leader of APC, Tinubu.
Akeju’s redeployment and replacement with Mr Olusegun Agbaje was greeted with cheers by the PDP camp.
The INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, on his part, has assured of a free, fair and credible election. So also have the security agencies.
They boast that the Osun poll will be better than the Ekiti election.
Will the PDP repeat the Ekiti feat or will the APC retain its strong hold? Saturday will tell.