By Yaya Ademola
THE politics and polity playing out in the State of Osun has put All Progressives Congress (APC) in political incarceration from which it needs to be bailed, and then fortified, to be in a good stead to victoriously contest the July 16, 2022 Gubernatorial Elections in the state. What do I mean? In the run-up to the 2018 Gubernatorial Elections in the state, some political juggernauts in APC protested an alleged unlevelled playground created by governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, to favour his Chief of Staff, Gboyega Oyetola, to emerge as the APC gubernatorial candidate. Although, Oyetola eventually emerged as the APC candidate in the 2018 direct primary of the party, the protest of the stalwarts and their eventual exit from APC jeopardised the victory of the party and its candidate in the election.
The result of the election was 254,698 for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and 254,345 for APC. That implies that PDP won the first ballot by 353 votes. What eventually snatched victory away from PDP was a rerun: as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the election inconclusive as a result of disruption of elections and violence in seven different polling units across four local government areas. The affected areas were Ife North, Ife South, Osogbo and Orolu Local Governments. INEC contended that registered number of people denied voting in the affected areas was 3,498 which is far over and above the difference of 353, with which PDP was ahead of APC; hence, the rerun. At the end of the exercise, the result declared by INEC was 255,505 for APC; and 255,023 for PDP, which implies that APC finally turned the table against PDP with 482 votes margin. Not satisfied with the outcome of the election results, PDP headed to court but APC eventually won at the Supreme Court. This difference of 482 is highly infinitesimal, compared to 101,937 (One hundred and one thousand, nine hundred and thirty seven votes) difference with which APC defeated PDP in 2014 which won Rauf Aregbesola second term. This was a period when PDP held sway nationally with federal might used to intimidate and harass Osun people, including a threat to invade Governor’s official residence.
The fact of the matter is if those APC stalwarts had not left APC, it would have defeated PDP landslide. For instance, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under the Aregbesola administration left APC to contest governorship under the platform of Action Democratic Party (ADP) and garnered 49,744 votes (Forty-nine thousand, seven hundred and forty-four votes). Some members also left for African Democratic Congress (ADC), which also garnered 7,681 votes (Seven thousand, six hundred and eighty-one votes). All together, those 57,425 votes would have been credited to APC. Again, if the former Speaker of Osun House of Assembly, Rt. Honourable Najeem Salam, who felt short-changed like others had jumped overboard by refusing Aregbesola’s persuasion to stay with the party, 2018 Governorship Elections would have been an automatic victory for PDP, as the 14,779 votes delivered by Najeem in Ejigbo Local Government to APC would have gone the other way. This was the situation with the Osun APC three years ago.
Although, as at today, all these stalwarts are fully back to APC, the party is engulfed with crisis and it is getting messier as we coast to July 16, 2022 Gubernatorial Elections in the state. Instead of working for peaceful co-existence, consultation and inclusive engagement with all these stakeholders and caucuses within the party, Governor Gboyega Oyetola has chosen the path of alienation. Apart from his caucus in the party – IleriOluwa group – he does not want to have anything to do with others. It is one of those things for somebody to be deceived, especially one in the position of power, as people around the powerful mainly tell them what they want to hear; it is irrational and illogical, however, for somebody to be deceiving himself/herself.
If the situation is not radically addressed on time, either of these two will happen. On the one hand, if Oyetola uses his incumbent executive power to manipulate the game and emerge as APC candidate for the 2022 Governorship Elections without the support and cooperation of other caucuses in APC, a worse repeat of 2018 clearly means he will lose the Governorship Elections. Winning an election is not all about money; goodwill and general acceptability play more significant role. On the other hand, if the conglomeration of caucuses in the party succeeds in having an APC gubernatorial candidate other than Governor Oyetola, a lot of yeoman job will be required to win at the election as a lot of havocs have been wrecked. Head or tail, APC is in a thorny situation.
This situation in the PDP is unhealthy as well and there is no viable third force that could kick out the two parties at the moment. If the electoral weather is as bleak as this in less than one year to the Osun July 16 Governorship Elections, it calls for concern as violence and electoral malpractices may be the determinant factors, instead of conducive atmosphere for citizens to make their choice freely and willingly. I want to be optimistic that the shining sun is still enough to dry the fabric.