By Kehinde Ayantunji
Following the last week Monday lifting of ban by the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of July 7 party primary, political atmosphere in the state is becoming more charged as aspirants commenced the struggle to be the party’s flagbearer.
The development appeared to have triggered more governorship ambition’s declarations in the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while the APC aspirants have formally unveiled their campaign offices within the state capital.
Despite the silence of the State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on his choice of successor, coast is becoming clearer on the gubernatorial hopeful within the ruling APC while the PDP leadership in the state is also narrowing down his choice among the contending aspirants.
As at the time of filling this report, 27 aspirants have shown interest to occupy Bola Ige house from the APC, while 14 aspirants have equally shown interests within the PDP.
APC aspirants include the speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Najeem Salaam; the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola; Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti; Deputy Speaker, Federal House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuf; Chairman Local Government Service Commission, Elder Peter Babalola; Project Coordinator, Osun RAMP, Eng Adelere Oriolowo; Alao Olabisi, Oyebisi Alamu, Jolayemi Kamoru and Dr. Isiaka Owoade.
Others are former commissioner for Information and Strategy, Oluomo Sunday Akere, Dr Ismail Saka Layonu, Elder Tunde Adediji , Mrs. Akanbi Alimot Bolanle, Hon. Akintayo Gafar Amere, Adeyemo Ayodele Fatai, Babatunde Adedotun Taiwo , Dr. Samuel Ibiyemi , Ayoade Lawal, Dr. Taofeek Olayinka, Barrister Kunle Rasheed Adegoke among others.
Leading aspirants in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) include former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, Senator Ademola Adeleke, Senator Olasunkami Akinlabi, Akogun Lere Oyewunmi, former Speaker of the state Assembly, Hon Adejare Bello, Barr Kayode Oduoye, Barister Nathaniel Oke (SAN), Professor Adeolu Durotoye among others.
However, OSUN DEFENDER’s survey within the APC indicated that the contest might be among only few top aspirants except there vis any last minute politicking by Governor Aregbesola that may alter the voting calculations in the party.
Findings among the party leaders and members in the state showed that the top contenders include Oyetola, Adeoti, Salaam, Yusuff, Babalola, Layoonu, Kunle Adegoke among others.
The party is not routing for zoning against the expectations of some of its chieftains, as all aspirants, according to the state party Chairman, Prince Gboyega Famodun, would be given chance to participate in the primary election.
A member of the state working committee of the party who confided in OSUN DEFENDER confirmed that at one of its recent meetings, the option of zoning has been dismissed as unconstitutional which may encourage post primary litigations and discourage competition to produce the best among the aspirants.
In examining the chances and challenges among the leading aspirants within the APC, zoning, ability to consolidate on Governor Aregbesola’s success in 8 years, political experience appeared to be the issues that party chieftains are using to evaluate aspirants.
For instance, Hon Najeem Salaam a second term Speaker of the state House of Assembly is banking on the support of party chieftains, past and present members of the state assembly.
Since 1999 he has been an active participant in the progressive politics, from supervisory councilor to the state house of assembly. He is also considered to be a “home base” who is humble and loyal to the party, especially in supporting the governor’s policies and projects. At a point, the house he superintends was tagged a ‘rubber stamp’ as a result of his support for the executive arm of the government. Another aspirant to watch out for in the race is the present Chief of Staff to the Governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, a technocrat and long standing financier of the party. Aside political appointments, Oyetola is for the first time contesting for the public office. He is seen as a major stabiliser during financial and labour crisis in the state and his coporate background to sustain the legacies of Aregbesola is strengthening his chances.
He is rumored to be the favorites of Governor Aregbesola, but the governor has dismissed such insinuation during the federal constituencies tour that he has no favorite among the contending aspirants. He is also not giving anything to chance by consulting across the zones to actualize his ambition. The major challenge for his aspiration is the agitation for zoning the seat to Osun-West.
In the same category is the Secretary to the state governor, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti who was a party Chairman since 2002 till 2010 that he became the SSG. His long stay in the party leadership has earned him the respect and support of party chieftains and members across the zones. He is a man to watch out for in the race, but Osun West senatorial district where Adeoti is banking on may be divided as over 20 aspirants from the district are also vying for the party’s ticket.
Elder Peter Babalola, a former chief of staff to ex-Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and current Chairman Local Government Service Commission is another major aspirant in the race. He is also a grassroots politician who has been contesting for governorship since 1999. His major challenge is that about four other aspirants are from his home town, Ikire, a situation that may weaken his support base.
Kunle Adegoke, a lawyer and one of the counsel to Governor Aregbesola during the Election Petition Tribunal is another aspirant that may spring surprise in the race, although, despite his popularity among youth in the central senatorial district, he appeared not to weigh any influence in the party leadership. He was considered to be fenced outside the party for certain political reason.
However, Adegoke is among the few aspirants that are meeting party delegates across the three senatorial districts in the state and not giving anything to chance.
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Lasun Yusuf, is also considered to have been decimated in the control of the party in various local government which may substantially affect his chances in the race.
A party source told our reporter that Lasun has been fenced out during the last party congress to the extent that he could not boast of 30 percent delegates from his local government, however, he is banking on his closeness to Abuja and his financial muscle to prosecute his ambition.
While Engineer Adelere Oriolowo is considered to be a close ally of governor Aregbesola, the Iwo-born engineer is seen to be a new comer in the state political terrain. Many observers believe that the choice of the governor would determine his fate in the primary.
Meanwhile, the situation in PDP remain different, it appeared that the party leadership has conceded the party thicket to Osun-West Senatorial District. A member of the Board of Trustee of the party confided in our reporter that the party is not thinking outside Osun West and will soon pronounce the decision through its national leadership.
Likely aspirants from the zone include Senator Ademola Adeleke, Akinlabi Olasunkami, Adejare Bello, Akogun Lere Oyewunmi, Akin Ogunbiyi among others.
Senator Iyiola Omisore, who recently defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in his case is facing tougher challenges as his ambition has again met brickwall in his new party.
There is also the issue of opposition by some other aspirants and some individuals in the party, the Senatorial District he comes from, Osun East which produced the incumbent, his credibility crisis and the capacity of his new party to mobilise support are his challenges.