Osun guber as barometer for 2019 polls

[FILE PHOTO] INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu

In less than 24 hours, the people of Osun State are expected to troop out to elect a successor to the incumbent governor, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, whose tenure as occupant of the Government House, Okefia, Osogbo, will expire on November 10, 2018.

To a large extent, tomorrow’s exercise would be another opportunity to determine the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver free, fair and credible 2019 general election.

Furthermore, the election is crucial in the sense that coming shortly after the Ekiti State that was largely tainted by the incidences of vote buying, tomorrow’s poll will not be basically between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

INEC has made some noise, issued stern warning and devised strategies to prevent the menace of vote buying, thus giving the impression that it would be a fair outing for all 48 participating political parties.

Although 48 political parties are participating, with two women and 43 men as candidates going by INEC’s record, only five of them could be said to be serious contenders in terms of their financial strength, membership and popularity of their candidates.

The state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Olusegun Agbaje, has consistently assured of the commission’s readiness to conduct a free, fair and credible election and provide a level-playing ground.

Agbaje, who was in charge in the state during the 2014 election that produced Aregbesola, is familiar with the political atmosphere, having worked in the state for some years before he was transferred to Ondo State and later back to Osun to conduct tomorrow’s election.

The INEC has also expressed willingness to conduct an election that will not only be a good reference point and seen by all and sundry, including both the local and foreign observers, to be credible.

The commission boasted that the next governor would be a product of a transparent process.

Osun may have recorded a first in the country’s political history, as the electoral umpire has affirmed, that it is the first time the commission would record the largest number of participating political parties in an election.

Going by INEC’s statistics, a total of 1,682,495 registered voters across the 30 local government councils and 332 wards will cast their ballots tomorrow.

And, unlike the 2014 governorship contest, which was mainly characterised by a two-horse race, this year’s election will feature five major parties, with prominent and popular political actors seeking the mandate of the electorate as preferred candidate to govern Osun.

The frontline parties in the keen contest include the All Progressives Congress (APC), which parades the former Chief of Staff to the governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, as its standard bearer, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has the Senator representing Osun West Senatorial District, Ademola Adeleke as its candidate.

Others are the Social Democratic Party (SDP), fielding a former deputy governor of the state, Senator Iyiola Omisore, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) that is parading the immediate past Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Moshood Olalekan Adeoti and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) on which Alhaji Fatai Akinade Akinbade, also an ex-SSG, is standing for election.

The remaining 43 political parties and their candidates will equally play important roles in the election, although they are not considered significant in this contest.

All the big five parties and their supporters had moved round the nooks and crannies of the state selling their programmes to the electorate.

In compliance to the rules of the game, the parties ended their campaigns, rallies and political advertisement yesterday.

The rallies were relatively peaceful and no major political fracas was recorded.

The maturity displayed by the parties might have largely informed the decision by the police authorities to deploy about 18,000 policemen to supervise the election, unlike what was witnessed during a similar exercise in neighbouring Ekiti State.

As exciting as the governorship election promises to be, some pressing and germane issues in the polity may likely play out and influence the turnout, direction and pattern of voting by the electorate.

These issues are the unpaid salary arrears of state workers, pension and gratuities of senior citizens, religious consideration, continuity of the current order or otherwise, party affiliation, competence and credibility of the candidates among others.

INEC and the law enforcement agents said they have put necessary measures in place to stem the issue of vote buying and selling and voters inducement, which reportedly featured during the recent Ekiti state gubernatorial election.

Whether the parties would keep the promise remain to be seen.

Given the current political dynamics in the state and as the race for the topmost job in Osun becomes keener, political pundits are having a tough time predicting who among the big five would breast the tape.

The reason being that the candidates by the frontline parties are not only popular but also have what it takes to swim in the troubled Osun political waters.

The APC’s candidate is from Iragbiji in Osun Central Senatorial District, which produces the largest votes in the state. Oyetola is the only candidate from this zone.

Given the massive backing and goodwill of governor Aregbesola and APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Oyetola may win a large number of votes from there.

However, the APC may have to contend with Adeoti, who has considerable supporters in the area and whose running mate, Professor Durotoye, is from Osogbo.

Besides, Omisore has also made serious incursion into the area, while some notable and influential Osogbo indigenes, including a former ally of Aregbesola, Senator Bayo Salami, have since joined the camp of ADP.

Moreover, a grassroot’s mobiliser who also worked for the success of APC in the area in 2014 governorship poll, Fatai Diekola (Jagunaso), also defected to the PDP to work for Adeleke in the area.

Adeleke is from Ede in Osun West Senatorial District and his family enjoys considerable support in the area.

The strong political dynasty built by his father, the late Senator Ayoola Adeleke, later inherited and serviced by Ademola’s elder brother, the late Senator Isiaka Adetunji, is also working for Ademola.

Adeleke may be a hard nut to crack by political opponents in the area.

The people of Ede and Egbedore may want to deliver their usual large bloc votes to PDP.

The love Osun West has for Adeleke was demonstrated when he recorded victory in nine out of the 10 local councils in the district to win Osun West by-election.

Omisore hails from Ile Ife in Osun East Senatorial District.

The people of the area may want to honour their own with bloc votes, particularly in his hometown, to enable him achieve his ambition to govern the state.

But, another Ife man, Albert Adeogun, is the running mate of Adeleke and he, too, is likely to win substantial votes to strengthen PDP’s vote tally.

The Senator representing Osun East, Babajide Omoworare, may want to use his influence to win votes for the ruling APC, just as the people of Modakeke in Ife area may deliver bulk votes for the APC due to the strong influence of the party in the community.

Aregbesola, an Ijesa indigene, would do all he could to check the influence of Omisore in Ijesaland in terms of delivering votes.

But majority of people from Ijesaland, which is part of Osun East with its six local councils, may still show preference for other parties such as ADC, which picked its running mate, Justice Olamide Oloyede (rtd) from the area.

Just like the situation in Ife area, Ijesaland may be a battleground for most of the frontline parties.

Adeoti is a native of Iwo in Osun West Senatorial District. Iwo is a community that prides itself with large voting population.

APC is popular in Iwo but the clamour by people from Osun West to produce the next governor in the state may have shifted loyalty and preference for Adeoti.

Here, despite the influence of Adeoti, other parties, including PDP, SDP and ADC are also popular in the area.

Akinbade is a native of Ogbaagbaa Ola Oluwa local council in Osun West District.

Apart from being popular in the council area, he wields influence in other council areas in the zone. ADC will definitely win appreciable votes in the district.

Besides, his long-standing political experience and relationship will enjoy the sympathy of ADC in the other two districts.

Other major towns where the parties may have stiff competition in tomorrow’s election include Ikirun, Ikire and Gbongan Ila Orangun.

All the parties have considerable influence due to the presence of party bigwigs in the area, which cuts across the parties.

However Ikirun and Iragbiji may want to honour Oyetola with bulk votes from the two communities just as Ejigbo may deliver bulk votes to APC.

As the parties stand, it is difficult to determine which of them will gather sufficient votes to emerge winner in the race.

But, one thing that is certain going by the popularity of the frontline parties is that the election will be keenly contested.

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