Samuel Ajayi examines the odds against the impending re-election of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State
With both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) wrapping up their state congresses and gearing for the national conventions, attention will likely shift to the governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti.
The 2022 governorship election in Osun is likely to be like never before because at no time will an incumbent be facing the battles that Gov. Gboyega Oyetola will likely face within the party and even without. The fight to retain his seat is heating up and will likely not relent.
Even in 2018, when everyone worked together, it was a tough battle with many neutrals still feeling he did not really win the election fairly. Now, the party is likely to face the same opposition but with a divided house. However, Oyetola will count on the support of Senator Iyiola Omisore who had since decamped to the party.
From all indications, Omisore is not likely to contest this time around but eyeing a Senatorial seat. Sources told THISDAY that he has quite a number of his loyalists in Oyetola’s government. For instance, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Yomi Lawal, is Omisore’s nominee. He was Omisore’s running-mate in 2018 when he contested against Oyetola on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
As stated earlier, Omisore wants to contest for the Osun Senatorial seat which covers Ife and Ilesha where former governor, Rauf Aregbesola and current Minister of the Interior come from. And it is no secret that Aregbesola and Omisore are not the best of friends. If the issues within the party are even to be resolved, Aregebesola won’t want to support Omisore getting the Osun East Senatorial ticket. And he (Oyetola) won’t be sure of Omisore’s support if the latter does not get the senatorial ticket. So Oyetola is boxed into a corner in that regard.
The 2018 Clamour that Never Was…
The background to all these was that in January 2018, even before the primaries, a high-powered delegation came from the national secretariat to find out what the people of Osun wanted in their next governor. Some criteria were set and part of these was that power must go to Osun West. Osun West had only produced a governor when late Senator Isiaka Adeleke was governor. The next governor was Chief Bisi Akande who is from Osun Central. He lost his re-election to Olagunsoye Oyinlola who was also from Osun Central. Oyinlola was governor for about seven years before being kicked out by the courts. Between Akande and Oyinlola, Osun Central had it for about eleven and half years. After Oyinlola, Osun East had it for eight years with Aregbesola being governor. So with this, there was the natural clamour that Osun West should have it. The second criterium was the payment of salaries and the third was infrastructure and human development.
The APC leadership in Abuja agreed that the governorship should go Osun West and now the decision for the Osun APC was who they would pick from that zone. First was Alhaji Mohood Adeoti, the Secretary to the State Government, then. The next one was Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Nojeem Salami. The seeming outsider then was Bola Oyebamiji, who was Commissioner for Finance under Aregbesola and also retained the seat under Oyetola. These possible candidates had the grassroots support, but sources told THISDAY that they didn’t have the financial war chest to win any election. So there was the need to get a moneybag to prosecute the election and that was where Senator Bola Tinubu came in. Though the current governor, Oyetola, was in the picture he was from Osun Central. Tinubu was said to have told them that Oyetola was related to him but he won’t put his money on an outsider when his blood relation was contesting. He was said to have also told them if Osun APC had the money, they could pick anyone but if they wanted his support, they should pick Oyetola.
Back to the Status Quo Ante…
The dilemma of the Osun APC was that PDP was to pick Senator Ademola Adeleke who had the financial wherewithal to prosecute his campaign. So Osun APC had to settle for Oyetola, first in deference to Tinubu, and also for the financial support. But that move also created its own problem. Adeoti, the then SSG, decamped to African Democratic Party (ADP). Salami, the then Speaker, wanted to decamp too but he was prevailed upon to stay. Lasun Yusuf, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, also felt aggrieved as he felt the process that produced Oyetola was not fair enough. Many of these aggrieved top shots, sources told THISDAY, did not work for Oyetola. For instance, Iwo, where Adeoti comes from, has the largest votes return in the whole of Osun West and PDP had given its ticket to Adeleke who was from the West and not Omisore who was from Osun East. That showed the strength of calls for the governorship should go to the West.
It was known that Adeoti stood no chance of winning the election but he played the role of a spoiler and this made it difficult for Oyetola from wining at the first ballot. Through him, (Adeoti) APC lost about 60,000 votes as Adeoti had about 59,000 votes. Before he came SSG, Adeoti was at a time the state party chairman when the party was still known as Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). What this means is that there were those who supported him but refused to vote for him not to be seen as working against APC but they also did not come out to vote for APC, which was Oyetola.
The Battle for 2022…
In 2022, the PDP will still likely give the ticket to Adeleke which would still be a continuation of the ticket going to the West and with the thinking that his family has the financial war chest to slug it out with Oyetola, the incumbent. Now, Aregbesola, from all indications and for now, is not working for Oyetola.
A former aide to Aregbesola who did not want his name in print told THSIDAY that if the two men, Aregbesola and Oyetola, don’t find a way to resolve their differences, the two of them will end up losers. He has his reasons:
“The reason is that they have formidable opposition in the PDP and the Adelekes have a name that people like in Osun. The other factor is the clamour for the governorship to go to Osun West. The PDP has these two factors: money and the presentation of a popular candidate. So even the APC already has its job cut out even if there is no rancour between Aregbesola and Oyetola.”
Sources told THISDAY that there is a faction within the Osun APC known as The Osun Progressives (TOP). This group is most popular in the West. The permutation is that TOP wants to counter Oyetola returning and will help the emergence of someone from the West. Key players in the TOP include former SSG, Adeoti, Nojeem Salami, the former Speaker, and Senator Mudashiru Hussein.
Ironically, the APC congress held on Saturday had parallel elections. The faction loyal to Oyetola returned the incumbent chairman, Gboyega Famodun, while the TOP faction produced one Alhaji Sanisile. He was formerly the state secretary of the party. He is from Iwo.
Now, the battle line is drawn. Sources told THISDAY that many of Aregbesola’s foot soldiers have vowed that they won’t ever work for Oyetola. Their grouse is that they have been shut out of government patronage since Oyetola emerged as the governor.
One of the aides told THISDAY that Aregbesola’s loyalists put everything, including sweat and blood, on the line to see to the emergence of Oyetola. “It was shocking that we were totally shut out because we were Aregbesola Boys. That is not the way to go.”
Going forward, it is very likely that Oyetola will pick the ticket again. He has the party structure in his hands and the national secretariat of the party will back him with Tinubu’s support.
However, the greater battle is reining in the disgruntled elements within the party who are bent on seeing that he does not return. And leading this charge is the TOP faction led by Aregbesola loyalists. In Osun APC, It is surely the fire next time.
In 2022, the PDP will still likely give the ticket to Adeleke which would still be a continuation of the ticket going to the West and with the thinking that his family has the financial war chest to slug it out with Oyetola, the incumbent. Now, Aregbesola, from all indications and for now, is not working for Oyetola. A former aide to Aregbesola who did not want his name in print told THSIDAY that if the two men, Aregbesola and Oyetola, don’t find a way to resolve their differences, the two of them will end up losers