Like the gentle, even flow of its patron goddess’ fresh waters, Osun State has been relatively calm and peaceful in the past three years that Governor Gboyega Oyetola took over the helms of affairs there. Gone are the volatile politics, especially within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and social unease, agitation or protest mostly by civil servants and retirees over unpaid salaries and benefits which drew pity from people across the nation during the 2014-2016 economic recessions for which Oyetola’s predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, was blamed.
But the tide appears set to rise and the currents swirl and swirl roll faster as politicians, political parties and other stakeholders prepare for the state’s next governorship recently fixed for July 16, 22 by the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC).
The INEC announcement has raised question as to whether or not the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), can retain its captainship of the ship of state in spite of obviously owning the credit for the current stable and calm climate which has kept Osun away from negative media reports.
The concern has arisen due to yet festering divisions within the APC, which only escaped a humiliating defeat through a last-minute alliance with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) that gave it a marginal albeit controversial victory in the last governorship election in 2018, Although, the opposition PDP is also bogged down by problem of internal cohesion, with a welter of lawsuits over leadership tussle, its having been out of power for 11 years and perception of the APC as a common enemy, political watchers note, could easily make all the feuding parties to close ranks and muster strength to fight to dislodge it from the Abere, Osogbo Governor’s Office.
Newspeak examines the chances of the two leading political parties and what they probably need to do to swing the situation in their favour.
APC, a house divided
For the APC, the bitterness over the partnership with SDP and its governorship candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore which gave APC the September 22, 2018 governorship rerun perhaps, remains the biggest cause of disharmony in the party. President Muhammadu Buhari and the then APC National chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, had reached out to Omisore, . who had already lost in the first round of the ballot to win the few polling units in Ife Zone along with those in Orolu Local Government where the rerun was to take place. Aregbesola, who was governor at the time, was sidelined by a delegation led by the party’s boss and two ministers/governors who struck the partnership with Omisore in his Ile-Ife country home beating the PDP which was also angling for same pact.
Although the leadership apparently took the decision in the overall interest of the party’, aware that Aregbesola, a long-time political foe of Omisore, might not support the idea, that move caused a deep-seated bitterness which still festers till date.
Understandably feeling slighted, the former governor who is the current Minister of Interior and his followers across the state have kept aloof party affairs, more so as they believe, they have not been given due recognition by Governor Oyetola, despite having served for eight years and offered their best to develop both the party and the state.
The cold war has been worsened by the reversal of some of his former boss’ policies by Oyetola’s which has made him to be branded a traitor by an irked Aregbesola, whom he served as chief of staff in his two terms. Among these are: adoption of a single uniform and reclassification of the secondary school system. The Oyetola administration had said they were revoked because they were unpopular with the people of the state.
Analysts say APC must unite all the stakeholders within the party together to avoid a similar situation which almost cost it the 2018 election when splinter groups emerged ahead of the poll. Oyetola, they said, is pivotal to such unification project. He must be magnanimous by opening his arms wide to every party member irrespective of their leanings to rebuilding APC into a formidable party able to retain power and even outlast his tenure. While he has given a good account of himself in his governance, and astute leadership, particularly through his ability to listen to others and tow a peaceful path in thorny situations, he might need to further stoop to conquer, as he needs everyone to keep his party in power.
Aregbesola, on his part, the pundits said, must play the statesman, overcome his bitterness and embrace Omisore as an ally. Dynamics have changed, and this necessitates that he treats the former senator as a partner in progress.
Omisore is not just a former key member of the progressives in Osun State during the days of Alliance for Democracy (AD), he has brought to the APC a huge-size following in Ile-Ife Zone. Had he been an APC partner from the start, Oyetola would probably have recorded a landslide victory in the poll without the need for a rerun. It is a common parlance among Nigerian politicians that there is no permanent friend or enemy in politics. He should direct his followers to follow suit while the current governor also integrates them into the system. How the different potentates approach this challenge will partly determine the direction the 2022 election will go.
An APC chieftain who spoke in confidence with our reporter said: “As at now, it is clear that we are not united. The division is up to the level of leaders. The image of our party at the federal level is also not helpful. If we love ourselves, we should stop the blame game and move forward. I think the beneficiary of our success in the last election should be magnanimous and reach out to others. If he can do that, we stand a better chance. As good as he is in the area of governance, poor management of the political aspect of leadership may be his undoing. The aggrieved only need recognition. The more they ignore them, the worse the crisis will get. Oyetola is excellent in governance. He has sound ability to manage meagre resources and he is not reckless in talking. But performance alone does not win election. Politics is a game of number. We need all ourselves. He needs plenty of maturity and sacrifice.”
The party chieftain also urged Aregbesola to overlook Oyetola’s perceived wrongdoing so the house he built would not crumble.” He should realize that God has been good to him politically. Only few people have been so favoured by God.
As with broken broom, so with shredded umbrella
The key to reclaiming the power it lost over a decade ago for PDP in next year’s election is simply for the members to work together as a family. The party has been polarized into two over the primary election that produced Senator Demola Adeleke with Adeleke and his defeated opponent, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi supporting different factions As at press time, the two factions in the party, led by Soji Adagunodo and Sunday Bisi still lay claim to the state executive having both been recognized by pronouncements of different courts,
But the players know that they cannot approach the election divided and expect victory. Hence, all the key actors in the leadership wrangling that has torn the party apart must live with the reality that only one person wins in a primary and other elections and thus discontinue with all litigations and the do-or-die attitude to controlling the lever of power in the party. How well they manage their differences early enough is a factor that will shape the election.
But analysts believe that it will be easier for the PDP to easily close ranks as players find a common opponent in APC,
However, the party appears to lack a credible candidate who fits the bill of a ‘governor-in-the-waiting’. Many stakeholders have problem accepting Adeleke, particularly now that the general disenchantment with the APC administration in 2018, has disappeared.
Also, the former senator is said not to be interested in contesting again.
But the spokesman of the Bisi faction, Mr Oladele Oluwabamiji, said party faithful are still rooting for Adeleke, His words: “The majority of our people are still rooting for Senator Adeleke to be our candidate again. And you know that the voice of people is the voice of God. He did well in the 2018 election, so nothing stops us from fielding him again. But that does not prevent other aspirants from joining the race. This is democracy. They are free to exercise their constitutional right. Apart from him, we have Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi and Hon. Sanya Omirin. PDP is a strong national party. The only thing is that we won’t condone indiscipline after the primary because there will always be winner and losers. Losers should support the winner and allow the party move forward instead of distracting us with court cases.”
Oluwabamiji said PDP was already mobilizing old members, and recruiting new ones across local government areas in the state.