Who Will succeed Aregbesola?
…17 Aspirants Declare Interest
Correspondent SOJI ADENIYI examines the preparations for next year’s governorship election in Osun State, the issues that will shape the exercise, the contenders and their strengths and weaknesses
Politicians in Osun State are warming up for next year’s governorship election. No fewer than 17 aspirants want to succeed Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who will complete his two term in office in 2018. While some of them are making underground moves, others are building their structures across the state and using public functions to register their aspirations for the exalted position. Groups within and outside political parties are also being established to project them in preparation for the shadow polls.
Osun, like other states, is not unlikely to pay attention to zoning in the struggle for power. Contenders from the three senatorial districts – East, West and Central – are already discussing the rotation of power, not as a matter of constitution, but convention. To observers, the East, where Aregbesola comes from, should not join the race since it must have spent eight years by next year. The Central produced Chief Bisi Akande (1999 – 2003) and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (2003 – 2010). Since 1999, the central and East have taken shots at the governorship in an unbroken succession order. But, since the creation of the state in 1991, the West has only enjoyed the slot for less than two years (1993/1994) when Senator Isiaka Adeleke was elected as governor. Also, the four Yoruba sub-groups – Oyo/Oyo, Oyo/Osun, Ijesa, Ife and Igbomina – may be factored into zoning. The advocates said Adeleke from Ede had used the slot of Oyo/Oyo. Oyinlola from Okuku represented the Oyo/Osun. Akande from Ila-Orangun is from Igbomina and Aregbesola is using the slot of the Ijesa. The proponents insist that it is the turn of Ife in 2018.
Eyes are on 20 big wigs in four political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Labour Party (LP) and Accord Party (AP). In the ruling APC, no fewer than nine are in the race, although two of them have publicity signified intention and are mobilising suppport for their aspirations. For the PDP, seven aspirants have shown interest in the exalted position. The LP and the AP are lagging behind. Those in the APC include the Chief of Staff to the governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola from Iragbiji – West, the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yusuf (Ilobu – Central), and Adeleke (Ede – West).
Others are the former Chairman of the defunct Action Congress (AC) and the Secretary to the Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, a financial expert and the Managing Director of the Osun Investment Company Ltd, Mr. Bola Oyebamiji (Ikire – West), the Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Najeem Salam, former Speaker, of House of Assembly and member representing Ejigbo/Iwo Constituency in the House of Representatives, Prof. Mojeed Alabi (Ejigbo – West), immediate past Commissioner of Regional Integration and Special Duties, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, and former Chief of Staff to the Oyinlola administration and Chairman, Local Government Service Commission, Elder Peter Babalola.
PDP aspirants include former deputy governor and former chairman, Appropriation Committee in the Senate, Dr. Iyiola Omisore, former chairman, Irewole Local Governemnt and former Federal Commissioner in the National Population Commission (NPC) in Osun State, Chief Lere Oyewumi (Ikire – West), former Speaker, House of Assembly and Iyiola Omisore’s running mate in the 2014 election, Adejare Bello (Ede – West), former chairman of Ife East Local Government, Chief Gbenga Owolabi (Ife – East).
Others are former Minister of Youths Development and senator repsresenting Osun West in the Senate Olasunkanmi Akinlabi (Gbongan – West), member representing Oriade/Obokun Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Wole Oke (Esa-Oke – East), and a former PDP candidate for Odo-Otin/Ifelodun/Boripe for the House of Representatives election, Kayode Oduoye (Ikirun – Central).
The only visible aspirant in the LP is the former Secretary to Government, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade (Iwo – West).
The 2014 governorship contest shook the state. but, to many people, it may be a child’s play to the next year’s poll.
In the APC, the governor is a factor. Less than two years to the poll, a gang up is underway. This was demonstrated at an empowerment programme organised by the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuf, in his Osogbo/Olorunda/Irepodun/Orolu Constituency, where an APC chieftain, Alhaji Fatai Oyedele, had described Aregbesola as a sole administrator, who must be resisted in his bid to install a successor. The thinking is that a foreigner may succeed the governor. But, one of Aregebsola’s aides, Niyi Aluko, asked: “how do you define a foreigner? Are peope being referred to as foreigners not indigenes of this state with many of them having the elemenatry and secondary and tertiary education in Osun before they wnet out to cities for greener pastures and unequalled exposure which many of them levarage upon to add technical values like Aregbesola had demonstrated in his own case? Those talking about home-based politicians against the so-called foreigners are doing so for selfish reason and personal aggrandizement. People are wiser than ever before.”
Aregbesola is still on top of the situation. As a political guru and a master on top of his game, he is believed to be back in the trenches. His preoccupation is the rapid development of the state to justify the need for a continuity in governemnt. He is building political structures among professional and non-professional groups ahead of 2018. Analysts said Aregebesola as a political fighter is already strategising, knowing that 2014 and 2018 can not be the same. He has always been a visioner, strategist, fighter and executor. A political commentator, Niran Fadile, said Aregbesola would continue to enjoy popularity and have control of the state as long as he is in touch with the grassroots through his projects.
But, to the opposition, Aregbesola”s undoing will be his smartness and “using lies to cover up more lies”. A chieftain of the PDP, Prince Diran. Odeyemi said, questions should be asked about the cost of the projects by the Aregbesola administration and their values to the people. The PDP is not happy about the irregular salaries to workers.
The economic challenge is not peculiar to Osun. It is a national, if not global phenomenon. But Aregebsola’s ability to use his expertise to manouvre where many states have failed is another pointer to his skill to and competence.”
Another factor is the effect of last year’s Ondo governorship poll, Rotimi Akeredolu emerged as the candidate of the APC without the support of key figures of the party in the Southwest. Some aspirants believe they can survive without Aregbesola’s support.
Also, some have vowed to ask for their pound of flesh from Aregbesola, alleging that they have been schemed out of governance in the state. Analysts said the struggle for power would be within the APC and not a contest between the APC and other parties. According to them, Aregbesola has always been in a dilema since he assumed power on November 27, 2010, following the Court of Appeal judgment that sacked Oyinlola after spending seven and a half years in power. They said from day one, Aregbebsola had made it clear that his administration would not be a Father Christamas to party members like his predecessor. That had also pitched him against many people, who believe they suffered before the party eventually retrieved Aregbesola’s mandate. Also, the reforms in the civil service, which brought about some changes and blocked many loopholes have been criticised by the opposition. But, a senior special assistant to the governor, Lani Baderinwa, said Aregbesola has done his best to manage a very terrible situation and therefore, should be celebrated for his vision, courage and doggedness. Also, Remi Omowaye, an engineer, said if Aregbesola had shared the scarce resources to please party members, he would not have had anything to showcase as acheivements as he is doing to today. He said: “The state in the last six years has changed. Look at massive world class infrastructural development in schools, hospital and roads. You will check out the state layout and road network, particularly in Osogbo, the state capital . Also, many government policies and programmes in agriculture, education, health and youth empowerment put the state ahead of others. All these happened in Aregbesola’s tenure.”
No matter what is said in favour of the Aregbesola administration, some people grumble about how some of those who served in his cabinet in the first term had become rich overnight. They allege that many of them, now parade choice property in exclusive areas in and outside the state, to the surprise of poor residents. According to observers, these former appointees are bad public relations officers of his government and therefore, may affect the fortune of a candidate that Aregebsola would want to put forward.
But, traditional rulers, artisans, students, civil servants and ordinary people on the street believe that Aregbesola is a good leader. They say the PDP is not an alternative to the APC in the state despite some of the shortcomings of the Aregbesola administration. The only visible opposition is the PDP, but the wranglings which have factionalised the party may be a prelude to disaster at the poll.