The campaign drums have fallen silent. The hostile milieu is now wearing a look of innocence. All seems to have been said, none was left out of the fray. The parties and their candidates have given a good account of themselves in showing off on the campaign stages and rallies- the shouts, the marches, the convoys and of course, the dances.
Money, nay huge sums of money, have been spent for the bill boards, the posters, the crowds for hire, the votes for buying and for other campaign necessities. The tempo of campaigns and electoral activities was high, but nothing close to that witnessed in Ekiti State. What is left is for the voters who were entertained and wooed to make their decisions through the ballot on Saturday.
Although 48 political parties and their candidates enlisted for the contest for the governorship seat, five of the candidates, namely, Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party, Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Party, Iyiola Omisore of the Social Democratic Party, Fatai Akinbade of the African Democratic Congress and Moshood Adeoti of the Action Democratic Party, also known as the “Big Five,” have made impressions ahead of the polls.
The contest therefore, is mainly among familiar foes. The candidates of the SDP and the ADC were shortly before the conduct of primaries, leading members of the PDP. The same goes for Mr Adoeti, who incidentally was the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the State of Osun under Governor Rauf Aregbesola. Mr Adeleke himself had been a member of the APC until June 2017, when he contested the Osun West senatorial seat and won on the PDP platform.
The other political parties have made their own efforts to reach the mass of voters in Osun State, but the tumult of campaigns from the Big Five drowned the sounds of the no less important manifestos of the rest 43 parties. The lot of the “smaller” parties in this encounter is not for want of ideas, ideological focus or the oratory to deliver them, but as observed by most political analysts, for the low level capacity of the average electorate to look beyond paltry inducements and focus on real developmental issues. The “rest” of the parties no doubt, lack the financial and political influence available to the leading candidates and their parties.
It is almost settled that the winner of Saturday’s election will emerge from the pentad of the PDP, APD, ADC, SDP and ADP. They offered to change the face of Osun and make it better. They promised to improve infrastructure and boost agriculture. All agree that there was the need to pay salaries of workers being owed several months of unpaid arrears. There were no disagreements as to the poor state of health care and the economy. They had proffered a range of solutions. There are concerns that the voters who were always available to listen to the campaigners may not have got the messages from these rhetorics.
For instance, workers, who were disillusioned over unpaid salaries, were a week to the election, thrown into celebration as the state government under the leadership of the outgoing governor, Rauf Aregbesola, deployed huge sums of money to settle a good part of workers salary arrears. This is even as threats of strikes, protest marches and demonstrations had earlier failed to break the government or prick its conscience to pay salaries and pensions.
All said, the governorship election is here. Votes are crucial for ealising the continuity slogan of the APC government and its endorsed would-be successor. The megabucks had rolled in for campaigns and the “no money” songs are no more to be heard.
It has been a moment of harvest for many others whose business would be to make as much money from the election as possible. Some who were “mobilised” to rallies had also participated in the poverty alleviation. Poverty is here as the weapon of control.
The candidates, besides the APC’s, have held that the Osun people are poor due to be poor deployment of the relevant governance machinery to harness the potentials of the state to uplift the economy. There is also the “I am richer than Osun” gaffe of Bola Tinubu, whose rendition at the palace of the Osogbo monarch, underlined the poverty theory now the most discussed issue in Osun politics.
To an average voter in Osun, knowing who will win the race at the end of Saturday is not so easy. Mr Omisore is rated as the most experienced politician among the pack of five candidates. He was a deputy governor, a senator and had contested for the governorship seat as the candidate of the PDP in 2014. He stands tall in popularity, covering Ife and the entire Osun East which he once represented in the Senate. But his SDP platform, which is yet to take a wider placement in the minds of the people, retards his rush to power.
On the other hand, the PDP candidate is riding on the sentiment of his late brother, Isiaka Adeleke, and the zoning “controversy.” His dancing prowess has earned him to name ‘Dancing Senator’ as he never failed to show off his dancing skills whenever the opportunity beckoned. He has campaigned rigorously across all the zones in the state. He is hopeful and certain that if given a fair chance he will arrive safely as the governor-elect on Saturday.
He has however, suffered several blows from both within and outside the party. His battle to clear himself of the allegations of forgery and examination malpractice has dwarfed his image in the eyes of many within and outside the state. Prolonged litigation over his secondary school qualification, coupled with the fact that he walked away from writing a WAEC exam he registered for and ended up with a failure of the only subject he sat for, is another dark end in the entire saga. Only on Wednesday, the police authorities chose an auspicious moment to rub salt on his injury when they came up with fresh allegations accusing the senator of exam malpractice. The police had summoned him to Abuja to face immediate trial for his alleged offences. Although President Buhari was reported to have intervened, overruling the police’s summons, another dent seemed to have appeared on the face of the PDP candidate as he seeks the coveted office of governor.
The PDP’s reaction was expected. It accused the police of pandering to the whims of the APC-led federal government, seeking to compromise the election in favour of the APC candidate. While there are fears that the whole episode might affect the outcome of election against him, many of his supporters believe that none of the attacks would determine how the voters would make their decision when they go behind the cubicle on Saturday.
The APC candidate, Mr Oyetola, is often regarded as “calm and calculated.” Although new in politics, he has learnt enough to ride the tide. He also has the backing of the ‘Jagaban’ himself, Bola Tinubu who had described him as an “encyclopaedia of finance.” He is believed to be knowledgeable and possesses the poise to be a good governor. His articulation is revealing of his persona and comportment, which distinguishes him as a gentleman of sort. But his politics stands on the tripod of Mr Tinubu, Mr Aregbesola and the APC. These footings are the forces the opposition will not break easily. They all know that but they have not done much to change that equation.
If he wins on Saturday, not many will be surprised. If he loses, it will be attributable to the prolong sufferings of workers who were owed many months of salaries. This is the sore point of the APC’s campaign. When the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, led the PDP campaign on Wednesday, his point was how could Osun people allow their workers to be owed as much as “three years” when states with Boko Haram attacks are not owing so much. If that message stuck to the minds of the voters, the APC might be in serious trouble despite the rush to pay some salaries last week.
Moshood Adeoti, the acclaimed Shehu of Osun politics, is noted for his grassroots politics from Iwo and also from Osun West as Mr Adeleke. He had served as the Secretary to the Osun State Government. His candidature of ADP was informed by his contention with the APC over the conduct of the primaries. He had been an APC person, his supporters are largely from APC. The APC in the state views his moving away as a way of getting back on the party over his failure to secure the endorsement of the governor and the party structure to succeed the incumbent governor. He is also a believer in the zoning structure, holding stronger that it was the turn of the Osun West District.
His performance in the polls on Saturday will depend on his political structure which he had built over the years; as well as the fact he is coming from Iwo, a voting area that is equally large. The fact that most of his supporters are APC members could become his Achilles heels.
Mr Akinbade of the ADC is an experienced politician in the standing of Mr Adeoti, being a former Secretary to the State Government. He is a businessman of note and well respected in the political circles. He was the candidate of the Labour Party in 2014. He recently joined the PDP, but jumped out in a bid to achieve his ambition to be governor. He is also from the Osun West zone. His choice of the revered retired justice, Folaran Oloyede, a woman who tackled the Aregbesola government over alleged corruption even as a serving judge, may add some credibility pecks to his campaign.
Their various strengths and following notwithstanding, the odds seem to favour the APC on Saturday. The last minute efforts by the ADP, ADC and SDP to reach an accord and unite forces against the APC is a demonstration of the weaknesses which each of their candidates carry into the contest. The PDP votes are split in the ADC and the SDP. This weakness will be fully exploited by the APC.
Kunle Oyatomi is the Publicity Secretary of the APC. He had boasted: “When they were together as PDP, we defeated them, how much more now that that they have broken into pieces. We will still defeat them separately.”
Rumours of a merger or step down talks between Messrs Adeleke and Omisore filtered into town 48hours to the election. The failure of that effort had given rise to several rebuttals and rejections from all the parties, claiming they had not stepped down for the other.
Besides the alleged murder of a PDP adherent in one of the local government areas of the state in the build up to the election, the campaigns have been peaceful. There is also no show of force by the military and police apparatus to intimidate voters as witnessed in Ekiti State. INEC says it is prepared to deliver a model election that would herald the 2019 general elections. Security agents have also prepared themselves to protect voters, electoral officers and electoral materials. What is left is for the people to turn out and elect the governor of their choice.
With advent of vote buying, a number of permutations are possible. The INEC has vowed to stop it at the Osun polls. Measures have been taken. There is no doubt that the politicians seeking to buy votes will seek to circumvent that barricade. The news is already in town of the movement of cash and payments of different forms. But the choice is for the Osun voter, who is very familiar with this exercise. Since every choice has an outcome, the citizens must be prepared to make the best of the opportunity to change their fortunes from a poor Osun State to a prosperous one using the ballot.