Osun gov race: The last push for votes

OsunIN seven days’ time, the battle for the control of Osun State in the next four years will shift from campaign field to polling units, with 48 governorship standard-bearers to take part in what will be an epic battle of convictions, money and personalities.

For Osun voters, the choice is two-way: to either vote for the continuity of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which has been at the helm of affairs in the state for the last seven years and some months or switch allegiance to one of the opposition parties, whose campaigns have been focused on ending the APC reign in the state. This choice would, however, not be that simple, as the electorate have been thrown into what observers have described as “a serious dilemma” over the next man to trust the state leadership with, going by the array of individuals in the race for the Government House.

Of the 48 governorship candidates, bookmakers have zeroed in on five candidates believed to be capable of winning the September 22 governorship election, with some analysts even narrowing the contest to three candidates based on the visibility of their campaigns and the personalities flying the flags of the parties. Though informed political observers would contend that none of the 48 candidates or parties should be ruled out, political developments in Osun State in the last few weeks have pointed out that one of the quintet of APC, Social Democratic Party (SDP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),  African Democratic Congress (ADC) and the Action Democratic Party (ADP) will produce Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s successor. These five major parties, apart from their popularity across the 30 local governments  of the state, boast of well-known individuals as governorship standard-bearers.

Observers of the politics of Osun State have, however, noted that beyond the individual testimonials of the candidates and their parties, the election’s outcome will be greatly affected by some of the pre-election narratives across the parties, including the key issues with which the parties have campaigned, their manifestoes and promises as well as how well they are able to convince the voters going into the race. In what is considered the final push in the race for the governorship seat, candidates of the major parties, except the PDP’s Senator Ademola Adeleke, engaged in a debate organised by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), where the quartet of SDP’s Senator Iyiola Omisore, ADC’s Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, APC’s Gboyega Oyetola and ADP’s Alhaji Moshood Adeoti outlined their programmes and focus if elected to govern the state.

For Omisore, the crux of the campaign had been about “freedom from bondage for Osun people,” with the former deputy governor of the state never failing to impress it on the electorate that the years of the APC in the state have brought economic hardship and bondage. The APC’s candidate, Oyetola, on the other hand, has premised his campaign on continued infrastructure development, building on what Aregbesola has started, but most importantly, putting the state on the path of economic growth through agriculture. For Adeleke, the welfare of the people of the state has been the most plank on which his campaign has been premised, while Akinbade and Adeoti have also continually stressed their determination to better the lot of the people if elected.

While Omisore, Adeoti, Akinbade and Adeleke have continued to hinge their campaigns on “turning around the fortune of the state,” which according to them, has nosedived under the APC government as a result of what they described as excessive borrowing, Oyetola has held and professed his firm belief in how the Aregbesola government has run the state, noting that he is set to put the state on the path of economic progress by focusing on agriculture. The APC candidate has even justified the loans obtained by the outgoing government as not only necessary for infrastructure building but also well-used for that purpose. The battle for the hearts and heads of voters through persuasion and rhetoric will continue for a few more days, as Osun voters will continue to hear more of these issues than any other, while they might even be bogged down with messages in this direction across different media platforms.

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As the battleground changes

But informed political observers have maintained that despite efforts to intensify campaigns and persuasion, the battlegrounds have already changed from the hearts of the electorate to physical locations, with the next line of focus across the party being the units, wards and local governments of the state. In this next line of action, political parties have begun to conduct a kind of area mapping, streamlining the territories where the hopes of their parties are high and the dangerous grounds where they would need to intensify efforts ahead of the election.

For those conversant with the politics of Osun State, the need to map out territories and address political strengths on a territorial basis is a clear prerequisite for winning elections, as past governorship elections in the state had always taken a certain pattern whereby parties own and hold on to their strongholds. It is considered that Saturday’s election might not be different, as the activities of the major parties have deeply reflected such territorial tendencies, though certain dynamics had changed across the parties. These dynamics include absence of the usual two-horse race governorship contest known with the state for over a decade; the collapse in party walls and boundaries, which has allowed new parties entering and holding a place in the political space of the state, with certain known figures in some parties now on different platforms.

On Saturday, while the election will take place in all the 322 wards of the state, Sunday Tribune findings have indicated that the battle will be most fierce in some locations, where the major parties will do all possible to gain access or to retain its control.

In Osun East Senatorial District, where the candidate of the SDP, Senator Omisore hails from, next Saturday’s election is expected to be a clash of the titans; as Omisore, who represented Osun East for two terms, will be locking horns with the outgoing governor of the state, Aregbesola, who also hails from the same constituency. The highlight of Saturday’s electoral battle will be Ile-Ife and Ilesha, two strongholds in the axis that are capable of determining where the pendulum of the election will swing. For Omisore, it will be a battle to retain control in Ile-Ife, where he has remained invincible as a political master, having consistently won elections in the area for over two decades. However whether  the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP, Hon. Albert Adeogun who hails from the zone, Senator Babajide Omoworare and others in APC can challenge his strong hold in the area remains to be seen.

The situation in Ilesha axis will not be different for Aregbesola, who will be banking on his political stature and goodwill to win the votes for his party’s candidate. He will, however, have to deal with the fact that unlike the past, he is not on the ballot and might be able to do little or nothing to convince his kinsmen on who to vote for. However, given the chance that the zone might enjoy more presence in governance with SDP in the saddle, the thinking there could be to vote for more years by aligning with with the galloping horse.

Apart from Ilesha and Ile-Ife, the battle for Osun East will also be fierce in other local governments such as Oriade, Obokun and Atakunmosa, where the presence of different chieftains across the five major parties will influence the totality of the votes from Osun East constituency. It is, however, believed that the contest in the constituency might be between the SDP and the APC.

In Osun West, which appears the biggest battle ground ahead of Saturday’s election, every vote will matter in who clinches the governorship seat. Apart from being the zone that was expected to be the beneficiary of the clamour for the zoning of the governorship seat, Osun West has three sons in the race across three of the five major parties, while two others are deputy governorship candidates in the two remaining parties. The contest for votes in this zone will be most fierce among PDP, ADP and ADC, with the APC and SDP also expected to give the trio of Adeleke, Adeoti and Akinbade a good fight. The major battleground locations in the constituency will, however, be Iwo and Ede. While Ede is expected to go to the PDP, though not with a contest, owing to the Adelekes’ influence in the axis, Iwo will be hotly contested for between Adeoti and Akinbade. It is, however, left to be seen whether either of the ADP and ADC would be able to muster enough votes to come out superior in the axis, given the popularity of the PDP and candidate of SDP in the area. The other battlegrounds in Osun West will be Ejigbo and Ikire.

Of the three senatorial districts of the state, Osun Central, though with the highest voting population, appears to be without a major stake in the governorship race. Though the APC candidate, Oyetola, hails from this zone, his coming from Iragbiji, an area that is believed to be incapable of changing the electoral calculation in the zone, is said to have left Osun Central open for the taking for any of the five major parties. Osogbo will be the most important influencer of the outcome of the votes in this zone, with votes in Osogbo and Olorunda local governments running into tens of thousands and always playing the most important role in who win the governorship poll in the state. Beyond Osogbo, however, the huge concentration of voters, especially key political figures in the state, in other local governments in the zone such Odo Otin, Ifelodun and Boluwaduro, among others, analysts noted, would play a key role in which party emerges winner in Osun Central.

However, while political observers have been at a loss as to which of the parties might emerge the overall winner in the state capital, bookmakers have maintained that depending on how well the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) handles the issue of vote buying, the opposition parties would have a good showing in the city and one of them might even edge the ruling party. But which of the parties will carry the day? Which of the candidates will laugh last in the battle for the strongholds and consent of Osun people?

The post Osun gov race: The last push for votes appeared first on Tribune.

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