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Osun 2022: APC, PDP: Preparing for popularity test

The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are warming up for another popularity test in Osun State. Who wins next year’s governorship poll?

The two parties are crisis-ridden. The ruling APC is waging war against itself. It is polarised, with the two antagonistic camps revolving around Governor Gboyega Oyetola and his predecessor, Chief Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior.

The opposition PDP is also not at peace. Left in the cold since former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola was dethroned by the court, thereby forfeiting the stolen mandate; the chapter has been writhing in pain.

The goal of the ruling party is continuity. Oyetola has a second term ambition to enable him complete the people-oriented projects he had initiated for the benefit of the people across the 30 local governments. Many stakeholders have endorsed his bid for renewal of mandate.

Although it appears that the PDP is dormant for now in the State of Living Springs, merely allowing the APC to tackle itself, the opposition party will definitely wake up from its slumber during the electioneering.

The zonal leadership of the parties recognise the importance of the governorship polls in Ekiti and Osun. The ruling party is not happy that it lost Oyo State to the PDP. While the APC is interested in strengthening its stronghold in the Southwest, it cannot afford any mistake in next year’s elections in the region.

Also, the PDP zonal leadership has returned to the drawing board. Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde is the lone PDP governor in the Southwest Governors’ Forum. During the party’s zonal congress in Osogbo, the zonal leader, Taofeek Arapaja, spoke on the import of power shifts in Ekiti and Osun.

As the two major parties also gaze at 2023, they may want to use the off-season polls in the Southwest as stepping stones. While all the PDP chapters in the zone will pull ideas and resources together to confront the APC, the ruling APC chapters in other states will also like to team up with the Osun chapter to build resistance.

Both the APC and PDP have formidable structures in Osun. They are not alien to the Government House, having formed governments intermittently in the last 22 years. It can also be said that circumstances have made defections to and fro possible. Therefore, the infiltration of moles into the parties cannot be prevented.

The memory of the historic contest involving the two platforms three years ago has not faded. Two parties of almost equal strengths clashed and the state shook to its foundation. Amid the anxiety, the election was inconclusive, thereby escalating the tension that engulfed the state.

The supplementary poll catapulted Oyetola to power. The ruling party went through stress because it failed to put its house in order.

Ahead of the poll, the APC was fragmented and decimated by the defection of some chieftains who hibernated in the African Democratic Party (ADP). Thus, the APC votes were split on poll day. To observers, the combined APC and ADP votes could have dwarfed the PDP.

Even when reality dawned on the APC that it needed a new partner, and attention focused on the Social Democratic Party (SDP), there was no consensus as a dominant section of the party rejected the proposed parley with its leader, Senator Iyiola Omisore, before reason later prevailed.

The inter-party campaigns were dull. The PDP standard-bearer, dancing Senator Ademola Adeleke, offered no message beyond entertainment. He pulled a crowd through that style, nevertheless. But, he could not measure up in the critical governorship debate. The elite feared that Osun could slip into a mess, if the mandate was accidentally given to him.

Oyetola is not an orator either. But, a successful businessman who had proved his worth as an administrator under Governor Aregbesola was better equipped. The former chief of staff understood the challenges of the post-Aregbesola era. He campaigned with vigour, sometimes marshaling his points and rekindling hope in a government of continuity. He is endowed with persuasive talents. Eventually, he gained public confidence.

The 2018 poll was not a walkover. The contest shifted from the ballot box to the court. He triumphed at the end of the day.

In 2019, APC built on its victory by winning the parliamentary seats in the Houses of Assembly, Representatives and Senate.

What is most striking and worrisome in Osun is that since then, the PDP has not really played its role as an opposition. It has not charted the alternative path to governance through constructive criticisms and legitimate oversight functions. PDP chieftains have only restricted themselves to lamentation over the loss of political control.

In the last two years, the governor has been up and doing. Apart from building on the impressive achievements of his former boss, he has effectively tackled the challenges of governance with utmost patriotism and fidelity to the state. What has preoccupied Oyetola’s mind is not primitive accumulation, but the continuous delivery of democratic dividends.

Like Aregbesola, the governor has been fighting the infrastructure battle. Indeed, Oyetola has also taken some decisive steps dictated by public opinion and interest. These decisions may have upset some colleagues in the immediate past administration. These decisions revolve around the policy on school uniform, renaming of certain schools and pattern of financial management.

If the idea of party caucus, reminiscent of the first and second republics, had endured, ordinarily, major policies and implementation strategies would have been discussed at that consultative level in an atmosphere of party supremacy, discipline and unity. The essence is that the past and current APC governments would have been perceived as one and the same by all party stakeholders.

Apart from Senator Adeleke and Tolu Ogunbiyi, who had indicated interest in the PDP ticket, other chieftains are still studying the feasibility. Both have the financial war chest to run statewide campaigns. They are not new in the race. Therefore, they have the advantage of previous experience. By the time more aspirants unfold their ambitions, Adeleke and Ogunbiyi may be ahead.

Although he has not declared his intention, there are indications that Oyetola will want to serve beyond 2022. He has tremendous goodwill as a humble and hardworking governor; a silent worker who loathes opulence, glamour and noise making.

Osun is working and the governor is on course. Debts are not being incurred, salaries are paid regularly and attempts are being made to offset the backlog of pensions and other retirement benefits. Oyetola runs a government of frugality. He has promoted inclusion and rallied major stakeholders, including traditional rulers, other community leaders, captains of industry, and many elite, to buy into his vision and mission to take the state to a greater height.

But, his party would need to be fortified for renewed electoral onslaught. Osun APC has not learned from the past. It is failing to put its house in order. Divisive groups are springing up at a time stalwarts should close ranks.

The gulf between the governor and the minister may be deep. It is as if they have suddenly become adversaries. The starting point in the chapter is reconciliation between the two key leaders. Dialogue and reconciliation are less expensive than continuous concealed confrontation and silent antagonism.

So far, concerted efforts made by elder statesman, Chief Bisi Akande, to foster cohesion and harmony have not yielded positive results.

If peace returns to Osun APC, the governor will exercise his right of first refusal. If the acrimony is carried over to the electioneering, then, he may have challengers at the primary.

The onus is also on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be wary of past mistakes and inadequacies as it prepares for the poll. It has enough time to plan well. Osun poll should be conducted in a way and manner that will update the sanctity of the ballot box and other tenets of democracy.