The major political parties have concluded their mega rallies and the voters are set to head to the polls to elect the next governor of Osun state.
Although 15 candidates were cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the exercise billed for Saturday, all eyes are on Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Lasun Yusuf of the Labour Party (LP), and Akin Ogunbiyi who is flying the flag of Accord Party (AP).
Here, we analyse the chances of these major contenders.
Oyetola, the incumbent governor of the state, is seeking reelection for a second term in office. Oyetola enjoys the privileges that come with being in power and he is running on the platform of the ruling party, affording him the perks of ‘federal might’.
Oyetola who is a cousin to Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the APC, had served as chief of staff to Rauf Aregbesola, his predecessor.
With the victory recently recorded by the APC in the Ekiti governorship election, the party is determined to replicate the feat in Osun. This was evident on Tuesday, as Tinubu, Kashim Shettima, his running mate, Abdullahi Adamu, national chairman of the APC, and other heavyweights of the ruling party converged in Osun to campaign for Oyetola.
Unlike his predecessor who owed salaries for months while in office, Oyetola is said to have been consistent with salary payment and also improved the welfare of civil servants in the state. All of these, pundits argue, may work in his favour.
But the cold war between Oyetola and Aregbesola may likely reduce the former’s votes in LGAs controlled by the latter. Oyetola, after assuming office, had reversed some of the policies put in place by his predecessor – a development which gave rise to acrimony.
The disharmony within the party divided the APC into factions; the Ileri Oluwa group is loyal to Oyetola while the other faction – TOP – pledges allegiance to Aregbesola, the minister of interior.
During the APC governorship primary election in February, Aregbesola showed his hand by backing Moshood Adeoti for the ticket.
Speaking on a campaign trail for Adeoti, Aregbesola had said Oyetola would be ousted from office for failing to stick to the plan that was conceived to make Osun prosperous.
“That was how it was in Lagos at a time; a governor derailed and the party members unseated him using the ballot boxes. As it was in Lagos yesterday, so shall it be in Osun today,” he had said.
Although there have been attempts to resolve their rift, the moves appear to have been unsuccessful as Aregbesola was absent during the APC mega rally for Oyetola.
Known as the ‘dancing senator’, Adeleke, candidate of the PDP, has said he is determined to recover his “stolen mandate” from the APC.
The PDP candidate came into the limelight after the death of his elder brother — Isiaka Adeleke. The deceased, then a serving senator, was nursing his governorship ambition when he died.
Following his brother’s demise, Adeleke became a sensation in Osun when he declared his intention to run for governor in 2018.
Though he lost to Oyetola, Adeleke believes he won the election and was robbed of his mandate. Hence, he has expressed his readiness to give APC a run for its money in his second attempt.
The PDP governor is also renowned for his heavy war chest. While addressing members of the PDP in the state in May, Adeleke had boasted about his arsenal of funds.
“If it is about money, I have enough. I came with plenty of money. And it is not only naira; I came with dollars, pounds, and euros. This time in Osun, it is fire for fire,” he said in Yoruba.
Many Nigerians interpreted his comment as an indication of a plan to buy the votes of the electorate, but during the governorship election debate organised by Channels Television, Adeleke said he was misinterpreted.
The governorship candidate said his statement was referencing the foreign investment he intends to bring into Osun.
In spite of his war chest, the crisis in Osun PDP may affect his chances, as the party is also divided into factions. One faction is recognised by the APC national working committee (NWC) while the other group is backed by Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of the state, whose political sway in the state cannot be overlooked.
Although Oyinlola’s faction held a parallel primary election which produced Dotun Babayemi as the winner, Adeleke enjoys the support of the party leadership and its heavyweights. On Thursday, Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, led other members of the party to the state to campaign for him.
A former deputy speaker of the house of representatives, Yusuf is not a greenhorn in Nigerian politics — but he’s a first-timer in the Osun governorship race.
A native of Ilobu, Yusuf decided to try his hands at the Osun election by declaring his bid for the governorship seat on the platform of the APC.
But he had a dismal outing during the primary election — he placed a distant third and even lost his ward to Oyetola.
After failing to secure the APC ticket, he resigned his membership of the ruling party and defected to the Labour Party (LP) where he won the party’s governorship ticket.
Outlining his manifesto, Yusuf said he is optimistic that he would win the governorship election.
It is unclear if he has a strong structure and widespread support base in the state but Nigerians are waiting to see how he intends to walk his talk.
Ogunbiyi, the candidate of the Accord Party (AP), is not new to the Osun governorship race.
He ventured into the governorship election in 2018 on the platform of the PDP. He was Adeleke’s major contender during the primary election but he lost the ticket.
Ogunbiyi and some aggrieved members of the party were convinced that he won the election, alleging that it was rigged in Adeleke’s favour.
In March 2022, he eventually pledged allegiance to Accord Party, saying he was “treated unfairly, cheated against and even blatantly robbed” in the PDP.
Speaking in a recent interview with PUNCH, Ogunbiyi said he is “the candidate to beat” and that his new party is ready to show its strength in the coming election.
“I am the candidate to beat. Accord has a structure in 27 local government areas in Osun state. The Accord Party has been among the top three political parties in Osun state for some time,” he said.
Many residents believe that the battle for the control of the state is between APC and PDP. Though the APC is formidable and will seek to hold on to power, TheCable understands that some residents are looking forward to a change in government, which may work in Adeleke’s favour. Residents also hope there won’t be a repeat of what played out in the 2018 election — where the exercise was declared inconclusive by INEC, leading to a controversial rerun.