After weeks of acrimonious campaigns, the people of Osun State will Saturday decide whether Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of the ruling All Progressives Congress should continue for another four years or elect a new man to succeed him.
Fifteen political parties are fielding candidates for the election, but it is evidently a straight fight between Oyetola and Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This would be the second time the two candidates would be meeting. Both Oyetola and Adeleke contested for the Osun governorship position in 2018, which Oyetola won after a rerun.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured the people of a free and fair poll and spent most of Friday moving sensitive voting materials to the 332 registration areas across the 30 local government areas of the state.
The election umpire restated its readiness to announce the result in less than 12 hours after the poll.
The two leading political parties are desperate to win Saturday’s contest to signpost readiness to dominate the 2023 general elections.
To underpin the importance of the poll, the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu led a final campaign for Oyetola last Tuesday. He was accompanied by party chieftains like the party’s National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, vice presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima and several APC governors.
The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, also led a powerful campaign team to the state on Thursday assuring the people that Adeleke is sure of victory in the poll, and that “an end has come to the reign of the ruling APC” in the country.
Atiku was accompanied by the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu; Vice-presidential candidate of the party and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa; former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and some governors of the PDP.
For most of Friday, tension remained very high across Osun State, with voters bitterly divided among the two leading candidates.
Fear of violence was palpable, considering the rancorous campaigns before the poll.
The allegations by the PDP that the APC was working to rig the poll dominated discussion across the state.
Oyetola and Adeleke (Strengths and Weaknesses)
The leading candidates for the election remain Oyetola and Adeleke.
Oyetola, who is seeking reelection for a second term, enjoys the privileges that come with being incumbent. He is also enjoying the perks of ‘federal might’ and the backing of Tinubu.
His chances in Ssturday’s poll have been brightened by his good relationship with Osun civil servants. Unlike his predecessor who owed salaries for months, Oyetola has been consistent with salary payment and also improved the welfare of the civil servants. All of these, pundits argue, will work in his favour.
However, the cold war between Oyetola and Rauf Aregbesola, his predecessor, may reduce the former’s votes in LGAs controlled by the latter.
The disharmony within the party left it with factions – the Ileri Oluwa group is loyal to Oyetola while TOP pledges allegiance to Aregbesola.
Notwithstanding, Oyetola stands a very good chance of getting a second term.
Adeleke, the “dancing senator”, says he is determined to recover his “stolen mandate” from the APC. He is in the race with a big war chest. He also has a broad support base.
A lot of people from Adeleke’s Osun West Senatorial District, which is yet to produce a governor since the fourth republic, are agitated. Adeleke will gain from this, but may not be enough to make him governor.
The crisis in Osun PDP may also affect Adeleke’s chances. The party is also divided into factions. One is recognised by the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) while the other is backed by Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of the state, whose political sway in the state cannot be overlooked.
Strengths on Senatorial Basis
Oyetola looks good to win Osun Central where he is from. Besides, many prominent Osun political stakeholders are from this senatorial zone, and they belong to the APC. They include former governor, Chief Bisi Akande and the current Senator, Ajibola Basiru, who is also the Oyetola campaign chairman. Osun Central is good-to-go for Oyetola.
Adeleke is from Osun West, with Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi of the Accord Party. Here, Adeleke will have an upper hand, but not enough to make him governor. Oyetola will still get substantial votes here.
In Osun East, Adeleke will benefit greatly from the influence of Francis Fadahunsi, the Senator representing the area, who is a PDP member. Oyetola’s good performance during his first term will give him victory in Osun East.
Police Deploy 21,000 Operatives
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba has assured Nigerians that Saturday’s poll would be violence-free.
Baba, who spoke last Tuesday, said to accomplish the task, no fewer than 21,000 operatives would be deployed across the state.
Baba warned that the police would not allow any person or group of persons, no matter how highly and lowly placed in the society to derail the electoral process, and vowed that “vote-buying or any form of inducement would not be allowed as they remained serious offences.”
The IG adds: “The police will be deployed to protect the facilities of INEC and its personnel. This deployment is not meant to intimidate any law-abiding citizens; rather it is to deter misguided elements that may threaten the conduct of the election and violate the electoral act. It also serves as a strong warning that government is determined to protect the citizens.”
The IG has also deployed the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigation Department, DIG Johnson Kokumo, for the governorship election.
Also deployed to the state are four Assistant Inspectors-General of Police, four Commissioners of Police, 15 Deputy Commissioners of Police, and 30 Assistant Commissioners of Police.
Baba also moved the Osun State Commissioner of Police, Olawale Olokode (temporarily) to the Force Headquarters until the conclusion of the election.
NSCDC deploys 11,226
Similarly, the Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Dr. Ahmed Audi, has deployed 11,226 officers and men to cover the 3,763 polling units, collation centres, flash points, as well as critical national assets and infrastructure during today’s poll.
The deployed personnel were drawn from the national headquarters and nine state commands; Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Kwara, Kogi and Edo to supply manpower for the election.
The NSCDC said the objectives of the corps in the election were to create a secured environment for its successful conduct and enhance the general security in the state before, during and after the election.
INEC Chairman Charges Staff on Good Conduct
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu yesterday charged the staff of the Commission to remain neutral and repeat the transparent conduct exhibited in Ekiti State governorship election four weeks ago.
In a statement he signed, the INEC chairman, said: “Exactly 27 days ago, we conducted and concluded the Ekiti Governorship Election that was widely adjudged to be free, fair, credible, and inclusive.
“The feat was happily an elongation of the earlier successes recorded in Edo and Ondo states on 15th September and 10th October 2020, and in Anambra State on 6th November 2021. The sheer determination, resilience, and competence displayed by all of you, our members of staff, made it possible for the Commission to achieve these lofty goals.”
He reminded the staff of the commission of the need to maintain the same impartial conduct exhibited in the other states.
Yakubu said: “I have assured our stakeholders and the people of Osun State that the Commission will not do anything to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. We have made adequate arrangements for the election. We have promised a level playing field for all. The security agencies have assured us of safety.
“The people of Osun State and Nigerians will understandably hold us to our promise on election day. They will observe our attitude and behaviour from the opening to the closing of polls. They will particularly observe our management of the election results and measure the extent of our adherence to the extant laws through every stage of the electoral process.
“I appeal to you to uphold our Code of Conduct, display your usual sense of commitment and professionalism, remain above board and firmly resist any unethical behaviour. You must also stick to the Oath of Neutrality to which we have all subscribed. I have the confidence in your ability to consolidate on our recent successes.”
PDP Claims APC Planning to Rig Election
The PDP on Friday alleged an orchestrated plot by the APC “to derail the nascent democratic process by compromising the integrity and sabotaging the will and desire of the people for a free, fair, transparent and credible electoral process” in today’s election in Osun State.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba alleged that the APC had accentuated its rigging programme by deploying billions of naira to compromise some security and electoral officers to intimidate voters, manipulate electoral process and inordinately favour Oyetola, against the will of the people.
The PDP alleged that huge money had been funneled to certain compromised security and INEC officials “to execute this ignoble scheme.”
According to the PDP, “the said INEC and security officials are reported to have been bought over to, among other things, criminally assist and provide cover for APC agents to prosecute a well-oiled vote buying and violence-triggering scheme.”
Ologunagba adds. “Our Party has information on how two prominent APC governors from the South-west, a former APC National Chairman from the South-south, certain federal minister and a particular member of the House of Assembly from Lagos State are coordinating the release of billions of naira to bribe electoral and security officials, as well as fund heavily armed thugs imported from Lagos, Ondo, Ogun and other South-west states to unleash violence and help the APC to rig the election.”
The PDP said that it had however been made aware that some patriotic INEC and Police officials vehemently rejected the poisonous offer by the APC.
The PDP called on the IG and Yakubu “to take immediate decisive steps to check the activities of police and INEC officials deployed to Osun State so as to avert a breakdown of Law and Order, especially given the manifest determination of the people of Osun State to resist the APC on its evil scheme.”
Charles Ajunwa in Lagos, Chuks Okocha and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo