Osun, The Litmus Test, And The Dirty Evening Dance

Osun, The Litmus Test

By George Cyril

Before Saturday 22 September 2018, when the governorship elections held in Osun State to decide which candidate will take over the affairs of the State, it was Lagos State’s All Progressives Congress (APC) that was in the spotlight. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, whom majority of progressive Lagosians, and indeed Nigerians at large, had described as a governor that has performed incredibly well and therefore fit for a second term in office, suddenly appeared to be gasping for breath. This came on the heels of a development that allegedly saw Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the National Leader of APC (and the Godfather of Lagos APC), stepping in to draw a line on Ambode’s second term – a development that led to what now seems like a fierce intra-party challenge by the two new aspirants, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Babafemi Hamzat, both backed by various factions of the APC.

While this was going on, the political camera works shifted the spotlight to Osun State, a State the sitting Governor Rauf Aregbesola had christened the State of Osun against the nomenclature system of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

On Sunday 23 September 2018, when the results of the Saturday governorship election started coming in, it became clear to the world that the Osun State APC power house may not have all the aces after all. One moment, it appeared as though Alh. Gboyega Oyetola, the APC governorship candidate, was leading; the next moment, Ademola Adeleke, his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart took the lead. Before evening of that Sunday, the election results had been declared inconclusive, and justifiably so. The PDP candidate led the APC candidate with 353 votes. Unfortunately for him and his party, the difference in the number of votes between the two leading candidates, PDP and APC, is less than the over 3000 registered voters in the units where votes were cancelled. There has been public outcry, particularly from PDP members and sentiment-fueled apologists. Many of them forget or carefully exclude cases in the past where such occurrences have played out in PDP’s favour. But that is really not the point at this perilous time in the life of APC.

What bothers many a pundit is the fact that a State Ogbeni Aregbesola had held for two terms, in a geo-political region where APC has worked hard to dominate, is crumbling before him like dampened pieces of cookies. With the imbroglio in Lagos APC, the purported influence of the Lagos Mandate Group, and Aregbesola’s involvement with this Mandate Group, one would have thought that Osun State will easily fall back into the hands of APC, from strategic and tactical points of consideration. But Osun is now at the mercy of an election rerun in seven polling units where election results were cancelled. Aregbesola will be doing an evening dance with a lot more spectators, today, Thursday 27 September 2018.

The rerun election is not going to be easy. Not likely. There is currently no South West State in the hands of PDP, except for Ekiti (at least until Kayode Fayemi is sworn in), which is no longer exacting any significant influence what with the outgoing Governor Ayodele Fayose. PDP has now passed the litmus test that tells them Osun can fall into their hands with just a bit more work. At the Federal level, PDP has worked hard at canvassing public sentiments against the APC. They want a PDP presidential candidate to take over in 2019. Osun is now proving to be a mega trumpet that they can use to amplify the signals showing that their mission is possible. Senate President Bukola Saraki, who has returned to the PDP, has his eyes on the presidential seat. He is also a key player as the Chairman of the 2018 PDP Osun State Governorship Election Campaign Council. He too will be looking to amplify his worth with this opportunity. Osun PDP has been looking to form alliances with other candidates that came a distant close after the two leading parties to create a knock-out effect at the Thursday rerun elections. APC too has some interests in this regard, Senator Iyiola Omisore, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), is the sweet bride to court in this regard and talks are already ongoing. Already, he has taken a seemingly neutral position.

All these possibilities could have been sketched out on the reality check list in the strategic game plan of Osun APC, for which Aregbesola is playing a lead role. At this point, however, neither of the two parties can be written off. APC can still mobilize its turf to win; and PDP can still fight harder to increase the winning margin. But the gaps are already in open glare. The lapses have also been exposed. Osun and Aregbesola have been put to test. Very soon – in just a matter of days – the spotlight will shift back to Lagos State.

There is no need, therefore, to over flog the possibility that Lagos APC might just be preparing to do its own dirty evening dance. First, in the primaries, later this week; and thereafter, in the general elections slated for 2019. A lot more stakeholders will be put to test, including Asiwaju Tinubu, the Jagaban Borgu. But for a State that has been politically stable for nearly 20 years, with consistent economic and infrastructure progress, exploiting the machine of continuity will be the way to go. Getting Governor Ambode solidly back in the race will knock Lagos APC back to shape. Everyone plotting the graphs right knows this. The Mandate Group should know this. If they do not, Osun should be a mirror to see this. People on the streets know this. Aregbesola seemed to have ignored the voices from the streets, echoed through the space with public servants’ salaries, amongst other issues. Lagos cannot afford to ignore the voices from her streets. All these hard signals cannot be ignored. If they are ignored, Nigerians will soon be hitting popcorn shops, in preparation for another dirty evening drama.

Cyril is a Lagos-based business strategy trainer and consultant

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