Osun West by-election and its implications for 2018

On Saturday, July 8, the electorate in Osun West Senatorial District will go to the poll in a by-election to fill the vacant seat of the Late Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke. Osun State has being a two party State since the inception of this Republic.  The dominating parties have been the All Progressives Congress (APC) or any of its progressive forebears, that is Alliance for Democracy, Action Congress or Action Congress of Nigeria on one part and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the other part. Efforts by other parties to encroach by poaching aspirants who were dis-satisfied with the above political parties for one reason or the other in Osun State, have not succeeded so far like in other states. For both parties therefore, it matters that the forthcoming election is won, as it will be a psychological boost for 2018 governorship election in the State.

Otunba Ademola Nurudeen Adeleke of the PDP and Senator Mudasiru Oyetunde Husain of the APC personify the proverbial “two horse race”. Otunba Ademola Adeleke is the junior brother of the Late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, whilst Senator Mudasiru Husain was the Senator who represented the senatorial constituency between 2011 and 2015. Otunba Adeleke had earlier made his intention to run for the seat known within the APC fold but shifted his allegiance to PDP, when the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC gave Senator Husain was given the nod to run by APC’s NWC. The Screening Committee and the Screening Appeal Committee had earlier disqualified Husain from running for the by-election.

The issues likely to come up during the campaign are multifarious. Whilst other issues may still come up, some issues that will definitely be raised are as follows:

  1. Will there be sympathy votes for Otunba Adeleke in view of the fact that his elder brother Senator Isiaka Adeleke just died?
  2. Will the votes of Ede, the town where the Adelekes hail be sufficient to deliver the senatorial district for PDP?
  3. Will it make a difference that Senator Husain hail from Ejigbo, the town that also produce the Speaker of Osun State House of Assembly and the Honourable Member House of Representatives hail from Ejigbo, a town within the same federal constituency as Ede and one of the three federal constituencies in the senatorial district?
  4. Will the issue of the negative reportage of the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola affect the fortunes of Senator Husain?
  5. Will party loyalty prevail in APC despite rumblings within the ranks of some party leaders personally close to the Governor?
  6. And will the senatorial by-election affect the 2018 governorship race?

Unlike other States where either by-election or general election has taken place in recent times, PDP is not divided on the candidature of Otunba Adeleke. He is more or less a consensus candidate. The reason is not far-fetched. Senator Iyiola Omisore being a smart politician used the opportunity of the candidature of Otunba Adeleke to close ranks with the Adeleke family and with the Sheriff Faction, which is obviously more on ground in Osun. He belongs to the Makarfi Faction. He also had brouhaha with the Late Senator Adeleke, who was reportedly rough-handled by Senator Omisore’s pal and former Minister for Police Affairs Jelili Adesiyan in 2014 at Ideal Nest Hotel, Osogbo during the PDP governorship election screening and primaries.

In the up coming election, Ede will definitely vote for theirs, as they did for the elder brother. My prediction however is that even in Ede, the victory will not be landslide. There are already complaints and anxieties among the elites of Ede and even in the camp of Senator Isiaka Adeleke about attempt to turn Ede into “Kwara”. Otunba Adeleke’s father was a Senator in the second republic under the banner of Unity Party of Nigeria; his brother, the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke was a Governor (1992 – 1993) and served twice as Senator (2007 – 2011 and 2015 – 2017).

While Senator Husain from Ejigbo was serving, the lot fell on an Ede man to become the Honourable Member, House of Representatives. With the stepping down of Senator Husain in 2015 and the emergence of Senator Isiaka Adeleke from Ede however, the lot correspondingly fell on an Ejigbo man as Honourable Member, House of Representatives. There is no visible indication at the moment that where Senator Husain comes from would matter in this election. It may one more time be an acid test of the robust, matured and enlightened politics of South Western Nigeria.

Despite the explanation of the State Government that what it pays the civil servant is what it can afford at the moment and what it agreed with the Labour Union to pay, Osun has become a metaphor for non-payment of salaries.

The Osun State APC Reactionary Forces recently emerged. The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Honourable Lasun Yussuff represents one fold. He hitherto belonged to Aregbesola’s kitchen cabinet and was highly favoured by Ogbeni Aregbesola. They however fell apart on June 9, 2015 when Honourable Lasun Yusuf decided to disobey the southwest leadership of the party’s decision to support Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila’s ambition to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He chose to run instead as the Deputy Speaker. He has obviously lost favour of the party leadership in the state and in southwest. No party leader is known to be supporting his bid to be governor.

The second fold of reactionary forces within Osun APC are Alhaji Fatai Diekola and Honourable SundayAkere, who was the erstwhile Commissioner for Information and Strategy. They fell out with the Governor for a plethora of reasons. Chiefly among these are their claim that the Governor was running the state government alone, without a cabinet and without consulting party leaders and stakeholders, before decisions are taken.

The variables to the query relating to the consequence of the outcome of the 2017 senatorial by-election vis a vis the 2018 governorship election in Osun State are too numerous. APC, judging from all the previous elections in the state, is clearly the party to beat. Will the party-faithfuls tow the party line and vote according to party dictate? Are there intra-party squabbles that have not reared its ugly head?

It is difficult to see if peradventure Otunba Ademola Adeleke wins the election, he will desire to run for governorship. He seems too green and unprepared for this. He may however be relevant when PDP is choosing who will run as running mate to the gubernatorial candidate, if the PDP governorship candidate is not from Osun West. If he loses the election on the other hand, it will amount to a short journey to “neverland”. It will most likely be one of the shortest political careers in history. It will also be a severe blow for the ego of his family.

It is sufficient to say at the moment that in PDP, Senator Iyiola Omisore is trying his possible best to mend fences with Sheriff’s faction. He is from Ile-Ife and contested the 2014 governorship election against Governor Aregbesola. He is obviously warming up. He has been delivering lectures and repackaging himself. He also has financial muscle to flex; this will matter as PDP is no longer in power. During the 2014 governorship election he chose Rt. Hon. Adejare Bello from Ede as his running mate, he may consider picking Otunba Ademola Adeleke, if the latter becomes a Senator.

Since Senator Iyiola Omisore is just mending fence with the ‘recognised’ PDP, others who are interested and eminently qualified may shut him out. They must however speak in unison and be resolute, which however is almost impossible in politics. Otherwise, he still seems to be the most potent force in PDP. Apart from Senator Iyiola Omisore, the other possible PDP contestants include:

  1. Alhaji Fatai Akinbade (Ogbagba, Osun West). Former Secretary Osun State Government;
  2. Chief Lere Oyewumi (Ikire, Osun West). Former Local Government Chairman, Former House of Representatives Member, presently Commissioner, National Population Commission;
  3. Rt. Hon. Adejare Bello (Ede, Osun West). Former Speaker Osun State House of Assembly, Senator Omisore’s running mate;
  4. Senator Kola Ogunwale (Iragbiji, Osun Central), Senator 2003 – 2007
  5. Barrister Kayode Oduoye (Ikirun, Osun Central), Ifelodun, Boripe, Odo-Otin Federal Constituency candidate 2015; and
  6. Dr. Ayoade Adewopo (Ile-Ife, Osun East), a lawyer and academia; and
  7. Chief Gbenga Owolabi (Ile-Ife, Osun East). Former Chairman, Ife East Local Government.

Since Aregbesola is from Osun East senatorial district, will Senator Omisore still run for the governorship seat? The politics of zoning in Osun State is very interesting. Osun like every other state has three senatorial districts; West, Central and East. Osun also has nine federal constituencies, each senatorial district having three constituencies each. West – Iwo, Ikire, Ede; Central – Osogbo, Ikirun, Ila; and East – Ife, Ijesa South, Ijesa North. Whereas in the first republic, the entire Osun State as it is now has six Administrative Divisions, coincidentally, there are two each in every senatorial districts. West – Iwo and Ede, Central – Osogbo and Ila; and East – Ife and Ijesa. There are five sub-ethnic groups in Osun – Igbomina Osun, Osun Osun, Oyo Osun, Ife Osun and Ijesa Osun. All the military administrators were not from Osun State, meanwhile, there have been four civilian governors in the state. The Governors are as follows:

  1.  Senator Isiaka Adeleke (1992 – 1993). Osun West Senatorial District, Ede Federal Constituency, Ede Division, Oyo Osun;
  2. Chief Adebisi Akande (1999 – 2003). Osun Central, Ila Federal Constituency, Ila Division, Igbomina Osun;
  3. Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (2003 – 2010). Osun Central Senatorial District, Ifelodun, Boripe, Odo-Otin Federal Constituency, Ila Division, Osun Osun; and
  4. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (2010 – till date). Osun East, Ijesa South Federal Constituency, Ijesa Division, Ijesa Osun.

Whilst it is obvious that at no point did Osun people sat to decide on zoning, it is only fair that geographical spread principle are adopted. Osun West have argued that it has been long the governorship came to their senatorial district, the Iwo bloc have maintained that if it has to come to West, it should be Iwo Division. The Osogbo Division argues that they are equally entitled, since their divisions have also been eluded. The Ife people have additionally indicated that although Aregbesola is from their senatorial district, he is not only from another Division but also from another sub-ethnic group. Stating that all other sub-ethnic groups have been opportune to produce governor except Ife.

The following are the potential governorship candidates of APC:

  1. Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola (Iragbiji, Osun Central). The Chief of Staff to the Governor;
  2. Alhaji Moshood Adeoti (Iwo, Osun West). Former Local Government Caretaker Chairman, Former Party Chairman, current Secretary to State Government;
  3. Rt. Hon. Nojeem Salaam (Ejigbo, Osun West). Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly;
  4. Elder Peter Babalola (Ikire, Osun West).  Former Commissioner and Chief of Staff.
  5. Barrister Kunle Adegoke (Osogbo, Osun Central). Practising Legal Practitioner;
  6. Senator Babajide Omoworare (Ile-Ife, Osun East).  Former Majority Leader, currently a Senator;
  7. Barrister Ajibola Bashir  (Osogbo, Osun Central), Former Commissioner, current Attorney General;
  8. Hon. Mojeed Alabi (Ejigbo, Osun West). Former Speaker, House of Assembly, currently Honourable Member, House of Representatives; and
  9. Mr. Bola Oyebamiji (Ikire, Osun West). Former Managing Director, Osun State Investment Company, currently Finance Commissioner.

As a sidekick, I think I should mention that in spite of the fact that generally speaking, religion does not make any difference in Osun State, nay, the whole of South Western Nigeria. The Osun State Governor seems to have up the ante in this regard that the Christians are clamouring for the governorship. If I may ask rhetorically, why would Otunba Ademola Adeleke change his middle name with which he registered as a voter overnight from “Jackson” to “Nurudeen”? Ede is predominantly Muslim, Otunba Adeleke’s father’s religion; but he obviously hitherto practised his mother’s religion, Christianity.

In conclusion, it is not clear whether zoning would be adopted or not. In view of its “triple barrel effect” it is also not clear what effect the victory of Senator Mudasiru Husain at the 8th July election may potential have on zoning in Osun State. Not with standing that it is on everyone’s tongue that the Governor and some leaders already have a favourite, it may be a hoax and some under dogs among the potentials may actually be supported.

  • Ayoade, an advertising executive and communications consultant from Ede, Osun State, writes from Lagos.

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