Though 2018 governorship election in Osun is about 25 months away, politicians, political parties and aspirants for the coveted seat of the governor are not leaving anything to chance, as they have begun discreet mobilisation and sensitisation of people, with a view to currying favour and support from the electorate.
Investigation conducted by Sunday Tribune indicated while some of the governorship aspirants have not publicly declared their intentions, few of them who had already done so have explored the use of their foot soldiers and local contacts in communities to shore up support.
However, while many of the political parties are preparing their arsenals and holding consultations in view of the imminent battle, some of these parties are enmeshed in crisis, culminating in factions, which may, if not nipped in the bud, whittle down their chances before the 2018 gubernatorial election.
Deeply submerged in internal wrangling is the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is sharply divided into two factions.
Since the party’s state congress in May, 2016, the seeming unity and cohesion within the PDP in Osun has collapsed, leaving in its wake a fragmented political entity, which can no longer speak with one voice on cogent issues.
The leadership tussle at the national level of the party, leading into the emergence of two national executives of the PDP, led by Senator Alimodu Sherrif and former Governor Ahmed Markafi respectively have further exacerbated the crisis in Osun PDP. While one of the factions is being led by Honourable Soji Adagunodo as the state chairman, the other faction, believed to be loyal to Senator Iyiola Omisore, the governorship candidate of the PDP in the last election, is led by Dr Bayo Faforiji.
Regardless of the intra party squabbles, some of the notable members of the PDP in Osun, eyeing the governorship seat have not shied away from mobilising and making subterranean moves to create leverage for their ambition ahead of the election.
Notable among the PDP stalwarts, who have begun underground campaigns and nocturnal meetings include the former Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Honourable Adejare Bello, who was the running mate to Senator Omisore in the last governorship election; Chief Lere Oyewumi; Dr Kayode Oduoye, who also contested for the seat of Ifelodun/Boripe/Odo-Otin in last House of Representatives election, among others.
However, pundits are of the view that the resolution of the crisis of leadership rocking the PDP in Osun and at the national level is a key factor for the chances of any of the governorship aspirant ahead of the polls.
One of the analysts, who spoke to our correspondent under the condition of anonymity said, “for the PDP to make any headway in the 2018 governorship election, there is an urgent need for the party to put its house in order. Failure to restore peace and non-resolution of the internal crisis may spell doom for the party in future elections.”
As the PDP battles to fix its internal crisis, the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC) in Osun is also striving to rally its members to a common front, bearing in mind the need to retain the control of the state beyond 2018.
But, the task has been daunting as members across the three senatorial districts have become polarised along various political interests, considering many of its governorship aspirants jostling to secure the party’s ticket in the critical election.
Apparently realising the danger the towering ambitions of its members interested in the governorship seat may portend to the unity of the party, the Osun State chairman of the party, Gboyega Famoodun, in a recent statement, cautioned any member interested in the governorship ticket to halt their moves and desist from making any public declaration until the party gives its approval.
According to him, “the party will not take kindly to any violation of this instruction as there were more important things to do in service delivery to the people of the state,” adding that “what is most important for the party now is for everyone to join hands with the governor to solve problems confronting the state.”
The statement further reads: “the governor of the state, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, is right in the middle of his second term, grappling with the difficulties of economic recession. This is not the proper time for any aspirant to divert attention from the serious business at hand.
“Everybody with governorship aspiration should put it on hold until such a time that the party will consider appropriate. Only then will it make political sense for anyone to come out and talk about governorship aspiration.”
Notable among the party chieftains, who have commenced movements to boost their chances of clinching the governorship ticket of APC include the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon Lasun Yussuf; the incumbent Speaker, Najeem Salaam; Senator Isiaka Adeleke; Chief of Staff to Governor Aregbesola, Alhaji Gboyega Oketola, among others.
But, out of all of these aspirants, only Senator Adeleke, who was the first governor of Osun and who currently represents Osun West Senatorial District in the National Assembly, has publicly declared his governorship ambition.
Prior to the declaration by the Ede-born flamboyant politician and business man, there were speculations that Adeleke, a politician known with a trademark cone-shaped cap, was not tinkering with idea of vying for the ultimate seat in Osun come 2018.
But, his special assistant on media and public relations, Olumide Lawal, said the development forced the clarification from his camp. The strongly-worded statement signed by Lawal practically declared the readiness of “Serubawon” to once again take a shot at the oval office in Abere White House.”
Sunday Tribune reliably gathered that Adeleke’s declaration propelled the APC to issue a warning to those planning to succeed Aregbesola within its fold, but pundits hold the notion that the party’s statement was specifically directed to the camp of Ede-born politician.
Another dimension to the emerging struggle and intrigues that may shape the nature of the 2018 battle in Osun is the recent report, which surfaced in social media, of a meeting between a group of politicians loyal to Senator Omisore and Senator Bola Tinubu at the latter’s Lagos residence.
As close associates of Senator Omisore told Sunday Tribune, the former deputy governor is not comfortable with crisis in his party, though he is exploring many avenues to restore peace and unite all the factions.
On the other hand, Tinubu, a major deciding factor in Osun politics since 2005 may be moving ahead of forces, rooting for homemade and formidable politicians, like Omisore, who has consistently challenged him.
From this calculation, reaching out to Omisore is perceived as part of the moves by the APC leader to plug all loopholes within the ruling party and even outside it, by identifying and engaging forces that can be engaged by interests outside Osun to work against him.
To this end, meeting between Omisore’s camp and Tinubu in Lagos, taking into consideration the influence of the former in South-West PDP, is also being considered by some analysts as an indication that old allies in Alliance for Democracy (AD) of 1999 may realign to spring a surprise.
According to one of the sources to the meeting, “Senator Omisore was not in attendance, but Chief Bisi Akande, who was governor of the state when Omisore served as deputy governor, was present. The factional PDP leader in the state, Dr Bayo Faforiji was also said to have attended the meeting.”
Similarly, Diran Odeyemi, one of closest allies of Omisore and the spokesperson of the party, was said to be part of the meeting, while some major political players within PDP in Osun sympathetic to Omisore were also in attendance.
Though details of the meeting were kept under wraps, one of the insiders hinted our correspondent that issues relating to how to position South-West region in vantage position ahead of next general election dominated the discussion.