The political atmosphere in Osun State reeks of uncertainties ahead of the 2023 presidential election, as the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the All Progressives Congress Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and others test their strength and popularity, BOLA BAMIGBOLA writes
The result of the July 16 governorship election in Osun State surprised many, especially those who believed that the then ruling party, the All Progressives Congress was in firm control, and the development also altered previous political calculations regarding the probable outcome of the 2023 presidential election in the state.
In conformity with the reality of the moment in Osun’s political space, many keen followers of events have been looking at the crystal ball to see the fate awaiting major contenders for the presidential diadem in the general election in Osun.
A certain school of thought was of the opinion that the 2023 general elections in Osun may have a semblance of the 2011 polls, when the then ruling party in the state, Action Congress of Nigeria, riding on the massive following of its freshly sworn-in governor, Rauf Aregbesola, won every elective post, including the presidency, making Osun the only state where Nuhu Ribadu, then ACN’s presidential candidate, won in the country.
Another group, however, believes that the current gap in terms of people’s acceptance of PDP and APC in Osun is different from the unassailable acceptability ACN had in Osun in 2011.
Having said that, since the PDP’s candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke was elected as the sixth democratically-elected governor of the state, new political calculations appear to be pointing towards the PDP as the party on the rise, tilting the presidential election result towards former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Nevertheless, the APC appeared poised to prevent Adeleke and his men from “doing the double” on it and Senator Bola Tinubu, the party’s presidential candidate, by remaining comfortable and not losing any notable politician to the ruling party.
Before the last governorship election, Osun could be said to be a sure bet for Tinubu despite the large following that Atiku enjoys in the state because of his marriage to Titi, an indigene of Ilesa, one of the biggest communities in the state.
However, with Adeleke replacing the APC’s Adegboyega Oyetola in the last major election before the 2023 election, the PDP has been building on the momentum that saw it through the governorship election.
Conscious of the positive perception that Adeleke currently enjoys among the residents, the PDP has embarked on a massive campaign, telling voters to vote for all candidates of the party in the 2023 poll to soften the ground for the new administration in the state.
According to the campaign’s organizers, Adeleke will be able to fulfill all of his campaign promises to the people of Osun only if Atiku is elected president.
Also, as part of strategies to keep the PDP in shape, Adeleke has put on hold further appointments and has directed all members of the party to embark on aggressive campaigning to ensure a good showing for all its candidates.
Overt and covert efforts are also being made by the PDP to keep the APC weak by ensuring that the “ego fight” between the Oyetola group and party men loyal to ex-governor Rauf Aregbesola in the Osun APC festers.
Certain actions taken by the Adeleke administration that had been well received by some communities, especially those battling kingship crises, could also swing the state in Atiku’s favor, and that, coupled with the fact that the PDP has remained compact since winning the governorship poll, signpost possible victorious outing for the Turakin Adamawa.
United Osun APC
Recently, the APC family in the state was somewhat relieved of its agony with the peace move initiated by allies of former governor Rauf Aregbesola, who announced an end to all hostilities and his return to the APC fold after dissolving all factions and groups.
Speaking on behalf of the group during a recent meeting held in Osogbo, the state capital, an ex-speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam, declared that Aregbesola’s men have resolved to work with other interests within the APC fold to return the party to power.
In returning the gesture, Osun APC state Acting Chairman, Mr Tajudeen Lawal, welcomed the decision by Aregbesola’s men to rebuild the party in collaboration with other interests and urged them to join the campaign for APC candidates in the 2023 elections.
Osun APC has not lost any notable members to the PDP since leaving power in November, as the party awaits a favorable outcome in its ongoing case at the election petition tribunal. The party leadership has also been talking to various sections within its fold to keep them hopeful. The move, according to sources, was meant to ensure that the party approaches next year’s elections with deserved seriousness.
Tinubu’s sure victory
After considering the chances of both APC and PDP presidential candidates in the state, the spokesperson for the opposition party, Mr Kola Olabisi, declared that Osun would vote for Tinubu.
Olabisi, who commended the political structure of APC in Osun, also said some errors already committed by the new PDP government, that have earned it enemies would aid Tinubu’s victory, noting that Osun people have a longstanding relationship with the former Lagos governor.
He said, “The chances of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, are very bright as he remains the contestant to beat in the election.
“Tinubu’s acceptability in the six geopolitical zones of the nation soars daily, and Osun State is not left out of the unalloyed support being enjoyed by the APC presidential candidate.
“The springing up of copious independent support groups in Osun State for the presidential campaign of Asiwaju Tinubu is a pointer to the fact that the state is among the ones where his electoral victory would be a walkover.
“The Osun State chapter of the APC and the immediate past governor of the state, Mr Oyetola, have been working assiduously and conscientiously with some other interest groups to ensure the victory of Asiwaju Tinubu in the presidential election.
“The fact that the Chairperson of the Tinubu Presidential Campaign Committee (PCC) for mobilization in the South-West, former Deputy Governor, Mrs Grace Titi Laoye-Ponnle, hails from Osun State, is a plus for the imminent electoral victory of Asiwaju Tinubu .
“Sequel to the widely-publicised truce between Mr Rauf Aregbesola and Mr Oyetola’s adherents, there is no doubting the fact that the development would further enhance the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the polls.
“Summarily, Tinubu’s victory in the February 2023 presidential election is a done deal in Osun State based on the superlative arrangements in place.”
‘Osun for Atiku’
For Oladele Olabamiji, the PDP spokesperson in Osun State, voters in the state would not jump on the bandwagon of ethnocentric politics but would vote for Atiku, whom they know deeply and have developed relationships with over the years.
Olabamiji further said, “We don’t have a problem with the coming election in Osun State. The Yoruba, as we know, are not the kind of tribe that would do things based on sentiment or emotional attachment to someone. In this case, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would get his scorecard in that election.
“His scorecard of the self-centered politics he has been playing all these years. This is the capital territory of the Yoruba race, as we all know, and we are the kind of race that will always scrutinize individuals based on their merit, not any kind of fake emotion of “Awa lokan.” Yorubas are not like that.
“We treat individuals based on their merit. In this election, it will be illogical for us to just say that because someone is from our tribe, we put him forward and start to vote for him. He has not lived up to expectations for someone vying for such an exalted office as leading a country like Nigeria.
“If there is anything after the PDP and Atiku, Governor Ademola Adeleke will do it again and again. It is about trusting the person in charge of a campaign or battle at the time. People love our governor so much that they believe he will not lead them astray, and people would also ordinarily want to do anything that would make the governor comfortable.
“It is a no-brainer that having Atiku as president of Nigeria will give the governor here a lot of space to operate.”
The chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council in the state, Simeon Adebayo, while giving a verdict on who is the leading candidate between Atiku and Tinubu in Osun said voters in the state would choose their next president without sentiment.
Adebayo, who is also contesting for the Osun Central senatorial seat in the 2023 poll on the platform of the Allied Peoples Movement, however, called for decent campaigns without resorting to name-calling or brigandage.
The IPAC leader said, “The Osun people know who they want as president. They will choose without sentiment. But I will advise that we should have decent campaigns devoid of name-calling and brigandage.”