by Demola Rewaju
Aregbesola insisted from Day One on being addressed as ‘Ogbeni’ (Mister)…perhaps to make us forget he once referred to himself as an Engineer while he was the Commissioner for Works in Lagos state. Aregbesola should lose but he is not Fayemi; and Omisore is not Fayose.
In the thick of the 2011 elections for federal positions, ACN was badly positioned especially in the state where it had held onto as a stronghold Lagos. Underground intraparty crises had left the party weakened and it was on the verge of a terrible defeat. The governor of Lagos State – Raji Fashola was popular enough to win a second term but his fame was a threat to his godfather whom he had once fondly referred to as the ‘governor emeritus’ of Lagos state. The ACN was internally factionalised and Former Governor Bola Tinubu initially toyed with the idea of replacing Raji Fashola with another candidate but that line of action was considered unwise for several strategic reasons and so Tinubu’s team hit on the idea of weakening Fashola’s hand by replacing all his loyalists with people who could be trusted by the Tinubu caucus. Among the casualties to be dropped were the then deputy Governor Sarah Sosan, the Attorney-General Supo Shasore and the Secretary to the State Government Princess Adenrele Adeniran-Ogunsanya. But Fashola hadn’t been lying in wait to be slaughtered. He had secretly financed the Labour Party in Lagos state and once he saw that he was been weakened in the ACN, he had his loyalists move to the Labour Party. Among them was Barr. Dapo Durosinmi-Etti who complaining of imposition in the Lagos Central Senatorial District ticket in APC, defected to the Labour Party and picked its ticket. He was up against the wife of the ACN godfather, now Senator Remi Tinubu but the election was postponed and both his name and party logo never made it to the ballot paper.
Trouble also brewed in the Alimosho Federal Constituency where Adeola Solomon of the ACN was facing a stiff challenge from Segun Adewale aka Aeroland. This constituency being the largest in Lagos had consistently remained underdeveloped despite voting massively for ACN and so Aeroland was rumoured to be leading in the election. Bola Tinubu pulled all his strings to no avail, Fashola’s new running mate Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire (also from the constituency) pulled all her strings too but nothing seemed to work. While other results were announced, the Alimosho election result was delayed due to the rowdy situation at the Technical College where the votes were been collated. A trusted henchman was needed and Rauf Aregbesola who had made the area his Lagos base came in from Osun state at night on the Sunday following the election and by Monday morning, Adeola Solomon was declared the winner of the seat.
Aregbesola could afford to leave Osun state at the time – he had won all the seats in his Osun State for the ACN with very comfortable margins including masterminding the defeat of sitting Senator Iyiola Omisore who lost to Senator Babajide Omoworare. By the time the presidential elections were held amid rumours that Bola Tinubu had reached a deal with President Goodluck Jonathan, Aregbesola’s Osun State was the only state in the entire federal republic where ACN candidate Nuhu Ribadu won.
If Lateef Jakande was called ‘Baba Kekere’ during the time of Awolowo, Rauf Aregbesola should now be called ‘Baba Kekere’. Of all Tinubu aides, he is the one who balances populism with gritty force and wit, yet, Aregbesola’s Achilles Heels is that unassailable arrogance that trails many politicians like him – having coveted absolute powers in Osun state and attained it, he has become a sort of demigod whose opinion must override that of others. After spending NGN8bn on the Opon Imo project, Osun slipped from 13th position in the WAEC results to 26th. Rather than the 150,000 pieces of tablet to be received by Osun state, only 3,184 were produced, distributed and later withdrawn from the students. The contract is said to have been midwifed by Kabiru, the governor’s son who allegedly held a grand wedding in Dubai recently. Olagunsoye Oyinlola spent NGN2bn to establish the University of Osun in six communities while Aregbesola used the same amount to plant flowers which remain invisible in every part of Osun. Princess Stella Oduah was hounded out of office as Aviation Minister for purchasing two bulletproof cars for a cost of about NGN250m. Aregbesola procured four bulletproof cars for the amount of NGN680m. While rumours of a bomb attack in Osun recently, initially thought to be by Boko Haram proved to be a rumour, the governor has consistently pocketed NGN560m as security vote since he assumed office despite the relative peace in Osun state. Add to these the controversial merger of schools and the student uniform brouhaha, Aregbesola has made himself a number of enemies, just like the outgoing governor of Ekiti State.
In the past few weeks, Aregbesola has scampered to pay civil servants, assuage the feelings of his grumbling aides and settle a lot of the crises which he had caused for himself ab initio. Unlike Kayode Fayemi and perhaps learning from him, Aregbesola is desperate to win Osun state and the PDP has made it easier for him by fielding a very controversial Iyiola Omisore whose time as deputy governor from 1999 to 2002 when he was impeached is better forgotten than remembered. Whereas Fayemi had little connection with the ‘grassroot’, Aregbesola insisted from Day One on being addressed as ‘Ogbeni’ (Mister)…perhaps to make us forget he once referred to himself as an Engineer while he was the Commissioner for Works in Lagos state. Aregbesola should lose but he is not Fayemi; and Omisore is not Fayose.
Omisore lacks the charisma to win over a crowd and send an incumbent governor packing – the only reference point of an election that he has was that he won a senatorial seat from jail while standing trial for the death of Osun’s most visible politician – Chief Bola Ige – hardly a reference point one would want to bring up at political campaigns. Unlike Fayose who made sure none of his co-contestants at the PDP primaries in Ekiti defected to any other party and was wise enough to push the most popular of the losing aspirants (Prince Dayo Adeyeye) as Ekiti ministerial nominee, Omisore allowed former Governor Isiaka Adeleke to defect to the APC while Alhaji Fatai Akinbade who has never lost his constituency from NPN to PDP is now the flagbearer of the Labour Party. Whereas Opeyemi Bamidele played the role of ‘spoiler’ for Fayemi, it is PDP who has lost a very influential politician this time around.
Funnily enough, while the loss of APC in Ekiti has sent most of its chieftains struggling desperately to retain Osun State, the PDP has relaxed in its South-Western push. While Fayose was able to attract by personal friendship people like Obanikoro, Chris Uba, Buruji Kashamu and co to Ekiti, Omisore’s mega rally only held a week to the election (unlike that of Ekiti which was several weeks before the June 21st election). PDP can afford to lose Osun since it has a foothold in the Southwest now. The possibility of rigging cannot be ruled out but Aregbesola has publicly asked (and later retracted) that voters should go to the polls with charms to protect their votes.
Osun is several times bigger than Ekiti and will not be easily militarised. With 30 LGAs compared to Ekiti’s 16 and Aregbesola’s ‘State Boys’ and ‘De Raufs’ (a Lagos based voluntary support group comprising of er erm…diehards or eru’kus), violence may erupt and Aregbesola is not a gentleman. Furthermore, the unanticipated military deployments in Ekiti State are now being expected in Osun State and APC will be prepared.
Aregbesola should lost this election but he will not lose it and will go down fighting for it every step of the way. PDP should win this election but Omisore can not win this election – and this is the fine dilemma that #OsunDecides will prove to be. Aregbesola should not be re-elected because he is not loved as such by the people of Osun. The absence of a charismatic opposition figure and the absence of a united opposition may however see him through.
But this is not a prediction (24 hours is a long time in politics, you see). I will predict the winner on my blog, this Friday, God willing.
Have a splendid week, no matter what.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.