Why APC lost Osun and the danger ahead. The Punch
Saturday July 16, 2022, loss of the Osun governorship election by the All Progressives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party was long in coming. It will take naivety or dishonesty or both not to acknowledge this.
It was an election the APC could have won hands down for many reasons. The first is the national weakening of the PDP. The party, having been alienated from power since 2015 and having no coherent leadership, is grossly and hopelessly adrift. It is no longer in a position to rally its members and command resources; many of its havens already crossed to the APC or Peter Obi’s Labour Party.
Secondly, the party in Osun is divided into three factions, with three governorship candidates emerging from its fold; the main candidate (who eventually won), Senator Ademola Adeleke, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi, who flew the flag of the Accord Party, and Dotun Babayemi, who stepped down and supported Adeleke. At a point, Babayemi briefly enjoyed the ownership of the party’s flag, following an interlocutory grant from a court and it looked then like Adeleke was out of the race.
The third factor was the quality of the PDP candidate. Adeleke is a scion of the Adeleke dynasty in Ede. Their father, Ayoola Adeleke, was Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s ally and a Second Republic senator. Isiaka Adeleke, Demola’s brother, was the Third Republic and Osun’s first democratically elected governor and serving senator before his death on April 23, 2017. Demola brought nothing, other than his gawdy dance steps and unending controversy on his educational qualification.
The last is the fillip that the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu ought to have given to the candidate of the APC. It is well known that Osun is the ancestral home of the APC presidential candidate and Governor Gboyega Oyetola is his uterine relation. This should have rubbed off very well on the Osun election. Indeed, Asiwaju was in Osun a whole week before the election, coordinating the campaign and mobilising resources.
On a good day, it would have been impossible for the PDP to have won against the APC, given these factors.
It is curious then how the PDP won against all rational considerations and the APC managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The first is the crisis that began shortly after the inauguration of Governor Oyetola in 2018. He probably felt he was his own man and wanted to assert his bona fide on the state and its politics. But he forgot that he became governor ex nihilo and his emergence as the candidate of APC was a result of the influence of Asiwaju, which almost cost the party the election. He saw the immediate past governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, his benefactor, under whom he served as Chief of Staff for eight years, as a competitor. He, therefore, failed Green’s first law of power which says, ‘Never outshine the master.’ The party never got over the crisis, going into the election, which eventually did them in.
The power of incumbency tends to give the occupier a false sense of superiority. Oyetola and his men were never short of this. His own is compounded by his blood relationship with Asiwaju. He had false confidence that Asiwaju alone would win the election for him. When the crisis in the party began, his supporters were wont to tell anyone that urged caution that just one word from Asiwaju to Aregbesola to go and work for Oyetola’s re-election was enough.
Going into the election, he had divided the party into his loyalists versus Aregbesola loyalists; as if the election was between him and the former governor. He never made any attempt to reconcile the two sides, being fully persuaded that the other side was inconsequential to his re-election. Aregbesola was not a member of the APC election council nor was he personally invited by the governor to help him.
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Rather, Oyetola surrounded himself with political minions, especially those who left the party in 2018 to contest against him. He added to the mix the traditional and ideological enemies of the party and enlisted just anyone who would join him in the fight against Aregbesola. They did not disappoint him. His term was noticeable for the fight with his former principal and everyone associated with him. He practically undid Aregbesola’s programmes one after the other and stopped the ones he could not undo.
He was implacable and totally uninterested in any other thing. Anti-Aregbesola became the principal directive and guiding principle of governance. In that instance, sycophancy was not in short supply, as government officials openly attacked Aregbesola and competed to outdo each other in this macabre dance.
Things began to deteriorate as the governor unofficially banned Aregbesola from coming to the state. Anytime the minister was billed to come to Osun for one assignment or the other, the governor’s men will plant in the media, allegations that he was coming to foment trouble. It took a turn for the worse, out of power drunkenness, I guess, as Aregbesola’s men were being arrested by the police and arraigned in court for no particular offence. Oyetola destroyed the coalition that made him governor.
Going into the election, the APC had become the old PDP, everything the people loathed, their nightmare long forgotten—in brigandage, thuggery, wickedness, selfish, patently anti-people, careless, rudderless, chaotic, vote-buying and worse, lacking ideological focus.
In contrast, Aregbesola as governor, after his inauguration in November 2010, hit the ground running. He had panache and engaged the people politically and governmentally. He was accessible, as his office and homes were accessible to the people 24 hours. His human intervention programmes touched every segment of society. Through it, he was able to transfer resources directly to the people. Even vagrants and lunatics were touched by his administration. He was able to expand microeconomics and unleashed prosperity never before experienced in Osun, which made him win elections, even after he demolished houses and owed workers salaries.
He raised the bar of governance and never ceased to excite the people until he completed his record two terms and left. He endeared himself to the people and they were hoping that his successor would maintain the tempo.
But Oyetola was elitist, with his government lacking any ideological focus. He was paying salaries and concentrated on programmes that reached not more than 25 per cent of the people, without much backwash effect. He was inaccessible, as the gates of his office and residence were shut against party members and the people. This amounts to disengagement from the people, and it came with serious deleterious consequences as the same people now look at the Aregbesola administration that Oyetola is fighting with nostalgia. It is not difficult for them, therefore, to decide on whom to support in the fight.
Going into an election, Aregbesola would leverage his performance. The party would have been organised in a top to bottom way, as members would be well mobilised on election day to the polling booths. But the party had been destroyed by Oyetola so he relied on vote-buying, even as his henchmen were boasting that they would simply write the result. While this policy got him a lot of votes, it could not get him enough to win. Many voters got his money and voted for the opposition, others simply refused to collect money and would rather vote their conscience.
The PDP winning, therefore, is rather a protest vote against Oyetola and not as much the love for Adeleke or his PDP.
Going into the general elections next year, there is still room to make amends and approach it with a united house, failing which the consequences would be disastrous for the party. This is because the PDP would be enlivened by this victory and would have more resources by then.