Political gladiators are intensifying the jostle to replace Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola as governor of Osun State in 2018. Although the election guideline is yet to be released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), The Next Edition gathered reliably that prominent politicians within the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have intensified their efforts in order to secure their party’s mandate.
While the dominant factions in the PDP battle to reclaim the state they lost in 2012 to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the APC is no less in disarray as a result of different and antagonistic blocs within the party.
Political pundits are of the view that although the PDP is in disarray, one of the main reasons the party feels motivated is because there is the general feeling that the incumbent hasn’t performed creditably in the past seven years in the saddle. The issue of unpaid salaries and the fact that the governor has been running the state as a sole administrator. The absence of commissioners since his re-election in 2014 has unnecessarily complicated governance and made it difficult for Gov Aregbesola to anoint his successor.According to a chieftain of the APC in Osun State, who doesn’t want his name mentioned, “Right now there are many camps. But for the party to stand a chance of retaining the state, we have to field someone who doesn’t belong to Aregbesola’s camp. The governor has failed the people. His first term was fairly good but as far as his second term is concerned, he has not done well.”
“Our best chance was the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke. With someone like that as our candidate, winning the election would have been very easy. Unfortunately, he is no more. We have to scout for the most popular candidate among those who don’t belong to Aregbesola’s camp,” he added.
He further stated that, “Isiaka Adeleke’s death is a huge blow to the APC in Osun State. He would easily have secured the party’s mandate to run, with or without the support of the Lagos camp.”It would be recalled that Osun West hasn’t produced a governor since Isiaka Adeleke in 1992/1993. Now that Adeleke is late, the attention of his supporters has shifted to another prominent politician from Osun West, in the person of Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam.
Salaam enjoys the support of those clamoring for power shift who are mainly home-based politicians while Lagos based politicians are believed to be in support of Aregbesola’s Chief of Staff, Gboyega Oyetola who is from Osun East senatorial district. He has the backing of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Another heavy weight who has thrown his hat into the ring to get into the mix is the Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Yusuf Sulaimon Lasun. The Next Edition gathered that Lasun has the backing of Abuja politicians who are working round the clock to cut Tinubu down to size in the South West.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, BabatundeRajiFashola, and the Minister of Steel and Mining, KayodeFayemi are two of the politicians from Abuja who have thrown their weight behind Lasun who, they see, as someone who would conveniently resist Tinubu’s bidding.
The death ofAdeleke, it was learnt, has further widened the divide in the party and deepened the tension as the aspirants now feel that a serious threat to their ambition is out of the way so each and every one of them feels it is their chance.
To make matters worse, Lasun last month alleged that leaders of the APC in Osun State and former political office holders are after his life because of his interest to contest the election.
According to Lasun, who spoke through his Constituency Relations Officer, NiyiOgunsola, they have reported the threat to his life to the Department of State Services. He added that the APC chairman in the state, GboyegaFamoodun warned him and the lateAdeleke not to run for governor or face punishment in a statement published in The PUNCH Newspaper of October 31, 2016.
He said: “This threat was reported to the Department of State Services, Osun State Command, who investigated the source of the threat. The DSS found out that one Abimbowo as the sender. Abimbowo was arrested and during interrogation, he confessed that a former commissioner ordered him to send the text.” He also claimed that hoodlums demolished a mosque he built for his people just to frustrate his ambition.
The APC chairman, however, debunked the allegation by Lasun, describing it as false.
Famoodun said: “He said I threatened his governorship ambition, I am not aware that he is contesting for the governorship election. How many times has he shown up at the party’s functions? He has not been seen at any of our party’s functions.”
APC Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Kunle Oyatomi, also denied the allegation in a statement saying “this is a wolf cry and political gerrymandering, which cannot amount to a threat to life. There is no fragment of truth in all Lasun claimed, and it appears to have been the product of a very sick minded person.”
In a telephone chat with The Next Edition, an aide to the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Wole Oladimeji confirmed that Lasun is running for governor and sounded very confident about his chances.
“He is running for governor in Osun State. His chances and the chances of the APC are bright. APC is winning in Osun State come 2018. And with the contribution of the Deputy Speaker to the development of his constituency, his empowerment programme is second to none. He is a brilliant and a tested hand who believes in human and physical development. He is the leading contender in Osun State for the seat for now.”
Efforts to reach the Secretary to the Osun State Government, Alhaji Moshood Olalekan and Semiu Okanlawon an aide to Gov Aregbesola to secure their views on the crisis within the APC proved abortive at the time of filing this report.
The Osun State chapter of the PDP, on the other hand, consists of two factions: the Hon. Soji Adagunodo who is the chairman of the party and Dr. Bayo Faforiji-led faction, which is allegedly sponsored by Senator Iyiola Omisore who has also declared his intention to run for the plum job.
Omisore served as Deputy Governor of Osun State from 1999 – 2003 under Chief Adebisi Akande. So far, those who have declared to run under the platform of the PDP include a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Barrister Adejare Bello, and a Federal Commissioner of the National Population Commission, NPC, Alhaji Lere Oyewumi from Osun West Senatorial District respectively.
Despite the cracks within the APC, analysts are of the view that if the PDP persists in its existence as a house divided against itself, they may not be able to take due advantage of the crises to defeat the ruling party in the 2018 governorship election