It is now ten days to the gubernatorial contest in Osun State where Senator Iyiola Omisore of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be taking on the incumbent governor, Rauf Aregbesola of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in an epic battle that will determine who occupies the state’s Government House for the next four years.
The battle, indeed, promises to be a Titannic one, as the PDP appears bent on consolidating its hold on the South-West geopolitical zone of the country after its resounding victory in Ekiti State which saw a former governor of the state, Ayo Fayose, mercilessly routing incumbent Governor Fayemi from office.
Will the miracle of Ekiti be repeated in Osun State? Will Omisore and PDP send Aregbesola packing from Osun Government House?
These, indeed, are two of the biggest questions in political circles today. For now, the answers to these questions are blowing in the wind. This is because, as election matters go in the country, it is often difficult to predict with all certainty the way any election will go, simply because the will of the people, and the votes cast, do not always determine the outcome of polls.
There are, however, a few similarities and dissimilarities in the Ekiti and Osun polls. One major factor in both contests is that the two incumbent governors were well reported to have worked with missionary zeal to change the infrastructural landscapes of their states.
The Aregbesola administration, in particular, built a revolutionary education concept on the recommendations of an international conference he organised on education, not long after his election into office. The reform of the education sector that came out of that conference witnessed the commencement of the construction of Mega Schools in some parts of the state; the employment of 3000 new teachers and the feeding project for its primary school pupils, which naturally improved the fortunes of caterers, traders and the farmers who produce the food items that the children eat.
The almost four years administration also witnessed a number of innovations such as the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), which reportedly employed 40,000 youths; the training and empowerment in Information Communication Technology (ICT) under the Osun Youth EmPowerment Technology (OYESTECH) initiative; the introduction and provision of Opon Imo, which are computer tablets loaded with 54 textbooks and past question papers in 17 WAEC subjects, and provision of school uniforms for 750,00 school students. This could not but have a positive impact on the fortunes of tailoring companies in the state.
There has also been remarkable impact on the construction and rehabilitation of roads, and deflooding of the state, which was said to have been achieved through the dredging of over 100 kilometers of waterways such as streams and canals.
Towns which have landmarks such as the mega schools will forever remember the Aregbesola government, and will likely want a continuation of such in the state. Even Ile-Ife, the hometown of the PDP candidate, has a very beautiful primary school in Ilare part of the town, and a new Towers project in Lagere area, as testaments to the governor’s impact.
The state government was also reported to have increased funding for education and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the state.
Interestingly, however, it is in the education sector that the Aregbesola government tried the most to reform, that he witnessed the greatest opposition as he was constantly accused of trying to Islamise the state by the opposition and some religious bodies over the school reclassification policy. The policy, which involved the building of mega schools and increased funding for education in the state, should ordinarily have been heartily welcomed by the people but for the fact that it involved the mixing of students of both religions in some of the state’s schools that bore the names of certain religions and had always admitted students of only one faith. This singular policy led to so much controversy that politicians used it to paint the government as biased against Christians in the state, even when there are reportedly more Christians in the State Executive Council than Christians, and the policy significantly improved the environment of many state schools. The policy also took the handling of major repair works in schools from school principals, so that they could concentrate on academics, which also did not go down well with the principals.
Aregbesola will largely be relying on the impact his government was able to make in different sectors of life in the state, and his robust campaign rallies, to win the August 9 election. He will be resting his hope of victory on the people’s understanding and appreciation of his spirited efforts to reform different aspects of life in the state as he pursued his vision of a strong and virile “State of Osun”.
On the other hand, Senator Iyiola Omisore of the PDP, who was once a Deputy Governor in the state and once won election as a Senator from incarceration and got re-elected for a second term, is relying on what he described as his vigorous campaigns in 322 wards in the state and his claim that the Aregbesola administration did not perform up to expectation in the state. He is, indeed, also a formidable candidiate on account of the strength of the PDP and its seeming rampaging election machinery that recently won the election in Ekiti.
Omisore has identified two to three projects he claimed to have attracted to the state when he was the Deputy Governor. However, it is being said in some quarters that the disagreement between the PDP and the former governor of the state, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and also Senator Isiaka Adeleke, who recently defectedd from the party, may affect his chances.
Who will carry the day in the Osun poll? If the people consider Governor Aregbesola’s impact on the state, and his apparent camaraderie with large segments of the people, which is quite similar to the way Ayo Fayose flows with the electorate in Ekiti State, victory is “sure to be sure” for him. But, if they choose to say No to his developmental efforts and vision for a new State of Osun, the victory will swing to Omisore.
The challenge, then, is for the people of Osun to carefully consider their options and make their choice in their own best interest. Nobody can make that choice for them. Both contenders and their parties and supporters have a role to play in ensuring credible and peaceful elections in Osun, while INEC must do its utmost best to ensure a credible exercise. Nigerians are waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the poll.