Osun Election: Bola Ige And Four Other Reasons Why Aregbesola Won Again


IT is no longer news that Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) comfortably beat Senator Iyiola Omisore of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to retain his seat for another 48 months in power in weekend’s Osun State polls. What perhaps is news is the avalanche of reasons for Aregbesola’s convincing victory.


Although many APC stalwarts refused to acknowledge it openly, the party went into the Ekiti election knowing defeat was a likely outcome. Some party chieftains were unhappy with Governor Kayode Fayemi whom they accused of alienating them ─ and they refused to work for him. Also, APC was fractured in Ekiti State as a result of internal conflict. The loss in Ekiti, even though not surprising to party chieftains, raised an alarm in the party as a dangerous signal to what could become of APC in 2015. The loss was originally thought to be Fayemi’s problem, but it soon dawned on the party’s strategists that it was not only humiliating, it was also capable of sending  a message to Nigerians that the “ACN content” of APC was no longer in charge of its traditional base in the south-west. With several reasons adduced for Fayemi’s loss ─ including a fall-out with Ekiti teachers ─ Aregbesola benefited from this by quickly making amends in Osun. He got a soft loan from a sister state to clear two months salary arrears of workers. He also paid pension arrears. Aregbesola also started holding meetings with top civil servants to calm frayed nerves. He began to pay compensation to landlords whose houses were demolished to pave the way for an urban renewal programme. By moving quickly to address the grievances of the citizens, Aregbesola was able to re-connect with them in a matter of six weeks after the Ekiti humiliation of APC.


Omisore was never going to fly as the opponent of Aregbesola, although backed by the “federal might” and a cash-awash Kashamu Buruji, he was faintly expected to pull a surprise. But he was never going to be Ayodele Fayose who unseated Fayemi in Ekiti. For one, when Omisore was senator representing Ife constituency in the national assembly, he was not seen as among the best performers. For years, he was the chairman of the appropriation committee ─ generally seen as a plum job ─ but he was accused of not impressing his constituents in terms of bringing development projects to the district or making a positive impact on his people. However, by far the biggest albatross on the neck of Omisore is the December 2001 murder of Chief Bola Ige, a former governor of the old Oyo State, who was then the minister of justice and attorney general of the federation. Before the murder ─ which remains unresolved ─ Omisore was engaged in a very public spat with Ige, openly insulting the respected politician. Ige was humiliated at the palace of the Ooni of Ife by thugs suspected to be loyal to Omisore. They removed Ige’s cap and threatened to beat him up. When Ige was eventually killed, fingers were pointed at Omisore, who claimed innocence. He was detained in prison, tried and eventually discharged. He even won his senate election in detention. Even though he was never convicted, the Ige stigma has never left him. It was a handy campaign tool for APC in the Osun poll. Popular musician, Lagbaja, refused to perform at Omisore’s campaign, citing the Ige murder case as his reason.


Aregbesola was cast as a religious fanatic by the Omisore camp, who pointed out several actions taken by the governor as either anti-Christian or pro-Muslim. Aregbesola took an Islamic finance instrument, “sukuk” bond, of N11.4 billion to build schools. He changed the motto of the state from “State of the Living Spring” to “State of the Virtuous”, allegedly because Jesus Christ is also referred to as “the Living Spring”. He also declared the beginning of the Islamic calendar a public holiday, in addition to three other Muslim holidays ─ Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, Eid-el-Fitri and Eid-el-Maloud. Christians have three holidays ─ Christmas, Easter and New Year. The re-classification of schools, in which legacy Muslim and Christian schools were merged, also generated some religious tension. However, the religious flag did not fly ─ at least not on election day. Apart from the fact that there are probably more Muslims than Christians in Osun State, Aregbesola is from Ilesa, which is predominantly Christian. This gave him a double advantage. Most importantly, though, religion has never been an electoral issue in Osun State where Muslims and Christians live together peacefully. But accused of being a religious bigot, Aregbesola reached out to key Christian leaders, including Pastor EA Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Ministries, who visited the state and said good things about him. This effectively doused the “tension” in the Christian community.


The PDP went into the election in bad shape ─ an ironic mirror of what happened to APC in Ekiti State. Former Osun State governor, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, left PDP for APC in the heat of the party’s primaries, complaining about the conduct of other PDP aspirants. Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, secretary to the state government when Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was governor, also left the party and went to the Labour Party, whose flag he eventually flew in the election. Oyinlola, TheCable learnt, had suggested to the PDP that Akinbade was the man to beat Aregbesola. But Omisore got the ticket and Akinbade defected in protest. However, it was not enough that the party to be fractured. Aregbesola had to move deftly to cash in on this. He got Adeleke to team up with his campaign ─ a masterstroke, given that the man called “Serunbawon” is a very popular politician in Ede, one of the big political constituencies in the state. Next, Aregbesola got the endorsement of the power brokers in Iwo, where the Labour candidate comes from. It was another big score for him. And then, Oyinlola, the erstwhile national secretary of the PDP and former governor of the state, joined APC a few days to the election. Even though Oyinlola did not win his ward in Okuku, it was a PR set-back for the PDP, especially after President Goodluck Jonathan had met with Oyinlola in trying to get him to campaign for Omisore.


The fact that performance did not count for Dr. Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti State does not mean it would not count for Aregbesola in Osun State. It was widely said before the election that “Osun is not Ekiti”. The fact is that no other governor has impacted on Osun State since its creation in 1991. Aregbesola started by setting up a Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), employing 40,000 graduates. For primary school pupils, he provided free meals. For secondary school students, he gave free uniforms. Those in senior secondary school got “opon imo” ─ tablet computers containing all their textbooks and past question papers. For the elderly, he paid monthly stipends. He got a N10.4 billion “sukuk bond” to build 24 model, modern schools. Each school, when completed, will accommodate 1000 students and have modern laboratories, power  and sports facilities. The state capital, Osogbo ─ a typical ancient city ─ is undergoing a face-lift with the urban renewal programme. Factories have been cropping up in the state and proving jobs for the people. Road infrastructure is being built. There is a clear direction in terms of leadership in the state. All these have made Aregbesola a very popular politicianwho draws large crowds anywhere he visits in the state.