By Rasheed Adebiyi
The much awaited governorship election in Osun State has come and gone. The results have since been announced. While the winners have kept rejoicing, the losers are already licking their wounds.
A lot of analysis has been flying around on social media on what could be responsible for a sitting governor perceived to be performing to have lost to a candidate he was contending with for the second time in four years. While some people were of the opinion that the incumbent governor lost to the improved electoral process, others tied the PDP’s Adeleke’s win to peoples’ anger and the seemingly irreconcilable differences between Mr. Gboyega Oyetola and his predecessor in office, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. However, the win and loss were a combination of different factors.
Here are some strategic mistakes made by the outgoing governor and his party, the APC, in the build up to the July 16th contest. Here are some outstanding issues that likely led to the governor’s failure to clinch a second term:
1. Lack of Strategic Connection with the people
Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola committed a strategic error of not connecting with the people of the state. As a matter of fact, no democratically elected governor of the state had committed such an error before now. For the entire period he has spent as governor until the election on Saturday, Governor Oyetola never deemed it fit to have a one-on-one with the people of Osun. To be sure that this was a grave mistake, Chief Bisi Akande had Labe-Odan (Under the Odan Tree); his own successor, Governor Oyinlola put in place Gbagede Oro (Open Forum) while Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola had in place Ogbeni-Till-Daybreak; all were community mobilization and engagement fora to have a feel of what the people about the government and issues of governance. The Positive Agenda Nigeria did a study to call the government attention to this lacuna (you can read the study here). Even though, government people contended that fact with the organisation, that led to the establishment of the civic engagement unit and the introduction of Apero (literally translated as conference). The first edition of the programme was held before the COVID 19 struck and we never heard of it again. So, the perception of the governor has not been any favourable even going into the election. People neither understood the governor nor his programmes. It was part of the reasons the people did not reward him with a second term.
2. Lack of clear governance thrust
For any discerning mind and governance-sensitive person in the state, the outgoing government does not have a clear map of where he intends to steer the ship of the state. His campaign focus then in 2018 was continuity. From the time he was sworn in till he lost his second term ambition on Saturday, a large number of people did not understand the spirit, the focus and intention of his programmes. There is no clear thrust of the government on education, economy, agriculture, security architecture even arts and culture. This has led to poor conception and execution of programmes. Mr. Governor failed to communicate the what, where, why and how of his programmes. He paid dearly with his second term bid.
3. Inability to reconcile the factions in his party
A major factor that resulted in the loss of the Saturday election was the internal wrangling within the party. Those who could read between the lines warned of the dire consequences of a divided house especially as the election approached. A reconciliation move ahead of the polls would have rallied the party members together and salvaged an impending defeat. It was a disaster waiting to happen. An insider even confided in me that they feared the internal disenchanted people more than they feared the opposition party. A result of this was what we saw on Saturday. Words on the street on the election was that the Osun Progressive voted against the Ilerioluwa man.
4. Lacklustre campaign activities
The campaign activities of the APC was lacklustre. There was little or no vibes. There was no attempt to sell the candidates in a manner that would connect with the people. It was a campaign on the surface. No depth at all. Adeleke Ademola was a familiar foe. There should have been a better way to tackle him rather than the attack on his dancing habit and lack of educational certificate. The party was not creative at all. There was no attempt to hype the achievements of Oyetola in a way that it will show how such address the perennial problems of the state. The focus was on the personality of the PDP candidate. Unlike in 2014, when all kinds of campaign formats and appeals were used. It was a straight campaign jingle. Observations noted the lack of social listening to drive the campaign. The campaign should have picked from public opinion and used such to counter the negative narratives already spread by the PDP on the street. The APC campaign council allowed the opposition party to hijack the narratives from it. It was a big error. They underestimated Adeleke, they paid dearly for it. For a familiar foe, Oyetola’s campaigns focused more at the weaknesses of their opposition instead of acclaiming the achievements of the governor and showing how such keyed into the progress of the people. Our 10-week report indicated the campaign was dominated by personality attack at the expense of issue-based engagement with the people.
5. Low confidence in articulating the administration’s achievements
It was not as if Oyetola did not achieve at all in government. At least, as it is claimed, he was able to build roads, pay salaries as well as pension of retirees. The government also rehabilitated about 300 primary health care centres across the state and built the flyover at Olaiya in Osogbo, yet, people find it difficult to recall what he has done in office. He should have done more to emphasize his achievement and connect it with the betterment of the lives of the people in Osun.
Rasheed Adebiyi, the Team Lead, Positive Agenda Nigeria (PAN), is a faculty at the Department of Mass Communication, Fountain University, Osogbo, Nigeria.