The much anticipated Osun state governorship election was last Saturday 16 July 2022 contested, won and lost. At the end of polling, Senator Ademola Adeleke, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was declared the winner having received a total of 403,371 votes to defeat his closest challenger and incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC). While PDP won in 17 out of 30 local governments in Osun state, APC won in 13 local governments. And quite against pre-election trepidation, the election turned out to be relatively peaceful and violence-free.
Many analysts have undertaken a review of the election with their analyses producing varying conclusions. This piece seeks to highlight the various losers in the election as well as the nature of the losses.
1. All Progressives Congress: APC is the primary loser of the Osun 2022 guber election. With the outcome of the election, APC has lost its control of government after 12 years in the saddle. The party would by now be thinking of life as an opposition party. This new status will certainly be challenging for the party given that odds are usually stacked against opposition parties in Nigeria.
2. Governor Adegboyega Oyetola: The governor represents the chief loser of the election. It is interesting that the governor lost to the same candidate he defeated in the 2018 contest. The much-touted private sector orientation of the governor which his promoters pride as an asset has proved to be a political liability. Many of the pro-poor efforts and public engagement activities of the Aregbesola tenure were roundly terminated by Oyetola either because he thought they are wasteful ventures or they negate his personal or ideological persuasions. The consequence of this is citizen alienation from the governmental processes which in turn brewed citizen discontent.
By now, the governor must have been sufficiently briefed by his aides and party chieftains about the outcome of the election. The briefings will guide him in his next line of action either to pursue a legal challenge of the official results of the election or to accept defeat in good faith.
3. The Progressive camp. The progressive family in Osun state comprising the Osun Progressives (TOP), Oranmiyan group, Youth Solidarity Front and other civil society groups with progressive leaning is also a collective loser in last Saturday’s election. At least for the next four years, the progressive camp will be excluded from the governance arena.
4. Organised Labour in Osun state: One prominent pre-election event in the state was the joint Labour Support rally which was organised to promote Oyetola’s candidacy. Like I did say in the previous piece, if those who organised the endorsement rally represented the rank and file of the Labour Union in Osun state, then organised Labour in the state is a prime loser in the election.
5. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola: In a way, the outcome of the election constitutes a personal loss to the former Osun governor. The developmental state which he laboured to build in Osun state, with the attendant social citizenship and heavy social spending, has been partially distorted by the outgoing Oyetola administration. With the outcome of the election, developmentalism is faced with the prospect of total erosion.
6. President Muhammadu Buhari: While some analysts commended PMB’s neutrality, it remains unclear if his neutrality, allofness if you will, is driven by his commitment to the democratic cause or it is a deliberate act to undermine the interest of certain tendencies within the party. The same aloofness he demonstrated in the politics of selection of leadership of the National Assembly in 2015. There is no denying the fact that PMB’s indecisiveness or lack of assertiveness has wreaked substantial damage on APC. As the leader of party government, he is imposed an obligation to enhance the base of his party within the electoral space. With the animosity and absurdity that marked the presidential nomination of the APC and the loss of Edo and Osun states to PDP, PMB has tragically failed to provide leadership for the APC.
The outcome of the election has reinforced the issue-free nature of electoral politics in Nigeria. In all the accounts that have sought to explain the crushing defeat of APC, few attributed its loss to the performance of the Oyetola administration in social delivery or policy choices. From what I have gathered in the past few days, I can advance two key reasons for Oyetola’s loss. These are the Aregbesola/TOP factor and vote buying. In the build-up to the election, Oyetola’s men including Sunday Akere and Senator Ajibola Basiru referred to TOP as a feather weight with no significant electoral value. They also labeled Aregbesola a political spent force who no longer enjoys popular appeal. It is amusing that Oyetola’s men could think so lowly of Aregbesola who, in spite of what some people may see as his failings and excesses, remains the face of progressivism in Osun state with extensive and entrenched structures/networks. There were unconfirmed reports that Aregbesola instructed his supporters to cast their ballot during the election but in doing so should not waste their votes. From the outcome of the election, Aregbesola’s supporters understood their leader. In terms of vote buying, while the two leading parties allegedly induced voters with money, PDP practically outspent APC.
The outcome of the election has implications for the 2023 presidential election. Given what we have read about Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s roots and interests, there is a sense in which we can say the APC presidential candidate was literally on the ballot last Saturday. And to the extent that election is a referendum, the outcome of the election is a rejection of Tinubu and his tendencies. Ahead of 2023, Tinubu needs to embark on aggressive fence mending and reconciliation in Osun state. For the APC, preparations for the next governorship election should start now. Party leaders and their strategists should put the defeat behind them and set to work immediately.
Genuine concerns have been raised in some quarters about the capacity of Senator Adeleke and PDP to provide quality governance in Osun state. The fears are premised on the pedigree of the governor-elect as a green horn in public administration as well as the public perception of the PDP as a coalition of contrarian interests who are more interested in primitive accumulation than citizen welfare. Senator Adeleke and PDP must prove cynics wrong by making intentional efforts to assemble a cerebral team capable of delivering people-based governance in Osun state. Osun people are anxiously waiting for the new helmsman to meet their legitimate aspirations. We wish the Ede-born Governor-elect well in this task.
By Adekunle Animashaun
_Adekunle Animashaun, a member of the Positive Agenda Nigeria, teaches Political Science & Public Administration at Fountain University, Osogbo, Nigeria_