Why and How Aregbesola Won the Osun Election By Niyi Akinnaso
They boasted that he would lose. They distorted his achievements and cooked false allegations against him during the campaigns. They over-policed and over-militarised his state during the election. They arrested some of his party leaders and commissioners on the eve of the election. They harassed his party agents in some Local Government Areas, and even drove some away completely. In a final bid to snatch victory, they attempted to disrupt the collation of results at the INEC office.
But he hurried to the finish line so fast that they could not catch up with him. And, so, by 7:30am on Sunday, August 10, 2014, he, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of the All Progressives Congress, was duly returned as the winner of the Osun governorship election held on Saturday, August 9, 2014.
The mathematics of his victory is interesting for at least two reasons. First, he scored 394,684 votes, while his closest rival, Iyiola Omisore of the Peoples Democratic Party scored292,747 votes. The margin of Aregbesola’s victory was so clear at 101, 937 votes that Omisore would not be “the next Governor of Osun State” as he was introduced to a rally in Osogbo by President Goodluck Jonathan the previous Saturday.
Second, Aregbesola’s votes translate to 55.02 per cent of the 717,321 valid votes cast in the election, while Omisore’s translate to 40.81 per cent. What is interesting about these numbers is the predictive value of a poll conducted one week before the election by African Consulting Professionals, which suggested a 54 per cent chance of victory for Aregbesola and a 33 per cent chance for Omisore. The relative improvement in Omisore’s chance may have been due to the manipulative tactics allegedly employed in some polling booths, especially in the four Ife LGAs, his home base.
Be that as it may, there could be no better vindication for good governance and effective performance than Aregbesola’s electoral victory. A clear majority of Osun voters rejected detractors, by using their votes to say “O’Yes” to his educational programme; to feeding their children in school and employing thousands of caterers to cook for them; to assisting farmers in producing food, fish, and eggs for feeding the children and other Osun citizens; to giving the children free school uniform and establishing a garment factory in the process, thereby providing employment for Osun youths; to completing, or embarking on, numerous road projects across the state, including a ring-road around Osogbo and at least 10 kilometres of road in each of 30 LGAs; to keeping the state flood-free by dredging at least 123 kilometres of waterways; to the employment of 40,000 youths so far through the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme; and to training no less than 5,000 youths in Information Technology and providing paramedic training to at least 400.
Osun voters also saw through other kinds of misinformation. They knew that, in line with his educational reforms, Aregbesola has, according to reports, so far hired over 7,000 additional teachers and built over 100 new state-of-the-art school complexes for primary and secondary schools; increased funding grants for primary and secondary schools from N7.4 million and N171m to N424m and N427m, respectively; and worked hard to increase the state’s Internally Generated Revenue from N300 million and below to over N1.6bn. He did not leave out the elderly for whom he provided social security in the form of monthly allowances and free medical service.
I have taken pains to document these achievements only as an illustration of why the majority of Osun voters re-elected Aregbesola. Additional reasons have to do with his popularity and accessibility. He not only held monthly sessions for citizens to ask him any question, he also literally walked the streets of Osun towns and villages on a regular basis. He never missed singing and dancing with the citizens at the slightest opportunity.
He may not be flamboyant. He may not even “look like a governor”. But you cannot take the knowledge of “practical politics” away from him. Not “amala” politics, but the kind of pragmatic politics that maximises the connection between the government and the people. Anyone who knows Aregbesola closely knows that he not only thinks about improving Osun, he works out ways of achieving the best and the most with limited resources. For virtually every single project he embarks upon, he ensures that it generates employment for the citizens. This is especially true of the school feeding, uniform, food security, and building construction projects.
One interesting aspect of Aregbesola’s electoral success was the unparalleled cooperation among his cabinet members and supporters. There were no turncoats among them and the APC was intact in Osun, where the vast majority of the population identify with the party. These are indications of effective leadership in a state previously governed by the PDP. No wonder Aregbesola’s ratings on character, personality and credibility remained consistently high in opinion poll after opinion poll.
The reverse was the case with the PDP candidate, whose negative baggage was a hinderance to his electability. Incidentally, he carried the negativity into the campaign by focusing on misinforming voters about Aregbesola and his programmes. Rather than induce voters by selling his programmes, he paid more attention to the distribution of rice and kerosene.
If Aregbesola did not campaign effectively throughout the state to correct all the misinformation, he probably would have lost more votes. But campaign he did! Anyone in doubt should go to Youtube to watch clips of his campaign rallies. I particularly recommend the Ikirun rally where Aregbesola sang, and danced to, the Gbaguro o see je lyric. Besides, under the effective supervision of his campaign coordinator, Senator Sola Adeyeye, hundreds of foot soldiers combed the nooks and corners of Osun, educating voters and encouraging them to vote in spite of heavy security. This may have accounted for why up to 54 per cent of registered voters and 74 percent of those who collected their Permanent Voter Card came out to exercise their franchise.
If the intention of the over-militarisation of Osun was to achieve voter suppression to create any room for mischief, Osun voters were not scared. The voter turnout of 54 per cent was higher than Ekiti’s, largely because the people wanted to ensure that Aregbesola was re-elected.
Three issues attend the over-militarisation of a state during election time. First, it opens the ruling PDP to suspicions, ranging from voter intimidation to creating room for mischief by its candidates’ supporters, including ballot stuffing and outright ballot swapping. That’s why suspicions attended the Ekiti governorship election, where the PDP candidate unexpectedly won. Second, these suspicions tend to override whatever good intentions President Goodluck Jonathan might have, which might have included the prevention of electoral manipulation. What he may not know is how his party’s candidates and their supporters take advantage of heavy security presence to harass and arrest supporters of the opposition. His failure to condemn such actions in Ekiti and Osun suggests complicity.
Third, the question remains as to whether heavy security presence could be achieved during the 2015 nationwide election. If only states governed by the opposition are militarised, like Ekiti and Osun were, then it would be clear that over-militarisation was intended to put the PDP at an advantage. It can only be hoped that it is not the case.
True, over-militarisation is a deplorable method of ensuring free and fair elections in a democracy. If it is used as a stepping stone to sanitising our democracy and eliminating electoral manipulations, then it is all well and good for now. However, it should not be used as cover for intimidating, harassing, and arresting members of the opposition.
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