The Impending Calamity Called Osun Gubernatorial Election, By Awodire Olatunde

There is an African axiom that says ‘he, who the gods wants to kill, they first make mad’. That is merely a polite way of saying, ‘a dog intent on getting lost will not heed the hunter’s whistle’.

Osun State Governor Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in his bid to install a successor against the wish of party members have turned himself into modern day Pharaoh: he has deafened his ears to reasoning. Those who fail to learn from history are consumed by it. There are antecedents to show that Aregbesola’s electoral choice is fraught with danger and failures. Since he became governor in 2014, Aregbesola has not won any election he has not participated in. Under his watch and despite serious opposition from well-meaning party stalwarts, he imposed candidates that lost Ife Central by-election to the opposition in 2016.

In the same vein, the APC lost woefully to PDP Isiaka Adeleke in the 2017 Osun West Senatorial by-election. Is thunder about to strike thrice at the same spot? Is the fear being nursed by party faithfuls across the state unjustified? Is Aregbesola and his handlers once again taking Osun APC for a ride and sacrificing the welfare of the party for selfish interest and personal ego?

The signs are very ominous. Indeed, no election in the history of Nigeria has been shrouded in so much confusion and indignation. 17 aspirants were screened by the Screening Committee on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. One week after not a single aspirant has been given screening certificate. As if that is not enough, just two days ago, the party National Chairman in the Person of Adams Oshiomhole pronounced at the NWC meeting that the candidate of the party would be decided via direct primaries using wards as polling centres.

While the APC constitution gives room for direct and indirect primaries, there is a reason why APC or indeed any party in Nigeria has never used direct primaries in a contest involving more than one ‘genuine’ candidate. There is the argument that direct primaries was used in 2014 APC Gubernatorial primaries. But that point is negated by the fact that APC 2014 primaries was a kangaroo primaries with only an incumbent Aregbesola as the sole candidate. It was more of an affirmation than a competitive primaries. If it was so viable, why has the party or its predecessor, the ACN, AC or AD not adopted it previously. Why did it become suddenly fashionable at a time Aregbesola’s candidate is facing imminent defeat in a free and fair primaries?

Contrary to what the party Chairman and National Chairman would have us believe, the sudden resolve for direct primaries is not altruistic and not meant to serve the larger interest of the party. The process is so convulated and constricted that the conclave to elect a Pope pales into insignificance.

A day to their so-called ‘direct’ primaries, no aspirant, except the Governor’s stooge (Gboyega Oyetola) has seen the membership list. It is not only immoral, it is illegal to deny aspirants the right to verify and authenticate list of party members meant to choose a candidate. It stands to reason that the only reason the Party Chairman and the establishment is hoarding the membership list from 16 of the 17 aspirants is to perpetrate fraud.

There are already evidence that membership list is being doctored in such a way as to undermine a transparent process. In the last few days, OPF – a nebulous group driven by elements like Ajibola Bashiru (Osun Commissioner for Justice), Cabinet members Remi Omowaiye, Bola Ilori, Biyi Odunlade have let loose their hatchet men to collate names of 100 party members each from all the 334 wards in the state. This method is as sinister as it is efficient. The party membership register has not been updated in over 4 years, affording ample room for fraudulent manipulation. In case you are trying to find out these elements antecedents, it is not far-fetched.

They are the same kitchen cabinet of Emperor Aregbesola who did not only oversee serial election loss in Osun but also blatantly engaged in anti-party activities in Ondo State in 2017 by supporting the candidate of AD against their own APC. As usual, they also lost the election. These are the same desperados bent on foisting a fait accompli and subverting the will of loyal party faithfuls.

Unfortunately for them the people are wiser. Years of oppression and imposition have opened the peoples eyes to see beyond the smokescreen. Just two days ago, 26 out of 32 State Exco members sat and unanimously sought the removal of the state party chairman for what the described as ‘dicatorial and divisive acts of imposition capable of derailing the party’s chance of winning 2018 gubernatorial election’.

All Osun West leaders (including the aspirants and cabinet members in Aregbesola government) have dissociated themselves from any attempt at imposition and have threatened to boycott the primaries if the party insist on overnight direct primaries. All the 44 ward Chairmen in Osun East has followed suit with a press conference denouncing the desperate attempts to shift the goal post at the middle of the game. They, like Osun West, have also taken their case to Chief Bisi Akande in the hope of having a last minute solution. Osun has never been this divided in its history.

Tomorrow is primaries, yet, there is no guidelines or modalities for the concocted direct primaries they are intent on shoving down our throats. Security reports have prevented the Primary Committee led by Governor Abdul-aziz Yari of Zamfara state from engaging the aspirants. There is the distinct possibility that they would not show up. No one is prepared for any primaries. Since the date set by INEC for submission of candidates name (form CF 001 and 002) is sacrosanct, the unpalatable prospect of Osun APC inability to meet the deadline looms large. Unless, it receives sense, Osun APC is staring at creating an inglorious history of being the only party (incumbent for that) to fail to have a candidate for its gubernatorial election. Of course, there is the option of consensus.

In fact, it is alleged in many quarters that the ultimate design of Aregbesola is to create melee and grand confusion in such a manner as to make the emergence of a candidate through a primary impossible with the aim of picking Oyetola as a consensus candidate. That plan in itself is dead on arrival. If Oyetola cannot even navigate a free and fair primary of party members, pray, how does he intend to win a general election. You dont need a rocket scientist to know that that the reason Oyetola is running from pillar to post and trying to subvert the process is because he is hugely unpopular. You cannot blame him too much. Oyetola lacks the requisite practical experience to run for any elective office. He has not contested as a councillor in his life.

How anyone thinks the highest office in the land should be bequeathed to such greenhorn defies all logic. Oyetola desperation and the difficulties he has faced despite all the resources and state apparatus at his disposal is a clear indication of his well celebrated unpopularity. The people have been taken for a ride and pushed to the wall and they would do everything to retain their dignity.

There is no doubt these are difficult times for Osun APC and the only redeeming feature is for it to retrace its step, field a loyal and widely acceptable candidate that can rally disillusioned and dispirited members for victory at the polls. Aregbesola and whoever is controlling him must know that the interest of the party must supercede personal interest. It is evident that Oyetola is not flying and attempt to foist him on the electorate is a recipe for disaster. Osun West is a classical example on how to build concensus by listening to genuine agitations of party member. The gains of Ekiti must not be eroded and made a pyrrhic victory by wrong choice of candidate.

The falling of a dry leaf is a warning to the fresh one. Aregbesola should not leave an empty shell, a carcass of a party for members that have stood by his side through his trying period. That would be the height of unforgivable betrayal.
AWODIRE OLATUNDE writes from Atakumosa East Local Government Area of Osun State

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