Osun 2018: Odds Aregbesola Must Surmount

If Governor Rauf Aregbesola contests for a senatorial seat after his tenure, the evidence on the ground in Osun State points to the stark possibility of a monumental loss. Virtually all politicians in the state say it is as bad as that: Aregbe has depleted every fund of goodwill available for him!

That train of thought must have informed the decision of a stalwart of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Fatai Oyedele to declare recently that Osun people would use the forthcoming governorship election in the state to send Ogbeni Rauf back to Lagos, from where he came.

Against the background of that ambitious claim, what could be the possible hurdles facing Aregbesola as he plans to leave a favoured successor in Osogbo, before his exit? That also throws up the question that since members of his party believe that the governor did not achieve success with his mandate, whether it is plausible for him to anoint a successor.

Some chieftains of APC in Osun say the smartest strategy that Aregbesola should adopt is neutrality. But Ogbeni does not present himself as one capable of playing aloof in the succession politics within his area of jurisdiction, particularly in the light of his visibility in the Ondo affair.

As such, even before Oyedele dropped his improvised politically explosive communication, Governor Aregbesola must have known that whatever cards he would want to play in 2018 will be met with resistance.

Indications that Aregbesola must have got a pre-knowledge of the forces ranged against emerged him during the inauguration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in Akure. The Osun governor did not show up, perhaps, out of quiet recollections of his role in the immediate aftermath of the Ondo APC governorship primary brouhaha.

Oyedele latched on that as he fired darts in the direction of the governor, when he alluded to the possibility of Aregbesola shifting his political apparatus to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in order to prosecute his succession plan.

While accusing Ogbeni of running APC in Osun as his personal estate, Oyedele disclosed that other leaders of the party would resist him as the succession politics begin to unfold. “We were at the inauguration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, but some APC members did not show up, because they were partly APC and partly AD.”

A combination of factors is behind the threat to vanquish Governor Aregbesola’s political future in Osun, especially his 2018 succession agenda. The nature and clout of those angling to succeed the incumbent, as well as, the interplay of political portents like demography, geopolitics and the score card are some of the major offerings in the mixed basket of the exit challenges facing Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.

Contenders, Demographics, Geopolitics
GOVERNOR Aregbesola belongs to the Yoruba subgroup of Ijesa. And along with that precinct, are the Ife and Ilesa. In voting population, the governor’s quarters represent just a quarter of a senatorial zone. But although his name would not be on the ballot, the fact of his poor base would definitely affect the governor’s capacity to build winning support for whoever may become his ultimate preferred candidate.

Sources hinted that Aregbesola is divided between choosing his present Chief of Staff, Dekola Ejigbo and Speaker of Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Salami Najeem Folasayo. Should any of the two become the governor’s point’s man in the succession battle, he should contend with present deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yusuf Lasun and Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke.

Political luck has always smiled on Senator Adeleke in the state. Apart from serving two terms in the Senate on the platforms of the two major political parties, representing Osun West on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from 2007 to 2011 and 2015 on APC, he was a former governor.

However, it is debatable whether his political fortune would be enhanced in 2018 by the fact of his governorship and senatorial outings. This is because, although he gained second access to the Senate by hopping from PDP to APC, that excursion may lay on his aspiration a frustrating incubus.

Like Senator Adeleke, Deputy Speaker, Lasun, hails from Osun West. Lasun has age in his favour, as such on a good political weather; Lasun’s aspiration may turn out as the undoing of Senator Adeleke in Osun West. Moreover, before his governorship was prematurely truncated by the military in 1993, Adeleke was alleged to have favoured only Ede town and empowered just his acolytes.

On his part, Lasun has always circulated around the progressive parties, flowing with the Yoruba political lineup from Alliance of Democracy (AD), through the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to the APC, on which platform he reversed his earlier losses for the House of Representatives seat.

The fact that it was during an economic empowerment programme organised by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives that Alhaji Oyedele delivered the threat of sending Aregbesola back to Lagos, goes a long way to buttress the popular impression in Osun that the next governor of the state would not be a favourite of the incumbent governor.

But while some of Aregbesola’s loyalists, particularly those close to Speaker Salami; believe that the governor would fall back on the support of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, others allege that the insistence of Lasun to retain the position of Deputy Speaker against Tinubu’s interest, would pave the way for another showdown come 2018.

in addition, Lasun, being a loyal ally of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, may get a boost, going by what played out in Ondo governorship where Tinubu’s preference was not reckoned with. The question Aregbesola camp would be itching to provide answers to is which aspirant it could throw up to beat Lasun.

Aregbesola’s Eight Years’ Score Card
ANOTHER big source of stiff challenge to Aregbesola’s succession plan is his eight years’ scorecard. It is on record that the Osun governor is yet to make appointments to the state cabinet for the greater part of his second term in office. No doubt, that could be the governor’s strategy for meeting the challenges of the parlous state of national economy and dwindling revenue accruing to the state.

Opinions are sharply divided among the people of Osun on the performance of Governor Aregbesola in office. While some credit him with giant initiatives, including infrastructural development, particularly in his first term, some insist that his performance does not commend praise.

But the greatest blemish of the administration was when a serving Judge in the State Judiciary, Justice Folahanmi Oloyede, petitioned the House of Assembly, urging the lawmakers to impeach Governor Aregbesola on account of alleged financial recklessness.

Justice Oloyede narrated the inability of the governor to pay pensions, salaries and allowances for periods ranging from eight to 11 months, stressing that the government accumulated debts “beyond the capacity of the state’s internally generated revenue.”

The petitioner also alleged that, while the workers were being owed salary arrears, the governor and his deputy, continued to enjoy their security votes in hundreds of millions. “Their action in this respect is, as illegal as, it is immoral and unconscionable. It is an evidence of their inability to discharge the functions of their office. There is therefore no legal or moral basis for their continued stay in office,” the judge declared.

Although the petition was subjected to the vagaries of political gesticulation, the image of the government remained at the mercy of public suspicion and distance. Most people in Osun who said they expected Tinubu to put in a word, expressed the belief that the former Lagos governor was “over protecting his boy in Osun.”

In 2014, another Southwest governor lost his second term bid by running what most observers described as elitist government. Presently in Osun State, most residents say they have not forgotten Justice Oloyede’s conclusions regarding the governor’s style.

Would the governor’s succession headache begin in APC or would he as Oyedele mooted, set up a preferred candidate in an alternate platform to watch how Lasun and Senator Adeleke jostle for the party’s ticket. 2018 would definitely present the ultimate test of Aregbesola’s staying power in politics.