The last off-cycle governorship election before the 2023 general elections was held last Saturday, July 16, 2022 in Osun State. The outcome was an upset for the ruling All Progressives Congress which had hoped to consolidate its hold on the agrarian state. However, the day after the poll, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ademola Adeleke, winner of the election. The Returning Officer for the poll and Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, announced that Adeleke got a total of 403,371 votes, beating the incumbent, Adegboyega Oyetola of the APC who got 375,027 votes in a keenly contested race.
Osun State joined the league of states with off-season governorship election on November 26, 2010 when former Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the then Action Congress of Nigeria was able to prove electoral violence and malpractices in 10 out of the 30 local government areas of the state during the 2007 governorship election. In a judgment which was read for five hours, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, then of the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, nullified the election in Boripe, Atakumosa, Ayedaade, Boluwaduro, Ife Central, Ife East, Ife South, Ifedayo, Isokan and Odo Otin LGAs. The court resolved that Aregbesola won the election by 198,799 votes against 172,880 lawfully ascribed to former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Since then, Osun joined states like Anambra, Kogi, Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, and Ekiti to have off-cycle governorship elections.
At present, the state has 30 local government areas; 332 registration areas; 3 senatorial districts; 9 federal constituencies and 26 state constituencies. The number of polling units is 3,763 while the number of registered voters is 1,955,657 out of which about 1.5m people collected their permanent voter cards. Although the total number of registered political parties in Nigeria at present stands at 18, only 15 of them contested the July 16, 2022 governorship poll.
On a comparative basis between 2018 and 2022, a number of salient changes that have occurred include the fact that in the September 22, 2018 governorship election in Osun State, 48 candidates contested and INEC used the Smart Card Reader for accreditation. The 2018 poll was held under the Electoral Act 2010, while INEC hasn’t established the Election Result Viewing Portal that it currently uses to transmit election results. INEC in 2018 hasn’t established additional polling units as it did in June 2021. Ahead of the 2018 poll, INEC had also conducted Continuous Voters Registration exercise but it wasn’t the same number of registered voters in 2018 that are in 2022.
In 2018, the submission of party nomination forms was done manually, while in 2022 it was done via a dedicated portal and transmitted electronically. In 2018, INEC used the Central Bank of Nigeria to store sensitive election materials while in the just concluded one, the commission decided to use the Nigerian Air Force. Invariably, the accreditation of voters in 2022 was done via Bimodal Voter Accreditation device and the governorship election was the second to be conducted using the Electoral Act, 2022. While voters’ turnout in 2018 was 45 per cent, it was 42.09 per cent in 2022 according to INEC.
As I have always said, I have an active interest in Osun. It is my ancestral home. I have followed through the pre-election period and I was on several electronic media to discuss the election. Even though I had predicted an APC victory given the incumbency factor in the state, federal might at the centre, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu phenomenon as APC presidential standard bearer and the performance of Oyetola as a governor, however, the electorate in Osun knew better and they voted their conscience and the outcome reflected their wish.
Some of the reasons attributed for the defeat of Oyetola include the face-off between Oyetola and Aregbesola on one hand and that between the former governor, now Minister of Interior and his erstwhile political godfather, Tinubu. News has it that Oyetola has been undermining and destroying all Aregbesola’s legacy projects and programmes. This is despite the fact that Oyetola was Aregbesola’s Chief of Staff during his tenure as the governor. During the 2022 APC governorship primary, Aregbesola did not hide his displeasure for the re-election bid of Oyetola. He openly supported his former Secretary to the State Government, Moshood Adeoti. It was only last Thursday, July 14, 2022 that Justice Inyang Ekwo of Abuja Federal High Court dismissed the suit filed by Adeoti seeking the nullification of Mr Oyetola’s candidacy on the grounds that the governor participated in the primary while serving as a member of the party’s Caretaker Extraordinary and Convention Planning Committee. Invariably, there were two factions of the APC in the lead up to last Saturday poll.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the APC governorship primary in the state, an APC chieftain and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, defected from the APC to become the standard bearer of the Labour Party. Though he came a distant fourth in the race, it, however, showed that the APC went into the election as a ’divided house.’ Not only that, not a few people believe that Adeleke was rigged out in 2018 poll, having narrowly lost due to the margin of lead principle of INEC Electoral Guideline which made the election to be inconclusive on the first ballot; therefore enabling the ruling APC the opportunity to use violence and subterfuge to neutralise PDP’s narrow lead to win the governorship poll in 2018. This time around, the people’s sympathy was more in favour of the governor-elect, Adeleke.
The APC acted petty and unpatriotically by denying the PDP the use of Osun Civic Centre, Technical College, Freedom Park and any public building for its mega rally held last Thursday. This is very much uncalled for and shows lack of political maturity. The invitation of a street musician called Habeeb Okikiola aka Portable, to counter the mega rally of the PDP where Senator Adeleke’s nephew and award-winning singer, Davido, was scheduled to perform also smacks of infantile politics. There’s a trending photo of Portable stripping naked with his bum-bum on the bust sculpture of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of Western Region, and a highly revered political juggernaut in Nigeria. Portable’s irreverent act is viewed as a desecration to the memory of the sage.
Ahead of the poll, the APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, granted a press interview where he claimed that the last Saturday election was a foregone conclusion for the APC as they would win and the opposition could cry and throw tantrums, or even go to court. Many interpreted that to mean the APC wanted to win by hook or crook, thus, the PDP and other opposition parties in the state were on their guard.
Accredited observer groups and journalists have rated the Osun 2022 governorship poll as free, fair, credible, inclusive, peaceful and successful. However, a bug minus from these accolades is the blatant vote trading that took place despite its criminalisation by Sections 121 and 127 of Electoral Act, 2022. The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission claimed to have arrested three persons for engaging in vote trading. This menace should be tackled decisively.
As for the governor-elect, he should be magnanimous in victory and rein in his supporters from maligning the outgoing governor or his party. He should remember the son of whom he is and the illustrious family he is from. Having been sired by a Second Republic Senator, Raji Adeleke, and being a brother to a former executive governor of Osun State and Senator, Isiaka Adeleke, he must do everything to fulfil all his noble campaign promises. The situation in the state is very dire, with high level of unemployment and poverty, infrastructural deficit and insecurity. He should double down on all these and develop the state of the living spring.
Congratulations and best wishes!