Osun Primary: Aregbesola, A Godfather Floored At Home

The Osun State governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress has come and gone, but not without the usual grumbles from perceived losers, writes BOLA BAMIGBOLA

The gladiators were threatening fire and brimstone just days before the last Saturday’s Osun All Progressives Congress governorship primary. Many indigenes living outside the state had called their kith and kin to stay indoors and avoid being caught in an envisaged web of violence. Osun political issues dominated national discuss for days in anticipation of a big upset.

But an hour after the congress kicked off across the state, all danger signs vanished, leaving one of the two groups locked in supremacy battle in severe lamentation, sighting irregularities in the exercise. However, there were signs that the incumbent governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, was coasting home to a landslide victory in the APC governorship primary against Moshood Adeoti, known to be the Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola’s candidate, and Lasun Yusuf. The race was not as keenly contested as expected.

Maybe if the Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, had not openly declared support for the man that served his administration as Secretary when he held sway as the governor of Osun State, Moshood Adeoti, against Oyetola, who was seeking the APC governorship ticket, the outcome could have been different.

Aregbesola, a tested politician of no mean repute, has not only carved a niche for himself in the political history of Osun, being the only man till date, that would serve two terms as governor and successfully superintend the election of a successor. After the Ijebu-Jesa declaration where Aregbesola not only endorsed Adeoti as the man to replace Oyetola on the ballot bearing APC ticket in the July governorship poll, but also threw jabs at his political godfathers, ex-Lagos governor, Senator Bola Tinubu and ex-Osun governor, Bisi Akande, the stake could not have been higher.

Closely following the declaration of support for Adeoti was the controversial incident of shooting by some security men in the convoy of the minister in Old Garage area of Osogbo that raised some dust which remained unsettled after many days. In the two rallies held by Aregbesola’s group in Iwo and Ikire to mobilise votes for Adeoti ahead of the governorship primary, the ex-governor gave reasons why Oyetola should not be the candidate bearing the APC flag in the governorship poll.

Strong words coming from Aregbesola, coupled with the intimidating crowd that attended the two major rallies his group held ahead of the primary election, would send no little jitters down the spine of even the bravest supporter of Oyetola as the day for the primary election drew near. But from Oyetola’s end, strong words from his predecessor pointing at the exit door for him in the gubernatorial contest was met with almost dead silence, save for replies cum clarification occasionally offered by his Special Adviser on Political Affairs, Sunday Akere.

Apprehension, complaints on eve of the poll

Many APC members in attendance had concluded that both former SSG, Adeoti, and the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf, would not attend the stakeholders meeting called by the Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq-led governorship primary committee on the eve of the exercise. The stakeholders meeting attended by many bigwigs, including Governor Oyetola, had barely commenced after a few minutes delay before the Secretary of the committee, Senator Julius Ucha, craved indulgence to delay take-off of the meeting for the two other aspirants to join, when Yusuf entered in company of few aides.

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The atmosphere at the meeting held within the premises of the APC state secretariat amidst tight security, however, became more charged, when Adeoti, who came in few minutes after Yusuf, in company of Rasaq Salinsile, the chairman of the faction in Osun APC supported by Aregbesola, the chairman of The Osun Progressives, Lowo Adebiyi, joined the meeting.

Addressing the aspirants and their supporters, Governor Abdulrasaq, having observed how tense the atmosphere was, described the contest as a family affair and urged members of the party to come out in large numbers to vote for their preferred aspirant.

He said, “We have communicated necessary information to all the aspirants and that was done through SMS, WhatsApp and other means, and all the aspirants have shown willingness to come. They were informed to come with 10 supporters and their agents in the 332 wards. We came here in peace. Our party is a peaceful party and we are going to do everything to ensure that peace is maintained throughout the entire process. Fairness, equity, justice, credibility and peace are our watchwords.

“I want you all to come out peacefully and in large numbers to vote for your preferred aspirant. What we are looking for is peace and I can assure you that we will leave no stone unturned to ensure a peaceful, free and fair exercise. To us as a committee, peace, love, unity and oneness are our watchwords. Let’s be our brother’s keepers. What we should be celebrating are peace, love and oneness and as we are moving into the field, we should go in peace. We are here to do justice to all aspirants.”

Speaking, Adeoti lamented the unavailability of the party’s membership register that would be used for the exercise, just as Adebiyi, the chairman of TOP, also said state political appointees should not be engaged as local government returning officers.

Ucha, while responding, said the party membership register to be used was brought from Abuja by employees of the APC national secretariat and he presented a copy to Adeoti for verification. He also said retuning officers were appointed by the APC national leadership.

How Oyetola won

Earlier, it was difficult to predict comfortably who was likely to win the poll considering the incumbent governor and Aregbesola’s popularity in the state, the outcome of the primary election was an indication that the minister had joined perceived political godfathers like Rochas Okorocha and Adams Oshiomhole, who could not retain political control of their various states.

On the day of the party’s governorship primary, many business owners in Osogbo did not open early in anticipation of violence. Traffic was light along major routes such as Osogbo/Ikirun, as well as Osogbo/Gbongan road, as many residents stayed indoors. There was also heavy security presence around Osun APC secretariat, but there was no unusual deployment of security in other parts of the town. Although many APC members arrived at the venue of the exercise early at Oloki Ward 9 in Ede, and some other ward collation centres visited by our correspondent in Osogbo and Olorunda local government areas, the governorship primary did not commence at scheduled time.

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Officials that would conduct the exercise in many of the wards arrived at their various venues around 9.30 am and pasted the membership register for the primary. Also, in some of the wards visited, only the agent of the incumbent governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, was present. At Iremo Ward 3, Saint Peters Anglican Primary School, Ile Ife, voting did not commence until 10 am due to the late arrival of officials.

Oyetola’s agent was present at the polling centre, but an agent of Adeoti, though was said to be within the premises, did not appear until exactly noon when accreditation was concluded and counting of votes commenced. When the officials in charge of the exercise, directed voters to line up in front of poster of their preferred aspirant, a large number of party supporters that had streamed to the venue surged forward towards Oyetola’s poster.

Obviously not scared even with large number of party members that had queued in front of Oyetola’s poster, the agent of Adeoti for the centre appeared and stretched his poster in front of about 10 members that had formed a separate line. Before the vote could be counted, few people among those that had chosen Adeoti changed their minds and joined the already long queue of Oyetola’s supporters.

When our correspondent arrived at Ifofin Ward 8, Ilesa East Local Government Area, where Aregbesola used to vote, a few party members were met milling around the factional APC chairman of the ward. Aregbesola was absent, though the primary was held in the area and Oyetola was declared the winner. Oyetola won by 309 votes against 146 recorded for Moshood Adeoti, the candidate supported by Aregbesola.

But speaking with our correspondent, the factional Chairman of the APC in the ward, Adegoke Saheed, alleged manipulation, even as he confirmed Aregbesola’s non-participation in the exercise.

He said, “We concluded (voting) but it is unfortunate that the process did not go smoothly. They brought a party register that was not the original. I supervised the registration and I told those that brought the register that it was not the original. So, people that are supporting us; we could not find their names in the register. I told them the list has been doctored but they did not listen to me. When they wanted to count, they said those that voted for Oyetola are over 300, and when they counted those that voted for us, they were up to 146. They disrupted the exercise and said they should not count again.

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“They didn’t bring the result sheet. They just packed their papers and ran away. This is the ward of the minister, Rauf Aregbesola. I was told when I asked about his whereabouts that Ogbeni went on an official assignment. He was not around.”

In Osogbo and Olorunda local government areas, Oyetola got overwhelming support while in Iwo, the hometown of the aspirant,backed by Aregbesola, especially his Gidigbo Ward, Post Office Area, the governor got 9,432, while Adeoti garnered 2,543. But Adeoti’s supporters said voting process was disrupted in the area.

Similarly, in Ile-Ife, an ex-deputy governor, Iyiola Omisore, and other political office holders in the area took charge and rallied support for Oyetola. In the 10 local government areas in Osun Central, major political office holders rallied support for Oyetola. Being an incumbent governor confers on Oyetola some influence and privileges, which in no small measure worked in his favour during the exercise. The unequalled ubiquity of his supporters at every ward across the state put pressure on the few supporters of Adeoti and many of them changed their minds at the point of counting votes.

When the result of the much anticipated governorship primary was announced by Abdulrahman, Oyetola was declared the winner, having polled 222,169, against 12,921 that his closest challenger, Adeoti, supported by Aregbesola, got. Yusuf got 460 and placed third. Oyetola won in all the 332 wards and local government across the state.

Notwithstanding, a relatively peaceful atmosphere under which the primary was held, an APC member in Ward 6, Odogbo, Atakumosa East Local Government Area of Osun State, Job Akinola, was shot dead at the venue of the governorship primary. The deceased was said to be among party members that were on the queue waiting to be accredited when some armed men stormed the venue and pulled him out.

Oyetola did not win, says Aregbesola’s faction

Rasaq Salinsile-led faction of the APC in the state on Monday rejected the result of last Saturday’s governorship primary elections. The group backed by Aregbesola had supported ex-secretary Adeoti who eventually lost to the incumbent governor. A statement signed by Abiodun Agboola, the factional Publicity Secretary of the APC in the state, after a stakeholders meeting of the group, stated that the primary election was fraught with fraud and manipulation.

Osun APC members have chosen their governorship candidate – Akere

Reacting, the Special Adviser to the state governor on Political Affairs, Akere, said APC members in the state had decided their preferred governorship candidate. “We are not surprised they rejected the result. While the primary was on, they raised frivolous allegations that could not hold water. Osun APC members have decided who their candidate is. The governor has extended an olive branch to all aggrieved party members. Those that rejected the result can go on appeal but they will not get any result,” Akere said.

Source:- Punch Ng

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