29 November 2009

Nigeria: Osun - Governorship Race Hots Up


Lagos — As at the last count, no fewer than 30 aspirants have signified their intention to jostle for the plum job of the governor of Osun State. Worried by the large number of aspirants for the race, the leadership of the party in the state under the chairmanship of Chief Ademola Rasaq, has evolved an agenda aimed at trimming the number of the aspirants to an appreciable level.

According to the party's guideline, any aspirant wishing to vie for the governorship would pay a sum of N3 million to the party's coffers before he could obtain the intention form. But undeterred by this huge sum, many aspirants stormed the party's secretariat to express their interest in the governorship race with a sum of N3 million.

According to a source from the party, those who picked the forms included Senator Iyiola Omisore, former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation, Chief Tunde Odanye, governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy(AD) at the 2007 election, who recently decamped to the PDP and Mr. Diran Odeyemi, a Special Adviser to Oyo State Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala on Special Duties.

Others were Alhaji Wahab Olatoye, Alhaji Fatai Sarumi, Chief (Mrs.) Remi Olowu, former Chairperson of National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA), Elder Peter Babalola, Chief of Staff to Osun State Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Alhaji Fatai Akinade Akinbade, Secretary to the State government.

Also in the race are Hon. Gbenga Onigbogi, Chief Femi Alafe-Aluko, Alhaji Lateef Bakare, Mr. Akin Jegede, Chief Dosu Fatokun, Ambassador Segun Bamigbetan-Baju and Hon. Wahab Toye.

As at now, no one can actually predict where the pendulum as regards the governorship ticket will swing. But it is evident that the race will be between Osun-west and Osun-east senatorial districts as a result of the existing zoning arrangement. The incumbent governor hails from the central senatorial zone and hence, the zone is not qualified to participate at the next governorship race.

Of the two zones, Osun-east, made up of Ile-Ife and Ijesa communities, is more qualified for the job because the zone is yet to produce the state governor since the creation of the state. The first civilian governor of Osun State, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, hails from Ede in Osun-west senatorial district, while Chief Bisi Akande, who ruled between 1999 and 2003 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), represented the Central senatorial district. The incumbent also hails from the central district. If the rotational policy is upheld, the slot will no doubt go to Ife/Ijesha zone.

However, only two governorship aspirants picked the intention forms in Osun-west with disregard to the zoning arrangement. They are Akinbade, the SSG, who hails from Olaoluwa Local Government and Elder Peter Babalola who is Oyinlola's Chief of Staff (COS). Babalola hails from Ikire in Irewole Local Government Area of the state. The argument of the duo was that Adeleke who is from the zone was not allowed to serve out his four-year mandate before he was kicked out by the late General Sani Abacha-led military coup of 1993. They also cited a precedent where former governors like Chief Olusegun Osoba (Ogun) and Abba Buka Ibrahim (Yobe) came back to serve out their full terms after their first tenure was terminated abruptly.

Apart from the duo, other aspirants in the race are mainly from Osun East senatorial district. They are Fani-Kayode, (Ife Zone) and Omisore and Bamigbetan-Baju, the Nigeria Ambassador to Cuba, also from Ife.

Others who hail from Ijesa zone are Odanye, Odeyemi, Olatoye, Sarumi, and Chief (Mrs.) Olowu, Onigbogi, a member of House of Representatives, Aluko, Bakare, Fatai Sarumi, Jegede, Fatokun, and Wahab, a former majority leader in Osun State House of Assembly.

The number of persons who picked the intention forms for senatorial elections in the PDP are yet to be known, but it was gathered that Oyinlola has already obtained the form with the intention to go to the Senate at the expiration of his tenure in 2011. He will have to slug it out with the incumbent Senator Simeon Oduoye who currently represents Osun Central in the upper legislative chamber. Another person aspiring to go to the Senate in the district is Reverend Bunmi Jenyo, who has also obtained the intention form.

From Osun-west, the incumbent senator in the district, Adeleke, has equally picked the PDP nomination form to return to the Senate in 2011, while in Osun-east, it was learnt that Hon. Gbenga Olowofoyeku has also obtained the PDP nomination form.

The PDP Vice Chairman in the state, Otunba Sunday Ojo-Williams, said it would be difficult to ascertain the number of aspirants who had obtained intention forms in all categories of elective offices, explaining that the party was still working out the modalities for the screening of the candidates."We don't know how many people obtained forms yet, but we are still working out everything. The press will be briefed appropriately when everything is done," he stated.

However, some election petitions which arose from the 2007 general election are yet to be dispensed with at the courts. Principal among them is the petition against the election of Oyinlola by the candidate of the Action Congress (AC) at the April 14, 2007 governorship election, Mr Rauf Aregbesola. Although the first state election petitions tribunal led by Justice Thomas Naron dismissed the petition, the Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, ordered a retrial of the petition by another panel.

The political atmosphere is however, still hazy as the outcome of the on going petition before the lower tribunal will go a long way in determining the shape that the 2011 general election will take in Osun State. For instance, if the tribunal eventually orders a re run, this implies that there will be no governorship election in the state come 2011. On the other hand, if Oyinlola wins the rerun, he may have to start a fresh term of another four years.

Again, if Aregbesola wins at the tribunal, he will have to begin a fresh term of four years.

However, if the status quo is maintained, THISDAY learnt that the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade and Oyinlola hold the aces in the determination of who becomes the next governor of the State of the Living Spring.

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