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OSUN PDP: ON THE PRECIPICE OF DISINTEGRATION

By NBF NEWS
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Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola
The gods must be crazy is a motion picture about the people of Kalahari Desert of Botswana, who encounter modern civilization for the first time when a pilot drops a cola bottle out of an airplane. After Xixo finds the cola bottle in the desert, he takes it back to the village, where it stirs controversy. Xixo decides to return it to the gods so that the tension the symbolic bottle generates will subside. And for the people to live happily thereafter.

Like in the popular motion picture, power fell on the laps of the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State in 2003 and for seven years, gladiators of the party have utilised power to the best of their ability. However, just as the cola bottle, which is a symbol of power among the people of the desert, caused so much tension, hatred, fear, doubt and suspicion within the Kalahari tribe, political power which has been on the watch of the Osun PDP since 2003, is fast turning into an albatross. Unfolding events are showing that the countdown to the 2011 general elections in Osun is bound to stretch the ruling party at the seams and a tear is imminent!

Naturally, Ile-Ife, the spiritual capital of the Yoruba, should serve as a focal point for the unity and peace of a highly sophisticated race noted for industry, self dignity, intelligence and spirituality. But Ile-Ife, the mythical cradle of the Yoruba, in the emerging scenario of the Osun PDP, is fast evolving as the stage for intense political disharmony being fed by all forms of interests. A reflection of the trouble in the kingdom of Oduduwa is evident in the disagreement between the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, and 16 traditional high chiefs over who becomes the governor of the 19-year-old State of the Living Spring.

About 20 aspirants of the party are vying for the governor's seat currently occupied by 59-year-old Okuku-born prince and former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola. The state leadership of the party, in its wisdom, zoned the governorship ticket to Osun-East and Osun-West senatorial districts. Osun-East comprises Ife-Ijesa communities while Osun-West comprises communities such as Iwo , Ikire, Ogbaagba, Gbongan, Ede. Aspirants from Osun-Central were precluded from vying for the governorship seat because the incumbent, Oyinlola, and his predecessor, Chief Bisi Akande, are from Osun-Central. The aspirants from Ife axis include a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Nigeria 's Ambassador to Cuba , Chief Segun Bamigbetan-Baju; Chairman, Ife-East Local Government Council, Chief Gbenga Owolabi; Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Chief Iyiola Omisore, and Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board, Prof Wale Oladipo. Governorship aspirants from Ijesa axis included the Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta, Chief Gbenga Onigbogi, who recently emerged as the choice of the Ijesa PDP Elders' Caucus for the governorship race; Chief Tunde Odanye, Chief Diran Odeyemi, Alhaji Lateef Bakare, Chief Mrs. Remi Olowu, Chief Dosu Fatokun, Chief Alafe Aluko, Mr Wahab Toye and Chief Fatai Sarumi. Only two candidates are in the governorship race from Osun-West. They include ex-Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Akinade Akinbade, and Oyinlola's former Chief of Staff, Elder Peter Babalola.

Recent events within the Osun PDP have shown that power has a slender body that breaks very easily if not properly handled. The once-upon-a-time love and unity within the party have given way to despair, hatred and suspicion. One of the grouses for the division within the party is the directive by the governor that all public office-seeking aspirants must resign their appointments with his government. Oyinlola reasoned that there would be conflict of interests if aspirants within his cabinet did not resign. But while Akinbade and Babalola resigned their appointments, the governor, who is nursing a senatorial ambition, did not resign likewise Oladipo, who is the Chairman, Osun SUBEB.

A crack appeared on the wall of the traditional council in Osun when 16 Ife traditional High Chiefs, in an advertorial in The Nigerian Tribune of March 29, 2010 , addressed a letter to the Ooni, wherein they voiced their support for Omisore. In another advertorial in Saturday Tribune of April 10, 2010, a group, Ife Solidarity Front, described as 'tragi-comedy' the letter written to the Ooni by the high chiefs, saying that the pages of the newspaper was not the appropriate avenue for the chiefs to communicate with Sijuwade. The advert by the group said Omisore, as Osun deputy governor, fell apart with former Governor Bisi Akande over pecuniary interest and that he (Omisore) ha not brought any form of development to Osun in the last seven years.

Not a few members of the political class are dissatisfied with the role of the Ooni in the politics of Osun with many saying it was wrong of traditional rulers to be involved in partisan politics. But the Ooni had said that the Osun traditional council would be involved in the choice of who becomes the governor of the state in 2011. The foremost ruler had argued that this was necessary for the emergence of a credible candidate. Some members of the traditional council are, however, grumbling that there has been no consultation within the council to choose the next governorship candidate on the platform of the PDP. Another major grouse within the party is the emergence of Ife aspirants in the governorship race. The Ijesa people and some traditional rulers within the community are frowning that some powers that be are not creating a level-playing field for Ijesa aspirants to compete with their Ife counterparts. Ijesa has six local government councils while Ife has four. But the threat of an implosion within the party has forced back the hands of PDP power brokers to overrule an attempt to foist a governorship candidate on the party. Various adverts by the Osun PDP, Osun PDP National Assembly Caucus Plus, Osun PDP Elders Committee have called for a level playing field for all aspirants. Oladipo, a university scholar, who is touted to enjoy the support of the Ooni, has never held any elective post and his antagonists are saying that he lacks the political experience to govern the state.

External influence in the crisis
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and a former military ruler, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, are believed to be engaged in the politics of who the standard-bearer of the PDP would be in Osun. Specifically, Babangida allegedly invited the Ogbaagba-born Akinbade to a meeting in his Minna home recently, and he sounded Akinbade out on his governorship ambition. In another meeting held on April 2, 2010 , which involved Obasanjo, Oyinlola, Akinbade, a former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mrs Patricia Etteh, and the Osun PDP Chairman, Alhaji Ademola Rasak, in Obasanjo's residence in Abeokuta, Akinbade was said to have told the meeting that he was not enjoying the support of Oyinlola. A source said Oyinlola told the meeting that he had left the task of choosing Osun PDP governorship candidate to the Ooni and that he nursed no grudge against Akinbade. An anonymous source said, 'Some of the aspirants are not fair to Oyinlola. They (aspirants) went behind the governor to curry the favour of the Ooni and now that the Ooni has decided on whom he wants to be the party's candidate, they are accusing Oyinlola of not supporting them. When they were courting the Ooni, was Oyinlola there?'

Religious factor
Religion will play a vital factor in the Osun governorship election in 2011. Oyinlola and his deputy, Mrs Olusola Obada, are Christians. The Muslim community in Osun is clamouring to have a Muslim governor in 2011. There are no Christians in the list of aspirants from Ife just as there are a couple of Muslims among aspirants from Ijesa axis. One of the reasons that accounted for the tremendous mass appeal of Action Congress candidate, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, is the fact that he is a Muslim. Osogbo-based multimillionaire farmer and Asiwaju Musulumi of Yoruba land, Alhaji Tunde Badmus, and an Ibadan-based business mogul, Alhaji Alao Arisekola, are favourably disposed to the emergence of a Muslim governorship candidate. A source said some emirs were also rooting for Muslim candidate.

The implication
In the long run, it seems the effect of the governorship ticket tussle would leave the PDP with permanent scars and the AC is likely to profit from the impending crisis. For now, the AC has remained united and committed to its governorship petition before the Justice Garba Ali-led five-member tribunal. So far, no aspirant within the AC has signified intention to run for any post. Oyinlola, who is eyeing Osun-Central senatorial ticket, will have a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, Simeon Oduoye, to contend with. Oduoye, the incumbent senator representing the district is keen on returning to the Senate. A former Senator, Chief Kola Ogunwale, who contested the PDP governorship ticket with Oyinlola in 2007, is also waiting in the wings to return to the Senate on the platform of his new party, AC. Some PDP bigwigs have threatened to frustrate the senatorial ambition of the governor if he did not pick a popular governorship candidate. A legion of aspirants across the state has in expressed interests vying for every elective post and this has pitted them against the incumbents who are desirous of a re-election. Oyinlola, at a news conference on Monday, said he prays constantly to God in order to seek direction on who should be the governorship candidate of the PDP. If an Ife indigene clinches the governorship ticket, Omisore might as well kiss the PDP senatorial ticket goodbye because governorship and senatorial tickets are rotated between Ife-Ijesa communities.

Also, there are strong indications that Obada is angling to represent Ife-Ijesa zone at the Senate. The words of Anglo-American philosopher, Thomas Paine, would suffice for the Osun PDP; 'These are times that try men's soul.'