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Osun guber: Again, zoning on the front burner

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The race to succeed outgoing Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State in 2018 is gathering momentum. Aspirants from the three senatorial districts of the state are laying claim to the coveted position, largely on the strength of a number of unwritten zoning arrangements. Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, examines the various arguments for and agains these claims.

JUST as it has done in nearly all the electoral contest in the state since the return to democracy in 1999, the debate over which of the senatorial districts, as well as zones in Osun State, should produce the next Governor of the state, is the most topical issue as the date for the 2018 governorship election draws nearer.

Across party lines, politicians, indigenes, residents and other stakeholders in the state are daily slugging it out on various platforms and at various fora in unending arguments over which part of the state Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s successor should come from. This time however, the debate goes beyond the usual senatorial zoning arrangement as a new dimension is introduced into the zoning war.

But in spite of the raging debate, aspirants from all nooks and cranny of the state are already jostling to win the tickets of their respective parties in their bid to contest the governorship election next year and succeed Aregbesola as governor of the home of the living spring. Consequently, not a part of the state is left out of the demand that it be allowed to produce the next governor of the state in 2018.

“In Osun, we are known to adhere strictly to the tenets of zoning in politics as laid down for us by the founding fathers of the state. It is a good thing that some of the founding fathers like Chief Bisi Akande are still around. We will not jettison zoning because it has ensured peaceful coexistence amongst us as a people,” Hon. Laolu Oke, a former spokesperson of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) in the state, stated.

Osun has three senatorial districts namely Osun Central, Osun West and Osun East. Before now, the zoning arrangement was largely believed to be premised on these senatorial districts. And arguments in the past had largely been hinged on this structure. But as we speak, a new zoning order is being introduced by some of the proponents of zoning.

It is this new order that has heated up the debate this time around because it threatens the zoning arrangement hitherto being followed in the politics of the state and threatens to bring about a new dimension in the struggle for succession after Aregbesola’s tenure. But not all stakeholders in the state are willing to accept the new order.

To most proponents of zoning by senatorial district, no aspirant from the Eastern district, where the incumbent GovernorAregbesola hails from, should be jostling to become governor in 2018. This, according to findings by The Nation, is premised on the fact that by the time Aregbesola completes his second term in office next year, the district would have spent eight years ruling the state.

The governor is from Ijesha in the eastern senatorial district. And aside Aregbesola, some of those kicking against the emergence of another governor from the senatorial district are quick to mention the fact that the late Bola Ige, who is also from the same senatorial district, once ruled as governor of the old Oyo State, which the current Osun State was a part.

Similarly, the Central senatorial district produced Chief Bisi Akande who was governor between 1999 and 2003, as well as Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who ruled from 2003 to 2010. Between these two former governors, it is on record that the central senatorial district had had the opportunity to govern the state for more than a decade.

So since the return to civil rule in 1999, the western senatorial district hasn’t been chanced to produce a governor for the state. But to its credit is the fact that it produced the first civilian Governor of the state between 1993 and 1994 when the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke ruled the state for a period less than two years.

“Given the fact that both the East and the Central have had two terms each governing the state and the West only spent less than two years through Adeleke in the third republic, it is natural and in line with our zoning policy to allow the West to produce the next governor of Osun state. That is why we are saying only aspirants from the West should throw in their hats,” Oke added.


A new dimension

While a good number amongst the proponents of zoning are queuing up behind Osun West senatorial district as the next area to produce the governor of Osun State in 2018, there are those who strongly feel that the idea of zoning is not just about senatorial district but largely about addressing all forms of marginalisation in the state.

This school of thought believes that it will be wrong to share political positions and patronage using the senatorial districts. Rather, proponents of this new order are canvassing a consideration of what they described as the six original divisions of the state in deciding which part of the state to zone the governorship slot come 2018.

Explaining the new argument, Chief Adeoye Owolabi, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from Osogbo, the state capital, said “There are two divisions in each of the three senatorial districts in the state. It was these divisions or sub-groups that were lumped together to form what we now have as Osun State.

The divisions in each senatorial district are distinct people and should not be ignored in any zoning arrangement. This is to avoid a situation where one division will be taking the slot of the district while the other is left unattended to. This is why we are saying we must return to the original divisions that makes up Osun State. We have six of them,” he stated.

While breaking down the components of the three senatorial districts in the state, Owolabi and some other analysts that spoke with The Nation explained that in the East Senatorial District, there are Ife and Ijesha divisions while the West senatorial district consists of Ede and Iwo divisions. The Central district is made up of Osogbo and Ila divisions.

With the above analysis, The Nation gathered that the people of Oshogbo and Iwo divisions are claiming to have been marginalised in the governance of the state since its creation. As stated by Owolabi, it is unthinkable that Osogbo, the state capital and a leading division, not only in Osun State, but in the whole of Yoruba land in the first republic, is yet to produce a governor in the 26 years of the state’s existence.

Similarly, a University don, Professor Wasiu Gbolagade called on the various registered political parties in the state to ensure that their governorship candidate emerge from Iwo division of the state. He insisted that in the interest of fairness and equity, it is time for the people of the state to allow the division to produce a governor for Osun State.

Gbolagade, who is a Professor of Mathematics at Osun State University (UNIOSUN) lamented that since the return to democracy in 1999, the division is yet to be given a sense of belonging in the politics of the state. He argued that it is important for the leading political parties to promote equity and fairplay by ensuring that Iwo indigenes emerge as their candidates.

To back up their claims, both Owolabi and Gbolagade explained that all the other four divisions have produced governors for the state. “Aregbesola is from the Ife/Ijesha division and so was Bola Ige. The late Isiaka Adeleke represented the Ede division while Bisi Akande and Olagunsoye Oyinlola are from Ila division.”


The gladiators

In spite of the raging zoning debate, aspirants continue to throw in their hats into the ring for the 2018 governorship contest in the state. And a look at the leading political parties revealed that not less than fifteen contestants are already painting the state in various colours in their bid to make it clear to the people of the state that they are serious with their aspirations.

In the ruling APC, no fewer than ten aspirants are all over town either openly or subtly, pursuing their governorship ambition. While a few are bold enough to have openly declared their aspirations, many more are yet to make categorical declaration of their intention to contest for the governorship ticket of Governor Aregbesola’s party.

Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yusuf, who hails from Ilobu in the central senatorial district, leads the pack of APC stalwarts jostling to succeed Aregbesola as governor. The Deputy Speaker has publicly declared his desire to wrestle for the party’s ticket ahead of the 2018 governorship election.

Others being fingered to be interested in the APC ticket include the Chief of Staff to the governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola from Iragbiji in the West senatorial district and the former Chairman of the defunct Action Congress (AC) who is the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti. The SSG is from the West senatorial district too.

From Osogbo, the youthful legal practitioner, Abdur-Rasheed Kunle Adegoke (K-RAD), is reported to be highly interested in the race. Though he has not declared formally, our checks reveal that he has gone far in consultations towards realising his governorship ambition.

And still from Iwo division are the likes of Hon. Gafar Salensile, and Mallam Rasheed Olawale, a media partitioner.

The Managing Director of the Osun Investment Company Ltd, Mr. Bola Oyebamiji from Ikire in the West senatorial district; the Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Najeem Salam; former Speaker of the House of Assembly and member representing Ejigbo/Iwo Constituency in the House of Representatives, Prof. Mojeed Alabi are also being touted as aspirants.

Others believed to be seriously interested in jostling for the governorship ticket of the ruling party include the immediate past Commissioner of Regional Integration and Special Duties, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, and former Chief of Staff to the Oyinlola administration and Chairman, Local Government Service Commission, Elder Peter Babalola.

Those expected to contest for the chance to represent the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the governorship election include former deputy governor and former chairman, Appropriation Committee in the Senate, Dr. Iyiola Omisore and former Federal Commissioner in the National Population Commission (NPC) in Osun State, Chief Lere Oyewumi.

Others are former Speaker, House of Assembly and the PDP’s deputy governorship candidate in the 2014 election, Hon. Adejare Bello, from Ede in the  Western senatorial district as well as former chairman of Ife East Local Govern

– The Nation

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