Recent political developments in the country has made it imperative for political watchers to reappraise the strength of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-western region as the 2015 general election approaches.
The APC at the weekend lost one of its five states in the region to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in an election adjudged to be free and fair by independent observers. Ayo Fayose’s defeat of the incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti state has opened a new vista in the appreciation of the nation’s politics.
Critics are unanimous in their verdict that Fayemi actually tried his best possible to develop Ekiti but his inability to blend his superlative performance with grassroots politics robbed him his second term bid. On the other hand, the Governor-Elect, who has demonstrated his political suaveness by making the people the centre of his campaign, carried the day.
Fayose, who governed the state about eight years ago and was impeached in a controversial circumstance, understood the psychology of the people and took advantage of the incumbent political naïveté to cruise to victory. The Ekiti experiment has shown clearly that performance and good governance alone do not win elections and this realization is coming to the APC leadership rather late.
Like in Ekiti, states under the control of the APC, including Lagos, Osun, Oyo and Ogun, are equally having the same challenge having focused on physical infrastructural development at the detriment of political patronage to the people. There are fears that the same fate which befell the APC in Ekiti may also be the lot of most of the states in the south western states unless drastic measures are taken to revalidate the trust and loyalty of the electorates before the 2015 general elections.
By the 9th of August this year, the people of Osun state, like their counterparts in Ekiti, would decide whether to give Governor Rauf Aregbesola the nod to continue to lead them for the next four years or have him replaced with a fresh hand. Like in Ekiti, the battle is between the incumbent and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore.
Going by the developmental strides in the state, the incumbent may just be asked to bow and go as done in the parliament but the politics of the state is beyond performance and good governance. It hinges more on patronage and perception.
Already, Aregbesola’s administration is being criticized for being tilted towards Islam. There are accusations that the Osun state governor has gradually begun a program of Islamizing the state and the Christian population may have been sensitized to work against his re-election. To balance the delicate issue of religion, which hitherto has never been the issue in the politics of the state, would be a task that must be done considering the composition of his administration.
Like Fayemi’s Ekiti, Aregbesola surrounds himself with technocrats who are not well rooted politically in the state. Most of his cabinet members and other top notchers in his government are ‘Lagos politicians’ himself having served as Commissioner for Works in that state before becoming the Osun state governor in 2010. Obviously, some indigenes of the state who feel marginalized in the scheme of things would have the opportunity of taking a pound of flesh in August.
Fayose’s victory in Ekiti also have a way of resonating in Osun considering the fact that the region is known for voting in similar pattern as its leadership cuts across states. Therefore, the factor which ensured Fayemi’s defeat may also unseat the Osun state governor if adequate care us not taken.
In Oyo state, Governor Abiola Ajimobi should be prepared to fight a battle of his life in order to make it back in 2015 as opposition elements in the state have begun to coalesce. For instance, the three Senators representing the state in the National Assembly are not from the APC. Senators Hosea Ayoola Agboola (Oyo North, PDP); Ayoade Adeseun (Oyo Central, PDP) and Olufemi Lanlehin (Oyo South, Accord) are all in the opposition and are likely going to work against Ajimobi’s reelection in 2015.
Though the Oyo state governor, like his counterparts in the region, could be passed as an administrator with passion for the development of his state, some political elements have sworn to send him packing because he had refused to patronize them. Similarly, the death of his political mentor and mediator, Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola Alao, would also take its toll on his reelection bid.
In Ogun state, the APC has been factionalized following the discontentments which followed the election of state executive committee of the party. While Governor Ibikunle Amosun seemed to have succeeded in making his loyalists to assume the leadership of the party, some other members loyal to the former governor of the state, Chief Segun Osoba, have sworn never to reconcile with Amosun’s faction.
With this division, the incursion of the Labour Party in the state’s political firmament and the determination of the PDP to regain the state, retaining the seat may be laborious for the incumbent. This is more so when some politicians with electoral values have begun to move from the ruling APC to the PDP and LP.
In Lagos, there are groundswell of factors that would make the epic battle for the APC to retain the state interesting. Already, there appears to be a cold war within the party over who succeeds Governor Babatunde Fasola. While the APC national leader and the godfather of Lagos politics, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, has endorsed one Akinwumi Ambode as Fasola’s successor, the incumbent Speaker of the Lagos state House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, has told whoever cared to listen of his ambition to occupy the Lagos Oval House by 2015.
This is coming as the Ikorodu/Epe axis is clamouring for justice and demanding that it be allowed to produce the state’s governor by 2015. Similarly, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, a grassroot politician, has said it is either he gets the state governorship ticket or nothing. Aside this, stakeholders in the state have also begun a campaign for a Christian governor from whatever party in 2015.
The deportation of some Igbos from Lagos in recent past by the Fasola’s administration also promises to hound the party at the 2015 polls. Although the governor had apologized to the Igbo population in the state, there are indications that the issue could be resuscitated at campaigns to work against the APC at the general elections next year.
Pundits believe that the Igbo ‘mistake’ worked against Senator Chris Ngige at the Anambra election and such may resonate in 2015 as they may be mobilized against the APC in Lagos. In addition, Fasola’s policies, though geared towards the development of the state, have largely been seen as anti-people as the common man had been groaning under heavy taxation in the state. There are indications that the people may ‘revolt’ with their votes come 2015.
Considering the political realities and the unpredictability of electorates in the South west, the APC must do more than sloganeering and trust in the performances of its political office holders in the region to retain its relevance in 2015 and beyond. This is even more so when it would have to contest against a ruling party at the centre that would do everything possible to regain the control of the region.