By: Olalekan S. Badmus (Phoenix)
Saturday 18th March 2023’ House of Assembly election in Osun state makes it exactly eight (8) months and some two (2) days that the July 16th Governorship election was held in Osun state, an election which returned Governor Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner over the incumbent former Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressive party (APC).
To the winner, Governor Adeleke, it was finally a blissful end to a thrilling contest that started from September 22nd, 2018, where he faced the same opponent for the same position and was adjudged the outright winner of the keenly contested election by many observers but was denied his mandate by what will now become a popular phrase “remote control” (a word hinted by President Buhari during his visit to the state much later for campaign) which made INEC declared the election inconclusive and ordered a rerun. Governor Adeleke would later go on to lose in a violent rerun that costed the lives of no fewer than 7 people in the state and the subsequent legal tussle that followed.
To former Governor Gboyega Oyetola and the APC in Osun State, the defeat came as a rude shock, hard to believe and felt like a bad dream which they were convinced would soon be over and life would return to the usual and familiar bloomy adventure. Alas, the die is cast, it would appear. They may forever continue to live in that illusion.
What followed was four (4) months and 11 days of embarking on a long journey of passing through all the five (5) stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These, they successfully maneuvered except the most important of them all; “acceptance”.
They just find it hard to accept that indeed, they have been defeated at the polls. Surrounded by praise singers and hailing aides, Mr Oyetola was convinced that he only lost the vote count and not the main election; in essence, they were sufficiently confident that APC didn’t lose the election and concluded that INEC must have employed staffs that were just bad in arithmetic. This encouraged the filing of petition to the election petition tribunal by the legal team of the APC and Mr Oyetola against the PDP, INEC and Governor Adeleke.
While we have to acknowledge the fundamental right of a participant in an election in pursuing post election petition if they feel cheated by the outcome or the process of the election, one of the most important steps that such party and candidate must do sincerely is self retrospection. This must be done sincerely, objectively and independently, and this is one key aspect of post mortema analysis in electioneering process that the APC and Mr Oyetola has failed significantly.
Rather than review their tenure and performance with key deliverables vis-à-vis provision of quality education, quality healthcare delivery, solid infrastructure provision, workers welfarism, economic stabilization, citizens engagement and intra party collaborations as it affects the election result, a move that if honestly and wholly implemented would have provide sufficient data and information needed to progress and function in the new role of opposition party in the state and prepare better for future elections.
The APC would spend the following months decimating energy, time and resources on the narration of losing by vote count and with the illusion that the court would ‘help’ them correct that anomaly. This has deprived them the opportunity to self retrospect. Unable to take stock, the party engaged in subsequent elections unprepared, divided and without a clear leading figure, same attributes being carried over from the poor outing of the last election.
Expectedly, in the February 25th general election, the party recorded her worst outing in an election in the state since 2007, losing all the three (3) Senators; nine (9) House of Representatives and the Presidential election in the state. If the July 16th election outcome was shocking, this was an affirmation of the new reality, albeit an uncomfortable one for them and their fragile ego; APC is now the minority political party in the state, all thanks to the brilliant performance of the incumbent Governor Ademola Adeleke of the PDP and his general acceptability by the people since assuming office in November 27, 2022.
This time around, it was difficult to allege that the loss was due to over-voting or electoral malpractice, but the APC were still adamant. Different narrative were ran to maintain the self deceit and refusal to accept the reality. Some of the defeated candidates still accused the PDP of over-voting while some alleged violence, which shows they still refuse to acknowledge the fifth and most important stage of grief; acceptance. I agree it is hard to acknowledge and to them it meant weakness.
Next is the state assembly election– another opportunity to prove that the past elections were mere setbacks. Ready to bounce back and move forward, the APC led by Mr Oyetola rallied the troops and moved from one constituency to another to garner support for the party’s candidates and restore some lost confidence in the party members. All was set and the party was finally ready to move beyond recent disappointments and compete with the ruling party PDP.
Last Saturday, in the state assembly election held across the state, the APC lost in all but one controversial (1) state constituencies. That is a resounding loss in 25 state constituencies, a flawless victory for the ruling party PDP.
Finally, the reality of the moment must now dawn on them and the party must now reluctantly reach for the last stage of grief by ‘accepting’ the new reality that the party indeed lost the July 16th,2022 election not only by vote count but by majority votes, as it did in other subsequent elections that followed since then.
More importantly, they must banish the ghost of “over-voting” accusation, a narration that has prevented them from making the needed self retrospection needed to face the future as a viable and worthy opposition party for the next four (4) years at least.