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OYO101: Rethinking The Changing Dynamics Of Oyo 2023 Elections | Muftau Gbadegesin

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In an age of growing polarization and high-decibel slanging match politics, telling people to rethink some of their hardline positions on contentious issues can be stiffly hard. It can be harder when their various political assumptions, predictions, and projections are massively challenged in the face of mounting evidence. While most stick to their guns because it’s safe and predictable; others went ahead to adopt mental flexibility that unsettles their core beliefs – shedding more light on what they considered to be the truth. In effect, this tiny minority out of the vast majority understands the unimpeachable difference between fact and faith and therefore prioritizes the rigors of science ahead of the mystery of faith.

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Instructively, nowhere is this intellectual calisthenics more fitting than in Oyo where supporters of the ruling PDP have written off the opposition in the 2023 gubernatorial poll: an election that has been carefully described as openly competitive as any in the state’s recent political experiment. Indeed, most PDP members assumed that the division within the ranks and files of the state All Progressives Congress should be enough to swing the poll in their favor. And as such, considered the choice of Senator Teslim Folarin, the APC candidate as a plus to their party; a decisive leg up in the next year’s election.

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Added to the defection of Oloye Bayo Adelabu to the Accord party and the imminent support he’s likely to get from the former Governor, Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja present a perfect picture for their electoral fortune. Or so they thought? On the other hand, the opposition parties appear to be walking on eggshells, threading softly, tracking the ills of the current regime while hoping to bank on the numerous administrative malfeasances of the government to win the next election. Expectedly, the two leading opposition parties for example appeared undaunted and relentless in their pursuit of the coveted seat royally occupied by Governor Seyi Makinde and his party. Will they get it?

After a landslide victory in an election that got people fired up, Governor Seyi Makinde of the PDP was sworn in as the Fourth Republic 5th elected Governor of Oyo state on the 29th of May 2019. But three years into the government and less than eight months to the next poll, many believe he has frittered with the mandate. For instance, his camaraderie relationship with some notable local politicians across the 33 local governments has gone south as his handling of the fragile thread that pulled the state together – in some quarters he’s clandestinely described as an ‘emperor’ – an unquestionably powerful Governor whose word is a law unto itself.

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For the most disenchanted and disaffected local politicians, next year’s poll is a payback time. As a gubernatorial candidate in the last election, Governor Makinde’s Greek gifts to various towns and villages tell the story of a generous politician with a kind heart. As a candidate with a clean political slate, GSM’s acceptance among the downtrodden came as true love. Apart from his introverted ideals, one other trait that stood him out was his promise of a better deal. In a sense, many voted for him partly because of the richness of his manifesto couched in the Road Map to Accelerated Development, thus concluding that the content and the will to implement the document will be a watershed in the history of the state democratic transition.

Quite to the contrary, proof that the Governor has abandoned and turned away from the people he professed to love abound. Irrefutable evidence has put the government in the spotlight as one that’s hell-bent on enriching cronies while embarking on frivolous projects that have produced nothing but muted outcomes. In a way, this government’s performance when contrasted with those of previous administrations has made next year’s contest widely and wildly open for the most tactical and strategic opposition element to grab. Added to the changing dynamics of National politics is a complete recipe for political uncertainty and unpredictability – one that can swing in favor of any party and candidate in the state.

While GSM performance has not changed much in the state, the opposition on the other hand has also not fared better. The PDP, APC, and Accord Party, to steal from an average Nigerian voter are birds of the same feathers: just platforms to actualize self-inspired ambition. For example, the fallout in the wake of the state congress that rankle the majority of APC stalwarts is still hot as the various internal wrangling that followed the party primary. In essence, that bitter face-off has created a political battle of three horse races; a situation that has further depleted the opposition in no small measure. But the icing on the cake of next year’s poll in Oyo state is that not even PDP or APC can boldly beat its chest as the likely winner. Partly because trudging that self-serving pathway will be a drag on the party’s chances. Except for publicity and propaganda, members of the main parties are acutely aware that winning the next election will require more than wishful thinking. A step into history shows that Oyo has walked on this kind of historical tightrope.

Take the hotly contested 2011 gubernatorial election. Those who monitored the state politics keenly will recall that late Senator Abiola Ajimobi won his first election with a meager 32.6% of the vote in a feisty three-horse race. Ajimobi contested against a sitting and former Governor and came out victorious. Strangely, his electoral victory gave most observers and electorates a rare moment of reflection and contemplation. How could we be so wrong? Those who think they know the intricacy of politics and psychology have tough love rethinking their assumptions, predictions, and projections. “Progress” George Bernard Shaw aptly declared “is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.

OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s Opinion about Issues affecting Oyo state, published on Saturdays. He can be reached via muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com and 09065176850

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