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Osun poll:Gimmicks as Aregbesola, Omisore woo voters

The major candidates contesting in the Osun State governorship election holding next month have engaged in various winning strategies, Fisayo Falodi writes

It is no longer news that Nigerian politicians have found love in unusual ways of seeking grass roots support as effective methods of wooing voters. Such methods, which they believe will serve as robust baits that would catch the attention of voters, include adoption of local appellations, identifying and eating with the common people in their farmsteads, buying items worth N1,000 for N5,000 from petty traders and have the action video-recorded as well as distributing foodstuffs to the people in the public, among others.

For example, Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, adopted Iroko as his appellation and Gbasibe as a slogan to serve as vehicles to reach the heart of the people of the state while contesting in the governorship poll. The Ekiti State Governor-elect, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, adopted Oshokomole as his appellation and ate lunch with commercial motorcycle operators and other common people on the street as a way of seeking the support of the grass roots.

Following what they considered as the effectiveness of these strategies, however, the major candidates contesting in the August 9, 2014 governorship election in Osun State, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the All Progressives Congress and Senator Iyiola Omisore of the Peoples Democratic Party have adopted various election-winning baits to curry voters’ favour.

Apart from their campaign trains which they have been carrying to different parts of the state, the candidates fashioned out their own slogans as a means through which to identify with the people at the grass roots.

Aregbesola openly dangled his own bait before Christians recently when he was accompanied by some chieftains of the party, such as General Mohammodu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief John Oyegun and Chief Bisi Akande, who are all Muslims except Oyegun, to attend a Sunday service at St. Mathew Anglican Church in Ila-Orangun.

Aregbesola, according to some political analysts, may have adopted the initiative to dispel insinuation that he was anti-Christianity following the controversial re-classification of school system by his administration.

The governor also adopted Oranmiyan leekansi as his own slogan to gain the people’s support.

Even long before he showed interest in seeking re-election, Aregbesola introduced a culture which he had been constantly practising by wearing school uniforms and sandals to public schools in order to address pupils and also demonstrate his love for them.

But in order not to be left behind in the supporters-seeking race, Aregbesola’s major challenger, Omisore, adopted Atari Ajanaku as his slogan and re-invented Fayose’s strategy in Osun. He believes that humbling oneself by buying delicacies from roadside traders would deliver the expected victory.

He, therefore, rode on a motorcycle and displayed two pieces of roasted corn he bought and have the actions video-recorded on his way to a campaign rally as one of the strategies to demonstrate to the public that he is a lover of the masses.

Not done with the dangling of the baits, the two candidates also began throwing tantrums at each other. In their own estimation, the tantrums would serve as weapons with which to lower the chances of their contenders in winning the governorship poll.

Aregbesola threw the first salvo. He said at a rally in Ikirun in Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state that Omisore should not over-step his boundary.

Sure of victory in the forthcoming election, the governor boasted that Omisore was not a threat to him, asking the PDP candidate to behave well before, during and after the poll.

“As Aregbesola, I have come to rebuild Osun State for another four years,” he had said.

The governor, who claimed that he had not completed his mission, added that he needed four more years to consolidate APC’s hold on Osun and send PDP packing from the state at the end of his second term in 2018.

The APC particularly flayed Omisore for hiring masked security men to follow him around for what the party described as the PDP’s candidate “made-for-television” eating of roasted corn and riding commercial motorcycle.

In a statement issued in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, APC said Omisore was afraid of his own shadows, hence his use of masked security men.

APC said it wondered how a man who wants to rule a state would be afraid to move freely among the same people whose votes he is canvassing.

The party had said, “Every month, Governor Rauf Aregbesola leads the people of the state in a jogging exercise on the streets, during which he mixes freely with them. Not once has a ‘ninja’ been spotted behind him in the name of security.

“During his ongoing campaign, Aregbesola has continued with his tradition of being with the people without any invasive security. Mr. Omisore has a lot to learn from Aregbesola and should realise that being a people’s governor goes beyond a made-for-television eating of roasted corn or riding Okada.

“The message which the use of masked gun men sends to the populace is that of intimidation, harassment, espionage, sabotage, assassination and terrorism. No one seeking to rule a state should want to be portrayed in that light. Therefore, we call on Mr. Omisore to immediately halt the use of masked gunmen unless of course it is a deliberate ploy to intimidate and terrorise the same people he wants to govern.

“Mr. Omisore and the PDP should please spare the peaceful people of Osun State any further harassment and intimidation. The PDP should prevail on its candidate to be civil. A man who wants to rule a state should not be afraid to mix freely with the same people. Osun people say no to ‘ninjas’.

“If Omisore and the PDP think we are crying wolf, they should monitor comments being made on the picture that has been posted in the social media showing a ‘ninja’ standing behind the PDP governorship candidate. Perhaps, then they will realise how much they have goofed.”

But Omisore fired back. He described Aregbesola as a half-educated person.

His aide, Mr. Diran Odeyemi, dismissed Aregbesola’s threat as empty and of no effect, adding that the governor could not equate himself with Omisore in any way and that the governor was half-educated for him to have been upbeat about his chances of defeating the APC candidate.

The PDP also dismissed APC’s claim on masked security escorts as rubbish. A spokesperson for PDP, Bola Ajao, had said, “We deny the report and we condemn the attempt to smear the PDP and its candidate. As a law-abiding political party fully supported by the people, we don’t need ‘state boys’ which the APC is using to harass innocent citizens.

“The people of Osun are under siege from armed thugs directly sponsored by the state government. At every campaign the APC hosted, the thugs moved around town with dangerous weapons to compel people to attend their rallies.”

Notwithstanding the accusation and counter-accusation by both political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission had promised to improve on its performance in Ekiti election during the next month Osun State governorship poll.

INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, had said the commission would conduct the Osun poll with lessons learnt in Ekiti and with a mission to improve on them.

He said having studied the way the Ekiti election went; the electoral body had been able to identify things that went right and would be focusing on making them better in Osun.

He named logistics as one of the areas in which INEC achieved success with 97 per cent of the polling units opening before 8.am due to the timely deployment of personnel and materials; a feat he said would be achieve at 100 per cent in Osun.

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