The Osun State governorship election has been won and lost. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Gboyega Oyetola, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was defeated by his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenger, Senator Ademola Adeleke.

APC will be conducting a post-mortem in distress and pain. In disunity, the Osun chapter of the ruling party fell, to the consternation of its national leadership. Its permutations ahead of next year’s poll may now be slightly altered. Party leaders have to return to the drawing board to restrategise.

APC’s loss is PDP’S gain. The number of progressive governors will decrease in November while the PDP Governors’ Forum will admit an additional member. Though APC may continue the blame game, the PDP will be scheming to further consolidate its hold on Osun. It may take the ruling party a fairly long time to adapt to life outside power or recover from this sudden political deprivation.

The outcome of the poll was a surprise to many people outside the state, especially those who were oblivious of the prevailing circumstances across the 30 local government areas.

Every politics is local. But, distant armchair critics, who lacked authentic information, predicted victory and defeat in error. They were proved wrong by the reality on the ground.

However, winning and losing are a burden. A loser licks his wounds, no doubt. The winner is also in the eye of the storm due to high public expectation because governance cannot be a tea party. The euphoria of victory has to whittle down to pave way for the reassessment of the challenges that lay ahead.

Observers have pointed out some lessons which the political class should learn from the contest. They are very instructive. This is important to avoid a similar mistake in the future.

Politics is dynamic in the fast-changing Nigerian society. Gone are the days of apathy when citizens were aloof, indifferent and nonchalant. There is increased awareness about government’s roles, and the duties and obligations of citizenship during the periodic electioneering.

Rigging is gradually becoming old-fashioned. In Ekiti, residents heaved a sigh of relief because the outcome of the governorship poll reflected the wishes of voters. INEC has also received applause, following the free, fair, peaceful and credible poll in Osun. The consensus is that votes are beginning to count in Nigeria, unlike in the sordid past when elections were characterised by various forms of irregularities, like ballot hijack, poll disruption, multiple voting, disparity in figures at polling booths and collation centres, and violence.

The sanctity of the ballot box has restored voting power to the electorate to the fullest. Therefore, any candidate who takes voters for a ride does so at a great risk.

It is also dangerous to underrate an opponent. There are many campaign techniques being employed to reach out to voters, including town hall meetings, door-to-door and sectoral rallies targeted at various groups in the electoral constituency.

Instructively, the outcome of Osun poll was not determined by the performance of the governor, a technocrat and shrewd administrator who has judiciously deployed the meagre resources and got some results. His major sin was that he never distributed the money to party members and townspeople. He paid dearly for lack of bravado, street smartness and populism.

Neither was the outcome of the poll dictated by the anticipation of better performance by the governor-elect when he assumes the reins in November. Adeleke’s blueprint is not clear. But Osun people never bothered about any new direction beyond arguments for power shift, not from APC to PDP, but from Oyetola to Adeleke.

Voters saw Adeleke as a colourful man: a dancer, big spender and, curiously, a grassroots politician. They see Oyetola as a gentleman politician who has uncritically confused and equated administration with politicking.

In a year’s time, there will be a comparison of the Oyetola and Adeleke administrations. Then, the people may be seized by nostalgia. What is confounding in Nigeria is that the past administration could somehow be better than the present government.

Arguably, Western Nigeria is in trouble. Performance is a factor, but it is no more a sufficient condition for winning a governorship election. The most important factor now appears to be stomach infrastructure. The assumption is that a governor cannot be investing in infrastructural development when residents of the state are hungry. In some states of the Southwest, it is called “Dibo k’oosebe” (Vote and get money to cook). It is worrisome.

A silent worker, Oyetola has stabilised Osun. An atmosphere of peace pervades the state. Also, it was the first time an election was held in the state and the atmosphere was not charged. There was no tension. But the government may have also not taken into cognisance the strength of the coalition forces behind the governor’s main rival at the poll, someone who had derived motivation in the 2018 results, which he lost by a narrow margin.

Election monitors have also alluded to other intervening variables. It has been pointed out that vote-trading also characterised the exercise. The big parties were said to be at the forefront. The implication is that many voters may have been swayed by momentary monetary gains, thereby refusing to vote in accordance with their conscience. This too is a disservice to democracy.

But the most critical factor was the structure of the ruling party, which was weakened by a protracted crisis. Oyetola ran on a divided platform. The lack of a personal structure, like an independent campaign group, may have also created a deep hollow and huge gap in APC’s campaign plans.

It is desirable that party chieftains should be in one accord during critical contests. In unity, there is strength. If aggrieved chieftains defect from a party, the candidate can realistically reassess the worth of the structure and the impact of their absence. The greatest disaster is the presence of many aggrieved stalwarts who stay on in the fold to undermine or subvert it, stand aloof and collaborate at the back with the opposition candidate on Election Day.

A crisis-ridden party may not have any electoral value. Instead of working harmoniously, some members deliberately worked to escalate the conflict, and resolution became a tall order. Why is a crisis resolution mechanism so difficult in progressive parties? Why do their leaders indulge in “fight to the finish”?

The unresolved crisis that was carried over the election period could have been averted or amicably resolved.

The APC defeat has become an ill will that may not blow anybody any good.The loss of political control by Osun APC has grave implications for the arrowheads of the fighting camps – Oyetola and Rauf Aregbesola, the Minister of Interior.

Indeed, the chapter is agonising. The progressives in the state forgot that power, which slipped from their hands last week, was not achieved in 2010, 2014 and 2018 on a platter of gold. It was the product of a war for liberation; a rescue mission. Lives were lost. People were raped. Many faced bullets. Some people lost their limbs.

By November, Osun APC will start counting its loss when it is left in the cold. The reality that it has lost advantage of incumbent power will dawn on the party. The demoralised APC-dominated House of Assembly may become a prey, like a sheep without a shepherd. Carrots will be dangled at the lawmakers. Only the deep and highly principled will stand firm.

Next year’s parliamentary polls will be a major hurdle for Osun APC, in its present deformed state, to cross. Currently, the chapter has two senators – Orilowo (West) and Dr. Ajibola Basiru (Central). There will be no state apparatus to lean on. It appears the victory of the opposition has provided a tonic to bounce back during the parliamentary polls. APC must put on its thinking cap.

Osun is a poor state. It is only entitled to a meagre allocation from the federal treasury. The state’s internally generated revenue (IGR) is mere pittance. Investment drive is also low. The state was just being held back from the brink of bankruptcy by Oyetola. Its infrastructure is still weak. Many towns are begging for amenities.

Osun is a civil servant state. The backlog of salary arrears has not been offset. Retirees are pressing for gratuities and regular pensions.

Financial constraints pose a big headache. The first casualty may be ongoing projects, unless they are completed before November. Family resources can be deployed into electioneering to win power. They cannot be deployed into governance.

The shrinking revenue base may provoke anger and frustration. The incoming governor may be advised by old foes in his party to beam the searchlight on his predecessors’ administrations, in the spirit of vendetta, or to justify likely ineptitude in the face of paucity of funds to run the state under the leadership of a political upstart.

Judging by the recent experience in Ekiti, Oyo and Osun, it appears that APC and PDP may be alternating governance in the Southwest. The sense of regional entitlement by the APC in the Southwest beyond the poll-confident Lagos may be illusory.

What is the way forward for Osun APC?

There is need for genuine reconciliation, renewal of fidelity to the platform, political repentance and forgiveness. There is deep-seated enmity and mutual distrust and suspicion among the gladiators in the party. If the chapter packages a sort of theoretical reconciliation, it will not lead to the renewal of contact, love, friendship, camaraderie and political fellowship.

The chapter has to be rebuilt. Who is the most competent and suitable stalwart to play the role of a leader, an arrowhead and a unifier for APC in the State of the Living Spring?