If the process is not compromised though, then I can confidently predict that the winner of the election will emerge with not more than 45 per cent of the total votes cast. The Osogbo-Olorunda axis will be the deciding LGAs and observers should watch out for results from there for a general indication of election trends across the State.

In the middle of the 2014 gubernatorial election in Osun State, I sat in a room with Chioma Chuka, Ayokunle Odekunle, Tolu Ogunlesi, Joachim Machebong and Kazeem Sanusi, as the results came in from the field and showed a clear and impending All Progressives Congress (APC) victory. The event was broadcast live on the internet and as we rounded off after about four hours of election analysis and coverage, we were all asked to predict the final percentage margins and I called it: 57 to 43 for the APC, which turned out accurate.

Despite being a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at that time, my eternal adoration of the late Chief Bola Ige, who I consider a lodestar, couldn’t bring me to support my party’s candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore, but wanting to participate in the election as it was my home State, I supported Alhaji Fatai Akinbade.

The winner of the Osun gubernatorial election in 2018 will score only slightly higher than 40 per cent of the total votes – and here’s why I think so:

The 2018 gubernatorial race in Osun is a three-way horse race and much as I am convinced that only the PDP and APC have the requisite spread of committed party agents who can deliver and protect votes across the State (and most States indeed), I think the Social Democratic Party (SDP) will have a huge impact on who wins and it’s candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore, beyond being the crucial game changer in the race may very well win it also.

Osun has three senatorial districts, as every other state, 30 local government areas, 332 wards and about 3010 polling units. Since 1999, Osun Central Senatorial District has held the gubernatorial office for a little over eight years through Governors Bisi Akande and Olagunsoye Oyinlola, while Osun East has held it for eight years through Governor Rauf Aregbesola. This has led to the agitation that Osun West should produce the next governor, before the office returns to Osun Central.

From Osun West therefore, we have a number of candidates, including that of the PDP, Senator Ademola Adeleke from Ede and his running mate Hon. Albert Adeogun from Ife in the Osun area. Other candidates from Osun West are Alhaji Moshood Adeoti from Iwo, with his running mate, Professor Adeolu Durotoye from Osun Central and Alhaji Fatai from Iwo, with his running mate Osun Central on the ADP platform, and Alhaji Fatai Akinbade of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), with Justice Olamide Oloyede as his running mate. She was the courageous judge who wrote against the perceived misgovernance of Governor Aregbesola and got sacked for her trouble.

From Osun East, Senator Iyiola Omisore is the major candidate on the platform of the SDP, with a young Yemi Lawal from Osun West as his running mate, while the APC picked its candidate from Iragbiji in Osun Central and only ceded the running mate slot to Osun West, with Dr. Benedict Alabi.

Although the zoning principle favours Osun West, yet the number of candidates from there is a minus as Osun East and Central have only one candidate each: Adeoti is likely to sweep Iwo, although he lost it to PDP in the senatorial election that brought Ademola Adeleke into office, but only marginally with 12,205 votes to 12,547 votes. SDP is also strong in Iwo and blows the race open with Hononorable Bade Falade, a strong and tested political warhorse heading Omisore’s campaign, who is able to pull an upset there. If PDP wins Iwo though, it will be a consolidation of votes as it is expected to sweep Ede quite easily in spite of the defection of Hon. Adejare Bello from the PDP to the APC. With the added strength of Hon. Peter Babalola, who defected from the APC to the PDP and who has a huge political presence in Irewole, Isokan and Ayedaade local government areas, PDP may just win Osun West as a whole.

In Osun East, the question of whether the PDP is popular in Ife because of Omisore or whether Omisore is popular in Ife because of PDP might be laid to rest as SDP and the PDP will go head to head. Ife is also where the PDP running mate, Adeogun, is from and his strength will be tested. Omisore will likely win more votes from this stronghold, while APC may hold on to the Ijesha half of the district, where Aregbesola is from.

Osun Central is where the battleground is – mainly because it has the highest number of votes available in any Osun election cycle. The APC candidate is from here but he is from a minority town in Boripe local government area, in comparison to Osogbo and Olorunda LGAs, which are where the APC earlier trounced the PDP: 39,983 to 11,513 in Osogbo LGA and 26,551 to 8,483 in Olorunda during the last gubernatorial election. The presumptuous postulations of APC leader, Senator Bola Tinubu during a visit to the Ataoja of Osogbo allegedly led to a meeting between top Osogbo personalities with the Adeleke campaign, where they promised to support him and deliver votes for the PDP. The political justification for this move by Osogbo is that if the APC wins, it might not be until 2034 that an Osogbo person will be able to emerge governor of the state again – and Osogbo has never had a shot at the seat, despite producing huge votes for political parties. If Adeleke wins though, Osogbo is likely to produce the governor of the state after him in 2026 when the zoning of the position returns to Osun Central.

A controversy over which town owns Abere is also another decision said to have been reached between the Adeleke campaign and Osogbo chiefs. The smaller Abere town houses most government ministries and parastatal in the state capital Osogbo but it was historically an Ede settlement and Ede has laid claim to it in recent years, with Osogbo insisting the place is a part of the capital. Adeleke is said to have agreed to recognise some parts of Abere as Osogbo territory if he emerges as governor.

Apart from the zonal and ethnic permutations though, there is also the religious factor, with Aregbesola, the outgoing governor as a Muslim, hence Christian associations in the State have clamoured that the next governor should be from their faith – and this factor played out strongly in the senatorial election that brought in Senator Ademola Adeleke, when he ran against Alhaji Mudashiru Hassan. Surprisingly though, Adeleke has been including his Muslim name ‘Nurudeen’ on campaign posters this time around and picked a Christian running mate, whereas, family sources insist that he is not a Muslim.

The Christian bodies in the State are therefore split between Adeleke and Iyiola Omisore – who has been including his Christian name ‘Christopher’ on his campaign posters also. Adeoti in Iwo has stuck to his appellation ‘Sheu’, to emphasise his Muslim prominence, while the APC candidate tries to avoid emphasising his Muslim religion by simply using ‘Gboyega Oyetola’ on his campaign posters.

Oyetola’s tenure as Aregbesola’s chief of staff was not endearing to many people as he is considered a bit highhanded – this may cost the APC votes, as well as the idea that he is a Lagos imposition, likely to continue with Aregbe’s policies – a claim his campaign denies vehemently. It remains to be seen though if Adeleke’s populist and entertaining campaign, along with music artist Davido’s efforts, can win them the election but Adeleke’s philanthropy may count for something. The certificate issue, for a while, made it look like he would not stand for elections and Omisore was ready to capitalise on this but the resolution of that on Wednesday, followed by a spurious police invitation for arraignment the same day, has put him back strongly in the race.

Omisore is playing the card of being the only contender who can unseat the APC and some PDP leaders may work for his emergence covertly – although this will not be a major factor. He has run a good campaign and cannot be written off merely because the SDP is not a major party. If anything, it will be a good chance to test the strength of his ubiquitous structure.

The dark horse is Moshood Adeoti and although he is unlikely to emerge winner, he will affect both the APC politically and the PDP geographically. He left the APC over the party’s refusal to zone the gubernatorial ticket to Osun West and took along with him several key members of the State executive council of the party, as well as much of its structure at the LGA and ward levels. He is also rumoured to be backed by certain forces within the APC outside the State, including two APC governors from the South-West.

Beyond the analysis though, the most crucial factor may eventually turn out to be who can buy the most votes – and voters in Osun are not unaware of this trend as confirmed by interaction with many of them. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s bright idea to ban the use of smartphones inside polling booths (not entirely around polling areas) may not be strong enough to curb this trend as the major way political parties engage in ‘see-and-buy’ is that the voter discreetly reveals how they thumb-printed on the ballot paper to the party agent standing not far away, who then relays the voting choice by signal to the paying agent a distance away – it is a naked eye process and banning smartphones may not resolve this.

If the vote-buying trend continues in Osun on Saturday the 22nd or the electoral process is compromised by violence in opposition strongholds leading to outright cancellations and manipulation of figures, then this analysis and any other one would be rendered a waste. Indeed, the entire process of voting is a waste if the choice of the people will not emerge eventually.

If the process is not compromised though, then I can confidently predict that the winner of the election will emerge with not more than 45 per cent of the total votes cast. The Osogbo-Olorunda axis will be the deciding LGAs and observers should watch out for results from there for a general indication of election trends across the State. PDP will win Osun West with a good margin, APC will win Osun East with a very small margin but whoever pulls in most votes from Osun Central will win the elections.

The other thing I can say with certainty is that the candidate I supported in 2014, Fatai Akinbade, will definitely not be winning this election – and I do not know if that is either a good or a bad thing for the State.

Demola Olarewaju is a political analyst and strategist; Twitter: @DemolaRewaju.