For every doubting Thomas of Ademola Adeleke’s win at the last Saturday’s gubernatorial election, the presentation of the certificate of return to the People’s Democratic Party’s flagbearer on Wednesday 20th July, 2022 should have cleared all doubts that indeed power has shifted from the camp of the All Progressives Congress in Osun. In the next four years, the 62-year-old Ede born politician would call the shot starting from November, 2022 when the mantle of leadership would be formally handed over to him. Many observers have wondered about how the man with so much love for dance did it! Though, he was said to have been rejected at the polls three-and-a-half years ago, how Ademola Adeleke made this quick comeback must have puzzled many. However, from analysis of the campaign strategies and feelers from the streets, it was revealed that Ademola Adeleke had a change of strategy to unseat the incumbent. This feat many had considered a herculean task. This could be true when it is taken into consideration the fact that his party has been out of power for 12 years in Osun State coupled with the intra-party issues that bedevilled the umbrella party since Adeleke’s declaration of an attempt to have a second shot at the Osun top job.
A scrutiny of the Ademola Adeleke/PDP’s political playbook revealed some outstanding moves, let us check them:
Adeleke worked on his main weaknesses
In the breakdown of the SWOT Analysis in Strategic Management, a weakness of a candidate is that fault of the personality, character or qualifications which is within their control but gives such candidate a negative perception. In the case of Ademola Adeleke, his weakness was the lack of formal educational certificate. In 2018, the APC hammered on that. The party went further to dig up his shady certificates in both O’Level and higher degree. It was a common joke on the lips of the ruling party in Osun State then that the PDP candidate had all F’s in the O’Level certificate that he paraded. There was no name that he was not called then. In rectifying this weakness, Adeleke sorted out his O’Level and went ahead to get a higher degree in America. The rest has now become history. He knocked that weakness off his list of problems. His love for dance that he could not take care of, the camp found an explanation for him. To them, dancing, regardless of the style, is not a sin. After all, all politicians dance!
Improved public engagements against all odds
Unlike the 2018 contest when it was hard for anyone to see Candidate Ademola Adeleke engage the public, the PDP team buoyed up his confidence to engage the electorate in campaign activities leading to the election. Though, he made a few slips in the public in the course of meeting with critical stakeholders, the camp ensured all was explained away. At the beginning of the campaigns, he was on tape boasting about the availability of money in different foreign currencies, while his team said their candidate was only referring the war chest to prosecute the election, the opposition alleged he was publicly boasting of his ability to buy votes from the people. Despite this, Adeleke led the campaign train across the length and breadth of the state talking about his plans if he was rewarded with the governorship seat. To top it all, and against the expectations of the major contesting camps, Adeleke appeared at all the debates organised before the election. He was first at the BBC Yoruba Debate where he popularised the mantra “ Eyin eniyan mi ni Osun, e ku iroju o” (My people in Osun State, I commend your resilience). This, in no small measure, changed perception about him. A survey of the social media days after the debate indicated some sort of public acceptance. He skipped the Arise TV debate, and then appeared again on Channels TV debate. Though the performance at the Channels debate, which was few days to the election, could not be said to be anything around the average, the purpose has been achieved. Ademola Adeleke had been thrusted on a sizable number of eyeballs.
Garnering Unrivalled Street Credibility
The credibility that the governor-elect garnered in the activities leading to the July 16 contest was unrivalled. The team had gone through the nooks and corners of the state generating, countering and seizing the narrative from the ruling party. The team ensured that they replaced every negative narrative out there with a more positive ones. The way Osun residents and indigenes trooped out to welcome him at every of his outing was unbelievable. A viral video of the Ademola Adeleke campaign ground at Ikirun, Ifelodun Local Government on social media showed a huge crowd. Eyewitnesses also recalled that his movements during the campaign had attracted thousands of his admirers. If the pre-election movement was said to be a fluke, the crowd that trooped out to celebrate his victory after he was declared showed our man is strong on the street.
Attack-Driven Campaign Strategy
The governor-elect benefitted from the information pollution that occurred during the 2022 Governorship Election campaign activities. According to the data collected by the Positive Agenda Nigeria, the two major parties employed attack-driven campaign strategies mostly out of the three available strategies of attack, defence and acclaims. While attacks means messages that denigrate the personality traits of candidates and leadership qualities or competencies of the parties and candidates to govern the state or deliberate demeaning of the quality of programmes, initiatives and projects of the incumbent, acclaims refer to messages that show candidates or parties as being better than others in terms of personality traits, leadership qualities and competencies in delivering public goods to the people of the state or the programmes, policies or projects that the candidates or parties have for the benefits of the citizenry. A look at the data clearly shows that the PDP/Adeleke led other parties and candidates in the ten-week campaign period. However, higher frequency of messages did not equal to the quality of the messages. The report noted that the two major parties engaged the public with issues not on the premise of what they intended to do differently. Of PDP/Adeleke, the report said “the party (PDP) and its supporters only discussed the issues and/or needs in relation to personality disparagement with less emphasis on what the candidate (Senator Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke) and the party will do differently.”
The Anger-Beneficiary Strategy
Ademola Adeleke/PDP is a product of anger in his political journey. Upon the death of his senior brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, in 2017, he made his first attempt to hold a public office when he wanted to replace his late brother in the Nigerian Senate on the ticket of the APC. The party denied him the ticket, he defected to the PDP and became the senator for the Osun West Senatorial District. This was achieved on the basis of anger and sympathy of the people in his constituency. People felt he should not have been denied the ticket in the APC. Others felt the government of the day had a hand in his brother’s death. He leveraged on the public sympathy and penetrated some aggrieved communities. It was landslide. In fact, there were inter-party votes. Members of the APC in the constituency were said to have voted for Ademola Adeleke then. The same scenario had played out again. This time, he leveraged the division in the ruling party, the frustration of the civil servants and pensioners, the rising negative perception of the ruling party as well as the weak strategic connection of the Oyetola administration to the people to push himself to power. Ademola Adeleke penetrated these communities, seized narratives and position himself for power. This strategy has its own implications. Ademola Adeleke has been successful in recalibrating individuals to see him as the alternative to that which they were angry about. Will he now place (in) sufficient weight on the welfare of the angry communities or blocs when making governance decisions? Any choice made by the governor-elect will impact his rating as anger raises the target’s expectations.
It should be clear that election campaign strategies are different from governance communication strategies. The expectation is that the votes have counted. Will the improved electoral process lead to good governance? These are questions to be answered by both the governor-elect and the people in the days ahead.
Rasheed A Adebiyi, PhD, the Team Lead of Positive Agenda Nigeria, is of the Department of Mass Communication, Fountain University, Osogbo.
NB: This piece is a deliverable of the Osun Election Campaign Monitoring Research produced by Positive Agenda Nigeria (PAN), an evidence-based NGO in Nigeria