By Olusegun Adeniyi
I watched the video clip of Davido in tears of joy as he prostrated for top politicians he believed helped his uncle, Ademola Adeleke, over the line in Saturday’s Osun State gubernatorial election. The video says a lot about what the family has had to endure these past eight years and the hubris of political titans who tried to play god in the state. In spite of the fact that the only ‘manifesto’ from the victorious Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate during the five years he pursued his ambition was dancing; that was enough to see him through.
In the wake of the Osun result, we’ve witnessed a lot of back slapping by PDP leaders, which is to be expected. Particularly as we inch towards the 2023 general election. It is a big scalp for the main opposition party to claim. But I don’t want them to get carried away nor should Nigerians be misled into believing that the Osun gubernatorial result will follow the same pattern next February. All politics, as they say, is local. Besides, given the unpredictable variables thrown into the mix by Peter Obi whose aspiration has turned the Labour Party into a mass movement, especially among young Nigerians and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the fast-growing NNPP, the 2023 general election may not be like the usual two-party contest of the past.
But before I make my point, it is important to commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for constantly improving on their performance. It is now becoming increasingly difficult to game elections in our country. And because they can no longer manipulate results after ballots have been cast, desperate politicians are now stockpiling money to buy votes on polling day. Incidentally, this is not a peculiar problem. In 19th-century Britain and the United States, according to a University of Florida research paper published on www.cambridge.org/core, “vote buying was commonplace. Parties gave voters cash, food, alcohol, health care, poverty relief, and a myriad of other benefits in exchange for their votes. To gain leverage over them, parties gathered information about voters’ debts, their crimes, even their infidelities.” But today, “these forms of distributive politics have basically disappeared from both countries, as they have from most other advanced democracies where they once were practiced.”
As other societies have done, we must also checkmate the activities of vote buyers if we are to advance our democracy.
Let me also say something about how the election of Adeleke speaks to the issue of religious tolerance in Yorubaland in a manner that may be difficult for outsiders to understand. The late patriarch of the family, Second Republic Senator Raji Ayoola Adeleke, was a respected community and Islamic leader in Edeland. His wife, Nnena Esther Adeleke (nee Akpara) hailed from Akwete, Ukwa East local government area of Abia State, and was not only a Christian but the founder of a Cherubim and Seraphim church in Ede. Their eldest son, the late Isiaka Adeleke was a Muslim, but his immediate younger sibling, Tajudeen Adedeji Adeleke (Davido’s father) is a Seventh Day Adventist Christian. Meanwhile, the governor-elect, Jackson Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke is as comfortable in a Church as he is in a Mosque!
Last Sunday, THISDAY carried a brilliant headline: “APC, Tinubu, Oyetola:Won Lu’le…” That adapted Yoruba phrase, recently popularized by the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, depicts how President Muhammadu Buhari lost three presidential elections in a row. A crude translation: ‘they fell ignominiously’. I love the headline because in so many ways, it tells a compelling story of the battles the Adelekes have fought to preserve a family legacy. The story of this election began in 2014 when the late Isiaka Adeleke, the first civilian governor of Osun state, led thousands of supporters from the then ruling PDP to join the APC, cobbled together only a year before. Fondly called ‘Serubawon’ (the intimidator), the late Adeleke was a colourful politician whose family holds significant influence in Ede and environs. In fact, their late father, a Second Republic Senator, represented a huge swathe of what is now Osun State. ‘Serubawon’, the eldest of the Adeleke brothers, had been a PDP gubernatorial aspirant before he was muscled out by the party leadership who ceded the ticket to Omisore.
Addressing APC members in Osogbo as he switched party on 31st May 2014, ‘Serubawon’ alleged he had been physically assaulted by a number of PDP bigwigs, including Omisore. “I was asked to come and vie for governorship, that Omisore is not capable. I accepted. But a day to the congress I got to the hotel in Osogbo and the people I sent there were on the floor with guns pointed at their heads and I told the police that they are members of our party from Ede,” ‘Serubawon’ recounted at the APC rally. “I then moved towards the room where I met Sogo Agboola, Jelili Adesiyan, Iyiola Omisore, Gani Olaoluwa and others. As I was about explaining what happened outside to the Minister (Adesiyan), he descended on me with blows. So also, was Omisore and others.”
Adesiyan, who was at that period the Minister of State for Police Affairs (a position he owed to Omisore), of course did not allow the allegation to go unchallenged. But he replied ‘Serubawon’ in a manner that would have cost him his job in saner climes. Apparently unmindful of the implication of his words, Adesiyan told reporters: “Adeleke is lying if he says Omisore and I beat him. One upper or lower cut would have landed him in the hospital. After running to his people in the APC, they perfected the story for him. You know they are very good at propaganda. Ta lo nje ode aperin niwaju ode ap’eyan (who is an elephant hunter in the presence of a hunter who kills human beings?) I will one day leave office as a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria, and I will fight Adeleke.”
It was amid this acrimony that the late ‘Serubawon’ left PDP for APC. With his support, Aregbesola defeated Omisore in August 2014 to secure a second term as governor. By way of payback, the then incumbent APC Senator, Mudashiru Hussein was asked to step down for ‘Serubawon’ who was given the party’s senatorial ticket for Osun West in the 2015 general election. Two years after winning his senatorial election, ‘Serubawon’ died on 24th April 2017. To assuage their feeling of hurt, the family demanded that the APC ticket be given to his younger brother, Ademola to complete the term. But power brokers within the party and Aregbesola opted to give the ticket back to Mudashiru Hussein. In protest, the younger Adeleke left APC for the PDP where he was handed the senatorial ticket.
In the bye-election held in July 2017 just a few days after joining the PDP, Ademola Adeleke defeated the APC candidate by a landslide, an indication of the popularity of his family. He won in nine of the 10 local governments that make up the senatorial district. With 97,480 votes to Hussein’s 66,116 votes, Adeleke won in Iwo, Olaoluwa, Ayedare, Irewole, Ede North, Ede South, Ayedaade, Egbedore and Isokan local governments, losing only in Ejigbo local government. Beyond the victory of Adeleke in the senatorial contest, the clear message from that election for the APC was that Osun West people were not happy with the status quo in the state where they felt marginalised. The ‘Awa L’okan’ (it is our turn) clamour for the governorship mantle was already very strong in the zone and the Adeleke family knew it.
In fact, in moving from the PDP to APC in 2014, the late ‘Serubawon’ must have made a number of strategic calculations.
Of the three zones in the state, Osun Central had produced two governors who spent a cumulative 11 years and Osun East represented by Aregbesola at the time would have done eight years by 2018. There was therefore an unspoken agreement in the state that Aregbesola would be succeeded by someone from Osun West. Beyond the feeling of group marginalization, ‘Serubawon’ was also Governor for almost two years during the transition to civil rule programme of General Ibrahim Babangida in 1992/1993. His contemporaries like Chief Olusegun Osoba (Ogun State), the late Abubakar Audu (Kogi State) and Abba Bukar Ibrahim (Yobe State) were by 1999 elected governors of their respective states under the current dispensation. Quite naturally, ‘Serubawon’ also felt he had an unfinished business in Osun and was believed to be putting structures in place for the 2018 gubernatorial election in the state before his death.
This was the background to the 2018 gubernatorial election in the state. The PDP made their calculations and read the local mood about power shift quite correctly. For the first time, they successfully wrestled the Osun gubernatorial ticket from Omisore and gave it to Adeleke who was already performing ‘oversight dancing’ in the Senate. Denied the PDP ticket, Omisore moved to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the platform of which he eventually contested the gubernatorial election. He would later play a decisive role against both the PDP and Adeleke when the election became inconclusive.
To be fair, Aregbesola also read the mood in Osun quite well at the time. In the APC, the most popular gubernatorial aspirant was Moshood Adeoti, his former Secretary to the State Government and a grassroots politician from Iwo in Osun West. Apparently mindful of local sentiment, Adeoti was Aregbesola’s personal preference. At the end, it was Oyetola, who hails from the same central zone that had produced Governors Bisi Akande and Olagunsoye Oyinlola who secured the APC ticket due to Tinubu’s support. The story of what happened in the 2018 gubernatorial election is already well-documented, but the table turned last Saturday when Adeleke danced his way to victory.
Now to the substantive issue. I don’t know how much the outcome of the Osun State gubernatorial election will impact the 2023 presidential election. But it is a blow to the ruling APC. As I have said in the past, the disdain for consensus and utter disrespect for local sensitivities by political leaders is at the heart of most of the challenges we face in the polity today. When a politician becomes the court of last resort, allowing him to trample on communal feelings, he is unwittingly isolating himself from those who can tell him the truth or/and relate to him with an objective focus on the common good. That is a very dangerous place to be. For the Osun State governor-elect, let me also say something. He may have danced his way to power, but Adeleke must know that he needs help for him to sustain the legacy of his illustrious family. Luckily, his elder brother and Davido’s dad to whom he owes so much (and for whom he prostrated the moment the result was declared) has the intellectual heft and managerial acumen to help him. I sincerely hope the Adeleke family will assist their man to assemble a good team. Ademola Adeleke cannot govern simply by dancing all over the place. Already, in certain quarters in Osun State, apprehensions founded on a timeless Yoruba adage are gaining ground: “Iyawo ti a fi ijo fe, iran ni o wo lo…”
I need someone to help me interpret that to my non-Yoruba readers.
Culled from ThisDay