he people of the State of Osun (as the government under Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola liked to be called during the turbulent years of the President Jonathan administration) went to the polls last week to elect a governor in an off-cycle election. From the outset, it was clear that the two major political parties were going into the elections internally divided and that this would affect the outcome of the elections. To be sure it did. That is because, egos, big egos, not issues of development or allocation of resources, were involved and the gladiators were not ready to deploy common sense in the fight for victory. In a sense, it was a repeat of the battle over the governorship seat that was fought, won, and lost in 2018. Popular opinion is that Senator Ademola Adeleke won that election though the APC machinery was used to wrest power from him, using the judiciary. Whether this is true or not is no longer important. Or is it?
The very robust dancing Senator Adeleke, barring last minute APC-government magic will soon occupy Government House in Oshogbo! Incumbent Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is yet to congratulate the winner, an indication that there might be a battle ahead. But Oyetola should let sleeping dogs lie and allow the people of Osun enjoy democracy dividends. If as incumbent governor he could not impress the people enough to win outright despite all resources at his disposal, then he is the architect of his misfortune. How could any sensible governor refuse to pay the entitlements of pensioners in four years till the eve of elections? It is callous, inhumane, and repulsive to natural justice to deny workers their emoluments. It is worse when dealing with retirees! Leaving men and women who have spent their youthful energy in service of the state to languish in their vulnerable age is a curse on any leadership! Already, Senator Adeleke has claimed that ‘the reason the state government is owing (sic) salaries and cannot pay pensioners is that a lot of the state’s money is taken to Lagos State’. The battle line is drawn – the ubiquitous Lagos Machine has been called out again!
The swift congratulatory message from Mr. President has calmed nerves somewhat, though it may not be the end of the matter. A President ought to be a father to the nation, taking the right steps, saying the right things, and setting the proper examples for the rest of us to follow. Yet, there are worries whether Adeleke’s opponent within PDP could upset things in court or whether APC has withdrawn to the war situation room to map out an expulsion strategy!
Former godfathers, new godfathers, and godsons all fought for space and ascendancy before, during and after the elections. The biggest godfather of them all was Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who indeed is the strongest godfather around in the old tradition still showing strength, brain, and some brawn, even if physically feeble. The glee with which netizens celebrated Tinubu’s loss is a study in politics of hate speech! But alas, no mortal power lasts forever! One of the mortal combatants, Rauf Aregbesola, did not bother to show up in the state for the elections, having boycotted the mega rally that preceded the elections. APC bigwigs led by the party’s presidential flag bearer invaded the state with cash and physical presence.
The PDP hierarchy was also on the ground led by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar its Presidential candidate for 2023 and some PDP governors. Some aggrieved notables in the PDP family, especially Governor Nyesom Wike were missing in action. INEC itself was prepared having learnt some lessons from the Anambra and Ekiti off cycle elections. Security agencies were effectively on the ground. If reports by election monitors are used to judge the elections, chances of rigging the lection were minimal because the security agencies elected to be neutral as they were constitutionally mandated to be. But vote buying by both political parties went on, somewhat coded. Of course, we know that often the federal authorities usually deploy their might to influence election outcome in different ways.
At the close of polling, INEC announced PDP as winner with 403,371 votes as against APC’s 375,027 votes. It is instructive that in a state that has a population of 3,416,959, (2006 census), only 403,371 of the 1.95million registered persons voted for the governor. Adeleke won in 17 out of 30 local government areas in the state. With this victory, the dancing governor is set to dance his way into State House Oshogbo. As he will soon find out, democracy is not all about winning elections. It is about ensuring that voters enjoy the dividends of democracy. Indeed, were we in a sane clime, the dismal performance of the Buhari administration would be an eternal baggage for all APC candidates, especially at the national level. With the dollar exchanging at N620 and petrol price upped to N185 per litre, APC would be singing its Nunc Dimittis to power at the federal level. Yet we are in an unusual climate.
The PDP victory in Osun should not be attributed to an Atiku magic or a resurgence of PDP power. It is also not an indication that the APC cannot win other elections. The Nigerian political situation is too fluid to fall into one smooth categorization. Some noses have been bloodied in and outside Osun. All those virulent and toxic posts on social media heated up the polity. It was meant to be a fight-to-finish. But sanity prevailed perhaps because for the man in Aso rock, there is nothing personal at stake and he thought it was time he left a legacy, no matter how late in the day. If this will be the pattern of elections to come, then the citizenry would have more faith in the electioneering process.
As for Senator Adeleke, he must know that becoming governor goes beyond showing dancing skills. It is now the turn of the electorate to dance to his music. The music must be sweet to the feet and ears of Osun people. He must hit the ground running. He must put a credible cabinet in place, men, and women with proven competence whose loyalty will be to the people of Osun, no matter their religious or ethnic affiliations. Good governance must be Number 1 on the State agenda. He could be sent out of Government House in 2027 if all he can do is dance. Already, it has been alleged that he never moved any motion, nor did he sponsor any bill in his years in the Senate. Certainly, he needs all his skills to govern well, especially with a House of Assembly whose members may be loyal to godfathers inside or outside the State of Osun. In all, the interest of the people must be placed above every other interest. That is the only way the people can really say they won the election of July 17 2023! Congratulations Sir, Your Excellency Senator Ademola Adeleke!