Osun: The morning after

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In Nigeria
Aug 11th, 2014
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All is quiet now in the aftermath of the governorship election in Osun State, bar the exuberant rejoicing in re-elected Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s circle, which stretches all the way from Osogbo to Bourdillon Road in Ikoyi, Lagos, the grieving in Aso Rock and in Wadata Plaza and the gnashing of teeth in the palaces of some wayward monarchs.

Make no mistake about it:  The election was a contest between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Ogbeni Aregbesola, on the one hand, and President Goodluck Jonathan, and the entire apparatus of the Federal Government on the other, with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Iyiola Omisore, playing along as bit actors.

With the Federal Juggernaut behind you – slush money, logistics, the police, the army, the secret service, clandestine armed services of no known provenance, and the desperate craving to “capture” more opposition territory – with these and much more behind you, who can stand in your way?

Besides, the governorship election in Ekiti two months earlier had not only pointed up a winning formula that accorded sophomoric stunts a greater salience than solid achievement, it had also shown that the entire Southwest was politically ripe for the picking.

But something went horribly wrong on the way to the orchard.

The would-be harvesters suffered a comprehensive sandbagging.

All the intimidating display of force and might, the warrantless arrest of officials and operatives of the governing party in the state, the bullying, the stoking of religious differences, the claim to possession of private facts that showed Omisore not only leading but coasting to victory —everything ended in a puff, “just like that,” to borrow a phasing from Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Afro-beat king.

Such was the compass of the intimidation that Chief Isiaka “Serubawon” Adeleke, who once governed the state on the Caligula Principle —”You can hate us, so long as you fear us” — was driven by fear to flee his home in Ede and go into hiding as the Federal Juggernaut widened the reach of its ravenous dragnet.

At Aso Rock and in the palaces of the wayward monarchs and in Wadata Plaza and in the ranks of Dr Jonathan’s private army of ghost “public affairs analysts” and “public affairs commentators”, who invariably live in Abuja, they must be wondering how what was supposed to be an easy take-over turned into a comprehensive rout of the would-be receivers.

They conveniently forgot that Osun is not Ekiti.  Believing that the dividends of democracy begin and end in the stomach, they could not see beyond the stomachs of the electorate. Accordingly, they tailored their messages to appeal to that organ and its immediate satiation. They mis- apprehended an outlier, an aberration, for a trend.  They willfully set aside the public record and stuck with their private facts.

And so, what was supposed to serve as a bridgehead for the capture of the Southwest in Dr Jonathan’s all-but-certain presidential run in 2015 ended up as the graveyard of that strategy. They will now have to go back to the drawing board on that one.  And, despite the gain in Ekiti, his faction of the National Governors Forum remains a minority; the most it can hope for is parity in membership with the group from which it was suborned to defect.

The Osun verdict is on one level a personal triumph for the austere and driven Rauf Aregbesola.  Unlike some who stumbled into office in a fit of absent-mindedness or were dragooned into it, he entered office fully prepared, a man with a mission, armed with blueprints for transforming the      State of Osun.  From his first day in office, he has pursued his progressive agenda with a singularity of purpose that has alienated some around him who regard political office not as a summons to service but an invitation to eat, drink and be merry.

The election outcome is also a victory for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the National Leader of the victorious APC.  Following the party’s freak defeat in the Ekiti governorship race, some commentators had begun to script his political obituary.  They said he was waning as a political force in his Southwest redoubt, and was headed for the abyss.

It is not the first or the second time such things are being said of him, and it won’t be the last. Those counting him must be prepared for a long wait. The man’s capacity for resurgence is simply astonishing.

The election was in a way a proving ground for the Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, whom I got to know quite well when he served as a consultant to the Editorial Board of The Guardian, where I was chair of the board and editorial page editor.

He acquitted himself magnificently, displaying the intelligence, the sharp, analytic mind, the capacity for sustained engagement, the eloquence, the resoluteness and the forthrightness that made him one of the youngest, if not the youngest person to be appointed permanent secretary in the Federal Civil Service.

The decisiveness with which he moved the APC machinery to Osogbo to counter the designs of the Federal Might was vintage Oyegun.  He is not combative by nature, but he is not afraid of a fight. You can count on him to fight a good fight.

I cannot recall the context now, but in one of the many conversations I had with General Olusegun Obasanjo during visits to his farm in Ota, I mentioned that Oyegun had marked his 55th birthday lately.  Obasanjo, who is as flinty with praise as he is with his money, spoke glowingly of Oyegun who served with him when he was head of state.

He asked me to convey to Oyegun his desire to host a birthday luncheon for him, his family and friends. The luncheon did take place, several weeks later.

That is a measure of the esteem in which Oyegun is held.

The on-again, off-again candidate of the Labour Party, Fatai Akinbade, finished as an also-ran.  But he provided a comic relief that dispelled somewhat the high tension that marked the vote tallying. Losing on every turf and registering for the most part less than token presence, his spokesperson nevertheless called on the candidates of the APC and the PDP to withdraw if they felt threatened by Akinade’s profile.

At this writing, Omisore has not conceded.  The man, who could win election to the Senate from prison where he was being held as a suspect in the prosecution of the murder of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, has now twice failed to win election from the outside. He lost his re-election bid to the Senate, and was crushed in his governorship quest.

His political future is uncertain.  Dr. Jonathan may well compensate him with a ministerial appointment, an ambassadorial post, or some other sinecure.

In whatever case, you will never see Omisore again riding an okada or devouring a cob of roast corn purchased from a street vendor.

 

 

 

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