In Nigeria today, politics is big business, because a plum political office, such as President, governor, or senator, or a juicy political appointment, such as minister or commissioner, is viewed as a passport to wealth. That’s why the stakes are always very high in running for any plum political office in the land. It is for the same reason that many Nigerian politicians employ all kinds of mischief and malpractices in order to ensure electoral victory.
Such is the case in Osun State, where two recent events were over-politicised, rattling the political landscape and reverberating across the country. One is the sudden death of Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, alias Serubawon, the first civilian Governor of Osun State. It will be recalled that, up until his death, Adeleke was engulfed in preparations to run for governor at the expiration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s second term in 2018.
The other event is the series of manoeuvres associated with the primary election to fill the senatorial seat in the Osun West Senatorial District vacated by Adeleke. The two events are better viewed as members of a series, involving a forthcoming third event, the bye-election scheduled for Saturday, July 8, 2017, to fill the senatorial seat, and culminating in a fourth event, the 2018 governorship election.
The first two events share three things in common. One, they are laced with controversies and vitriolic attacks on presumed political adversaries. Two, the underlying motive behind the controversies is access to power and wealth through political office. Three, the protagonist of both events is the deceased’s younger brother, Otunba Ademola Adeleke, an erstwhile businessman suddenly turned politician. In what follows I describe the two events and analyse the three shared features.
The first event, the sudden death of Adeleke, could not but draw condolences and sympathy for the survivors. The suddenness of his death, following a late night outing, could not but lead to questions as to the cause of death, even as the survivors were being condoned: “But I still spoke with him last night. Ki lo s’ele? Aa, o ma se o”.
However, one of the survivors, Otunba Adeleke, in collusion with his supporters, soon turned condolences on their heads, accusing the Aregbesola administration of “poisoning” his brother. Television viewers will recall the image of a serving Commissioner in Osun State, Ms Idia Babalola, being shielded by Governor Ibikunle Amosu from a lynching mob during the funeral.
Not only was Ms Babalola seen at the funeral as the face of the Aregbesola administration, her shared Ede origin with the Adelekes was viewed as a problem, because it was assumed that she is a likely running mate to whoever emerges as the Aregbesola-favoured candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the 2018 governorship election. That may complicate Otunba Adeleke’s political ambition.
It is unfortunate that the sad event of the funeral of the first civilian governor of the state was turned to a site for political contestation because his younger brother wanted to replace him in the Senate and possibly thereafter appropriate his governorship ambition that was aborted by death.
Two aspects of this contestation are noteworthy. The first is the poison narrative and the initial rejection of the Coroner’s Inquest by the Adeleke family, led by Otunba Adeleke, and joined by the Osun State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party. The goal, of course, was to pollute the political landscape and poison the voters’ mind against the Aregbesola administration and its APC supporters. Verbal thuggery of this kind is part of the political game of reaping electoral profit from falsehoods and other kinds of mischief.
The second is the clear falsification of the poison narrative by both the police toxicology report and the Coroner’s Inquest. Both confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that Adeleke died of drug overdose. Hear the Coroner, Magistrate Olusegun Ayilara: “There were no traces of poison and metal in the system of the deceased. The cause of death is aspiration caused by a drug overdose”. The Coroner went further to order the prosecution of the nurse, Mr Alfred Aderibigbe, who administered “multiple doses of banned drugs, steroids, analgesics and sedatives on the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke” (Vanguard, May 30, 2017).
With the poison narrative quashed, attention shifted to the series of mischievous manoeuvres associated with the primary elections in both the APC and the PDP, with Otunba Adeleke as the central figure in both primaries. First, Senator Mudashiru Hussain was screened out on a false allegation that he failed to resign his appointment as Commissioner within the stipulated 30 days before seeking the APC party ticket in the July 8 bye-election. The false disqualification was upheld by the Appeals Committee but later rightly upturned by the National Working Committee, which is the supreme authority to nominate candidates for election in the party.
The NWC noted that Hussain should not have been disqualified in the first instance because, as pointed out in his appeal, (1) he is not required to resign his appointment before standing for election, as he was not a “public servant” employed by a Public Service Commission, as stipulated in Section 318(1) of the 1999 constitution, but a “political office holder”, like a governor, senator, or Local Government chairman, as affirmed in the case of Dada v. Adeyeye (2005) 6 NWLR (Pt. 920) 1 C.A and (2), notwithstanding, he still went on to resign his appointment a full 32 days “before the date of election”, in a letter dated June 6, 2017.
The sad irony about Hussain’s kangaroo disqualification is that it was he, who, in 2015, voluntarily relinquished the senatorial seat he occupied to Senator Adeleke at the behest of the party and as a mark of honour for the deceased senator, notwithstanding the fact that he defeated the same Adeleke in the 2011 senatorial election with a landslide margin of 112,000 votes.
Sensing defeat in the APC primary, slated for Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Otunba Adeleke switched party alliance on its eve, from the APC to the PDP, and negotiated his way to secure the PDP’s ticket hours later. He will now run against the man, who had earlier vacated his senatorial seat for his deceased brother.
In his letter of withdrawal and resignation from the APC, Otunba Adeleke cited (1) “manipulations and interference by political godfathers and power brokers” and (2) the non-use of Iwo, for the election, because he takes it as the headquarters of the Osun West Senatorial District.
Three pertinent issues were raised in the APC’s response to Otuba Adeleke’s letter of withdrawal (see, especially, Vanguard, June 15, 2017): (1) that the party primary could be held anywhere, which was why the APC 2016 presidential primary was held in Lagos, and not in Abuja; (2) that Otunba Adeleke was being mischievous in describing the NWC’s well-reasoned judgment as “manipulations”; and (3) that Otunba Adeleke was even never a registered member of the APC in his Abogunde/Sagba Ward 2 in Ede North Local Government Area.
Otunba Adeleke’s behaviour so far raises serious ethical issues. Why vilify the innocent-Ms Babalola, Aregbesola and Hussain-for electoral gain?
Otunba Adeleke’s manoeuvres also provide a very sad commentary on the status of our democracy and the role of our political parties in it. His shopping for position by switching between two political parties is a further indictment of our political culture and its lack of distinguishing ideological differences between political parties. It further demonstrates the predominance of self-interest as reason for political participation.
Nigeria’s road to democracy has been rough enough, a point made repeatedly on Prof. Ayo Olukotun’ Friday column in The PUNCH. With all the ongoing nationwide shenanigans in the political parties, it seems to be getting rougher and rougher.
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