PDP didn’t win Osun election, APC lost it

July 26, 2022
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The Independent National Electoral Commission announced (dancing) Senator Ademola Adeleke as the winner of the July 16 governorship election in Osun State by a comfortable margin; 403, 371 to 375,027 for his nearest challenger, the outgoing governor, Adegboyega Oyetola. First of all, congratulations are in order for the winner of a keenly fought election, especially for a man who many believed was ‘robbed’ of victory at the 2018 governorship election in the state. As it will become clearer, this piece does not set out to pour scorn on the achievement of the governor-elect, far from it. Rather, it is an attempt to reinforce an age-old aphorism in democratic politics. That is to say, the opposition does not win elections; the government loses it. The Osun outcome demonstrates that quite vividly. There has never been a situation in living memory where an incumbent was almost literally begging for defeat. A divided party does not win elections. And, when a divided party is up against a jolly, ebullient, ‘man of the people’ candidate with name recognition, that party is not only asking for defeat, it is asking for annihilation.

That said, Adeleke gave his acceptance speech last Sunday in Ede, his local base in the state, saying, “I give praise and adoration to Almighty. I praise the courage and determination of the good people of Osun state….I am overwhelmed by your love and support.” I still do not understand the habit of some politicians giving an ‘acceptance’ speech upon their election win. Voters elect; they do not nominate anyone to office. There is nothing for the winner to accept. A mandate from the electorate is not an invitation to either accept or reject; it is an authority to assume power. Acceptance or rejection of nominations is what happens at a party’s primary contests; not in the aftermath of an election. It is more appropriate for the winner of an election to deliver a victory speech. Victory is indeed what it is.

Adeleke comes across as a humble person, who does not go around with too much air. This is particularly poignant in a state that boasts of a disproportionately high literacy, and high achievers relative to the other states, including, perhaps, even surpassing the neighbouring Ekiti, the erstwhile ‘fountain of knowledge.’ Adeleke’s ‘humble’ background is not in relation to his material comfort. He comes from a stupendously wealthy family with economic footprints all over the state and beyond. His ‘humble’ origin is in relation to his relatively scanty educational antecedents in an environment of highly accomplished and illustrious individuals from the state, dotted all over Nigeria. He makes up for his lack of gravitas, and clumsy use of English by being rather jolly and affable. In other words, he communicates through his body language. And, in an age when other politicians stand accused of arrogance, out of touch, and aloofness, Adeleke’s deft, man-in-the-street, touchy-feely, rotund carriage appears like a breath of fresh air to many. It is a salutary lesson in a democracy that leaders routinely emerge from all sorts of social strata and professional stripe. There is no point fielding the best candidate on paper if he or she does not have electoral appeal. That is precisely what counted for the current President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), in 2015 and 2019.

Speaking of electoral appeal, Adeleke secured the votes of 403,371 out of almost two million registered voters in the state. That it is submitted is far from the overwhelming love of the people. It would be good when politicians deliver a victory speech in Nigeria to always acknowledge the number of people who registered but did not bother coming out to vote for them. While it is important to embrace those who came out to vote for them, it is even more important to demonstrate humility in a nod to those who have not participated in the exercise, maybe as a result of a loss of faith in the process, or a real fear of violence, or some other compelling reasons. Granted that Adeleke has a strong core of supporters on the ground in the state, it is also fair to say that he was a lucky man indeed. Internal wrangling within his own party apart, the complete meltdown, and internecine warfare in the governing All Progressives Congress must have been a dream come true for any opposition. Governor Oyetola had served as a ‘reluctant’ Chief of Staff to the former governor, and current Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola. They later fell out when it came to who would succeed him as governor in 2018. Aregbesola had favoured Moshood Adeoti as his preferred candidate, but he lost the APC primary to Oyetola, due in part, to Bola Tinubu’s diktat in the eyes of Aregbesola and his accolades. Thereafter, Oyetola was adjudged to have lost the 2018 election to Adeleke, but the result was somehow ‘straightened out’ by the cunny plot of the former Peoples Democratic Party Senator, Iyiola Omisore, who allegedly helped turn defeat to a win for the APC.

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Henceforth, Omisore became the APC’s ‘secret weapon’ to be deployed in all future elections in the state. Despite having being accused of masterminding the murder of the late Attorney General of the Federation, Bola Ige, and being so hated and despised in the APC ranks for so long, he became a late convert to the party’s cause, and was systematically embedded into its hierarchy, so much that he emerged as its National Secretary in March this year. The rehabilitation of Omisore as a full-fledged, high-ranking member of the APC has been nothing short of breath-taking hypocrisy on the part of the APC leaders in the South-West region who had previously vowed to unmask the killers of Ige no matter who it might have been or how long it would take. The absorption of Omisore into the APC fold was raw politics; it upended all notions of justice and civilised values. It was based on the erroneous calculation that he alone was capable of retaining Osun State for the party in perpetuity, given his tried and tested slash and burn style for garnering votes. It was a huge gamble on a man many in the party still see as complicit in murder. INEC’s revamped system of electronic transmission of results made it difficult for anyone, not least Omisore, to ‘fix’ the result for the APC this time around.

In the final analysis, prior to the election, the Aregbesola camp, the self-styled “Osun Progressives”, had almost become a party within a party in the state. They held the governor, and his own camp, ‘Ileri Oluwa’ (God’s promise) in utter contempt and were at daggers drawn throughout. As things turned out, Adeleke defeated Oyetola by a margin of some twenty eight thousand votes. That is a high number by any account, but, given the tumultuous state of the APC, it is a miracle that it was not much higher. That notwithstanding, the Osun election cannot be used as a barometer for what is likely to happen nationwide in 2023. It was an extremely unusual situation, where the two main parties were rocked by an internal crisis .The bulk of the voters in the state had stayed away in their millions. Those who voted did so not because of the political parties. Neither the PDP nor APC had covered themselves in glory as rallying forces for their respective candidates. The APC paid a higher price because it is the party in government. They fielded a thoroughly bland and utterly uninspiring governor yearning for a second term of factional paralysis. It is just as well the electorate said good riddance to bad rubbish.

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