For the people of Osun, the sudden death of the first executive governor of the state, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, is not just a colossal loss, it is equally suspicious. Segun James and Shola Oyeyipo write

It was a blend of sorrow, anger and anxiety last Sunday, in Osun State, particularly in Ede, the country home of the first executive governor of the state, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, when the news filtered into town that the flamboyant and charismatic federal lawmaker died at 62 in a private hospital in Osogbo when he succumbed to a protracted ailment.

Family sources said the late Adeleke suffered a heart attack and was rushed to Bikets Hospital where he passed away and by that incident, the political permutation of many book makers ahead of the next governorship election in the state has automatically changed. The reason is simply because it wasn’t just that he had started wooing more supporters to actualise his comeback bid, Adeleke was one of the strongest contenders to the Bola Ige House.

The immediate reaction among some of his die-hard supporters was suspicion. They held strongly to the view that the late politician’s death was not natural and that he was attacked spiritually. Some others claimed that he was poisoned with the view to pave way for another APC aspirant to win the next year governorship election.

But for the timely intervention of spirited Nigerians Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) reporter, Mr. Tope Alabi and his cameraman would have been the first casualties of the emotion trauma that followed the news of Adeleke’s death as irate youths protesting the sudden death of the well-loved politician took to the street and attacked the journalists out of their anger. This is more so because the late senator attended an event in Iwo, Osun State on Saturday, April 22 and he was looking hale and hearty.

What does it take a politician to be loved by his people? Some say to be considered loved by your people, you must have impacted on their lives positively. If this is so, then the outpouring of grief and tears that followed Adeleke’s death over the weekend is well deserved.

He rocketed into the nation’s political stage in 1991 with a charismatic and flamboyant posture hoping to become the first civilian governor of the newly created Osun state in 1992 during the third republic, and not surprisingly, he achieved his ambition.

Not that he was new to politics. In fact, he was born into it. Being a scion of a politician father who was a senator of the federal republic, politicking came naturally to him. But then, he was not satisfied or sufficient at being the son of political father whose names can open doors, he wanted to achieve on his own.

The challenges would not be easy to overcome. In the politics of the southwest, every political decision was taken by a committee of elders who determined who got what and when. But when this young man of 37 years decided to dare the odds, it was assumed that his ambition was dead on arrival.

This was not his only obstacle; the Yoruba have an adage: ‘we cannot serve the father and also serve the son.’

But Adeleke would not let this be a hindrance to his ambition. He made it known that he was his own man. He dared the odds and was eventually elected and sworn in as the executive governor of the state.

Not satisfied with the kingmaker role he has been playing in the last 20 years while also being a player, Adeleke was preparing for a second coming as governor when death came calling. Some politicians in Osun were uncomfortable with his ambition.

Adeleke was also not afraid to confront those in authorities. He had spoken out against the undemocratic practice of the Osun State Government under Raufu Aregbesola for refusing to conduct local government elections in the state.

He was a vibrant, unabashedly liberal political player who occupied a central position in the politics of his state.

Following the return of politics after his tenure as governor abruptly ended by the 1993 coup that ushered in General Sani Abacha, Adeleke returned to his private business until the return of politics in 1999.

He was elected into the Senate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2007 and again in 2011, but he defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) before the 2015 general election under whose platform he was re-elected in 2015.

When Osun State was created in 1991, little was it known that a thorough-bred Omoluabi, in person of Adeleke, would be its first executive governor! He ran the state for 20 months and no doubt, left indelible achievements behind.

Adeleke embodied the good, time-honoured values of a gentleman, in words and deeds. He was thus recognised by his peers, subordinates, associates and the elders. Well-nurtured and good-natured in his spiritual, political, family and professional callings, Adeleke had a simple disposition to life, easily accessible and never shunning anybody on account of his or her low class.

He was born on January 15, 1955 to the family of Ayoola Adeleke and Esther Adeleke. His father was once a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Though, an indigene of Osun State, he was born in Enugu State and was there in his early years before the civil war began. He had his Primary Education at Christ Church School, Enugu before his family moved to Ibadan. He however completed his secondary school at Ogbomosho Grammar School where he had his West Africa School Certificate in 1972.

He then proceeded to the Jacksonville State University, United States of America where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science in 1983. In 1985, he obtained his Masters in Public Administration from the same Institution.

Before becoming a senator, he was the Chairman, Governing Council, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, University of Calabar, Nigeria. He was also the Director of Pacific Merchant Bank and Chairman of Tadel Investment Limited.

In 2007, Adeleke contested for a seat in the Osun West Senatorial district under the platform People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and won. He lost out in the 2011 elections. However, in the 2015 elections, he again re-contested for a seat in the same district under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and won.

He found satisfaction living among his native Osun people since he left office as governor in 1993. He would not forsake his people. This perhaps explained why he refused to relocate abroad or to mega cities. He was a cheerful giver, who did his best to better the lot of his constituency, during his tenure as a senator.

His Ede home, as well as his modest residence in Ikeja, where he lived since 1993, remained all that he had to show for his years in politics. This is in contrast to the high taste of other politicians that he mentored, who now have thrown up multi-million naira mansions after just few years of being in political office.

His experience in the Senate during his first election into the upper legislative chamber, gave him a broader focus and clearer vision, which he found useful when he came back in 2015. His creativity, huge mental intellect, assertiveness, communication skills, charisma, doggedness and resilience in the face of extreme provocation, stood him out as a politician in the class of his own.

A man with the distinguished national honour of a Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), he was a force to be reckoned with in Osun political arena.

While some opted to take to the street, reactions among other notable Nigerians underscored how the people felt about a man who nobody thought was going to die any time soon. Governor Aregbesola, in far away China, who took to his twitter handle shortly after the news said: “I received with a deep sense of grief the news of the death of my brother and friend, Senator Isiaka Adeleke.” Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki described Adeleke’s death as a “sad personal loss”, stressing that “He was a formidable colleague.”

He added that: “Senator Adeleke was always passionate about his work. He always exhibited a distinct dedication and an ability to work with everyone. Senator Adeleke’s contributions to the development of Osun State in particular and the nation in general will never be forgotten. He was a leader in every right, a formidable colleague, patriotic statesman, good family man and complete gentleman.”

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, also joined other Nigerians to speak highly of the former governor when he described the death of Adeleke as a rude shock in a statement issued by one of his media aides, Mr. Moses Olafare. According to the monarch, Adeleke’s sudden death was a great loss to the state and the country at large.

Former Osun State governor, Mr. Olagunsoye Oyinlola, on his part described Adeleke’s death as a monumental loss, adding that the late politician was his brother, friend and confidant whose demise had made him, the state and the political class in Nigeria poorer.

Former three term member, Nigerian House of Representatives between 2003 and 2015 and Senior Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Relations and Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri Erewa said: “What a colossal loss! Senator Isiaka Adeleke. He still campaigned actively as at yesterday (Saturday) evening!”

While the list of mourners and sympathizers are bound to be endless and outpour of emotion continuing, the general overview of how the Osun politician is seen was succinctly encapsulated in the condolence message of the Hon. Najeem Salaam-led Osun State House of Assembly which described as “rude shock and great loss,” the death of Adeleke, who currently represents Osun West senatorial district at the upper chamber of the National Assembly

The statement by the chairman, House Committee on Information and Strategy, Hon. Olatunbosun Oyintiloye, stated that the death was a great loss to the people of Ede town, Osun West senatorial district, Osun State, upper chamber of the National Assembly and Nigeria in general.

The state’s parliament said: “Senator Adeleke was a leader of leaders, a philanthropist per excellence has made significant impacts in the lives of many young ones in Osun and Nigeria as a whole”. There is no gainsaying the fact that the state has lost one of its most experienced politicians, whose death will no doubt leave a huge vacuum in the pool of experienced politician and democrats in our state. The state parliament valued the invaluable contributions of Senator Adeleke to the development of our state, and entrenchment of democratic tenets. No doubt, he will be greatly missed.”

A former deputy governor and Senator, and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Iyiola Omisore expressed grief over the death of Adeleke.

Omisore, in a press statement described him as an accomplished politician, entrepreneur and philanthropist. The former Deputy Governor stressed that Adeleke would be missed in the state for his profound philanthropy and humble lifestyle.

Omisore said the late Senator was diligent in all his state and National assignments, and made his significant impacts in the lives of many within the state and Nigeria as a whole.

“I received with deep sadness, the shocking news of the demise of a political Icon, Senator Isiaka Adeleke. His demise no doubt leaves a void that cannot be easily filled. As a former governor of our dear state and a Senator, his footprints were indeed indelible.

“His death is a personal loss to me. Though in a different political party, we both understood the fact that political party is just a platform to serve our people. We worked together in the Nigerian senate with the interest of our state paramount on our minds. It is indeed a dark day” the statement reads.

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Adeleke was also not afraid to confront those in authorities. He had spoken out against the undemocratic practice of the Osun State Government under Raufu Aregbesola for refusing to conduct local government elections in the state.