Isiaka Adeleke: The Death that Stunned Osun

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Till he breathed his last, former governor of Osun State and incumbent senator as at the time of his death, Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke, rode on the moniker: Serubawon (scare or intimidate them) to prosecute practically all his political battles. Indeed, the circumstances of his sudden death, like his appellation suggests, still leave many stupefied. In this report, Yinka Kolawole pays tribute to a man whose bubbly disposition to life changed the conservative politics of his people

Sixty-two years old Senator Isiaka Adeleke as at the time of his death was the first civilian governor of Osun State, elected on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in the aborted Third Republic. He was in office between January 1992 and November 1993.

In 1999, when the nation returned to civil rule, he could not pull as much weight till he emerged candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Osun West in the Senate from 2007 to 2011. He came from the illustrious Adeleke family of Ede. His father, Senator Ayoola Adeleke, was a progressive politician, an ally of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and a staunch member of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), under which banner he was elected to the Senate during the Second Republic.

It was not surprising, therefore, that Serubawon, as Adeleke was fondly called, returned to the progressives fold in 2014, when he joined the All Progressives Congress (APC). He also used the platform to return to the Senate in 2015, to represent the same Osun West Senatorial district.

Adeleke became the first civilian governor of Osun at the age of 37, barely a year after the creation of the state, at a period he was quite energetic. He was believed to have labored hard by giving his best to lay a good foundation for the then new state, the impact of which Osun still feels today, even though he was in office for less than two years. He was a charismatic politician and political leader with panache, passion and fervor that traversed the political spectrum of the state, appealing also to all social strata. He was at home with the grassroots as he was with the elite.

Adeleke was a very generous man, who gave his all to the needy, friends and constituents, without favouring ethnicity, religion or background. Thousands benefited from his scholarship scheme and social empowerment programmes. He was a loyal party member and a team player, who was determined to help realise the progressive agenda of the party, through legislation, not just in the whole country but in Osun and his senatorial district as well.

Adeleke was a personal friend of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who was committed to his re-election with his entire being. He was unflinching in his support and commitment, even when the security agencies laid a siege on his residence on the eve of the August 9, 2014 governorship election.

His death has been very painful and a blow to the entire state. He obviously has left a void in the Senate, Osun politics, his community in Ede and family that will be hard to fill by anyone else.

Born on January 15, 1955, to the family of Ayoola Adeleke and Esther Adeleke, his father, also a Senator 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 relocated to Ibadan. He however completed his secondary education 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 bagged a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science in 1983. In 1985, he obtained his Masters in Public Administration from the same institution.

Prior to becoming senator, he was 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.

As governor, notable decisions made by Adeleke included the establishment of a polytechnic at Iree, a college of technology at Esa-Oke and the completion of the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation.

Curiously, different circumstances have been depicted on the cause of his death as sympathizers have differed on opinion on the cause of his death.

One of his close associates and loyalists, Shola Akanji, who seemed to have an idea of his movement the day preceding his death, especially on account of the swirling speculations, said “Some people have been carrying rumor that the senator died of heart attack, as his Kinsmen we are compelled to wake up to the reality that the former governor is now on a journey where a return is forever ruled out. He was in Telemu Zone A and at another remote area Zone B under Iwo to round up his consultation for 2018.

“After which he went to the ceremony of the APC senatorial leader of Osun West, Mr. Amobi, who buried his Mother. The late Adeleke and Osun’s Deputy Governor, Mrs. Titi Tomori toasted in camaraderie, unaware of what was ahead. He danced and merried with the dignitaries presnt. From there he was said to have attended another function of one of his disciples, Mr. Lasun from Iwo, whose wife hosted an event. It turned out that he arrived there late and he proceeded to his country home in Ede.

“Those on his entourage were discharged around 2am. Senator Adeleke went upstairs and slept only to wake up after a phone call early in the morning. After 5am, upon experiencing discomfort, he canceled all engagements for the day and went back to his recess. He began to struggle for life to the supportive hands of his aides. He was carried unconsciously into the car and sped heavily down to Biket Hospital in Osogbo via Owode. The Messenger of death was too impatient with the senator before he could see his doctor. Right now the lifeless body is being probed to know what went wrong scientifically,” he said.

Largely seen to having brought political civilization to Ede in Osun, Adeleke was till his death, the prism through which the political barometer of Ede was read. He was a passionate home-based politician, who had no special abode outside of Ede. And the truism of the life he lived could also be located in the tributes that attended his passing. Whether in life or death, Adeleke sure has a place in the political, economic and social life of Osun and he would always be remembered for his positive contributions to the development of the still largely primitive Osun.