â€ŽThe love for the late Isiaka Adeleke, the state government’s handling of his death, and other factors were largely responsible for the All Progressives Congress’ shocking loss of the Osun West senatorial district election, writes Yinka Kolawole
Senator Isiaka Adelekeâ€™s death left the Osun West senatorial district’s seat vacant in the Senate while the political intrigues that surrounded the contentious demise of the former governor soon pitched his family against the Osun State government.
When it was time to fill the vacant seat left by Adeleke, his younger brotherâ€Ž, Ademola Adeleke, who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), against Mudashir Hussein of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the race.
Despite the haywire politicking that characterised the electioneering campaigns and the moves by both parties to out to do each other, the younger Adeleke won in nine out of the ten local governments in the senatorial district to defeat his APC rival. Worst still, Hussein was flatly beaten in most of the units where he hails from.
For instance, going by the final official results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the total votes cast for APC in all the 10 local government areas stood at 66, 116 while the PDP won the race with 97, 480.
Even before the election was concluded, members of the APC were already jittery. It was obvious that the ruling party was going to be demystified. News of PDP victory in various polling units were already filtering out. That, coupled with the ecstatic jubilations across the ten local governments that made up the district, sent the initial signal that the APC was in for an embarrassment.
Another take away from the recent exercise was that the by- election was adjudged free and fair. The accreditation and voting exercise commenced peacefully and there was a very large turn out of electorate.
Hussein acknowledged this much after casting his vote at around 9:30 am at ward 3, unit 1, Beulah Baptist Primary School, Ejigbo, where he said the electoral process by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was fantastic. He said the process had paved way for peaceful and transparent election. He particularly commended both INEC and voters for the maturity displayed saying that “if elections should be conducted like this, it means democracy had reached advanced level.”
No doubts, this development has sent chills down the spines of APC supporters. Stakeholders in the party are now worried as to what will become of APC in the next election in 2018. To them, this could be an indication that the PDP is capable of unseating the APC in the next governorship election in the state.
Going by the existing permutation, if the APC wants to retain its relevance in subsequent elections in the state, the party would require much more serious hard work now that PDP had taken over a strong APC senatorial district. To observers of Osun State politics, the future of APC in Osun is bleak.
With the turn of event in the election, many have expressed the belief that come 2018, if PDP can put its house in order and be serious it may be able to take back the state.
The Senator-elect, Adeleke also shares that sentiment. He told journalists at a press conference in Ede that his victory was already a signal for Nigerians to know that, come 201, the PDP would take back Osun State.
According to him â€œIf I could defeat the incumbent as an opposition, democracy is actually growing!â€, adding that he represented light and has therefore brought light to Osun in the face of darkness.
Speaking further, Adeleke reminded the people of his senatorial district that he would start his brotherâ€™s work where he left it, particularly the aspect of empowering the people, youths mostly. He assured the people that he would not allow his late brotherâ€™s good works to stop at any point in time. According to him, over N250 million has already been set aside for educational and healthcare related empowerment in order assist his people of the district.
Many are still wondering how APC lost the election despite the claim by the state governor, Rauf Aregbesola that he was firmly in charge of the Osun politics.
One explanation is that Adelekeâ€™s victory can easily be attributed to the huge support and love his late brother enjoyed among the people. Other blamed the APC’s loss on the acrimonious manner the state government managed the events that followed Adeleke’s death. Yet, others said that the people were angry with Aregbesola’s style of governance.
Apart from that, the APC and Governor Aregbesola are at logger heads with all critical factors in Osun State. From teachers to medical doctors, civil servants, retiree, traditional rulers and so on. There are complaints against the government everywhere. While it is difficult to say which of these factors influenced the voters more, the fact that the APC suffered such a disgraceful defeat means that things had indeed fallen apart.
In Osun State today, the APC is in a state of disarray; having broken into various camps. The centre can no longer hold. There is a lot of discontent in the party which had seen many of the party loyalists defecting to the PDP or working for it covertly.
So, it is not out of place to say that PDP effectively capitalised on the failures of the APC. The political sagacity of the state PDP chairman, Hon Soji Adagunodo, who ensured that the party formed a good relationship with the Adeleke family immediately after the death of the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke must also be commended.
Worst still, the late Adelekeâ€™s kinsmen felt that APC had despised Adeleke in death. This opened a wide political gap in the party and PDP used the opportunity to its advantage.
In addition, the campaign strategy adopted by the PDP was more effective, especially in rural areas. Rather than the old jamboree of holding mass rallies, small committees of party loyalists embarked on door-to-door campaigns to garner support for the party.
Nevertheless, INEC and Aregbesola have also been commended for providing a level playing field for all the candidates to test their popularity.
The new Senator commended INEC and security agencies for the manner in which they conducted themselves during the election.
Likewise, the Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Najeem Salaam, lauded the government of Osun State for creating a conducive atmosphere for electoral contest which was conducted hitch free by INEC and won by the opposition PDP.
Salaam specifically saluted Aregbesola for ensuring a secured environment for all contestants to campaign and canvasse for votes for their respective parties without intimidation or lawlessness, saying â€œas a Chief Security Officer of the state, Aregbesola has passed another democratic litmus test.â€
The Speaker also commended INEC for its swiftness at the deployment of staff and logistics, asserting that INEC had turned a success story with its proactive measure in the conduct of Osun West senatorial district by-election.
Salaam also lauded the security agencies for living up to their billing by guiding and guarding the electoral process without fear or favour. He also saluted the courage and comportment of the contestants for putting up a good democratic fight, congratulating the people of Osun West senatorial district and the senator-elect on his electoral victory.
He advised Adeleke to be humble in victory and recognise the fact that Osun West is now his constituency that must work with the state government for the overall benefit of the people, irrespective of political leaning. He emphasised that â€œno achievement could be recorded in a division.â€
The question now in the minds of APC members is whether their party is already going into extinction. Though, the election that will provide the response to that question comes up next year, fact is that the APC must take into consideration the fact that it needs all hands on the deck. It would have to do serous work before this tall dream could be achieved.
Despite the electoral defeat however, the APC caucus in the Osun State House of Assembly under Salaam passed a vote of confidence on Aregbesola; the expressed their continued faith in the party; stressing that the electoral setback in the West senatorial district was a wake-up call which would end up energising the APC in the future elections.
The 24 APC lawmakers pledged their support for the leadership of the speaker, Salaam, and further expressed confidence in the leadership of the state helmsman for his zeal to redirect the state on the path of development.
The caucus laid emphasis on Aregbesola’s achievement in the area of education through his provision of state-of-the-art infrastructure which has become an enduring legacy and the school feeding scheme which has increased the enrolment of the pupils of school age coupled with other palliative measures like youth engagement and ambulance services.
The lawmakers acknowledged that some issues of public interest which drew the protest of the electorate during the last by-election of the senatorial seat would be critically addressed as a listening government. They added that the electoral defeat has not in any way diminished the fortune of the APC government in the state, but that it was a weight shedding exercise to renew its pact with the people for better delivery.
Nevertheless, INEC and Aregbesola have also been commended for providing a level-playing field for all the candidates to test their popularity.