LESSONS FROM OSUN SENATORIAL ELECTION

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There will always be consequences for toying with people’s will

Otunba Ademola Adeleke was sworn in penultimate Tuesday as the senator representing Osun West in the National Assembly after the bye-election to replace his late elder brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke. Even though the power struggle was intense, seldom had an election been so peaceful and a victory so decisive in our country in recent memory. There were hardly reports of violence or ballot snatching, as in the past. And in all the 10 local councils except one, the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won hands down. Instructively, the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola congratulated the winner, saying that the “people of Osun have spoken” and that “democracy has won and we respect the people’s choice”.

Indeed, the success of the entire exercise was more a triumph of the people’s will and determination and steps taken by the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to see that the election was conducted in orderly fashion. Observers and most independent analysts were impressed with the turn out of the people and the manner the electoral body conducted the poll. Election materials arrived polling booths on time. INEC staffers were also responsive. Despite the large turnout of voters, accreditation and the voting exercise were conducted without hitches.

Even Otunba Mudashir Hussein, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate who lost the election could not hide his admiration because of the transparent process. “If elections are conducted like this, it means democracy has reached advanced stage in Nigeria,” he said. Besides, the votes of the electorate were not only counted, they also counted. If the conduct of the election is therefore any yardstick of INEC preparedness, then it could be said that the electoral body is gradually living up to its responsibility as an independent, credible and unbiased umpire. The security agencies also lived up to their billing by ensuring that there was no breach of the peace.

While we congratulate the winner, Senator Adeleke, and Governor Aregbesola for creating a level playing field for the contestants, it is very pertinent to take stock of what transpired in the course of the election and its aftermath so we can draw some useful lessons. There was no doubt that Adeleke’s landslide victory in the election could partly be attributed to sympathy votes as well as the huge support base of his late brother. Ironically, however, the massive votes would have been for the APC and its candidate if there were no manipulations at the party’s primaries.

It is on record that Adeleke wanted to use the APC political platform to contest the election since his late brother was a member of the ruling party. But he was denied the ticket and had to defect to the PDP only a few days to the election. In thus returning the opposition to power in Osun West, the people are sending a clear message to the ruling party, the APC, that there will always be consequences when you toy with their will.

On the face of it, the defeat of the APC senatorial candidate seemed perverse. The Aregbesola government actually started on a very promising note through enlightened social policies and programmes boosted by fiscal prudence. But in the last few years, the state, like many others across the country, has been buffeted by all kinds of financial crisis occasioned by the slump in oil prices and the dwindling bailouts from Abuja. Therefore, Osun is finding it increasingly difficult to pick its routine bills, and in the process has demoralised an army of civil servants and many others.

All said, what the outcome of the Osun West Senatorial election has shown very clearly is that Nigerian people are being gradually empowered to use their votes to send clear signals.