The Poisoned Chalice

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DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN

DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA

BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN

The PDP governorship candidate in the Osun state governorship election, Senator demola Adeleke, is as unworthy as they come. Of limited education, learning and poor comportment, he really has no business aspiring for high public office-albeit the Nigerian public sphere is flushed with individuals of similar stages of arrested development. In a less normless society, governorship aspiration by people of this caliber would be adjudged a laughable overreach. And to be fair to Adeleke, he had no such aspiration until the martyrdom of his deceased elder brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, propelled him to political eminence for which he was ill prepared. Some are born great, some attain greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them. Given his blissful (relative) ignorance and other disqualifying limitations, his political ascendancy is a good illustration of how nature tends to play the cynical game on us.

He had hitherto drawn widespread critical attention to an unassailable evidence of his uninhibited proclivity towards reckless abandon-through video clips of his impervious paroxysm gyrations on the dance floor. He needs little or no prompting to revert to the spasmodic dance steps which seems increasingly second nature to him; and does so with a youthful exuberance that is at odds with conventional middle age sobriety. In these days of smart phones and instant internet age audio-visual communication, any high public official given to this wanton display is guaranteed instant hit on the social media. It is largely through this introduction that he has acquired equivalent measure of notoriety and popularity.

There appears to be a measure of genetic predestination and predisposition to Adeleke’s eccentricity. Beginning with the Patriarch who was a Senator in the first republic to the third generation musical entertainers, the extended family history reads of a family trait propensity for social and political expansiveness. Like his elder brother, Isiaka, he is already a Senator and is set to actualize the precedence of the former’s attainment to the Governorship of Osun state. He is uncle to the musical rave of the moment, Davido, and father to two sons who are following hard on the footsteps of his celebrated nephew.

The background to the Osun state governorship election was the rampant localized loss of popularity and legitimacy of the APC controlled government of Governor Rauf Aregbesola. This was reinforced by a nascent Yoruba wide alienation from the APC-fostered by the governance and political management failures of President Mohammadu Buhari. There was the controlled implosion of the APC within the South West zone in which Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu is arrayed against the Buhari insurgency camp of the Governors of Ondo, Ogun and Ekiti states. And there was the controversial victory of the APC in the Ekiti state governorship election. And of course there is the overall national context of the near total loss of credibility and legitimacy of the Buhari Presidency. Given the suspected collusion of the electoral agency, INEC, and the security agencies especially the Police and the bottomless slush fund amassed for the election, the political contest was analogous to the power asymmetry model of David and Goliath

And then there was the deeply flawed Adeleke whose candidacy is an embarrassment to an enlightenment conscious Yoruba society. It is between this embarrassment personified (Adeleke) on one hand and the Osun state embodiment of the APC failure (especially the political existential threat posed by the Buhari Presidency)-that the Osun state electorate was called forth to make a choice. To envision an Adeleke Governorship is to, at best, foresee a chaotic government and at worst, a foretold governance failure. Yet the potential Adeleke governance failure does not come close to the peril of the collective subversion threat that the continuation of the Buhari\APC government connotes for Nigeria and Yoruba corporate interest. In any drawn out political struggle, success is better assured by the ability to reconcile tactics with strategy; the short term with the long term perspective-in order not to win the battle and lose this war. And so if Adeleke is what it takes to halt the momentum towards the return of the Buhari Presidency, then Adeleke is it.

The subsequent recourse to the so called rerun election comprising a few thousand voters was a sham and a desperate contrivance to subvert the will of the Osun state electorate-but the genie was already out of the bottle. I have no doubt in my mind that those for whom the message (the outcome of the Osun state governorship election) is intended, especially President Buhari, have heard the message loud and clear. It has critically diminished the Yoruba strongman political myth of Tinubu and the blatant manner in which the outcome of the election was subverted has cost him loss of respect and goodwill across the South West.

The significance of the election transcends Osun state particularly in the regard that it is an indicative proxy contest for the forthcoming general elections next year and the fate of Buhari in particular. If, despite the material power lopsidedness loaded in its favour including the capacity to literarily purchase the election and the facility role of INEC and the security forces, the APC still came up short, the prospects of the Party in the 2019 elections are to this extent quite bleak. It undermines the APC strategy of a concerted effort to cast the race for the Presidential election in the narrative of the inevitability of Buhari’s victory; the strategy of employing the ‘victory’ of the APC in preceding elections as indicative and justification. By the same token the contradictory outcome of the Osun state election was disruptive of the working to the answer ploy and highlights the increasing vulnerability of the APC in the forthcoming elections.  

It is the same fait accompli strategy at work in the recent declaration of upwards of three million votes as the number of votes cast for Buhari at the APC Presidential primaries in Kano and another one million votes in Katsina state. The Kano state model of bumper harvest of votes for Buhari was first deployed in the 2015 Presidential election wherein the number of votes returned for candidate Buhari tallied exactly with the accredited voter figure of two million votes-beating the record of the advanced democracies which never recorded 100% voter compliance at any stage of the voting process. The Kano state ploy continued this year, first with the ballooning of registered voters by upwards of 100% followed by the feat of almost another 100% Permanent Voters Cards, PVC collection rate. To get an idea of how improbable is this feat-there is hardly any other state (other than the predominantly far North Muslim states) with 60% PVC reclamation rate. If three million votes were attributed to Buhari at the Party primaries why then would we not be conditioned to expect and accept as credible a return of four million votes to the same ostensible crowd puller in the 2019 election?

ON OMISORE

Senator Iyiola Omisore has become a permanent and controversial fixture in all Osun state elections since 1999-either as Governorship or Senatorial aspirant. Along the way he accomplished the feat of being the first Nigerian political aspirant to win the Ife/Ijesha Senatorial district election from the confines of a jail house. He was one of the unique discoveries of the late General Sani Abacha transition to civil rule programme and was well on his way to having a fair shot at the Governorship seat of Osun state-until the programme was terminated in 1998 with the death of Abacha. He similarly maneuvered himself into reckoning and became the Deputy Governor of Osun state via the subsequent transition to civil rule programme (conducted by the General Abdusalami Abubakar regime) which gave birth to the subsisting Fourth Republic in 1999.

Never one to make haste slowly, Omisore’s lack of restraint soon precipitated a crisis of ambition that resulted in his impeachment less than two years into office. The monstrous chain of events set in motion by his impeachment soon climaxed in his arraignment as the prime suspect in the assassination of the late Chief Bola Ige. The fact that there has been no definitive conclusion to the investigation of the assassination, one way or another, has made it difficult for a substantial segment of the Yoruba elite to have closure on the case. And even though Omisore has not been found guilty of the crime, a cloud of suspicion still swirls around him. But as the saying goes, time is a healer of wounds and the farther we get from December 23rd 2001; and the deeper Nigeria gets steeped in political anomie; the faster the dissipation of the strong emotions provoked by the murder.

A good measure of this trend is the political reality that he commands a sizable political followership in Osun state and thereby remains a competitive contender for the Governorship seat of Osun state. There has also been the element of mercenary politics to his perennial candidacy which appears to serve a purpose other than the ambition for political office. This is the stratagem of employing his evergreen candidacy as a fund raising instrument (ostensible campaign donations) for personal enrichment. It is against this background that providence appointed him the role of a tie breaker in the Osun state governorship election. It was a role readily convertible to resources, in cash and kind.

I have just read a wisecrack to the effect that politics, by itself, is not rotten, it just exposes the rottenness of the rotten players. Human beings are creations of hope otherwise there should have been little or no basis to expect Omisore to choose honour over filthy lucre and behave contrary to the choice he made. In terms of political significance and consequence, this is the second time he had a date with history. The first was his association with the assassination of Ajibola Ige. The second was his role in the last Osun state Governorship election which provided him a distinct golden opportunity to rewrite his own history. The tragic irony in all this is that the APC really did not need him to proclaim itself the winner of the election. Given its track record, it is inconceivable that with or without Omisore, APC\INEC would not have announced Gboyega Oyetola the winner.