By Ayo Oyoze Baje
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds then they will just have to sit on their blisters”
– Abraham Lincoln
When the Deputy Editor of the United States-based Woman’s Day magazine, Andra Chantim stated that: “If we don’t vote, we are ignoring history and giving away the future” she might not have had Nigeria, or indeed Osun state in mind. But her opinion rings true till this day. And it reechoed during the recently held governorship election in the acclaimed ‘Land of Virtue’. It would be recalled that after a highly engaging electoral battle, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke was declared the winner. According to the returning officer, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who is also Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, he polled 403,371 votes to defeat incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who scored 375,027 votes.
Remarkably, Adeleke’s 403,371 votes surpassed the combined 401,083 votes polled by the other 14 candidates in the election. And he won in 17 out of the 30 council areas while the governor won in 13 councils. But that was not the only factor that stood the election out for cheers by seasoned and ardent followers of Nigeria’s effervescent polity. That the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s voter education program inspired a large turnout of voters was praise-worthy. That it also overcame the past hurdles of late delivery of sensitive electoral materials, ballot-box snatching, violence by gun-wielding paid thugs were commendable improvements. Though there were some reports of the slow response of the electronic transmission machine in a few places and the nauseating vote- buying issue threw up its ugly head, the peaceful nature of conduct of the election stood it in good stead. With regards to Adeleke’s victory this has been traced to the factors of the unresolved leadership crisis in the APC as well as the mismanagement of the crisis that trailed the APC primary election and issues with selection of traditional rulers. Others included the peoples’ obvious disappointment with the ruling party’s poor performance and the outgoing governor’s inability to pay 30 months’ salary and pension arrears that accumulated during the Rauf Aregbesola administration.
The swirl of heart-warming felicitations which came from President Muhammadu Buhari; Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu was reflective of the credibility and fairness of the election. Others who joined voices to congratulate Adeleke included Governors Douye Diri (Bayelsa) Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), PDP Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; and the National Peace Commission led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, retd. But it must be noted that for Adeleke it has been one long walk to victory.
For instance, he had nursed the ambition of becoming Osun state governor since 2017 when he contested for the Osun West senatorial bye-election which was informed by the death of his elder brother, Isiaka Adeleke, a former governor of the state. Unfortunately, he could not get the nod of the APC stalwarts to get the governorship ticket to complete his brother’s tenure. That explains why he cross carpeted over to the PDP where he became the candidate and incidentally won the Senatorial election. Not done, he later threw in his hat for the governorship contest but lost with less than 400 votes in 2018 under steamy and controversial circumstances. That was one election yours truly monitored as the Senior Research Fellow of the Dr. Joe Odumakin-led Women Arise for Change Initiative NGO and was shocked when it was declared inconclusive! That was back in September, 2018.
Good enough, that Adleke tried again in 2022 and has eventually emerged the victor. That reminds one of Benjamin Disraeli’s timeless admonition that: ”The secret of success is constancy to purpose”. Adeleke would not have won had he sat on the fence bemoaning his fate, or that of his family. No! He stood up against all odds; weathered the storm of insults and innuendoes and even thought it timely to improve on his academic qualification. “Never quit”, remains the motivating message here. As for the outgoing Governor Oyetola, perhaps he should learn some lessons from his face-off with Rauf Aregbesola, the Minister of Interior, the mastermind behind The Osun Progressive, TOP. Though he apparently tried to persuade his supporters not to leave the party a host of them turned a deaf ear. These reportedly included the Chairman, Ejigbo Area Office of the TOP, Mr. Adeyanju Kolapo and his peers in Osogbo and Olorunda local government areas. TOP members refused to vote at the poll in those areas which explains the low voter turn out in the two local councils.
Another frictional factor that crippled the re-election of Oyetola was the issue of succession in some towns with vacant traditional stools. In Ikirun, headquarters of Ifelodun local government area, the community has been without a monarch since the demise of Oba AbdulRauf Adedeji. A similar scenario played out in Orolu Local Council. There the people felt that the body language of the state governor was to impose a candidate on the stool. Majority of youths in the town decided to vote for the PDP.
As Tony Snow rightly noted:“Voting is a right best exercised by people who have taken time to learn about the issues.” It did not come as a surprise therefore, that the political pendulum swung away from the APC because of the listed circumstances that built up prelude to the election. And this should serve as a warning signal to the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
With hunger and anger in the land, the general consensus on its abysmal performance in the critical areas of security, education, healthcare delivery, job creation, the querulous issues of food insecurity, high inflation and high cost of accessing electric power and energy it has its hands full ahead of the elections.
And going by the thoughts of Theodore Roosevelt: “A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user”. It therefore, means that come 2023, winning will not be predicated on political intrigues, blackmail or subterfuge. It will not be about browbeating opponents and intimidation but by convincing the long-suffering and anxious Nigerians that you have the answers to their million and one hot and humid questions, on people-oriented leadership that counts.
It has therefore; become imperative on Adeleke also to glean from the fact that one victory leads to a new set of challenges. Since INEC’s new dance step is that of delivering the wishes of the people, now is the time to deliver the dividends of democracy to those who have been denied of it. In the words of Aristophanes: “ To win the people always cook them some savoury that pleases them”. Big kudos on your recent victory!
Baje writes from Lagos