Osun Rerun: Lessons In Defeat

By Muhammed Abdullahi

If truly the dead could see, the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke would most certainly be full of apology, and possibly appreciation, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party he once described as one “full of criminals” but which has now saved him from a shameful legacy of being buried, mourned and forgotten. Courtesy the PDP, Adeleke ‘resurrected’ and is now back in the red chamber.

Perhaps, Ademola Adeleke, now elected to replace his elder brother, the late Sen. Isiaka Adeleke, would still be in mourning if not for the circumstances surrounding the death of the senior Adeleke. According to news, the late Sen. Adeleke’s death was as suspicious as it was tragic. After joining family and sympathizers to mourn the death of his elder brother, Ademola, now senator-elect, decided not to continue weeping like a child whose candy was taking away by an unknown stranger. Instead, he (Ademola) quickly pulled himself together and decided not to allow whoever must have wished to end his brother’s life and ultimately his political journey have the final laugh. He decided that he must make his elder brother live again, this time through him. The younger Adeleke therefore declared his interest to replace his late elder brother at the senate.

With accusation of being responsible for the death of the senior Adeleke already flying around, no one expected the governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, to oppose the attempt by Dr. Ademola Adeleke to keep the political candle lit by his elder brother burning. Dr. Ademola, at the beginning, looked set to pick the APC ticket without any form of squabble. But at the last minute, the initial disqualification of Mudashiru Hussain by the party’s screening committee was set aside and the National Working Committee of the APC favoured him with the ticket. Now, Hussain was not just a random pick, he has always, either by coincidence or deliberately, been pitched against Ademola’s brother, late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, for political offices. And with Hussain being promoted and backed by governor Aregbesola, the story that the governor was out to end the life and political dream of the late Adeleke who, before his death, was warming up to contest the 2018 governorship election in the state quickly gained traction.

Convinced that the APC would not give him a chance, Dr. Ademola Adeleke ran to the PDP, the same party his late elder brother once vowed never to have any dealings with. But the younger Adeleke must have reasoned that in politics, as in war, victory is all that matters. Still, running to PDP was never a guarantee that Ademola would defeat Mudashiru Hussain who has the full backing of an incumbent governor.

However, the PDP proved to have learnt some useful political lessons, especially from the defeat it suffered from the APC at the national level. The PDP knew it didn’t stand a chance against a sitting government if it went into the election on its own strength and merit. Few days to the election, nine political parties adopted Ademola Adeleke of the PDP as their candidate. The stage was therefore set for an election that should ordinarily have been a walk-over for the ruling APC.

A fortnight to the election, yours sincerely was in Osogbo and the mood and temperament of voters indicated that the outcome of the Osun west rerun election could not be easily predicted by even the most discerning soothsayer. With Ademola Adeleke, who conspicuously had his brother behind him in his campaign posters, hoping to secure enough sympathy votes to emerge victorious; Hussain was banking on the incumbency powers of his backer, governor Aregbesola. It was therefore a 50/50 chance for both candidates.

However, by the time the first vote was casted last Saturday, the 8th of July, 2017, it was clear that the contest was not between Ademola Adeleke and Mudashiru Hussain, or even between APC and PDP. The election was a referendum on the performance of the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and even more about his person and character.

Governor Aregbesola had, possibly through no fault of his, become unpopular owing to the economic recession bedeviling the country and the governor’s inability to pay salaries as a result. Just two days to the rerun election, medical doctors in the state protested against the governor, claiming that their unpaid salaries were even being “mutilated”. Aregbesola and his party, the APC, therefore competed against the anger of the voters in the last Saturday Osun West By-election.

On a personal level, governor Aregbesola’s stubborn penchant for imposition pushed Ademola Adeleke to the waiting embrace of the opposition PDP in Osun State. A more circumspect politician would have allowed Ademola to contest and finish off the remainder of his brother’s tenure. But to explore the unfortunate death of a fellow party member as an opportunity to relaunch another person into national political limelight somehow reeks of insensitivity and a desire to satisfy personal ego.

The issues that led to the defeat of APC in the Osun West by-election are the same issues that helped APC to power at the centre in 2015. The PDP was defeated in 2015 because the people voted against it out of anger, not necessarily because they loved the APC. APC was therefore largely a beneficiary of the protest votes against the once gigantic PDP. Now, the PDP victory in the Osun West by-election is gradually given many a sense of déjà vu.

Although Dr. Doyin Okupe recently said PDP is a party in “menopause”, the failings of the APC is making PDP fertile once again. The many missteps of the APC is somehow promoting the argument that it is a lot easier to be in opposition. As opposition party, all APC had to do was point out the mistakes and incompetence of the PDP government, especially under former President Goodluck Jonathan. Today, there is a reversal of role. The PDP is in opposition and the APC which is the party in power has performed below expectation, something the PDP may also possibly latch on to drive its 2019 campaigns, unless of course the performance ratings of the APC government improve.

Presently, many of the APC campaign promises remain largely unfulfilled. The jobs that were promised two years ago are yet to be seen; the ones that were here before the advent of the APC government are being lost in large numbers. Just like PDP in 2015, the APC is currently a house divided against itself. It was this division and internal bickering that was largely responsible for the defeat of the party in the Osun West rerun election. The power struggle that is now pervasive in APC is gradually eroding the strength of the party at almost every level. And the lesson from Osun is that unless the APC is able to change from its current self-destruct mode, PDP may yet be a menopausal party that may become increasingly fecund with time.

Muhammed Abdullahi is the mid-week “The Advocate” columnist of The Discourse. He can be reached on Email: muhammed@thediscourseng.com, twitter:@mfabdullahi

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