Inside story of how Adeleke rode to victory in Osun
• Saraki, Diri, Obaseki’s Role Laid Bare
The outcome of the Osun governorship election held last weekend where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke was declared winner is still a big shock to many Nigerians, especially chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC), living outside the state.
However, to the party faithful residing in the state, the defeat had been foretold and was described as a self-inflicted injury.
In the election described by observers as peaceful, free and fair, the incumbent governor and candidate of the APC, Gboyega Oyetola was defeated by Adeleke, who scored 403,371votes to emerge as the governor-elect of the state. Oyetola polled 375,027 votes. Action Democratic Party (ADP) candidate, Kehinde Atanda finished a distant third with 10,104 votes.
The PDP candidate had his first shot at Osun Government House in 2018 in an election that was declared inconclusive, necessitating a controversial supplementary election in seven polling units, after which Adeleke was defeated by 482 votes. But Adeleke held on to his structure and returned to defeat the incumbent governor in 17 local councils while APC won in 13.
The fall of APC in Osun State has kept tongues wagging as to how and why the party could not maintain its hold on the state with most members blaming the unresolved internal crisis among its leaders. It is not a secret that there is no love lost between Oyetola and former governor of the state and Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. Various efforts by the presidential candidate of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande to resolve the crisis were unsuccessful. At some point, the matter created a gulf between Tinubu and Aregbesola, who warned the National Leader of the party to “stop playing God.”
Some members of the ruling party who spoke on condition of anonymity blamed their defeat on the lackadaisical attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari, whom they said refused to intervene directly between Aregbesola and Oyetola after the efforts of Chief Bisi Akande and Tinubu failed to yield result.
The war of attrition between the duo polarised the party. Aregbesola and his supporters had accused Oyetola of reversing most of the policies of his predecessor in office in a manner that cast aspersion on the integrity of the Minister. But the governor, who thought he had to listen to the people’s outcry, did not regret reversing some policies, including the same school uniform for all secondary school students, taking over of all legacy schools by the government, half salaries for workers and other policies that had made Aregbesola unpopular before the end of his tenure.
In reacting to Oyetola’s decisions, Aregbesola’s group, The Osun Progressives (TOP), opposed the governor’s second-term ambition. They sponsored another aspirant, a former Secretary to the State Government, Moshood Adeoti to contest in a parallel primary organised by Aregbesola’s faction of the APC. Oyetola secured the ticket of the main faction and TOP members approached the court seeking to nullify his candidature and recognise the primary election conducted by its faction. But their hopes were dashed on the eve of the election by the judgment of the Appeal Court, which affirmed Oyetola as the party’s candidate.
APC sources disclosed that most members of TOP campaigned and voted for the PDP governorship candidate. “It is unfortunate that it was APC members that worked against the party. We saw them sharing money with people to support Adeleke. We know ourselves, it is no secret, that they gave the victory to Adeleke and PDP.”
It was also gathered that workers in the state had agreed not to vote for Oyetola despite acknowledging he performed better than Aregbesola in terms of welfare and payment of salaries and allowances as and when due. To the workers, most second term governors underperform and do not care about workers welfare.
Some of them who spoke to The Guardian said Aregbesola performed creditably well during his first term in office but suddenly introduced many anti-workers policies in his second term.
One of the civil servants, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that “At this moment, we don’t want a second term governor because of what we went through during Aregbesola’s second term. He suddenly became a monster and paid us half our salary at the period all other states were implementing a new minimum wage.
“Besides, Oyetola was his Chief of Staff for eight years and he cannot completely absolve himself from the anti-people policies of Aregbesola’s administration. Unknown to many, Oyetola has not paid the backlog of salaries Aregbeola owed us. He inherited assets and ran away from a backlog of salaries and allowances. We campaigned against him and enlightened our people not to be persuaded with inducement during election.”
The source said their campaign against vote-buying made many electorate to reject the N10, 000 shared by APC in many polling units to accept any amount PDP offered them. He argued that the money they collected from the PDP was not inducement but “appreciation” because they had made up their minds to vote for the PDP.
Besides, the campaign against APC as a failed party that did not fulfill its campaign promises of restructuring, insecurity, inflation, unemployment and erratic power supply resonated to the grassroots, which made many to seek change.
A party source said, “The performance of the Federal Government did not help us during the campaign. If you didn’t go out and meet people, you won’t know how people loathed our party in the state. Each time we go out on the house-to-house campaign, some questions they asked us about our performances at the federal level and our promises were too difficult to answer because we cannot pretend they are not real.”
A chieftain of the party, Alhaji Saka Adegbite said: “How can we explain that we lost in Ila, Baba Akande’s local council or at Ejigbo and other areas that are APC strongholds. We thought the National Secretary of the party, Senator Iyiola Omisore will deliver all the three local councils in Ile-Ife, but we won two with slight margins. We saw it coming but we never thought it would be this bad.”
It was also discovered that in 2018, APC was strong in about 15 to 16 local councils but due to the infighting, Ife Central where APC and SDP were strong four years ago was overrun by PDP last weekend. Places like Ejigbo, Ila, Ife South, Aiyedire and others were also weakened because of the crisis, giving PDP the advantage.
Ikire and Iwo local councils also fell victim as a result of the APC fracas. Although the likes of Oluwo of Iwo in Iwo local council boasted he would deliver the area to APC, he couldn’t because of the crisis. A former SSG to Aregbesola who also contested the APC governorship primary but lost to Oyetola was strong in Osun West.
The crisis in the party worsened when the party leadership constituted the 2022 Osun State Governorship Council, chaired by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and his co-chairman, Governor Umaru Ganduje, who were Tinubu’s right-hand men while excluding Aregbesola’s name. The development pushed most loyalists of the minister out of the party to align with Adeleke.
Last Minute Plot Against Oyetola’s Return
IT was gathered that on the eve of the election, former Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Lasun Yussuff, who also left APC to take up the ticket of the Labour Party directed his followers to vote for Adeleke.
In a similar vein, Aregbesola, who deliberately travelled out of the country, also allegedly directed his loyalists to cast their votes for Adeleke to spite the governor.
A chieftain of Osun APC, Alhaji Liad Tella described the victory of PDP “as a triumph of darkness over light” basically due to the protracted infighting among stakeholders in the ruling party. He said all is not lost, promising that the party will soon bounce back.
Fall Out Of 2020 COVID-19 Palliative
Not many people would realise that part of the undoing of APC in Osun State is the manner in which some party members allegedly mismanaged the COVID-19 palliative handouts that were supposed to be distributed to alleviate the people’s suffering then.
A commercial motorcycle, Lani, told The Guardian that Adeleke warmed himself into the hearts of many citizens of Osun not only because he dances but because he is also very caring and kind.
According to him, “Majority of us are furious with the APC government because it is full of deceit and lies. In 2020, the party deliberately hoarded the COVID-19 palliative food items meant to alleviate the suffering of the masses until we discovered the stores and broke into them. Since then, the majority of us had made up our mind that Oyetola will not get a second term.”
Saraki, Diri, Obaseki’s Role In PDP’s Victory
The PDP selected some of its most experienced strategists for the National Campaign Council. In the campaign council, three members devoted more time and resources to the campaigns, particularly in the last few days of the election. The trio, who chose to give more time to the Adeleke campaign, were former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Bayelsa State Governor, Sen. Duoye Diri, and his Edo State counterpart, Mr Godwin Obaseki.
While Diri was the chairman of the National Campaign Council, Obaseki who has known the PDP’s candidate’s elder brother, Deji Adeleke since their days in the financial sector in Lagos also felt obliged to share his experience in similar elections in 2020 when he was seeking re-election and had similar APC forces arrayed against him. His victory strategy was therefore needed and he decided to help the party in the same way the party helped him to defeat the APC forces.
As for Saraki, there were many reasons his interest in seeing PDP and the Adeleke win in Osun State. First, Osun State is a neighbouring state to his own Kwara State and he needed to ensure Osun State would not be used to sabotage PDP in Kwara State in next year’s election. Second, as the chairman of the PDP National Reconciliation and Strategic Committee (NRSC), Saraki handled the resolution of the crisis in the party in the state and is very well aware of the issues, personalities, and need for unity in Osun PDP if the party were to make any impact in the governorship polls. It thus became a challenge for him to help the Adeleke’s in making a last-minute rally of all forces and persons behind the candidate in order to defeat the divided APC.
Third, while his late father, Oloye Olusola Saraki was a colleague of the patriarch of the Adeleke’s in the Second Republic Senate, he and the late eldest brother of the Adeleke’s, Isiaka Adetunji were colleagues in the 7th and 8th Senate. Later, when Ademola, the PDP candidate replaced his late brother in the 8th Senate, he was a loyal supporter of Saraki, who was then Senate President. Fourth, the Saraki and Adeleke families remain the only two nuclear families to have produced three members of the Nigerian Senate respectively. Also, Deji Adeleke, the surviving eldest of the Adeleke brothers is a good friend of Saraki. Thus, for all these reasons, Saraki decided to throw in all the support for the Adeleke.
Saraki and his team moved from Ilorin where he had been since the eve of the last Eid-El- Kabir festival to Ede, the Adelekes’ hometown on Wednesday morning (July 13, 2022) and immediately on arrival went into a meeting with all the PDP polling agents. The venue of the training handled by the former Senate President was the Adeleke University, Ede. There, he shared some strategic lessons with the agents on how to carry out their assignments on polling day. He also emphasised to them the importance of their roles to the success of the party on Election Day.
The presence of such a dignitary not only inspired and encouraged the party agents but also emphasised to them how serious and ready the Osun PDP and the candidate’s campaign were about the election.
After the training session with party agents, Saraki drove back to Osogbo, the state capital with Deji Adeleke, the candidate’s elder brother to join PDP Governors who were getting ready to meet with ex-Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola at his Osogbo GRA residence. The meeting was actually at the instance of Saraki, who believed that Oyinlola was aggrieved and needed to be pacified and appeased to support Adeleke. The party was able to appease Oyinlola and reconciled him with Adeleke.
Saraki went back to Ede that same night to meet with the PDP governorship candidate and his team where the meeting reviewed the preparation for the election and checked if all the necessary boxes had been ticked concerning critical areas of election preparation – security and logistics.
By Thursday morning, Saraki and his team were in Osogbo to coordinate the PDP mega rally. On Friday morning, Saraki commenced another series of meetings with aggrieved party stakeholders from each of the three senatorial districts. The first set was the people from Osun East. This particular one took up most of the day. At the end of the day, the issues appeared resolved and the party seemed ready for a good outing on Saturday.
On Election Day, as early as 6:00 am, Saraki was already in the situation room to start coordination. He was also joined by the two governors to supervise the situation room. They were practically getting reports from party agents, field officers, and observers across the state. The three men and their teams did not sleep until the results were announced in the early hours of Sunday morning.
It was because of their critical roles that soon after being pronounced the winner, Adeleke prostrated before his elder brother, Deji, held tightly to each of Saraki, Diri and Obaseki for their kind interventions that saved the day.
MEANWHILE, unlike in the APC where those who were disgruntled with the party successfully worked against Oyetola’s victory, some of the former PDP chieftains, such as Dr Akin Ogunbiyi; House of Representatives aspirant in Ede Federal Constituency, Ayodele Asalu (Asler); factional state chairman of PDP, Wale Ojo; running mate to the PDP candidate in the 2018 governorship election and former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Albert Adeogun, who left the party angrily to the APC couldn’t wreak much havoc on the party’s chances.
The overwhelming popularity of Adeleke dynasty and the love from people of the state notwithstanding, his shortcomings and controversies surrounding his reported Christian-Christian ticket and capacity worked in favour of the major opposition party.
Also speaking, a member of the Senate, Senator Francis Fadahunsi described the victory as liberation of the poor masses in Osun.
He said: “This is a victory for democracy and liberation for the suffering masses in Osun. We have to thank Senator Bukola Saraki, former Senate President, incoming Vice President of PDP, and Governor Okowa, these are the people that really backed Osun PDP including Adeleke’s senior brother, Deji Adeleke. These are the people who stood by Senator Adeleke to the last.
“We have to also thank Ademola for his large-heartedness and bravery, if not, he would have run away. What will happen in 2023 is already known, we are going to win the presidency and all National Assembly seats with the backing of the incoming Governor Ademola Adeleke and Governor Seyi Makinde. Automatically, we will win the elections with the cooperation of the party leaders. It’s time for Osun to work and Governor-elect Ademola Adeleke is here to make it work,” Fadahunsi said.