Osun election petition tribunal verdict: One leg off…

LAST Friday’s decision of the Osun election petition tribunal to shoot down the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governor, Gboyega Oyetola, while affirming “dancing PDP Senator” Ademola Adeleke, as the duly elected governor of “the State of Osun” or the state better known for its “Osun Osogbo festival,” did not come to many as a surprise.

Adeleke, the Peoples Democratic Party, and Osun citizens must count themselves lucky for the shenanigans that attended the February and March General Elections. Even the blind saw how the February and March elections were badly mangled by a combination of INEC complicity and the one-sided militarisation of the polity by the security agencies acting openly as the military wing of the ruling APC. That was the advantage Ekiti PDP did not have because its own election petition tribunal gave its verdict before the shenanigans of February and March. Ekiti still has the opportunity of two appeals, though.

Without doubt, the 2018 Ekiti and Osun governorship elections were dress rehearsals for the General Election of February/March 2019. The Ekiti poll was used to practice the militarisation of elections to give the ruling party the advantage. Under the guise that they were providing security, the military locked down only the opposition party, brutalised even the sitting governor with constitutional immunity, Peter Ayodele Fayose, while allowing the ruling party free rein. It was impossible to differentiate thugs from the military as both wore same military fatigues, operated in Gestapo-like fashion, and enjoyed same protection of the law. But the opposition was locked down; tied hands and legs and merely cried and hollered as the party in power rode roughshod over the entire process. Nothing depicts this better than a recent post on social media of a dog chained down while a monkey was let loose to torment it. That was Ekiti.

In Osun, it was the instrumentality of contrived “inconclusive election.” While Adeleke/PDP and Osun people were already trooping into the streets to celebrate a hard-earned victory, the INEC that is anything but independent, pulled the joker of “inconclusive election.”  The rest, as they say, is history. Having worked perfectly in Ekiti and Osun, militarisation and inconclusive elections were then implemented nationwide in the General Election. The Osun election petition tribunal has done well to cripple “inconclusive elections” – one of the two legs on which massive, monumental, and unprecedented election-rigging now rests in this country. The judiciary must complete the task by crippling the other leg – militarisation – by revisiting and upturning its verdict at the tribunal level on the July 14, 2018 Ekiti governorship election.

The only way we can discourage election robbers is to ensure they are not allowed to escape with their loot. Election riggers must be told in clear terms that nemesis will catch up with them; that they will not go scot-free. For me, it will not matter who wins elections once the elections are credible, free, and fair. But it means the whole world to me when the wrong person sits in the saddle while the rightful owner of a mandate freely given by the people is turned into the cold. For those of us who risked our life, limbs, and comfort to fight for and enthrone this democracy, that, certainly, was not what we fought for.

While congratulating Adeleke and the good people of Osun (I lived, worked, and schooled there at Ede, Osogbo, Ilesha, and Ile-Ife between 1976 and 1982), I pray and hope that this victory will be permanent, as we say, and also that it will be replicated in other states of the federation where similar upturning of the apple cart of election riggers is necessary for the good health of our democracy and the prosperity of our polity.

 

Questions OGD must answer

Before the Osun election petition tribunal’s verdict, the biggest political news in town was former Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel aka OGD quitting politics, resigning from PDP and, according to some reports, defecting to the APC. OGD denies defecting, though. The comments below first appeared in my “TREASURES” column in the New Telegraph newspaper of Wednesday, 21 March:

“When you see an elder picking race in broad daylight; if he is not pursuing something, then, something is pursuing him” – A popular Yoruba adage.

It is no longer news that Otunba Justus Olugbenga Daniel aka OGD, chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party and two-term governor of Ogun State (2003 -2011), has quit the party. What is not clear yet is whether he has also quit partisan politics altogether as he initially announced or he has defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as his followers were reported to have demanded of him. OGD’s decision took many by surprise. It was least expected, to say the least; especially coming right in the heels of the February 23rd presidential election which the PDP flag bearer and ex-Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, is preparing to contest in court. OGD was Director-General of Atiku’s campaign organisation which, against all expectations, floored the majority governors’ of the party who had massed behind their counterpart, Gov. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state. That campaign elevated OGD’s profile and many had started speaking of him as Chief of Staff or Secretary to the Government of the Federation had Atiku won the election. What, then, went wrong?

I must state from the outset that OGD is a friend and brother; someone that I have a lot of respect and admiration for. Between 2007 and 2008, I had the opportunity of getting very close to him while, as media consultant, I functioned as Editor-in-Chief/Managing Director of Western Publishing Company, publishers of The Westerner newsmagazine, which later added The Nigerian Compass to its stable. OGD discharged himself creditably as governor of Ogun State, especially during his first tenure. A political miscalculation and unsound judgment he made in 2011 left him in the political wilderness for a season; until he emerged in 2017 to contest the chairmanship of the PDP. Everyone had thought the slot would come to the South-west but a gamble for the VP slot, which some PDP leaders in the South-West made, ensured that they deliberately parried the position to the South-South. Thus, OGD and other contestants like Prof. Tunde Adeniran and Chief Olabode George lost out and Uche Secondus emerged the winner. The disappointment of the chairmanship loss was soon compensated when Atiku named OGD his campaign D-G. With Atiku bagging the ticket, the consensus was that OGD was on the rise again.

But Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was named D-G of the PDP presidential campaign while OGD was reduced to a mere South-west deputy coordinator. To some, this was the beginning of the problem. The defection of Saraki and other big fishes from the APC to the PDP necessitated new configurations and the thinking in some quarters is that this did not favour OGD. Rigging apart, the election did not prove the worth attached to Saraki, who lost his Kwara base scandalously. Conversely, OGD helped the APC candidate and fellow Remo man, Dapo Abiodun, to clinch the Ogun governorship. Someone said OGD hates being slighted. Could his resignation from PDP be ascribed to this? His reference to his travails in PDP appears a pointer. Another argument is that he was rewarding a friend (Dapo Abiodun) who had supported him in time past. Or was this a case of ethnic sub-nationalism: Remo man supporting another Remo man?

When news first broke of OGD’s retirement from politics, my mind immediately went to former President Olusegun Obasanjo who not only dramatically announced his resignation from the PDP but also supervised the public destruction of his party membership card. Obasanjo declared the PDP dead and swore he was done with partisan politics but today, the former president is not only back in active partisan politics, he has also returned to the same PDP. Will OGD be different? Incidentally, Obasanjo and OGD are from the same Ogun state! Politicians often speak from both sides of the mouth. They also often engage in doublespeak. You must read not just their lips but also their hips, like ex-American President George Bush Jnr. counselled. Was OGD flying a kite? Was he venting his grievances? Was he sending signals of a beautiful bride to would-be suitors? Could he be taking steps to fulfil an agreement allegedly reached with the APC? Many point to OGD’s support for the APC candidate in the Ogun State governorship election as evidence.

Is anything pursuing OGD? Is he playing the Omisore or Obanikoro card? I am not aware the EFCC is on OGD’s trail. What, then, is OGD pursuing? Some said it is ministerial appointment while others think it is 2023. The kingmakers are said to be throwing their dragnets farther afield already to scout for competent presidential candidates from the South-west. To yet some others, it is the politics of how to discredit Atiku’s challenge of the presidential poll. Nothing can be more embarrassing than for your D-G campaign to join the opponent while you are still in the process of fighting for your mandate. Did OGD discuss his recent line of action with Atiku? He must have! Did he get Atiku’s understanding? We cannot say but politicians seldom reason like ordinary folks!

I asked OGD probing questions when the news broke – and he answered in his characteristic candour. He said all were speculations; “specious,” I will add. The timing of his decision has generally been called to question. OGD disagrees; insisting he still stands with Atiku. He has also restated he is not defecting. If he sticks with that, he will likely limit the damage. But his supporters will brook no sitting on the fence. What they are simply telling OGD is: Now that it is time to partake in the eating of the pudding we helped bake in Ogun is not the appropriate time to quit. And they are damn right. No one who puts his hands on the plough and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.

But can OGD be APC at home and PDP at the national level? All politics, as they say, is local. How, then, is he different from Gov. Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun state) and Gov. Rochas Okorocha (Imo State) both of whom the APC have slammed with suspension? Can we expect that OGD will be treated differently by the PDP or was he trying to pre-empt the party by “escaping” before he is hauled before the disciplinary committee? I will, however, make recommendations that appear conciliatory. If there are statesmen left in the PDP, this is the time they must put on their thinking cap. The PDP should be positioning itself as a credible alternative ahead of 2023. This it will best do if it bends over backward to keep its key members within and not allow them bolt away at the least excuses. Discuss with OGD. Placate him. Allay his fears. By all means keep him within the fold. Much of the losses suffered by the PDP since 2015 have been caused by its inability to prevent the APC from poaching its key figures. Our people have a saying: One-off, one-off makes a bunch of brooms become an ordinary broom stick.

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