Let me start with some clarifications. I’m from Osun State, and my homestead is Ipetumodu, in Ife North Local Government Area. And I am not Osun in Diaspora. I was born in Osogbo, capital of the State, when my father was Principal of St Charles Grammar School in the 1960s.
When he retired home, after moving from Osogbo to Notre Dame College, Usi-Ekiti, I continued my education, primary and secondary, in our hometown. For tertiary, I went to the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. So, I’m a homeboy. Osun ni mi tokan tokan (I’m a thoroughbred Osun man).
I’m also a Buharist, a firm believer in the ideals of that honest man, the Mai Gaskiya from Daura, in Katsina State, though I am not a registered member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was, therefore, laughable for some people to try and rope me into Osun State politics, as the gubernatorial election held last Saturday. First, they came up with the news that Femi Adesina had lost his ward to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Which Femi Adesina. Me? Or another one? Do you lose what you don’t participate in?
Out of curiosity, I checked. The APC had, indeed, won my ward, in the Post Office area of Ipetumodu by 176 to PDP’s 130 votes. But it didn’t matter. It just shows how heinous and petty some people can be.
Again, this post later began to circulate on WhatsApp and other social media platforms: “The former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande, is from Osun State.
“The current National Secretary of APC, Sen Iyiola Omisore, is from Osun State.
“Bola Tinubu is from Osun State.
“Femi Fani-Kayode is from Osun State.
“Femi Adesina is from Osun State.
“The Deputy National Chairman of APC is from Osun State.
“The current Governor of Osun State is Tinubu’s cousin.
“These are the structures APC have in Osun State and they still lost the election.
“APC should expect more Wahala 2023. Indeed, people’s voice and votes do count.”
Yes, I agree that people’s voice and votes do count, and we will talk more about that, courtesy President Muhammadu Buhari.
My position is this. I work for an APC government, and it is my preferred party. But member? Not so. I have always rooted for good APC candidates and I would have loved if Governor Gboyega Oyetola had won in Osun last weekend. I’d known him since he was Chief of Staff to the former Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. They were both at the reception held for me in my town by the then Kabiyesi, when I was appointed media adviser to the President in 2015. Gov Oyetola had been focused, sure-footed.
But I’d also known Governor-elect, Ademola Adeleke, since he was a Senator. He had even paid me a brotherly visit at the Presidential Villa in 2017. So, I was a stakeholder in the Osun election in many ways, but it would be fickle for anybody to call me a part of the APC structure in the State. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, APC is my preferred party, but I’m not a member, and won’t likely be, with my eyes set on farming and media work after leaving government service.
Without prejudice to whatever decision Gov Oyetola and the party would eventually take on the outcome, the election has held, and a winner has emerged. I would have preferred that the Governor be re-elected to continue with the steady, unobtrusive job he is doing for the State, but the people have decided otherwise. That was also the position of the President, a fair and just man, if ever there was one.
By Sunday morning when ‘come had come to become,’ the President did not waste time in causing me to issue a statement congratulating Senator Adeleke on his electoral victory. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared him winner, and so it must be.
He had his preference for Osun. I did too, as a political observer. But once the race was run and won, the President congratulated the winner. Fair and just thing to do. He said the will of the people must matter in a democracy, and that the will must always be respected. Is that not a radical departure from the past, particularly under PDP, in which all elections in States must be won willy-nilly by the party at the center?
I remember what happened in Ondo State. Olusegun Mimiko had wanted the ticket of the PDP to serve as Governor. He was wangled out. So he went to Labour Party, and won the election. But while the results were being announced, the then government at the center caused another candidate to be announced as the winner. When the people trooped out in protest, an order was given that they be gunned down. When Mimiko heard of it, he appealed to his supporters to stay calm, and went to court instead. It took almost three years, but he eventually regained the purloined mandate.
How many PDP Governors were eventually kicked out of office by the courts, simply because the party won the positions by artifice and sleight of hands? But count Buhari out of such. Even the Osun Governor-elect has this to say:
“When I saw the congratulatory message from the President, I said this is great for our country and democracy is at play here and I’m sure after I received my Certificate of Return from INEC, I would plan to visit him and thank him for the message because most of the times, the opposition don’t congratulate the winners. Maybe the President is trying to leave a legacy and the Electoral Act that he signed into law. I have to give the President the credit because if he didn’t sign the Electoral Act, there would be room for rigging because they did it in 2018. But this election is great because everything is coming out as expected.”
This election is great, because everything is coming out as expected. And thanks to President Buhari. Whereas, one election was always worse than the previous one in the past, with the do-or-die attitude of PDP, Buhari came with a new attitude since 2015. How many elections has APC lost? Many. If Federal might had been deployed, as it used to be, those elections would have been ‘won’ by force.
In fact, it has become very difficult to rig elections in Nigeria of today. And that is perhaps why vote buying is now so commonplace. But to just snatch and stuff ballot boxes? To alter winner on result sheets? Difficult, almost impossible. And it flows from President Buhari’s resolve. INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, can now beat his chest and say that the 2023 general elections would be the nation’s best. Yes, when you have a President like the one we have, you can go all out for fairness, probity, transparency, and you would be backed to the hilt.
President Buhari had always said if bequeathing free and fair polls to the country was the only thing he would succeed in doing (and he has succeeded in many other fronts), then he would do so. We see it happening, and our hearts are gladdened.
When the man from Daura finishes, and goes to take his deserved retirement, those who are fair minded would always remember him as the man who made a difference on many fronts, particularly in the area of free and fair elections. We will never forget him.
Femi Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity