By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Senator Ademola Adeleke is an accidental politician. His entry into the politics of Osun state was by happenstance. His eldest brother, Isiaka Adeleke, a former governor of the state, had suddenly died while serving in the Senate. A vacancy was thus created that must be filled by his constituents in Osun west senatorial zone. That was how the lot fell on Ademola to step into Isiaka’s big shoes.
Isiaka was a grassroots politician who connected very well with his people and touched their feelings of infirmity with the magnitude of his humanity, which was the reason the people of Ede, his home town, invested their trust and hope in him. As governor in the ill-fated Third Republic, he did not disappoint them; neither did he disappoint the entire state.
As senator, he represented them well, in his first term on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and in his second term on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Isiaka’s desire was to rule Osun again as governor. But some eternally frightened political forces in the state had worked against his plan.
His sudden death and the circumstances that surrounded it fatally disrupted his planned 2019 governorship bid. However, his death has not diminished his people’s faith in him. To appreciate him for his unwavering leadership, they had ensured that Senator Ademola become a beneficiary of his (Isiaka’s) political followership. Both Ede North and South had also cumulatively given him over 35,000 votes in last Saturday’s governorship election.
The Adeleke “political” family is unique in a number of ways. Isiaka had a gift of the garb. His characteristic long cap, called serubawon (scare them) would later become his moniker. His immediate younger brother, Adedeji, who is father to the popular musician, Davido, is a billionaire businessman. Ademola, who was voted in to replace Isiaka in the senate, has dancing as his own niche.
He dances very well, despite his massive frame. The flexibility of his body and the rhythmical movements are simply incredible that even a contortionist would be green with envy. Through the acrobatic boogie, he has wormed his way into the hearts of many Nigerians including me. The Senator Ademola brand has flourished on entertainment. He is certainly enjoying the acclaimed health benefits from what seems to be an off-putting physical activity.
For instance, how many overweight persons can move their bodies the way Senator Ademola does his? Video clips of his governorship electioneering were shared on the whatsapp social media platform where he was seen dancing while thousands of his supporters were singing and dancing along with him. His campaigns for the September 22, 2018 governorship election in Osun were not much of articulating his vision for the state or elucidating on how to fulfill his promises or party manifesto. As far as his supporters are concerned, he is the best for them at this intersection.
Dancing in politics historically was one veritable way by which political leaders mobilized and bonded with their followers. That would explain why the services of musicians, praise singers and dancers were always required at political parties’ events, especially campaigns that have always been a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. The sublimity of speeches is meant for the elite to decipher and appreciate, not for the uneducated hoi polloi; while the dance and song galore is for the commoners.
It is from that seemingly unsophisticated dance background that the Ademola phenomenon has blossomed and bludgeoned its way into the limelight of the vast political enclave that is Osun state and beyond. As he mounted the campaign podium on each occasion, the people would nudge him into dancing. A few times, he would chant thrice: PDP and the people would respond with the shout of: power! And, thereafter, the dance would continue.
The underlying message in the entire political saga that has crystallized in Osun state with the rather unexpected “inconclusive” outcome of the Osun governorship election is the readiness of the people not only to free themselves from the stranglehold of political forces that had held them captive for the past eight years but also to break their backs. For eight years, the politics and governance of Osun state have not largely inspired the people. Instead of happiness, the people have been sad.
Why would they not be sad when the government that was elected to serve them had become a task master or slave driver? For instance, for the past 34 months, the state government has not paid workers in full. Besides, it has accumulated a huge debt while its mega schools project, among others, has become shambolic and counterproductive. The civil servants have been dehumanized and the entire workforce pauperized.
Osun people who have for long been mourning have seen an opportunity to dance and smile in the full panoply of Senator Ademola Adeleke’s governorship. They have seen a self-effacing, amiable and listening leader on whose shoulders they can cry. But judging by his disposition, it appears the mourning period in Osun is over. Indeed, imole (light), which is his campaign slogan, with attendant joy, has come to Osun.
But for the joy not to be truncated, the Osun people have an opportunity to complete the process of their liberation. The INEC has rightly, except for its inconsistency in the application of its own rules, declared the governorship election inconclusive. The INEC has already fixed Thursday, September 27, 2018, for the rerun election in three polling units in Orolu Local Government Area due to disruption; two in Ife South due to malfunction of the smart card reader; one polling unit in Ife North due to over voting and one polling unit in Osogbo due to no-voting.
The total number of registered voters involved in the rerun is 3, 498. According to available information though unconfirmed, about 340 voters were cumulatively accredited to vote in these affected units last Saturday. This is where the APC, which is possibly banking on canceling out the 353 votes by which Senator Ademola is leading, should be very concerned. Going by history and pattern of voter turnout, it is possible that not up to a half of the registered voters will turn out for the rerun election.
Assuming that about that figure or even more turns out, the votes will certainly be split. PDP can still get a majority of the votes cast. And if the APC gets a majority of the votes, will it be enough to cancel out the 353 votes of the PDP? The rerun election should be taken very seriously by Osun people who crave liberation from the tradition of mourning. Light beckons on them in the final determination of their collective destiny; so also is dancing.
Moving towards the rerun election, I will not be surprised if the PDP works on an alliance with Senator Iyiola Omisore of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and other smaller parties that believe in the liberation of the state. The APC too is expected to make its moves to upstage the edge that the PDP currently enjoys in order to maintain the status quo, which it believes in.
Besides, on the day of the rerun election, I will not also be surprised to hear or read, if it is possible, that PDP leaders have volunteered as polling agents in the seven polling units so that the element of compromise is forestalled. APC could also do the same so that, overall, the exercise would be free and fair, with all the parties, especially the APC and the PDP, shunning desperation. It is expected that the INEC will maintain its neutrality by ensuring that votes cast by the electorate count.
Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, writes via email@example.com