Reports filtered through a few days ago in all the major newspapers across the country that former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu broke with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to endorse Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of State of Osun for a second term in office. Kalu is a respected political actor who served two terms as Abia governor between 1999 and 2007.
His visit to State of Osun coincided with two major political events in the state.
First, it was the day his political party, the PDP, conducted primary election for its governorship aspirants in the state: namely, Senator Iyiola Omisore, Senator Olasunkanmi Akinlabi a former Minister of Youth Development and Honourable Wole Oke former chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Defence. Earlier, Senator Adeleke, the first governor of Osun had withdrawn from the race with a proviso: “I don’t want the blood of my political supporters to be shared because of my governorship ambition.”
The Senator alleged that he and his supporters were thoroughly beaten by the thugs of Senator Omisore and those of the Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan. “There is a likelihood of a breakdown of law and order if I participate in the primary election. Therefore, I am announcing that I will boycott tomorrow’s primary. Why should I allow somebody possessed by the devil to waste the lives of our people because I want to be a governor?
“A minister has continued to threaten that he would waste so many lives in the primary. I am boycotting the primary; I will participate when our party decides to conduct a free, fair and violence-free primary. But I will work for the success of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.” Senator Isiaka Adeleke has a reason to be circumspect for not letting down his guides.
The PDP candidate in Osun, Omisore has yet to explain satisfactorily to the people of Osun state and Nigerians at large, his alleged involvement in the murder of Chief Bola Ige, then Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation under former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. If he did, it’s likely that Nigerians are not satisfied with his explanations, even though he has been exonerated by the courts.
Kalu may have been disenchanted by the PDP’s inordinate strive for bloodcurdling politics. He sees in Ogbeni a model of civil political buffer and a transformational figure whose commitment to good governance goes beyond merely gloating over a reconstructed kilometre of road by the previous administration. More so, he saw no reason to be wild about an Omisore’s candidacy.
The PDP leader, therefore endorsed Governor Aregbesola’s continuation in office, saying: “You don’t change a winning team”. He made the endorsement on Saturday, April 5, at the 15th edition of the Walk-to-Live in Ipetumodu, Osun State. Walk-to-Live is a monthly physical exercise that involves trekking of at least, eight kilometres by interested citizens of the state after which a round of various other physical exercises follow to ensure that the citizens remain physically fit and mentally alert.
The programme – in no small dimension – appears the best in closing the gap between the people and the government. Each edition of the programme sees excited citizens who cannot join the usually long and winding procession either staying in front of their houses; climbing topmost parts of their buildings to catch glimpses of the governor, movie actors and actresses and sportsmen who have become regular features of the event.
Young mothers who cannot stay at home strap their babies to their backs. Physically-challenged persons waddle their ways through the crowd to ensure they complete the ‘race’. Students, market men and women, old and the young want to be part of what they see as an engaging event that help them regain their self-confidence. It is common scene to see excited, ordinary citizens wanting to get handshakes with the governor and other top members of his administration.
Under the six-point development agenda of the state administration, which he calls “My Pact with Osun”, promotion of healthy living is one. “There can be no healthy living without constant physical exercises.” Ogbeni is always quick to remind his people each time people troop out to partake in what is appearing the biggest platform for mobilizing the people to action in the state.
Apart from other benefits now accruing from the event such as raising the political consciousness of the people, Governor Aregbesola has never failed to remind enthusiasts at the events on monthly basis that “Walk-to-live exercise was introduced because we realised that we have all forgotten the need to physically exercise ourselves. We are highly sedentary and socially wild; we must compliment this with engaging in physical exercise. Osun is promoting Walk-to-Live to ensure that we have a healthy people in a healthy state.”
This was what attracted the sport-loving former governor of Abia State to Osun that led to his endorsement of the governor of the state. He would later enthuse: “I am a statesman and PDP man. I made a promise a month ago to honour this Walk to Live event. Omisore is a personal friend of mine. Aregbesola is my friend as well. Governor Aregbesola has worked for the people of Osun. You don’t need to change a winning team. I also wish to express my support for our President, He is trying. Let’s pray for President Jonathan and let’s pray for Aregbesola.”
He would also add: “I want to thank the Governor for making today’s Walk Exercise in a way I have never done before. Governor Aregbesola has done well. I am not here on party basis. II am a bona fide member of my Party (PDP) …When someone has worked, we should learn to recognise performance in Nigeria. Governor Aregbesola has worked. There are few governors that can walk as we have walked today, without pure water being thrown at them. If what I have seen today is a test of popularity, then Aregbesola is indeed popular.”
Dr Kalu has engraved his name in gold as one individual who turned his back on inconsistent characters with moral deficits within the same political party to pitch his tent with a progressive candidate who can deliver the goods to the people – just the same way General Colin Powell broke with Republican Party to endorse Barack Obama’s presidency.
But when twinned with the partisan blindness in Nigeria political orientation, his endorsement of Aregbesola does reflect a significant shift. Kalu studiously spoke the minds of Osun citizens after several years of inelegant style of governance and outright despondency.
It’s obvious that the people have been delivered from the grip of an administration and a political party that has little or no socio-political and economic direction for them. Being permanently welded to acidic politics of bloodletting cannot change the people of Osun’s resolve to remain on the part of change. That is what Orji Kalu’s endorsement of Governor Rauf Aregbesola for continuity in office is about.
• Ikhide wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria.