The stage is set for the electoral battle royale tomorrow between the incumbent Governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Iyiola Omisore. The atmosphere is already tense, as anyone that has a reason to pass through Osogbo this week can attest to, as the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the national ruling parties, PDP, are poised for what they deem a game-changer.
Political pundits and electoral star gazers have already been projecting the outcome of the election and most of the fore-casting favours the incumbent Governor. This is understandable against the background of the achievements that the Government of Ogbeni Aregbesola has recorded in the acclaimed State of the Living Spring over the past four years when his stolen electoral mandate was judicially and judiciously restored.
But beyond the well-known achievements of the Governor in education, infrastructural development, social welfare (for the students and the elderly) and others, there are five factors to my mind that ordinarily give Aregbesola an edge over his co-contenders for the coveted Governor’s Office in Osun. These factors, for the people of Osun State that I know, are more appealing than what is known of other contestants especially where one voter, one vote really counts.
First, the saying that the Devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know applies to the situation. Given people’s familiarity with Aregbesola’s programmes, there is no doubt that people would want to give him another opportunity as human beings generally have the fear of the unknown. Aregbesola has been tried and tested, others have not; he therefore stands a better chance.
Secondly, there is something striking in the simplicity and humility of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. In a culture where politicians try to grandstand and decorate their irrelevant personalities with supposedly relevant, even if sometimes bogus titles, Aregbesola is unique. His adoption of the “ordinary” title of “Ogbeni” or “Mr” is a mark of simplicity. According to Mozart, “simplicity is the true mark of genius.” It is not what you call yourself that matters, it is who you are.
There is also humility in the carriage and comportment of Aregbesola such that he is strikes you as a true man of the people. I think this is why many people identify with him. I once watched him acknowledge on a Lagos TV programme that his Deputy is older than he is and he would accord her due respect as a Yoruba man. He invited her to speak and Mrs. Grace Laoye-Tomori also displayed humility in kind. The mercurial poet, T. S. Elliot tells us in memorable words, “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire/ Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.”
Thirdly, Aregbesola is the type of what is referred to in literature as a dynamic character; he is not a flat one. People connect easily with those who are perceived to be dynamic, not the flat, lame duck type. He is certainly controversial but that is true of dynamic personalities. He takes risks and as the legendary Muhammed Ali, once said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
For example, the whole world knows who actually won the Friday May 24, 2013 election of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) through the ingenuity of Aregbesola. Knowing well that the powers that be had strategised that the preferred candidate of the Governors would not “win”, he smelt a rat when the Governors were not allowed to go into the venue of the election with their mobile phones. Aregbesola “smuggled” a pen camera in and secretly recorded the election. It was that video that exposed the “democratic credentials” of our contemporary “democrats”.
Then, Aregbesola appears as a person committed to social justice, one virtue that is lacking in the polity, where leaders trample roughshod on others. While giving Muslims their demanded Hijrah public holiday, stirring the hornet’s nest for which hagiographers spew venom on him, he shocked even Muslims by declaring another public holiday, “Isese Day”, for the traditional religionists. Around the same time, he controversially contributed the princely sum of N35 million to the burial of a prominent Christian cleric, Prophet Timothy Obadare. It was as if he was saying that at least everybody had something and those who did not like it should leave it.
Lastly, one masterstroke that favours Aregbesola is how he has been able to rally the past leaders of the State behind him, including the strategically important former National Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party and the same Governor that was ousted for him to assume office, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. With the array of those opinion leaders and political actors, it is difficult not to win if there is a commitment to one voter, one vote principle.
However, in our brand of democracy, things are not that simple and no one will be taken aback if the popular candidate eventually loses. This is because Sociologist Stahwood Cobb could have had Nigerian democracy in mind when he wrote several years ago thus:
“Democracy claims to be ‘Government of the people by the people for the people’. But at its best it is oligarchy, and soon turns to dictatorship of an individual. It claims to aim at ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. In fact, it gives rise to frustration, failure, anxiety, misery. It encourages altruism and a social conscience in its rhetoric, but its policies are selfishness run riot, with no regard for the fate of others. Individuals and groups that get in the way are trampled ruthlessly underfoot. This age surpasses all others known to history in exploitation, profiteering and power-hunger.”
Ultimately, what is of utmost importance is for the state of “Omoluabi”, as the state is now branded, to be true to the spirit of the term. As the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Abdul Ganiyu Ambali, once conceived it, among the Yoruba, “an Omoluabi is someone of excellent character and s/he is someone who is hard working, diligent, responsible, serious-minded, fair, honest, trust-worthy, kind, respectful and Godly in all his activities. An Omoluabi values good name more than gold and s/he is a symbol of everything good and admirable.”
As Osun decides, let everyone involved be Omoluabi by making one voter, one vote principle work.