Osun: Winning, Losing And Lessons – Tunde Fagbenle

TundeFagbenleThere was hardly a tenser election. Nerves frayed, tempers rose, expectations dissipated, predictions conflicted. Nothing was cock sure. From one corner, it was presented as a fight between good and evil; from another, it was the battle of realism against rhetoric, of the now against the later.

The victor, incumbent governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, knows victory was hard coming and almost lost, thus appreciating the people more. “I am humbled and honoured by your trust and abiding faith in me and my party,” he said, pledging that the people’s confidence in him and his party “shall never be betrayed or taken for granted.”

The defeated, Senator Iyiola Omisore, far from being bloodied, stands tall yet. Inferring from the considerable number of votes he gathered, a staggering over 290,000 against a popular and performing incumbent, he opines: “August 9 has given the demography of the change-seeking people.”

To a large extent Omisore is right that the demography of his support is far more widespread than the overall result would suggest. Despite the view that “most of Omisore’s votes came from Ife alone”, only 23%(67,722) actually came from his four Ife Local Government (LG) areas, comparing not too badly from Ogbeni’s about 20% from his Ilesha axis. Omisore garnered considerable, even shockingly close votes from a number of other areas considered APC (or Ogbeni) strongholds like Ifedayo (3,982 to APC’s 4,225), Oriade (10,214 to APC’s 12,523), Orolu (6,786 to APC’s 8,558), Atakumosa West (5,142 to APC’s 6,928), Ila (7,916 to APC’s 10,825), Ayedaade (11,255 to APC’s 12,801), Obokun (8,618 to APC’s 11,696), Egbedore (7,084 to APC’s 10,615), Iwo (15,493 to APC’s 20,827), Ejigbo (12,495 to APC’s 17,700); and even victorious elsewhere like Ayedire (7,813 over APC’s 7,724), Isokan (10,028 over APC’s 9,578, Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s Odo-Otin (12,902 over APC’s 11,950), and (awful) my own LG, Boluwaduro (5,035 above APC’s 4891 – the only consolation being Ogbeni winning resoundingly in my town, Igbajo!

So what happened? I did my own investigative research prior to the election, talking to ordinary folks – an okada rider here, an artisan there – in towns and rural areas. And what I encountered in some places truly shocked me about the illogicality, nay unreasonableness, of many of our people. I encountered utter folly, sheer spite in places, and understandable grouse in some others.

I identified three or four sets of anti-Ogbeni voters. One, those who just wanted change for change’s sake; two, those whose abodes or means of livelihood were badly affected by the huge urban renewal projects; three, and the most virulent of all, those who have bought into the negative and largely false or exaggerated stories against Ogbeni and would believe nothing else.

Of the first group, I met one local surveyor in Iwo town who told me: “We just want change. I think the people agree that Aregbesola has performed well, but four years is enough, let another person come in too and do his own, that way things can go round. Some new hands can get appointed and the benefits can spread.” And raising the spectre of possible abandoned project did not persuade him.

Of the second group, the argument that one needs to look at the greater good for the greater number of people meant nothing to their ears.

Then the third. Clearly, bad negative news is far sweeter to our people’s ears than positive ones. The stories being peddled against Aregbesola ranged from the believable to the very outrageous and improbable. “Only ‘Lagos people’ are engaged in his government or take the fat contracts.” “All of Osun’s money is going to Tinubu.” “Aregbe wants to Islamise Osun.” And sundry others too horrible to bear mention here. As these fibs gained traction, they got more and more embellished from hearer to hearer and re-teller to re-teller! Of course, being fuelled and played up by the opposition parties no end. That is politics.

I think APC could count itself lucky PDP, in Omisore, threw up a candidate with so much heavy negative baggage and credibility deficit, who also could not (well, to be honest no one could) match Aregbe in oratorical and populist skills. But what Omisore lacked in those areas he more than compensated for in capacity to wrought damage, forcefully, stealthily, and financially, on anyone. And the number of votes he amassed was proof enough.

Equally, APC is lucky the Osun election came after the Ekiti nasty experience, with enough time to borrow from it and “do the needful”! But, above it all, there is the ‘Ogbeni magic’ of which I have said more than enough in previous columns. His energy, his passion, his sincerity, his self-discipline, his integrity, his intellect, his visionary drive, is prodigious. It would have been sad, truly sad, were the election to have gone any other way. Osun – we all – would have been the loser!

For now, time to roll our sleeves and join hands on the plough. There is so much Aregbe has begun that needs be steadfastly but cautiously pursued. Ogbeni is not flawless and he would have to calm down to listen and take to good counsel. His political future is so bright not only amongst his Yoruba people as their “Oranmiyan” but in the Nigeria firmament crying for real leaders – visionary, dedicated and trustworthy.

And that’s saying it the way it is!

President Jonathan and obtuse reality

Buoyed by the applaud for peaceful and relatively free and fair Osun election, President Goodluck Jonathan, for a change, sounded persuasive in defence of the charges of militarisation levelled against his government in the conduct of the Osun polls.

He argues that the heavy presence of security personnel in Osun preceding and during the election was necessary to forestall incidences of violence and malpractices that had been the hallmark of our electoral experience in the past.

Expressing surprise that anyone could decry such overbearing presence of armed security agents, he wonders at “how short human memories are.” He then reminded Nigerians, “what happened in Bauchi, (where) about 10 Youth Corpers were slaughtered in that election,” four years ago. “We know what happened in Kano; properties worth millions of naira were destroyed…” he said, further citing the Akwa Ibom experience, etc.

In his opinion, the governorship elections conducted so far, in Edo, Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and now Osun states under his presidency, owe their credibility and success to such preventive “militarisation”, reminding us that the results did not favour his PDP party in most of them. He is of the belief that the Nigerian disposition for political thuggery and our stage of development do not give us the luxury of dispensing with heavy security forces as deterrence.

Well said, Mr. President, but, say, why did some of them wear hoods? Say, how come in all the instances cited the only people being hounded, brutalised and detained, were members of parties other than the PDP? How come the PDP had never claimed any of its members suffered in the hands of Jonathan’s security goons even whilst conventional notion is that the PDP is a “nest of killers” and purveyors of violence?

If Mr. President has answers for that we want to hear it, otherwise he bearsthe flak.