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My mother had a saying, to wit: When God is doing good, human beings that cannot differentiate between good and evil will think He is doing evil. Bless my mother’s soul, O God, and continue to grant her sweet soul sweet repose! Saturday, 26 November made the 16th anniversary of her transition. Sweet mother! We are keeping the flag flying, until we, too, hand over the baton to our own children – your grandchildren! Last Sunday was a glorious day for the Adeleke family of Ede in Osun state; it was the day one of them, Ademola Nurudeen Jackson Adeleke, was sworn in as the sixth elected governor of “The State of the Living Spring” He takes after his elder sibling, Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, aka Serubawon, who, as a two-term senator, represented Osun West senatorial district from 2007 to 2011 under the PDP before crossing over to the APC where he was elected again in 2015. Before then, Serubawon had held office as civilian governor of Osun state (1992 – 1993) during the short-lived return to civil rule’s rigmarole presided over by the Maradona, General Ibrahim Babangida. Their father, Senator Raji Ayoola Adeleke, had, during the Second Republic, represented Oyo East at the National Assembly on the platform of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria in 1979. So, the Adelekes can be likened to the Kennedy dynasty of America, having produced two governors and three senators to date. So, we can begin to talk of the Adeleke political dynasty, at least, of Osun state!
I have a strong affinity to, and love for Ede in particular and Osun state in general. When I left my home town of Owo in Ondo state in 1976 to sojourn elsewhere and seek greener pastures, my first port of call was Ede, the homestead of the legendary Timi Agbale Olofa Ina. It was on the invitation of my elder sister, Anti mi Abiye, married to her darling husband, Olusola, of the Omiyale family of Igbajo. They lived on the first floor of a storey building at Oke- Gada area of town, at that time on the outskirts of Ede on the road to Iwo. The house was behind the railway station. From here, my in-law who was, and still is, more like a blood brother to me, helped me to secure a job with my West African School Certificate, first as a Laboratory Assistant (which I rejected) and later as an auxiliary teacher (which I accepted) in the same Osogbo Grammar School. There was a Labour Office at that time along Fagbewasa street, I think Nos 11, where employment seekers could register and they would be sent letters of invitation for job openings. You could also check on the Notice Board where lists of job openings were pasted from time to time. When will such good days return to Nigeria! The Schools Board was somewhere in the interior of town, not too far from the Ataoja’s palace and Oja-Oba.
I taught English and Literature to Forms One and Two students at Osogbo Grammar School from, I think, September 1976 to January 1978 when I gained admission to Ilesa Grammar School for my Higher School Certificate studies. My nickname at Osograms was “Mr. Jeans” because of my penchant for wearing jeans! At Osogbo, I lived in a storey building also right behind the railway station master’s quarters, Oke-fia. I spent only nine months at Ilegrams and was in the Lower Sixth Form class when I wrote the first-ever JAMB and gained admission into the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. At Ilesa, I spent some time in the hostel before Baba Ojo, our senior boarding house master, expelled some of us! “Salii, ya k’eru re, oro re sunmi, me ye t’oju re! Pack you load and leave, I am tired of you and cannot continue to cater for you! “Salii” was the corrupted form of Saliu, my surname at the time!
“Ayeni, mo de pakute s’ile fun e o! Bi o mu e l’apa, a mu e l’ese!” Ayeni, I have set a trap for you. If it fails to catch you on your hands, it will surely catch you on your legs! Ayeni, where are you! Nothing really sinister: Just the usual, seemingly harmless youthful exuberance! From there, Kayode Bankole (Banky), Sabiu Bolarinwa and I rented a room on a high rise building at Oke Imo area. I also spent time with my Owo High School classmate, Samson Ajiferuke, who hails from Modakeke, at the other end of town, Oke-Omiru, on the road to Osogbo. Baba Aji, as he is fondly called, worked then at the radio section of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo state, Idominasi. That was my first peep into journalism. From Ilesa, I went to Ife in October 1978. So, my native state of Ondo and Osun, which was then a part of Oyo state, formed me. But I digress!
This time four years ago, the Adelekes were in a mournful mood; their hard-won electoral victory having been stolen by the rival APC for Adegboyega Isiaka Oyetola. Oyetola and his people were, however, grinning from ear to ear, not minding that the mandate was snatched from someone else, as confessed to later by no less a personality than President Muhammadu Buhari, who said his party, APC, “won” the 2018 Osun state governorship election by “remote control”, a euphemism for rigging or electoral heist. First, INEC technically declared the election inconclusive, although Ademola Adeleke was a clear winner up to that point. A re-run was ordered in a few areas and the APC lobbied the man who came third in that election, SDP’s Iyiola Omisore, to its corner. By force and by tulasi, the figures were then added up for Oyetola to be declared the winner. So, beware of inconclusive elections, the type the INEC says it has prepared for, for the presidential election in 2023! But, see how things have turned out in Osun! Those who wept in 2018 are dancing and rejoicing today while those who danced and rejoiced in 2018 are the ones weeping and wailing and mourning and gnashing their teeth today, to quote the reggae artiste, Mighty Diamonds.
What goes around comes around! The Adelekes certainly did not know that God was preparing as well as preserving them for a day like this! What if the situation had been reversed and they were the ones who triumphed in 2018 but today are the ones at the receiving end of defeat, rejection and opprobrium? Or is there anyone that can say for certainty that, had Adeleke not been denied his victory in 2018, that in 2022 he would still have remained the darling of Osun people and win re-election? You wanna bet? Don’t you worry: Four years is around the corner! We shall see if Gov. Adeleke can still dance in November 2026 as he danced last Sunday!
Oyetola has boasted that he will return! It is a possibility. In neighbouring Ekiti, two one-term governors (Ayo Fayose and Kayode Fayemi) have achieved that feat. Baba Bisi Akande enjoyed just one term as governor of Osun but it does not appear as if Baba harbours any intention of coming back for a second term. Age and contentment apart, more important to Baba now must be if Asiwaju becomes the president so that Baba can become the Baba Oba!
Oyetola is generally said to have been a better governor than his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, who ran Osun into huge debts with little or nothing to show for it. Payment of salaries (and pensions?) were said to have been much more regular under Oyetola than it was previously. He was also said not to have taken a single loan during his four-year tenure. If so, then, this is worthy of emulation and Adeleke should build on it. Oyetola also said he left N14 billion in the coffers for Adeleke. I hope this is real, expendable cash and not some razzmatazz and book cooking that governors engage in when leaving office. Ultimately, everyone’s conscience will bear him out and God is the final arbiter.
Did Oyetola do the right thing by employing thousands of workers in the twilight of his tenure, piling more misery on the state’s over-stretched wage bill? I do not think so but he would not be the first outgoing governor to have so acted. Was he right to have made very critical decisions such as the appointment of Obas days to the end of his tenure? I do not think so but, again, he would not have been the first to have so acted.
Was it right for Oyetola to begin to appoint permanent secretaries hours to his exit or to fill local government chairmanship positions? I do not think so but, again, Oyetola would not have been the first outgoing governor to do so. Oyetola reportedly refused to congratulate Adeleke after the election; that is understandable because he meant to challenge the outcome of the election in court, which he eventually did and the case is still in court. If he congratulates Adeleke, what, then, will he still be going to court for? Despite that he is in court, should Oyetola have set up a transition committee and leave a hand over note to ensure a smooth transition of power? I think he should! That is what is expected of him. That will not in any way compromise or vitiate his case in court but will show maturity. If he did so, he acted well; otherwise, he acted badly.
Interestingly, what Oyetola did or did not do is just one side of the coin; the other side is Adeleke’s own reaction to them. Two wrongs do not make a right. You do not repay evil with evil and still stand on higher moral ground. As the Yoruba elders would say: Okun o kii ho ruru k’a wa ruru; beeni Osa o kii ho ruru k’a wa ruru! How do I say this in English? Help me if you can? When others are losing their head or are behaving malevolently, it is wisdom and strength of character for you to keep your cool. It indicates that you are made of sterner stuff. But when you respond in kind, you are birds of a feather and are as guilty as the person you are responding to.
If I were Adeleke, I would not have responded in kind to Oyetola’s provocation – if that is what it was. Adeleke should not have summarily dismissed the last-minute workers employed by Oyetola or the permanent secretaries so promoted the way he did. What on earth did Adeleke expect them to have done – despite his threats or warnings? To reject the appointments and disobey a sitting governor who still wielded executive powers? Adeleke acted ultra wires, as lawyers will say, barking out orders as the governor of Osun state when he was not yet the governor. Oyetola at that point was still the governor and had the responsibility to govern. He was the one constitutionally empowered to bark out orders – albeit responsibly! Adeleke jumped the gun by purporting to act as governor when he had not yet been inaugurated as governor. He caused confusion by surreptitiously, in fact brazenly and gratuitously, wanting to install himself before his due time as captain in the same boat with Oyetola. Fa, fa, fa, Foul! To qoute Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo alias 4.30 of the New Masquerade fame! There can be no two captains in the same boat.
What type of civil service is Adeleke promoting in Osun state? By his action, he is destroying the Osun state civil service. The interests of Osun will not be served in the final analysis. If I were Adeleke, I would follow civil service regulations on employment, appointments, promotions, discipline and determination of status. Is there no Civil Service Commission in Osun state? Is there no Local Government Commission? He should have allowed the statutory organs of government to perform their duties. That is the only way we can develop strong, efficient, and independent institutions as is the case in other climes. I will be surprised if avoidable litigation does not follow some of his hasty and scantily thought-through actions. Why the undue haste: To show that he is an action governor? This was the same undue haste that Murtala Muhammed exhibited in 1976 that ruined the Federal Civil Service, a disservice from which the country is yet to recover.
If I were Adeleke, I would have loved to have the Oyetola eleventh-hour appointees march into my office with their hands behind their back to salute me “Your Excellency” while I keep the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads! I would have loved to enjoy that spectacle! But now that they have been sacked, they are beyond Adeleke’s reach and control.
Adeleke has lost a great opportunity to turn adversity into opportunity for prosperity and success. He did not act with tact and diplomacy. He did not behave like a statesman at all! Instead, he needlessly made enemies for himself. With his eyes wide open, he danced himself into traps, not just one trap but many traps, set this time not by Baba Ojo but by Oyetola. Before long, Adeleke will begin to realise that keeping them inside could be wiser than throwing them outside where they may start to throw stones at you. Like Peter Tosh, the Jamaican reggae artiste, crooned: if you live in a glass house don’t throw stones. If you can’t take no stone throw no stone. Adeleke is the one living in a glass house now. Unfortunately, he is the one that has thrown the first stones. He should get ready because those he has thrown outside – Obas, permanent secretaries, Council chairpersons, newly-employed workers and their dependants – will rain their own stones on him in his glass house!
As at the time of filing this report, Adeleke has made three critical appointments – Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff, and media spokesperson – all of them, to the best of my knowledge, Muslims! We must not forget that this is the same state which nearly went up in flames over Aregbes’ hijab controversy a few years ago. I remember writing “The Arogidigba Aregbesola killed” and that it took the intervention of Aregbes’ godfather then who had to hurriedly come from Lagos to Osun state to douse the fire. There must be no encore in whatever form or shape! I must confess, though, that I do not know much about the pedigree of the new Secretary to the State Government and the Chief of Staff. It is likely they are eminently qualified and deserve their appointments. If so, I say a hearty congratulations! I must, however, salute and commend the appointment of Olawale Rasheed as Adeleke’s spokesperson. Rasheed is a professional to the core. He may have forgotten but I still remember it as if it were yesterday but indeed it was decades back when he was media adviser to Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, the then Minister of Youth Development, and I was media consultant to IGI when Mr. Remi Olowude (God bless his soul!) was its Executive vice-chairman as well as the moving spirit behind the NYSC Foundation. There was a problem and the Foundation’s bank accounts were ordered frozen. I got across to Rasheed and, pronto, he led me and Nwano, the Foundation’s Executive Secretary, before the Minister and the issues were there and then resolved. Thanks, Rasheed! May you and your principal succeed in this onerous assignment!
*Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in the New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.