Text of speech delivered by Dr Muiz Banire at The Gazelle News organised Victory Clloquium in honour of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesol
The people must be integrated
into the party while the party
must be in incorporated into
It is ordinarily a sufficient pleasure to be part of today’s event being a celebration of a great success story in the annals of our nation. However, it is a greater pleasure with a tinge of humbling effects to be the person to speak before this distinguished gathering where the cream de la cream of Nigerian politics are assembled.
Today’s event is a great story in many respects. One, it is a confirmation of our aspiration to be recorded in world records as part of civilised nations on one hand, but on the other, it is an opportunity to reflect on the unenthusiastic state of our polity being strangulated by certain retrogressive forces whose antecedents in statesmanship are questionable and political consciousness brazenly criminal. However, it must be realised that today’s occasion is not a jamboree to treat ourselves to fulsome praises and self-indulgent congratulatory back-patting adverts but a window to do a clinical diagnosis of our political malaise and a prognosis into our uncertain future as a nation.
We would all recall that a governorship election held in the State of Osun on the 9th day of August, 2014 in which the honouree of today’s event, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, emerged the winner. It is not the victory of this great son of Oodua that made the election spectacular but rather the war-like circumstances in which the election was held during which the psyche of the nation and the progressive forces in the State of Osun were subjected to physical and mental siege.
Prior to the election and few weeks therefrom, the governorship election in Ekiti State was held in which our party, All Progressives Congress lost in questionable circumstances. It was a great setback but it was also a revelation of what might befall us in Osun if greater care was not taken despite the popularity of our candidate. A Yoruba adage says: iku to pa ojugba eni, owe lo pa fun ni – which means, the demise of a neighbour is a clear signal of one’s mortality. We took a cue from that as we knew that the setting in Ekiti was a reinvention of the Hobbessian state of nature in which life was being made nasty, brutish and might at any time be cut short.
The catholic acceptability of the personality of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola dates back to his eventful declaration to contest the governorship seat in the then Osun State on the 16th day of April, 2005 where multitudes trooped out to welcome him around Station Road in Osogbo, the capital of the State. This has been a regular feature at every occasion from the time when this monumental icon stepped into public view up in the State of Osun up to the election time in 2007 and thereafter till this moment.
Incidentally, this state of events has been a terror to the Peoples Democratic Party government and its rogue clan of violent stooges in Osun who have vowed to recapture the State by all means possible. The plan was to deploy the entire machinery of state terror whereof seventy thousand armed soldiers, policemen, officers of the State Security Service and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps were to provide shield for a horde of Niger/Delta snipers who had been imported into the State two weeks to the election and local PDP thugs in the bid to unleash massive brutality on leaders and members of All Progressives Congress and the general electorate.
Thus, in the façade of providing security for the electoral process, the Federal Government at the instance of Peoples Democratic Party mobilised thousands of security officers into the State few weeks to the election. Most of them were fully masked, all armed to the teeth and displayed poetic love for violence as they shot sporadically into the air to scare the people of the State. The machinery of federalism as preserved by the Constitution had been wiped off as the only thing the Federal Government had not done was mere paper declaration of state of emergency in Osun. The armed men roamed the streets of the various towns in lorry loads in scary appearances while the candidate of PDP, Iyiola Omisore, did not spare a moment to let the world know that he was out to capture the State for keeps.
However, whenever these agents and merchants of death shot into the air whether in broad daylight or in the dark recesses of the night, the determined people of Osun hailed the bullet rains with the slogan of “APC – Change” or “Aregbesola for second term” which tended to infuriate the armed terrorists more. Iyiola Omisore’s campaign venues were utterly deserted save for a few who wanted to collect his money and later vote their conscience. On the other hand were the tumultuous crowds that attended Aregbesola’s rallies in different towns, villages and communities. This continued to send jitters down the spine of the PDP goons who rather tried to mask their unpopularity by what they termed house-to-house campaign and tried to perfect their rigging machinery by purchasing voters’ cards of innocent registered voters in order to decimate the huge number of supporters and sympathisers of Ogbeni. All these failed to achieve the desired goal.
All these intimidating credentials of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola left the PDP elements with no other option than to bolster their resolve to further militarise the electoral process more. Despite the fact that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has no power under the Constitution to deploy the military for electoral process and notwithstanding the pendency of the suits filed by APC at the Federal High Court, Osogbo, challenging the unconstitutional deployment of soldiers for electoral purpose, the PDP government at the centre, not enamoured with the glorious dictates of the rule of law, proceeded in a determined manner to use the same formulae it deployed to win Ekiti few weeks back.
On the eve of the election, there was total clampdown on the people. Hundreds of leaders and members of APC, loyal supporters of Ogbeni and members of the electorate were arrested by the combined contingents of soldiers, policemen, SSS and NSCDC officials. Knowing that the usual practice of the Inspector General of Police of declaring curfew whenever an election would be held was illegal , this time the Federal Government or the IG made no express declaration of curfew in the State of Osun but the manner in which human and vehicular traffic and activities were shut down by the security forces of PDP was a complete coup detat against popular democracy. Close to eight hundred members of APC were clamped in detention overnight between the 8th and 9th October, 2014. They were held all through the election period on the 9th day of August, 2014 without being allowed to exercise their right to vote.
The rampaging dogs of terror spared no effort and had no respect for anyone. While Alhaji Lai Mohammed had to be taught “when to sleep” by the SSS as he was arrested on his way to the Government House, Oke Fia, Osogbo on the night of the 8th October and was seriously manhandled by some illiterate PDP members who were leading the soldiers to arrest APC leaders and members, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the State of Osun, Mr. Wale Afolabi, did not know that there was already a coup without martial music as he was also arrested and detained for several hours overnight. The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Wale Adedoyin was arrested while the PDP thugs and soldiers invaded the premises of Senator Bayo Salami and the Chairman of Osogbo Local Government, shooting sporadically to threaten them into submission. Scores of other leaders and government officials suffered similar fates in the hands of these agents of backwardness.
Various degrees of injuries were inflicted on the members of APC arrested by the lawless men in uniform. The PDP thugs used the opportunity to re-introduce their reign of terror which they incontinently practised in between 2007 and 2010 and the height of it all was when they invaded the Government House in Osogbo without any justifiable reason whatsoever in the early hours of the 9th day of August, 2014. They were promptly resisted by the courageous Governor who had instructed that no armed personnel must be allowed entry into the premises save and except upon his permission. The only option left was for the Federal Government to be ready to fight its way into the State Government House and probably the federal government would have won a medal for being the first civilian government to kill a civilian governor while in office. The message was clear and there was immediate retreat by the agents of darkness.
The Unconstitutionality of Militarisation of Electoral Process
It is our position that the use of military men to conduct elections is completely unconstitutional. It is the apogee of lawlessness and the zenith of impunity for any president to deploy soldiers to monitor or conduct elections in Nigeria. Political jobbers and profiteers may fail to read the Constitution appropriately, but it is certain that the provision of section 217 of the 1999 Constitution which establishes the armed forces of the Federation has a mission for its establishment as it provides as follows:
“217.-(1) There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.
(2) The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of –
(a) defending Nigeria from external aggression;
(b) maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air;
(c) suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subtract to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and
(d) performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
(3) The composition of the officer corps and other ranks of the armed forces of the Federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria.”
While we acknowledge the provision of section 218(1) of the Constitution which gives the President the power to determine the operational use of the armed forces as well as the similar provisions of section 8 of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, it is indisputable that the operational use as may be determined by the President still has to be within the scope of the purpose of establishing the armed forces as enumerated in section 217 of the 1999 Constitution.
It is our position further that if the drafters of the 1999 Constitution intended the President’s power to determine the operational use of the armed forces as unbridled, they would not have stated the purpose of the establishment of the armed forces in section 217 of the 1999 Constitution in such limited terms. In this regard, the Supreme Court has held that in interpreting the provisions of the Constitution, the sections are never to be read in isolation. In Lafia Local Government v. Gov. Nasarawa State  17 NWLR (Pt. 1328) 94 at 126, paras. D-E, Rhodes-Vivour, JSC held thus:
“Interpretation of sections of the Constitution reveals the intention of the Legislature, and so sections of the Constitution are never to be read in isolation. They should be interpreted in a way that on no account should one section defeat the intent of another section.”
In the same case of Lafia Local Govt. at page 138, para. H, Fabiyi, JSC noted that:
“… related sections of the Constitution ought to be interpreted together so as to produce a harmonious result.”
The Court of Appeal, way back in 2005, gave effect to this submission of ours when in Yusuf v. Obasanjo  18 NWLR (Pt. 956) 96 it pronounced as follows:
“It is up to the police to protect our nascent democracy and not the military, otherwise the democracy might be wittingly or unwittingly militarised. This is not what the citizenry bargained for in wrestling power from the military in 1999. Conscious step or steps should be taken to civilianise the polity to ensure the survival and sustenance of democracy.”
The same Court of Appeal in the later case of Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 1 WRN 1 @ 200 maintained in clear and unambiguous terms that
“In spite of the non-tolerant nature and behaviours of our political class in this country, we should by all means try to keep armed personnel of whatever status or nature from being part and parcel of our electoral process. The civilian authorities should be left to conduct and carry out fully the electoral processes at all levels.”
It is interesting to note that the Supreme Court did not shy away from this issue in the same case of Buhari v. Obasanjo  13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1 @ 300 – 301, where the apex Court condemned the use of soldiers for electoral process in lucid language and enjoined that it is the duty of the government to guarantee that
“That in this day age in this country that has been independent for 45 years we can still witness horrendous acts by security officers who ought to dutifully ensure peace and tranquillity in the election process suddenly turning themselves into agents of destruction, and introduce mayhem to what ordinarily would have been a civilised way of exercising franchise by the people who are sovereign, is regrettable. I ascribe the nefarious activities of thugs and a few security officers and party men to lack of understanding of the philosophy and ethics behind election in a democratic state and lack of understanding of the dynamics of election process…. There must be statewide enlightenment programme educating the masses as to their rights as to how the citizens who are sovereign can exercise their franchise freely, unmolested and undisturbed.”
Despite the above pronouncements of the courts of the land, it speaks of abnormality and lunatic syndrome to find government still deploying soldiers in order to rig elections for its favoured candidates while shamelessly professing allegiance to the hallowed principles of rule of law. The imposition of terror is certainly aimed at making the election less participatory and to enhance chances for certain untowards activities to be perpetrated under the cover of military paraphernalia. We strongly condemn this in unbridled terms and yours faithfully was a victim of military highhandedness on the day of the election in Osun as I was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by military men while attempting to exit the State. While I would not go into the details of this development, I must notify you that I have filed an action at the Federal High Court, Osogbo for the protection of my fundamental rights in this regard.
We must remember that the High Court of Anambra State recently awarded damages in favour of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai due to infringements similar to mine perpetrated by security personnel on the day of the Anambra governorship election. We definitely cannot continue this way and expect to be recognised among civilised countries of the world. There must be an end to this impunity whoever might be responsible for it.
Politics of ‘Stomach Infrastructure’
In the course of all these and noticing the failures attending their efforts, the Federal Government and the PDP marauders in the State of Osun and those recruited from other States, introduced electorate bribery in the name of what they called ‘stomach infrastructure’ in which they started distributing rice and kerosene to the people. PDP enlisted the support of a number of derelict renegades from some other States who bankrolled the process. While a huge sum of 10 billion Naira was reportedly made available by the Federal Government for the campaign of the PDP candidate and electoral bribery of the masses, they opened a luciferous money-for-soul business in which they started distributing money to the people in order to secure their votes. They made spirited efforts to discredit the government of Aregbesola but the popularity of this master strategist kept on growing in leaps and bounds as the masses kept on renewing their pledge of solidarity to him on a daily basis. Many people collected the money, rice and kerosene being shared by PDP but refused to vote against their conscience.
PDP Rigging Efforts
A few days before the election, a stakeholders’ meeting was organised by INEC in which Professor Attahiru Jega and the new Inspector General of Police were present. The announcement by the new IG that people should return to their various homes immediately after voting was the most unpopular public statement ever made in recent times as the people present at the meeting roundly rejected this directive. The IG also came up with a new one when he said polling agents of political parties should not be seen at the polling booths. One wondered what happened to the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act which required every political party to be represented at the polling units by its agents in order to monitor the election. When there was thunderous reprobation against this directive, the IG directed that polling agents should stay at least 300 metres from the polling booths. It was the general conclusion that the man did not know the length of a metre and could not have appreciated that directing agents to stay 300 metres away from the polling units was telling them not to come to the polling units at all.
If polling agents are kept 300 metres away from the polling units, how are they to perform their statutory duties of monitoring the election, ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act like prevention of underage voters, ensuring valid and proper accreditation, etc.? It is the duty of the polling agents to be at the distribution of electoral materials from the distribution centres to the polling booths. See Section 43(3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). Most importantly, Section 43(4) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) provides that
“[A] polling agent shall be entitled to be present at the distribution of election materials, voting, counting and the collation of election results.”
One wonders what the IG wanted to achieve by his directive in view of the provisions of the law referred to above.
Other efforts made towards rigging the election for PDP were promptly exposed to the press. For instance, there was the case of the Electoral Officer of Obokun Local Government Area who was arrested by young APC members a day to the election while illegally transporting electoral materials before the time for allocation and distribution of materials. The said Electoral Officer and his partner were taken to the State Criminal Investigation Department office in Osogbo and handed over to the police. Unfortunately, the two were promply released in the afternoon of that same day to one Oladipo Oladapo, a PDP chieftain from Ile-Ife.
In another scenario, the Electoral Officer of Osogbo Local Government on the day of the election refused to release identification tags to APC agents thereby preventing them from being able to monitor the accreditation process. It took the intervention of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ambassador Wali, to compel him to release the identification tags. Later in the day, the same Electoral Officer hid the result sheet on which election results for Osogbo Local Government were to be recorded. It took mass protest to compel him to produce the result form as he was only dancing to the dictates of his PDP masters who were hell-bent on rigging the election. The two biased umpires were later relieved of their jobs.
Tuesday, the 5th day of August, 2014 was a master stroke in the campaign of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and a cul-de-sac to the blind gropes of PDP for undeserved victory in the State of Osun. The conscious and vigilant people of the State came out in thousands in an unparalleled show of solidarity to present victorious endorsement to the man of the people at the Osogbo Stadium Complex. It was a clear signal that no fortress is stronger than the people and no forces of oppression can repress the people when the revolutionary consciousness has taken the centre stage of mass awareness.
The last rally of PDP, which held about three days before at the same venue, commanded no more than 10% of the crowd that came to endorse Aregbesola despite the joint presence of President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo. It was a jamboree second to none and was a clear indication that people were going to vote against cluelessness which the opposition in the State symbolises.
It was at this rally that Ogbeni tutored the masses on clinical voting capable of defeating the mystery-shrouded electronic rigging by photochromic ballot papers. The masses went away assured that no bullet could defeat their democratic resolve and that they had the right to monitor the election from the beginning to the end of counting, announcement of results, recording of votes, collation at the Ward level, Local Government level and the final collation and announcement of result at the State level. Aside from the general training organised by the government of Aregbesola for the electorate from ward to ward across the State, the governor took time to tutor the electorate on a step-by-step analysis of the electoral process and how important their presence was at the polling booths on the day of the election.
The governor further brought scientific method to prevention of rigging as he directed every voter to take a photograph of his ballot paper before dropping same in the ballot box. By this, there would be photographic evidence to prove that a particular ballot paper with a particular serial number actually voted for a particular party and same was not invalidated by multiple thumb-printing at the time of voting.
The INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, at the stakeholders’ conference organised before the election, rejected this laudable position of the governor. His position also met a staunch rejection from the people who insisted on their right to take snapshots of their ballot papers as they had the right to do whatever they liked with the ballot papers once given to them. We had to do press conference immediately on this and the issue of polling Agents presence at the polling booths based on the law regulating same.
The Day of the Jackal
The election day arrived wrapped in heavy cloak of resistance by the people and unalloyed resolve to vote in a peaceful manner. People trooped out in thousands and multitudes of them trekked long distances to cast their votes in places where they were actually registered to vote. All efforts to rig the election failed as the people put into effect the popular aphorism that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. Old men and women who were bent by age trooped out in large numbers to polling units while youths, in thousands defied the gun-totting uniformed terrorists of the PDP and ensured that no one was allowed to vote more than once and no one had the opportunity to perpetrate any form of rigging.
Around noon on that day, information filtered in from reliable in-house sources from Aso Rock about the Federal Government’s directive that APC’s votes should be swapped for PDP’s votes at the Local Government collation centres. This we promptly broadcast and we gingered popular resistance. In places where rigging and swapping of votes were attempted, the inglorious efforts were rescinded when the mass of the people threatened a complete showdown.
It was too clear that all efforts by the Federal Government and PDP to re-enact the Ekiti scenario had failed. Unlike the people of Ekiti, the people of Osun were not cowed by the jackboot terrorism of the Federal Government. While majority of Ekiti people shunned the electoral process on the day of their gubernatorial election which eventually ended in the lowest turnout in recent history, the people of Osun proved their mettle by not only turning out to vote their candidates but put triggers to shame by monitoring the election to the end. While Christians staged mini crusades and praise worship from the point of accreditation of voters up to the declaration of results at various polling units, lots of muslims observed their afternoon prayers and asalatu programmes at the polling booths and collation centres and the two religious groups provided shield for each other.
The tension-soaked, suspense-filled collation process was a turning point in the history of electioneering in Nigeria as the end finally justified the legitimate efforts of the people in ensuring that an election could be conducted in Nigeria without being rigged contrary to what happened in 2003 and 2007. The subsequent jubilations, the wild celebrations and general ceremonies organised by individuals, groups and organisations definitely were everlasting statements of democratic importance which showed that the people are the last and immercurial architects of their political future once there is a complete guarantee of leadership by example capable of re-energising the waning confidence of the masses in the leaders of this country.
Few days after the election, Professor Attahiru Jega admitted that the military had no business in election conduct or monitoring and assured the populace that any attempt in future by the Federal Government to deploy soldiers for election purposes shall be resisted by his organisation.
What Was the Winning Formula?
The most important tool which tilted the scale of victory in our favour in the State of Osun is the democratic nature of Ogbeni. His emergence as the candidate of the party in 2007 was via a democratic process devoid of imposition. His emergence in 2014 as the candidate to beat was through another democratic process which produced him as a most popular candidate.
His sterling and outstanding performances as governor in the past four years have really stood him out. He not only shows exceptional passion for service, he demonstrates uncommon and unrivalled dedication to selflessness in public governance. His O-concepts like O-Yes by which more than 30,000 unemployed youths have been gainfully employed, O-Meal by which thousands of pupils in primary schools are being fed with most qualitative and hygienic meals at the least cost remain unrivalled in public administration in the world. For the latter, he has been invited by the British Parliament to discuss how this uncommon feat has been successfully implemented.
The history of Osun in the past four years is incomplete without the mention of the Opon Imo tablet by which otherwise costly and inaccessible educational materials and resources have been put at the fingertips of every student in public schools. This has made the State the cynosure of all eyes and a recipient of multiple awards both nationally and internationally. The new O-Schools have been masterpieces in public education not only in Nigeria but in Africa as they are beautiful structures equipped with modern teaching tools fully complemented by adequate welfare package for the teachers.
The Agba-Osun social security fund for the elders remains a concept to study. The guarantee of adequate security for the people by which Osun remains one of the most peaceful States in the country in the last four years has enabled residents to sleep at night with two eyes closed. The popular transportation service by railway made available to the people during public holidays is unprecedented. The economic development of the State by way of improved internally generated revenue; massive provision of infrastructural facilities; unprecedented opening up of the State to foreign investments; massive human capacity building and development; generation of agricultural wealth through incomparable investment in agriculture etc, etc. have combined to make Ogbeni the darling of the electorate second to Awolowo and non-pareil in many respects in comparison with his contemporaries.
Ogbeni is a genuinely humble personality with uncommon love for the masses. He blends in an unpretentious manner with market women, dances with labourers in a show of love, explains in lucid language to the average consciousness and intelligence without a feeling of superiority or official arrogance. His monthly walk-to-live programme in which thousands of residents in different Local Government Areas participate is a down-to-earth exchange of love and confidence between the government and the people. The grandstanding effects of political power never cajole him and his campaign against corruption in and outside government is magisterial in substance. He is a goal-getter whose understanding of clinical economics is devoid of empty theories but full of practical knowledge and achievement of developmental progress for the people. All these make him the apple of the eyes of the people for whom their untiring love is never in short supply.
There is no way such a leader would not be loved by his people. There is no way such a leader would not be appreciated by the people whose mentality in the past many decades have been victim of immeasurable abuse in the hands of various tyrannies that have paraded the corridors of power in this country. In these days of shortage of qualitative and corruption-free administrations, Ogbeni has proven to the people that no service is better appreciated than one rendered to the betterment of humanity.
He exhibits undaunted courage in the face of adversities. His message of bravery to the people during the election bolstered the flexible spirit of the hoi polloi who have a tendency to immediately flee in the presence of terror. He mobilised his people for the task ahead in the usual manner of revolutionary activists the life of which he has lived for long. He eschews religious bigotry and gave meaning and expression to the right to religion as contained in Section 38 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).
All these genuine show of affection for public good have guaranteed him victory long before the election was held.
Lessons from Osun
In all these, how fared our great party, the All Progressives Congress? What role did we play? Can the victory be said to have been won by the party? What lessons are there for us to learn?
I remember a brief conversation shared between a foremost leader of our party and a notable human rights activist. Immediately after the declaration of results on the 10th day of August, 2014, the said activist called to congratulate the said leader of our party and the leader said “Our party won the election”. The activist promptly retorted: “No, your party did not win the election. Ogbeni won the election.”
As strange as that may sound, I want to assure you it is the truth. Shortly before the election, we conducted house-to-house interaction with the electorate trying to persuade them to vote for our party.
On many occasions I personally heard people complaining that it was Ogbeni they wanted to vote for and not the Party. This is not strange to me as so many reasons advanced by them are not far fetched. The poll conducted by the Party equally reflected the same thing that Ogbeni is more popular than the Party. Thus, the mass appeal came from the performances of Ogbeni and not from the activities of our party leaders in whom many did not see any reason to continue being loyal to us. One fundamental reason for this attitude is the absence of internal democracy within our party. This brings us to the first lesson derivable from the Osun governorship election of August 9, 2014.
Lesson No. 1: Internal Democracy and Popular Candidates
Talking of how best party structures are organised, we still have a lot to learn from the great sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Professor Richard Sklar, talking about the Action Group, described it as “the best organized, the best financed and the most efficiently run party in Nigeria.” Today, our own party has been reduced to a shrine of personality cult where party members do not see themselves as democrats; where aspirants do not see any reason to patronise their constituencies in winning party tickets. All roads lead to one leader or the other. These personalities plenipotentiary posses the almighty fiat to determine who is the next councillor in every ward, who is the next chairman of each and every Local Government, who secures the ticket of the party to go to the House of Assembly, House of representatives or the Senate; who is the next governor of the State by whatever machinations possible.
Alas! How can democracy be secure in the hands of a few who dispense political kun fa ya kun as they please? There are no further developmental projects in most Local Government Areas as the Chairmen have no sense of accountability to the masses but rather to their appointor, in the same manner that there is no accountability at virtually other levels to the people again other than the political masters. These are factors that many resent in our party and at times would rather work for the opponent. This was the scenario that played out in 2011 during the Local Government election in Lagos in which many of our people, out of protests, went and supported the candidate of the opposition. What followed thereafter is a story for another day.
In many cases we present the most unpopular candidate who probably even lost during primaries at the expense of a grassroots politician who is preferred by huge majority of the members of the party. A continuation of this illicit practice can never guarantee the future for democracy and I see it as a challenge in the on-coming 2015 election.
What Osun 2014 has taught us is to present popular and best candidates for elections through democratic and transparent primaries. It simplifies our work even when the opponents are most devilish with all forces of tyranny at their disposal. I recently observed in one of my recent papers and I have found same apposite here that
“It is imperative for a people to constantly engage in critical examination of their welfare and existence. The reason for this is for us not to fall into the pit of a strong man who rarely knows the limit of his strength but to rather be like a wise man who always tries to ascertain the limits of his wisdom.”
It is the popularity of Ogbeni that won the election for us. Take it or leave it.
Lesson No. 2: Knowledge of and Love for Public Service
Our political office holders must develop love for public service. We must banish sycophancy and favouritism to the woods. We must ensure that candidates emerging on the platform of our party command good interest in the development of our society and have the moral and educational wherewithal to deliver to the people. It is when we implement popular policies and programmes that people benefit from as done in Osun that they remain our natural constituency. The great sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his book, The People’s Republic, did a comprehensive analysis of what makes leadership more endearing to the people. I recommend this book to all who aspire to govern us and direct our affairs.
Equally, it is most important to ensure that candidates to be fielded by the party for any office, most importantly the governorship office, must be someone who has a great measure of experience of governance. It was easier for us to win the Osun governorship election because Ogbeni Aregbesola had been in the system for a long time. Here is a man of sterling records in the art of governance in Lagos and whose practical experience of politics in both Lagos and Osun is not only superlative but commands impressive followership. Had we featured someone of less capacity in the circumstance that the Osun election was conducted, the outcome would probably have been a disaster.
Lesson No. 3: Party Monitoring of Government Policies
The party must develop mechanisms for monitoring how our public officers are performing in office. Anti-people policies may not immediately lead to the impeachment of our political office holders but definitely can mobilise public opinion and the wary electorate against us during elections.
When we implement policies that detract from the social welfare of the people, we are sending no message other than one of incompetence and mediocrity. It is the social welfare programmes of Ogbeni that made us the winner of the election. This is what made the emergency generousity of PDP in Osun during the electioneering campaign to be ineffective and fruitless. Had the people been too hungry to comprehend our political statements, definitely things would have gone the other way. The need for continuous balancing of developments vis-a-vis immediate human desires cannot be under-estimated. A Chinese proverb says: give food to a hungry man and you have shown him God. On no account must the government allow the people to sleep hungry otherwise there would be mass disillusionment of unquantifiable proportion. This is what Aregbesola has been trying to prevent through his food security programme.
Lesson No. 4: Deficiency in Politics of Stomach Infrastructure
Quite a number of our leaders in APC condemned Ogbeni that he was only tarring roads but failed to tar their stomachs. Some civil servants formed themselves into bulwark of opposition due to the policies of Aregbesola which blocked the loopholes in public finance by which State money that would have been used for public development found its ways into private pockets and thereby producing emergency millionaires among civil servants. Such civil servants would rather canvass for politics of stomach infrastructure by which State allocation and IGR would be shared among government officials and chieftains in the civil service. The money saved from these efforts by Ogbeni Aregbesola has boosted the internally generated revenue of the State from which
13th month salaries were regularly paid at the end of every year to civil servants,
free and qualitative education is being guaranteed to the children of the civil servants and the poor, and
increments in salaries of civil servants are being implemented.
I sent out some of my lieutenants to listen to public conversations in public buses, markets and other places of public patronage weeks preceding the election. The reports indicated that the general populace who were well aware of the chicanery and selfish campaigns of these retrogressive elements within the civil service, was resisting the unfortunate agitation to vote mediocrity and backwardness.
Lesson No. 5: Leaders must Carry Followers Along
No policy is a success if not bought into by the masses for whom probably it was formulated. This is one fundamental lesson derived from the Osun election. Aregbesola, through all fora, media and events explained his policies to the people. He did not engage in sheer banalities without beneficial interaction with the people. His “Gbangba Dekun” television programme, where he explained his programmes and policies to the people, has commanded the largest audiences in recent history of public interaction by any government. It is through such fora that the people were effectively informed about the efforts of the government aside from being witnesses to physical infrastructural developments which they can personally relate with and take cognisance of.
I understand that drivers of public transport buses otherwise known as korope in Osun were in the practice of stopping and ejecting any person known to be a civil servant who mouthed anti-government policies in their vehicles. They further reject fares that such passengers ought to pay while they quickly exposed such passengers to other people as one of the enemies of government in the civil service. The drivers, market women, artisans, okada riders who were usually mobilised by agents of darkness to thwart the efforts of the government were fully carried along with government programmes and policies and many of them today analysed governmental activities like graduates of political science. All thanks to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
Lesson No. 6: No Fortress is Stronger than the People
A most important lesson to all is that no fortress is stronger for a leader than the protection afforded by his people. According to Niccolo Machiavelli in most important treatise of all time, The Prince:
“For this reason the best possible fortress is – not to be hated by the people, because, although you may hold the fortresses, yet they will not save you if the people hate you, for there will never be wanting foreigners to assist a people who have taken arms against you.” See The Prince, page 125.
Due to the love people have for Aregbesola, the forces of occupation drawn by the Federal Government all over the Federation could not rig him out. On the other hand, the hatred the general masses have for the candidate of the PDP made him a whipping boy in the election and no army, no matter how large or sophisticated in weaponry was able to obtain for him what the people would not give him.
This point, when well imbibed, enables the leader to be able to mobilise his people to rise up in his defence when attacked by foreign enemies.
Nigeria as a nation has a lot to learn from the Osun 2014 governorship election. It was easier for the PDP to rig the previous elections because the principles above have never really been put to use. In many cases, when we present popular candidates we did not back them up with the wherewithal that would enable the electorate to monitor the elections in order to prevent rigging. General Muhammadu Buhari was a popular candidate at lease to a larger percentage of the Nigerian populace in 2011, his party did not have the wherewithal to monitor the election so as to prevent being rigged out which enabled Goodluck Jonathan to clinch victory with less popularity. Structure is equally important for mobilisation and monitoring.
Lesson No. 7: Never Rule Your People by Factions
A very important lesson which men of ancient days have taught us but which we often jettison is not to cause factions among the populace. Nigeria is a volatile State when it comes to religion and ethnic irredentism and township prejudices. Several wars have been fought based on these negative emotions and sentiments which have never been beneficial to us as a people. Look at the Nigerian/Biafran war, Zangon/Kataf crisis, Ife/Modakeke war, the menacing boko haram carnage etc, etc. It would be most unwise for us to promote religious division or township or zonal prejudices in selecting who carries the banner of the party in the next election.
How ancient is this rule? I once again refer to Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince at pages 122 – 123 where he said:
“Our forefathers, and those who were reckoned wise, were accustomed to say that it was necessary to hold Pistoia by factions and Pisa by fortresses; and with this idea they fostered quarrels in some of their tributary towns so as to keep possession of them the more easily. This may have been well enough in those times…. but I do not believe that it can be accepted as a precept for today, because I do not believe factions can ever be of use, rather it is certain that when the enemy comes upon you in divided cities you are quickly lost, because the weakest party will always assist the outside forces and the other will not be able to resist.”
This is the present scenario we are confronted with in which certain interest groups for selfish reasons have been demobilising our collective and united constituency by religious sentiments. They suddenly, for personal aggrandisement started promoting the call for a Christian governor as if all Christians in Lagos held a meeting where they said they wanted to be governor. Same perilous invitation is equally being touted at the National level. For God’s sake, Lagosians/Nigerians are only interested in good and qualitative governance and no one cares whether you are a Christian or a muslim. This is how our leaders cause division among the people for no just cause only to secure the party’s ticket for an anointed candidate.
The same way they promoted the ludicrous idea of zoning and unilaterally zoned the ticket of our party. Who on earth formulated this ungodly sentiments which are now setting the Ikorodu people against the Epe people and the Badagry people against the rest of us? At the National level, it is the North against the south, the South-West against the South-East or South-South. This is how they started the boko haram thing as a military tool of certain politicians in the north and now it has become a monster consuming us. Now muslims in Lagos State have been saying that since the two governors that have ruled in Lagos since 1999 claimed to be muslims but with Christian wives who were deacons, we must ensure that the next Christian governorship candidate of APC must have an hadjia as his wife. What a ridiculous thing we have reduced politics to! Religion or zoning is now beginning to assume the threshold upon which we now determine leadership rather than competence.
The admonition of the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola becomes quite apposite here as the question is whether a Christian governor would construct roads that only Christians could ply or Muslim governor would build schools meant for only Muslim pupils.
The next governorship candidate of our party in Lagos State must be someone who has the capacity to lead and promote our general wellbeing. He must be a product of popular democratic process as required by the provisions of the Constitution of our party and the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and not someone imposed by subterfuges of one or few party leaders. When the latter is the case, we bear the brunt if the new governor dances not to the tune of the people but rather than that of the impostors and when he refuses to dance like a puppet, we are inundated with silly campaigns of disloyalty.
In Osun, Ogbeni Aregbesola promoted the right of all to religion and conscience. His unifying politics has rather united the people to the extent that the divisive politics of religious bigotry promoted by the enemies of progress and PDP leaders in Osun could not secure victory for them. While they charged Aregbesola with funny allegations of being an Islamic fanatic, they at the same time claimed he was an idolater for allowing traditional religionists to practise their religion. Definitely the two allegations cannot be correct as you are either one or the other.
Unfortunately for them, Aregbesola is neither of the two. His developmental policies are meant to benefit all without any form of discrimination. This has promoted the consciousness of the masses beyond the mundane subterfuge of religious or township prejudices. The outcome was the huge sense of unity displayed by the electorate before, during and after the election in which victory assured was finally delivered to the man of the people.
Too much for this self-acclaimed country that has failed to transit beyond the status of a mere “geographical expression”!
It is possible to prevent rigging the on-coming general elections if we apply most of the principles outlined above. In places where we are in government as a party, it behoves us to have ensured the implementation of beneficial policies before the election. The same way it behoves any leader in power on the platform of any party to have implemented popular policies to endear his party to the people. Where we are not yet in government, it is our duty to ensure that our candidates parade the best credentials in terms of ability to govern with better programmes and policies.
It is also the case that our nation can only move forward where we are able to ensure the implementation of the lessons above. Before anyone would criticise Ogbeni, he must visit the State of Osun just like anyone who would criticise Chief Awolowo ought to read his books. I once alluded to Nigeria as a classic case in drama studies. We have witnessed cases of violence in State and Federal parliaments on several occasions in which the minority has suspended the majority, impeached the Speaker or the Governor as the case may be. The case of Oyo under Ladoja/Alao-Akala/Adedibu still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. As if it was an ancient story that had lost effect on the people, the minority in the Ogun State House of Assembly once claimed to have suspended the majority and impeached the Speaker to the consternation of all.
A situation where the Commissioner of Police takes orders from the Federal Government and would rather take sides with persons opposed to the Governor is quite derogatory of the image of the police. The President maintained a complacent posture all through the situation but gave active support to those who would rather let anarchy loose in order to seize governance by way of state of emergency. Why is history repeating itself?
Corruption, which Ogbeni Aregbesola is battling to minimise in Osun and by which he has been able to achieve much, has taken the centre-stage of our politico-economic life as a nation and one wonders if Nigeria is not truly a huge joke or national tragi-comedy which exudes laughter in its gargantuan failure of purposes. It is actually a comedy of errors. In some corners of the country, criminals who ought to be languishing in jail are the ones running the affairs of State and are even running for governorship positions. At times, declarations by the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, could be quite rudely intriguing that one wonders if anyone is actually running the economy. At times, it seems the leaders are just there to loot the resources at all levels while the
populace watches as if in a theatre of lavish entertainment.
The philosophy of Ogbeni transcends mere counterfeit. The application of the seven lessons above would change the destiny of this country. How I wish the likes of Aregbesola could be opportune to steer the affairs of this country, as I know, as the poet would say, there is still hope.
Muiz Adeyemi Banire (Ph.D)