By Douglass Anele
The ruling party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been humiliated once again by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Recently, the Appeal Court declared that Olagunsoye Oyinlola, governor of Osun State lost the gubernatorial election held there in April 14, 2007 to Rauf Aregbesola the AC candidate. Aregbeshola was sworn in on November 27, bringing an end to three years of legal wrangling for the post of governor.
You would recall that in 2007, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and some Yoruba PDP stalwarts masterminded the “defeat” of AC in all the states of Yorubaland except Lagos.
However, the elections that brought the PDP to power in the former Western Region, as was the case in other parts of the country, were marred by irregularities. Of course, it would be wrong to argue that only PDP rigged the elections or that AC (as the ACN was known then) was totally free from electoral malpractices.
The fact of the matter is that the impunity and brazenness with which PDP went on with the business of capturing power in the South-West was intimidating, and it skewed the election results in its favour, which implies that the electoral choices made by the voters were thwarted by the party’s Machiavellian tactics.
Thus, although the lengthy period spent to settle finally governorship disputes in Osun and several other states is inimical to the practice of democracy in our country, Aregbesola should be commended for his determination to see his case to its logical conclusion.
Now that he has been sworn in as governor, it will become increasingly obvious to him in the coming days and weeks that it is easier to win a lengthy legal battle for the position than to provide good governance for the people of Osun State.
If Aregbesola is wise, he must avoid sycophants who will be singing his praises to high heavens so that they might be invited to come and chop. Specifically, he needs to be careful and avoid being carried away by the euphoria of victory and sugar-coated shibboleths from ACN members.
According to media reports, the new governor has proclaimed that he would surpass in one year the achievements of his predecessor, Oyinlola. This kind of boast, though understandable considering what he went through to get judgment in his favour, could be misleading.
Aregbesola can make good his promise if Oyinlola achieved very little throughout the seven and half years he was governor. Again, he has to work extremely hard to pull Osun State out of the dark labyrinth of arrested development in which it has been wallowing for years. Of course, the governor needs the cooperation and goodwill of the state legislature to execute his programmes and policies.
In all, we can say that Aregbesola has his work cut out for him. Like all the states in Nigeria, Osun State is facing a lot of challenges ranging from dilapidated infrastructure to weak industrialisation, from collapsing educational institutions to increasing unemployment and rural poverty.
It will take gargantuan selfless leadership by Aregbesola and other top public office holders in the state to get the dividends of democracy and spread them to the masses. But the job can be done, if the governor digs deep into his inner self and resolves to give all in his power to improve the welfare of the poor, the voiceless and the underprivileged.
He must avoid the persistent mistake of Nigerian rulers who see public funds and property as personal largesse to be dispensed as they please. Aregbesola should take the concept of servant-leader seriously and ensure that he reduces to the barest minimum public funds spend in the maintenance of a sybaritic ruling elite.
To do this, he must be prepared for battle with the pigs in the Animal Farm of Osun State, including those with vested interests who prefer continuation of the present unjust system. In his own interest, the new governor should hit the ground running: he cannot afford to wait for the verdict of history, because existential realities, history and time wait for no one.
The suffering people expect so much from him – he should not fail them. We wish Aregbesola well as he grapples with the difficulties and opportunities of political leadership. Now, inasmuch as we have misgivings about the protracted nature of settling definitively once and for all electoral disputes in the country, in addition to the fact that all the major political parties are involved in different degrees and spread with respect to electoral malpractices, we believe strongly that the serial judicial losses PDP has suffered since 2007 elections ended are good for the country’s ramshackle democracy.
We are not saying that ACN and Labour Party (LP) are morally or ideologically superior to the ruling party or that mere removal of PDP governors and their replacement with politicians from other political parties necessarily implies that Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States would be transformed into world class communities overnight.
We are simply acknowledging the fact that PDP leaders have not managed its electoral advantages well since 1999 and that it is high time they were taught a bitter lesson if not at the polls then in the law courts. Remember, sometime ago a PDP stalwart boasted triumphantly that the party will rule the country uninterruptedly for the next sixty years.
Certainly, his optimism could not have been based on the woeful performance of the PDP-led federal government, but on over-confidence arising from the rigging machine and electoral legerdemain almost perfected by the PDP. Therefore, the losses by the party are a welcome development. Politicians are now put on notice that even if they manipulate voting and the outcome of results after elections, their contrived victories might be short-lived.
The arrogance of the ruling party needed to be curtailed, and the loss of four governorships from the old Western Region is the beginning of that pruning process.
To be continued.
Going by the abysmal performance of PDP at the federal level since 1999, it would really be advantageous for our democratic evolution if the party loses the Presidency and majority in both chambers of the National Assembly. But that is easier said than done. Losing four governorships is one thing, capturing the Presidential position and control of the federal legislature is another. Moreover, if one considers the slim margin of votes by which the PDP lost in each of the four states mentioned earlier, it becomes obvious that the party was not completely trounced. Hence, the other parties have a lot of work to do in order to dislodge the ruling party from Aso Rock and the National Assembly. But the fundamental question is: Can ACN, LP and others unite and get the job done? In our next discourse, we shall attempt an answer to that intriguing question.
To be continued.