SOMETIMES in 2004, the campaign for the 2007 general elections was gathering momentum in Osun State, the state of the Living Spring, as virtually all political parties, existing in the state were scheming, working on alignment and realignment.
Meanwhile, the incumbent governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola had boasted to whoever cared a hoot to listen that, opposition parties did not exist in the state, premising his argument on his self-acclaimed five-star performance in the area of infrastructure and empowerment; boasting further that the had knocked his predecessor out with his magnitude of achievements within a year in office.
Obviously, the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), which was just dislodged out of power, could not gather much steam, for the over-bearing power of incumbency was a bit choking, a situation that manifested during the Local Government polls first conducted by the Okuku-born governor; as the opposition parties were rammed and rigged out of the way.
The opposition leaders were helpless, as traditional rulers and opinion leaders, who ought to have called for due process and rule of law, had joined the band-wagon of the government crowd.
Before 2005, the failure to consolidate on the gains of Oyinlola’s immediate past predecessor; Chief Bisi Akande started staring the people in the face.
‘Me and my Party approach, the government introduced by Oyinlola started taking a negative toll on the popularity of his government. But, when people were angry, the governor was made to take it for granted by his legions of lieutenants surrounding him.
Instead of seeking ways of reunion with the public, Oyinlola was made by his hungry hanger-ons to fight his predecessor, Akande, and possibly splash a mud at his immaculate guard of integrity, with a view to scoring unprecedented goal, and he did just that. He went to the extent of calling Akande a thief, whose stomach was filled with filthy yam and palm oil without having a stain on his hands.
The fight got messy that the governor nearly set the law enforcement against Akande, while the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Commissioner for Finance, Chiefs Sola Akinwumi and Lere Adebayo were hounded into prison on the charges that fizzled into the thin air after series of messy accusations and counter-accusations.
Sometimes in 2005, the rumour mill went to town that the former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Lagos State, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola had perfected plan to take Osun by storm for governorship race. From rumour to reality, people started gathering for him on the banner of Oranmiyan Movement Aregbesola founded, and before one could wink, the movement had caught hundreds of followers, with the sole aim of assisting Aregbesola with his aspiration.
Along the time, the defunct AD started finding its foot and when the then National Chairman of the party was to come and commission the new secretariat of the party, the state government and the police started playing ostrich games, by approbating and reprobating on the police permit earlier given Akande.
Eventually, the not-too-pleasant treatment given to Akande whipped up sentiments for him, and when the former governor finally came to town, hundreds of supporters and sympathizers trooped out to catch his glimpse to the headache of the governor.
More so, when it was glaring that Aregbesola would storm Osogbo, the state capital to launch his movement, Oranmiyan, some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains were uncomfortable with the development and the war of propaganda resumed, as the state police command was made to believe that some politicians were importing thugs from Lagos to Osun.
The Commissioner of Police then issued a directive that no such procession should take place, and that travelers must be subjected to stop-and-search, unknown to them (Police) that Aregbesola had a plan. Exactly on that date of launching, one train just announced its arrival via his horn, and before people of the state engaged themselves on the thought, Oranmiyan movement was on ground.
Thousands of supporters and admirers trooped out to meet Aregbesola; that scenario succeeded in changing the face of politics in the state.
Reacting, the governor, who appeared like a man shielded from the truth went on air, telling the people that Oranmiyan was an Oranmiran (another trouble). Truly, the whole scenario proved to be another trouble for the retired soldier; as Aregbesola’s profile continue to rise and rise in the political calculation of Osun.
When the contest for the political offices was declared open by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the then newly- formed Action Congress (AC)’s camp was swelled by the mass defection of the aggrieved politicians from the PDP fold, who thought that the new platform might be hijacked to feather their nest and that was when Chief Abiola Morakinyo, who was disgraced out of the PDP on his governorship ambition and Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, who was thrown out of the party on the allegation of under-hand dealings in Anambra crisis, while he was a member of national executive, and others who banked on the (Mis)direction, hurriedly pitched their tent with AC.
When Aregbesola eventually secured the governorship ticket without much of their imput, they got scared about their political future and their traditional way of doing things, which they considered threatened, with Aregbesola’s independent mind; they quickly retreated to their reactionary camp and went back with no solid information that could be used to tackle Aregbesola.
During the electioneering campaign in 2007, the PDP had witnessed a ‘tsunami’ downturn in popularity, to the extent that the defectors were stripped naked politically, as none of their supporters went with them, while Aregbesola’s popularity moved at geometric pace up the ladder.
On the day of elections, it was a massive turn-out and in every nook and cranny, Aregbesola gave a good show, a situation that compelled the fast-losing PDP to set-out its machinery, according to an investigation, to unleash terror on the electorate, and between 1.pm and 3.pm on 14 April 2007, a lot of lives got lost, while the number of casualties, who lost their limbs could not be counted.
On some occasions, the men of Nigeria Police and Army were providing cover for hoodlums, suspected to be loyal to the PDP, while the state office of INEC complemented the flawed election with its bogus figures posted for the troubled ruling party; before declaring the inccubent governor, the winner of the polls.
The hatchet job of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. John Dansu resulted to a spontaneous reaction from the aggrieved voters, and before one could whistle, houses were on flame, properties got damaged and the number of casualties rose.
The AC flag-bearer maintained that he won the election and that he was ready to retrieve his mandate from the usurper, while Oyinlola stood his ground that he won fair and square, calling on the opposition to join him in administering the state with their enviable programmes. However, the AC was not ready to negotiate with a mandate robber.
Aregbesola dusted his evidences and went to the Election Petitions Tribunal headed by Justice Thomas Naron and his forensic evidence opened a new chapter in the battle of wits throughout the length and breath of the country.
Instead of Naron tribunal to take the advantage of the forensic evidence to set pace in judiciary, it elected to compromise, as a respondent lawyer, one Mr. Kunle Kalejaiye was fixing them for a price that is yet to be determined. As a matter of fact, the tribunal started behaving strangely, a situation that compelled one of the petitioner’s lawyer, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), now the President of Nigeria Bar Association to declare the proceedings of Naron tribunal as a bizarre procedure.
One after the other, the suspected tribunal started reversing itself on all earlier rulings in favour of the respondents, and about to wind up, the bubble burst, and what the compromised judges and Oyinlola’s lawyer were doing in the dark came to the open.
It was a rude shock, when the people of the state, who had all the while held their suspicion about the unholy romance between tribunal and the respondents, woke up to the ground-breaking investigative report with incontrovertible facts behind the figure on how Kalejaiye, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was exchanging conversations with the tribunal chairman, Justice Thomas Daman Naron and one other judge, Justice Ekanem Ekpo familiarly, but secretly. Meaning that the trio were discussing the case without the knowledge of the petitioner’s lawyer.
Along the line, the petitioner’s lead counsel, Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN) filed a motion, asking the tribunal to disqualify itself from further proceedings till the veracity of the allegations raised by the report was determined. But the motion was not only dismissed, but also, Justice Naron described it as an ambush, and it quickly fixed a date for the judgment.
Before the judgment was delivered, Aregbesola addressed a world press conference, telling the world that he could not in any way accept the verdict of the tribunal, even if it was in his favour, saying that the tribunal had sold out.
When the story broke, Oyinlola’s lawyer shouted blue-murder, threatened fire and brimstone against Aregbesola, who he fingered as the sponsor of the story, citing a previous case between him (Kalejaiye) and TheNEWS magazine,over which he claimed to have collected lump sum of money for its (TheNEWS) goof in the past.
The magazine management waited for Kalejaiye, and when it was obvious that he would not kick, the magazine then dragged him and the government mouth-organ, Lasisi Olagunju to court, an action that procured the authenticated call-log for the magazine.
Laying his hand on a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the call-log, Aregbesola prayed the Court of Appeal led by Justice Victor Omage to include the call log evidence among the avalanche of evidences on ground, but was rejected as a latter-day evidence, which was not tendered abinitio.
On getting the news, the embattled Governor Oyinlola went to town with jubilation, rolling out drums that Aregbesola’s petition had been deflated.
But the music stopped, when the day of reckoning dawned on the governor and his foot-soldiers. That was the day both the petitioner and respondents’ counsel were to close their cases.
When the petitioner’s lawyer started rolling out his interlocutory appeals, which contained all the evidences, ranging from forensic evidence to the security report, one after the other, the respondents’ counsel were jolted, but they have a joker close to their chest.
In his turn, Oyinlola’s counsel, Mr. Yusuf Alli. (SAN) came up with a prank, insisting that he had never heard about forensic evidence in the course of the trial, describing the petitioner’s evidence as a strange document.
The presiding panel could not come to term with the logic lawyer Alli, and when Aregbesola’s lawyer was asked to speak on the development, he, Kola Awodein expressed his disappointment in his learned friend, Alli, saying that he deliberately played pranks to hood-wink the court. The judges stood down for half an hour and by the time they sauntered in; Oyinlola’s lawyers had woken up from their slumber begging profusely to be forgiven for their mis-calculation. Of note, police lawyer, Mr. Niyi Owolade and INEC lawyer, Mr. Joe Gadzama, who had earlier lied about the forensic evidence started begging for forgiveness too.
Returning to Osogbo, the state capital, the PDP leadership in the state went into another round of confusion, telling whoever cared to listen that Appeal Court only accepted the consolidated appeal, but would not have anything to do with it.
On the day of judgment, both parties waited, held their breathe, waiting to know where the pendulum would swing, and when Justice Omoge started delivering his breath-taking judgment the PDP camp started developing cold feet simultaneously.
The presiding judge came hard on the compromised lower tribunal, describing its rejection of salient evidences of the petitioner as miscarriage of justice, a vindication of the petitioner’s earlier stand.
By and large, the Court of Appeal called for retrial of the case, a situation that has created another window of opportunity for Aregbesola to further expose the respondent’s roles in the flawed 14 April 2007 governorship election in the state.
By GOKE BUTIKA