ISSUES/POLICY: A Backward Glance

Kayode Agbaje, former Editor, chronologises the contributions of Osun Defender as a Campaign Organ and mobiliser of opinion in the course of social justice

The incident was one that actually propelled the tabloid to a higher pedestal, as it further distinguished itself as an objective medium as a result of its unbiased reportage of the incident.

The stage was thus set for the newspaper to be labeled as being anti-government and the PDP.

In view of avalanche of facts contained in its reports, the PDP administration in the state ordered all privately-owned photo-copying centres to relocate outside the state government secretariat at Abere, while civil servants were barred from patronizing them.

The thinking at that time by the PDP government in the state was that the business centre owners were the ones divulging government secrets to Osun Defender.

For a very long time before the election on April 14th, 2007, the medium and its staff were subjected to series of threats and intimidation by some PDP members, who were using the security agents to drive fear into our minds.

The pioneer editor of the medium also cheated death by the whiskers, as his personal car was severally shot at, by some thugs believed to have been sent by the state government.

The governorship candidate of the then opposition party, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola, aside the Oroki Day saga, also suffered one form of intimidation or the other from the PDP administration in the state.

The same day the editor of the medium was shot at, at Aregbesola’s campaign office located along the popular Gbongan/Ibadan road was equally attacked by a sniper who shot directly at the building aiming Aregbesola’s office located on the third floor of the building.

Days to the governorship election, Osun State residents witnessed massive deployment of military personnel who paraded all the streets of major towns across the state in a show of force to drive fear down the spines of the electorate.

On the election day, April 14th, 2007, all members of the editorial staff were posted to different council areas across the state for effective coverage of the electioneering process.

Quickly, news started filtering in that the opposition candidate was on his way to winning the election.

I also stayed back at the office through the night, when feelers from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) filtered in indicating total subjugation of the people’s will and before dawn, the incumbent governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola was announced to have won the election.

This led to spontaneous reaction from the electorate, who felt their wish for change of baton ought to be respected.

Several houses belonging to senior PDP members were vandalized, thus leading to the arrest and detention of several members of the opposition party including the likes of Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, the State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Prince Gboyega Famoodun, the ACN State Secretary among others.

The military men who were hitherto invited into the state by the Oyinlola administration were instantly deployed to Ilesa, the hot bed of the crisis leading to the killing of numerous young men and women.

There was the case of a young girl violently raped by the thugs working for a prominent PDP chieftain in Ilesa.

The rape case was given a pride of place by the Osun Defender team attracting national attention to the case. All the culprits were eventually rounded up and prosecuted in the court of law.

Several attempts were made by the PDP leadership in the state to stampede the family of the rape victim into submission and force them to withdraw the case from court.

In what could best be termed jungle justice, all those arrested over the electoral crisis were summarily prosecuted and before one could say Jack Robinson, they were all remanded in Ilesa and Ile-Ife prisons.

After series of appearances by all the accused persons, some were granted bails with highly stringent conditions.

Then came the longest legal tussle in judicial history over the pyrrhic victory granted the PDP governorship candidate, Governor Oyinlola.

Osun Defender throughout the legal travail, created a reputation of unbiased reportage of the judicial proceedings for itself.

Reports of the tribunal hearings by the medium became the only source of information to the entire state residents on what they want to know on the case.

Judicial correspondents from other media houses outside the state sometimes called the editor to avail them of the medium’s reportage of the tribunal proceedings.

This was indeed a trying time for the editorial staff of the tabloid, and it was under this circumstance that the publisher insisted on having the paper published daily to further expose the numerous atrocities of the PDP administration.

The judicial journey through the two tribunals and two appellate court sittings was professionally reported by the medium and when on November 26th, 2010, Aregbesola’s electoral mandate was restored via a Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Osun Defender staff shared in the joy of the occasion.

The climax of the joyous moment was the Aregbesola’s inauguration as the duly-elected governor of the state in the 2007 electoral election.

The medium has since then transformed from being a local tabloid to a national medium with heavy traffic recorded on its online version till date.