Following his triumph in last Saturday’s gubernatorial election, Governor Rauf Aregbesola delivered a mediocre victory speech that quite simply oozed bad blood and undisguised rage. No word of comfort, either superficial or grudging, was deemed necessary for any of his opponents. In so doing, the Governor cast himself as small-minded, spiteful and altogether lacking in chivalry.
“The security agencies were unprofessionally utilized in Osun state to harass, intimidate and oppress the people whose taxes are used to pay their salaries and provide their arms. Hundreds of leaders, supporters, sympathizers and agents of our party were arrested and detained. Also, hundreds of other innocent citizens including women and the aged were harassed, brutalized and traumatized. “A critical analysis of the elections shows a trend of general low voter turnout largely because of the atmosphere of deliberate tyranny and fear caused by the excessive militarization of the state.
Despite our victory, it is pertinent to condemn and also point out the fact that the number of accredited voters in most local governments was less than half of registered voters….” On August 13, 2014, The Punch reported the Governor as saying that “…it was unfortunate that security agents were given orders to hound and kill leaders of the APC in order to put members of the party in disarray to give the Peoples Democratic Party an undue advantage.”
In tone, content and diction, the above statements convey, more aptly, the impression of a medieval warrior rallying his troops to march forth and trample the enemy with cudgels than the victory speech of a modern statesman in 2014. Low voter turnout, excessive militarization, atmosphere of deliberate tyranny, orders to hound and kill members of the APC, virtual war by the Federal Government and PDP, criminal intimidation and psychological assault? These are extremely damning epithets by any standards. For a senior citizen, and a man in a position of serious responsibility, to make such sweeping allegations and draw such emotive conclusions is, to put it delicately, beyond tendentious.
The allegation of low voter turnout is, comparatively, an outright falsehood. The claim of orders to hound and kill members of the APC is a barefaced lie. The primary impetus for these utterances, whether intentional or otherwise, is scaremongering. If Aregbesola has any real understanding of the dark capabilities of some of his gubernatorial opponents, he ought to have celebrated the heavy security presence that instilled the order and sanity for his victory to become possible.
He ought to have given a special mention of gratitude to the men and women in uniform and mufti, who placed their boots on the ground in Osun State in defence and protection of this most fundamental of democratic process – the ability to vote and have the vote count. But, in so viciously maligning them, Aregbesola paid to himself a tribute cast in bitterness and negation.
He buried statesmanship at the very moment that so loudly called for its example. It was churlish beyond comprehension, and a reflection of the man’s latent narcissism, that he chose to upbraid INEC for not announcing the results of the election at a speed and time prompt enough to satisfy his own arrogant impatience. If the electoral body cannot be commended when it clearly gets it right, as it did on this occasion, then something is wrong. And I hold not brief for INEC, a body I believe is steeped in corruption and crippled by incompetence, so that its few success stories are the exceptions that prove the rule – and Osun is one such outstanding exception.
The Nation on Sunday reported that “Election materials reached most parts of the capital early and accreditation of voters began by 8 a.m. Voters had little to complain about concerning accreditation although there were a few reports of hooliganism in parts of the state…. In Ilobu for instance, suspected thugs stormed a polling booth shooting sporadically in the air and attempted to disrupt the process of accreditation…. They were however repelled by men of the NSCDC. Obokun Ward 3 and Odo Otin recorded similar incidents and in both cases security men acted promptly.”
The Nation also reported the State Director of State Security Services (SSS), Andrew Iorkyar, as saying that “The election has been peaceful, some polling units demanded for extra security because of the large turn- out of people and we have provided security.” It was reported that 764,582 of the 986,117 (over 77 percent) registered voters in Osun turned out last Saturday and got unimpeded opportunity to cast their votes.
If correctly reported, such a turnout must count as one of the highest in Nigerian history. Seventy-seven percent turnout in any election anywhere in the world is usually either the stuff of dreams, or the scandalous fiction often spawned by self-perpetuating African autocrats such as Mugabe of Zimbabwe, or Museveni of Uganda. The total turnout in the 2011 presidential election in Osun State was 498,734 – less than 60 percent of registered voters. ACN scored 299, 711 votes to PDP’s 188,409. Publicly and privately, Governor Aregbesola praised that outcome.
Now, go compare. Let it be said. INEC and the security agencies shouldered the patriotic burden that yielded victory in peace and stability to Aregbesola. Sensible Nigerians hope and pray that patriotic professionalism of this nature will long endure in our republic. Aregbesola’s apparent vendetta against the security forces recalls a statement by the peerless Jack Nicolson in the movie, A Few Good Men: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.
Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty.
We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post.
Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to. I suspect that the leaders of our security outfits would be nursing similar sentiments. In times of partisan strife, nobility and chivalry fall silent. Yes, the Governor has been subjected to scathing criticisms on religious and political grounds. Matters often got to the point of vilifications. It is perfectly understandable that pent up emotions had to be let rip at some stage. However, it shows grace and class to increase your credit to those who already owe you much.
To trade magnanimity for bellicosity in victory is most unbecoming of the man that I thought was a class apart. Broadside has paid glowing tribute to Aregbesola in the past, staunchly defending him against vicious charges of Islamic fundamentalism: “The perils of moral shortcuts in the name of politics are upon us. Corrosion of candour has rendered porous all forms of public discourse. Blackmail and defamation are parceled out with the stamp of vendetta placed on them, complete with a mandate to go par avion, delivering character destruction at the speed of a jet plane.
[Rauf Goes To Church, New Telegraph, May 24, 2014]. Aregbesola’s lack of magnanimity in victory is an unfortunate demonstration of the toxic politics above which I expected him to rise. If he spoke out of frustration, then his inability to show restraint at the highest point of provocation is a regrettable failure of discipline. I expected a lot more from the man that I held up as a paragon of level-headedness [Rauf Goes To Church referred].