Ademola Adeleke defecting to the People's Democratic Party (PDP) on June 14, 2017

A Nigerian politician is not shaped by a set of principles that sets him aside from his colleague across the aisle.

On June 14, 2017, Otunba Ademola Adeleke, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), vying for the seat of the Osun West senatorial district in the upcoming July 8 by-election, dumped the party for the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Now, this is not a shocking development in Nigeria's political circles. It happens all the time.

Frustrated power-hungry politicians move from their parties to whichever one they feel represents their brightest chance of getting a whiff of the much-vaunted national cake.

But in the case of Ademola's defection, there are layers of ugly underlying history that, again, has been a mainstay in Nigeria's political culture.

 

The reason for the by-election on July 8 is due to the sudden death of the occupant of the position, Senator Isiaka Adeleke.

And, yes, he had the same last name as Ademola because they were biological brothers.

Isiaka was pronounced dead at Biket Hospital in Osogbo on April 23, 2017 after suffering from a heart attack.

The events surrounding his death is a whole can of worms on its own.

The former Governor of the state during the Third Republic was reportedly killed by an overdose of painkillers according to a hurriedly-conducted autopsy by the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH).

The overdose was reportedly administered to him by his nurse, Alfred Aderibigbe, after he had complained of gout.

 

According to the nurse, the drugs were previously handed to him by Adeleke himself to be administered when needed.

Aderibigbe was soon arrested by the police and the narrative switched to a conspiracy about Adeleke's death, with his son, Tunji, reportedly ranting on Snapchat saying his father had ambitions of contesting the state's gubernatorial election in 2018 and was killed because of the likelihood of his victory.

While a panel set up by state governor, Rauf Aregbesola concluded in May that the drug overdose, coupled with the alcohol content in his body, resulted in his death, rumours were swirling that Adeleke was poisoned, and much of the finger-pointing was at the state government.

Isiaka Adeleke’s political journey leading up to his tragic death is interesting.

 

The state’s first civilian governor first got elected to the Senate under the umbrella of the PDP in 2007, but in the run up to the 2015 general election, was reportedly courted by the APC's top chieftains in the state due to his popularity and political value, and he defected to the ruling party.

Senator Mudashiru Hussain, the serving lawmaker of the Osun West senatorial district who had thoroughly defeated Adeleke only four years earlier, had to give up his position for Adeleke at the behest of the party.

After Adeleke's demise, sensing an opportunity to resume his position, Hussain stated his intention to contest for his old job, and he became favourite to win.

Until an unlikely candidate, armed with a sob story, emerged to lay claim to the throne.

Ademola, the businessman brother of Isiaka, under the wings of the APC, declared his intentions to also contest for his brother's seat.

Why?

Because he wanted to complete the good works of his brother. It was that simple.

Hussain and Ademola were going to battle for the slot in the party's primaries on June 14.

In the lead up to Ademola's defection to the PDP, two crucial things happened.

First, Hussain was screened and disqualified by the party's election panel on the allegation that he had failed to resign from his position of Commissioner for Cabinet Matters 30 days before the election as stipulated by the party's guidelines.

With this ruling, Ademola automatically became the party's only candidate and frontrunner to run for the seat.

Hussain disputed the decision and tabled his case before the party’s Appeal panel where he lost.

Not completely comfortable with the idea of relinquishing his seat to the same family for the second time, he tabled the case before the party's National Working Committee who determined that he had, in fact, resigned from his previous position before the actual election which is July 8.

Hussain was back in contention just days to the party's primary election, and Ademola was unhappy with it.

On the day of the party's primaries, same as the PDP's, Ademola quit the APC and, with adulations from the crowd, showed up at the PDP's event at the Iwo Township Stadium instead, declaring new allegiances.

 

Hours later, it emerged that all of PDP's candidates vying for the party's ticket for the senatorial seat had stepped down for Ademola to emerge as the party's candidate to run for the seat against the APC's uncontested candidate, Hussain.

Why did they step down for someone who registered his intention to run with the party only days earlier?

Because he wanted to complete the good works of his brother. It was that simple.

Ademola is banking on two of the country's political shortcomings here.

One, the lack of a structured and pronounced political ideology that makes defection from one party to another just a par for the course.

His dramatic rebellious defection is a reminder of a much bigger problem.

Nigerian politicians have been able to dance and blow with the wind, shopping for whichever party can get them to their destination quicker, and not necessarily one that fits their political worldview.

There is no political algebra to battle through for a Nigerian politician, just a simple case of addition and substraction.

He doesn't get questioned on why his vision has changed so much as to team up with a direct rival.

A Nigerian politician is not shaped by a set of principles that sets him aside from his colleague across the aisle.

In fact, the only thing that differentiates them is the colour of their parties and the efficiency of the most colourful slogan they can shout at the helpless electorate.

 

This is why any time a politician defects from one camp to another, the default reason is because he feels he can best serve the people under the new party he has defected to.

They keep getting away with this culture of unabashed self-interest because there's no serious check against the practice, and it works for the political class that way to be able to jump around on a whim without deserved proper backlash.

Two, Ademola is riding on the coattails of political sentiment that not only potentially benefits him, but whichever political overlords will profit from his win.

For the PDP, this is a political score, getting Ademola to pitch his tent with them after his brother dined with the enemy. An Ademola win represents a huge victory for them, and an embarrassment for the APC.

This is why the party is ready to do away with its (presumably) well-seasoned politicians for a man who has never held political office just because his narrative sells.

Also, it is a consolation to his family and a substitute for the grief of losing an important member to a trite conspiracy.

 

Ademola’s defection unearthed the revelation, according to the APC, that he was never a registered member of the party in his Abogunde/Sagba Ward 2 in Ede North LGA.

What this means is if he had contested under the party's banner, his only legitimacy would have been that he was his brother's brother.

A political seat is not a family inheritance, but Ademola seems to be coasting primarily on that platform, demanding a reward for his family's grief.

The PDP also seems to subscribe to that position as they have cleared the coast for him and propped him up, not on his qualifications as a public servant, but as a man who has blood ties to someone that used to occupy the position.

It’s a stomach-churning narrative, but it’s also not an exception; it's the norm.

This is not to say that Ademola would do any worse with the position than any of the seasoned career politicians vying for the seat, it’s his mode of transportation to the position that is problematic.

Maybe a time will come when the country’s political structure will resemble anything close to satisfactory or beneficial to the electorate; but since that is largely dependent on the political class it so clearly benefits, no one should hold their breath.

For now, no matter the outcome of a democratic election in Nigeria, the electorate almost always loses.

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