By Bola Bamigbola
Senator Ademola Adeleke was the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in Osun State in 2018. He tells BOLA BAMIGBOLA about his plans to re-contest against Governor Gboyega Oyetola in next year’s poll, among other sundry issues.
You were almost becoming the governor of Osun State about three years ago. Some said you were robbed while others said you lost. What would you attribute your loss to?
There was no doubt about the fact that the 2018 Osun State governorship election was compromised. All election monitors and observers reported that the so-called rerun was a charade. It fell short of all known standards. We won outright at the first ballot anyway. The declaration of the election as inconclusive was a misnomer and preplanned to achieve an undemocratic outcome. This was the verdict of major national and international election monitors and it tallies with the views of majority of our people in Osun State. I have since moved on in life and our strategy this time will take care of rigging methods.
Some people were referring to you as a dancing Senator and that because you were not educated, it would be disastrous to handover the affairs of a state like Osun State to someone like you. How would you react to this?
Those who say so are either ignorant of what constitutes education or just being mischievous. I am by the grace of God a man given to the pursuit of knowledge and skills. Before politics, I had successfully managed businesses worth several millions of dollars. I was involved in turning around blue-chip companies and so I am eminently equipped to turn around the fortune of Osun State for good. My recent completion of a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice should even put all doubts as to my academic records to rest. I am sure you know it takes more than being average to attain this feat. They are free to check my school records, they will marvel at my performance.
Why did you wait so long, at 60 plus, to enrol for a degree?
Is it ever too late to learn? I am a determined person when it comes to goals. I will continue to pursue knowledge at all times because that is how to stay relevant at all times.
There are insinuations that if you had been elected, you would just be a figure head governor while your brother would be the one ruling. Have you been told of this and how would you react to those who think that way?
I laugh whenever I hear this. Perhaps those who tout this do not know my brother well. Dr Deji Adeleke is one of the busiest human beings on planet earth. He has little or no time to dabble into issues of governance. While he, like many others, is interested in good governance as a tool for development, his only interest is that the people of Osun State live in prosperity and peace. When our elder brother was Governor late Isiaka Adeleke, I think Dr Deji Adeleke visited the government house once or twice. He is not the kind of a person who will leave his vast business empire and be involved in running government.
There is still an insinuation that Dr Deji Adeleke wanted you to be governor in 2018 because ex-governor Rauf Aregbesola offended him during the run-off to the Senatorial bye election that you won. Do you really think he is still keen on you becoming Osun State governor in 2022?
My aspiration for the governorship of Osun State did not originate from Dr Deji or even myself. It is a long story but the summary of it is that after I won the senatorial by-election in 2017, notable leaders of the party mounted pressure on my brother to compel me to run for governorship. For so many months, we resisted the pressure but it was becoming obvious that the party needed to leverage the pedigree of the Adeleke family, especially the record of service of our late brother and the momentum of the victory in the by-election. So, we agreed to run. So it was not about my brother trying to get back at anyone. We knew the APC was no longer wanted by the people of Osun State and the party needed someone who could neutralise their perceived strength in contest. The same dynamics remain true today so I am set to contest and win by the grace of the Almighty God.
Having come from a wealthy family, some of your supporters were shocked to know that you were not a graduate prior to the conduct of the governorship election in Osun state. Tell us, why didn’t you go beyond the controversial secondary school?
Of course, I went beyond secondary school but not in Nigeria because I travelled out to join my brothers in the United States of America shortly before I finished my final papers in high school. My friends and classmates in the schools I attended are alive and have always attested to my good academic and moral standing in secondary school. While I enrolled in the Jacksonville University in the United States, I struggled between academics and business. It was while pursuing my studies there that my late elder brother, Isiaka Adeleke, took a decision to contest the governorship election of the then newly created Osun State. So I had to come back to Nigeria to support him. The flexibility of the American education system enabled me to resume that studies which I just completed with a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice from the Atlanta Metropolitan State College of Georgia.
Were you nursing political ambition before the death of your brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, or his death was just an opportunity for you to fulfill a dream?
Absolutely not! The death of my brother in April of 2017 was a major blow to our family. No one expected he would die that soon because Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke was a man filled with life. He was very active up till his last hours. He attended several social functions on the night before his demise so no one thought he would be no more so soon. I supported him as a brother and learnt a lot from him. I never nursed any ambition when he was alive.
It has also been said that you are only living on the large political image of the late ex-governor Adeleke. That as a person, you have not really been tested in public administration. What is your take?
If anyone says I am leveraging the record of my late brother, why should that bother me? He was a successful politician and statesman who remained the factor in the politics of Osun State for so long. What some people don’t know however is that I had always been with him, working together on several fronts. I had been involved in politics and administration at different levels even before my election as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I am not a rookie in governance and that will be put to practical use as we work to develop our dear state.
Nigerians were surprised to see you in graduation gown a few days ago. What motivated your return to school?
The quest for more knowledge motivated me to enroll for a degree programme. I had enough time after the controversial decisions of the courts on the Osun State governorship election. I could not just be politicking so soon and so I decided to go back to school. It is a desire to be a better me and it was a worthwhile decision.
With the certificate, are you now ready for the next governorship election in Osun State?
I have always been ready but I can say now that I am even more ready to accept the call for leadership in Osun State. I know the problems of the state and I am well equipped to drive the process of solving them by the grace of God.
Would you be surprised if some people still doubt the genuineness of the school you said you attended and its certificate?
(Laughs). What will a mischief maker not doubt? In this age of technology and digital platforms, is it too difficult to verify claims? Whoever doubts my degree certificate should honestly have his head examined!
What are the new things you learnt while in school?
That knowledge is not static. The things you knew five years ago are probably obsolete now. Again, the course I studied gave me a better insight into the administration of Criminal Justice and how to build a better society in Nigeria.
Your party, the PDP, is divided in your state. How would you be able to realise your ambition to be a governor with such a divided house?
The PDP in Osun State is not divided. We are one under the chairmanship of Sunday Bisi. The whole working committee, state executive, party chairman at local and ward levels are on the same page. No division whatsoever.
You were with the former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, during the last South-West zonal election, but your group lost. How have you been able to reach out to the Governor Seyi Makinde group that won the election?
In intra-party politics, you don’t talk about winners and losers. The South-West PDP Congress was a family affair. Governor Seyi Makinde is my brother. We have come a long way and have a common goal. He is the only PDP governor in the South-West and that confers some leadership roles on him. Former Governor Fayose is also a formidable leader in the zone. We are all working to strengthen the party and make it a wining vehicle. We are all in constant communication and working for the success of the PDP.
Don’t you think this loss may affect the unity of the party in the zone and also negatively affect your governorship ambition?
Certainly not! We have put the congress behind us and we are moving forward.
Are your supporters still intact in Osun State?
Very intact and vibrant! We are actually getting stronger with defections from the SDP and the APC into our party almost on a daily basis. Wait and see what will play out in Osun.
The Police took you to court during the last governorship election in the state. Don’t you think the same case could be resurrected as soon as you show interest in the next election?
That case is dead and buried. The courts have discharged and acquitted me of all the charges. You can’t charge a man of the same offences he has been acquitted of. You all know it was politics. There was absolutely no ground for my arrest and prosecution in the first place. It was politics taken too far and I hope the Police have learnt their lesson to leave politics to politicians.
Some people also claimed that you jumped bail after court freed you to attend to your health in one of the cases regarding your certificate, what is the status of that particular case now?
That is very untrue. I was granted bail to attend to my health. The prosecutor later dropped the charges against me while the court even ruled that I had no case to answer. The Court of Appeal also upheld our submissions and quashed all charges. As I said earlier, what happened was malicious prosecution that was politically motivated. We later heard all that happened and how the plots were hatched. Some of those who participated in the plots have confessed and begged for forgiveness.
The Ogunbiyi group is still formidable in the PDP in your state. Have you reached out to him after the last election and what was the outcome of your efforts?
Dr Ogunbiyi and other co-aspirants are important leaders of our party. There is no one we will ignore going forward. The only thing is that we must all put our party first and be 100 per cent loyal to the PDP. I respect all and have no grudges against anyone.