Wednesday 5 July 2023

Day Adeleke’s supporters, Senate ex-spokesman turned prayer ground to battle field......By Bola Bamigbola (MUST READ)

Rivalry between the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Party in Osun State spilled over to Osogbo Eid prayer when Governor Ademola Adeleke’s supporters and Senator Dr Ajibola Basiru clashed, BOLA BAMIGBOLA writes

The mood was that of celebration, but it was a rowdy scene at the front row under the canopy where the dignitaries were to sit for prayers at the Osogbo Central Eid Praying Ground, Ibokun Road, Osogbo, that morning. The situation was already making other worshippers that were around for the two-rakkat at Eid-el-kabir prayers uncomfortable. Regardless, those involved came prepared for one another.

It was a battle for supremacy and efforts to exert influence and stamp political control on Osogbo, the Osun State capital, being the town with the highest voting population in the state.

At one side of the tussle, was Alhaji Muniru Raji, often hailed as ‘Adedibu Osogbo,’ by his admirers, while on the other hand, was the immediate past spokesperson for the Senate, Dr Ajibola Basiru, who represented Osun Central Senatorial District in the ninth Senate

To say Raji, a supporter of the state governor, Ademola Adeleke, and Basiru were sworn political enemies, would be an understatement. Raji, from Dalegan Compound, Osogbo, had led campaigns against the ex-Senate spokesperson, who hails from Odofin, a compound near Oja Oba area of the town before the 2023 general elections to the chagrin of some indigenes, who felt, being their kinsman, hostility against Basiru should not have come from his homestead. But Raji was also urged on by many indigenes, especially those of them supporting the Peoples Democratic Party.

Raji, who like Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji, declared support for Olubiyi Fadeyi, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party from Ila-Orangun, against Basiru of the All Progressives Congress, never relented but mounted a fierce campaign against the APC candidate at the poll.

Basiru at the poll won in the two local government areas within the Osogbo metropolis, albeit with a lower margin compared to the overwhelming support he got from the two council areas in the 2019 election.

But the results from some other local government areas in the senatorial district, that did not go his way, meant he would relinquish his seat at the Red Chamber to Fadeyi, who was returned elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Osogbo, being the state capital, occupies a strategic place in Osun political history. It often serves as a circus for those who want to cement their political authority on the state and politicians. Having realised this, many politicians would go to any length to curry the favour of the high and low in the town, most times, relying on religion.

Recall that the long, feisty battle for the 2007 Osun governorship poll that pitched the then governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the PDP, and the then Commissioner for Works in Lagos State, Rauf Aregbesola, then of the AD, manifested fully at the 2006 Oroki Day, an annual fundraising event organised by Osogbo indigenes.

With the consciousness of how crucial the backing of Osogbo power brokers is to the success or otherwise of any government, Governor Adeleke’s men have left no one in doubt about their resolve to cement the governor’s grip on the town, after recording victories in both Osogbo and Olorunda local government areas in the July 16, 2022 governorship election.

But, having returned home from the Senate, Basiru and his men in APC, were already prepping up their political structures for the role of opposition in the state in general and in Osogbo, the political heartbeat of the state.

Earlier on, the cat-and-mouse relationship between the PDP-led government in the state and Basiru had reared its ugly head. The first sign of the stormy days ahead emerged when the government accused the ex-federal lawmaker of plotting to distabilise the state.

Specifically, the spokesperson for the governor, Olawale Rasheed, in a statement, demanded a probe into the presence of some unauthorised police operatives allegedly brought to the state by the ex-federal parliamentarian.

But the ex-spokesperson for the Senate dismissed the allegation as untrue and called on the Inspector-General of Police to equally launch a probe into the claims to clear the police of any misdeed and also absolve him of any wrongdoing.

Before tempers rose over the allegation and counter allegation on the presence of the unauthorised police personnel in the state would cool down, another Eid celebration had sneaked in on the gladiators.

Investigations by The PUNCH revealed that political and community leaders not known to have been observing such celebratory prayers at the Osogbo Central praying ground before, had thronged the venue for this year’s Eid prayers, simply to assert influence and stamp their political authority on the town.

On the day the incident occurred, the convoy of the Asiwaju Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Dr Olatunde Badmus, had brought Basiru, the member representing Osogbo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Maroof Adewale, and few other dignitaries into the praying ground.

Already at the praying ground before them was a group of community leaders, led by the Asiwaju of Osogbo, Chief Ajadi Badmus. Raji, who led the Osogbo political group of the PDP extraction that had the Secretary to the State Government, Teslim Igbalaye, and ex-chairman of Olorunda local government, Ganiyu Olaoluwa, was also waiting for the governor to arrive.

Right under the canopy erected for the governor and other important personalities expected to participate in the prayers, Raji exchanged unsavoury banters over sitting arrangements with Basiru.

Basiru, who was already seated, was asked to vacate the spot he occupied by Raji, who claimed that the seat was reserved for the governor. The APC chieftain, refused the order, saying there were no indications that the place was meant for Adeleke.

The matter came to a head when information reached the PDP team on the ground that the governor, returning from a trip outside the state, was closing in on the praying ground.

A few minutes later, the governor’s convoy drove into the praying ground and Adeleke, a short while after, made a first attempt to approach where he was to sit, but the rowdy scene observed by his security men, forced him to return to his vehicle and wait for the coast to clear.

The presence of the governor on the premises heightened tension. Those insisting that Basiru should not vacate where he sat, and the PDP supporters, that felt the decision of the senator was a dent in the ego of the party in government and would not spare any effort to get him unseated, yelled and shoved one another.

When the struggle between the two forces appeared to be losing steam, Badmus, and the Chief Imam of Osogbo, Sheik Musa Animashaun went back to the governor’s vehicle and appealed to Adeleke to return to the seat reserved for him.

The governor obliged them. But the tugging by forces, fighting to unseat Basiru, and those opposing his removal, suddenly peaked again, and by the time Adeleke got near the canopy where he was to seat, the situation was becoming almost a free-for-all, forcing him to retreat into his car. He eventually left without observing the prayers.

After the prayers, police personnel, on the instruction of the State Police Commissioner, Patrick Longe, directed the arrest of Basiru, but after an intervention by Badmus, he was left alone. The senator, accompanied by some of his associates, however, visited the CP and explained his side of the issue.

Shortly after the incident, the governor’s media team alleged that armed thugs were brought into the premises to attack the governor and demanded the arrest of all those involved. The APC media handlers, while returning the salvo, said it was Adeleke that invaded the praying ground with hoodlums.

However, in a video clip recorded by an eyewitness, who was closer to the scene, it was observed that Basiru was encircled by some people believed to be his supporters, while members of the PDP made efforts to forcefully break the circle and unseat him.

In separate interviews, Basiru and Raji traded accusations over the incident. The senator claimed there was no indication that the spot he occupied was reserved for the governor, adding it was Raji, who approached him and ordered that he should vacate the spot.

Basiru said, “The Muslim community leaders are under the auspices of Asiwaju Musulumi of Yoruba Land (Dr. Tunde Badmus), and they had gone for the arrangement of seats. Shockingly, before our arrival, Muniru Raji had already put someone at the place we arranged to seat. So when we got there, we told those we met there, that they should let us sit on our mats, otherwise they should let us remove the mats.

“There and then, we sat down, but Muniru Raji came to assault me instructing me to stand up because the place was not meant for me, and I told him that there is no place reserved for anybody in the mosque. He then told me that the place was meant for the governor. So, I inquired if he was the protocol officer to the governor because I did not see any protocol nor advance party of the governor, no security personnel where I sat. There was no indication that where I sat was for the governor.

“Muniru Raji insulted me, and in the process, worshippers surrounded me to prevent him from assaulting me. After the prayer, some policemen said the Commissioner of Police wanted to see me, and I told them that I would see him together with the Muslim community leaders I eventually went in the same vehicle.

Responding, Raji accused Basiru of deliberately putting up the act to embarrass the governor.

He further explained, ”Suddenly, Basiru came in and sat on the mat already prepared for the governor. I went to meet him immediately and ask him to leave the place, but Tuns (Badmus) said I should allow him to resolve the issue and by then, the governor was already approaching the praying ground. APC thugs immediately surrounded him and no one was allowed to go near Basiru again.

“Adeleke is a peaceful person. When he observed the place where he was to seat was rowdy, he returned to his vehicle. Thereafter, Tuns and Chief Imam of Osogbo, Sheik Musa Animashaun, went back to the governor and he followed them back to the praying ground. As he was approaching where he was to seat the second time, he noticed that APC thugs had surrounded the place

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