‘Indeed, you won the election, but I won the count.’


Lasisi Olagunjug

By Lasisi Olagunju

In less than two months time, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola will be in the driver’s seat in Osun State.
He will take the oath as governor of Osun state swearing solemnly to administer the state without fear or favour, affection or ill will. He will come face-to-face with what annoyed those who voted against him in last week’s election. He will vote for either the legal Osun State (in whose name he swore to serve) or the illegal State of Osun which he will inherit. He will inherit LAUTECH with its loads of unresolved issues and resolve cases of students spending nine years on a four-year course. He will be asked to convince traumatized students and their parents that he truly cares. He will have to reject the zero fund allocation which has been the lot of Osun State University for eight years. He will quickly allow school children wear their historic, unique uniforms or he will continue the policy of forcing them to don the current alien sacs which everybody loathes.

The governor-elect will have to choose between preserving worthy legacies and destroying them. He will choose either letting Oduduwa College, Ilesa Grammar School, Kiriji Memorial College, Osogbo Grammar School and all other schools take back their glorious names and identities or he will retain the strange rechristening of these icons of history. Osun state will ask him to find out why Governors Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwumi Ambode did not merge Lagos’ iconic Kings College with Queens College and name the hybrid as Government High School. And why they didn’t demolish Igbobi College and plant an uncompleted mall in its stead. All these happened to Osun state and many more. Osun state will ask him to find out from Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State why Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s alma mater, Anglican Grammar School, Arigidi-Akoko, still retains its name and all of us, generations who schooled in the present Osun state no longer have alma maters. We will look up (or stand up) to Oyetola to restore our schools, remove boys from Baptist Girls High School, Osogbo and girls from the all-boys St. Charles Grams, Osogbo. We will demand back our alma maters which the outgoing governor merged and gave new names without our consent.

When the new governor takes over on 27 November this year, Osun state will wait to see if Osun state money will be spent on Osun people in Osun state; the state will wait to see him act fast in choosing between the people and the political tendency he represents. The people will wait to see how long the new governor will rule alone and whether his own commissioner for education will also come from Ogun state. He will be assessed the very first month on whether or not he will pay suffering workers and teachers, old and dying pensioners their full monthly pays or he will half their figures. The unpaid will tell him stories of hopes dashed, of dreams shattered and of destinies altered. He must listen to them and offer balms. So much he will be asked; so much he must answer. I do not envy him.

The election has come and gone. Winners have rejoiced, losers have recoiled into their shells. Whatever noise came from the Osun rerun elections, please blame INEC; do not blame the APC that knows how to win. Lessons have been learnt, especially by voters across the country. Clearly, the problems of the “inconclusive” Saturday, 22 September 2018 election were not about voting. They were mainly about counting the votes and naming who won and who lost. Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin told a 1923 meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that he cared not how people voted but cared very much about how the votes were counted and who did the counting: “I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes, and how.” Any contestant who pays scant attention to the counting of votes will soon fall into sorrow.
Talented British playwright and screenwriter, Tom Stoppard wrote in the Jumpers, a 1972 play, that it is not the voting that is democracy; it is the counting. George Creel, author of Uncle Henry, a 1922 novel, created a character who gives the right counsel to politicians: “There’s more to an election than mere votin’, my boy, for as an eminent American once said: ‘I care not who casts the votes of a nation if they’ll let me make the count.‘” Stalin wasn’t the only politically wise person with that rare insight about voting and counting votes. Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua, at the height of his dictatorship, famously told his trashed challenger who accused him of rigging the election that: “Indeed, you won the elections, but I won the count.”

The APC in the Osun election knew this and didn’t bother itself too much about those who would cast the votes. It gave itself enough orientation on how not to lose elections and perfected the art and science of counting and recording votes. Foolish politicians court voters; wise politicians count the votes. The 2019 elections will further prove this thesis. Could it be that the opposition never heard of this other famous quote: “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”? The APC did – and uses Stalin as its motivator in its engagement of power politics and the politics of power. It uses politics wantonly to domesticate power. PDP is too dumb to know how to count anything or make anything count.

Elections are emotive events. They are theoretical vehicles of empowering the people to choose their leaders. But elections can go out of hand, and they do get out of hand. British newspaper, The Times published a letter on 27th August, 1859 that speaks on how popular elections can hurt the people and the polity. The writer said that in the excitement of popular elections, if care is not taken (and they are often not taken), “the side which has the greater number of dishonest men will poll the most votes.” This side, he said, would always “cast the greatest number of votes with the smallest number of voters.” A wise party will do character assessment of the other side, make war preparations and take precautions. The opposition did not do these.

People say politics is a game but why is it that people maim and kill playing it? The rerun election was very violent. Who sanctioned the violence? I know the new governor-elect, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola. He once asked me (some three years ago) to join him in bailing the Osun State NUJ out of a crippling crisis. I got the message and wondered what a government official’s interests were in a union of watchdogs. But then what is wrong in solving problems? I met and assessed him in two minutes. I read and saw him as a gazelle forested in a kingdom of lions. The two of us sat down, dissected the issues and, in 30 minutes, agreed on a formula that could cure the union of its problems. And the formula worked. We discussed more than NUJ and its problems. We discussed governance issues in Osun state; we talked about politics, politicians and violence. And he spoke about thugs and why he would not do what others do – nurturing thugs. He said he preferred having policemen as his guards. He told me: “If one is not careful, thugs may even commit a crime without one’s knowledge and implicate one.” We agreed and cited one or two examples. Two other encounters convinced me Oyetola is a dove with no inclination to violence.

The APC plotted hard to win the rerun. While PDP’s Nyesom Wike was grandstanding in Port Harcourt, issuing threats and daring his own party over its national convention, a papal conclave of more sober Wikes in APC was going on in Osogbo mapping out strategies and planning to win a decisive election. Remember that last week I wrote about APC not seeing any contest as minor, constantly building defensive moats and armouring its tanks. It plans big and reaps bountifully. Remember I asked if Muhammadu Buhari would have defeated Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 if he had not built an army of generals and if he had stuck to his provincial party, the CPC. I asked if Bola Tinubu would have become leader of a national party if he had not bent backwards to accommodate a very difficult Buhari. I asked what would have happened in 2015 if opposition leaders had not built a formidable army of allied forces to confront PDP’s awesome machine? I reminded the PDP that it took a mass of global forces to take down Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich. So, between that last Monday and Thursday when the decisive rerun war was fought, what happened? PDP leaders were bickering over presidential ticket while the APC snatched (General) Iyiola Omisore from them. It snatched him and proceeded to use his ruthless troops and tanks to scorch the earth to the sorrow of the opposition and of the thousands who built their salvation on their expected victory.

In football, every player desires to score and win. But not all goals are desirable. Sometimes you let the enemy pass as a strategic move to win the trophy. Did I see that in that contest? APC, in its moment of horror, over scored and that is why it is struggling to clean the odious mess in its anus. I love to read what politics does to people and politicians. The love is as much as what soccer fans have for football and star players. One can be very emotional about things political. While some around one would wonder why the interest, one also asks them why they love football. Why should I close my eyes to Osun state’s election of crises and be concerned about an Egyptian god of soccer, a Liverpool main man winning the FIFA Puskas Goal of the Year Award 2018? Why should the soccer award deserve the attention it has been getting and I won’t give that election of the century its due? Why should some commentators call the Goal of the Year by its proper name and one wailer would rather call it Best Joke of the Year and I won’t draw same conclusions about the politics of elections around me?

Back and forth, like Mohamed Salah’s soccer award, the Osun election will continue to dominate public discourse until there is another thunderstorm goal somewhere. It will remain a goal for the beneficiaries and a huge joke for those who think we can do better as a nation. More importantly, how well (or unwell) Oyetola runs his government will determine his place in history. The company he keeps will determine how he stays and ends his tenure. He is a gentleman, I wish him well and I pray that he will choose wisely whom he would serve between God and Mammon.