I believe that only God Almighty shall decide my political future both in Osun state and Nigeria.
That was Isiaka Adeleke’s response to a question on his interest in contesting the 2018 governorship election in Osun state.
Until his death on Sunday, the two-term senator and first civilian governor of Osun, was the lawmaker representing Osun west senatorial district.
Adeleke’s death happened less than 24 hours after he attended a burial in the Ile-Olugbo area of Osun. The tragic incident came as a rude shock to his family members and political associates.
He made a mark in the political circle and touched many lives. During his teenage years, he served as a rate clerk in the then Ede district council. His experience enabled him to have very close rapport with people at the grassroots.
He was said to have given out his meagre salary of N40 (then twenty pounds) to the needy. Through hardwork, Adeleke and Adedeji, his younger brother, who is the father of pop star Davido, set up many business ventures, among which is the Adeleke University, Ede.
During the civil war (1967 – 1970), Adeleke, who grew up in Enugu, was forced to complete his primary education at Alafia Institute, Mokola, Ibadan, Oyo state. He then proceeded to Ogbomoso Grammar School for his secondary school education.
The quest for higher education took him to United States of America, where he obtained a bachelor of arts degree and a master’s degree in public administration.
He also bagged a master’s degree in criminal jurisprudence.
SERUBAWON, THE TITAN
At the age of 37 years, he beat people far older who had indicated interest in the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was not initially favored to win. The front runner was a lawyer, Oladipo Oladosu but after coming second in the primary, Adeleke was able to win a runoff.
After winning the ticket, he also defeated his opponent in the election. His emergence as the governor then, fresh from the United States, earned him the nickname, SERUBAWON.
Although his tenure did not last two years, he had a number of achievements. He established a polytechnic at Iree, a college of technology at Esa-Oke and the completed the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, among other projects.
Former military President Ibrahim Babangida later admitted that Adeleke gave him sleepless nights over the annulment of the June 2, 1993 election. He had told Babangida pointedly, to reverse the annulment in favour of Nigerians, who voted massively for Abiola.
During the days of Sani Abacha, the late military dictator, many fled the country, but Serubawon decided to remain with his people. He stayed in Nigeria throughout the days of Abacha.
In 2007, he was elected a senator under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). During his legislative career, he was chairman of many committees, among which is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In 2010, Adeleke had an encounter with suspected political thugs while monitoring an election in Ekiti state.
He later shared his experience in an interview.
WANTED TO SEND ‘THUGS’ TO HELL
“I was in Igede Ekiti and I noticed that in a ward there was no security at all, except thugs. I called the headquarters in Ado Ekiti, the INEC officials to alert them, to get in touch with the police so that they could send security there,” he had said.
“There was a place I visited and discovered that the policemen, about five of them were just standing aloof and you could see people, not quite away from the policemen engaging themselves in a brawl! I tried to reach the headquarters to tell them to call the DIG because I could not get the IG.
“The policemen were just watching these people fighting and they did nothing about it, they were just watching. That was when I drove back to Ado Ekiti, to go to the headquarters, to formally lodge complaint.
“Not quite ten minutes, the SSS and the police came upstairs and said that the place had been surrounded by thugs; that they wanted to attack me and I demanded, for what?
“I said, we should go downstairs to meet them. I went downstairs. That was when I met the woman, the REC, Ayoka Adebayo, she just came from where she granted an interview with Phillip Umeadi. She was introduced to me by Umeadi.
These thugs had midgets, you would take them for journalists, but they were able to conceal their guns and machetes and they threatened to burn my car for coming to INEC office.
“I had to calm them down and I explained to them that I was in Ekiti in my capacity as senate chairman on INEC and among my oversight functions is to monitor and observe elections and ensure that they comply with the Electoral Act and the constitution.
“They said I should go to hell and I said, if you do anything stupid, we would see, who would get to hell first. I went inside my car and we drove off.”
FROM PDP TO APC
On May 31, 2014, Adeleke defected to the APC from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
During his defection, he said he chose to leave the PDP because “they are a party breeding thugs.”
“I was asked to come and vie for governorship that Omisore is not capable, I accepted, but a day to the congress I got to the hotel in Osogbo. The people I sent there were on the floor with guns pointed at their heads and I told the police that they are members of our party from Ede,” he had said.
“I then moved towards the room where I met Sogo Agboola, Jelili Adesiyan, Iyiola Omisore, Gani Olaoluwa and others. As I was about explaining what happened outside to the minister, he descended on me with blows. So also was Omisore and others.
“They are a party breeding thugs. How can a whole minister of the federal republic be boxing, I have nothing against PDP, but I don’t see myself working for a criminal. I can’t support a violent person to go to the government house.”
ADVOCATED FOR SCHOOLS IN PRISONS
In the senate, Adeleke clamoured for the establishment of schools in the prisons. As a criminologist, Adeleke was not satisfied with the state of Nigerian prisons.
“There are certain bills that I want to introduce. I am a criminologist. I have a masters degree in criminal justice and there are certain bills I will be introducing to the country to improve criminal justice,” he had said during an interview.
“There are people who have had PhD from the prison and they are good people today. We should introduce certain reforms in the prison system like schools where people can teach.”
He also talked about the need to decongest Nigerian prisons.
He said: “Our prisons are congested. Our criminal justice system is punitive rather than correctional. It is not for every crime that you sentence people to prison. Sometimes, you give them a suspended sentence. Put them on probation for certain crimes. That is what probation is. Let them serve the sentence within the community; they do community service. If you put everybody in the prisons, it criminalises the individuals.”
Adeleke also told the political he belonged to, to have a change of mind about violence.
“We must change our attitude , we Nigerians must first of all change our attitude. No matter what reform, it will be meaningless. It’s a general belief that you have to hire thugs, buy machetes in every election. Why? That’s attitudinal problem. Well, let’s go back to the belief of many Nigerians because anybody that loses election places his loss at the door steps of INEC. Is it INEC that hires these thugs? Is it INEC that buys machetes for these thugs? Is it INEC that ask people to stuff ballot boxes? Is it INEC that snatches ballot boxes? These are questions that we have to ask ourselves.”
The deceased was 62 years old.