Perhaps, Ede community in Osun State will henceforth begin to cast off the sackcloth of mourning that has draped its entire horizon and landscape, as it conclude the 8th-day Fidau prayer for one of its foremost sons and former governor of the state of the “Living Spring”, the late Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, who passed on recently.
Since the sudden and tragic demise of the prominent politician, the town has been in deep grief, with social and economic activities at their lowest ebb, even before a three-day mourning declared by the state government in memory of the deceased.
At the royal court of the paramount ruler of the town, the Timi Agbale Olofa Ina, Oba Nurudeen Adesola Lawal, ecstatic traditional drumming by palace entertainers, which normally ushered in visitors, was absent.
Earlier, the town had witnessed pockets of violence by the late Adeleke’s supporters over suspicion that he was poisoned by political opponents against his governorship ambition, as he was seen healthy the previous day before his death.
Hundreds of the townsfolk trooped to the country home of the late Asiwaju of Edeland on Aisu Road, Ede, wailing and grieving at the loss of the man, whose name was synonymous with the town’s.
Actually, Ede is one of Yoruba’s famous ancient kingdoms. It used to be a military outpost and vassal of the old Oyo Empire administered by Alaafin Sango’s trusted viceroy, Timi, whose dynasty still rules the town till date.
However, it gained greater prominence in the politics of the South West and Osun State in particular, in contemporary times, owing to the political astuteness, influence and activities of the late Adeleke, who was elected the first civilian governor of the state under the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the aborted Third Republic in 1991.
Since joining politics, the late Adeleke had remained one of the formidable power brokers, with teeming followers from the various parts of the state, but, more especially Osun West Senatorial District, which, till his death, he represented in the Senate and held with vice-like grip.
Himself born to an illustrious politician- father, who was Balogun of Edeland, Adeleke and his more self-effacing billionaire younger brother, Dr. Deji Adeleke, endeared themselves to the people of the community and beyond with their legendary philanthropy and numerous contributions to the development of the community and its environs.
For instance, Dr. Adeleke not only brought development to the town by establishing the Adeleke University, Ede, a primary and secondary school, as well as Pacific Farms, all of which provided employment for the teeming number of jobless indigenes of the community.
The brothers also offer scholarships, help settle hospital bills and meet the needs of numerous indigent people of the area. The Chief Imam of Edeland, Mas’ud Husain Akajewole, described Adeleke’s death as a collosal loss, saying he was well loved by all- young and the old, because of his legendary charity. With his death, Akajewole said, several lines of livelihood had been blocked, “because there are so many downtrodden people, especially women and children he assisted by paying their school fees, hospital bills and even placed on salaries.”
Corroborating the Imam, Ibrahim Adegoke, the headmaster of Centrepoint Nursery and Primary School, Ede, disclosed that thousands of the people had also benefitted from empowerment schemes by Senator Adeleke, who regularly distributed vehicles, grinding machines, and other vocational equipment to artisans.
“He had planned another batch for May 15, but for his death.” Adegoke, who said 150 students across 10 local government areas in the senatorial district, currently enjoyed scholarship awards by the late senator, disclosed. According to him, the scholarship scheme instituted since 2003 is managed by Prof. Siyan Oyeweso of the Osun State University.
A leader of thought in the community also credited the late Adeleke of fast-pacing the development of Edeland by facilitating the construction of a network of roads and bridges in the town.
“More importantly, as the first executive governor of the state, he brought the siting of the state government secretariat to Abere, which is on Edeland. That’s why we are disturbed by his death, because the present government in the state wants to excise Abere from our land and give it to Osogbo. We had hoped he would be the next governor, so he could help us solve all the problems we have with the present government. So, you can see what a blow his death was to us,” the community leader lamented.
“Long after he left his position as governor,” said a chieftain of the Ede Descendants Union, “he built an office here in Ede and went there daily for over six months to give out money to women and indigent people to meet their needs- feeding, schooling, or health issues. It was not surprising that the politics of grassroots became synonymous with Adeleke.”
Kazeem Adenle, chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, Agip branch, described Adeleke as a charismatic leader. “Anytime’ De Gov’ entered into the town, it normally took him hours to reach his own house because he would be stopping to acknowledge cheers and greetings from the crowd of people. “
A commercial motorcyclist, Mutairu Ahmed of Alusekere area concurred. He said Adeleke was greater than Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the strongman of Ibadan politics.
Lamenting the ex-governor’s demise, popular Nollywood actress, Toyin Adegbola, remarked that the state had lost a great political colossus. “He was a man of the people. He never closed the doors of his house. He was liberal and humble. It will be difficult to find a replacement for him.”
Former Information Commissioner in the state, Sunday Akere, said the political sector in the state would no doubt feel the impact of the vacuum created by Adeleke’s death, recalling how his joining the All Progressives Congress, APC, swung the pendulum of victory to the party in the 2014 elections.
“It was a make or mar electoral war. He was one of the few leaders, who marshaled and emboldened the resolve of the people to vanquish the forces bent on subjugating the aspirations and interest of the good people of the state.”
He however noted that “Now, that he’s gone our leaders will need to sit down on what next to do. I hope God will direct them.”
The senator’s death, political watchers note, would no doubt affect the power equation in Edeland as well as the state, as the APC had just lost one of the votes swingers especially in Osun West.
His Ede constituency consisting of Ede North, South and Egbedore contributed one of the highest votes that saw APC defeating the PD P in the 2014 governorship poll, after Osogbo Olorunda, which contributed the highest due to its cosmopolitan nature.
The future of Ede politics and its leadership may still be undefined, as there are no big feet seen to be suitable to fit the big shoes left by Adeleke.
Former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Adejare Bello, who, sources said would have been a natural successor and inheritor of Adeleke’s political empire, having been once with him, remained in the PDP, when Adeleke defected from three years before his death.