The Resident Electoral Commissioner nominee for the Independent National Electoral Commission, Alhaji Muideen Olalekan Raheem, has been in the eye of the storm for the past few days being the only nominee of President Mohammadu Buhari for the post of INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner being opposed by his constituency.
On Tuesday, 29 October, 2019, President Buhari nominated Olalekan Raheem as the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) from Osun State and two others from Borno and Bayelsa respectively. It is only Olalekan Raheem who has a petition against him on the basis that he was alleged to be a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) having attempted to contest Osogbo Local Government Chairmanship in 2013 and engaging in campaigning for a governorship aspirant in 2017-18.
Those who know in Osogbo have revealed that while Olalekan Raheem actually attempted to contest in 2013 on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the election was not held and he was, therefore, not a candidate at any time on the platform of the party. It was, however, revealed that the petition is less than honest and clearly has the imprimatur of APC leaders in the State who are said not to have been carried along in getting Raheem nominated by the President.
Olalekan Raheem is not also the candidate of the powers-that-be, as it is said that the monarch of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, has one Rahman Adeniran Tella as his preferred candidate and has indeed lobbied the leadership of APC including Governor Gboyega Oyetola and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to support him for the coveted office.
Olalekan Raheem is not a favourite child of the APC leaders as his friend and aspirant, Kunle Rasheed Adegoke (popularly known as “K. Rad”), after the primary election of APC in 2018, engaged in a stiff legal battle with the party which ended in court due to the allegation that the primary election was rigged in favour of the current Governor, Gboyega Oyetola.
It was gathered that Olalekan has had problems since 2015 when he left politics to the annoyance of some party leaders. Principal actors in the opposition of Olalekan Raheem’s nomination is the Senator representing Osun Central Senatorial District, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, who is said to have had a frosty relationship with Olalekan Raheem in the past few years.
It is understood that Olalekan Raheem has left active politics for some time now but has been having a rough relationship with Senator Basiru due to an open disagreement he once had with the Senator and for which the Senator is alleged not have forgiven him.
Upon the announcement of Olalekan Raheem as the REC nominee for Osun State, while party leaders were wondering who the fellow was and how he managed to get the appointment, it was alleged that Senator Basiru was the one who disclosed Olalekan’s identity to his erstwhile boss, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and described him as a follower of Kunle Rasheed Adegoke who is a partner of Dr. Muiz Banire in his law firm, Banire & Co.
It is an open secret that the relationship between Banire on the one hand and Aregbesola and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on the other, has not been very cordial. To the annoyance of Aregbesola and other party leaders in Osun, the nomination of Olalekan Raheem was seen as an extension of the battle between Banire and Tinubu and many of the party leaders feel threatened that if Olalekan Raheem scaled through the appointment process, Banire’s partner, Adegoke, would be having a stronger foothold in Osun politics.
Furthermore, knowing Olalekan Raheem to be someone with an independent mind, it would be difficult for the APC leaders in Osun to get him to do their bidding and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s interest in 2023 presidential election may not be free from threats.
In the course of putting this opinion together, I encountered an insider in the Senator’s camp who revealed that “no one can control Muideen. He is too stubborn. The best is for our leaders to stop him. Although he is a nice guy from whom many of us have benefitted, I doubt if our leaders would allow him to go scot-free. The best is for him to go and beg Ogbeni and Asiwaju Tinubu. If he can get Baba Akande to appeal on his behalf, I believe he would make it.”
It is clear that the opposition against Muideen Olalekan Raheem is purely political and has nothing to do with his alleged membership of APC. That the petition originated from APC is not in doubt, considering that the former party membership registration number of Raheem was quoted in the petition. Someone who is in the know revealed that the membership registration was done sometime in 2014 during the formation of the APC and may not reveal the current status of someone found on the register.
Furthermore, it is contended that the membership details of the party are in the custody of Senator Ajibola Basiru and considering the language of the petition, it is clear that the fire burning Olalekan originated among his erstwhile friends.
The lion of Bourdillon, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it was rumoured, is interested in the 2023 presidential election and would not spare any effort to ensure that his dream comes true. He, therefore, is said to have directed that the nomination of Olalekan Raheem must be stopped at the senate screening committee by disqualifying him based on his alleged current membership of the APC.
All efforts by friends of Olalekan Raheem to placate his tormentors are said to be reaching dead end as the party leaders in Osun State consider it an affront that someone could get an appointment from the federal government without their input.
They have succeeded in setting up strong and heavy barriers against Olalekan’s interest by pitting it against Asiwaju’s interest. Whether Olalekan would survive the battle depends on the outcome of the Senate’s further interview scheduled to hold on Friday 8th November, 2019.
Bamidele Ajao , a Political Analyst/Teacher lives in Osogbo but hails from Oke-Ila in Ifedayo Local Government Area of Osun State.