Iyiola Omisore, the man who has just been elected National Secretary of Nigeria’s ruling party, APC, has a chequered history. For over a decade, he was an outcast of the ‘progressives,’ as members of Nigeria’s ruling party, APC, describe themselves. Although he has now become a darling of the progressives, for about 15 years, he was a subject of scorn and derision from the leaders of the ruling party, particularly those from the South-west where he is from. He was accused of murder and said to have a totally different ideology, guided by ‘self-interest’, different from that of the ‘progressives.’
But Mr Omisore did not start Nigeria’s recent political journey in the bad books of the ‘progressives’. In fact, just as he is their lovely bride now, so was he 22 years ago, before the relationship went south. To understand Mr Omisore’s roller coaster ride with the ‘progressives’ one has to go back to how it started.
How It started
The year was 1999. The ‘progressives’ who had vehemently fought against military rule had finally agreed to take part in the general elections being superintended by Nigeria’s new military ruler, Abdusalam Abubakar. After a lot of politicking, they formed their own party, Alliance for Democracy (AD).
The AD was one of the three major parties at the time and it was taking part not only in the presidential election but also in the local elections.
In Osun, the AD had presented Bisi Akande as its governorship candidate. Mr Akande, a grassroots politician, considered prudent by many, had the backing of influential AD leaders like Bola Ige. But there was a problem. He had no political structure.
Mr Akande and the AD leaders turned to Mr Omisore, a businessman, who, unlike the ‘progressives,’ did not fight against military rule and had built a political structure by taking part in the previous controversial elections organised by late dictator Sani Abacha.
“I wanted to win election. He (Mr Omisore) had structure, I did not have structure. I was with Bola Ige; we were sit-down-look during the military, we did not believe in military governance at all and we didn’t participate in politics then. We form a party, maybe in August or September 1999 and the election was to hold in December and we had no structure, particularly in Osun state. He had structure, he had boys and in addition to the credibility that we brought into governance, I wanted his structure to be part of me,” Mr Akande told CityMirrorNews in 2016.
The AD’s popularity in the South-west, coupled with Mr Akande’s reputation and Mr Omisore’s ‘structure’ all combined to secure victory for the party in the Osun governorship election.
Things, however, went south after they assumed office.
Akande, Omisore’s relationship deteriorates
Not long after they assumed office, Mr Akande started having problems with his deputy.
The former governor believes their differences were largely ‘ideological,’ especially due to Mr Omisore’s love for public funds.
“…our sense of responsibility towards financing was not in the same direction: he was a spend-free person, I was being careful with the public money and I could not have approved all vouchers. I could not approve all requests and that was not going well with him,” he said in the interview.
While the relationship between Mr Akande and his deputy nosedived, a tragedy happened. Mr Akande’s mentor and benefactor, Bola Ige, was killed and many Nigerians including among the ‘progressives’ felt Mr Omisore was involved.
Omisore and Bola Ige’s murder
Apart from being Mr Akande’s mentor, Mr Ige was also a presidential aspirant in the AD in 1999. He narrowly lost the ticket of the party to Olu Falae who went on to lose the election to Olusegun Obasanjo.
After he assumed office, Mr Obasanjo appointed some members of the opposition, including Mr Ige, to his cabinet. Mr Ige was initially appointed power minister before he was made justice minister.
While serving as justice minister, the Esa-Oke born politician was assassinated in his Ibadan residence on December 23, 2001.
About a week before Mr Ige was killed, he was attacked by a mob led by a political thug popularly known as ‘Fryo’. This was during the conferment of chieftaincy title on some people at the palace of the former Ooni of Ife, Sijuade Okunade. Ife is the political base of Mr Omisore.
Details of why Fryo, an ardent supporter of Mr Omisore, and others attacked Mr Ige remain sketchy.
After the attack, Mr Omisore granted an interview to ‘Tempo magazine’ where he verbally attacked Mr Ige for allegedly insulting him (Mr Omisore) and his family.
Mr Omisore, at the time the deputy governor, gloated over the attack on Mr Ige in Ile-Ife. “He (Mr Ige) was beaten yesterday; the people of Ife beat him up and he was crying like a baby as they removed his cap and his glasses,” he said.
Barely a week after the attack and Mr Omisore’s gloating in the media, Bola Ige was shot dead in his Ibadan home.
Omisore’s impeachment, trial
Although Mr Akande does not believe Mr Omisore had a hand in the murder of Mr Ige, his relationship with his deputy continued to deteriorate.
Amid the allegations of financial impropriety and murder, Mr Omisore was impeached by the Osun State House of Assembly in December 2002. He was also arrested by the police and tried for his alleged role in Mr Ige’s murder.
While still in detention, Mr Omisore, who had defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the Osun East senatorial election.
The Oyo State High Court eventually set him free on the grounds of a lack of evidence to link him to the murder.
Mr Omisore not only completed his term as senator in 2007 but he was also re-elected in 2007 on the PDP platform.
During this period, he was treated like an outcast by the ‘progressives’. Their party, AD, had over the years metamorphosed into different names: AC, ACN, and eventually APC.
Through all its metamorphosis, some things remained constant: key members like Bola Tinubu, Bisi Akande and Rauf Aregbesola remained in the party while its dislike, at least publicly, for Mr Omisore remained.
All that changed in 2018
Mr Omisore officially joined the APC from the fringe Social Democratic Party (SDP) in February 2021, PREMIUM TIMES reported. But his new relationship with the ruling party started in 2018.
He was the PDP candidate in the 2014 governorship election in Osun. He lost to the incumbent, Rauf Aregbesola of the APC.
In the build-up to the 2018 governorship election, it was clear to Mr Omisore that he would not secure the PDP ticket, so he defected to the SDP and became its candidate.
He came a distant third in the 2018 election.
But the APC was in a dilemma. Its candidate, Gboyeka Oyetola, was narrowly losing to PDP’s Ademola Adeleke before a rerun election was declared in seven polling units in four local government areas: Osogbo, Orolu, Ife North and Ife South.
Although Mr Omisore had come a distant third, two of the local government areas for the rerun, Ife North and Ife South, were considered his strongholds and had some of the largest votes.
The controversial politician had become a beautiful bride, to be seduced by the two leading parties.
High-powered delegations from both APC and PDP took turns at Mr Omisore’s house to beg him to back them.
The PDP delegation was led by the then Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while that of the APC included Governors Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.
Eventually, Mr Omisore backed the APC for the September 28 rerun, helping Mr Oyetola to breast the tape.
He has since then been hobnobbing with the APC until he formally decamped last year.
Not all members of the ‘progressives’ are happy with Mr Omisore.
In fact, his re-entry into the Osun APC is believed to be one of the major reasons for the fallout between Mr Aregbesola and his successor, Mr Oyetola, as well as party leader Bola Tinubu.
Mr Akande also does not hide his disdain for Mr Omisore.
In his autobiography released to the public last year, Mr Akande described the Ife-born politician as a ‘malignant cancer.’
“Iyiola Omisore crept into my life like a silent malignant cancer. He came in full force. In a few months, I thought I knew him. I regret I did not know him in his true colours,” Mr Akande wrote.
“I was quick to conclude, shortly after we came into office, that Iyiola Omisore would be a big problem for my government. His spending propensity was ravenous. His ambition was inordinate and he was prepared to go to any extent and employ any weapon no matter how dastardly or devilish to achieve his objectives. He showed his hands early enough during the transition period. For me, this was both a political and personal tragedy.”
Mr Akande was the first national chairman of the APC and remains one of its leaders. However, his views on Mr Omisore did not deter the party from handing the latter the position of national secretary.
Sources in the party told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Omisore was supported by the APC leadership in the South-west for the position based on the request of Mr Tinubu, who seeks to be Nigeria’s next president. The APC had zoned the position of national secretary to the South-west.
Before Saturday’s convention, Mr Omisore, who declared for the position about 10 days to the convention, had been seen around Mr Tinubu at different fora.
At Saturday’s APC convention in Abuja, other candidates for the position of national secretary were made to step down for Mr Omisore.
Omisore’s promise to APC
The position of national secretary is considered the second most important in a Nigerian political party after the position of national chairman.
In his declaration letter posted on his social media handles, Mr Omisore promised an “efficient and effective management of the National Secretariat for next level prosperity, Democracy deliverables for Nigeria and Nigerians in the atmosphere of peace, happiness, safety and plenty.”
In his agenda which was tagged ‘New Era’, the new APC scribe further promised to “Institutionalise civility by leveraging technology for efficient party administration.”
“I will create a people-driven political party that will deepen democratic norms across the board in administration and in capacity building not only to win the election but to be bonded as an institution whereby everyone will be recognised and respected for their many roles in aiding growth and development of the party from the grassroots,” he said.
Now that he is the darling of the ‘progressives’ and, in fact, their national secretary, a new chapter appears to have been opened for the Ife politician to play another prominent role in Nigerian politics.
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