Politics at Funeral

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Former Governor, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala and Senator Hosea Agboola

Last weekend, the communities of Igbojaiye in Itesiwaju and Oke’lerin in Ogbomoso South Local Government Areas of Oyo State, hosted politicians who had converged on the two communities, for two different funerals. The events soon turned into an occasion for politicking, writes Tunde Sanni

For a long time to come, stalwarts of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State will continue to relive the funeral ceremonies hosted by the duo of the Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Hosea Agboola, and the former governor, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala.

Agboola who is the lone PDP senator from the South-west, hosted his guests at his Igbojaiye country home in Itesiwaju Local Government Area, where he had interred the remains his mother, Mama Alice Agboola, who died in August, at the First Baptist Church.

On his part, Alao-Akala organised a remembrance funeral for his father, Pa Joshua Opadoyin Alao-Akala, who died 60 years ago, when the former governor was barely two years old. The Alao-Akala funeral ceremony also took place at the First Baptist Church but in Oke’Lerin. Both Igbojaiye and Ogbomoso are situated in Oyo North senatorial district which Agboola represents at the National Assembly.

In his sermon in Ogbomoso, the executive president of the Nigeria Baptist Convention, Dr. Supo Ayokunle, exhorted politicians to be humble and reminded them not to be swayed by the perks of office.

Alao-Akala’s father, an Ogbomoso businessman who was then resident in Coomasie, Ghana, reportedly died in an auto crash at the Odo Alamuyo Bridge, close to Iroko Grammar School on the old Oyo/Ibadan Road in 1952. He was said to be on his way to Lagos to secure international travelling passports for his some of his kinsmen resident in Ghana when the accident occurred.

The cleric, whose exhortation was entitled ‘Revelation of the Glory of God in a Dead Dog’, congratulated Alao-Akala for looking back and appreciating the glory of God 60 years after.

Ayokunle, who linked the life history of the former governor to the topic, said it was “the grace of God” that brought Alao-Akala to be where he is today. “Today, it is a manifestation of God. In spite of life of hopelessness; God still manifested in your life.”

Alao-Akala who could not hide his excitement told the audience that the event would be the third attempt to have a funeral for his father as the first two attempts failed. But now, he has been able to fulfill his age-long dream of celebrating his late father. The former governor, who gave two testimonies, said he had accidents twice some years back when preparing for the remembrance of his father but that this year, the case was different. “We are celebrating no accident and no crisis. We should pray.”

Alao-Akala said he tried in 1982 to celebrate his father but had a terrible accident in Lagos in which fire razed his brand new car. On the second occasion, 1992, which was 40 years after the death, he also planned the celebration but was involved in another auto crash during which he suffered a broken neck.

“I thank God today, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of my late father and I am hale and hearty. There was no accident and no sickness. God has blessed my family in many ways. It is always good to pray and believe in its efficacy. It was Baba Ogunlowo of Alapo compound that gave me the only photograph of my father, which is on this thanksgiving programme,” he said.

He narrated that his mother told him there was no mortuary services available then “and so my father had to be buried like that. And being that I was just two years old, I knew nothing about the death and burial because my mother also was there in Coomasie, Ghana.”

The former governor said though he was shown the burial site of his father by a friend, he could not go and decorate it, lest he exhumes a different corpse. “Just three days ago, September 13, 2012, Alhaji Jimoh of Ile Oganla, Masifa gave me this handwritten note of 1952 where the ‘Ogbomoso Parapo’ in Coomasie, Ghana, condoled with my family and prayed that my father’s children should do well in life to immortalise his name because my dad died for his people. We thank God that the prayer then has been answered in our family.”

Typical of politicians, Alao-Akala, however, used the occasion to call on members of his party, to come together with a view to resolving the internal crisis within the PDP. He expressed hope that they would still work together as one family.

Aside from the representative of the Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, former Inspector General of Police, Sunday Adewusi and former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, who were at the ceremony, many other dignitaries who attended the event were politicians of the PDP stock. There were former and serving lawmakers as well as appointees in his administration.

Similarly, the ceremony in Igbojiaye also paraded serving elected officials, mainly from the Senate as the Senate President, David Mark, led his colleagues to the funeral. Mark described Agboola as the active chairman, secretary and member of the South-west PDP Caucus being the only PDP lawmaker from the region.

The presiding minister at the First Baptist Church, Reverend Emmanuel Oluokun, was apparently overwhelmed by the quality of dignitaries that he forgot to pass any message to the congregation. Prior to the arrival of Mark in a chopper, the former chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Iyiola Omisore, who represented Vice-President Namadi Sambo, was the most senior government official at the church service.

While speaking, Mark said wrangling and animosities that characterised the previous Senate had ended and promised a united and indissoluble Senate. He assured the people that with the unity and cohesion now in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, the lawmakers would be more responsive to their constitutional responsibilities than before.

The Senate President refrained to be drawn into controversy on the creation of new states when asked to help push for Oke-Ogun State. He reminded clerics that much as the lawmakers are ready to make laws for the improvement of the society, the clerics have the duty to ensure that they make heaven and urged clerics to be steadfast and consistent in preaching the gospel to all Nigerians irrespective of their status in the society.

He said he was touched by the various tributes written on the deceased and that he was sure she would make heaven. Mark later announced a donation of N1.5 million on behalf of the Senate in response of the request of the cleric that the church where the funeral service was taking place needed expansion.

Omisore urged Nigerians to lead a godly life and inculcate in their children godliness in order to be remembered for their virtues. Reading from a letter sent from the presidency, Omisore condoled with Agboola and described his mother’s exit as a glorious one.

But observers held that the two politicians might have used the funeral ceremonies to test their strength and popularity amongst their people. One politician that shuttled the two events was the former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, who understandably presented himself as the friend of the two gladiators. Folarin is believed to be controlling the PDP structure in the state and has soul mates in both Agboola and Alao-Akala, even though his relationship with the former governor is believed to have been strained.

The reason for the preference of Alao-Akala’s ceremony over Agboola’s might have been due to his father figure in the party. Alao-Akala is noted to be generous and has reportedly been using his influence and goodwill in the presidency to fix some of his former trusted and loyal aides. Agboola, on his own, is said to have been limiting his generosity and political assistance to his Igbojaiye community.

He was alleged to have recently turned back some politicians, seeking patronage, from outside his Igbojaiye and Iseyin areas, directing them to go to Ibadan and meet Jumoke Akinjide, popularly referred to as the “Saraki” of Oyo politics because of her politics of generosity.

The quartet of Agboola, Ajibola Muraina, Chairman, House Committee on Upper Stream, Alao-Akala and Folarin were reported to be in control of the party. Checks by THISDAY, however, indicated that while Folarin is gradually positioning himself for the 2015 gubernatorial ticket, which many believed he would get because of his investment in the state structure of the party, the duo of Agboola and Alao-Akala might have been nursing some cold war over the ticket for Oyo senatorial zone.

While Alao-Akala is said to be interested in the Senate seat, Agboola is reportedly oiling his structure to return to the National Assembly. The ambitions of the duo, observers believe, may threaten the already fragile peace in the party. This is in addition to the beliefs that Muraina is also nursing a senatorial ambition for Oyo South senatorial district. The situation, however, explains the interest of the quartet in battling for the control of the party.

Ironically, none of the quartet was ready to commit its finances to the party as officials of the party have been complaining of difficult times owing to lack of funds. Party executives have been accused of keeping silent on the state of affairs in the party with tales that the PDP in Oyo lacks such finance even to fund a press conference or make statements on situation in the state. But speculation has been rife that the reason the party was silent was because of the blood affinity between Folarin and the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. But a recent radio interview granted by Folarin has made him a butt of joke among Ajimobi’s supporters.

In all of these, however, one absentee politician at the two events was the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide. Her absence, many thought, was because of the fallout of the power play in the PDP to which she is believed to be losing even though she still clings to her factional structure.

No doubt, individual interest has continued to threaten the PDP in Oyo, the party may find it hard to recover till 2015 if it fails to get it right at the council election.

In : Politics

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