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From the stains of Bola Ige’s blood, Yoruba ‘outcast’ Omisore bounces back to reckoning

Jeffrey Archer would call it a twist in the tale.

In 2014, when Iyiola Ajani Omisore wanted to be governor of Osun state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) played up the sentiments of his alleged involvement in the December 23, 2001 assassination of Bola Ige, the revered Yoruba nationalist.

Eight years on, Omisore has become the national secretary of the same APC — fully endorsed by the party’s five governors in the south-west.

On December 15, 2001, days before Ige, then attorney-general of the federation, was murdered, thugs had attacked him at the palace of the Ooni of Ife and removed his cap — considered to be the ultimate humiliation of an elder in Yorubaland.

Omisore, from Ile-Ife, had been all over the media abusing Ige because of the political crisis in Osun state, and Ige had also been replying him in kind.

Bisi Akande, elected on the platform of the Alliance of Democracy (AD) and now an APC elder, was the governor of Osun state then and had fallen out with Omisore, his deputy. Ige, who was governor of the old Oyo state from 1979 to 1983, took sides with Akande, who was briefly his deputy in 1983.

Omisore defected to the PDP as a full crisis ensued, but violence soon entered the fray with the murder of Odunayo Olagbaju, a member of the state house of assembly and staunch supporter of Omisore, four days after Ige was humiliated in Ile-Ife.

Olagbaju, who was stabbed to death in front of a police station in Ile-Ife, led the resistance to the attempt to impeach Omisore by the house of assembly members loyal to Akande.

Riots broke out after Olagbaju’s death and a few days later, Ige was gunned down at his residence in Ibadan, Oyo state.

Omisore denied any involvement in the assassination but was detained for a long time nonetheless after his impeachment as deputy governor.

To the outrage of many Nigerians, he was elected as a PDP senator in 2003 while in detention, even winning in Esa Oke, the home town of Ige. He was released from jail without any conviction and he took his place in the national assembly.

A BIG FACTOR IN OSUN POLITICS

Omisore, who was born into an Ife royal family on September 15, 1957, has engineering degrees from the UK and a PhD in infrastructure finance from the International School of Management, Paris, France, and is a fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, England and Wales.

But he is best known for his political conquests.

He was the senator representing Osun east from 2003 to 2011, holding key positions — including chairmanship of the appropriations committee, considered to be one of the most sought-after jobs.

His ambition to be governor of Osun state, however, is one he is yet to fulfil.

Omisore contributed his quota to Oyetola’s election as Osun governor in 2018

In 2014, he lost to Rauf Aregbesola (APC) who polled 394,684 votes, beating Omisore by over 100,000. At the time, the Ige sentiments came handy in the electioneering, although he insisted he knew nothing about the murder and would be happy for the case to be re-opened and for the killers to be found.

There was a theory that Omisore was set up to be abusing Ige in the open while, unknown to him, a plot was being hatched elsewhere to eliminate the orator who was reportedly preparing to challenge President Olusegun Obasanjo in the 2003 presidential election.

None of the theories was proved: all the suspects were released and investigations apparently closed.

HOW HE BECAME APC SECRETARY

From being an outcast after the death of Ige, Omisore — who had funded the 1999 governorship election in Osun state and was friends with Afenifere leadership — pursued his solo career with vigour.

After failing to win the Osun governorship in 2014, he made another bid in 2018 but was beaten to the PDP ticket by Ademola Adeleke, also known as the “dancing senator” who rode on the popularity of his late brother, Isiaka “Serubawon” Adeleke, to amass political weight.

Omisore immediately left the PDP and pitched his tent with the Social Democratic Party (SDP), but he came third in the first round, with Adeleke leading and APC’s Gboyega Oyetola coming second.

With no clear winner declared, a run-off between Adeleke and Oyetola was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) — and this was the beginning of the return of the “outcast”.

Courted by both the PDP and the APC because the rerun was going to be in his domain, Omisore decided to back Oyetola.

Promises were made to him: his case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was to be dropped, his passport released and a top ambassadorial position delivered to him, sources in the know told TheCable.

“But the appointment did not come because Aregbesola blocked it,” an insider told TheCable.

“Aregbe didn’t want political competition from any quarters in Osun state. Omisore is a powerful politician and he knows it.”

With the main promise unfulfilled, Omisore remained “calm” as Oyetola was said to be taking “very, very” good care of him. He officially defected to the APC in February 2021.

With Aregbesola now out of the loop and no longer in control of Osun politics, Omisore indicated interest in running for the position of national secretary of the APC.

The stalwarts did not find it hard adopting and endorsing him to pay the outstanding debt of 2018.

The memories of his fierce face-off with Ige are now fully fossilised.

ADAPTED FROM THE CABLE

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