Owo — IMMEDIATE past governor of Ondo State and presidential candidate of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the April 21 polls, Chief Adebayo Adefarati, died yesterday of an undisclosed ailment at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owo, Ondo State. He was aged 76.
His death immediately sparked speculations that the April polls might be postponed in accordance with provisions of the 2006 Electoral Act which mandate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to "countermand the polls ...and appoint some other convenient date for the election" in the event of the death of a candidate."
INEC won't postpone polls --IWU
The commission was swift in its response with its chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu, dismissing the possibility of postponing the election on account of Chief Adefarati's death. He said the presidential election would be held as scheduled on April 21. Professor Iwu said AD was free to submit the name of a substitute if it so wished.
Reacting in Ibadan, National Chairman of AD, Chief Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, said he was in no position to speak on the implications of the death since he was still shocked by the development.
Chief Adefarati who earlier had been responding positively to treatment died at 1.30 p.m. yesterday.
Authorities of the hospital elected to keep mum on the state of health of the presidential candidate since his admission there.
His personal physician, Dr. Oba Ado, who was seen at the hospital premises declined to speak with journalists who approached him for comments on the ailment that claimed the life of Chief Adefarati. His aides and children had rushed him to the hospital last weekend after he reportedly developed complications overnight.
His son, Mr. Gboyega, had told Vanguard on Wednesday in Akure that there was no cause for alarm as his father "is responding favourably to treatment and would be discharged tomorrow."
Chief Adefarati's widow, Adetutu, children and aides returned to his country home, in Akungba Akoko soon after he died to receive sympathisers.
He died im my arms --Widow
Mrs Adefarati later spoke to reporters on his last moments. She said it was the first time he would be admitted in hospital since they got married. Adetutu said it was a painful experience for her husband to die after his condition had improved greatly on Wednesday. She said that her late husband even led the morning devotion and sang his favorite Christian song yesterday only for him to die soon afterwards
According to her, the former governor was full of life yesterday morning that nobody had an inkling that he would die. "After the morning devotion, I went to his bedside and he prayed for me. Later at about 1.30 pm his eldest daughter who was in the room with him rushed out and raised an alarm that daddy's breathing had changed and before we knew what was happening he was gone.
"That was the first time he would be admitted in the hospital since l married him. I did not know it would end like that. It was the first time he would occupy a bed in the hospital.
"My husband's death is not news to me in fact he gave up while l was there by his bedside. l feel very sad that a loved one can just go like that but l have solace in God. Also speaking his eldest son Tunde said the politician died as a result of complication from a surgical operation carried out on him about a week ago. The operation was performed at the University College Hospital Ibadan.
Tunde declined to disclose the nature of the ailment which necessitated surgical operation. He pointed out that "my father's death is painful. Since I knew him as my father, this is the first time he would be admitted in the hospital. The operation was a minor one and not serious that it could result in his death but we discovered that he developed chest congestion after the operation and that was why he was rushed to the hospital.
People gathered in groups at Akungba, discussing the death of the former governor while students and people from other walks of life trooped to his hill top country home to console the widow, Adetutu, and the children.
His close associates in Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group were said to be in Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State for a meeting when the information got to them.
The late Chief Adefarati was the governor of the state before the People's Democratic Party (PDP) took over power in 2003. He had served as commissioner in the administration of Chief Adekunle Ajasin between 1979 and 1983.
Electoral Act on death of a candidate
Section 37 (1): "If after the time for the delivery of nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll, a nominated candidate dies, the Chief National Electoral Commissioner or the Resident Electoral Commissioner shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election."
Section 37 (2): "The list of voters to be used at a postponed election shall be the official register of voters, which was to be used if the election had not been postponed."
No need to postpone election --SENATORS
Senators responding to the Chief Adefarati's death, said it should in no way affect the scheduled date for the presidential poll.
Senators Udoma Udo Udoma, Ike Ekweremadu, Chris Adighije and James Kolawole in different reactions said the spirit of the law only allowed for a postponement in the event of a death of a candidate within a week or so of the scheduled date.
Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta South), however, disagreed with his colleagues, affirming that the sheer logistics and administrative requirements made a postponement inevitable.
They spoke in reaction to fears that INEC may invoke Section 37 (1) of the Electoral Act and postpone the presidential poll scheduled for April 21, 2007 on account of Adefarati's death.
"It is not automatic. I don't think it will affect the election because there is enough time for a substitute to be presented. So it shouldn't affect it," Senator Udoma, the Chief Whip of the Senate said as he expressed his condolences to the family.
In his reaction, Senator Ekweremadu said: "What the Electoral Act empowers the INEC to do is to shift the election, and the word is 'may' and in essence it is to give the party time to bring in a new candidate. So, the implication, therefore, is that if a candidate dies so close to the election, say a day or two before the election, you need to postpone it, maybe by one week to allow the party to replace him.
"But as it is now, there is sufficient time for the party to replace him effectively. Ordinarily, it shouldn't affect the election because it will be fair to all concerned. I believe that three weeks is enough for a party to replace a presidential candidate or indeed any other candidate. So, it will not, in my mind, affect the date of the election and the word is 'may', it didn't say shall. So, there is a discretion to be applied and that discretion will be judiciously applied and I believe that three weeks is enough for the party to replace a candidate," Senator Ekweremadu said.
Responding to the situation yesterday, Senator Kolawole from Ekiti State said: "Taking into consideration the fact that the election is still about three weeks away, I don't know if the time is too short to postpone the election. Possibly, arrangements can still be made for replacement between now and the election.
"I think what was envisaged was that if the thing should happen just a few days to the date of the election...I think we still have enough time to make a replacement because we still have about three weeks now," he said as he expressed his condolences to the family of the late Adefarati who he described as a great patriot.
In his reaction, Senator Adighije said INEC was in the best position to determine whether the polls should be postponed or not. Senator Adighije said: "The electoral law is there, we should see how it affects them. We have to obey the law, whatever the law is and unless the law is amended because this is a very precarious situation and I think will be in the best position to look at the law, interpret it and take a decision in the best interest of Nigeria."
However, affirming that the election could not take place as scheduled on account of the sheer logistics involved in replacing Adefarati on the ballot paper, Senator Manager said: "This thing came up on the floor of the Senate and we argued it that the death of a candidate would definitely affect the election. The death of Adefarati will definitely affect the presidential election.
"That provision is there in the Electoral Act and I am sure INEC will invoke it for obvious reasons. The death of a candidate will affect the election.
It is unfortunate it will set the hands of the clock backward. He is an elder statesman of this country, his death will definitely not only affect the election, but we will miss him. Nigerians will miss him," he said.
"They (INEC) are talking of printing of ballot papers with the names, there are many administrative problems that are likely to be encountered in the process and they (AD) have to go back to their national convention to pick their candidate. It is not something that can be done within three weeks," Senator Manager said as he, however, affirmed that INEC would in the end be the decider on the issue.
"We will wait and see what INEC will come up with. One wouldn't want to presume about what is going to be the likely INEC reaction but I think the unfolding political drama will be an interesting one to watch," he said.
President Olusegun Obasanjo at a PDP rally in Abuja called Adefarati a worthy presidential candidate and called for a minute silence in his honour.
Vice President Atiku Abubakar in his reaction described the death of Chief Adefarati as a big loss to Nigerian democracy. His Campaign Organisation described Chief Adefarati as one of the nation's titans of democracy whose place would be difficult to fill, saying: "He died at this point in time when Nigeria's democracy is facing its most trying period. As an apostle of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Adefarati was a committed democrat and an educator par excellence. His service in the government of Chief Adekunle Ajasin, himself another of Nigeria's greatest leaders, attests to his enviable record as a leader of men.
Ondo State government described the death of the former governor as a shock and a great loss to the country. The state Information Commissioner, Prince John Mafo, said "Chief Adefarati lived a fulfilled life, no matter the age. His death particularly at this time is source of great loss to Nigeria, Ondo State and his family.We shall greatly miss him. The state government would soon make an official statement on the matter."
The commissioner said the former governor would be given a state burial being a former governor of the state.
Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, National Chairman of the party, said he was devastated and destabilised, describing him as a very trusted and reliable friend.
Akinfenwa, who spoke in Ibadan said he would never disappoint him and that his legacy would not be allowed to die.
His words: "I respected him a lot. He still remains golden to me even at death. I have known him for upward of 40 years. Throughout the crisis that rocked the AD, he remained unwavering, assuring me each time that it would soon be over.
"I also would never forget him because of the five governors who won the ticket of AD, he was the only one that stood with the party, saying constantly that the dreams of Awolowo must not die," he said.
Acting Leader of the Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, when contacted said it was a rumour and that he would not comment. Chief Fasoranti said he was in Ijebu Igbo for a meeting and would not want to comment on what he was not sure of Second Republic governor of Lagos state and an associate of Chief Adefarati, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, broke down in tears on hearing the news. He described him as a great Awoist.
However, National Chairman of the Democratic People's Alliance (DPA), Chief Olu Falae, in his comment said his death was a great loss to Nigeria and Afenifere.
According to him, his death is also a blow to the progressives in the country and prayed that God would give the family the fortitude to bear the loss.
The governorship candidate of the Labour Party and a former Health Commissioner in Adefarati administration, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, described Chief Adefarati's death as a blow to the progressives and a rude shock to the camp of the progressives in the nation's political firmament.
Mimiko, who served in the Adefarati regime as Health Commissioner was at his bedside on Wednesday at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo where he paid him a visit.
Mimiko who is currently contesting for the governorship seat of Ondo State on the platform of Labour Party prayed God to give the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss
Another former Commissioner for Education, Chief Femi Aluko, described it as a rude shock. "Nigeria has lost one of its veteran politicians, a loyalist of Awolowo and Ajasin. He would be remembered for his politics of peace unlike what is happening now. No matter what anybody says, he tried his best," he said.
Former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, described the late Chief Adefarati as a highly principled man who was a stickler for discipline and time keeping.
Chief Osoba said Adefarati was not just a colleague governor but a close family friend. "He was a highly principled person. Ever punctual to every meeting and every ceremony. He was a stickler for discipline and time keeping.
"As an old breed and experienced politician, he made meaningful contributions at Council of State, Governors' Forum, party level and Afenifere," he said.
Chairman of the Alliance for Democracy in Ogun State, Chief Duro Aikulola, in his reaction said the death was shocking and most painful. "He died at a time when he is so much needed and loved, when his services are so much needed for the party," he said.
Story of his life
Chief Adebayo Adefarati was born on February 14, 1931 at Akungba-Akoko. At the age of nine, he was enrolled at Holy Trinity Anglican Primary School, Akungba-Akoko and left for St. John's, Oka-Akoko for Standards 5 and 6 education.
For secondary education, the late Chief Adefarati attended Victory College, Ikare between 1949 and 1954.
After Advanced Level courses, the former governor was admitted to the University College, Ibadan in 1958 to read History, Latin and Religious Studies. He graduated in 1961 and immediately thereafter launched his teaching career starting at Kiriji Memorial College, Igbajo. By 1966, he was made Principal of George Burton Memorial College, Ilesha. He moved in 1967 to Atakumosa Grammar School, Osu as Principal and finally retired from the teaching profession in 1975.
The late Chief Adefarati first expressed interest in politics in 1954, shortly after leaving secondary school. He got involved in local politics, playing a support role in the affairs of the Action Group until the party was proscribed by the military following the military take over of government in 1966.
However, by the time the military instituted a transition programme in 1975, Adefarati felt he had done enough in teaching and chose to move to the political arena. As a grassroots man, he started from the local government level by seeking appointment into the Akoko Local Government Management Body in 1976. He became a staunch member of the Committee of Friends in Ondo State under the leadership of late Chief Adekunle Ajasin, himself a former Principal and educationist.
When the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) emerged from the Committee of Friends, Chief Adefarati was one of those who took the party's gospel to all parts of Ondo State, especially Akokoland. He was rewarded with a place in the Ajasin cabinet in 1979 as a Commissioner. He remained in that position until the military terminated the life of the Second Republic on December 31, 1983.
He contested the Ondo State gubernatorial election on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and won. He was Governor of the state from 1999 to 2003.
Words on marble
"My lowest moment was when I was put in detention in 1984. I became Commissioner for Local Government and Community development in the government of late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin. After 18 months I was reappointed Commissioner for Works and we all worked conscientiously. Yet, the military detained us. It was really a low moment."
"...A politician does not retire until he dies. Since I left Government House in 2003, I have retired to my home town because you do not expect me at my age that I want to contest for this or that.
"Well, it's not possible to fulfill every dream, 3especially when you have a short span of four years, but, basically all the programmes of my party, Alliance for Democracy-- Free Education, Free Health, Full and Gainful Employment and Integrated Rural Development were properly attended to. The records are there for everyone to see what we did. Even most of the things we never thought of doing, we were able to do. I mean, we never thought of establishing a university when I was campaigning, but now, I thank God that we were able to establish one, that one in Akungba. In later years, we will be proud of it."