Blackbox Nigeria


Osun: Unearthing the Root Causes

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Olawale Olaleye

I wasn’t surprised that my last week’s intervention on the state of play in Osun State as it concerns the ruling APC attracted the sort of reactions it garnered. I’m not talking about the social media commentaries, but the feedbacks from some of the active players, who thought they owed me some insights.

My surprise, however, was how those who engaged me did, taking their time to explain some of the undercurrents I didn’t know, even though I’d long sought to understand how things became this bad amongst the gladiators.

Their various explanations threw some intelligible light on certain grey areas and now, going forward, I can begin to dimension the issues in Osun APC and perhaps, fairly project into the next election in the state, even though some of the variables are still mercurial.

Let’s start with what many reckoned was responsible for the alleged animosity between former Governor Rauf Aregbesola and his political daddy, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. On this, three of the people, who spoke to me, including a member of the Governor Gboyega Oyetola government, agreed.

Aregbesola was almost done in office and the succession concerns were trite. He knew two people – Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande – would have a say in whoever succeeded him and he was not conflicted about that fact. But he also thought he should have a say, at least, after eight years as governor and supposedly understanding the dynamics of the politics of the state better, being the outgoing governor.

But Tinubu did not want to waste his time or dwell needlessly on the matter when he told him straight up it was his cousin and Aregbesola’s Chief of Staff, Oyetola. Unfortunately, the outgoing governor was almost certain Oyetola would be a hard-sell, not on account of competence or capacity, but the political configuration of the state, particularly zoning, a critical factor other aspirants had built momentum to.

Chief Akande and former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola – both from Osun Central – had spent, cumulatively, 11 and a half years in office. Aregbesola, from Osun East, had just completed eight years, thus, naturally, expectations were that Osun West should take a turn, a situation that put Oyetola, another candidate from the central, in a not-too-comfortable spot.

To confirm Aregbesola’s concern, an entire exco in Iragbiji Ward 1, had reportedly resigned, when Oyetola emerged the party’s candidate. For the record, Oyetola is from Iragbiji. But that didn’t matter to Tinubu. It was what he wanted and he allegedly asked Aregbesola two debilitating questions.

One, was there anything he had asked of him that he did not oblige? He said no. Two, if he had ever asked him for anything? To that too, Aregbesola said no. And so, he shut down the conversation thus: “This, I ask of you and that’s who I want as your successor”. Immediately, Aregbesola allegedly concurred.

But given his predilection, Tinubu, took offence in the fact that Aregbesola could even look him in the face and say no, however nicely put. That, for him, questioned his loyalty. This, all of those, who spoke to me claimed, was the beginning of the feud between Asiwaju and Ogbeni. That’s not ceasing soon.

Perhaps, Tinubu’s conclusion was, if in spite of all he’d done for the man, he could say no to him on a matter like this, because of a clash of interests and knowing the relationship between him (Asiwaju) and Oyetola, then, time to start cutting Aregbesola to size has come. More powers to Aregbesola, he might have thought, could mean more risk to his political dynasty.

Moving forward, Oyetola became the candidate and a product to be directly marketed by Ogbeni and on his own record, which he did to the best of his ability. Even though I still share the belief that the difficult outcome of the 2018 poll, which APC could not win convincingly, was a referendum on Aregbesola’s eight years of governorship, these two started their own battle immediately after the election.

The sparring started fully, when Aregbesola, allegedly appointed persons into two critical positions for the governor – his chief of staff and secretary to the state government. As chief of staff, Aregbesola picked Alhaji Rasaq Salinsile and for the office of the SSG, he wanted the then speaker, Hon. Najeem Salam.

Expectedly, Oyetola disagreed. He argued that he should be allowed to choose as chief of staff, whoever he thought he could work with, and instead of Salinsile, he chose Dr. Charles Akinola, another strong ally of Aregbesola.

Aregbesola’s people held the view that the reason the former governor suggested Salinsile, who was previously the secretary of the party in the state, was because he also took over from Oyetola as acting chief of staff, when Oyetola resigned to run, thus, naturally, he thought he should continue since he already understood the office. But, of course, without first running it by the governor.

There’s yet another debate around the person of Salinsile, which also came up later. Once the governor turned him down as potential chief of staff, he was again positioned as chairman of the party, where he had been secretary. But the governor still preferred the incumbent chairman, Gboyega Famodun, who is from the same central senatorial district as him, to continue.

Oyetola is from Iragbji, while Famodun is from Igbajo, under the same central senatorial district, federal constituency and state constituency. Yet, allowing Salinsile, who is from Osun West, many argued, could have allowed for the requisite political balancing. Alhaji Salinsile is now the chairman of Aregbesola’s recently declared faction of the APC.

For the office of the SSG, Oyetola didn’t mind Salam as suggested by Ogbeni. But the man wanted to eat his cake and still have. He was asked to resign as speaker to take up the new role. Instead, he asked them to let him complete his speakership and join later. Of course, government could not wait for such a cheapskate like him and Oyetola picked someone else for the office.

In fact, Salam’s decision later earned him more enemies as the man waiting to take over from him as speaker, if he had taken the new role, is yet to forgive him. After all, that would have added to his CV. But when people are small-minded, they could be irredeemable, sometimes.

Away from this was the compelling reversal of some of Aregbesola’s controversial policies on education, including the categorization of schools and the single uniform debacle. It was a campaign promise, which Oyetola could not run away from. He had made subtle promises to review them during the campaigns, including the fact that his team believed it was also responsible for why they almost lost the election.

In fact, at the first cabinet meeting, the Commissioner for Education, Hon. Folorunsho Bamisayemi, allegedly came with a lot of items for consideration and topping the chart were the education issues. He also actually wanted a decision taken at that maiden cabinet meeting, but the governor chose to handle it differently by setting up a committee, headed by Professor Olu Aina, to consider the possibility of reversing the policies.

Thus, after the committee reported back that it was popular to reverse them, he did and Aregbesola concluded it was a move to undo his legacy and their misgivings ticked up. But while even some of the governor’s people thought he should have informed Aregbesola of the decision, when it generated controversies, Oyetola reckoned it would be an effort in futility, knowing his former boss.

Interestingly, the Education commissioner, who led the charge to reverse the policies was the House Committee Chairman on Education for the eight years that Aregbesola was in office and was obviously comfortable with the policies then. These are some of the reasons the Aregbesola people, believed there were political slants to the reversal, beyond concerns raised by the people, the locals, especially.

On the contrary, the governor’s people contended that if it was actually centred around naked politics, then, there were many unviable projects by the Aregbesola government that they could have abandoned or reversed to show they were up in arms against him. But, they chose not to, in larger interest.

There’s also the talk about Aregbesola promising a sizable number of the people, who worked with him that the Oyetola cabinet would reabsorb them and when that did not happen, it further escalated their enmity. The Aregbesola people, however, see this narrative as a deliberate move to de-market them and sustain the staying power of the Oyetola administration.

Apparently, when the misunderstanding had begun to balloon, the governor contacted Aregbesola to come and revalidate his membership of the APC, since he (Oyetola) and Baba Akande had done theirs. Besides, he wanted this done on time, because he was expecting to receive Senator Iyiola Omisore, who was waiting to join the APC. To that extent, he didn’t want Senator Omisore to join, when Aregbesola had not revalidated his membership.

But they claimed Aregbesola kept giving excuses. If he wasn’t joining President Muhammadu Buhari to Katsina today, he would be going to Kwara with Alhaji Lai Muhammed to resolve the crisis in the party in the state, another day. This lingered until the governor beckoned on Omisore to join the APC. What this meant to the two parties was that, they knew the battleline had been drawn and there was no need for any more pretences.

Some sources also hinted as part of the problem, the fact that Aregbesola wanted Oyetola, even as governor, to be receiving him at the airport each time he came to town. Of course, that was not going to happen, making it another sin that allegedly counted against the governor.

But many of these have been dismissed as sheer lies by the Aregbesola people, who claimed if those controversial policies were actually the election issues, they should have affected Aregbesola’s re-election in 2014 – an election they boasted he won with over 100 thousand votes, at a time the federal government in power was the PDP. They also alleged abandonment of projects, citing the weed-outgrown Freedom Park.

Now, rummaging through this catalogue of issues, it is evident Osun is not at ease at the moment and its fortune has yet to settle as far as 2022 election is concerned. Yet, it is interesting to hear the governor’s camp boast with utter confidence that the election, though not going to be a walkover, would be theirs to lose.

On the other side, while it is very unlikely that Ogbeni Aregbesola might play any anti-party, being a party man and knowing that he built the party in the state, how he intends to muddle through the confusion he has created by himself is yet to be seen, having declared that there’s a faction of APC, which he leads, in the state. That, again, is confirming the battleline, and as they say on the social media, “with his full chest”.

In the end, it is only hoped that reason would prevail, when the implications are thoroughly analysed and the bigger picture stares all in the face. But, in truth, and as it is evident, all is currently not well with Osun APC and clearly, one thing is certain: no one can muscle anyone in this year’s election. It is either their record speaks for them or against them.

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