In this report, OLUWOLE IGE gives an insight into a number of unspoken issues involved in the feud within the Osun State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), especially the brickbats between the loyalists of Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola and his successor as governor, Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola.
CLAIMS by most political observers that the All Progressives Congress (APC) chapter in Osun State is a divided house at the moment may not be wrong. The chain of happenings in the ruling party in the State of the Living Spring underscore that all is really not well, as loyalists of the state governor, Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola and his predecessor/Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesolaare engaged in ceaseless verbal exchanges on the state of affairs in the party and l over eadership style of the administration. What makes the battle of wits most curious is what could have thrown the spanner into the works of a relationship that has may have spanned a decade within the political space.
So far, the two main gladiators have maintained dignified silence onthe raging exchange of tantrums by their individual loyalists, leaving members of the public guessing on the reason detre for the cordial relationship between the two brothers suddenly going sour.
Insiders gave some inklings into the genesis of the cracks in the hitherto stone wall. One was said to be feeling of lack of inclusiveness in the administration, with one camp claiming to have been largely sidelined after collaborative efforts that won the 2018 election for APC. Another issue was said to be the different perspective of the governor to governance by the incumbent governor in a sharp contrast to the world view of his predecessor. The paradigm shift reportedly attracted admiration from many opposition party leaders and critical mass of the Osun populace. There is also the insinuation that the scramble for the political space of Osun is part of the fallouts from the raging battle for the soul of Lagos State, because of the emergence of a new power broker in Alimosho Local Government area. Having been displaced in the area, the Aregbesola camp was said to be desperately fighting to assert its control of Osun to serve as a base and a political chip for negotiation in the final buildup to 2023 general election. Yet, another account indicatesthe role of external forces in the battle between the camps struggling to hold on to the soul of Osun APC. Such forces are said to be colluding with some elements dissatisfied with state policy that now guides against narrow interest overriding the overall interest of the state, especially in the management of the resources of the state that is battling a heavy debt burden. There is equally the question about political patronage in the imbroglio, in the face of grim economic realities in the state. But to most party chieftains and observers, the current dingdong in the Osun APC, particularly between the rival camps in the party is more importantly about the 2022 governorship election coming up in the state. Beneath the open display of ego, flexing of muscles and battle of wits by the loyalists of the two leaders is the desire and determination to gain advantage and determine the touted second term aspiration of Governor Oyetola.
Notwithstanding rhetoric of denials, there remain various pointers to a real cold war between the camps of the past governor of Osun and current Minister for Interior and his successor, Aregbesola and his successor, as their foot soldiers spoil for war. According to sources, one of the main cause of the lost love between the followers of the gladiators was reversal of some controversial educational policies of the Aregbesola government, especially the reclassification of public schools and the adoption of single uniform for pupils. While the Oyetola administration contended that the change was based on public demand, which was authenticated by the Needs Assessment conducted UK/DFID, loyalists of Aregbesola alleged the action was a premeditated agenda to rubbish the legacies of the preceding administration. Some of the educational reforms of the Aregbesola era had generated much heated debate, passion and acrimony, with majority of main stakeholders in Osun expressing strong feelings and opposition, with a few according the reforms a salutary applause. As the camps papered over the way out of the faceoff, the issue arising from the formation of Oyetola’s cabinet triggered a new dimension to the cold war, following insinuation of a breached agreement. It was the claim in certain quarters that there was a gentleman agreement, that anybody that served as Aregbesola’ political appointees, either as commissioners or special advisers for two terms, would not be reappointed by Oyetola. Besides, under the said agreement, 60 percent of Oyetola’s appointees would comprise politicians or technocrats, who had not served in previous administration, while 40 per cent would be from Aregbesola’s associates, who only served for just a term.
While Oyetola was said to have kept to the terms of the agreement, loyalists of Aregbesola under the auspices of The Osun Progressives (TOP) claim otherwise. Some Aregbesola’s former appointees that made the new cabinet include the current Commissioner for Finance, Mr Bola Oyebamij; the Commissioner for Works, Mr Remi Omowaye. But, the legal adviser to TOP, Mr Kolapo Alimi, who was also a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs during Aregbesola’s administration, declared that the group of the group had nothing to do with political appointment or patronage. Rather, he claimed it was Oyetola’s meddlesomeness in APC’s affair by not allowing restructuring of the party. Apparently, neither camp has disputed the issue about a power-sharing formula.
The crisis dovetailed into the recent conduct of APC ward and local government congresses, resulting into accusations and counter-accusations by the camps. TOP members rejected the adoption of consensus arrangement to for the congresses alleging that Oyetola bought all the forms for the exercise for his preferred candidates. So, TOP headed for the party secretariat in Abuja and purchased interest forms for its members to enable its members contest at the congresses. It conducted a parallel ward congress, which was later declared illegal, null and void by APC congress committee for Osun. Findings showed that a day to the congress, none of the known allies of Aregbesola, attended an APC stakeholders meeting held at the Osun Government House in Osogbo, where the leadership of the party told Mr GbengaElegbeleye-led Congress committee that the state would align with the suggestion of the national body and adopt consensus candidates across all wards in the state.
Tension later trailed the outcome of congresses, as announced by the committee. The TOP members presented petition before the Ward Congress Appeal Committee. When the Ambassador Obed Wadzani-led Osun APC Ward Congress Appeal Committee commenced sitting on August 14, 2021, members of TOP stormed the state secretariat of the party with several petitions, in addition to 32 initially addressed to the committee.
On its part, the pro-Oyetola group called Ileri Oluwa besieged the state APC secretariat in droves wearing their symbolic orange colour fez caps, with a large inscription ‘Oyetola 4+4.’ The development heightened tempers in the Ogo Oluwa area of Osogbo, where the party office is located, culminating into a free-for-all between members of the contending groups at the venue of the committee sitting leaving one Muyideen Ajetumobi injured. It was gathered that the groups had planned to use the ward congress in the state to finalise their individual plans to install their preferred candidate as state chairman to pave the way for their preferred choice for governorship race next year.
Prior the fracas at the party office, Aregbesola’s loyalists had demanded removal of the current caretaker chairman, Prince GboyegaFamoodun, accusing him of compromise, while the camp of Oyetola alleged that TOP members’ preferred candidate for chairman was Rasaq Salinsile. The Oyetola group feared that the emergence of a candidate of the Aregbesola camp as chairman could scuttle the second term bid the incumbent governor.
Many faithful are already expressing deep concern over the immediate and long term implications of the smouldering crisis in the party. They are leading the advocacy for genuine reconciliation to save the state from a possible bedlam, because, according to them, some of the loyalists fighting the proxy battle on behalf of their principals harbor personal issues. They cited issue of nonpayment of severance package of members of last cabinet approved for them by Aregbesola a few hours before he handed over power. Interestingly, some of the party leaders have admitted the rising level of the disagreement in the ruling party in the state. One of the leaders is Alimi, who asserted that there was no cohesion in Osun APC at the moment. His words: “Our party is fragmented along various interests and we are in a precarious situation. We have different groups, different interests and the party is fragmented, segregated along various interests. As at today in Osun, we don’t have common front in the APC. Our party has not been so fragmented in its history right from the AD days when Chief BisiAkande was the leader of the party, we had a united party.
“The situation was like that until the time of Action Congress (AC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) when Aregbesola was the leader of the party and governor of the state. We had a united party. That was why it was easy for us to defeat the PDP in 2014 and up till 2018, we had a united party despite the campaign of calumny here and there.”
“But now, our party has been divided. The main reason for that happened to be the political style of our governor. Shortly after he came on board, he started alienating members of the party, most especially any perceived member loyal to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. This is quite strange because Governor Oyetola served for eight years as Chief of Staff under the regime of Aregbesola.”
Alimi said the expectation was that incumbent governor was going to build on the foundation laid by the Aregbesola administration in eight years, having been the Chief of Staff in that government. According to the lawyer, “It would have been a different ball game entirely if he had come from outside though as an APC member, we may say he doesn’t want to have anything to do with Aregbesola. But, this is a man that served as his Chief of Staff for eight years. He started rubbishing all the legacies of Aregbesola and anybody perceived to be loyal to Aregbesola would have to be alienated.”
“Although when you see him (Oyetola), he would talk calmly, it takes a great psychologist to detect what is in his mind. That was why he pretended for almost eight years. Anyway, this is my personal opinion. He had deep seated animosity against Aregbesola. So, because many people in politics determine their loyalty based on what they are going to eat and that is why some people are following him (Oyetola).
“Whoever is in this state and want to say the truth would tell you that that is the fact. He had started reversing all the policies of Aregbesola, not because any court has outlawed it, but just giving flimsy excuse just to give the dog a bad name in order to hang it. But, the real reason is just to rubbish Aregbesola on reclassification of schools, single uniform, parliamentary system which we adopted at the local government level in order to save cost.
Most of the claims by Alimi over the current crisis in Osun APC were pooh-poohed by the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Oyetola, Mr Ismail Omipidan. Describing those claims by TOP members generally totally as untrue and unjustifiable, he said the constitution of APC was unambiguous about who is the leader of the party at the state level. “The APC Constitution is very clear about who is the leader of the party in any state where the party controls the government. As far as APC is concerned, there is no division. Mr Governor does not recognise any faction in the party and does not give preferential treatment to any group or individual within the party. There has always been this allegation that people are in IleriOluwa and TOP. If you look at the history of the party in the state, TOP just came into being about three or four months ago, but, IleriOluwa was a platform upon which the governor pursued his gubernatorial ambition in 2018. Once the governorship election is over, the campaign structure stands dissolved. Because IleriOluwa is a platform that if in the future, Mr Governor want to run for any office, it’s a platform that he would still use. That does not mean that that platform is different from APC.”
On the allegation that Oyetola had rubbished Aregbesola’s legacies by reversing his policies, Omipidan stated: “As an individual and as a leader, you must be willing to look inward into whatever decision you may have taken and be sure that the decision is in the best interest of the people, especially those you are holding power in trust. First, we must look at the historical background of the policy reversal. There is what we know as unintended consequences, which as at the time you are taking the decision, you may not have taken those consequences into consideration. I want to believe very strongly that as at the time the decision on single uniform and reclassification of schools was taken, nobody thought about those unintended consequences. But, in the last two years that Mr Governor has been in the saddle, I am aware that he had had cause to even reverse himself on certain issues. Because when you take a decision as a leader and you are confronted with a superior argument, a good leader should do a rethink and take another look at that decision.”
The face-off between the two camps, according to observers, may have just begun, given the various stages and programmes that would culminate into the emergence of the standard-bearer of the APC for the 2022 governorship poll.
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