Not many people in Osun State, especially keen political watchers were surprised when the immediate past governor of the state, Gboyega Oyetola, was defeated in the July 16 governorship election. To some, Oyetola’s electoral loss had been foretold while others were of the view that it was strategically planned out by his predecessor and political rival, Rauf Aregbesola.
Following their unresolved rift, Aregbesola had insisted that Oyetola, who served as his Chief of Staff during his (Aregbesola) eight years tenure, would not taste a second term. After the Minister of Interior failed in his bid to clinch the 2022 Osun APC gubernatorial ticket for a former Secretary to the State Government, Moshood Adeoti in February 2021 primary of the party, Aregbesola and his loyalists formed a splinter group known as The Osun Progressives.
Although TOP had said its aim was to save the party from the ruins its leadership allegedly subjected it to and also work towards preventing APC from suffering an electoral loss in the Osun July 16 election, the group has been accused of voting against Oyetola purportedly on the order of Aregbesola.
One of the strong loyalists of Aregbesola, Kolapo Alimi, a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, had in the build-up to the poll, defected to the People’s Democratic Party in the state. In what appeared like a confirmation of TOP’s romance with Adeleke and the PDP, some other loyalists of the minister including the erstwhile factional Chairman of Osun APC, Rasaq Salinsile attended the inauguration of Adeleke as the 6th executive governor of the state on November 27.
After what seems like a ‘mission accomplished’ through the dislodgement of Oyetola from the State Government House and the exit of the former Chairman, Adegboyega Famodun from the party, members of TOP on December 6, resolved to sheathe their sword and settle their political differences which have lingered for over three years and defiled various attempts of reconciliation.
The group, led by former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam, announced the dissolution of all factions. Addressing a press conference in Osogbo, Salaam who led other APC members, the majority of who are loyalists of Aregbesola, declared a cessation of hostilities within the APC, just as he invited other progressives in other caucuses in the party such as the Ilerioluwa group, loyal to Oyetola, to join them in the new project of reuniting members of the party.
While announcing a new name for the group, ‘Omoluabi Progressives’, Salam said, “we are hereby dissolving The Osun Progressives and the faction of the party associated with it to facilitate the unity of purpose that this time requires. For effective closure, we will have a truth and reconciliation forum within the party when fully restructured with the sole purpose of preventing any recurrence of the ugly past.
“With this hand of fellowship and the olive branch, it is my belief that a new vista of hope, vision, passion and action will emerge in our party. We are Omoluabi in politics and everything we do. Omoluabi is the Yoruba encapsulation of the total person. An Omoluabi is a person of honour and integrity. An Omoluabi is chivalrous, enlightened, spiritual, kind-hearted and public-spirited. An Omoluabi is not greedy, vicious, selfish or self-serving. Omoluabi personifies the very best of virtues,” Salaam stressed.
“Whatever has a beginning must definitely have an end. What they (TOP) did was like a mission accomplished because TOP was formed primarily to ensure that former governor Adegboyega Oyetola never return as a governor for a second term”
BATTLE FOR OSUN APC LEADERSHIP
Now that the APC has taken up an opposition role in Osun, a fresh battle for the leadership of the party has ensued. While loyalists of Aregbesola are claiming that the minister remains the party leader after Bisi Akande, those in Oyetola’s camp are insisting that the immediate past governor is still in control of Osun APC despite its electoral loss.
While responding to TOP’s dissolution and readiness to make peace, Taju Lawal, the State Acting Chairman of the party mainstream, in a statement saluted the courage of the dissolved leaders and members of the group to toe the line of peace and asked them to join in campaigns towards the party victory in 2023.
While acknowledging the leadership of Oyetola, Lawal said, “the decision of TOP to toe the path of working with the mainstream is a welcome development as our leader, the immediate-past Governor Gboyega Oyetola, is also favourably disposed to any genuine and authentic reconciliation.
“Therefore, we call on all members of the now disbanded group to reintegrate with the party at their respective wards and local government and join in the party’s activities towards the 2023 General Elections in respect of the Presidential, National and State Assemblies Election,” Lawal stated.
“On behalf of the state leadership of our party, the current state executive committee of our party and the entire leaders and members of our party across the state, I hereby state that we are not opposed to genuine reconciliation.
“If one does not forget the injustices of yesterday, it will be pretty difficult to have playmates. The state APC acting chairman, however, disclosed that the party executive under his watch would initiate and call a meeting anytime it is deemed necessary for such meeting(s),” he added.
But one of Aregbesola’s loyalists, Oluwaseun Abosede, differed saying that Aregbesola is the leader of the party in the state.
He said, “What yardstick makes Oyetola a leader over Ogbeni Aregbesola? Why on earth should anybody place Oyetola above Ogbeni Aregbesola? He (Aregbesola) was a governor in the state before him (Oyetola), he (Oyetola) served in his government as the Chief of Staff and he (Aregbesola) is a current Minister.”
WE CAN’T TRUST TOP EASILY – OYETOLA’S CAMP
Oyetola’s camp has said it would take time for it to trust the dissolved TOP, adding that the loyalists of Aregbesola must be seen to have been remorseful and apologise for working against Oyetola at the poll before they would be fully accepted and trusted in the mainstream party.
Speaking, Kehinde Ayantunji, a former Senior Special Assistant to former Governor Oyetola on Student Affairs and Social Mobilisation, claimed that TOP dissolved its structure to do damage control over moves by its members to defect to PDP.
He said, “They (TOP) must be remorseful before we know they are sincere. They have done the worst because the worst that could happen to a party is to lose an election. They have to apologise. Despite that we lost an election, we have been enjoying peace in our party and have been having our meetings. We don’t want any distractions, that’s why we are asking if they are remorseful and sincere.
“We are not concerned about leadership ranking. Baba Akande is our number-one leader in Osun.
“Whatever has a beginning must definitely have an end. What they (TOP) did was like a mission accomplished because TOP was formed primarily to ensure that former governor Adegboyega Oyetola never return as a governor for a second term and that the tendency within the TOP to take over the APC by removing the former Chairman, Oba Adegboyega Famodun, but the perception of their readiness for reconciliation brings mixed feelings of the good, the bad and the ugly.
“It is good in the sense that the strength of political parties in Nigeria is in their numerical size, the higher their number, the higher their strength. So, if they pledge sincerely not to breakaway anymore, that’s a very good development for our party because we will increase in number, but the bad aspect of it, considering their antecedent and precedence and the way they have conducted themselves in the last 15 months, if they still come with that character, definitely, it’s going to be a bad omen for our party, because it’s like when you want to change colour.
“You may be wearing black before and you choose to wear white; maybe that black has been isolated and stigmatized, and that’s why you now think, let me go and wear white so that I can appear in another manner but my character and attitudes never changed. And what is that attitude? The attitude is to fragment the party, disrespect and disparage the leadership of the party and to disobey the supremacy of the party. The last one which is the ugly aspect of it is that when you say you dissolve a splinter group, you are not also expected to have an appellation for whatever reason.
“You still come with an appellation of ‘Omoluabi Progressives’. That one may also serve as a pilot either to form a third force or to serve as a vehicle to also move to the ruling party. The most important thing is that are they sincere? Can they be trusted? Once bitten, twice shy. It’s their conduct and character that will determine whether they are to be trusted or not in days to come. As of today, we cannot determine that.
None of them has contacted the leadership of the party to discuss the genuineness of their actions. It’s a good development but with their previous conduct, you can hardly trust them. In fact, they were the major opposition we contended with. The game they played was the politics of determination that even if you beg us from now till eternity, we are determined.
“Nobody played politics of exclusion that they are accusing us of. What happened was that Alhaji Rasak Salinsile wanted to become party chairman and he was the secretary up till last year, 2021. Because he could not become the chairman, does that amount to politics of exclusion? What do you even mean by politics of exclusion? All of us worked with the former governor Rauf Aregbesola and 80 per cent of those in the cabinet of Gboyega Oyetola are products of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. They refused the terms and conditions of the Adamu Reconciliation Committee. Our party leaders have been reaching out to them but they said they don’t have any problem but that they should talk to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. And when our leaders talk to Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, he will say it’s not time yet.
“Some of them (TOP) worked with Senator Ademola Adeleke and they are now expecting appointments. The former governor (Aregbesola) is being very careful and people are now looking at him. The stigma that he (Aregbesola) provided vehicles that conveyed substantial members of TOP to PDP is still on him. Salinsile attended the inauguration of Adeleke and it’s going to be a stigma on the former governor. TOP members wanted to suspend Salinsile for openly hobnobbing with the PDP.
“The press conference addressed by TOP was damage control. It was to prevent the people from using the TOP platform to cross to the PDP, that’s their primary reason while their secondary reason is to reconcile with us,” he said.
POLITICS OF EXCLUSION, GENESIS OF OYETOLA’S FALL – MINISTER’S CAMP
Aregbesola’s camp has revealed that the electoral loss started staring Oyetola in the face immediately after he started excluding Aregbesola’s loyalists in his government, adding that he refused to heed warnings.
One of the Minister’s supporters and former Youth Leader in Osun APC, Oluwaseun Abosede, justified the presence of TOP members at Adeleke’s swearing-in ceremony, saying it was a sign that “we don’t play politics of bitterness.”
He said, “Lack of proper management of the party by former governor, Gboyega Oyetola and the former chairman, Gboyega Famodun, who is now a king in Igbajo, led to the electoral loss of APC in Osun. Then, we came in and said we have seen the way they were managing the party and we discovered that it was not within the tenet of democratic principle. They were practicing politics of exclusion on those that were believed to be loyalists of the former governor of Osun State, the predecessor of the past governor, Rauf Aregbesola. They shut outdoors against those who believe in his ideology and principles and we were saying that politics is not done in this way.
“So, there were crises in the party and we formed TOP to reposition the party, to teach them how it’s going to be done in order for us not to lose. Unfortunately, they didn’t listen to us and we lost. Now that we have lost, the strategy is now how to win the battle again because we have now become an opposition and the method we used when we were in government is going to be different from the one we used when we were in power.
So, now, we have said let’s come together, lay down all our swords to ensure that we wear the toga of Omoluabi to bring everybody back on board again, to give PDP a good run for their show and to ensure that we take power back in the next four years.
“They were saying they don’t exclude us. When we had the primary election, did they produce the names of those who won but didn’t? There was never a time they begged us. We are the ones begging them. They used their power to ensure that the Adamu Reconciliation Committee didn’t do anything. They didn’t share power with us. We never had it on record that Ogbeni Aregbesola rejected reconciliation. They dared us. It’s beyond the membership in TOP. They disparaged Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and shut him off. They never put his name in the campaign committee,” he said.
“Analysts have said that without genuine reconciliation between the affected APC political gladiators and a common front approach towards campaign and strategies, the July 16 scenario may repeat itself in the state on February 25”
POSSIBLE EFFECT ON TINUBU CHANCES
Like Oyetola, the Presidential Candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu may not garner any meaningful votes in Osun in 2023 if the feud between his blood relation, Oyetola and estranged political ally, Aregbesola is not resolved.
There also appears no love lost between the minister and Tinubu.
Aregbesola in his outburst ahead of the party’s governorship primary election in the state, said that enough is enough for the politics of godfatherism and enthronement by treacherous leaders who equated themselves to the status of a god.
The minister had said he trusted Tinubu, but the former governor of Lagos State repaid him with betrayal. He had also accused Tinubu and the ex-governor of Osun State, Bisi Akande, of forcing Oyetola on the people, against popular will.
“We followed him (Tinubu) dutifully with all sense of loyalty,” Aregbesola said.
“Some people even thought that we were no longer Muslims because of how we cooperated with him. We dealt with him without treachery but we never knew he planned evil for us.
“We exalted him beyond his status and he turned himself to a god over us and we had sworn to ridicule anyone who compared himself to God,” Aregbesola had said.
Ever since Aregbesola’s name was omitted from the party’s presidential Campaign Council, his followers in Osun have not started campaigning for Tinubu openly.
Analysts have said that without genuine reconciliation between the affected APC political gladiators and a common front approach towards campaign and strategies, the July 16 scenario may repeat itself in the state on February 25.