The frosty relationship between Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola and Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has festered worse lately, with supporters of the two often engaging in street brawls and pundits predicting undesirable outcomes for the Asiwaju Tinubu political family and the All Progressives Congress in future elections, writes Raheem Akingbolu
In the beginning
To say there is no love lost again between Osun state governor Gboyega Oyetola and his estranged godfather, former governor Rauf Aregbesola, is to commit an understatement and reiterating the obvious. What many had indeed witnessed as the taking off of a solid friendly association between a governor and his chief of staff then, culminating, at a time, in the former anointing the latter as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the 2018 primaries of the party in Osun state, is today a story of reverses and changes. Those who followed events well and far enough would noticed the friendly association between the ‘godson’ and his ‘godfather’ had progressed still soon upon emergence of Oyetola as governor in 2019 and early 2020, as Aregbesola would attend occasions and events of the state and would often even play key roles at some of such functions. To use a familiar expression, they (Oyetola and Aregbesola) were often always seen together. But no more. While the 'anointed' is today the governor, and the one who did the anointing has moved on to become the country's interior minister, they now hardly see eyeball to eyeball, even as their supporters often openly clash at occasions for reasons that many believe are nothing but political.
What began as mere rumour and guess works has now ballooned into real political conflagration in which both figures are hardly seen together, although both still struggle to pretend things were still normal with their relationship. Today, some of the legacies of the former governor, especially in the area of education have been reversed, while more reversals are still feared to be in the offing. Aregbesola’s loyalists are of the opinion that the policies were reversed not necessarily because they failed to achieve the desired result as claimed by Oyetola’s government, but that Oyetola only rubber stamped his cabinet into pushing through his plans to set aside Aregbesola’s legacies, while systematically consolidating his own hold on power. Power, they say, lies at the very roots of the entire issue!
Today, Oyetola has stopped the reclassification of school which saw to the merger of many schools, mostly secondary. The single uniform policy for all public schools has as well been stopped. Opon Imo (tablet computer), the only policy that one can argue survived the purge in a way, would be repackaged and reintroduced to schools, according to Funke Egbemode, Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, in a chat with the media after a State Executive Council meeting. Osun is apparently set for massive post-Arrgbesola changes.
Oyetola-Aregbesola debacle: the Omisore side
On Friday, 19 February 2021, Aregbesola was in his hometown, Ilesa, to renew and revalidate his membership of APC, but he did not end his leave peacefully. Aregbesola did not come with only songs and dance as usual. The minister came with a message which triggered fears among the politics barons in the state.
For two years earlier, Aregbesola had refrained from making political comments publicly, but, his declaration that new entrants such as killers and miscreants have joined the ruling party, All Progressives Congress proved he was no longer holiday.
He reminded his audience about the sad loss of Bola Ige, noting whoever denigrated Bola Ige is the enemy of the progressives and those who want to use Bola Ige’s tomb to climb to a higher height would not achieve their aim.
Aregbesola in a viral video said “Killers have joined our party and the law guiding our party doesn’t say we can’t admit them when a law court has not convicted them. You know the killers or you don’t know them? You know miscreants or you don’t know miscreants? If we will be in the same party, we will not accept anything that will denigrate Bola Ige. He was our father. In this area, Bola Ige was our father. Are you happy that Bola Ige was killed? I am a son to the late Bola Ige. Whoever denigrates Bola Ige is our enemy. Whoever wants to use Bola Ige’s tomb to climb to a higher height would not achieve his aim. When we want to aspire for a position here, your name and antecedent will determine how you will be treated.”
Aregbesola’s statement above, while being seen as capturing his assessment of Omisore and dismissive of his contribution to the APC success in 2019 rerun governorship election, is being beheld as revealing of his deep resentment of Oyetola who has since maintained his alliance with Omisore, an alliance which has lately culminated in Omisore’s decamping from PDP to APC. In consequence of anomalies noticed by the Independent National Electoral Commission in the first ballot in the Osun state governorship election then, Omisore had been persuaded by some APC chieftains to form a coalition with the ruling party against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the state awaited the rerun election in 2018. Omisore eventually accepted the overtures of APC, rejecting that of PDP. We all knew the result of this. In essence, Aregbesola’s attack on Omisore is aimed indirectly at Oyetola who is clearly interested in dislodging the crafty and hegemonic Aregbesola.
Many have traced the souring of the relationship between Aregbesola and Oyetola to the post rerun APC success. Many had indeed pointed accusing fingers at Aregbesola for indirectly plotting Oyetola’s electoral failure, especially against the failure to clinch victory in straight single ballot. Many indeed argued Aregbesola had refused to put in place the kind of neat arrangement he ensured during his own second term in office, a failure which they insisted culminated in the party’s going into a rerun with PDP and its candidate, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, justifiably considered as underdogs, against the massive image of both the then outgoing governor and his party. Oyetola and his boys, some of whom were mostly the old boys during Aregbesola’s tenure, had concluded Aregbesola should be punished and his political wings cut to size. He (Oyetola) reportedly refused to sign overdrafts and eventually handed over commissioner and advisers slots to Omisore-led coalition caucus.
Eventually, the constitution of Oyetola’s executive council revealed the breakaway from the Aregbesola yoke. The commissioners and special advisers were choices made not in concert with the Ilesa hegemon and his clique, as he had wanted, but with other forces, especially those of Omisore, not excluding that of the former governor, Chief Bisi Akande. It is generally believed Aregbesola had never hidden his love to dominate the politics of Osun state, a trait which showed clearly in his presence around Government House even after his official exit and his penchant to dictate the pace of things when he no longer was the governor. He had been noticed breaking protocol orders in the presence of and movement with governor Oyetola many times they had cause to meet at occasions.
Omisore became the toast of new governor Oyetola upon his emergence, precisely because of his weight in the Ife axis. He (Omisore) also came handy in the calculations towards finally dislodging Aregbesola who had garnered such massive weight over the years that he kept calling the shots, even after the emergence of Oyetola. Oyetola could not have preferred an Aregbesola behemoth who does not hide his schemes to be the baron of Osun politics. Omisore therefore came handy in dislodging Aregbesola.
How Omisore will not become so powerful as to become a cog in the wheel for Oyetola's possible second term aspirations will depend on how he manages the Ife lucky boy, particularly now that Aregbesola has bared his readiness to claim back what he seems to have lost.
A politician that he is, Oyetola is believed to have what it takes to survive the deluge Aregbesola is set to release. With 2022 return journey for Oyetola as a target, Omisore has to prove he is a worthy ally, being a politics tactician himself who has proven his mettle time and again in the Ife axis. Can Omisore replicate his winning streak as a supporter, and not as an aspirant?
No doubt, Omisore will have to do more than ensuring he delivers Ife, given the unhidden war between Oyetola and his ben factor, Aregbesola. The structure of APC in Osun state even as at today is that of Aregbesola, which still helped him minimally in clinching victory eventually. Both Omisore and Oyetola will have to redouble efforts to rework and renew the subsisting structure away from the Aregbesola years.
Aregbesola's Messianic posturing and the 96th month expose...
The 96th-month salary revelation about Aregbesola is a clear indication things have assumed the worst regarding his relationship with governor Oyetola. Aregbesola, who had claimed to donate his entire salaries for the eight years to charity, is lately exposed as having collected same at a go at the end of his tenure by ordering the State Accountant-General to effect a cheque to the effect and me was paid into his personal account in 2018.
According to reports, he was secretly paid 96 months salary arrears towards the end of his administration in 2018.
Aregbesola had boasted in public on many occasions regarding how he sacrificed his salaries throughout the eight years of his 2-term tenure in office as a result of his claimed personal conviction on what he described as inclusive governance. But the claim had been exposed as false through a revelation that towards the expiration of his administration in 2018, he ordered the Ministry of Finance, through the Accountant General's Office, to ensure he was paid for the entire eight years in office, amounting to several millions of Naira. The actual amount is however unknown yet.
The former governor, at different occasions and times, had also claimed not to operate any personal account throughout his tenure in office. But a very reliable source at the Ministry of Finance, who craved anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said there is a verifiable evidence to substantiate that the former Osun State helmsman received all accruing salaries meant for his office in bulk around October 2018.
The source said: "Although, I cannot specifically state the exact amount the 96 months salaries amounted to, what I can say is that it runs into several millions of naira, and the former governor was paid towards the end of his second term tenure in office, sometime around October, 2018,” the source said.
The story was corroborated by a senior official at the Accountant General office in the state, who said the payment was shrouded in secrecy.
Condemning the expose, a socio-political group in the State, Osun for Accountability, has lambasted Aregbesola for what it called lack of transparency and probity on the part of the former governor, as it called on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the Minister.
Speaking on behalf of the group, the State Coordinator, Comrade Adediwura Ominrin, clarified the action of the former governor was unbecoming of a personality he claimed to be during his 8-year tenure as a governor, describing him as a “political obscurantist”.
Omirin said the action of the former governor negated the tenets of progressive philosophy and the scope of good governance.
“It is now glaring that the former governor, Rauf Aregbesola, was so deceptive throughout his tenure in office. He ran a government of deception and double standard.
“It is criminal for a public officer older of this stature and status to say something in the open and went ahead to do another thing, especially when it has to do with finance. How could you have mopped up a whole sum of 96 months salaries while claiming not to collect a dime throughout your tenure,’’ he said.
But the Minister’s media adviser, Sola Fasure, insisted the ex-governor while in office did not collect any salary, adding “Best to my knowledge, Aregbesola did not collect any salary and he gave the reason for that. Aregbesola said the state provided house, security, vehicle and everything he needed.”
As things are, head or tail, political analysts are quick to conclude that the ongoing rancor between Governor Oyetola and Aregbesola may be the beginning of the end for the Asiwaju Tinubu political family because the two gentlemen are known to be major factors in the family.