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The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun State began, shortly after the swearing-in of Governor Gboyega Oyetola in November 2019. As the cold war persists, the two major gladiators are not ready to admit that something is amiss. But, their supporters usually engage in recriminations at the slightest opportunity. Correspondent TOBA ADEDEJI reports
Next year, Osun State will go to poll to elect a governor that will steer the ship of the state for another four years. Going by the electoral law, political parties are the only vehicles that can convey candidates to electoral offices. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would have ruled Osun State for 12 years by the time Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s first term expires next year. The party took over the reins of power in November 2010, when the current Minister for the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola wrestled power from Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) through court rulings. Aregbesola won his re-election into the office in 2014, after he defeated Senator Iyiola Omisore by over 100,000 votes. He later handed over power to Oyetola in 2018.
Oyetola, who served under Aregbesola as Chief of Staff, defeated the candidate of the PDP during the 2018 governorship election, Senator Ademola Adeleke by 482 votes, after supplementary elections in seven polling units spread across four local governments where the electorates could not exercise their franchise on the D-day for one reason or the other. At the end of the tally of votes, Oyetola scored 255,505 votes, while Senator Adeleke garnered 255,023 votes. The victory was made possible after Omisore who was the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) backed the APC.
Since Oyetola assumed office, there has been internal wrangling between the followers of Aregbesola and the incumbent governor over some issues within the party. A source close to the Aregbesola camp disclosed to The Nation that the root cause of bickering is not unconnected with Oyetola’s nomination of Senator Omisore for ministerial appointment after President Muhammadu Buhari secured his second term in 2019. He said: “It was Aregbesola’s political relevance that made him clinch the appointment because it was a bit difficult for him as a result of the nomination of Omisore by Governor Oyetola. Aregbesola felt cheated that the one who served him as Chief of Staff and he handed over to as governor could prefer a stranger over him when it comes to political matter.”
On December 3, 2020, APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu tried to broker peace between the governor and his predecessor. The meeting was held in the country home of the former Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande in Ila Oragun, Osun State, with both Oyetola and Aregbesola in attendance.
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The two political gladiators had always debunked the claim that there is a rift between them. They had always insisted that they are at peace with each other. For instance, the minister had disclosed while answering questions from reporters in his residence in Ilesha on December 19, 2020, that he was not quarrelling with Governor Oyetola.
Following his appointment as the Minister of Interior, Aregbesola had stayed away from the state. Observers attributed it to the misunderstanding between him and his successor. But, he later explained that the only reason why he stayed away from the state was to enable Oyetola to settle down as governor. He said he is back in the state to strengthen the ruling APC and make it more relevant. He added that he will engage people to make the party grow.
Despite the claims from both sides, it is obvious that there is a rift between the governor and his predecessor. The followers of the incumbent and the ex-governor have been openly displaying animosity towards each other, particularly on social media platforms. This became noticeable when Governor Oyetola reversed some policies initiated during the Aregbesola era, particularly the one on education.
Governor Oyetola’s Chief Press Secretary, Ismail Omipidan indicated during a radio talk show, Frank Talk that his principal took the step because the policy appears to be unpopular among the people. He said: “The reason why the APC scored low during the 2018 governorship election was because of protest votes against some policies and steps of Aregbesola. As such, those policies needed to be reconsidered. The crux of the policy was on education, with compulsory single uniform for students, schools reclassification and the issue of half salary for civil servants.”
It also became noticeable that the Oranmiyan, the campaign group of Aregbesola was not showing up for government programmes. This caused the Oyetola campaign group, the Ileri Oluwa group to take over the functions of this political group in subsequent government functions across the state. Similarly, during the 10th anniversary of progressives’ leadership in the state, some sympathizers of the minister, comprising of the senators and House of Representatives members elected on the party’s platform chose to organise a parallel programme, which was graced by the former governor to mark. This was apparently they knew that the minister would not attend the one organized by the governor.
The feud took another dimension after a political group, The Osun Progressive (TOP), a group within the party, was inaugurated in Osogbo, the state capital, by the party’s former chairman, Lowo Adebiyi. Aregbesola was named the chairman its Board of Trustees. Most of those that formed the group were former aides and commissioners who served under the former governor.
Adebiyi said the aim of setting up the group was to ensure that the APC does not suffer electoral loss in the next governorship election in the state. He lamented that the party has lost popularity because of the weak leadership of Prince Adegboyega Famodun, its Osun State chairman, amongst other things. He said TOP is a caucus within the APC with genuine concern for the party.
However, chieftains of the party have described TOP as ‘a splinter group’. For instance, Chief Adewale Bamigbade said it is unfortunate that a group emerged from within to cause crisis within the fold. “It is simply a splinter group, which is not necessary at this time,” he added.
Similarly, Prince Famodun said the management of the party was not vested in a pressure group. He added that if the group has any idea that could be of benefit to the party, it should channel it to the appropriate authorities. He said the group is not recognized and that no one would be allowed to rebel against the party’s leadership.
He added: “The constitution of the party doesn’t recognise any splinter group within the entity called APC. There is no role for the former acting chairman in the management of the party. As a leader of the party, if you believe in a cause, there are organs of the party through which such grievances could be channelled. But when you go outside all those structures or you don’t believe in those structures, then you should not consider yourself as a member of the party anymore. You cannot rebel against a constituted authority within the party.”
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Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lasun Yussuf distanced himself from the group, saying he does not belong to the same political bloc as Aregbesola. Many of the loyalists of Oyetola also distanced themselves from TOP, while they endorsed Governor Oyetola for a second term in office. The group renewed the disaffection between the two gladiators.
Former party scribe and factional chairman, Abdulrasaq Salinsile, a loyalist of Aregbesola had alleged that three cabinet members of Oyetola frustrated the installation of Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi as the Otun Oba of Iwo land because he was in the camp of Aregbesola. He said the court order stopping the Oluwo from installing him as Otun Oba was just a face-saving gimmick; because it was politically motivated.
In the recent congresses, loyalists of Aregbesola rebelled against the consensus candidates presented by the party leadership for ward, local government and state level by organizing parallel congresses. Shortly after the ward congress, a five-man Appeal Committee led by Amb. Obed Wadzani was set up to address the grievances of members. But, curiously, loyalists of Aregbesola, led by Adelowo Adebiyi stormed the APC secretariat with petitions, alleging that they were excluded in the process. The scenario later snowballed into a crisis, as hoodlums invaded the premises of the secretariat and began shooting sporadically in the air.
Aregbesola’s loyalists, under the aegis of TOP organised another parallel state congress, which produced Salinsile as party chairman on October 16. Meanwhile, Famodun had indicated that a reconciliation committee will be set up to appeal to the aggrieved members. He said Osun APC is ready for the governorship poll in 2022. His words: “Whether INEC has a fixed date or not, we are certainly prepared. Our preparation started long ago and part of our preparation was to ensure that the structures of the party are intact and that members are mobilised for the election. Another thing that we are doing is to make sure every sector of the party that has any relationship with the election like the party agents get themselves prepared.
“The only thing that we are still expecting to gear up our preparation is the type of election that we would have in 2022. INEC is yet to come up with a particular step, looking at them and what they are saying to the media, it seems there would be a slight departure from the normal practice; they are saying they want to do e-voting, which is not too clear to us. We have not done that before. Whether it will start with the governorship election or general election in 2023, we don’t know. But, as soon as we know that it will further gear us up.”
Speaking about the internal crisis at the party, Famodun said: “A lot of people talked about rancour but I see it as a slight system departure from what we used to have. The Nigerian system is not new to that. It happened in Edo State recently, Ekiti State between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his deputy; it happened between former President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo and many more; it is not strange to our system. I can see it as a problem of Nigerian politics. It is a system of power departure from one hand to another. It is an inability of the political system to absorb it…I think it is a maturity issue that will take some time to fizzle out.”
Famodun added: “The differences have not been affecting the party in any way because it is not new in Nigerian politics. The voters in Osun State have their sense of judgment. There was a governor for eight years; we worked with him and another one is here and we are accessing him. So, the judgment is on the side of the people of the state and not on the politicians. The political class can have their own opinion, the masses have their own; there is nothing we can do.”
Speaking about the division in the party, he said: “I don’t see that they are coherent in their case. At times, they look like politicians in search of assignments that were not given to them or confused politicians. How can you say you want to restructure the party by forming a parallel organisation to restructure? Can restructuring be done outside the structure? Some of the members of TOP have served the party strategically before they left.
“Adebiyi who heads the group was a former chairman; Lani Baderinwa who is their secretary was a commissioner under Rauf Aregbesola and many of them are people that have served the party in one capacity or the other in the time past. If restructuring is their concern, they have to restructure within the system; you cannot restructure the system from outside. They call themselves politicians but they seem not to understand the game. They are just restructuring themselves and not the party and if care is not taken, they may restructure themselves out of the entire party system. Otherwise, they will find themselves isolated.
“Some people left for the ADP during the 2018 governorship election, but they got their fingers burnt. Most of the people are still in it. If these people have decided to learn by making mistakes, let them continue. Anyone who is futuristic minded will know that it doesn’t work that way. The recent experience is the Ondo State governorship election. Something similar happened during that election when some people went to the ZLP and they know the experience. The game of politics is only played by politicians, not people who see it as a means of sustenance. Those who see politics as a means of sustenance will just be looking for what does not belong to them all day. Politics is not a game of shortcuts but you have to sit, study, monitor and practice it.
“The unemployment in the country has given room for accidental politicians. So anybody who has an inordinate ambition can easily catch them and use them because he knows that they don’t know. You can’t toy with a politician like me to form a group outside a political party to overshadow a political party. It has never happened.”
Speaking about the adoption of Governor Oyetola, he said: “He has been adopted throughout the state by members of our party. The adoption has been documented by local governments and federal constituencies. This is a document by members across the state of Oyetola’s renomination. So, whatever they want will have its way.”
Acting Secretary of the APC Elders’ Caucus, Omolaoye Akintola said the elders of the party led by its chairman and Chief Bisi Akande are ensuring that the crisis within the party is solved from the ward level to state level.
While reacting to the allegation that the Elders Caucus has not been inviting Aregbesola, Moshood Adeoti and Najeem Salam to their meetings.
‘Aregbesola does not support division in Osun APC’
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