Watchers of the political goings on in Osun State believe that next year’s governorship poll in the state presents a golden opportunity for the current Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and the incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola to settle their old scores.
Aregbesola is the immediate past governor of the state. And, since Oyetola succeeded him in 2018, there has been no love lost between them. The two leaders had on several occasions denied that there is any rift between them, but their actions and body language reflecting through their supporters and loyalists show that they are not on one page as far as the All Progressives Congress (APC) is concerned.
Having noticed that their feud was affecting the cohesion of Osun APC, the party’s National leaders, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Chief Adebisi Akande, made attempts to settle their differences in December 2020 at Akande’s country home, Ila-Oragun.
Sources said Aregbesola and Oyetola have been trying to play down their rift with maturity based on their relationship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. While Aregbesola regards Tinubu as his political godfather, Oyetola is said to be a nephew to the former Lagos State governor.
As such, the two political leaders avoided washing their dirty linens in public, even when their loyalists and supporters do not want to let the sleeping dog lie. On social media platforms, they throw banters, exchange allegations and trade words on behalf of their principals.
Prominent among these loyalists, who have been sustaining the proxy war on social media are the Special Adviser to Governor Oyetola on Education, Jamiu Olawumi, and Bola Ilori, who is serving in Aregbesola’s office in Abuja.
How It All Began
INSIDERS told The Guardian that after Aregbesola campaigned for Oyetola, who served as his Chief of Staff till 2018, and assisted him to emerge as governor, the minister was still interested in calling the shots in Osun State APC. But, that idea did not go down well with Oyetola.
So, in order to ensure that he did not give any chances for Aregbesola to take over the party’s structure, the governor declined from appointing those seen as Aregbesola’s strong loyalists, into his kitchen cabinet. The development greatly riled the Aregbesola’s camp.
“One thing you must know is that a gvernor of a state is the leader of the ruling political party in that state. To ensure that he has full grip of the party and Government, he would have to work with those he can trust. Even if he considers those who worked with Aregbesola when he was the governor of the state as Commissoners or Special Advisers, they would have to transfer loyalty to Oyetola. That’s what it should be,” a top government official had confided in The Guardian.
Aside the issue of appointments, sources said Aregbesola was not happy because Oyetola did not back him before he got his ministerial appointment. It was gathered that the governor had a plan of rewarding Senator Iyiola Omisore with the ministerial slot for working for his victory in the 2018 governorship re-rerun in the state.
Some insiders also revealed that their rift worsened when Oyetola reversed some of the policies of Aregbesola’s government. This was said to have infuriated Aregbesola. One of these policies is the controversial single school uniform Aregbesola introduced in 2013 for all public primary and secondary schools.
The reclassification of the public school system and the abolition of single-sex schools across the state were some of the 26 issues reviewed by Oyetola’s administration. Other issues reviewed include the introduction of ‘Opon Imo,’ otherwise referred to as the tablet of knowledge, issuance of primary school leaving certificates, change of schools’ identities, ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), operations of Osun State University, the merger of basic and high schools across many communities, among others.
Though the governor had said the decision to reverse some of these policies was borne out of “Thank You” tour across the state after his electoral victory, some argued that it was to rubbish the legacies of Aregbesola.
However, a chieftain of Osun APC, Sunday Akere blamed loyalists and supporters of the duo for making the alleged rift pronounced. He claimed, “Aregbesola and Oyetola are best of friends. Their supporters and loyalists are the ones engaging in unnecessary tantrums on social media. They should stop it.”
2022 And Oyetola’s Fate
WHATEVER the case, 2022 is close and the alleged Aregbesola-Oyetola beef is getting hotter and hotter. Although, Oyetola has not publicly and formally declared his intention of occupying the Oke-Fia Government House beyond 2022, the body language of the governor and those of his allies suggest that he is interested in second term. Also, the governor’s loyalists and supporters have been canvassing for his return in 2022.
As part of subtle campaigns of Oyetola towards preparations for his purported second term ambition, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Civic Engagement has been meeting with traditional rulers, politicians, community leaders and residents of the state in what it tagged “Governor’s Family Meeting.”
At these meetings currently ongoing across the state, attendants have been showering encomiums on Oyetola and praying that his second term dream would come true. At these meetings, Oyetola’s Commissoners and other aides had been calling for the people of the state to support their principal.
Sources within the party and state government said Senator Iyiola Omisore’s defection to APC was part of the strategies of Oyetola to win Osun East in the forthcoming poll. Omisore, a former deputy governor of the state who also served one term as senator for Osun East, moved to APC from the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
This sudden romance with Oyetola started in 2018 when the former lawmaker helped the ruling party win a close election that brought in Governor Oyetola. Mr Omisore was the candidate of the SDP in that election. To further compensate him, Oyetola appointed Omisore’s running mate, Yemi Lawal as Commissioner for Youths and Sports.
Sources said Omisore had been accepted into the party in order to wrestle control of Osun East with Aregbesola, who is also from there ahead of 2022.
When Omisore officially joined the APC recently, his supporters escorted him to the registration point at his unit in Moore, Ile-Ife with chants of “Oyetola for second term.” He was welcomed into the party by the deputy governor, Benedict Alabi, and Prince Gboyega Famodun, the state chairman of the party.
Omisore and Aregbesola are not the best of friends and the minister has never hiden his feelings about that. Aregbesola had kicked against the admission of Omisore into the APC.
The Guardian gathered that another strategy of Oyetola to ensure that he continues to rule Osun beyond 2022 is the luring of the state chairman of the party, Gboyega Famodun, to his side. Famodun’s tenure had lapsed in October 2018 but he has retained the position because Oyetola has not allowed the party to organise a state congress to elect new leaders in the state. Insiders noted that this is to ensure Famodun midwive Oyetola’s emergence as the party’s candidate for the 2022 gubernatorial poll.
In February, 2021, posters canvassing votes for Oyetola for the 2022 Gubernatorial Elections had surfaced in some areas in Osogbo, the state capital. The posters that were pasted directly opposite the Government House, Oke-Fia and under the November 27 Interchange, along Abere, on Osogbo/Gbongan/Ibadan Expressway, read “continuity 2022, Gboyega Oyetola for second time” instead of “Continuity 2022, Gboyega Oyetola for Second Term.”
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ismail Omipidan asked those behind the campaign posters to tarry a while and wait for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to give nod for electioneering activities. Omipidan said Oyetola was still preoccupied with delivery of quality service to the people of the state.
AREGBESOLA’s camp appears not to be relaxing in ensuring that Oyetola does not last beyond 2022 in the Government House. Sources said the minister would settle scores with the governor by working against his second term ambition. Aregbesola’s foot soldiers and campaign groups have been mobilising and engaging with key stakeholders in the state, especially those who have lost touch with the governnance styles of Oyetola. One of these groups is Oranmiyan, a socio-political group in the state. Some civil societies organisations and market women are said to have pitched tent with Aregbesola’s camp in order to dislodge Oyetola next year.
Some APC members who complained of the poor welfarism they have witnessed since the inception of Oyetola have expressed displeasure and longed for a Governor who they claim is miserly. Another factor that may work against Oyetola’s determination to secure a second term is zoning. Although, the APC might have waved the tradition in 2018 when Oyetola, who is from Osun Central Senatorial district enjoyed the support of Tinubu to emerge the party’s candidate. This time around, insiders said the agitation for Osun West’s turn may resurface.
Prince Diran Odeyemi, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, the major opposition political party in Osun had said that the party was looking at fielding Senator Ademola Adeleke in the forthcoming poll.
The party, though still factionalised, hopes to wrestle power from the APC. Odeyemi had said recently, “As a party, PDP is offering Senator Ademola Adeleke the opportunity, having done well on the ballot the last time and he has the right to accept or decline. Till now, no one else, including Ogunbiyi, who contested primary with him the last time has not shown interest. It is only Adeleke that we are looking at.
“But having said that, we are not closing our door against others that are interested in vying for the PDP ticket. Anyone that is interested can join the race.”
But, sources said that the APC may not still consider zoning in 2022 having succeeded in waving it at the last governorship election.
Whatever be the case, the battle for the soul of Osun has covertly begun. All eyes are on the forthcoming gubernatorial poll to see who wins or loses in the unfolding high drama and intrigues.