Aregbesola, Fayose and Southwest politics
Early October, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, governor of the State of Osun, was invited by his colleague in Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose to grace the event slated to mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of the state. It was a colourful gathering, where Ogbeni delivered the lecture titled “The imperative of unity.” In the process, he spoke of the need for regional integration and cooperation, after lamenting that in the whole of Southwest, only Lagos could manage to pick its bills. He then harped on the need to promote agriculture, which used to be the driver of the economy of the region. He also used the opportunity to shower encomiums on Fayose, and described him as omoluabi, hardworking and reliable. He said: “Fayose is a reliable person” and that “sooner than later, there will be realignment of forces.”
Those were pregnant political statements that could be subject to various interpretations, except that Ogbeni is a bold and frank politician; one who is not given to talking innuendos. The fact that he crossed the borders from Osun must mean that he truly believes in the mission. And perhaps, that is what has riled the Ekiti chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC); that one of their foremost party leaders and governor had just visited their political enemy, Fayose. Not just that, he had even addressed him as omoluabi. Among the Yoruba, to say someone is omoluabi means he is dependable and reliable. Wikipedia actually defines omoluabi as a Yoruba philosophical and cultural concept to describe a person of good character. It signifies courage, hard work, humility and respect.
For the Ekiti APC, it was inconceivable that Ogeni Rauf could attend an event organised by Fayose, especially after the overthrow of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the 2015 general elections at Abuja. Fayose himself had remained immovable and has constituted a one-man opposition against the APC and President Buhari. His attacks against the president and their party have been virulent and ceaseless, even in the face of threats by the Department of State Security and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A lot was done by EFCC to make Fayose shit in his trouser and demystify him in the eyes of the people of the state. The revelations about his acquisitions and allegations of monies he and cronies have stashed in bank accounts, and those brought to the state to prosecute the 2014 governorship election from Abuja were enough to cause earthquake in some softer grounds. Not even the rallies staged to engineer revolt against him have tempered his fury against Abuja. There were even video recordings of how the military conspired with politicians to steal the votes for the PDP, for which some heads in the military have been decapitated. But Fayose has not been unhorsed.
To the opposition in Ekiti, it did not make sense for Aregbesola to come and eulogise the man, when preparations for the next governorship election are in top gear. Fayose, to Ekiti APC is not a man to dine with, talk less showering him with the noblest epithet in Yoruba land. And for that reason, they have taken umbrage at the Osun Governor.
They said the visit amounted to contempt for the party leadership in Ekiti. That after all Fayose had done to them, they cannot believe Aregbesola would come visiting and singing praises.
The state publicity secretary of APC, Taiwo Olatunbosun reportedly said: “Aregbesola’s visit to Fayose, praising him as ‘omoluabi’ and for the achievements by APC-led government is not alone embarrassing, but also awful in the face of sustained attacks on APC members, some of whom are still languishing in jail for about two years over trumped-up charges by Fayose.
“It is shocking that Aregbesola, as a governor and one of the leading lights in the APC in the South West, and indeed the nation would be visiting Ekiti State without putting the leaders into confidence, more so on a visit to a man, who once wished the President dead and had done unbelievable things both in Nigeria and abroad to bring Buhari’s government down.
“Worse still, Aregbesola was praising the man, who will stop at nothing to bring APC-led Federal Government down, after several years of failed attempts by the progressives to win the presidency of Nigeria.”
About nine months ago, Fayose had equally visited Aregbesola in Osun and the reports were that he had gone to ask Ogbeni to beg Buhari on his behalf, so as not to unleash a legion of DSS, Police, EFCC, ICPC and others against him.
But Fayose denied all that. On that occasion, he had said: “This is my first official visit to any APC state in Nigeria. I am not in Osogbo to ask Aregbesola to help me beg, as being speculated in some quarters. We are all Yoruba, politics is like water, it can flow anywhere. I believe in the Yoruba race, the race comes first before the office of the governor. The race is eternal, while that of governor is momentary. We must watch today to be guided by tomorrow. I am here for the unity of Yoruba, as it affects the Oodua, the progenitor.”
And that should be the new attitude. While he is perceived to be errant and lacking tact plus finesse, Fayose takes time to pick his political ‘enemies’. In all his tirade of abuses against the APC and Abuja, he has refrained from throwing stones at some sensitive quarters in Lagos and other places in the Southwest. At the end of the day, all politics, they say, is local. And that trend is also noticeable in Aregbesola’s remarks. The Southwest has been working on the idea of regional reintegration for years now. The Western region of old survived mainly on agriculture and was able to set the stage for education and industrialisation of the zone. But today, the states are struggling to survive. The cocoa trees are aged and other cash crops are not doing well, because every governor goes to Abuja to pick bailout, while opportunities for growth are not tapped in states.
If this is what Aregbesola has in mind, in addition to the fact that the region needs a calm political environment to creatively plot its way out of the trap called Nigeria, Ekiti APC should show understanding and pardon the man. On a good day, he is a hardliner, but if he has now matured enough to appreciate the role of bipartisanship in addressing political differences in the zone and in the country, he should be appreciated.
That is not to say that Ekiti APC was not correct to have announced its fears. There is no reason why they should be taken by surprise in the manner the Osun governor visited. Nothing stopped Ogbeni from comparing notes with the state chapter before he arrived town. To even add zest and meaning to the visit, he could have asked the state chairman to accompany him. A healing process could have been instigated for far-reaching effects. As it is now, the visit may have rubbed salt into an old wound, which is not good for the reintegration drive.
What Nigeria needs urgently now is an end to politics of bitterness and the enthronement of politics of creativity and development. All the gimmicks and slogans of the past have failed and the country faces a very unsure future. It is now up to states and regions to creatively retrace their steps in order to provide citizens with good governance. It had been experimented and it worked well in the days of regional government. The capacity is there in every region and to do more, except that some have become so lazy, having been misled for decades with ‘stolen’ oil monies from the South-south. Now that the oils are drying up, let politics of bitterness also dry up. Let Southwest politicians be creative.
It requires working together, irrespective of party identities. It was political strife in the Southwest that largely influenced the first military coup. The political distrust in the zone was also responsible largely, for the failure of the second republic. That today’s politicians in the zone see the need to close ranks is a welcome development. Aregbesola should be commended, and Fayose should reciprocate. He should tone down his affronts.