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2022: Epic battle ahead of Osun APC primary

By Timothy Agbor, Osogbo
18 February 2022   |   4:11 am
The primary election of the Osun State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the July 16 governorship election will be held on Saturday with three aspirants in the race.

Governor Adegboyega Oyetola. Photo; TWITTER/STATEOFOSUN

The primary election of the Osun State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the July 16 governorship election will be held on Saturday with three aspirants in the race.

The three aspirants include the incumbent state governor, Mr Adegboyega Oyetola, a former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti and immediate past Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Lasun Yusuff. While Oyetola and Yusuff are from Osun Central Senatorial District, Adeoti is from Osun West Senatorial District.

Aside his power of incumbency and achievements within his three years in office, Oyetola enjoys the support of former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and also has the backing of the state executive of the party under the chairmanship of Prince Adegboyega Famodun.

Adeoti is banking on the support of the Minister of Interior and former governor of the state, Rauf Aregbesola and a faction of the ruling APC in the state under the chairmanship of Hon Rasaq Salinsile. The factional APC is populated by a group called The Osun Progressives and loyal to Aregbesola. It was gathered that Adeoti has been campaigning for “West Lokan” (It is the turn of Osun West). He said Oyetola hails from the same senatorial zones that produced Chief Bisi Akande and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinola as governors in the past and that it would be an injustice if Osun West is being denied the opportunity to produce the next governor.

On the other hand, Yusuff has been operating a ‘one-man show’ after the gang-up between him, Adeoti and a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam, against Oyetola, appeared to have hit the rock. Adeoti was later picked by the Aregbesola’s faction of the state exco to vie for the party ticket against Oyetola. To this end, Yussuff submitted his form alone and ever since has been operating alone. He had argued that he is also qualified to be an Osun West candidate.

Since the party has preferred a direct primary election, the trio has intensified campaign among members of the party and canvassed for votes in the nooks and crannies of the state. In the last few weeks, Governor Oyetola has visited all the Federal Constituencies in the state in what he tagged: “Strategic Engagement Tour” to render stewardship accounts of his three-year old administration and also declare his intention to seek reelection.

The governor pulled crowds in all the towns and villages he visited with their traditional rulers commending him for his achievements and also assuring him of their support towards his reelection bid. There had been a plethora of endorsements for the governor from notable politicians and artisans’ among others.

Also, after Aregbesola handed the flag of the party to Adeoti as the suitable candidate and next governor of the state, the governorship aspirant began the tour of the state to seek for people’s votes. In the company of Aregbesola, the former SSG has been meeting with notable party stakeholders and urged them to vote for him during the primary election on Saturday.

Yussuf is yet to be seen touring the state except for his radio broadcast campaigns among other social media awareness. Some observers said he might have been undergoing an underground campaign and canvassing of votes ahead the primary.

Alhaji Moshood Adeoti

It is no longer news that a deep crisis had enveloped the party and it has continued to degenerate since the emergence of Oyetola as the governor of the state. The feud between Oyetola and his predecessor, Aregbesola has assumed a dangerous dimension with a barrage of exchanges of bullets and guns amid attacks and counter-attacks.

Aregbesola’s open declaration in Ilesa that he belongs to TOP and that he recognises only Salinsile as the chairman of APC in the state heightened political tension in the state as the minister’s stance appeared to have caught Oyetola’s camp unaware.

He said Oyetola deviated from the core principles and values of the progressives and should not be allowed to contest again. Few days later, the campaign office of Aregbesola known as “Oranmiyan House” in Osogbo was attacked by some gunmen.

On Monday, few hours after Aregbesola announced Adeoti as the next governor of the state during a stakeholders’ meeting in the state, the Minister narrowly escaped being killed following an attack by suspected armed thugs.

The thugs reportedly launched a fierce attack on his convoy, while he was raising his head out of the open-roof vehicle to wave at his supporters in Osogbo. Aregbesola was rescued by his security men who shot sporadically into the air to scare away the attackers. The incident caused pandemonium, as people around Orisunbare market- Old-garage area of the town around 7:00pm scampered for safety.

Sporadic shooting rented the air for about 20 minutes and many motorists abandoned their vehicles on the roads, while traders quickly shut their shops for fear of being attacked by the hoodlums.

The attack is causing bad blood between two security agencies in the state – The Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) as both contradicted themselves in the accounts they rendered after the shooting. In a statement made available to newsmen by spokesperson of the police command, Yemisi Opalola, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Olawale Olokode alleged that the minister was moving with security and some unidentified thugs when the incident happened.

The CP said Aregbesola’s security details were shooting without provocation, adding that the former governor was not attacked by any thug. But, the Osun NSCDC Commandant, Emmanuel Ocheja claimed that “unknown hoodlums” attacked the convoy of Aregbesola. In a statement made available to journalists by the spokesperson of the command, Atanda Olabisi, the NSCDC stressed that there was an attack on Aregbesola by the hoodlums, which, his security details succeeded in repelling.

Aregbesola’s camp has accused the police of refusing to allow its personnel to be part of its escorts during their programmes and tours. Checks by our correspondent revealed that Aregbesola’s faction has been protected by civil defence officers, while policemen and men of Amotekun corps are dominant among those providing security for Oyetola.

Also, infighting between the principal officers, controversial shooting and alleged harassment have brought about a season of protests and counter-protests in the state. Students under the aegis of National Association of Osun State Students (NAOSS) and National Association of Nigeria Students/Joint Campus Committee, (Osun Axis) stormed NSCDC command headquarters in Osogbo and protested against the corps for allegedly shooting and causing panic in the state capital during a road show conducted by Aregbesola.

Minutes after the protest, a group, Concerned Citizens of Osun, alleged that the state government gave a sum of N1million to the leadership of the students to protest at the headquarters of the corps. The group in a statement signed by its Public Relations Officer, Afeez Olakunle, expressed concern that the state government was dragging students into the internal crisis of the APC. It further alleged that an unnamed aide to the Osun state governor worked with NAOSS leadership to stage the protest, insisting that the protest against NSCDC was politically motivated. But NAOSS President, Moshood Yusuf, challenged the group to bring out proof that he collected money to mobilise students for the protest, insisting that they were not sponsored to stage the protest.

In what appeared like a counter-protest, members of APC loyal to Aregbesola, armed with placards bearing several inscriptions, stormed the state police command headquarters and protested against their alleged incessant arrest and harassment by the police. The APC faction, led by its Chairman, Salinsile, demanded the redeployment of the Police Commissioner, Olokode. The protesters accused the CP of playing the script of Governor Oyetola and condemned the police’s position on the shooting incident, saying there was no investigation into the incident before the command drew a conclusion.

But the command, after receiving a copy of the petition against Olokode denied allegations of bias levelled against it. A Deputy Commissioner of Police, Valentine Kanayo, who addressed the protesters said: “The Osun State Police Command is not an appendage of any political party. I will not like a situation whereby one is called bad names; just call a dog a bad name to finish it. I was attentive to your speech. Permit me to say that your speech is circumstantially biased. We are not biased. We monitor all events going on. Every request made by parties or individuals is treated.”

But Aregbesola has insisted that Oyetola should forget governing Osun a second time because the same treatment that Tinubu and his group meted out to former Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, will be given to him because he (Oyetola) has derailed and betrayed him. He also alleged that Oyetola ostracised his core loyalists from the scheme of things.

While addressing party faithful ahead of the APC primary, the minister, who spoke in Yoruba, subtly blasted Tinubu and said his presidential aspirantion will be brought down since he had equated himself with God.

The minister said: “It is possible some share your ideals and it’s also possible some do not. This happened in Lagos recently. There was a governor (Ambode) who wanted to seek re-election and the party declined and showed him the way out with their votes. So, the same way it was in Lagos then, is exactly the way it is in Osun today. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. It cannot be the turn of your younger brother now and you change the rules.

“We took over the government on November 27, 2010 and by 28th, we announced that whoever sought revenge would be struck down by God. We only handed over to God those who made us suffer. After we served for eight years, it wasn’t only party members that benefitted from our administration, the entire state did. I went everywhere in Osun with projects.

“However, by the time my successor (Oyetola) was handed over to me around May or July 2018, I was told, ‘Rauf, this is the ideal successor that would stand by you. He would further showcase your efforts. He would not betray you; he would not dim the light of your glory’. That was what the person who handed him over to me said. If the person is listening to me, it would resonate with him, if he said so or not. But, did he do as he was vouched for? And when he reneged on these promises, did the person, who handed him over to me draw his attention to these failings?” Aregbesola asked rhetorically.

However, despite the apparent stiff opposition led by Aregbesola against Oyetola’s second term bid, the governor has been optimistic that he would get the APC ticket on Saturday, contest the July 16 governorship election and win the poll.

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ismail Omipidan has declared that Aregbesola is not God and cannot determine the fate of Oyetola.

He said: “The general belief among most Africans that ‘a man’s life is preordained and ruled by God’ has continued to play out in the political trajectory of Governor Oyetola.”

“From 2011 when he was appointed chief of staff to 2018 when, against all odds, he emerged, first as the candidate of the APC, and later, governor of the state, at a time many thought it was all over for him, it was obvious that he was on a divine political course.

“My principal has absolute faith in God and the people of Osun. In these last three years-plus, the people can tell the difference in terms of responsible and responsive governance and politics.”

A former deputy governor in the state, Senator Iyiola Omisore, is among the strong politicians behind Oyetola. Omisore was the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 2018. He is teaming up with Oyetola for the coming election. Omisore said his major focus now is to ensure that Oyetola is re-elected during the July 16 governorship election in the state.

Also speaking, Senator Ajibola Basiru, Senate spokesperson and strong supporter of Oyetola said the Saturday’s contest is “narrow” because only three aspirants are struggling to be the party’s flagbearer. He expressed confidence that Oyetola would emerge victorious, adding that the party had decided to opt for direct primary.

“The beauty of democracy is that there will be a contest on Saturday and in fact, the contest here is even narrow because in some other clime, you will have 20, 30 persons in a race. So, for me, the performance and work of Governor Oyetola is what speaks for some of us to support him to continue,” the Senator representing Osun Central district said.

In the same vein, the chairman of TOP, Lowo Adebiyi has said Adeoti would clinch the party’s ticket if there is a level playing ground on Saturday. Adebiyi had wanted the party to shift the primary to March 5 for Adeoti to be able to tour the state and canvass support. He also claimed that the party membership register is with Oyetola.

He said: “Najeem Salam is still with TOP and would be the Director General of Adeoti Governorship Campaign team” adding that Lasun Yusuff is still with the pro-Aregbesola group but he is not the factional party’s candidate. “He (Yusuff) is a member of TOP but he is working on his own for his governorship bid. He is not representing TOP. He informed us that he is willing to go on his own and we allowed him to contest.”

On whether Adeoti would defeat Oyetola on Saturday, Adebiyi said: “If there is a level-playing ground, we are going to win. But, now, the party membership register in the state is in the custody of Governor Oyetola and we do not have a copy of the register. When the primary election committee comes, we are going to inform them.”

Also, Hon Nureni Adebisi, Adeoti’s supporter said: “By virtue of his (Adeoti) pedigree and activeness, and by virtue of the resolution of majority of members of the party in Osun, we are hopeful and we are still leaving everything to the hands of God Almighty.

When asked what the fate of Adeoti would be should he fail to clinch the party ticket, Adebisi said: “The leadership will decide. If you look at the timetable of the party, there is primary and followed by issues and appeal. But let’s wait till Saturday.”

As the primary remains few hours away, one thing that is obvious is that Aregbesola is determined to see that Oyetola did not emerge as candidate. No doubt, he commands street credibility and this is evident in his recent road show across the state. Residents are only pleading that peace should reign. For political watchers, the outcome of Saturday’s primary could signal the beginning of a new dawn or send some politicians into political oblivion.