Osun APC; Hostilities worsen as Aregbesola confirms own faction
The internal crisis rocking Osun State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) has deepened and there seems no resolution in sight before the national convention of the party and governorship primary scheduled for February 2022.
Only on Friday, the immediate past governor of the state and Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregesola, blew hot as he revealed that there are two factions in the state chapter at present.
The minister did not mince words when he made the declaration during the commissioning of the Digital Nigeria Center project facilitated by the Federal Government at Ijesha Muslim Grammar School, Ilesha, Osun State that he is a member of The Osun Progressives (TOP), a faction within APC that has been opposing the administration of his successor, Adegboyega Oyetola.
His declaration has put a stop to speculations around his involvement in TOP activities that are critical of Oyetola’s administration and opposed to his picking the ticket of the party for second term.
Aregbesola’s outburst must have rubbished last year’s intervention by the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and former Governor Bisi Akande to reconcile the minister and the governor.
A party source told The Guardian that it would take only President Muhammadu Buhari to reconcile the political warlords, otherwise “the rift between Aregbesola and Oyetola’s factions has defied the leadership of Tinubu and Akande.”
The incumbent minister made bold to say that for anybody who seeks to know, APC has divided in Osun State, “We have APC of Rauf Aregbesola, which is chaired by Hon Razaq Salinsile. Everybody is doing his or her own. Later, we will renegotiate and rearrange everything.
“The caucus that produced our faction is called, ‘The Osun Progressives (TOP)’ chaired by Elder Lowo Adebiyi. Those people who are doubting whether I am part of TOP or not should listen up, I belong to TOP wholeheartedly.”
The more efforts being made to make peace, the more resounding is the songs of war from both factions.
The feud between two gladiators worsens on daily basis, even amid efforts by the national leadership of the party to reconcile them and place the party on the path of victory ahead the July 16, governorship election in the state.
Curiously, Oyetola’s loyalists and those of Aregbesola do not see face to face and they have also turned social media to their battle field, where they freely exchange tantrums and cast aspersions on the integrity of their respective principals.
Some of Oyetola’s supporters, notably, Senate spokesman, Senator Ajibola Basiru and Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Jamiu Olawumi have said that former aides of Aregbesola are fighting Oyetola because they were not considered in Oyetola’s cabinet.
But Aregbesola’s aides have debunked the allegation, noting that the crisis was caused by the failure of Governor Oyetola to reposition the party and make it viable to win election in the state.
At present, Salinsile is heading the minister’s faction of the executives while Prince Gboyega Famodun is heading the faction loyal to Oyetola. Both factions emerged from the parallel state congresses held in October 2021. Both factions are bent on producing separate governorship candidates for the forthcoming governorship poll.
A political group, ‘Ileri Oluwa’, which is loyal to Oyetola has been rooting and canvassing for the governor’s re-election, while the pro-Aregbesola group, TOP is doing everything possible to frustrate the incumbent’s second term aspiration. The group is said to be deploying all manner of criticisms and propaganda to de-market Oyetola.
A party source told The Guardian that the strategy is to repay Oyetola for how he rubbished his immediate predecessor by reversing most of the policies they both initiated for eight years. It was alleged that while Oyetola pretended to be gentle and harmless, his government is dealing with Aregbesola and his loyalists, to such an extent that the minister is being perceived as not better than a ‘common corrupt person’.
The source said this has forced the minister to personally complain to Tinubu and Akande severally but nothing seems to have been done to caution the incumbent and his loyalists. “What you heard Aregbesola said on Friday, was a tip of the ice bag, he will spill the beans if the crisis festers beyond what it is now.”
In what appears like an attempt to hit back at Aregbesola, the state government has exposed errors and unpopular policies of the former governor and reviewed them. But Oyetola has always put up a defence that reversals of policies and exposure of blunders perpetuated under Aregbesola’s administration were part of demands of the people.
The crisis became more pronounced recently when three prominent party leaders in the state; the immediate past deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yussuff; former speaker of the Osun House of Assembly, Hon Najeem Salam, and former Secretary to the State government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, jointly declared that APC cannot win the 2022 governorship election in Osun if it fields Oyetola as candidate.
Only Yussuff has obtained nomination form to contest the primary election slated for February. Adio and Najeem have also expressed interest to succeed Oyetola but they are yet to obtain forms at the time of filing this report. The trio from Aregbesola’s faction has resolved to unseat Oyetola.
In the faction led by Famodun, the governor is the only person who has declared his intention to contest for the party’s primary election. His re-election bid has received endorsement from several party leaders and unions. In fact, leaders in some constituencies loyal to Oyetola have barred their party chieftains from indicating interest to contest against the governor.
To prevent going to the poll with a divided house, the national leadership waded into the imbroglio with a view to reconciling aggrieved members. Few hours after the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led APC National Reconciliation committee visited Osogbo, the feud reignited as the two factions have been trading tackles over petitions submitted before the committee and some conditions that Aregbesola’s loyalists laid down for peace to reign.
When the reconciliation committee visited Oyetola, Adamu assured him that his committee would ensure fair hearing, equity and justice in carrying out its assignment in the state. The governor who re-emphasised need for reconciliation said, “there is no organisation without issues, but what is important is to find possible ways of reconciliation.”
Although, Aregbeola’s faction received Adamu and pledged readiness to give peace a chance, he did so with conditions. One of their demands for peace is for Oyetola to resign his position in the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC). It was gathered that factional APC chairman in the state, Salinsile; factional secretary, Lani Baderinwa and ex-Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Kolapo Alimi, attended the meeting.
Another demand of the faction said to be backed by Aregbesola was the recognition of executives elected by the group in its ward, local and state congresses.
One of Aregbesola’s loyalists, ‘Lowo Adebiyi, said the leaders of the faction at the meeting with the Reconciliation Committee called for Oyetola’s resignation before the Osun APC governorship primary, since he would be contesting for the governorship ticket.
Adebiyi said, “We asked for a free and fair primary; there should be a level playground. The governor, being a member of CECPC, is an interested party. All the aspirants should be given a level playground. For the governor to contest for APC ticket at the primary, he should quit the caretaker committee.”
Adamu said the committee had taken note of the demands placed before it. He expressed confidence that the warring factions have been straightforward and honest in their various submissions and “we have taken note of the comments, contributions and the interventions they made”.
But Oyetola was not pleased with the conditions for peace placed before the committee by Aregbesola’s faction and appealed to the committee to disregard their requests.
For Ilerioluwa faction, TOP’s demand is self-serving, misleading, sarcastic, spurious and baseless. It called on the committee to dismiss the demand in its entirety as it was meant to clandestinely destroy the corporate image of the party in the state.
Responding to some of the issues raised and prayers made by TOP members to the committee, the Secretary, Ilerioluwa, Mr Sunday Akere, said in the preparation for the just-concluded congresses, the governor and some party leaders carried everybody along and acted in conformity with the party’s guidelines and resolutions reached at all levels as the elections went smoothly in all the wards, local governments and state levels.
He called on the reconciliation committee to ask the petitioners to produce those who screened their aspirants, conducted their purported congresses, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that supervised their congresses, the security agencies present at the venue they claimed they used among others, as demanded by electoral guidelines.
Akere noted that the governor has no hand in the decision of the Appeal Committee contrary to TOP’s speculations, saying their decisions were based on facts presented before them.
When asked if he would grant the requests of Aregbesola’s loyalists for peace, Oyetola said he would wait till the committee comes up with its recommendation. Oyetola’s Chief Press Secretary, Ismail Omipidan said, “We would not want to preempt the committee. Therefore, we wouldn’t want to react to that now.”
But political analysts have said that the reconciliation committee would achieve no peace if Aregbesola and Oyetola were not made to sit together in a meeting. They said the feud is between the duo and that if it is going to be resolved, they would have to appear before the committee in person. “Whatever TOP and IleriOluwa groups might be doing are backed by their leaders (Oyetola and Aregbesola) and not until these two people appear before the reconciliation committee to table their grievances, this crisis will remain intractable,” an analyst, Mr Akamo said.
But beyond what is ongoing in Osun, the minister is also said to be livid with Tinubu and Akande and he is no longer pretending about it. In the first instance, the minister is said, to be unhappy with the way Tinubu is allowing his (Aregbesola) political structure to be destroyed in Lagos while Oyetola is dealing with him in Osun.
It was gathered that Oyetola was not Aregbesola’s choice to succeed him in 2018 but that he was handicapped by Tinubu and no sooner had Oyetola became governor, than he allegedly sidelined his immediate predecessor, such that anytime the incumbent visited Lagos to see Tinubu, he hardly stops by to pay courtesy visit to the minister.
A source said if not for the magnanimity of President Buhari who gave Aregbesola a ministerial appointment, the former governor would have been left in the cold politically both in Lagos and Osun states.