Osun Election: Anxiety over Oyetola, Aregbesola, Tinubu’s feud
With less than two weeks to the July 16 governorship election in Osun State, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is finding it difficult to resolve the lingering feud among its critical stakeholders.
The incumbent Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who is seeking reelection, is still at loggerheads with his immediate past predecessor and Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, while the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who emerged as the presidential candidate of APC for the 2023 general election, is allegedly nonchalant to reconciliation with his erstwhile Commissioner for Works.
Tinubu, Oyetola and their loyalists appear to have made up their minds that the immediate past governor of Osun does not have any value to add to their elections while Aregbesola is also fighting desperately for his political relevance after the 2023 elections.
The implication of the feud is that APC risks losing Osun to the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, if the warring gladiators fail to sheath their swords.
Findings from the Aregbesola and Oyetola camps yesterday do not show that both factions are ready to shift grounds despite the efforts by the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu to reconcile them.
While some lieutenants of Oyetola insist that reconciling the minister with the governor at this point will not serve any purpose, the minister’s faithful said it would amount to waste of time going to work for Oyetola, who in the last three and a half years has maltreated them with impunity while Tinubu deliberately looked away.
What seems to have even aggravated the tension is the recent composition of an 86-member National Campaign Council for the Osun Governorship Election, which excluded Aregbesola’s name.
A statement issued by the national chairman and Senator Iyiola Omisore, secretary of the party, Senator Iyiola Omisore revealed that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State was appointed as chairman of the council while Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, the Man-Friday of the national leader was made the co-chair.
The council also has Governors Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger, Gov Abubakar Atiku of Kebbi; Gov Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa; Gov Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Dr Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti as co-chairman.
Other co-chairs are Gov Babagana Zulum of Borno, Gov Yahaya Bello of Kogi; Gov Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe; Gov Aminu Masari of Katsina State; Gov Abdulrahaman AbdulRazaq of Kwara and Gov Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.
Others include Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Gov Dapo Abiodun of Ogun; Gov Hope Uzodinma of Imo; Gov Simeon Lalong of Plateau; Gov Mai Mala Buni of Yobe and Gov Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State.
The reality confronting Aregbesola now is the possibility of going into political oblivion if Oyetola wins on July 16 and Tinubu goes ahead to win the presidential election next year. Since the feud started, the minister’s well-oiled and strong political structures have been severely emasculated both in Lagos and Osun states. And at this point, it does seem the only way out is to fight to the end.
According to the source, “If Aregbesola agrees to reconciliation and works for Oyetola’s return as the governor, we know he can never change. He will still deal with the minister and his loyalists like he has been doing since 2018.”
But the reason the hawks in the governor’s camp were averse to reconciling with Aregbesola is because of their fear that the minister hardly forgives. As a matter of fact, they said there is no forgiveness in the character of the former governor of Osun. To them, it is like taking a risk if Oyetola reconciles with his former boss at this very delicate time.
A source from the governor’s side said, “Aregbesola as an incumbent governor in 2018 worked against Oyetola. The governor defeated Adeleke in 2018 not at the instance of his predecessor but by the divine intervention of God, Asiwaju Tinubu, Omisore and others.
“Even if the minister is reconciled with Oyetola, majority of his lieutenants that have joined PDP are not going to return. I can tell you that the three stakeholders are not ready for reconciliation.”
Following the much publicised news that Adamu is frantically making efforts to resolve the Osun crisis, chairman of The Osun Progressives, a faction loyal to the minister, Lowo Adebiyi, said there was no reconciliation yet between the Minister of Interior, Aregbesola and Oyetola.
The Osun Progressives, backed by Aregbesola during the last governorship primary of APC in the state, had supported ex-Secretary to the state government, Moshood Adeoti, against Oyetola, who eventually won the party’s ticket.
Initially, both men had denied being at loggerhead, but events in the days before the primary election exposed deep-seated ill feelings between the duo.
Adebiyi berated the governor’s faction, Ileri Oluwa group, for circulating an old picture of where Tinubu, Oyetola and Aregbesola shook hands.
“They are old pictures. Members of the Ileri Oluwa group are behind it. Disregard them. If there will be reconciliation, it is not pictures that you will see first. The discussion will be held first,” Adebiyi said.
Abiodun Agboola, the Publicity Secretary of the Rasaq Salinsile-led faction of the Osun APC also said he was not aware of any reconciliation moves. He explained that the general members of the public would know if such happens anytime.
Genesis Of The Feud
After the September 22, 2018 governorship election, Adeleke led with 254,698 votes ahead of Oyetola who polled 254,345 votes at the time while the incumbent national secretary, who contested on SDP platform came a distant third with 128,049 votes. Omisore later joined Oyetola after the electoral umpire called for a rerun on the grounds that the 353 votes margin between Adeleke and Oyetola was lower than the number of cancelled votes (3,498) in seven polling units.
The rerun was held on September 27, 2018. With Omisore’s alliance, Oyetola won the rerun with 462 votes. Although the crack had started when it was alleged that Oyetola was not Aregbesola’s choice as his successor, by the time the incumbent governor was going to make appointments in 2018, he made the running mate to Omisore in the election, Lawal Olayemi, the Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Special Needs. Omisore has since become a key adviser to Oyetola.
The appointment and many others didn’t go well with the Aregbesola camp and they accused the governor of neglecting his predecessor.
Several other policies of the governor like the reversal of some policies of Aregbesola also aggravated the crisis. One of these is the controversial single school uniform Aregbesola introduced in 2013 for all public primary and secondary schools. Others are the reclassification of the public school system and the abolition of single-sex schools across the state, among 26 issues reviewed by Oyetola.
The minister seems to have suffered a lot of political damage since the crisis started with the anticipation of facing more if Oyetola and Tinubu win the governorship and presidency respectively.
For instance, he (Aregbesola) supported Alhaji Moshood Adeoti against Oyetola in the governorship primary and lost. He backed the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo against Tinubu during the APC presidential primary and lost. In Lagos politics, majority of the minister’s loyalists lost out in the last primary.
As a matter of fact, Alhaji Liad Tella, a chieftain of APC in Osun State once disclosed to The Guardian that what the minister is currently going through with Tinubu is a pleasure to most members of the party, “especially those who believe that Aregbesola has always been the source of their problems with Tinubu.”
Indeed some sources claimed that if Aregbesola is not having this kind of crisis with Tinubu, it might not have been easy for Governor Sanwo-Olu to get his renomination ticket with ease.
But a loyalist of the Minister, Lani Baderinwa blamed Oyetola for the crisis while he said it was unfortunate that the national leader has done little to address the reality.
According to him, “To be honest, the governor started this crisis and we did our best to salvage the situation. For instance, don’t you think it is a terrible thing that we had a primary in Osun where none of the aspirants were told what they scored at the poll? We never knew who and who actually won. We just saw a list on social media that was signed by the Governor himself as the candidate. Don’t you think something is fundamentally wrong with that kind of system, whereas in other states, the party announced the results? For us in Osun, our party was unable to announce the result.
“The Osun Progressives had a meeting with Aregbesola where we encouraged him to work along with those who are trying to reconcile himself and Tinubu and he accepted but we have not heard anything against that resolution.
“But I must say that the people in the governor’s group made it look like we are the aggressors. There is one of them whom I considered a comedian, who described us as Eerun Akara (pieces of beans cake). There is no ugly adjective that we have not been described with. Are we going to talk about the attacks across all the local councilsand even at Oranmiyan House here? If you come to Osogbo, you will see the damages done to the place here.
“We worked for Oyetola in 2018 but he later ignored us. This time around, my support for anybody cannot be for free because in 2018 I did everything for the governor but there wasn’t any compensation.”
In spite of the crisis, the ruling party may still be in better stead to win and retain Osun in the next gubernatorial poll. This is because the PDP is also having its internal crisis, which has made the party more polarised than the APC.