All is not well with Osun APC.
– Aregbesola Never Got Anything on A Platter of Gold👇
Chief Kunle Odeyemi.
Chief Kunle Odeyemi is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State of Osun.
In this interview with ISMAEEL UTHMAN and SOLOMON ODENIYI, he acknowledges the squabbling in the APC and discloses the identities of faces behind the mask. He also analyzes Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s person, his administration and how he had been funding the progressives since 2004. Excerpts:
You seem to have completely maintained a low profile after the expiration of your tenure as Treasurer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State of Osun, what is responsible for this?
It is not correct to say I have kept a low profile. I am back in my country home in Ilesa and I do lend my voice to issues on radio station here and I have also been granting audience to journalists. The difference is that, when I was the treasurer of the ruling party, as a principal officer of the APC, I lived in Osogbo, the state capital and I was almost everywhere before I bowed out in 2014. When you leave a position as pivotal as mine, there is no way you won’t be leaving the scene. Another reason is that, most journalists and media firms are based in the state capital, so that may be the reason why people felt that I have been maintaining a low profile. To tell you that I am still actively involve with party politics, I am the current leader of the APC in Ijesaland. I was given this position immediately after the 2018 gubernatorial election. However, as a leader and a gentle old man, there are issues I should not get myself involved in, especially social media discussions. There are a lot of issues there. I have watched, read and listened to some people making issues out of nothing. I have seen people who should not have joined the social media political discussions getting themselves involved in the mess. Some people feel so big in their sitting rooms, take their phones and peddle all manners of information; both fake and lie to the public.
I have been involved and participating actively in politics since I left office as a leader of Ijesa Zone of the APC, though I am not limited to my zone. I have more responsibilities on me now. You know I have been in the state political terrain since 1999; there is hardly any ward in the state that I don’t know somebody. People come to me for lot of issues, including obaship, reconciliation, lobby and so on.
As a chieftain of the APC, do you think all is well with the party presently?
No! There is no doubt about the fact that all is not well with the APC. And people close to me know my position on that. Those who were in our party from 2003 to 2010 would not be happy about what is happening in the party now. I make bold to say that those politicians who did not know what we passed through between 2003 and 2010 are causing what we are witnessing in our party now. This is my position. Anybody who was in the party before we ousted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) then, especially in 2003 when we lost power will never be part of whatever rubbish some of our members are doing now. What is playing out now is almost the same with what happened in 2001 that eventually led to the loss of our party. The problem then started Ilesa East Local Government. I was the leader of the Akinfenwa group and Alhaji Hammed who is now the Olosunjela was the leader of Lere Adebayo group that first of all spread to Ife-Ijesa Senatorial District and indirectly to the state. I remembered that Baba Akande came to Ilesa to intervene and we did not shift grounds and that affected us. We later lost everything when election came; we had only two House of Assembly members. So if there is anyone who witnessed this and how it took us seven and half years to get back to power and felt what many of us felt, will never be part of this infighting.
What do you think is responsible for the infighting?
There is nothing else other than the fact that some people are profiting from the inter wrangling. There are a lot of things that are going on and if there is no disaffection in the party, some people will not benefit from it.
What do you think can be done to call members of the party to order, so that a repeat of what happened in 2003 will not come back to play?
I see the Chairman of the party, Prince Gboyega Famodun almost every week and Governor Adegboyega Oyetola too. When this issue of disaffection started in the party, I tried my best to wade into the issues. I told the concerned parties about the danger of the bickering; and I made them to realize that, right or wrong your case might be, we cannot survive politically if there is a division in us. I told them that even when all hands were on deck in 2018, we won with less than 500 votes. The lessons from this are that we cannot wish anybody away in the APC. If we go into any election today like this, we will mess ourselves up. This was what I told them in private. PDP’s main weapons are power and money. They do not have power now, but they have the money to throw around, especially in Osun. Apart from their major financiers, they have others who are yet to finish the money they stole while in power. I am using this opportunity to call on our father, Chief Bisi Akande and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to help us intervene before it is too late.
The APC is due for congresses, how well do you think this would go?
I know for sure the party is planning to hold congresses. Leaders at all levels from Agba Osun to the leadership in the wards must have the interest of the party at heart while going into the series of congresses. Even if you have 90 percent of the voting strength, I believe that we must carry everybody along whatever might be your strength. To be frank, there are other issues that will further divide us. We are going to be divided by the local government election. This is not a question of one person contesting the seat in each local government. You can have 50 aspirants summed up. You can have five for the chairmanship, and we have between 10 and 12 wards in a local government, sum up the aspirants we have in total. Let’s say we have three aspirants per ward, and four for chairmanship and you are going to pick one. There is no deputy councillor and that means you have a lot of persons that will have grudges with the party; that is coming on the way. Also, we are still going to have the governorship, national and state legislative seats primaries. That is why we must get the congresses right; if we do that at least, we can take the rest of 2021 to solve other crisis and we’ll be going to the 2022 election with confidence.
It was learnt that you were part of those who supported Aregbesola’s ambition to contest the 2007 governorship election, what informed your decision?
After Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola came into power in 2003, he said he wanted to conduct local government election in February 2004. I was the then state treasurer of the Alliance for Democracy and I knew we did not have any funds to prosecute the election. In fact, some prominent leaders told us to boycott that election. The Ijesa Zone of the party under Alhaji Hammed, the current Olosunjela then set up a committee to look for fund to contest the elections, even if we were not going to win. I was the Chairman of the Committee in Ijesa. We approached all those who were speculated to be interested in contesting the 2007 gubernatorial election. That paved the way for me to meet Aregbesola at his Lagos residence.
Aregbesola told us to go and bring our budget and he promised to look into it. We did not get a dime from anybody else as a party except from Aregbesola, although, some people gave money to some candidates. We did not have issues picking the candidates because they had been chosen before (Baba) Chief Bisi Akande lost the election. The first campaign we were to hold with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Baba Akande, Aregbesola gave us money for it. I will not lie to you; we have never seen that kind of money before. Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, the Chairman of the party then was scared of taking the money home, I could not either. It was Wale Afolabi who was the Secretary of the party at the time that took the money home. I told Aregbesola the money he gave us was for the state and that we needed fund for Ijesa candidates and he still gave me. Someone among the elders advised that we should spend little amount from the money and used the remaining to run the party because we were not sure of victory in the election and there was no other means to fund the party. I went back to Aregbesola to tell him about the advice but he said we should spend the money for the purpose it was meant for, that he would be funding the party henceforth. We started buying forms from Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) for the candidates – chairmanship and councillors. We went to the extent that we bought form for some people in some area where we had no candidates because we did not want PDP to contest unopposed. We were pleading with our members who were in these places to come and take their forms for free. There was even one person that got the form from us for free and later crossing to the PDP that same day. That is why I am saying that anyone who saw the party rise from that position to what we have started having since 2010 will not be part of the rubbish happening now. After procuring forms from that money, we paid salaries and took care of other situations. Since then, I made up my mind to support him.
What is your assessment of Aregbesola’s eight-year administration?
I met Aregbesola in 2004 and became very close to him in 2005. Even before the election, I was privy to almost everything he was planning to do. Let me give you an example, the first time I was with him in Osogbo and we were coming back to Ilesa in his bus, when we reached Osogbo Central Mosque, he said: ‘I would turn Osogbo to a capital’, did he do it or not? He implemented all his programmes in the Six-Point Integral Action Plan we published in 2006. Yes, his administration was financially handicapped from July 2013 due to fall in allocation, but he was able to achieve all his major plans for the state. We thank God that we have continuity in place. We see what is going on in Oyo; contracts that have been awarded by last administration were cancelled, and some have been re-awarded. We do not have that here because of continuity. The man who took over has, at least in terms of governance, kept fate. He has not abandoned any project. I was forced to ask the governor how he was able to meet this obligations and still pay full salaries as and when due. I am sorry if I am displaying selfishness here, everybody was afraid that the water project in Ilesa would be put on hold. This is not an easy thing to do but the project is still on. Whatever anyone might say, as a History student, I believe we will thank God for having the two of them (Aregbesola and Oyetola) leading our state later in the future. There is no aspect of governance that Ogbeni did not record success, although there are few sectors he should have recorded greater success but could not and that is unfortunate. It is not because he lacked intent but because of the people that handled the projects and programmes for him.
One of the controversies that surrounded Aregbesola’s administration was his choice of some non-indigenes of Osun to be part of his government. What is wrong, politically, in appointing a non-indigene into government?
The same thing was said of Asiwaju Tinubu when he governed Lagos State. This is not because his political appointees were not based in Lagos, but they were not indigenes of the state. There is no political decision you take that will not be criticized, however small the position is. Look at this present administration; are some of the people called outsiders not part of it? That means the present Governor Oyetola sees the advantages in those non-indigenous people. Even the Governor, Oyetola himself was regarded as ajele before. What they really meant by ajele was that it was Asiwaju that was steering the state’s affair. What they have forgotten is that, there is no political leader who did not pass through someone to get that position he or she occupies now.
How will you describe Aregbesola’s personality?
Aregbesola will tell you that he has never achieved anything on a platter of gold; and we are all witnesses to his battle in his first governorship election, the reclamation of his mandate and his first and second term struggles. But one way or the other, he is always surviving the crises. So, if I am to wish him, I will say that his God who has always been with him all these years will continue to be with him. If you are close to him, you will know he has been through a lot in life. He is a very prayerful person. What he is suffering from today is a transferred aggression from some people, including Osun indigenes who benefited greatly from him and his administration. Some of those ungrateful elements have left the party and the ones in the party now are some of the reasons why there is discontent in the party. Nobody brings his account to the open but people can conjecture how much a particular person made in the party and that person is battling the party today. Some people were not part of our struggle; they benefited largely from the outcome of the struggle and dumped Aregbesola eventually. Many of them worked against us in 2018. Even those who chased us with guns and cutlasses in 2003 and 2007 ended up benefiting immensely from the Aregbesola administration; and unfortunately, they have turned their backs against us. That is the problem. There were few openings for party members to enjoy during the Bisi Akande era for AD members. Yes, there were benefits like board appointments, but not as open as we have now. I will say this again, reasonable members of our party that had gone through the 2003 to 2010 struggles would not want to have this kind of division and infighting in the party again.
What effort is the party making to reconcile with defectors and aggrieved members of the party?
I know meetings are being held and I am part of that at the zonal level, but it is now a state affair and there is a committee for it. If not for the Coronavirus pandemic, I am sure we would have had a big event to welcome the defectors, among who are the former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, former Ilesa West Local Government Chairman, Alhaji Isa Adesiji and others from the Action Democratic Party (ADP).
There seems to be a slight difference of ideology between the progressives of your time and those we have now, what do you think is responsible for this?
I do not think there is difference of progressive ideology in today’s politics. What we have now in the progressive party is mixed of progressives and conservatives. And that is the price we had to pay to get into the mainstream politics. If we are playing our type of politics the way the late Awolowo did, we would not have gotten near the central government; we would not have smelt Abuja. I will not want to go into the differences. I don’t think there is any ward executive that you don’t have an old member of PDP. Whether you like it or not, they have their ways and we have ours too. And we have managed to come together and there is no way we can run away from some of their practices.
Culled from Osun Defender.