Between Aregbesola and Oyetola
By Segun Ayobolu.
What exactly are the fundamental causes of the now all too obvious and seemingly irreconcilable differences between the immediate past governor of Osun State and current Minister of the Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and the incumbent governor, Mr Gboyega Oyetola? I find it difficult to say. There does not appear to be any concrete, substantial ideological or philosophical divergences between the two. Whatever disagreements there may be between them seem to stem from sycophantic supporters and hangers on on both sides bent on profiting from hostilities between their two patrons. While Ogbeni Aregbesola has come out to categorically and publicly declare his support for The Osun Progressives (TOP), the main opposition to Oyetola within the Osun State All Progressives Congress (APC), the governor himself has remained reticent and unwilling to speak on the perceived strained relationship with his former boss.
Sources close to Oyetola indicate that he does not see himself as having any problems with the Minister but rather perceives the latter as being the one on a war path against him. It is no longer a secret that Aregbesola and his group will do everything possible to prevent the governor from securing a second term in office in this year’s governorship election in the state while the latter is no less determined to fly the APC’s flag for a second term and triumph in the general elections. The APC governorship primaries is set to be a straight fight among Oyetola, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yusuff Lasun and ex-Secretary to the Osun State government in the Aregbesola administration, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti.
If Oyetola clinches the APC ticket as is not unlikely, will the TOP group throw its weight behind him in the general election? It is doubtful. And if the opposition to Oyetola prevails in the intra-party contest, will the Oyetola tendency, which wields the power of incumbency, support the emergent candidate in the inter-party contest? Again, it is unlikely. Either way, the Osun APC seems poised to shoot itself on the foot and gift victory to an evidently formidable opposition that it can take for granted to its peril. That would be an unfortunate scenario in which neither Aregbesola nor Oyetola can be the ultimate winner no matter what their calculations and permutations may be.
The two men would surely be wise to step aback a little bit from the maddening crowd of their belligerent supporters fanning the embers of war and undertake a sober and clinical analysis of the unfolding political scenario in the state with regard to whatever political future they envisage for themselves. In his veritable bomb of a book, ‘My Partcipations’, which continues to cause ripples both in political and literary circles, the first elected governor of Osun State in this political dispensation, Chief Bisi Akande, gives a vivid and gripping account of the deplorable and sordid condition of the state when he assumed office in 1999 – it’s near financial insolvency, crippling indebtedness, dysfunctional and over bloated bureaucracy, entrenched corruption and ineffectual governance among others. Chief Akande had to take some hard decisions to reposition the state and place her on a sound developmental pedestal that necessitated stepping on some privileged toes which, combined with the blatant rigging of the elections across the South West, denied him of electoral victory in 2003.
Unfortunately, whatever gains were recorded during the tenure of Chief Akande were quickly eroded under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ‘s years of the locusts resulting in Osun state slipping deeper into the mire of underdevelopment and impoverishment. To his credit, when he assumed office as governor of Osun state on 27 November, 2010, Aregbesola brought fresh air of progressive, redemptive and audacious governance into the state of the living spring. For eight years, he dared to dream big and conceptualized as well as actualized projects of gargantuan proportions across diverse sectors of the state including road construction, education and health in addition to various initiatives to generate jobs, ameliorate poverty and enhance the quality of life.
However, no human government across time and space has ever been found perfect and infallible. Perfect governance would require the ministration of angelic beings and not mere mortals. Conceiving of projects on the scale of what was accomplished during his eight-year tenure as Commissioner of Works and Infrastructure in Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 during the tenure of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as governor, the Aregbesola administration in Osun was not sufficiently mindful of the reality that the state did not necessarily have the revenue base to sustain such large scale legacy structures in the long run. Thus, as revenue accruals to the state from the Federation Account dwindled, the Internally Generated Revenue base of Osun had not been sufficiently strengthened to enable the government sustain its lofty infrastructural projections as well as fully meet routine obligations to the citizenry such as regular payment of workers’ salaries. This understandably created friction between the administration and workers, for example, which no doubt had a limiting impact on the APC’s performance in the election that brought Oyetola to power in 2018.
Beyond this, some of the Aregbesola administration’s well-meaning radical initiatives in the education sector, for instance, obviously did not go down well with influential segments of the elite such as old boys associations of prominent schools who detested the merger of their institutions with others or the changing of school uniforms to which they were sentimentally and emotionally attached. But these were errors of the heart and not deliberate misdeeds of the head. From my observatory, it appears that the Oyetola administration’s reversals of some of Aregbesola’s education sector reforms is one reason why supporters of the latter perceive a subtle agenda to erode the legacy of their leader in the state. But I understand that these changes were effected after extensive consultations with stakeholders and following the recommendations of a high-powered panel of experts headed by a renowned educationist, Professor Olu Aina. Given Oyetola’s narrow victory in the 2018 elections, it is understandable that he had to take steps to redress some of those policies that alienated critical segments of the electorate from his party.
A pertinent question here is: does Oyetola deserve a second term in office whatever may be his differences with his predecessor? Those who are familiar with the developmental terrain of Osun State answer this question emphatically in the affirmative. The governor himself said as much after going through the party’s screening process to enable him participate in the primaries.
Credible witnesses testify that Oyetola is systematically paying the debt obligations inherited from his predecessor as every government necessarily takes on the assets and liabilities of the preceding government; his administration is fully paying workers salaries and allowances while at the same time undertaking infrastructure projects and poverty alleviation policies in diverse sectors particularly with regard to health, road construction and rural infrastructure. I personally do not see how Oyetola’s serving a second term will detract the tiniest jot from Aregbesola’s exemplary legacy as a two-term successful commissioner in Lagos State, a two-term governor in Osun State and now Minister of the Interior at the federal level. Ogbeni has every reason to be grateful to God for His abundant grace and mercies upon him.
In the same vein, it is difficult to see what Oyetola stands to profit if he wins a second term at the cost of demystifying his predecessor. The governor had been a successful and accomplished professional ever before occupying public office. Perhaps these two gentlemen only need to sit down and think rather than being driven by and enslaved to the unreasoning passions of their supporters.
During his tenure as governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) once stated, perceptibly, that it was not his desire to be the best governor ever in the history of the state but would only do his bit in the hope that his successors would perform better in the best interest of the state. Each successive governor in Lagos State since 1999 has been inspired and motivated to seek to perform better than the preceding one and the people are the better for it. In the first republic, the Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Samuel Ladoke Akintola factions of the defunct Action Group (AG) fought each other to a standstill with the ultimate decimation of the party, disruption of good governance in the Western Region and leading on to the destruction of democratic rule in the country. I am sure that the two lead actors in the entire drama would make different choices were they given the opportunity to reenact their life trajectories all over again. There are several such instances in Nigeria’s political history.
It is certainly not too late for Aregbesola and Oyetola to pull back their rampaging supporters spoiling for war right now. The differences between the two men stem more from natural and inevitable personality differences rather than fundamental divergences in philosophy or ideology. Given his antecedents since his youthful student days, Aregbesola is an impassioned ideologue, charismatic orator and restless political activist. Oyetola is a reserved technocrat, taciturn achiever and sober political pragmatist. Both, however, have progressive inclinations and orientations. Aregbesola was in the trenches during the struggle to emancipate the country from military dictatorship. Oyetola operated from the background playing critical roles in financing the struggle. The personality differences between the two reminds one of the difference in outlook, temperament and disposition between Asiwaju Tinubu and his successor as governor of Lagos State, BRF. This is natural in politics and calls for mutual patience, tolerance, accommodation and understanding rather than unbridled hostility and self-destructive hatred