Press Conference Organised by South West Civil Society and Community Based Organisations held in Ikeja,Lagos with the Theme: Power, Politics and Democracy in The South West: Solidarity with Justice, Liberty and Truth” held at Ikeja, Lagos on Tuesday, March 01, 2022
Gentlemen of the press, comrades, ladies and gentlemen,
We have called this important meeting for many good reasons. We are all conscious of the history of politics in the South West for time immemorial. In the South West, post colonial history teaches us that the region had her own dose of intra-party wrangling with far reaching consequences on Yoruba people and their ancestral territories. The Western Regional crisis which dovetailed into the 1964 general elections could have been avoided. It started as ideological differences between the then Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his Deputy, Chief Ladoke Akintola. Eventually, this crisis snowballed into a major conflict within the Action Group, (AG) leading to the emergence of a faction of Chief Akintola presented as an alternative political front which clashed with the established dominion of the Action Group.
Eventually, this crisis led to the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Western Region. It developed into the killing and burning of properties in the South West by armed state agents and also by the people themselves.
It is a fact that this Western Regional crisis was what led to the civil war in Nigeria. No one ever thought this could happen. Till date, Nigeria is yet to recover from the flame ignited.
Again, in 1983, the political differences within the Unity Party of Nigeria, (UPN) led to a split, with a reactionary faction pitching tents with the National Party of Nigeria, (NPN).
The crisis between Chief Adekunle Ajasin and Akin Omoboriowo manifested. This led to riots and arson in the then Ondo State with far reaching impact on Nigeria.
This crisis led to the coup of December 31, 1984 led by the current President, then
General Muhammadu Buhari. We should not undermine the consequences of a budding dispute between two individuals.
We do not want a repeat of this ugly history.
Aregbesola, Osun and Politics in Yorubaland
We have keenly followed the debate on Comrade Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola concerning recent political developments in Yorubaland. The issues that have been raised consistently include but not limited to the following:
That Comrade Aregbesola is dagger-drawn with the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who the latter’s supporters claim made Aregbesola.
That Comrade Aregbesola was abusive in his responses to well-known plot of BAT to destroy his political career and time-honoured reputation as a progressive.
That Comrade Aregbesola should not have sponsored any candidate against the current Governor of Osun State, His Excellency, Gboyega Oyetola.
This has fuelled passion. Let it be said clearly that there are many vested interests attached to this dispute. There are those who want the two main actors to drown politically, there are those who feast on the crisis and even benefit financially, and to this extent would not wish to see an end to the imbroglio. There are also those motivated with the passion to see the South-West erupt in a major crisis. There are those moved by envy and cruel hatred to the extent that anything that would bring down Comrade Rauf Aregbesola should be upheld and sustained. This dispute took an unfortunate dimension when some paid agents carried a mock coffin in clear pursuance of their own parochial and self-serving base instinct. Supporters of Aregbesola have responded in measured tones with the hope and in honour of the tradition of debate in the progressive fold that ideas should contend without resulting to violent brawl and savage display of brutish instincts.
We hereby state the position of South West Civil Society and Community based Organisations gathered here today representing various socio-cultural, civil society groups in the Yoruba South West including Kwara and Kogi States.
That Comrade Aregbesola is well known to the progressive forces in the South West. His reputation, strength of character, honesty of purpose, transparency and credibility are not in doubt. His iconic political heritage could be traced back to the 1980s as a strong member of the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANs). He was a stormy petrel in the labour movement and a striking personality in the anti-military campaign alongside prominent Nigerians including Dr. Beko Ransom-Kuti, Prof Wole Soyinka, Pa Anthony Enahoro, Oweh Lakenfa, Salisu Lukman, the late Chima Ubani, Joe Okei Odumakin among many more progressives.
That those claiming Asiwaju made Comrade Aregbesola are speaking out of historical contexts.
The truth is that Aregbesola already made his name in the progressive fold as a decent man of truth and integrity driven by people’s aspiration for radical change. These are evident in his days in the students’ movement through his active participation in various social movements, the anti-SAP mass rallies, the Labour movement, the anti-military campaigns of the 1980s/90s through which his energetic network with artisans, students, workers, Pan-Yoruba groups were rooted.
We must admit that Comrade Aregbesola and Asiwaju were major actors on the field of the June 12 election campaigns.
Aregbesola was a fighting spirit, galvanising the masses in the fierce anti-military campaign at the risk of his life. He had the option of going into exile but bared his chest at the Homefront to confront evil at the risk of his life.
Many attempts were made on the life of Aregbesola during the tough anti-fascist campaign
It was this quality that Asiwaju, when he returned to Nigeria in 1998, saw in him in which made him to seek an alliance with him during the Lagos 1998/99 gubernatorial election not forgetting that they had both met when Aregbesola sought a ticket to go to the House of Representatives from Alimosho while Asiwaju Tinubu equally sought to contest for the Senate in the days of the Social Democratic Party.
At this time, while Asiwaju provided the funds, Aregbesola provided the intellectual power, the revolutionary flavor and the rare blood-bound alliance with the Lagos masses was worked out by him which culminated in Asiwaju’s victory in 1999, a feat repeated in 2003, making Lagos State the only one retained in the South West. It should be known that Aregbesola was actually in charge of the campaign in Lagos in 1999.
That Aregbesola’s decision to contest the election in Osun state was taken by the radical movement and the progressive wing in the then Action Congress, (AC). We admit that Asiwaju provided funds but the real work on the ground, the mobilization of the masses, market women, farmers, peasants, teachers, cobblers was led by Aregbesola, through the Oranmiyan movement which became a revolutionary movement that galvanized Osun State. Aregbesola’s achievements in Osun are legendary, throughout the 8-years he was at the saddle, and these have been acknowledged by local and international development organisations.
Comrade Aregbesola symbolises, championed and delivered a transformational model of governance that elevated Osun to one of the highest human development index and employment rates in the country attested to by local, national and international development bodies.
Note that his interventions in education won several laurels including international commendations from UNICEF, UNESCO, World Bank and Partnership for Child Development (PCD) of Imperial College, London to name of few.
His people-first infrastructure development programmes reduced unemployment rate from 17.2% in 2010 to 5.3% when he left in 2018. His Social Investment programme, for Youths, Home-Grown School Feeding and Care for the aged have now become models adopted by the Federal Government along-side multiple sub-nationals. The Federal Government which now delivered the largest social investment impact Nigeria has seen in recent times drawing inspirations from his innovations in Osun.
As of 2018, just after 4 years of adopting these people-centric programs, the FG has fed 12m children through the home-grown school feeding program, empowered hundreds of thousands of local farmers and cooks. Through the Conditional Cash Transfers, over 1m households have benefitted from monthly living stipend, through the Government enterprise and empowerment program, 2.5m the petty traders and market women have been supported with soft loans and over 600,000 youths empowered to do community services through the N-power Programme.
We must recall that while Comrade Aregbesola performed these feats in Osun, he was a source of pride to Asiwaju Tinubu.
One of the days Asiwaju Tinubu was most proud was on November 27, 2018 in Osogbo. Speaking after the inauguration of Governor Gboyega Oyetola, Asiwaju Tinubu noted that Aregbesola successfully ran the affairs of the state as a progressive based on welfare programmes. “This is no mean achievement. You walked the path, talked the talk and did the job,” Asiwaju Tinubu noted.
Comrade Aregbesola’s fault may be extreme loyalty. We do not blame him for this. He has been loyal to his cause without submitting to the whims that money is everything.
Aregbesola believes that ideas and respect for the value of knowledge is the most important driving force in any great society.
Aregbesola is loyal to Asiwaju to the extent that the loyalty would not betray his loyalty to God and to the people. When loyalty to God and the people contests with being faithful to an individual, it is traditional that a decent man will choose God and the people.
On Osun State and Recent Political Developments
Given the landmarks that were achieved during the eight years of Comrade Aregbesola, the actions of his successor, who served as his Chief of Staff and was seen by many as the de facto Governor, would naturally spark division within the party. Reviews of government policies are normal and it is our belief that even Comrade Aregbesola reviewed some of his own policies before leaving office. But the modus operandi of these reviews should have been done with greater caution not to jeopardise the image of the party as inconsistent first and that of his predecessor. In the interpretation of many, the reversal of these policies significantly bore the semblance of a conscious attempt to undo Comrade Aregbesola.
Aregbesola served Osun State without blemish. He did not acquire wealth for his personal interests neither was he involved in primitive accumulation of wealth as evident even amidst rumours mongering and fairy tales that lack any substance.
He also supported Governor Oyetola to emerge as his successor. Given their years of relationship, it is natural for Comrade Aregbesola to have expected his leader, Asiwaju Tinubu to caution his brother against the path he chose. In this, we expected Asiwaju, as the leader of both to have acted fast to stem what snowballed into this huge division.
It should be noted that there was no policy decision in the 8-years of Aregbesola that Oyetola was not a key stakeholder.
He did not only defend these positions, he signed some of the policy papers. To make the reversal of these policies his number one cardinal focus is nothing but a conscious attempt to destroy Comrade Aregbesola. We do not think this is right.
OSUN APC PRIMARY:
We state without any contradictions, that the Osun primary was a contest between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, money and good conscience, freewill and violence.
Truth be told, the outcome of the primary has not proved anything different from the fact that Nigeria still has a long way to go in democratic development.
Primary elections are still filled with manipulation with money and brigandage, to skew the aspirations of the people and twist their ambitions.
There is time for everything. We take solace in the fact that a house built on dew and falsehood will surely collapse, it is a matter of time.
Between Asiwaju and Aregbesola
Asiwaju has on many occasions commended Comrade Aregbesola as a honest, upright, dutiful and diligent fighter.
We recall that while Comrade Aregbesola performed these feats in Osun, he was a source of pride to Asiwaju Tinubu.
One of the days Asiwaju Tinubu was most proud was on November 27, 2018 in Osogbo. Speaking after the inauguration of Governor Gboyega Oyetola, Asiwaju Tinubu noted that Aregbesola successfully ran the affairs of the state as a progressive based on welfare programmes. “This is no mean achievement. You walked the path, talked the talk and did the job,” Asiwaju Tinubu noted. Infact, the victory of Oyetola and the APC was informed by the achievements recorded during the 8-years that Comrade Aregbesola was in power. The APC campaigned and won on his programmes.
We state categorically that there is no dispute that cannot be resolved.
Our position is that the attacks on Aregbesola are unnecessary and must stop. We also realise the need for reconciliation between the key actors because continued face off is not in the interest of either of the two.
We do not belong to the school that thinks the crisis must linger. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. It is a dispute that can set the entire South West on the path to internal combustion.
We recognise the strength, the potentials, the opportunities and of course the weaknesses of both actors.
We strongly believe that as humans, none of them is perfect. The very reason they must close ranks in the interests of all.
That this crisis has continued to blossom is a weakness on the part of the two and a show of lack of capacity to manage dispute on the part of all of us. In politics, disagreements are normal. When such disputes are nipped in the bud, it is for the benefit of all, including the society on whose behalf both actors contend.
We, the civil society, grassroots Organisations and community based groups across Yoruba territories will set up a committee that will explore the potentials of reconciling the two personalities bearing in mind that the disagreement is also on certain principles upheld for decades by our Comrade, Rauf Aregbesola. We shall be briefing the people and the press on the outcome of the people-driven peace initiative that we have put it place.
Thank you all