Political observers in Osun State claim that next year’s governorship election provides a golden opportunity for the state’s new Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola to settle old scores.
Aregbesola is the state’s immediate past governor. And, since Oyetola took over in 2018, there has been no falling out between them. The two leaders have denied any divide between them on several occasions, but their behaviour and body language, as reflected by their supporters and loyalists, indicate that they are not on the same page as far as the All Progressives Congress (APC) is concerned.
After seeing that their feud was impacting Osun APC cohesion, the party’s National leaders, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Chief Adebisi Akande, attempted to resolve their differences in December 2020 at Akande’s country home, Ila-Oragun.
According to sources, Aregbesola and Oyetola have been attempting to play down their rift with maturity as a result of their friendship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. While Aregbesola considers Tinubu to be his political godfather, Oyetola is said to be Tinubu’s nephew.
As a result, the two political leaders stopped washing their filthy linens in public, even though their followers and loyalists refused to let the sleeping dog lie. On social media, they engage in banter, make accusations, and trade words on behalf of their principals.
The Special Adviser to Governor Oyetola on Education, Jamiu Olawumi, and Bola Ilori, who works in Aregbesola’s office in Abuja, are prominent among these loyalists who have been maintaining the proxy war on social media.
What Started It All
INSIDERS told The Guardian that even though Aregbesola campaigned for Oyetola, who served as his Chief of Staff until 2018, and helped him win the governorship, the minister was still interested in being in charge of the Osun State APC. The concept, however, did not sit well with Oyetola.
So, in order to avoid giving Aregbesola any opportunities to take over the party’s organisation, the governor declined to nominate those perceived as Aregbesola’s powerful loyalists to his kitchen cabinet. The news infuriated Aregbesola’s supporters.
“One thing you should note is that the governor of a state is the representative of the state’s ruling political party. To maintain complete control of the party and government, he will need to collaborate with people he can rely on. Even if he finds those who served with Aregbesola as commissioners or special advisers when he was governor of the state, they will have to pass allegiance to Oyetola. That is what it should be,” a senior government official told The Guardian.
Aside from the appointment issue, sources said Aregbesola was upset because Oyetola did not support him before he was appointed minister. According to reports, the governor planned to reward Senator Iyiola Omisore with a ministerial role for his efforts in securing his victory in the state’s governorship re-run in 2018.
According to some insiders, their schism intensified when Oyetola overturned some of Aregbesola’s policies. Aregbesola was said to be enraged by this. Aregbesola’s controversial single school uniform policy, which he implemented in 2013 for both public primary and secondary schools, is one of these measures.
Any of the 26 topics examined by Oyetola’s administration included the reclassification of the public education system and the abolition of single-sex schools throughout the state. Other issues discussed include the implementation of the ‘Opon Imo,’ also known as the tablet of knowledge, the issuance of primary school leaving certificates, the change of school identities, the ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), the operations of Osun State University, and the merger of basic and high schools in several communities, among others.
Though the governor claimed that the decision to undo some of these policies was a result of his “Thank You” tour across the state following his election victory, some argued that it was done to discredit Aregbesola’s legacies.
Sunday Akere, a chieftain of the Osun APC, blamed the suspected split on the duo’s loyalists and supporters. “Aregbesola and Oyetola are best of friends,” he said. Their fans and followers are the ones throwing uncalled-for tantrums on social media. They should put a stop to it.”
The year 2022 And what happened to Oyetola?
WHATEVER the case, 2022 is quickly approaching, and the supposed Aregbesola-Oyetola feud is heating up. While Oyetola has not publicly and officially announced his intention to remain in the Oke-Fia Government House beyond 2022, the governor’s and his allies’ body language suggests that he is interested in a second term. In addition, the governor’s backers and loyalists have been campaigning for his re-election in 2022.
The Office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Civic Engagement has been meeting with traditional rulers, lawmakers, community leaders, and residents of the state in what it has dubbed the “Governor’s Family Meeting” as part of Oyetola’s subtle campaigns towards preparations for his alleged second term ambition.
Attendees at these meetings, which are currently taking place throughout the state, have been showering encomiums on Oyetola and praying for his dream of a second term to come true. At these meetings, Oyetola’s commissioners and other aides urged the citizens of the state to back their principal.
According to sources within the party and the state government, Senator Iyiola Omisore’s defection to the APC was part of Oyetola’s strategy to capture Osun East in the upcoming election. Omisore, a former deputy governor of the state who also served as senator for Osun East for one term, defected from the Social Democratic Party to the APC (SDP).
This unexpected romance with Oyetola began in 2018, when the former lawmaker assisted the ruling party in winning a close election that resulted in the appointment of Governor Oyetola. Mr Omisore was the SDP’s nominee in that race. Oyetola also named Omisore’s running mate, Yemi Lawal, as Commissioner for Youths and Sports as additional compensation.
According to sources, Omisore was admitted into the party in order to compete for control of Osun East with Aregbesola, who is also from the area, ahead of the 2022 elections.
Omisore’s supporters escorted him to the registration point at his unit in Moore, Ile-Ife, with chants of “Oyetola for second term.” He was invited into the party by the deputy governor, Benedict Alabi, and the party’s state chairman, Prince Gboyega Famodun.
Omisore and Aregbesola aren’t the best of friends, and the minister has never hidden his displeasure with them. Aregbesola had fought against Omisore’s inclusion in the APC.
According to The Guardian, Oyetola’s other tactic to ensure that he continues to govern Osun beyond 2022 is to entice the state chairman of the party, Gboyega Famodun, to his hand. Famodun’s term expired in October 2018, but he is still in office because Oyetola has refused to allow the party to hold a state congress to elect new leaders in the state. According to sources, this is to ensure that Famodun midwife Oyetola emerges as the party’s candidate for the 2022 gubernatorial election.
Posters canvassing votes for Oyetola in the 2022 Gubernatorial Elections appeared in some areas of Osogbo, the state capital, in February 2021. The posters, which were pasted directly opposite the Government House, Oke-Fia, and under the November 27 Interchange, along Abere, on the Osogbo/Gbongan/Ibadan Expressway, read “Continuity 2022, Gboyega Oyetola for Second Term” rather than “Continuity 2022, Gboyega Oyetola for Second Term.”
Ismail Omipidan, the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, asked those behind the campaign posters to wait for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to offer the go-ahead for electioneering activities. Omipidan claimed that Oyetola was still concerned with providing quality service to the citizens of the state.
Scores are being settled.
AREGBESOLA’s camp does not appear to be relenting in its efforts to ensure that Oyetola does not serve in the Government House until 2022. According to sources, the minister plans to settle scores with the governor by opposing his bid for a second term. Aregbesola’s foot soldiers and campaign groups have been mobilising and engaging with key stakeholders in the state, especially those who have become disillusioned with Oyetola’s governance styles. Oranmiyan, a socio-political party in the state, is one of these parties. Some civil society organisations and market women are said to have joined Aregbesola’s camp in order to depose Oyetola the following year.
Some APC members who have complained about the bad welfare they have experienced since Oyetola’s inception have expressed their displeasure and wished for a Governor who they say is miserly. Another aspect that may work against Oyetola’s desire for a second term is zoning. However, the APC may have broken from tradition in 2018 when Oyetola, a senator from Osun Central Senatorial District, received Tinubu’s endorsement to become the party’s nominee. Insiders say the clamour for Osun West’s turn can resurface this time.
According to Prince Diran Odeyemi, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, the main opposition political party in Osun, the party is considering fielding Senator Ademola Adeleke in the upcoming election.
The group, which is still divided, hopes to dethrone the APC. “As a faction, the PDP is offering Senator Ademola Adeleke the chance, having done well on the ballot the last time, and he has the right to accept or decline,” Odeyemi said recently. So far, no one else has shown an interest, including Ogunbiyi, who ran in the primary with him the last time. We are only interested in Adeleke.
“However, we are not closing the door on those who are interested in running for the PDP ticket. Anyone who is interested in participating in the race is welcome to do so.”
However, sources say that the APC does not consider zoning in 2022 after successfully waiving it in the last governorship election.
Whatever the case may be, the fight for Osun’s soul has started in secret. Both eyes are on the upcoming gubernatorial election to see who will win or lose in the high drama and intrigues that are unfolding.