By Zainab Suleiman Okino
This Friday, November 27, 2020, all roads will lead to Osun state, where the former governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is scheduled to hold an unprecedented and historic “10th Anniversary of Progressive Government in Osun”, as the invitation card to the event reads.
Whatever goes down on Friday will go into the record book of political adventurism, never seen before. In the last 20 or so years of civil rule, this is the first time, a godfather-ex-governor will celebrate an anniversary after serving his constitutionally-sanctioned eight-year tenure for elected officials.
No godfather-ex-governor, not even Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Aregbesola’s godfather, in all his vice-grip on his godsons in the South-west, has attempted to undermine and usurp the power of a sitting governor this way.
In the same IV to the event of November 27, there is no mention of the sitting governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who only two years ago, he (Areghesola) fought tooth and nail to install as governor. Was all that done to make a puppet out Oyetola (for onward exploitation) or his choice would best serve the interest of the people of Osun state? On this same day, Governor Oyetola, by convention is also due to mark/celebrate his second year in office, so who will run the other out of town between Aregbesola the ex-governor or Oyetola the current governor.
I understand that last year, the same Aregbesola group made an attempt to celebrate their one year out of office, but reason later prevailed over sentiment, and they dropped the idea. Again, neither the leadership of the party in the state, nor the government of Oyetola is aware of the celebration in the horizon.
While the conjectures continue, there are pertinent questions Aregbesola should answer. What is the celebration on 27th of November all about and why the choice of a date that coincides with the anniversary of the state, which is statutorily/normally marked by sitting governors. If the ex-governor must celebrate anything, why that day and why was the governor not invited? Is the duo no longer in the same party, APC? What is the antecedent that engenders such an event? Therefore, to say, Aregbesola’s would-be event is unparalleled and provocative is an understatement. Talk of the godfather damaging his godson’s administration and deflating his own “empire”; here is one typical example. For some, the allure of power is such that they can never get enough of it and do not know when to let go. Aregbesola is the current minister of Interior, why is he still meddling in the affairs of his state and to what end?
Obviously, the brewing feud between the current and the ex-governors of the state of Osun is coming into the open. This insight was provided in the Daily Independent report of last Monday, November 23, which disclosed that only the minister and his loyalists are planning the event without the governor, as corroborated by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ismail Omipidan.
“The relationship between Oyetola and Aregbesola has seriously collapsed and several efforts made to reconcile both men within and outside the state have failed to achieve the desired result…the truth is, the situation is getting out of hand between the governor and the minister. We have been trying to manage it but the truth is that the attitude of some of these key players hasn’t been helpful”.
While discussing the upcoming Aregbesola event on the social media, a thread of conversations between one Bola Ilori and Nurudeen Ademola Taoheed Samorano further revealed the groundswell of intimidation and condescending display of arrogance by the minister’s loyalists. It goes thus: “Ogbeni defeated an army general to become the governor while he was not holding any position. It’s not the fear of ambush that will stop the 10th year anniversary. They (meaning the governor’s loyalists) either join the 10th anniversary in peace and all will be well or they will walk far away from the venue and the event will proceed undisturbed. We come in peace”, to which Ilori responded: Egin ti soro soke” and euphemism for concurring with the earlier statement, as interpreted by my Yoruba friend. The conversation is akin to stoking the fire of discord and violence, but it is even beyond that. Mr Ilori according to those in the know, is not even from Osun state; he is said to be from Ondo state, but was made a commissioner by Arebgesola during his time as governor, a somewhat re-enactment of how Bola Tinubu made Aregbesola commissioner in Lagos.
Aregbesola had a controversial tenure as governor and a running battle with the PDP controlled federal government under Goodluck Jonathan especially when he changed the nomenclature of the state to the state of Osun as against the way other states are addressed. Other than to flex political muscle with a weak centre under Jonathan, the whole idea did not make much sense, but he got away with his recalcitrance.
For all his grandstanding, his most enduring legacy was the humungous debts he left for his successor, which is probably why he wanted a pliant governor that will do his biddings, otherwise what is the meaning of this celebration. Osun’s famed debts overhang under Aregbesola was a subject of whispers among governors then.
Why did the minister turn against the governor? His anger with the governor was said to have emanated from Oyetola’s refusal to appoint his (Aregbesola’s) loyalists as commissioners. Yet another reason was Oyetola government’s review (in conjunction with the state Assembly) of the law requiring pension payment to the ex-governor.
Meanwhile, while he chooses to take his battle to his home state, at his immediate constituency at the Ministry of Interior in Abuja, there are constitutional breaches going on under his gaze as minister. Right now, the tenure of the Comptroller-General of Correctional Service, Ahmed Ja’afaru seems to be an open-ended one. He was appointed in May 2016; his tenure was in 2019 elongated to July 2020. Against established norms, and even when others in line of succession have since retired, no one knows when the CG will finally retire. That alone is a huge puzzle for the minister, but he will rather fight dirty at home than face his federal assignment in Abuja.
Over the years, the constant hostilities between godfathers and godsons are sad reminders of kingmakers’ ill-intentions. That of Aregbesola and Oyetola is another lesson in how not to play god in the choice of a successor in a democracy. From the old enmity between Orji Uzor Kalu-Enyinnaya Abaribe to Danjuma Goje-Dankwambo to Yerima-Mamood Shinkafi to Kwankwaso-Ganduje and to the recent case of Oshiomhole-Obaseki imbroglio, godfather-godson relationship has been a revelation in betrayal, disappointment, rebellion and loss of grip, for the obvious reason that there is no sincerity of purpose and transparency in the whole process; godfathers only handpick those they think they can manipulate and not those who have the capacity and competence to work for the progress and development of their states.
And when there is a clear rebellion like the case of Oyetala, who seems determined to choose his own path and vision for the state, enmity and distrust set in. By next year, when the primary election is in view in Osun state, another scene and chapter will be opened in the ceaseless drama between godfathers and godsons; a needless acrimony, I must add.