Zainab Suleiman Okino’s Column
My last week’s column, Aregbesola: A Godfather’s Excesses, focused on the apparent supremacy battle between Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State and his predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has attracted a reaction from the camp of the former Governor. It is an interesting read. Enjoy:
When Aregbesola is the victim, by Sola Fasure
I cannot just begin to imagine the motivation of Zainab Suleiman Okino seeing the passion and the bile in her piece in Premium Times titled ‘Aregbesola: A Godfather’s Excesses’. She tried to cast the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, as an overbearing political godfather that will not allow his successor to rest because he still wants to be controlling the affairs of government.
Given the volatile and explosive relationships between former governors and their successors, she is already riding on the crest of favourable public opinion on which to ground her piece which is actually totally misleading. That is why she could write so magisterially and self assuredly on a matter which will feed the prejudice of many but regrettably so. For every line, every notion and impression in the piece amounts to empty vituperation. It is, according to William Shakespeare, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
For the umpteenth time, and let all the mischief-makers, hack writers and the media lynch squad lying in wait for Aregbesola note that he did not organise any 10th anniversary programme. It was the Osun caucus in the National Assembly that organised the programme and invited him. He agreed to attend as it coincided with his visit to Osun on national assignment. President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed all members of the Federal Executive Council to return to their states and engage their governors, state excos and other critical stakeholders in their states on the pressing matter of security, in the wake of the #ENDSARS protest.
But the bigger question is this: what if he did? He fought a hard-won battle against the most pernicious and insidious federal might to contest and win election in which he contested against a sitting brutal and sadistic state government. He then won his re-election in a contest in which the state was saturated with federal cash and the largest security armada ever assembled in the annals of elections in the country and then capped his political exploit in the state by successfully handing over to a successor, and on the same political platform.
It was an epic story whose echoes still reverberate in the state and beyond, whose anniversary had been celebrated annually since 2011.
But we must continue to interrogate any narrative because when a lie is repeated too often without questioning, it might dangerously pass. We then must ask: how could a minister returning to his state to perform a presidential task make anyone uncomfortable? How does attending an anniversary lecture constitute a breach of public peace? Again, how does celebrating two anniversaries amount to one running the other out of town, as she disingenuously claims? Let us even assume without conceding that the lecture was organised to criticise the governor, how is that a crime? The supporters of the governor could have organised 100 other lectures in his support without anyone batting an eyelid. That is the beauty of democracy. No one should deny another in the public space. Karl Popper admonished us to be intolerant of the intolerant.
So, Okino missed the premise completely and therefore anything she builds on it cannot stand.
The reference to Bola Ilori again is completely out of context. Ilori’s statement was a reaction to a threat on Facebook by a sympathiser of the state governor who wrote that “Any parallel anniversary will attract a parallel beating..” Ilori replied him 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”. While this is a fitting reply to a direct threat, I don’t even see how the statement could have been offensive or misplaced on its own. In advanced countries, the earlier threat made against ‘parallel anniversary’ should have been of interest to law enforcement agencies.
But by the time Okino lunched into regaling us with how Ilori is from Ondo State, how Aregbesola changed ‘Osun State’ to ‘State of Osun’, the so called ‘Osun State debt’ and tenure elongation of the Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), it is clear that Aregbesola is her target and her interest has derailed from godfather-godson relationship.
Let me take it that she doesn’t even know that no minister can sack or replace a para-military agency’s chief. Only the president does that. In the extant case, the CG’s tenure would have ended at a most pressing time in Nigeria, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the president elongated his and several other heads of government agencies that would have ended during the period.
I think Mrs Okino went over her head to dabble into a matter that should be of tangential interest to her and ended presenting herself as an unabashed partisan. She makes no effort at objectivity or even try to look at the matter from both sides as she went straight for the jugular of Aregbesola from the beginning to the end.
In closing, let it be known that Ogbeni Aregbesola is not at war with anyone. He has goodwill towards Governor Oyetola, as can be seen in his congratulatory letter to him on his second anniversary and a full-page advertisement on same in a national newspaper. Mrs Okino is rather advised that she should be building and reconciling people, rather than tearing down and fanning the embers of discord between brothers.
*Fasure is the Media Adviser to the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and writes from Abuja