Home Special Features Aregbesola’s anger and politics of bitterness, by Ehi Braimah

Aregbesola’s anger and politics of bitterness, by Ehi Braimah

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Eligible voters in Osun state trooped out enthusiastically last weekend to cast their votes for their preferred candidates during the gubernatorial election. Fifteen political parties took part in the election but by the time the results from the various polling centres were collated and announced, Senator Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who was the main challenger, polled 403,371 votes to beat the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Party (APC) who polled 375,027 votes.

Let me use this opportunity to congratulate “dancing” Senator Adeleke who emerged victorious with a margin of 28,344 votes. Expectedly, there were celebration parties by supporters of Governor-elect Adeleke in different parts of the state. It was indeed dancing time inspired by the victory but special thanks must also go to award winning artiste, Davido, a nephew of Senator Adeleke, who used his brand power to mobilise young voters for his uncle.

Meanwhile, election monitors, observers and voters praised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for doing an excellent job. The positive feedback on INEC’s performance gives us hope that all would be well at next year’s general elections – all things being equal.

Four years ago, Adeleke won the first round of the governorship election but he was defeated by Oyetola in the re-run with only 482 votes to become governor of Osun state. Now, the story has changed, largely because APC leaders in the state could not put their house in order.

If the prominent actors had closed ranks, perhaps APC would have won the election because of the narrow margin between the contestants, and Oyetola would have been back in office for a second term.

I don’t know whether Rauf Aregbesola, a former governor of Osun state and minister of interior, is happy with himself wherever he is. When it mattered most, especially after the electoral victory in the Ekiti state governorship election, the ruling party threw away a golden opportunity to consolidate their leadership position ahead of the 2023 general elections. Instead of 22, APC is now in control of 21 states while PDP has 14 states.

Aregbesola confirmed what we knew all along when he boycotted an important election of his party in his own home state where he was governor. How can you explain that to anyone? What was the idea of staying away? To prove what point? It was reported that the interior minister chose that moment to travel out of the country; so he was clearly missing in action.

He may not know it, but staying away was a treacherous conduct. A viral video showed Aregbesola being accosted by a Nigerian in a restaurant in the United States when he should have been in his village, voting at Isare ward 8, his polling unit in Illesa. It turned out to be an unpleasant and embarrassing encounter for our run away minister. He believes, rightly or wrongly, that Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, ex-governor of Osun state, are forcing Oyetola on the people of Osun state against their will.

The unnecessary rift between two factions of the party in the state cost APC the election. These factions are backed by the incumbent governor Oyetola and Aregbesola respectively. A house is divided against itself cannot stand; there will be no peace and progress in the house.

When Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC presidential flag bearer, was governor of Lagos state from 1999 to 2007, Aregbesola who hails from Osun state was the commissioner for works and housing – a plum portfolio by any standard – during the eight years of the administration. That was when the going was good.

Subsequently, with Asiwaju Tinubu’s “full backing”, Aregbesola became the governor of Osun state, The Land of Virtue, from 2010 to 2018. From being a commissioner in Lagos state, he moved up to become governor and today, he is a minister! What else can a man possibly ask for?

Well, Aregbesola wanted more. Aregbesola wanted to be the godfather in Osun state even if it meant biting the fingers that nurtured and fed him. He also wanted to get out of Tinubu’s shadow and be his own man so that he can install his protégés as governors and in other positions. His ultimate goal is to be able to spread his influence and call the shots in the state.

That is what ambition does, but don’t get me wrong; setting new goals and striving to attain even greater accomplishments in life is a good thing. However, this was what caused the unthinkable fight between the interior minister and his erstwhile ally, mentor and leader, Asiwaju Tinubu. The face-off began in 2018 but got messier in 2020.

Tinubu backed Oyetola to become governor in 2018 but Aregbesola wanted Moshood Adeoti who was secretary to the Osun state government (SSG) when he was governor to succeed him. When Adeoti lost out in the APC governorship primary to Oyetola, Aregbesola pushed him to contest on the platform of the Action Democratic Party (ADP).

Aregbe should not have done that but the challenge is that politicians cannot avoid washing their dirty linens in the public. It is the result of lack of trusting relationships, tactlessness and fake loyalty.

That move by Aregbesola nearly cost APC the 2018 governorship election; Oyetola managed to be governor after he won the re-run. Adeoti split the APC votes down the line when he contested on the platform of ADP, and it affected Oyetola’s vote tally.

We can still recall that Oyetola’s victory was possible after Asiwaju Tinubu and Oyetola struck a “deal” with Senator Iyiola Omisore who is now the APC national secretary. The deal was brokered by Adams Oshiomhole, former national chairman of APC.

Since then, Aregbesola has been left out in the mainstream of Osun state politics whereas Senator Omisore suddenly became a “shining star” in Oyetola’s administration. This bromance annoyed Aregbesola to no end but he bided his time, waiting for the right moment to strike.

For Oyetola’s “audacity and effrontery”, the minister once boasted that the “Ambode” treatment would be given to him. When you translate that correctly, it meant Oyetola will not get a second term in office. That was exactly what happened with Adeleke’s victory at the polls last weekend.

According to the interior minister, Oyetola who was his chief of staff when he was governor abandoned his legacy projects to spite him and rubbish his administration. Unfortunately, the disagreement between Oyetola and Aregbesola grew wings and flew in different directions, splitting the rank and file of the APC in the state.

While Aregbesola was plotting his moves against Oyetola, his main target has always been his former ally, Asiwaju Tinubu. Early this year, Aregbesola launched a scathing attack and accused the APC presidential candidate of “planning evil” against Osun state people. The interior minister amplified his politics of bitterness when, in apparent reference to Tinubu, said “no man can play god over the affairs of men”.

“We exalted him being his status and he turned himself into god over us. God has no competitor,” Aregbesola declared, publicly mocking Tinubu when he addressed his supporters at a campaign event for Adeoti. “We had sworn to ridicule anyone who compares himself to God,” he added for emphasis.

It was a moment of defiance by Aregbesola which was unthinkable and highly unlikely some years back. Things began to fall apart when Aregbesola, without Tinubu’s knowledge and approval, plotted to install his loyalists as the front-runners of The Mandate Group (TMG), a Lagos-based political organisation where he was also the grand patron.

Days later, Aregbesola was over ruled when the more influential and powerful Governance Advisory Council (GAC) that controls the politics of Lagos state under the leadership of Tinubu dissolved the Aregbesola-led TMG and other factions like Justice Group..

Many wondered why Aregbesola who was already throwing his weight around in Osun state also wanted a strong foothold in Lagos under the aegis of TMG – it just didn’t add up. However, it should be noted that the close ties and bond of friendship that existed between Tinubu and Aregbesola gave him an advantage over other political associates.

Since Tinubu sided with Oyetola, Aregbesola was not going to stop throwing mud or anything at them. The minister believed that Osun state, his prized “jewel”, had been forcibly taken from him, not even with the courtesy of sitting around a negotiation table, because of the family ties between Tinubu and Oyetola.

In spite of all his constant attacks on Tinubu, Adeoti, Aregbesola’s anointed candidate, lost the governorship primary election to Oyetola by a wide margin. Oyetola polled 222,169 votes to Adeoti’s 12,921 votes. Instead of stooping to conquer, Aregbe decided it was better to rock the boat.

From that point onwards, it was going to be a fight-to-the-finish between supporters of the rival groups within APC. It even resulted in a court case as Lowo Adebiyi, Chairman of The Osun Progressives (TOP), the faction loyal to Aregbesola, challenged the eligibility of Oyetola at a Federal High Court in Abuja. They lost the case and I suspect strongly that TOP worked against Oyetola’s interest.

Due to the bitterness and toxic political atmosphere, Aregbesola distanced himself from Tinubu’s presidential campaign. But you know what; it was the same Aregbesola that congratulated Tinubu in a Facebook post after he clinched the APC presidential ticket.

That gesture did not go far enough and Aregbe knows he was just being mischievous. Five weeks later, he mocked Tinubu again over Oyetola’s unsuccessful second term attempt by quoting Daniel 4.17 in a social media post which was deleted shortly after because the contents were not “authorised” by him. But the genie was already out of the bottle; the message was very clear and well-intended.

The subtext as usual was that “no man can play god in the affairs of men”, referring to Tinubu, his former buddy and leader. Remember, when politicians fight, it is about their individual interests.

There was an attempt by Yoruba leaders of thought and traditional rulers to reconcile Asiwaju and Aregbe in the interest of “peace” but it fell through.

In spite of the politics of bitterness being displayed by Aregbesola, I don’t think it is too late for him to break the ice and mend fences with Asiwaju. As the Americans would say, it is what it is; he should remember the good times with Tinubu and make the move.

Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)

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