Dr Olatunji Dare’s piece, Osoba: The veteran politician at bay, published in Vanguard of May 14, 2015, was an elegant public relations stunt. Any reader without the knowledge of the politics of Ogun State in recent years will come to the conclusion that Chief Olusegun Osoba was shortchanged by the current governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
From the very choice of the title, the writer meticulously crafted the piece to arouse public sympathy for Osoba and adroitly cast Amosun in bad light. Dr Dare clearly scored an offside goal, which must be disallowed.
Wrote the columnist: “Hounded ceaselessly by Gbenga Daniel who never saw an opponent he did not want to destroy, Osoba went into political hibernation in Lagos, where he busied himself rebuilding the Ogun State ACN and positioning it to return to power in 2007 with Ibikunle Amosun, a former PDP Senator, as Governor… Then, things began to go sour. Osoba could not get his nominees appointed to the state’s cabinet or given senior positions in the Amosun Administration, I gather. Though chair of the ACN in Ogun State, his influence was at best slight. He found himself being pushed closer and closer to the margins.”
Dr Dare will not be the first pro-Osoba writer to slant the mutually-beneficial relationship between Osoba’s ACN and a new entrant from the ANPP, Ibikunle Amosun, which culminated in the latter’s victory at the governorship election in 2011. But the public deserves to know the whole truth.
Movement of politicians from one party to another is not new in Nigeria; and until we overcome the problem of lack of internal democracy and ensure electoral justice at all times through a level-playing ground for all members of a political party, such will continue.
Amosun was a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic from 2003 to 2007 on the platform of PDP. In that 2003 Ogun Central senatorial election, Chief Osoba, then incumbent governor and leader of AD, lost his polling booth, ward and local council to Ibikunle Amosun, a grassroots politician par excellence. If one may add in parenthesis, it is not surprising that the same fate befell Osoba’s SDP in the recently-concluded general elections. It lost at all levels to Amosun’s APC.
In 2007, Amosun contested the governorship election in Ogun on the platform of ANPP. The AD, under the leadership of Chief Osoba, fielded Chief Dipo Dina (of blessed memory) as its candidate. At the close of the poll, the incumbent governor, Gbenga Daniel of the PDP, was declared winner. Amosun was second while Osoba’s AD came third. An enraged Amosun contested the results because he believed he won the election. And the general feeling in Ogun up till today is that Amosun won the 2007 election but his victory was upturned from above.
The public was fed up with the PDP anyway, but how do you dislodge them from power in the state when the incumbent governor, Gbenga Daniel, was poised to install a successor at all cost? By 2010, ANPP had suffered some setbacks nationally. Senator Amosun, consumed with passion to restore the glory of Ogun State and make it 21st century compliant, then decided to pitch his tent with ACN. He was welcomed. But why was he given the governorship slot when ACN already had candidates jostling for the post? Simple. Amosun, based on his performance in 2007 and his public profile as a grassroots politician, stood a better chance to deliver victory for ACN.
In other word, Amosun came with immense electoral value and goodwill while ACN had better platform in comparison to ANPP. So, it was a win-win situation for both Amosun and Osoba.
Intrigues that played out
There were other intrigues that played out, especially on the choice of candidates for the Ogun State House of Assembly and National Assembly. Amosun, not being a rookie in politics, would not commit political hara-kiri by meeting all the expectations and demands of Osoba or walk into a political trap that would have turned him into a figure-head governor who could be impeached on flimsy grounds in order to satisfy the whims and caprices of a godfather. In such circumstances, the extraordinary achievements witnessed today in Ogun would have been impossible.
Contrary to the impression created in the said piece, half of the politicians in the cabinet of Ogun State are from Osoba’s camp. Indeed, there are many loyalists of Osoba, including his direct nominees, holding senior positions in the government and totally dominating at the party level of the ruling APC in Ogun State.
Could Amosun, who is an exemplar of prudence in public finance management in Nigeria, have bought all of them over? Certainly, no. Why then are they following him? It is because they believe in his Mission to Rebuild Ogun State. And the outstanding results are there all across the state for everyone to see.
The governor is a thoroughbred Yoruba who will not attack or abuse his elders. And it is to his credit that despite the acerbic attacks and abuses directed at him from the Osoba camp, no one can accuse Amosun of ever insulting Chief Osoba.
According to Dr Olatunji Dare, “The day Osoba returned to Ogun State and his home in Abeokuta has got to be one of the most glorious in his eventful life. He was met at the Lagos-Ogun boundary by a cavalcade of jubilant party men and women, admirers, and supporters, and escorted to the state capital and his home with song and dance. Rarely had the ancient city witnessed such a carnival.”
Could it be possible that the writer knew about this “Osoba’s triumphant entry” but was not aware that Amosun was at the vanguard of that memorable home-coming arrangement for Chief Osoba?
I have no problem with any writer trying to portray any benefactor in a positive light. The picture painted of a Governor Osoba while in power was quite appealing and commendable. But we must place such side by side with his picture on the political front so that we may arrive at a fair and balanced assessment.
Disagreement is a human phenomenon. Even at the best of time, husband and wife disagree let alone participants in a political marriage. While Amosun was still expressing the hope that the misunderstanding would be resolved as one family, just like Dr Olatunji Dare said he attempted to do, Chief Osoba closed the door against reconciliation in the following words at his residence in Ibara, Abeokuta in May, 2014:
“Where we are now, no room for harmonization or reconciliation… not even 70/30; 80/20; 95/5… I vowed to them that I will not forgive or reconcile with anybody…As I stand before you today, I swear before God and Jesus Christ, my Lord, I promised you all that the issue of forgiveness is no more… They said they have set up elders’ committee, don’t mind them. I don’t know who is older than me politically among them. None of them is closer to Awolowo than I was. I wined and dined with him… They are coming very soon, when they come, they would not meet me… Leave them, we are moving to the Promised Land and over there, there are many offices and positions available…”
Not a few argued that no astute politician could have uttered such words. Indeed, I know not a few loyalists or fans of Osoba both within and outside Ogun that recoiled and turned back on account of his near blasphemous words. “Why bring in Jesus Christ into such a mundane matter?” they queried. Both the Bible and Koran preach forgiveness and reconciliation.
Pride goes before a fall
Pride goes before a fall. Among those that went to plead with Osoba were paramount traditional rulers, the now President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Amosun himself, National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Chief Bisi Akande, Baba Olu Adebanjo (now deceased), the South West APC Governors and friends of Governor Amosun. Chief Osoba turned down all entreaties. He said “no reconciliation, no forgiveness!!!”
Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that Chief Osoba is the architect of his own situation in the contemporary Nigerian politics.
Ordinarily, Senator Amosun is now in a position to gloat over his victory against Osoba after such a titanic battle. But he is not a triumphalist. He believes power comes from God. Besides, he has no personal axe to grind with Osoba. It is a question of political differences.
Amosun will continue to treat Osoba with utmost respect and will be the first to seize by the forelock any opportunity for political reconciliation.
Bola Adeyemi is Senior Special Assistant on Communications to the Governor of Ogun State.