By Dapo Akinrefon & Shina Abubakar
THE frosty relationship between Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State and his predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has degenerated into an alarming situation.
At the centre of the crisis is the soul of the party.
The issue which preceded the last ward congresses was worsened by the conduct of the exercise.
Today, their loyalists are at daggers drawn over who controls the party machinery.
Consequently, there are fears of likely breakdown of law and order in the state owing to the conduct of both camps.
The controversy has led to the formation of two camps, one loyal to Governor Oyetola and another loyal of Mr. Aregbesola.
On Aregbeola’s side is the group known as The Osun Progressives, TOP, which is led by a former Chairman of the APC in the state, Mr Lowo Adebiyi.
It also has the incumbent caretaker secretary of the party and Deputy Chairman, Messrs Rasaq Salinsile and Azeez Adesiji, as well as former Commissioners within the fold.
Oyetola’s loyalists are regarded as the IleriOluwa which is led by the incumbent caretaker chairman of the party in the state.
The first sign of dispute became obvious after the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Osun Governorship election.
Ogbeni Aregbesola, at the victory party, publicly declared that he has become the godfather of Osun politics whose duty it is to anoint governors.
Some of his loyalists were also angry that his anointed candidate for the post of Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Najeem Salaam, was not appointed after serving out his term as the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
In addition to their grievances was that those Aregbesola promised cabinet positions were left out.
An Aregbesola loyalist had complained that the frosty relationship between the two leaders was affecting the fortunes of the party.
But a close aide of Oyetola disclosed that the governor and his predecessor had agreed to share the cabinet slot on a 60-40 basis.
The governor was alleged to have reneged on their agreement, a development that did not go down well with Aregbesola and his loyalists.
A source familiar with crisis told Vanguard that “Part of the agreement was that anyone that has served a term with Aregbesola will not be appointed except he serves a single term. So, there is no basis for disagreement because Oyetola honoured the agreement.
Meanwhile, the former speaker told the governor that he was no longer interested in being the SSG. And Oyetola helped him secure an appointment in Abuja.
“Also, some of his education policies were reviewed due to popular demand by residents of the state. Aregbesola’s loyalists, however, threatened not to support the Governor for a second term, hence, the term ‘Ambode Osu’. This and many other issues led to the cold war.”
Oyetola’s romance with Omisore
It is no longer news that during the 2018 Governorship election, Senator Iyiola Omisore became the beautiful bride of both the APC and PDP.
He was also a contestant on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
During the 2018 contest which led to INEC declaring it inconclusive, Omisore became the beautiful bride in the political equation in the state.
This was because majority of the polling units where the supplementary election will take place were in his stronghold.
Both the PDP and APC sought his support to win the supplementary election but the former Deputy Governor threw his weight behind the APC after alliances were formed.
Omisore’s gesture, however, seemed to endear him to Governor Oyetola, a development which did not go down well with the Aregbesola camp.
Vanguard was made to understand that the governor has tilted towards Omisore, who he sees as a formidable ally.
Another source of worry to the Aregbesola camp, which Vanguard gathered, is that Omisore has got the governor’s backing to return to the Senate in 2023.
The Oyetola-Omisore romance is unsettling the Aregbesola camp which felt it may lose out if urgent steps are not taken to nip this in the bud.
Botched reconciliation move
Though none of the gladiators openly admitted to a dispute but two prominent leaders of the party made attempts to reconcile them.
On December 4, 2020, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and former interim National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande called for a reconciliatory meeting at Akande’s country home in Ila-Orangun.
Though their spokespersons denied that the purpose of the meeting was to settle the rift, sources at the closed-door parley, disclosed that the meeting was a deadlock.
Accusation and counter-accusation
TOP, at its inception, made it clear that the group was not against Governor Oyetola but to ensure internal democracy within the party.
It also alleged the party Chairman, Mr. Gboyega Famodun refused to run an open policy.
Famodun’s refusal was said to be reducing the party’s chances ahead of the 2022 governorship election.
Adebiyi, who heads the TOP, alleged that “Famodun’s inability to demonstrate needed capacity expected of him as the chairman of the party towards the 2018 governorship election nearly caused the party some grief.
“No dispassionate chairman would have allowed defection from his party a few weeks to a critical election as Famodun did in 2018.
“Rather than demonstrating father figure to all contending forces within the party, he chose to take sides in all matters and destroy the party’s cohesion and unity.
“As we speak today, Famodun is at war with his two predecessors, the current deputy and secretary, the minister and other notables in the party.
“Famodun cannot differentiate between monarchical inheritance and a democratic organisation where multiple interests are aggregated to ensure the good of all, which is the essence of a political party.
“The above-stated reason is responsible for the problems in the party today and therefore, we at the TOP wish to note that his kind of person is unfit to handle party management as would be expected.”
But countering Adebiyi’s allegation, Famodun described the TOP as a splinter group that is not recognised by the APC constitution, hence managing the party cannot be vested in a faction.
He said: “The new factional group was absurd and unrecognised. And no one would be allowed to rebel against the party’s leadership.
“The constitution of the party doesn’t recognise any splinter group within the entity called APC in this country. Adelowo is the leader of the party. There is no role for the former acting chairman in the management of the party.
“As a leader of the party, if you believe in a cause, there are organs of the party through which such grievances could be channeled. But when you go outside all those structures or you don’t believe in those structures again, then you should not consider yourself to be a member of the party anymore. You cannot rebel against a constituted authority within the party.”
A new twist to the crisis, however, emerged as the TOP, at a press conference, alleged indiscreet assassination plot on it leaders.
It added that such an act was alien to the APC.
Adebiyi, who heads the TOP, said: “It is important that we bring to public knowledge this evil intention. Despite that, we have informed relevant security agencies, who had assured us of taking steps to investigate the information and as well ensure the protection of the lives of the leadership and members of our caucus.
“The Osun Progressives has provided hope that tomorrow will be better in APC with the agenda. Because we see better and clearly than members whose personal interests have beclouded the reality that Osun APC leadership, as presently constituted is inept and cannot make it serve the desired goal.
“The Oyinlola government, which we challenged in the past, was not as virulent as the Governor Oyetola-led government of our party, since the struggle started.
“To think that we jointly worked to hoist the government became a joke on us, as any party member with traceable connections with former governor Aregbesola is excluded from all forms of things in government.
“We cannot dismiss the information because we witnessed the orgy use of thugs and violence in the conduct of the congress in some local governments, quite alien to the progressives’ political platform.
“We are not surprised that things have gotten to this extent because the progressives platform has been infiltrated by many men from the party that is popularly known as the nests of killers.”
But in a swift reaction, Famodun described the allegation as a mere fabrication demeaning of the character of the former chairman.
Famodun, who spoke through the party’s Director of Publicity, Kunle Oyatomi said: “The party was surprised that the calibre of Elder Adelowo as a religious leader and immediate past Chairman of the ruling party in the state could be dishing out unfounded and fabricated lies to misinform the public purposely to discredit the ruling party and the government, all in the name of politics.”
Ward congress brouhaha
In the build-up to the recently concluded congresses across the 332 wards in the state, some party chieftains, including a former Speaker, Mr. Salaam; the former lawmaker representing Olorunda Constituency, Mr. Waseeu Adebayo, former Commissioners, including that of Works, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Engr Kazeem Salami, Kolapo Alimi, as well as former Local Government Chairmen loyal to Ogbeni Aregbesola, insisted on election to select ward executive in a bid to enhance internal democracy and allow wide participation in the process.
But Famodun and other party chiefs loyal to Governor Oyetola said the party would adopt consensus, as advised by the party’s National Secretariat.
This did not go down well with the TOP.
It, however, insisted on consensus if all the parties agreed on the arrangement. The party faction led by the Secretary, Salinsile, added that since they were not consulted, its members would vie for all the positions across all the wards in the state.
Adebiyi said: “The state Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Prince Gboyega Famodun has refused to carry along the state Secretary, Deputy Chairman, Auditor, Publicity secretary and some other members of the state executives who do not tag along with the evil idea of selling the party ideals to the Governor’s group, the IleriOluwa.
“The aforementioned officers are not privy to anything in preparation for the coming Congress as Famodun has refused to call any meeting for deliberation on Congress matters.
“It is a fact that the Governor’s political group, the IleriOluwa is not ready to share an inch of all the political space with any other interest groups by their utterances, conducts and deeds.
“The party leadership which is supposed to superintend and moderate things within and among all stakeholders and interests groups have sold out to IleriOluwa group and ceded its rights and responsibilities on account of lack of political will helped abundantly by lucre.”
The crisis is about interest
A source familiar with the crisis told Vanguard that the cold war is all about the interest of some few leaders who were left out.
The source said: “They will reconcile and a compromise will be reached by the time a higher authority calls them to order.
“What led to the crisis is that the interests of some party leaders were not taken care of. It is all about interest.
“You know politicians want to be relevant and they don’t want to be schemed out. Once they are no longer relevant, they lose their support base. And these leaders do not want to lose out, that is why they are stoking the crisis.
By the two or more of these aggrieved leaders are taken care of, the crisis will die a natural death.”