I read Palladium’s second instalment on the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, after the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s candidate, the incumbent governor of Osun, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, predictably lost the governorship election of July 16 to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It is not flattering at all.
The author is unpretentious in his mission of inciting the APC leadership against the minister by blaming him for the loss of the state to PDP and worse still for antiparty activities. Palladium, at least in his last three columns has been very unkind and mean to Aregbesola, viciously attacking his person in the most intemperate language, exhibiting a deep-seated animosity towards him. Yet Aregbesola was not a candidate in the election. He did not even vote.
From his columns, it is clear Mr Akinlotan has a very poor – or no – grasp of the Osun debacle and the self-affliction responsible for the governor’s loss in the election. His main arguments and excoriation of Ogbeni Aregbesola were unapologetically lifted from the laughable press statement of Mr Gboyega Famodun, the embattled chairman of the APC in the state. But every politics is local and except you have a very good grasp of the issues, a columnist runs the risk of looking ordinary, if not stupid, before the actors and those who are knowledgeable on the matter. I can just imagine how the people of Osun would have reacted, reading Palladium on Sunday August 7, 2022.
The loss of Governor Oyetola had been predictable (and predicted) not less than two years ago and had become apparent at least six months before the election.
Indeed, a week before the polls, it had become inevitable. Though democratic elections must have an element of ‘bounded uncertainty’ to be credible, people living in Osun were fairly convinced that Oyetola would lose, except some miracle happened.
Governor Oyetola, out of hubris and political naivety, took defeat from the jaws of victory, literally gifting PDP the election. The seeds of the factors that culminated in the defeat of the governor were sown before his election in 2018, but instead for him to uproot them after his inauguration, he began to nurture and water them, until they bore him the fruits of his routing.
Governor Oyetola wrongly believed that then Governor Aregbesola did not want him to succeed him in 2018 and upon his inauguration, he began a systematic war of payback. He divided the party into ‘those-for-him’ and others. Government and party offices became the exclusive preserve of members of his Ileri-Oluwa caucus in the party. Others were excluded. He ran an exclusive system in a political party that should be free for all joiners.
The alienated members of the party formed a caucus named The Osun Progressives (TOP) in April last year. On May 14, they went to Ogbeni Aregbesola to offer him the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees, which he accepted. So, it wasn’t Aregbesola that formed TOP, but the excluded members of the party. This means that if Aregbesola had supported the governor without him reconciling with the aggrieved members of the party, he would still have problem with the election.
Still pursuing his exclusive political agenda, Governor Oyetola rejected all calls and entreaties for reconciliation. The party’s reconciliation committee came to the state after the party’s primary election was held and listened to both sides, but the governor rejected the demands of TOP for inclusion. The committee left in frustration. So, the veiled attempt to incite the party’s leadership is futile because they know the local situation that led to the loss. This much was acknowledged by the party chairman in his reaction to the result.
Oyetola pursued exclusive and vindictive agenda till the last day before the election, supremely confident of victory, without the support of his predecessor and a large segment of his party. When Asiwaju came to Osun on the Monday before the election and asked the governor’s men on their expectation, they told him they were sure they would win but what they were working on was to extend the margin of the win.
This hubristic and belligerent posturing runs against the grain of party politics when candidates approach election with a united front. This is a universal practice not unique to Nigeria. Donald Trump couldn’t get re-elected in 2020 because he alienated the Bush and the Koch dynasties in the Republican Party, concentrating on his nationalist front. Same happened to Mitt Romney, a Mormon, in 2012 when he lost to Barack Obama because the evangelicals stayed away from voting for him. Al Gore too lost his presidential bid to George W. Bush because of his alienation from Bill Clinton and his group in the Democratic Party.
Indeed, after the narrow win in 2018, Governor Oyetola and his men devised an ingenious argument that Aregbesola’s misgovernance was responsible for the not so stellar performance of the APC in the governorship election. This was to discount his contribution and any positive role he played in the election. It sounds so curious and a contradiction to, in one breath, accuse Aregbesola of being culpable for the narrow win; and after alienating and fighting him for nearly four years, to then turn round and blame his non-support for the APC candidate as being responsible for the loss to PDP.
Mr Akinlotan reminds me of the story of Joseph Stalin calling his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, on his sick bed in 1953. He warmly told him of the three notes he was leaving for him and a directive to open the notes only when he got into serious crises. He opened the first note few years later when he got into his first crisis. It read ‘Blame everything on Stalin’. Then later he got into a more serious crisis and opened the second note which also read ‘Blame everything on Stalin’. When he got into the third and very ferocious crisis, he opened the third envelop which this time read ‘Prepare three envelops’. The election was Oyetola’s third ‘very ferocious crisis’.
Mr Akinlotan sounds bitter, angry and inconsolable over the loss in Osun, reading the main piece, as he projected a thinly veiled partisanship in a fight in which he had (or should have) no dog. He, no doubt, is unhappy at an outcome that vindicated Aregbesola in a bizarre way.
Some people were bitterly disappointed that Adeleke won, meaning Aregbesola and his supporters were not disgraced on the outcome of this election. They had wished that Governor Oyetola would win and except Aregbesola came back to them, begging on all four, he would be consigned into permanent political irrelevance. The loss of Governor Oyetola has affirmed the legitimacy of Aregbesola and his supporters, to their chagrin.
Palladium will now fall into this category and I don’t think he has done himself or his literary reputation any bit of good at all.
Fasure writes from Osogbo