The face-off between Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola and his immediate predecessor and Minister of Interior, Ogeni Rauf Aregbesola, is no longer hidden. However, the reason the misunderstanding is yet to escalate is traced to gentle disposition of the incumbent, who has refused to spill the beans despite the provocation.
Although, Oyetola served as the Chief of Staff to Aregbesola, the reversal of some of the major policies of his predecessor, speaks a lot about Oyetola’s involvement during the eight years Aregbesola governed the state.
The release of timetable for the July16, 2022 governorship election in Osun State by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has increased the tempo of political activities and further intensify the race for the state’s plum seat.
Oyetola is already making efforts to stay in the Oke-Fia Government House beyond next year. The governor had argued that his administration had achieved a lot in the last two years. According to him, his achievements cut across infrastructure, road construction, health, women and youth empowerment. Despite criticism from some quarters, Oyetola believes that the ongoing construction of flyover at Olaiya Area of Osogbo, capital of the State would further put him in the good books of the people of the state.
The governor is also of the view that the reversal of some controversial policies made by Aregbesola, is an achievement for him. For Oyetola, reviewing most policies in education such as same uniform and reclassification, reversal of school names, were part of the demands of the citizens during his “Thank You Tour” after his election in 2018, which he claimed would further endear his second term bid to the electorate.
Oyetola is also looking good to the civil servants by paying their full salaries. Unlike the half salary payment that he inherited from Aregbesola’s administration, the governor has been paying workers their full salaries. Also, pensioners are saying they never had it so good in recent times because of Oyetola’s decision to pay their entitlements; although, this gesture is yet to go round according to most pensioners, as a handful is still being owed their gratuities and other entitlements, but they have hopes and confidence in the administration.
Oyetola is one of the few governors that are paying the new minimum wage to workers in Nigeria. This, political watchers contend, may also form part of records when he comes to ask for a second term.
Despite these little efforts, he is also not taking chances in the area of party politics and strategic mobilisation and campaigns for second term. Most of the activities that the governor attends these days now appear like campaign grounds as speakers, especially loyalists have been seizing the opportunities to galvanise support for their principal. The office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Civic Engagement has been meeting with traditional rulers, politicians, community leaders and residents of the state in what it tagged: “Governor’s Family Meeting.”
At these meetings currently ongoing across the state, residents have been showering encomiums on Oyetola and praying that his second term dream would come true. At these meetings, Oyetola’s commissioners and other aides have been calling for the people of the state to support their principal to continue his good works in the state.
It has been season of endorsements for Oyetola. Leaders and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), from the Ifelodun-Boripe-Odo Otin Federal Constituency recently endorsed the governor for second term. Also, groups, APC leaders, members, workers and other stakeholders have endorsed Oyetola in a build up to the July 16, 2022 poll.
Sources have revealed to The Guardian that the defection of Senator Iyiola Omisore, to the APC was part of the strategies of Oyetola to win Osun East in the forthcoming poll. Omisore, a former deputy governor of the state who also served one term as senator for Osun East, decamped to APC from the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The political romance with Oyetola started in 2018 when the former lawmaker helped the ruling party to win a close election that brought in Oyetola. Omisore was the candidate of the SDP in that election. To further compensate him, Oyetola appointed Omisore’s running mate, Yemi Lawal as Commissioner for Youths and Sports.
Sources said Omisore had been accepted into the party to wrest control of the zone with Aregbesola, who is also from Osun East ahead of 2022. Aregbesola is believed to be in serious rift with Oyetola. Omisore and Aregbesola are not the best of friends and the minister has never hidden his feelings about that. Aregbesola had kicked against the admission of Omisore into the APC.
The Guardian gathered that another strategy of Oyetola to ensure that he continues to govern Osun beyond 2022 is the luring of the state chairman of the party, Gboyega Famodun, to his side. Famodun’s tenure had lapsed in October 2018 but he has retained the position because Oyetola has not allowed the party to organise a state congress to elect new leaders in the state. Sources noted that this is to ensure Famodun midwives Oyetola’s emergence as the party’s candidate for the 2022 gubernatorial poll.
NOTWIHSTANDING what Oyetola sees as achievements and chances that could pave way for him to actualise his dream for the second term, there are some hindrances that he would have to overcome. Few months after his emergence in 2018, the governor came under serious criticisms both from the opposition and some members of the public, as well as fragmented members of APC over his style of governance, which has been giving them concern. They say he is miserly.
Some APC members who complain of poor welfarism since the inception of Oyetola have expressed displeasure and longed for a governor who is generous with state’s resources.
The crisis currently rocking the ruling APC is another threat to Oyetola’s second term bid. Some leaders and chieftains of the party said to be strong loyalists and former appointees of Aregbesola have formed a caucus, The Osun Progressives (TOP) with Aregbesola as the chairman, Board of Trustees of TOP. The group chaired by Lowo Adebiyi, a former chairman of APC, flayed Oyetola for refusing to conduct congresses across all levels of the party. Adebiyi, while speaking in Osogbo accused the governor of going against the party’s constitution by allowing Prince Gboyega Famodun to remain as the caretaker chairman despite the fact that his tenure had lapsed.
Adebiyi explained that the group was formed because the party was weak and the leadership seems overwhelmed. Adebiyi was suspended by the Igbimo Agba (elders caucus), of the party for forming the group and criticising Oyetola. Also, another strong ally of Aregbesola and former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the state, Kolapo Alimi, was recently suspended by the Executives of his ward for allegedly working against Oyetola. A day after his suspension, the leadership of the party, nullified Alimi’s suspension, a development which, has further sunk the party into further division.
Sources informed The Guardian that even if Oyetola eventually gets APC’s ticket to run for second term, TOP and other aggrieved members of APC are likely to work for another candidate from another political party. Adebiyi described Oyetola’s endorsements so far as “ruse”.
Another factor that threatens the chances of Oyetola is the failure of his party at the centre. Some citizens of the state who are not into partisan politics have expressed displeasure withthe governance style of the ruling party at the centre and swore not to allow APC to continue to hold sway in the state. “If we allow Oyetola a second term, it means that the APC will take over the Federal Government in 2023 because he will surely work for the party. We don’t want another calamity to befall us again. We are tired of APC Government,” a resident of Osun State, Mr. Bode Oladayo told The Guardian.
Notwithstanding these threats, Oyetola appears confident as he said efforts were ongoing to unite aggrieved members of the party. The Commissioner for Political Affairs and Inter-Governmental Relations, Hon Taiwo Akeju said the party would overcome its crisis and make peace with aggrieved members before next year’s governorship election.
Akeju, while reacting to the claim made by TOP that the party’s chances of winning the forthcoming election is threatened owing to its weak structure and inefficient leadership, said Oyetola would win second term and that the former Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who is alleged to be in serious rift with Oyetola would lead the governor’s campaign.
Defending the alleged absence of activities at the party secretariat since Oyetola’s inception, Akeju said the attention of the party had been focused on meeting the yearnings of the people of the state by the present administration.
He denied claims that some of Oyetola’s cabinet members were not loyal to him and stressed that formation of TOP was to distract the present administration. The commissioner said the delay in the conduct of APC congresses in the state was because the national body was yet to release guidelines for the exercise.
“I want to assure you that members of the APC are loyal to the party leadership. Oyetola’s cabinet is 100 percent loyal. It is just a distraction to the present administration. There is no point fighting the government you built. But the government remains focused.
“There will be congresses very soon in the party. In all the crises we are going to bounce back beautifully. I want to tell you that we are going to make peace with everyone who is aggrieved, to the extent that Aregbesola will lead campaign for Oyetola’s second term in office”.