The supremacy battle between the governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola and his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, the minister of interior, over the control of the structure of the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has assumed a dangerous dimension, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
The party has split into two and both camps are flexing political muscles to gain popularity.
The Aregbesola camp is known as The Osun Progressives (TOP) while Oyetola’s camp is known as Ileri Oluwa. During his campaign in 2018, Oyetola used Ileri Oluwa as his identity. It has since become a movement.
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Some members of the party loyal to Aregbesola said only members of the Ileri Oluwa movement got political appointments in Oyetola’s administration, while they were sidelined because of their relationship with the former governor. They alleged that any member who wants to benefit from Oyetola’s government must not be seen to support Aregbesola.
Being fully aware of the treatment meted to his followers, the minister was able to get political appointments for some of them at the federal level. At a point, those loyal to him were tagged ‘Abuja people’ while those loyal to Oyetola were seen as Osun-based.’ That was how the division started among the party members.
Political observers in the state said the rift between the two politicians could be dated back to the 2018 governorship election as Oyetola was not Aregbesola’s preferred candidate to take over from him despite the fact that he served as his chief of staff for eight years and they had a good relationship. Oyetola was, however, allegedly imposed on the party by a former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and Aregbesola accepted because he could not say no to his directive. As a result of this, it was believed that the minister did not work hard for Oyetola’s victory during the election.
Also, it was said that Oyetola did not support the nomination of Aregbesola for the ministerial appointment, upturned some his policies and made efforts to curtail his dominance on the party. At that point, the crisis was becoming serious, but both sides pretended as if there was no problem.
The former acting national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, made efforts to reconcile the two political gladiators severally, to no avail. Eventually, the chairman of the party in the state, Prince Adegboyega Famodun and some executive members of the party became loyal to Oyetola, while the secretary, Alhaji Rasaq Salinsile and others pitched tent with Aregbesola.
The bubble eventually burst during the recent ward congresses of the party. While those loyal to the governor said they preferred a consensus arrangement, those in the minister’s camp insisted that there must be an election to determine their representatives at that level.
Consequently, those in Aregbesola’s camp alleged that the governor and the chairman of the party wanted to impose the consensus arrangement on them, saying it was designed to edge out the minister from the control of the party in the state.
To register their displeasure, some women and youths in the party staged a peaceful protest in major streets of Osogbo, the state capital, lamenting that the consensus arrangement would disenfranchise them. The protesters, led by Rasheed Raji, said the chairman of the electoral panel on the congress, Senator Gbenga Elegbeleye, connived with Governor Oyetola and Famodun to compromise the process in their favour.
But Elegbeleye, during a meeting with APC stakeholders at the Government House, debunked the allegation, saying he arrived Osogbo late due to a delay in flight from Abuja, as against the rumour that he refused to allow those in Aregbesola’s camp to obtain forms for the ward congress. He promised that the committee would do everything possible to champion transparency, accountability and fairness.
During that meeting, leaders of the party and political officeholders present supported consensus arrangement. Those who attended the meeting included Governor Oyetola, three former deputy governors, Senator Iyiola Omisore, Prince Sooko Adewoyin and Mrs Titi Laoye-Ponle, the senator representing Osun Central, Dr Basiru Ajibola; Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Timothy Owoeye and the state chairman of the party, Prince Famodun
Speaking during the meeting, Governor Oyetola said consensus was adopted to prevent rancour and appealed to members of the party in the state to conduct themselves peacefully during the process.
“Congress is a way of electing new officers of the party and it shouldn’t generate any crisis. The national leadership of the party asked us to adopt consensus to avoid rancour. The presence of all the stakeholders in this meeting shows that the party is formidable,” the governor said.
The chairman of the party also said, “As recommended by the national secretariat, we have adopted consensus in Osun for the purpose of the smooth running of the party. Things have been properly done. Our homework has been done properly. Our fathers and leaders have scrutinised the 332 wards we have in Osun. We have concluded the exercise.”
Senator Ajibola Basiru also affirmed his support for consensus but suggested that elections should be conducted in the wards where there were contenders so that everyone would be given equal opportunity.
On the day of the congress, names of consensus candidates were read and ratified across the state, but those in Aregbesola’s camp insisted on election, not consensus. As a way of seeking redress, the aggrieved members forwarded their petition to the Ambassador Obed Wadzain-led appeal committee, which was set up by the national body of the party.
During the sitting of the appeal committee at the party’s secretariat in Osogbo to meet the petitioners, there was pandemonium as thugs stormed the venue. Some people were injured during the attack. Both the Aregbesola and Oyetola camps accused each other of hiring the thugs to disrupt the process.
Worried over the development, Comrade Sunday Oriowo, who spoke on behalf of the Coalition of Osun Progressives Groups, an umbrella body of 15 groups in the state, urged the appeal committee to treat all petitions before it on merit.
Also, in a statement by his chief press secretary, Ismail Omipidan, the governor urged party members to allow peace to reign. He condemned what he called “unruly behaviour” by some aggrieved members of the party, saying no sane society would condone any act of lawlessness. He noted that the people of Osun were known for peace, and urged members of the party to avoid acts that could tarnish the image of the state. He further noted that political intolerance was injurious to the unity and collective peace of the state. While appealing for calm, the governor also said the government would not tolerate any act of criminality or violence in any part of the state under the guise of politics.
“I appeal to party members, especially those who have already filed petitions before the appeal committee over the conduct of the last ward congress to sheathe their swords and toe the line of peace and the law.
“Since the matter is already before the appeal committee, they should allow the process to run its full course. We are known for peace as a people. We should do all in our power to sustain that recognition in our collective interest,” the governor stated.
On their part, Aregbesola’s supporters said their lives were in danger as there were plans to assassinate their leaders. The chairman of the TOP, Reverend Lowo Adebiyi, said relevant security agencies had been informed about the assassination plot.
The secretary of the party also alleged that one of the leaders of the TOP, Mr Biyi Odunlade, a commissioner for youth and sport during Aregbesola’s tenure, escaped death by whiskers when gunmen attacked his house days after the ward congress.
Reacting to the claim of an assassination plot, the party’s director of publicity in the state, Mr Kunle Oyatomi, said Governor Oyetola and the chairman of the party were not known to be killers, and the APC is not a party of killers. He said those alleging threats to their lives should provide evidence. He also said the internal crisis in the party was not in anyone’s interest and appealed to all members to operate as one family.
Daily Trust reports that the crisis is yet to end as both camps continue to trade words, raising allegations and counter-allegations.