By Bola Bolawole
Last week Thursday, thugs reportedly beat up the Osun State Commissioner for Regional Integration, Mr. Bola Ilori in Akure, Ondo State. Ilori was in the Ondo State capital to represent his state at an All Progressives Congress (APC) regional meeting on restructuring. Why would anyone want to beat the Osun State commissioner, seeing that both Osun and Ondo are APC-ruled states? The answer is in the politics of last year’s gubernatorial election in Ondo State, in which the Osun State governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, was said to have supported Olusola Oke, who defected from APC to contest the governorship election. Ilori was the Director-General of the Oke campaign organisation. According to grapevine sources, Aregbe, as the Osun governor is popularly called, was fighting the proxy war of APC’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, with Arakunrin (Mr.) Rotimi Akeredolu, aka Aketi, governor of Ondo State.
Asiwaju reportedly did not support Akeredolu in the last election; his support, instead, was for another aspirant. Asiwaju was loud in his condemnation that the APC primary election was rigged in favour of Akeredolu by the APC national secretariat and, as some did say, with the directive of the Presidency. The Ondo guber polls, thus, was bitterly contested. Reports said Oke was encouraged to ditch APC and fly another party’s flag in that election, which he lost to Akeredolu. During the campaign, Akeredolu fired broadsides at Asiwaju, boasting that he would win handsomely without his support – and he did. Afterwards, he behaved like a bad and intemperate winner when he congratulated every APC leader but snubbed Asiwaju. This background information leaves no one in doubt that Akeredolu and his people on one side and Asiwaju, Aregbe, Ilori and their own people on the other were not on the best of terms.
But I should have thought that was during the elections! The elections have come and gone and Asiwaju and Akeredolu have publicly tried to paper over the cracks in their relationship. As members of the same party, it speaks volumes if they are still on the warpath close to one year after. Politicians must have very short memories! I recall that in Akeredolu’s first shot at the governorship, he was purportedly supported and bankrolled by Asiwaju. In fact, Asiwaju imposed Akeredolu on the other aspirants and split the party down the middle. One of the aspirants who broke ranks with Asiwaju at that time was Olusola Oke, who defected to another party but lost the election. My brother, Yemi Olowolabi, who is the Ondo State Commissioner for Information, must tell his cock-and-bull story of what happened at the parley where Ilori was reportedly stripped, to the Marines. Olowolabi simply spoke like a politician desirous of defending his government when he shifted the blame on the Osun delegation. Ilori was made to pay for his “sins” during the last governorship campaign, pure and simple. As cultured as Ondo is, there should have been no place for such crudity, barbarism, and politics with bitterness in this age.
Should Aregbe have sent Ilori of all people to Ondo State to represent Osun State? Granted that Ilori was the appropriate commissioner, going by his designation, to attend the function, Osun State should still have erred on the side of caution, considering Ilori’s antecedents and (soured?) relations with the principal characters governing Ondo State at the moment. Possibly Osun thought politics was over and it was now time for governance to take over and never expected the unforgiving spirit displayed at Akure. Still, they should have been discerning enough to know that Ilori would be a persona non grata to the Akeredolu government. What the Ondo people would have tolerated from someone else would be deemed grievous insult should it come from Ilori.
Politicians using the cover of Abuja and or neighbouring states to pursue personal agendas in their home state have been known to knock heads and heat up the polity. They catch-in on their high offices elsewhere to try to achieve political goals in their home states and, in the process, run into trouble with their home governments. We should be very careful to avoid that as much as possible. Having said that, what is bad is bad; Ilori’s manhandling in Akure should be roundly condemned and the culprits brought to book. Akeredolu should reach out to his brother and “senior” and resolve this issue amicably. Even though both are governors, as my grandmother would say “gwere-gwere meji, o n’agba”; meaning that even though two things may both be small, if you study them closely, you will discover that one is bigger than the other. Aregbe is a two-term governor. “Omo t’o ba fe d’agba nko? A word, as they say, is enough for the wise.
Importantly, governors of the South-West zone have been on the same page recently with the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) and nothing must be allowed to truncate the lofty goals and ideals of regional integration. Other governors in the zone should step in to reconcile Aregbe and Aketi and nip this needless rancour in the bud.