Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in 2007 election in Osun State, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola thinks the state would have become a great cultural and economic giant if he had been sworn in after the April 14, 2007 election which he insists he won. He spoke to Adewale Adeoye and Eni Akinsola
WHAT do you think the people of Osun State have lost in the last five years or probably what they have gained?
Yes, Osun people have been denied good governance; they have been denied civilised administration. They have been deprived of a humane, just, people-centered, welfare promoting, wealth creating, confidence building, social amenity providing, productive and generally progressive government. Most importantly they have been robbed of their rare identity. You see, every one has identity, has a perspective, has a front, which is usually formed overtime.
Osun, being the source of the Yorubas, her coming into being and passing away of all things, material and spiritual, Osun ought to give the image of the Yoruba culturally, traditionally, customarily, which must now translate to other modern manifestations of all those wonderful creations.
The fact that a rogue administration that in itself does not even have any positive intention, does not have positive purpose, positive vision, has therefore nothing to impress, promote, or exchange about these values. You see, it is not possible to give what you don’t have. You can transfer or transmit that which is in you. A mediocre, uninspiring administration cannot pass on anything. Osun has had the misfortune of having a government without vision, without mission, without commitment to any objective that can elevate either the society or the people of the state. Osun, unfortunately, has been exposed to the worst kind of governance and the Osun people have truly lost substantial advancement in terms of social, political and economic growth. This has serious negative impact on the future of the entire Southwest people.
What fundamental differences would you have made in the past one year?
Several. The difference with my administration and whatever Oyinlola is struggling to put together is akin to that between day and night, good and evil. I represent light in all its ramifications. The differences are as follow:
We had a six-point agenda programme whereas he did not postulate any agenda or programme. So, even at the level of stimulating the people, Oyinlola had nothing; he did not promise anything. So, if he is not doing anything really in terms of commitment, nobody could hold him responsible. The only thing that Oyinlola could lay his hands on today as an achievement was the university he was compelled through the pressure of the Osogbo, people to have.
If you would recall six months to his hurried adoption of that programme, he came out in the monthly television programme to say that he was not prepared to build a university. But realising that the entire Osogbo people were then, as they are still now, all for us and thinking that their support for us was predicated on the desire for a university, he hurriedly without preparation rushed to Okebukola, the then Secretary of NUC, to put together the idea of the university, which later became the Osun State University that is meant for the super rich. The students of the poor are excluded through exorbitant fees from attending the university owned by the Osun State government. That, till date, remains the singular achievement of Oyinlola. When you remove that, he has failed so greatly in several other vital areas.
If you had won, what difference would that have made?
Thirty days after resumption of office, all security agencies would have been given special allowances for being in Osun so as to stimulate them to give their best to securing the lives and properties of Osun people. Before the first 100 days, we will employ 20,000 unemployed youths. 5,000 slots will be reserved for those who were unfortunately relieved of their jobs because of some difficulties during Baba Akande’s era for those who are willing and agile to work. The remaining 15,000 will be wholly for those who till date have no employment. We realised that the greatest crisis in the state today is economic hardship occasioned by hunger. That is key to whatever programme we have.
We are committed to seeing that 20,000 otherwise unemployed people in Osun will be employed. Within the next 150 days, that is the first six months, we would have completed the infrastructure, that will make Osogbo, this great commercial city, responsible for the commercial needs of vital towns in the Southwest, a place of taking their old-time worry of being the middle markets in Nigeria.
Osun remains the major distribution centre of foods in Nigeria. Next is lbadan then, which was number one and followed by Lagos. People from Lokoja, Kabba, Ilorin, Ikare, Ondo, Akure, Owo, Ogbomosho and Oyo will rather come to Osogbo to get their stocks than lbadan. So, we are committed to reviving that tradition of Osogbo as the leading distribution centre through a lot of adequate infrastructure and ensuring that all goods that are available in Nigeria are sold in Osogbo at the same price that they go for in Lagos.
In practical terms, how do you want to achieve this?
You see, when we said that we were the best for Osun State, it was not just a boast. We put together programmes that are irresistible. Whoever is not stimulated by our promises is no longer living. There was no aspect of life that we did not touch. And that explains why up till now in spite of all the harassment, the falsehood, oppression, brutality, persecution and crimes against us, the peop1e are still solidly with us. How we want to achieve it, I have prepared the documents and I will give them to you if you want to see them.
In 150 days, we will revive the commercial express of Osogbo in a way that it would be different from what it was and by far better. Because all goods in construction, attires and in anything will sell in Osogbo at that same price that they go for in Lagos. Nigeria is interested in Osogbo, the world is interested in Osogbo and communities in Osun, but Oyinlola has stunted the growth of the entire state.
How can you sell goods in Osogbo with the same price as in Lagos? There is a difference between action and rhetoric?
It is not rhetoric. I belong to the new generation of leaders that the modern world has produced. I’m not a product of jackboots or a repressive class of soldiers. We have proved this over and over. Our network, our history, our heritage, our local and international reputation place us several miles above retrogressive people that by their utterances and deeds are in power to enrich and disempower the people. I mean it, in Osogbo, prices won’t be less because these things are imported. Don’t let us say things that are not possible; don’t let us say things that will make us look ridiculous.
Except of course agricultural produce, which are produced there but manufactured, goods that are popularly used for construction, attire, decoration, cooking and cosmetics that are needed and imported will be sold in Osogbo at the prices they are sold in Lagos. So, nobody would therefore need to leave Osogbo and we would have created a middle economy crop, which will bring so much worth to that region as well relieves Lagos of its burden of human pressure. I will stop on that on the issue of guideline and timetable.
Then on the general level, we will banish poverty through vigorous promotion of productive engagements in production, commerce and everything that will make human beings useful to themselves and the society. If birds of the sky and millipedes do not go hungry or homeless, we have no business as humans to be hungry or homeless. We will banish hunger through encouragement and support for farmers not as members of our party, but as indigenes of Osun, we will promote healthy living. You see, it’s not just the question of health care centre that will guarantee good health. The culture of physical exercise is still not given adequate attention. We will use all the facilities available to government for mass awareness to promote the culture of healthy living. And it will be undertaken by the government as a programme. We are going to develop skill acquisition as a means of totally eliminating unemployment. Our government, to a large extent all over, refused to adopt the strategies of the colonialists in developing a virile and productive society. When the Oyinbos were here and they wanted to suck us to their economy, they introduced cash cropping.
If you will not participate in cash cropping because the Oyinbos wanted you to, you will have to engage yourself in an economic activity that will fetch you money to settle your tax obligation. I am trying to build up a case. However, they needed indigenous quacks and other essential fabricators to their various agencies, so the three Rs came to play reading, writing and request- to serve the clerical needs of both the Oyinbos in their various offices and their producing- buying agents and such other people who they will need to collect cash crops that were required for raw materials in their own industries. But they found out that having displaced the bulk of the traditional farmers who were into arable, subsistence farming, they realised they would need to create market for their own finished products for us. What did they do? As they were taking us out of our traditional activities, they were replacing them with their own.
Introducing us to their own system necessitated the’ development of special skills to meet definite challenges of what they were introducing. All categories of artisans and craft people and they were natives that built their houses, had their children and families based on proceeds from watch repair, umbrella repair and all that. So, what I am trying to say is that the economy at that time was adequately developed to meet those that, that economy displaced or uprooted from their traditional engagement. Unfortunately for us as a people, we have not had governments that will say okay with what we are doing now, labour is being robbed in one area and employed elsewhere. There are more GSM or mobile phones in Oshogbo today than when bicycle repairing was a gainful engagement.
For example, there are more mobi1e phones in Osogbo, alone than there were bicycles in the entire Western Region. When bicycle repairing was a productive engagement, people lived. Had there been any government that had looked at how to develop a crop of people that can meet the challenge of maintaining mobile phones? Rather, people just throw them away. As it is with mobile phones, so it is with TV, so it is with radio, so it is with okada and cars. So, we are changing that. We promised our people that we will build what is called Life Academy; nine of them in the first one year. We would have used some of the uniqueness of our environment and people to stimulate our revenue-generating tourism.
For instance, Ile-Ife was identified by us as a natural and historical endowment for us to just make money because three quarters of blacks in Diaspora have such an attachment to Ife that with a serious government investing in cultural mementos that are in lfe and backing it up with adequate promotion globally and internationally, will by our own calculation, generate such a high income that will sustain Ife alone. When you now have Osun-Osogbo, when you now have Erin-Water fall, when you have the Kiriji War area, when you have several other cultural centres and activities that Yorubas are famous for, which are always in all the traditional towns in Osun, you can see a goldmine. But bad leaders like Oyinlola will always see poverty where there is enormous wealth and potentials. Osun State has the largest concentration of traditional, historical towns in Nigeria. Towns that are not less than 200, 300 years old are mostly concentrated in Osun. If cultural tourism generates as much as it should, by now our monthly internal revenue, which is less than 200million naira now will be over 700 million per month.
Now, to education, we would have by now refurbished all public schools. By now, Osun will be the state to be in Nigeria. We would have banished accidents and avoidable deaths, from all our roads through an innovative involvement of people from each community.
Is there hope of redeeming your contract with the people given the judgment of the tribunal?
You see, there is this popular saying that hope lies eternally in the minds of men. When there is no hope, there is no life. I will not totally adopt the pessimism that nothing good can ever happen. It’s not as if there are no false signs; of course, all the signs that are there are such that one should just forget it. But if we forget it, we would have failed in our historic duty to ourselves, to our people and race. If we refuse to take the challenge, others will take it. It can’t remain like this forever; it can’t. And it is in the interest of our society for us to remain positive, hopeful and optimistic.
Two, I don’t see how they will escape with this anomaly. Three, they can run, they cannot hide: What is going on is a shame. Oyinlola had to rig in his own town. Imagine an incumbent governor manipulating the results in his town. He had to kill, he had to harass; he had to intimidate; he had to physically steal electoral materials in Okuku. He had to kill in Ikirun. Oyinlola and his agents led by AIG Adeoye hacked Saheed Adebiyi in Ikirun, shot him in the head. They killed Ayo Oni and stole his corpse,’ from the mortuary Osogbo when we hinted that we were bringing the corpse to the tribunal.
They killed Samuel Olarewaju, killed Kola LawaI, Deacon Gbenga Kayode in llesa. Killed Makinwa, who was then the House of Assembly candidate in Ilesa. Before then, they had killed Suleiman a month after we launched Oranmiyan. So, really looking at it as we saw the situation, there is a high possibility for one to be totally cynical and unmotivated to any possibility of redemption. But as an activist of change and human redemption, we will not be deterred. Rather than being discouraged, my commitment is higher than ever.
Does it mean you did not anticipate these challenges?
If I had not expected them, I would have run mad by now. I wouldn’t be as calm as I am. I don’t think Oyinlola has my kind of candour, calmness, my composition, my total understanding of what he is doing to us, which he believes he is doing to rattle and unsettl us. But the stronger we have been since we started. I am using the Mohammed Alli’s strategy. The higher they come, the higher they fall. I sense they want to pretend that they are conscious of what the society expects from them. He goes about claiming he is a civilised human being. If we had wanted to play it the way we should, most of what he got, he won’t get.
I mean Oyinlola will not mind killing people, riding on their blood on the way to the State House. The people he killed on the day of the election were just 12. If a thousand people had stood up, he would have murdered them. So, I never thought, I must be honest, even though they could, the system, the platform and their antecedents prepared us for what we saw. But even as that, I will say I never expected they would condescend to that level. In Ife, after killing Samuel Olanrewaju, they did not allow any election. He allowed the process to go on as smoothly as possible until 10 a.m. in some places, 12noon in some others after which they brought out guns, killing. Do you know that there was no town where a semblance of election took place that we did not win? No town, none. Let me tell you a strange thing that took place in Ife.
OAU was on forced vacation; the school was closed forcefully by the authorities in February. It was reopened in July. The election took place on 14th of April. In Awolowo Hall, they registered about 2, 350 voters there before the elections. Yet, PDP claimed over 2,300votes from a polling station alone. And because they were so daft, they did not even know how to steal, they just declared any figures.
Did you present these facts to the tribunal?
They did not allow us. They conjectured what they wanted. In Ife Central where there was a bit of electoral sanity, all that they recorded was 345 votes. The remaining 39,000 votes after Modakeke were totally irregular. They could not have taken place within the voting hours. As it was in Ife East so it was in other places where they manipulated the elections. We have three main planks of evidences of electoral malpractices and manipulation. When we talk of forensic, it is always misunderstood as biological evidences. Forensic, properly defined, is critical evaluation of any document for judicial presentation.
There is computer analysis, there is biometric and several others. Apart from that, we equally got through physical inspections and found out that the results they posted were progressively different. That is what they wrote on EC8, it cannot be reconciled with what they wrote at EC6, which is the result at the ward collation centre. The results at the ward collation centres were at variance with those at the local government collation centres. And what they got at the local government collation centres were not the same with what they declared at the state collation centres. We normally call that physical inspection. Then we use computer analysis.
Since PDP came into power in Osun, how did you assess the economic development of the state?
But in his own case, Oyinlola has done nothing; he is just gallivanting all about the place from Australia and Paris to anywhere that suits him at public expense. The only thing he is actually doing is importation of Chinese cars, which he forces on every political appointee in Osun. But really, if you ask me, the greatest indictment of Oyinlola’s government and all of those in the PDP states of the South-West, apart from Lagos, is that they have reduced government to just spending. Whatever is coming from the Federal Government really is supposed to augment what any responsible government could generate. Where a government fully depends on hand-outs is not fit to be called a government. So, it is therefore historically disturbing that any government in post-Awolowo Yoruba region will totally discard revenue generation as a serious duty of government, such a government is not fit to be a government in Yoruba nation. And that is my grouse against them. They are so lacking in enterprise, laid back, unadventurous and backward.
Let’s talk about some of your party leaders, aides who have been arrested. You claim to have gone through series of harassments?
Don’t forget that Oyinlola was a bully who came from a reactionary military arm, where truth is defined by hierarchy, and people are seen as objects to be used as means to their ends, before assuming the position he is now. Again, there is an aspect of him that people do not know generally. Oyinlola must have some psychotic problems; he must be psychotic; he has kept it away from several people. When he was in secondary school, Oyinlola was rusticated for bullying a lady that resisted his advances. He was publicly caned; he had to write his SSCE from office and he failed.
He barely had two credits. So, Oyinlola is pathologically dictatorial. He has that issue of being a bully. However, he has this harmless facade but he is totally vicious, brutal. That led to the Somalia misadventure where he led some Nigerian soldiers to death by simply refusing to take to simple advice and instruction of people around him. Nigerian soldiers had to die despite that he was warned that Italian soldiers had been there and died. This is why we are saying that there is no need for this your exhibitionist approach to peacekeeping. He himself confessed that he was a1most killed. It was through his carelessness, recklessness and uncaring attitude. Of course, when he was in Lagos, we have records of his vicious, mindless and reckless acts.
He is still struggling to remove the cross on him, from the death of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola. There is the suggestion that he was the one that invited the woman to his office before she met her untimely death in the hands of assassins. Several of those who had disagreed with Oyinlola in his own PDP had paid with their lives. There was a lady called Alhaja Jeunkogbaadun. She was a women leader in the PDP and she crossed to the ANPP. She did not live to see the following day. Chief Tony Osanyin in Ijebu-Jesa had the same problem. Oyedokun simply disagreed with them and he lost a brother to the disagreement. All that I have told you are documented as facts.
Several people had died, even within the PDP for simply disagreeing with Oyinlola. And since I began this effort to take our people out of this mess that they are in, I have lost several people. I have been a victim of several attempts on my life. Hassan Olajoku died exactly one month after we launched Oranmiyan in Osogbo. Ten days from that day, on our way to a rally organised for us in llesa, Wale Oni, a hoodlum, a thug that was on the payroll of Erelu Obada organised a vicious attack on my convoy, damaged vehicles, manhandled our members, assaulted women. He was arrested by the police but with the intervention of Erelu, he was released.
My father’s house was burnt. I was shot at a public gathering at Oroki Day where Oyinlola and all his aides sat down and watched. One of my buses was attacked by Oyinlola’s thugs. My campaign headquarters was attacked by gun-totting men. And to cap it all, on the election day, guns, AK-47, were rolled out to kill us. At a meeting on 2006 August, Oyinlola instructed that I must be eliminated, that everything should be done to kill me.
What concrete evidence have you?
I have with me someone who was at the meeting. So, it is unfortunate that the Nigerian power elite have gone mad; I mean those of PDP mould. How would you explain the death of your challenger in a democratic process? Afterall, you call yourself a Prince in the republic, a great abnormality, a misnomer. There is no prince in a republic. A republic is a political state where everybody is equal. Now they have come with the bomb blast thing, which from all indications could have been organised by them to either destroy the evidences in INEC office and turn-around to blame us. Because the truth of the matter was that as at that time when that bomb blast occurred, my people, my own agents and party faithful, were all over INEC, rummaging through their piles of materials for documents that would be useful by us at the tribunal. Because we had just sought and obtained the order of the tribunal to physically inspect the materials. So, we were all there.
It would have been unreasonable for us to have burnt down the place where vital documents we would use were. We could not have wanted to destroy the place. So, the only people that would have benefited from the destruction of such materials and evidences were the PDP. Let us even take it beyond that. An investigation started by the police on that day, I will give you the interim report from Osun command. A police team led by another commissioner of police initiated the investigation. That ought to have been completed by now for sometimes. That happened on July 14. This was what happened: Osun Police Command investigated the matter, generated an interim report, which was sent along with the lone suspect apprehended at the scene of the blast, to the Force Headquarters.
Force Headquarters too conducted its own investigation, sent their report with the lone suspect for trial in Osogbo. The trial began sometimes in November and was going on well until my visit to Osun in January of this year. If you must know, since the election in April, my visits to Osun before the January visit of this year were two. I went to Osun on May 11 to submit my petition. I again visited that same year around August or July when the Palace of Owa of Obokun was burnt. I never went again.
So, I announced to the whole world that I was going back to engage my supporters in political association. I went there and the reception was marvelous. We were in only three towns and the receptions were uproarious. In Osogbo, in llesa and Iwo it was whao. So the turnout of the people in all these places jolted and awed them. So, rather than accept the obvious fact of our popularity, they said they had some things to do ….. that was how they brought the concoction of the bomb blast. And as soon as we saw them, we alerted the world and sensitised them to the motive of that fact.
It was a distraction, a diversion and apparently meant to douse our popularity by criminalising us. But all their efforts have boomeranged against them. That is on that side. So, we told them that police, if you don’t want to be labelled as agents of PDP, do what is professionally correct. In your interim report, you claimed you saw a telephone set with a particular number. I will give you the number 0805. We told them that science and technology have helped us tremendously. Use this number to determine everything about the suspect. Use the call log obtained from the service provider to determine those who may have been in contact with him before and after the blast, as the case may be, because the record is indelible. You could equally know the location of the suspect. We told them to use what they have, to get what they need. And the suspect equally must be made to give the numbers of his accomplices and use those numbers too to determine their locations and calls received.
Till this moment, it is doubtful if the police in Osun have gone after the neatest, the clearest, the unambiguous method of knowing those who have relationship with those who carried out that act. Rather, the Oyinlola administration used the lawyer of the suspect to manipulate him, to contradict himself, to contradict the statement he had made severally to Police in Osun, to Police in Abuja on how the thing happened. And it suited Oyinlola to get them to see that Aregbesola and the AC people were the promoters of the act.
You are insisting you won the April 14 election.
The issue is simple: I won the elections, which Oyinlola cannot doubt. Even the records of INEC as manipulated as they are, clearly vindicate us. Any opinion polls conducted now will equally show we won the elections. How will a man that is popularly and freely chosen to direct the affairs of a state again be involved in anything close to creating crisis or generating tension or harassing, intimidating people? No, it is not possible. I don’t need it because I have received what is most important; a freely given mandate of the people.
I cannot have that and still want to terrorise the same people. They are the ones who will, because of their hatred for the people, contempt for them, who will want to harass, terrorise and muscle them to further demonstrate their super aversion for the people and their right and liberty. You must know that government is all about three things: right to life, right to liberty and right to leisure. Those are the things. So, if that is it, why should any government agency go after a member of society who has served as a commissioner in a state in the way they went after Layi Oyeduntan if not just to harass people, intimidate them and turn them to animals. Those who went to Oyeduntan did not just go there to arrest him; they wanted to kill him. From the reports I read, I don’t think any security agents with the intention of mere arrest will go there at night, to a man you have never invited, to a man that had never had any problem with you, you went in a commando form, started shooting sporadically. Layi told of how he was under armed robbery or assassination attack so he started sending distress calls to everybody that he could remember. And in the process, they shot and killed the dog that was unleashed.
The wildness of those who came to Layi was such that the dog had to break its leech and it was shot. I told people that if Layi had come out of his house at that time, they could have killed him. If Layi had not recognised them as thugs and not security operatives, they would have whisked him away. So, he demanded for the presence of a responsible person before he could go with them. So Professor Olu Aina had to come to the scene before he allowed them to pick him. Oyeduntan was a commissioner in Baba Akande’s government. He is the most loving, unassuming, easy-going person you can ever talk of. He is a fellow of lCAN; Layi did not associate with us openly at least three months before the elections. Layi also refused to participate in any of our activities at least three months after the elections. Layi would not do anything that is capable of situating him in any light that will be seen to be radical. He avoids any tag of radicalism like plague.
Layi, up to the day he was brutally arrested by: Oyinlola’s agents in police uniform, was a regular golf-playing mate of Oyinlola both in Ada and Lagos. So, apart from the fact that Layi had refused their entreaties to play their cards, which he further demonstrated through an interview he granted which was published on the 10th of October by that newspaper, Layi Oyeduntan was the last person anybody would expect to be arrested. Before the arrest of Layi and Akere, don’t forget that a chief magistrate in Osun had equally been labelled as a participant in the bomb blast. He had been suspended from duties ever since then. He had been unjustly arrested and detained until he was released on bail and up till now he is still suffering that wickedness. The only crime of this magistrate was that he granted a 45-day … to an AC man that was arraigned before him on a bailable offence. Whenever it suits them, they just invoke it. We want to tell Nigerians that if they allow Oyinlola to run wild, like he has been running wild, it might not be limited to Osun alone because he has been brutalising and terrorizing people with impunity. If they allow him to run wild, it might go to a1l of Nigeria because this was how Hitler began his. Fascism cannot be contained to a place.
And I want Nigerians to know that we will be undoing ourselves if we close our eyes to the madness that is taking root in Osun State. It should be stopped. Don’t forget that for this purpose, the Federal Police Headquarters invited me, the party chairman and secretary in June and we went and gave our own side of the story. One would think that by now, the police authorities ought to have acted to prevent Oyinlola from running loose, using bomb blast as his justification.
• Culled from The Nation