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PERSPECTIVE: Hubris, Not Poisoned Chalice, Cost Governor Oyetola Re-election

By SOLA FASURE I write to disagree with the cerebral Prof Jide Osuntokun’s column of Thursday July 21, 2022 titled “The Election in Osun: Case of Poisoned Chalice.” The author wrote, among others, that it was the former governor of the state and now Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s mis-governance, that cost Governor Gboyega…”
Yusuf
August 5, 2022 4:54 am

By SOLA FASURE

I write to disagree with the cerebral Prof Jide Osuntokun’s column of Thursday July 21, 2022 titled “The Election in Osun: Case of Poisoned Chalice.” The author wrote, among others, that it was the former governor of the state and now Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s mis-governance, that cost Governor Gboyega Oyetola re-election, citing Aregbesola’s antecedents as governor and post-office relationship with the incumbent.

Prof Osuntokun is a father to me and I hold him in a very high regard but I disagree with him on virtually all counts on his narrative on the Osun election. I will re-examine some of the points he raised and explain why Governor Oyetola lost the election to the PDP.

Prof Osuntokun raised the issue of loans that Aregbesola took and the modulated salary structure he introduced to mitigate the shortfall in revenue, as partly responsible for Governor Oyetola’s fall. This is not correct. There was a global financial crisis which hit Nigeria circa 2015 and lasted till 2017. This brought about shortfall in revenue as oil price dipped to $25 before rebounding. Osun’s income from all sources (like other states) during this period suffered a catastrophic reduction and could not have been sufficient to pay salaries, even without the deductions for loans. Though the deductions exacerbated the situation, it was not the cause.

Prof Osuntokun accused Aregbesola of taking over private mission schools, imposed the wearing of hijab in schools, changed the Gregorian calendar to the Islamic calendar and left with a legacy of covert Islamisation of the state. These are all false. Aregbesola NEVER TOOK OVER ANY MISSION SCHOOL IN OSUN! The schools were taken over in 1974 for Universal Primary Education (UPE) by the then Federal Military Government.

Hijab came up in Aregbesola’s first term when some Muslims sued the state government on the need to have their girls in public schools cover their heads according to Islamic demand. The heads of some public schools founded by the missionaries rejected this request on the ground that hijab was not part of their prescribed school uniforms. Before giving judgement, the court had ruled that the status quo ante on hijab be maintained – where hijab had been introduced, they should let it be and where it had not, it should not – until the determination of the case. The Muslims eventually won their case in court and the state government was not involved in any way, other than as a defendant. The Christians were not a party and only asked to be joined in the case.

Aregbesola DID NOT CHANGE THE GREGORIAN CALENDAR TO THE ISLAMIC CALENDAR in Osun. The state government only granted a public holiday on the 1st day of the Islamic calendar, just as it granted a public holiday for Isese Day, for traditional religious worshippers. It will, therefore, be far-fetched to argue that granting a public holiday to Muslims amounts to reverting to the Gregorian calendar in their favour.

Aregbesola’s administration during the two terms he enjoyed had more Christians than Muslims as cabinet members and political appointees. There was no accusation of Islamisation, other than the short-lived hijab brouhaha. Indeed, it was Aregbesola that gave a building to the Christians as chapel in the Government House. Till today, the Muslims have no mosque there.

Truth be told, APC’s loss on Saturday July 16 did not come as a surprise to anyone involved in the election. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate arrived in Osogbo on Monday to campaign for the governor in the Saturday election. Given the lukewarm reception the campaign train received – the use of only half of the Osogbo stadium for the grand finale of their campaign and the absence of an enthusiastic crowd to greet them on the streets – what was meant to be a ‘mega rally’ derisively in Osun became a ‘meagre rally.’ I believe Asiwaju, who is a master of the game, would be under no illusion that Governor Oyetola was in for a swell time at the poll.

Governor Oyetola lost the re-election bid due to unmitigated hubris and outstanding political naivety, and not Aregbesola. Though, he could have won if his predecessor had openly supported him. You contest for an executive position on the ground that you will solve the problems you inherited and do better than your predecessor, not that you will use your predecessor as an excuse for your own failure. After four years of being in the saddle, you contest for your re-election on your own strength, not the weakness of your predecessor.

Governor Oyetola had a whole term to prepare for his re-election, but he spent it fighting his predecessor. He surrounded himself with sycophants and people who enthusiastically joined him in fighting Aregbesola.

Then he destroyed his party. He created a ‘for-us’ versus ‘against-us’ dichotomy in APC as the party structures practically dissolved into his own Ileri Oluwa and the Aregbesola-leaning TOP caucuses. So, there was no machinery for him to use to campaign and win his re-election. He fore-swore any need for inclusion, excluding anyone not in his Ileri Oluwa caucus from government and party offices. He capped this division by arresting and prosecuting members of the TOP caucus in his own party and sponsoring vicious attacks on their persons and property.

A political party is an amalgamation of interests and tendencies, some of which are competing with each other. But when election beckons, a wise incumbent will go on charm offensive, mending fences, unifying his party and go to the polls with a united front. Having attained this, he will take further steps to recruiting from opposition parties to his own. But till the last moment, the governor refused to reconcile with Aregbesola or his supporters, buoyed by the belief that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his paperweight allies and the power of vote buying would get him a re-election.

If Aregbesola’s policies had angered Osun people, he would not have been re-elected. But he won his re-election in 2014 by more than one hundred thousand votes, which had never happened before or after, defeating the federal might of the huge sums of money and security armada unleashed on Osun during the election. In 2018, Aregbesola was still able to rally APC to win the governorship election in spite of the fact that the candidate was from a controversial constituency that had dominated, if not monopolised, the guber office for about 12 years to the chagrin of Osun West that only had 18 months shot at the office. This fact polarised the party and cost it the votes in the Iwo stronghold among others.

Regrettably, APC’s successive three election cycle victory in Osun has come to an end under the governor’s watch.

We shall see what the verdict of history would be on this.

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