Alhaji Moshood Adeoti is a frontline progressive politician who had served consecutively as the Chairman of the Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before he was appointed Secretary to the State Government of Osun in 2011. In this interview with ISMAEEL UTHMAN and SOLOMON ODENIYI, he shares his experience on the seven-and-half years of being an opposition leader and ten years of uninterrupted progressive government in the state. Excerpts:
How went the journey of steering your political party through opposition to a ruling party?
The journey was rough and tough. The seven-and-half-year journey witnessed the darkest political period in the history of the state. I came in as Chairman of Alliance for Democracy on December 13, 2003 after the Peoples Democratic Party railroaded the AD. The party was at its lowest ebb and was in disarray when I took over. Serving first, as Councillor, then Supervising Councillor and Local Government Chairman during the time of Chief Bisi Akande afforded me great experience to steer the affairs of the party. During this period, I learnt how to manage people and resources. On March 27, 2004, we had the local government election under the watch of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and in that election, it was clear that the AD was still very much on ground, even when the election was marred with rigging and other irregularities. If the real results were declared, AD would have won almost half of the local governments in the state. We achieved all we did then through the dexterity and handwork of the executives of the party. We had brilliant and determined minds at the helms of affairs in the party. People like Senator Bayo Salami, who was the Vice Chairman of the party for Osun Central, Ishola Oyewunmi was the Vice Chairman for West, Pa Famuyide was the Vice Chairman from East, Barrister Wale Afolabi was the Secretary, Bisi Odewumi was his Assistant, Chief Kunle Odeyemi was our Treasurer. We were able to put up a formidable team and with the goal of bringing the party back to power.
We started building the party till 2007. We were keenly contesting the 2007 governorship election with a brilliant, focused and resourceful candidate, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who galvanized the party, because the party then was a vehicle without tyres. It was Aregbesola that got the party moving.
2007 was a year I will never forget in my life. We suffered a lot from the hand of the oppressing PDP government. Many of us were remanded on trumped-up charges. We held governorship election on April 14, 2007; I was in my house here in Iwo on Sunday, April 15 when the results of the election were declared. People went on rampage both in Osogbo and Ilesa because the election was rigged. I need to tell you that some chieftains of the PDP in Iwo were with me when we heard that there were riots in Ilesa and Osogbo. People like Debo Badru, who was the Chairman of PDP in Iwo then, Alabi Akinbaru, Chief Abiola Ogundokun and of course the late Oluwo, Oba Asiru Tadese called me on that very day and we together worked hard to ensure the crisis did not erupt here in Iwo. To my surprise, when the dust had settled, I was arrested and charged for arson. It was alleged that I led some people to raze the house of one Alhaji Baruwa. The funniest is that up till date, I don’t know where that Alhaji Baruwa’s house is in Osogbo. Again, in June 2007, the PDP government said there was a bomb blast at the State Secretariat, Abere and we were accused of being behind that too. We were arrested and charged to court. We survived that and many more. We took delight in the November 26, 2010 victory, being the date when Aregbesola was declared governor and sworn in the following day, November 27, 2010. 2010 was our turning point. It was a year the shackles of underdevelopment, darkness, oppression and social vices were broken in Osun. It was a year peace, freedom and progress came back to the state.
The government came and I was, to my surprise, appointed the Secretary to the State Government. It came to me as a surprise when my name was announced. Nobody sought my consent and that was the first time I would see a position lorded on a person who was not interested in it. My belief was that while Aregbesola was in control of the government and governance, I would be overseeing the party, which would make us stronger. My appointment marked a turning point in the affairs of the party. The person that took over the party after I left had to start again. Mind you, when my name came up, people did not raise an objection, but left to me, I would have loved to continue as the party chairman. Jumoke Ogunkeyede is a living witness; he was the person that broke the news to me on January 7, 2011. It was after that that Gbenga Fayemiwo called and asked me to send my CV. You can ask the former governor, Aregbesola if I lobbied for the position. But some people felt on the one hand that since Aregbesola and his deputy, Titi-Laoye Ponle just returned from Lagos, they needed someone who had been on ground and knew the terrain to be in government with them. On the other hand, some people saw it as an opportunity to have their own man who understood them inside that government.
Why did you not reject the appointment since you said it was not your wish?
I could have rejected it but I sensed it would send a wrong message to the people of the state. And that was not a good sign for a new government. I reluctantly accepted the position. But I must say the truth, many of our people later did not like it, they lamented that it was my presence that cost most of them the opportunity to be in that government; but I atoned for it. I also did my best in the area of giving political advice to the governor, which is one of the main responsibilities of the SSG. I never lobbied for the appointment.
How would you describe the 10 years of uninterrupted progressive governance in the state?
The Aregbesola administration, which I was part of, marked a new era of governance in the state. Aregbesola is the architect of modern Osun. Before our coming to power, Osogbo, the state capital was a glorified local government headquarters. Our administration changed the outlook of Osogbo. Under the former governor, 10 kilometres of roads were constructed in all the local governments in the state. Rural roads were not left behind. In terms of infrastructure, the state had never had it so good. This not all, we touched the lives of the people of the state in all ramifications. These 10 years of unbroken progressive governance in Osun is nothing but a blessing to the people of the state. We have changed and raised the bar of governance in the state even after Aregbesola left. The development has been in leaps and bounds under Governor Oyetola. What we are praying and hoping is that after Oyetola might have completed his tenure, we will be able to win again so that the good work could continue.
One of the albatross of the Aregbesola administration is the issue of modulated salary and education policy. How did you arrive at those decisions?
The Aregbesola administration had been up and doing on the payment of salary. But in the second quarter of 2013, there was financial crisis at the federal level and it affected the state badly. What we were getting from the Federation Account had dropped and the Internally-Generated Revenue could not help either. We also had numerous projects to do without intending to incur debts. To save the situation, we constituted a committee, under the chairmanship of Comrade Hassan Sumonu, to look for a way out. The labour side was headed by the NLC Chairman, Jacob Adekomi, while the government was represented by the Chief of Staff of the time, now the Governor of the state, Adegboyega Oyetola. It was the recommendation of that committee that we acted on and it was approved at the State Executive Council meeting.
On the education policy, I can boldly say that we took all the decisions together at the exco meeting. Nobody can exonerate him/herself. One thing symbolic about Aregebesola as governor was that he was always abiding by the decisions we came up with at the executive council meetings; whether it was he who presided over it or not. When this education policy was discussed, I was not in town but I was on ground the day we ratified it at exco meeting. So I can’t claim I was not part of the process.
How would you rate the eight-year administration of Aregbesola?
There is no way you will govern a state for eight years without making a mistake. But to the best of my knowledge, the administration performed above average. The most important feat is that we were able to impact on the lives of the people of the state.
It is said that all is not well with the APC in the state. As a thorough-bred party man, are you happy with the way things are in the APC?
I will be sincere in answering this. I am not comfortable at all with the way things are going in the party. Like never before, the party is polarised. Discipline has completely eluded the party. Everybody is doing what he likes. During my time as the chairman of the party, I was always reverting to Chief Bisi Akande before taking decisions. In cases where there were issues in the party, Baba and I would discuss and solve the matter. But that is not the same now. The party is in crisis, I don’t care about what other people say and I want the best for this party. I am sure we will resolve it.
You profess so much love for the APC, but you left it for the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in 2018. What triggered your defection?
I left because we had internal problems, bordering on succession and it was not well managed by our leaders. If it was managed properly, I would not have left.
Anyone that was part of the struggle for reclamation of power from PDP between 2003 and 2010 would not be involved in the current mess in the party. Ask many of us, we have horrendous stories to tell. There were members of our party that were killed, others maimed and those with injuries. I celebrated Eid-El-Kabir in Ile-Ife Correctional Centre in 2008 with our supporters. No genuine party member who witnessed the oppression of the PDP would be involved in actions that may cause us to lose control of the state. That was what came to my mind and made me to join ADP instead of PDP. If I had joined PDP in 2018, that would have been the end of APC and we would have gone back to the dark days. That calamity is what we must all try to avoid. I will not join people fooling themselves, saying there is no crisis in the party. Let us all come together to rebuild the party.
Why did you come back to the party then?
In Nigeria, we have just two political parties except in Anambra where we have APGA. You either join the APC or PDP. But I can never go to PDP. Progressive blood runs in my veins. We came back home after wide consultation and overtures by respected people.
One of the major reasons you left the APC was because of the West Agenda, have you given up hope on that?
I don’t want to comment on this.
But some political leaders in the West recently held a press briefing and rally to endorse Governor Oyetola for a second term in office. Are you not part of the leaders?
To me, I believe 2022 is still far away. As human beings, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. Even the Holy Bible advises us not to worry about tomorrow. To me, our attention should be on putting the party in a proper state, doing this, anyone selected by the party will be sure of a convincing victory.
With the near-defeat experience the APC had in 2018 and the war of attrition in the party, what does the future hold for the Osun APC?
Like I said earlier, the party is not in proper shape. If we are able to get our acts together, we will win every election square and fair. I have that confidence that we will win more elections in the state.
The PDP also has its problems. I would not know how they are going to settle their crisis. PDP has issues at the South-West level and the state chapter. They have power tussle on the chairmanship position. We don’t pray for them to settle before 2022 Governorship Elections. In the state, the PDP is being run as a one-man show, whereas running the affairs of a party needs inclusion of every reasonable people. That is the crux of their crisis.
Adeoti remains a household name in Osun politics and judging by the massive number of votes you polled in a relatively unknown party in 2018 as gubernatorial candidate, will you be testing the waters again in the future?
I can’t say. The situation on ground then will play a major role in this. Like I said earlier, we should not be worrying about tomorrow. For now, my prayers and support is with the person at the helms of affair, Alhaji Isaika Adegboyega Oyetola. As a party man, that is what is expected of me.