The political serenity in Osun State is gradually being disturbed, no thanks to the clash of gladiators within the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election in the state.
The battle between the camps led by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and that of minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is shaking the party to its roots.
Interestingly, the two key actors in the Osun APC tussle, Oyetola and Aregbesola, jointly governed the state for eight years. Aregbesola was governor while Oyetola served as his chief of staff.
During Aregbesola’s eight-year administration, Oyetola was so influential that the office of secretary to the state government became merely ceremonial.
By the end of Aregbesola’s tenure, Oyetola indicated interest in the top seat. Despite an array of 15 aspirants and a gang-up of aspirants from Osun West Senatorial District who believed it was the turn of their district to rule Osun, Oyetola emerged APC governorship candidate.
Some aspirants left the party while others teamed up with the then secretary to the government of the day, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti.
Aregbesola who initially denied preference for any of the candidates was said to be the brain behind the formula that broke the political backbone of Adeoti who some pundits averred would have won the primary election if a direct primary had not been used to determine who emerged candidate.
Aregbesola used government machinery to back up his candidate and at the end of the day, through thick and thin, Oyetola emerged the governor of Osun.
Shortly after Oyetola assumed power, the relationship between Oyetola and Aregbesola collapsed.
The rift began when Oyetola rejected Aregbesola’s choice of Hon. Najeem Salami, a former Speaker of Osun House of Assembly, as the secretary to the state government. It was said that the choice of Salami’s was earlier agreed by both politicians.
Instead, Oyetola opted for a technocrat, Prince Wole Oyebamiji who was said to be a donor of Salami pending the expiration of his tenure as speaker.
Besides, the review of some Aregbesola’s policies, especially in the Education sector, was said to have infuriated the former governor, who, those in his camp, said it was seen as systematic robbing of his legacies.
Nevertheless, the two gladiators denied any hard feelings between them. Aregbesola said, “I am not fighting anybody” while Oyetola also will say that there was nothing to cause disaffection between them.
But their supporters, championed by the IleriOluwa group for Oyetola and the Oranmiyan group that metamorphosed to The Osun Progressives for Aregbesola were exchanging words and backing it up with actions that showed that all was not well.
But the feud between the camps is set to get worse as Oyetola has declared his interest to go for a second term by contesting the 2022 governorship election.
Aregbesola’s camp is bent on stopping the Oyetola’s emergence as APC candidate ahead of the polls.
While political analysts believe that Aregbesola’s camp is more deft at political tactics, the Oyetola camp believe that they are in power which equips them to win the battle and coast home to victory.
Aregbesola has moved to consolidate grip on the state party machinery, the same measure he used to outsmart Adeoti and others through his alliance with the party chairman, Prince Adegboyega Famodun, during the last gubernatorial primary.
Oyetola, on the other hand, is a member of the national committee that is in charge of the APC. This position gives him a more strategic stance at the national headquarters. His strategy seems to be paying off already with the emergence of Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye as the chairman of ward congress committee in the state. Moreso he is likely to have an edge with the composition of the Appeal panel to look into grievances that accompanied the recent ward congress in the state.
Besides, the governor has in his camp, former deputy governors like Mrs Grace Titi Laoye Ponle, who served as deputy to Aregbesola, Sooko Adewoye Adewoyin, Senator Iyiola Omisore, Prince Adegboyega Famodun, chairman of the party and some stalwarts of the party in his camp who are fighting his battle through his IleriOluwa group.
Aregbesola on the other hand has in his camp, the likes of the secretary of the party in the state, Alhaji AbdulRazaq Shalinsile; former chairman of the party in the state, Rev. Adelowo Adebiyi; Hon Najeem Salam, former Speaker of the state House of Assembly; former SSG, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti and a host of prominent members of the party in the state who are going to the battle ground on the platform of The Osun Progressives (TOP).
The ward congress showdown…
The recent ward congress was the litmus test for the two groups. While the governor used his national party influence to midwife the consensus candidate arrangement, Aregbesola’s faction was able to conduct election in the wards where they are strong across the state.
Before the ward congress, TOP, in one of its statements signed by Adelowo Adebiyi, accused the chairman of the Osun Ward Congress Committee, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, who is a member of Oyetola’s camp of working towards an end.
Adebiyi said, “From the time he was appointed, we knew there was no way the APC Ward Congresses Committee in Osun, headed by Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye could have been fair.
“This is because we have it on good authority that Elegbeleye was nominated by Omisore, who has been working to hijack the party structure like he did to PDP and SDP in the past.”
Reacting to the outcome of the ward congress, Adebiyi rejected the result, saying they also conducted valid congresses as directed by the national secretariat.
But the director, Bureau of Research, Communication and Strategy, Barr. Kunle Oyatomi, debunked the allegations and urged TOP to toe the path of honour by speaking the truth.
However, to resolve the issue generated by the congress, an appeal panel headed by Ambassador Obed Wardzain was set up by the party national secretariat to look into petitions filed by aggrieved APC members in the state.
Wadzain on arrival in Osun said: “ We are also members of the APC. We have come from the national headquarters, Abuja to specifically come and look at the appeals and petitions from members of the APC in Osun State.
“We have come to assure you that we are all members of the same family. All of you have contributed to the building and consolidation and strengthening of the party. All of you are leaders of this party in your respective local governments, wards and units. We are here to assure you that we will be fair, just and we will look at the petitions that you bring to us with all the sense of responsibility that is expected of the national level.
“We want to tell you as you are already aware that your election is coming up next year and we have to make sure that this family remains one so that we will be able to win the election.”
Subsequently, the Appeal Committee claimed that they received 32 petitions and promised to attend to all the petitions.
But all hell was let loose at the state secretariat, venue of the Appeal panel sitting, when some unidentified persons came to disrupt the proceedings.
There were accusations and counter accusations by the two factions over the identity of the thugs and those who sponsored them.
While chairman of the appeal panel, Wadzain, said his team attended to all the petitioners, TOP said it is far from the truth.
As APC prepares for the local government congress, all eyes will be on Osun as the battle between the camps intensifies ahead of the 2022 governorship election in the State of the Virtuous.