Monday 3 July 2023

Aregbesola fights back in Osun (MUST READ)

"After his rhetorical misadventure in Osun State before the July 2022 governorship election, former Internal Affairs minister and ex-governor of the state, Rauf Aregbesola, has found his voice and begun to fight back to regain the dominance he enjoyed in the state in his years as governor. He wishes to rule the roost in Osun, secure the state as his political base, especially having been displaced from his perch in Alimosho local government of Lagos State. The fight takes on added significance since he is now no longer a minister of the Federal Republic, nor does he have any other position or significant status and qualification to keep him in the limelight. He enjoys some renown in the estimation of the state’s governor, Ademola Adeleke, whom he covertly aided to win the governorship poll, probably on account of the war of attrition he conducted against the immediate past governor of the state, Gboyega Oyetola. But there is little else left of his former prominence.

Mr Aregbesola deploys two or three strategies to recover lost ground. The first measure was his inexpiable tactic of dining with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) enemy to hurt his friends in the All Progressives Congress (APC) before last year’s governorship poll. His efforts were subterranean and he made it seem that his contribution to Mr Adeleke’s victory was nothing more egregious than his indifference to the APC effort to re-elect Mr Oyetola. His argument was that since he and his men had been given the cold shoulder in the APC, it was self-punishment helping the party to win. He complained that the APC in the state had spent nearly all of Mr Oyetola’s first term fighting and isolating him. Helping them to a second term would be counterproductive. What he was unprepared to answer at the time was whether he had done his calculations well in terms of whether his tactic satisfied his long-term or short-term interest.

Secondly, and this may be more philosophical than real, the former minister appears to believe that should Mr Adeleke win the governorship, his lack of depth and the manner he trifles with the grave issues of governance would make him easily beatable in four years time when Osun heads for the poll in 2026. It is incontestable that Mr Adeleke is incapable of soaring in style and governance, let alone in leadership gravitas, and would be unable to provide the kind of leadership the state desperately needs to forge ahead. But to assume that he, Mr Aregbesola, would still be relevant in four years, especially out of office, and with nothing substantial to do or hang on to, may be pushing his luck too far. Osun State has a reputation for biting its nose to spite its face; they are, therefore, unpredictable, obdurate and resistant to the kind of logic that corroborates electoral punditry. They humiliated the genial and frugal ex-governor Bisi Akande, and have replicated the same appalling measure against the equally frugal and parsimonious Mr Oyetola. At any election, Osun will unfrock anyone that catches their otherworldly whims.

But a third facility recommends itself to the feisty Mr Aregbesola. He and his men wish to fight their way back into the APC, yes the same APC they pilloried, subverted and denounced in terms that are unexampled even in the accommodative Southwest. The former minister is incredibly flush with optimism. How he hopes to engineer that return without supplanting those embittered by his betrayal is impossible to guess. To return to the APC after first factionalising it would mean that his faction, in due time, would overwhelm the party and take its reins. No matter how temperately he postures, and regardless of whatever promises and undertakings he gives, the disaffected APC members and leaders will not trust him. It is true that reconciliation is profitable; but so too is wisdom. The current Oyetola-led APC, as naïve and awkward as its leaders appeared and acted during the last governorship poll, is not capable of committing class and group suicide. They believe Mr Aregbesola betrayed them. The former minister’s jousting with the APC may not fully explain the July 2022 APC loss, for there is much to be condemned about the state’s electoral behavior and Mr Oyetola’s finicky accounting and lack of generosity, but the Osun APC would be loth to reward betrayal.

In a bid to reignite his waning effort to regain fame, the former minister has spoken out about some of his achievements as governor; particularly regarding his education policy which he insisted was poised to produce world-class scholars. “By the time we left in 2018, 11 state-of-the-art, 3,000-capacity model secondary schools were fully operational,” he boasted in Akure where he had gone to receive an award. “With each school graduating 1,000 students every year, and a combined output of 11,000, we should have not less than 44,000 world beaters now, if the programme had been sustained. These schools were designed to produce world beaters and the fruits were already coming out. A student from our school topped the Senior Secondary School Examination while another topped JAMB examination shortly after we left. But our successor regrettably couldn’t continue with the tempo.” One of Mr Oyetola’s advisers, Jamiu Olawumi, promptly replied that the schools had already become dilapidated, and the project itself a terrible financial blunder. Only one of the 11 schools is fit for purpose, the adviser sneered.

Mr Aregbesola’s attempt to burnish his image is unlikely to succeed. Administration is not his forte, and he is also fond of hyperbole. His leadership style is largely instinctive, regimented and meddlesome. As governor, he did not endear himself to Osun, despite imagining himself a leader after the order of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. His ideological persuasion is only skin deep, and it is common knowledge among the Osun intelligentsia that he brought the standard of administration in the state abysmally low with his unguarded experimentations. His attempt to reintegrate himself is almost certain to come to grief due to his inability to subordinate himself to party discipline, even if it would cost the APC another election. He has fashioned himself an iconoclast, as his outburst against party leaders at the national level showed before the Osun poll. It is hard for someone unamenable to discipline and order to elicit cooperation and respect. He is undoubtedly a boisterous party organiser and enforcer, but such qualities have bred in him arrogance and cocksureness that make it difficult for him to receive and respect opposing perspectives. Returning to the party, let alone leading it, especially when the same APC is the national ruling party, is unfathomable."

Palladium, The Nation, 2nd July 2023

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