OPINION: Oyetola and the a o m’erin j’oba choristers, By Semiu Okanlawon

 

Three years down the line, not even the governor would deny that the anti-Aregbesola manipulations have been very perilous for the party and his administration.

Is everything okay with the ruling party in Osun? Definitely not! Could this messy situation have been avoided? Clearly yes! No one needed a soothsayer to have known since 2019 that should the governor continue to open his flanks to those humming the anti-Aregbesola hymn into his ears, he would tear a once vibrant, impregnable party to shreds. The tatters might be too bad to piece together.

Permit me to tickle you with the Yoruba folklore, A o m’erin j’oba (we’ll make the elephant king), which in history has no parallel in the apt dramatisation of deceit, wickedness and fraud, usually woven around fame and positions of influence and affluence.
In the a o m’erin j’oba tragi-comedy, the elephant, in its obvious majestic size and shape, was led on by a band of deceivers and manipulators all garbed in attires of praise-singers.
Sadly, they had a sinister motive. Those who chorused its praises and assured the elephant of its impending ‘coronation’, had dug its grave where they planned to ditch it once they succeeded in cajoling it to follow them to the venue of the ‘coronation’ ceremony.

The grave was decorated with very attractive velvet materials. And so they went for the elephant with singing and dancing. Totally oblivious of the evil plots by its praise-singers, the elephant danced on its way to the venue thinking it was its day of honour.
Alas! On getting to the ‘coronation’ venue, where a beautifully decorated royal chair had been placed, the elephant sank with all its weight into the grave, while the praise-singers went their different paths; some of them jubilating.

Who is the elephant here?
In the three years that Governor Gboyega Oyetola has held sway in Osun, I don’t think I have been taken aback by anything else more than the manner he has left himself to the whims and manipulative caprices of a band around him.

I learnt before now that occupiers of offices are often hostages of the intriguing manipulation of ‘smooth operators.” However, not in anyone’s wildest imaginations could it have been speculated that a man of such immense power could become so weak and seemingly hypnotised to this point of self-immolation.

 

In all things, I have continued to ruminate on how successful those who have goaded the governor on this misadventure expected their venture to be. This was the crux of my discussions with him in December 2019, during which I asked whether he thought it possible to extricate himself from whatever happened under the Aregbesola administration by virtue of his position at the time.

Assuming, without conceding, that Aregbesola’s administration was spendthrift or took certain decisions bordering on the finances of the state, including loans, salary issues, infrastructure financing and virtually every general matter, is it possible for Oyetola to be seen as an outsider to what transpired? As a functionary in that administration, I knew ab initio that any attempt to present Aregbesola as evil was going to hurt Oyetola and his administration more than it would, Aregbesola.

With Oyetola’s emergence, no one expected any lull in the advancement of the “State of the Virtuous” in education, job creation, infrastructure rebirth, security, and above all, value re-orientation that hallmarked the administration where he served as the Chief of Staff and as a matter of fact, a major policy egghead.

But rather than busy himself with these lofty objectives for which continuity would be a preference for public good, a vein, inglorious and totally unnecessary attempt at “removing the hands of Aregbesola” from the politics of Osun was elevated to the level of state objective. If you cannot key into that objective, you certainly cannot matter either in government or the party.
I have asked myself what were these objectives meant to achieve.

…when some of my own brothers and uncles tried what I consider to be a damage control ‘support rally’ in Iwo on Wednesday, December 22, mobilising the media to foist a narrative that is hard to sell that Iwo belongs to Oyetola, I could not but lament that the ‘A o m’erin j’oba’ choristers would simply not stop until they do our man in tragically and completely. But why would you treat Oyetola this way? I knew him to be a gentleman.

In December 2019, I returned from Europe after about six weeks. During my stay, I was getting bombarded from Nigeria and my Ward in Iwo East Local Council Development Area with reports of surreptitious moves by some people, propped up and goaded on by some appointees of the governor, to reorder some political arrangements at the ward levels.

Of course, given the roles I had played previously in the election of the governor, especially in the face of the total rejection of his candidature, people from my ward and local government were becoming apprehensive. Simply put, the grassroots ‘soldiers’ of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were already suspicious that something capable of destroying the fabric of the party was going on at the ward level across the State. They needed information, assurances that the party was not coming into the hands of those who would destroy it. They needed to bring their anxieties to me. But because I had travelled for an international conference and used the opportunity for some rest as well, they kept bombarding me with messages that our party was witnessing something very sinister, the type that could ignite an implosion if nothing was done.

Once back in Nigeria, I immediately sought audience with the governor. I needed to confirm if he was in the know of some underground moves to replace the party structures at all levels with those who claimed to be Ileri Oluwa leaders.
The governor denied knowledge of this but I told him that he needed to investigate it. Not convinced that he was unaware of the discriminatory moves and ill-feelings already being created, I went ahead to tell him that any attempt to cast Aregbesola in the image of someone to be discarded was predictably going to blow in the face of everyone.
Three years down the line, not even the governor (if he wants to be sincere with himself) would deny that the anti-Aregbesola manipulations have been very perilous for the party and his administration. The scars are there.

Before I left his office that day in 2019, I asked him if Aregbesola offended him. Without giving him room for an answer, I went ahead to tell him that even if Ogbeni had offended him, he should consider himself already well compensated by God by his emergence as his successor. I made it clear to him that vindictiveness and leadership were alien to each other.
By my nature, training and calling, I am not a cheerleader. Late in 2011, I wrote a mail to Aregbesola. In that mail, I sought to have his understanding to grant me a concession to freely express contrary opinions to his stance on issues, especially if all other appointees did not want to contradict a governor. For me, those in positions such governorship need around them honest inputs and not cheerleading and praise-singing.

If there is one person who is a witness to my minority opinions before Ogbeni at that time, it should be Governor Oyetola. And I am quite sure he still remembers a few instances where, without sounding confrontational or insulting, I politely disagreed with Ogbeni on issues. On one or two occasions, I expected a sack. He never did.

The press interview I granted over the manner Oyetola’s appointees were going about the school reform was the plain truth and till date, remains unchanged.
So, declaring me a persona non-grata in his administration simply because I came to tell him the honest truth in 2019 is of no impact to me and of no value to him. In the fullness of time, the governor would realise and embrace his true friends.

The point being made here is this: Those around the governor have learnt that speaking up and being honest with him is ‘criminal’ and so, they have learnt to keep their peace, preferring to sing praises because that is what suits him. Let it be known to him that majority of them simply have their opinions of the way things should go, save a few who are the beneficiaries of the shenanigans of this deceptive project.

The incidents in Iwo
I come from Iwo and specifically Iwo East Local Council Development Area. I feel sad that the APC is its own enemy within the city. The shooing off of the governor by angry residents of Iwo during the annual Odidere Day celebrations, according to the video I saw, should be a source of worry to those who love APC.
But then, Governor Oyetola worked hard for the division that the APC represents today in Osun and that could be the source of such humiliating treatment.

I find it incredible that the anti-Aregbesola posture has been pursued with such vigour and venom that the executors have even failed to realise that legacy, enduring projects which could still be used as references during campaigns, are being de-marketed. Telling the world those mega-schools were poorly executed projects amounts to suicide in my opinion.

Knowing the shreds to which his forced candidature turned the party ahead of the 2018 election, we would have been saved the troubles if we had not followed this ignoble path. I recall vividly that the entire executive committee of the APC in Governor Oyetola’s Ward in Iragbiji all resigned from the party to join the African Democratic Party (ADP) in 2018. I remember calling on Aragbiji, Oba Abdulrasheed Olabomi, at the time to intervene and not allow APC stalwarts in Oyetola’s homestead bring us all to shame.

So, when some of my own brothers and uncles tried what I consider to be a damage control ‘support rally’ in Iwo on Wednesday, December 22, mobilising the media to foist a narrative that is hard to sell that Iwo belongs to Oyetola, I could not but lament that the ‘A o m’erin j’oba’ choristers would simply not stop until they do our man in tragically and completely. But why would you treat Oyetola this way? I knew him to be a gentleman.

I find it amusing that many of those who mounted the podium in Iwo grandstanding that the city belongs to Oyetola have all said terrible things about the administration they run.

On September 1, this year, one of those who spoke on Wednesday had stopped me on the Iwo-Osogbo Road for a conversation. We spent close to 45 minutes analysing the fate of the party under the governor.
His first poser to me was: “Semiu, how can we get Ogbeni? Just tell me who and who are the people you know he listens to?”
I demanded to know what informed the question.

He said, “Governor yi o le win election bayi” (meaning, “this governor cannot win this election the way things stand today.”
I responded by saying “But if you know that, why don’t you call some of your colleagues in the cabinet and tell him the truth? Why say it behind him?
“And why didn’t you make this reconciliatory moves much earlier?”
“O ku eni to ma lo so yen fun governor o.” Meaning “No one dare tell the governor that he needs Aregbesola to win election.”
Sadly, this government official was one of those speaking in Iwo and boasting that victory is assured in the next election. What has changed?

I find it incredible that the anti-Aregbesola posture has been pursued with such vigour and venom that the executors have even failed to realise that legacy, enduring projects which could still be used as references during campaigns, are being de-marketed. Telling the world those mega-schools were poorly executed projects amounts to suicide in my opinion.
Is everything okay with the ruling party in Osun? Definitely not! Could this messy situation have been avoided? Clearly yes! No one needed a soothsayer to have known since 2019 that should the governor continue to open his flanks to those humming the anti-Aregbesola hymn into his ears, he would tear a once vibrant, impregnable party to shreds. The tatters might be too bad to piece together.

Semiu Okanlawon is an APC stalwart, he writes from Iwo, Osun State