By Remi Oyeyemi
“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662),French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist.
“…most voters do not base their decisions on its utility value by adding up the costs and benefits of taking a particular decision. The political brain, ………is an emotional brain not an unemotional calculating contraption impartially probing for the right details, statistics, and policies to make a reasoned decision. And in politics, when reason and emotion eventually run into each other, emotion ultimately wins.
– Abdulmumin Yinka Ajia in his article “The Ekiti Election And The Role of Emotion In The Outcome”, June 22, 2014
“The functional relationship between politics and patronage as veritable vehicles for people’s and polity development is of great pertinence to maintenance and sustenance of power. Politics, Patronage, People and Polity development are interwoven and are all mutually inclusive not mutually exclusive in the pursuit of power.”
-Remi Oyeyemi in “The Challenges of Politics, Patronage and Development.” March 30, 2014
Few days ago, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, the governor of Osun State met with the Osun Stata Conference of Principals and Headmasters at the Government House at Oshosho to plead for their support and votes in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections slated forAugust 9, 2014. He gave them take-away and a thousand naira each for their transportation back to whence they came from after the meeting. But at Okefia Roundabout, less than a mile from the Government House where these principals and headmasters have just met Governor Aregbesola, there were shouts of “Te s’oju e, Te s’oju e” which literally means “Imprint on it, Imprint on it.” This slang is the slogan of the Iyiola Omisore Campaign Organization and it was what rented the air to the cheering of the onlookers who did not even know that the governor had just met the principals and the headmasters in the state. The meeting was the first time since Ogbeni Aregbesola became the governor of Osun State through a judicial process almost four years ago.
Without having to state the obvious, it was evident that the principals and the headmasters did not buy whatever the APC governor of Osun State was trying to sell to them. They came off with the belief that someone was trying to take them for a ride after ignoring them for four years, owing them salaries and telling them off that they did not have the voting strength to affect his electoral fortune for his re-election. But the earthquake that occurred in Ekiti seemed to have made the governor have a rethink. It is however, a rethink that is a little too late.
One of the major dangers of governance is the shrouding of the arrowhead to the point where he/she is unable to feel the pain of the followership or hear the lamentations of the governed. The essence of politics is to help hearken unto the public supplications, aggregate them and shape such into a policy. Another dangerous concomitant to governance is the sycophancy of those surrounding the arrowhead, feeding him with only what he wanted to hear as opposed to what he needed to hear. For the arrowhead to succeed, it is of great pertinence that he is made to hear and know what he needs to hear and not what he wants to hear.
Aregbesola has been able to bring about a monumental change to the State of Osun in terms of infrastructure. But it is a change that has drained the state dry financially. He has given hope to the frustrated especially among the downtrodden. But it is a hope given with the right hand but retrieved with the left. He has made people believe that things could change for the better while at the same time make believers of people that things could be agonizingly worse. Aregbesola’s main forte is the development of infrastructure. Ironically, it is also the one of the major causes of his misfortune.
There are serious complaints in Aregbesolaland. These complaints are currently fostering anger. Some of this anger is subtly open. Some of the anger is silent. But a lot of this anger is raging and simmering for August 9, which is currently being referred to among the people of Osun as the “Judgement Day.” The inability of Governor Aregbesola to synergize the needs of politics, patronage and development of infrastructure and or any other is the reason he may lose the control of the State come August 9. And turn Osun State to Omisoreland!
Aregbesola’s problems with the people of Osun in general and later his party members in particular began very soon after he was sworn in. He ruled the State for close to a year (ten months to be exact) without any commissioner or appointed members of Boards of parastatals. His party members waited and waited until they began to echo the opposition as to what was going on, asking why he refused to appoint commissioners for the State. During that period, he received over 40 billion naira in Federal allocations. He alone and the then Secretary to the State Government, Segun Akinwumi could say exactly how this money was spent. It is being alleged that the opposition of the SSG to Aregbesola stemmed from the disagreements emanating from how this money was disbursed. The SSG Akinwumi is now a gubernatorial candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria in the August 9 election.
Eventually when Aregbesola appointed the commissioners, he retained the Ministry of Works and Transport to himself while appointing his former Director in the Lagos State Ministry of Works and Transport where he (Aregbesola) was commissioner under Bola Tinubu as the Special Adviser to co-manage it with him. He allowed his Deputy to oversee the Ministry of Education as 75% of the entire cabinet consists of his friends from Lagos and elsewhere other than Osun local politicians. He left the local politicians hanging, insisting that he had to reward those who financed his legal battles against the PDP. He forgot that without those who voted for him and ensured that those votes counted across Osun State, there would be nothing for his Lagos friends to finance!
To this end, Aregbesola is considered an ungrateful man by a cross section of the party faithful in Osun State. There are actually those who consider him a traitor within the APC. Majority of those who share this view were those who went “toe to toe” with those who “stole” his mandate. For three and half years, they were engaged in serious battles in the war. They fought in the trenches for him. Some of them were rounded up and beaten mercilessly. Some of them were jailed on trumped up charges. Some of them escaped into exiles of varying distances. Some of them lost their businesses. Some of them lost their lives. Many of them were maimed. They are bitter that they have not been adequately compensated in terms of positions and or patronages. They understand that all of them could not be in positions but that most of them should be patronized via other means. They believe that they have been patient and long-suffering. Many of these are bewildered and could not comprehend why things have turned out this way. They complained but their complaints fell on deaf ears. Some of those in this category have decamped into the PDP. Some are working silently within the APC to undermine the governor. A handful of them are still loyal but not committed.
Among the malcontents within the party are the cross sections of the party functionaries who share the view that they have been weakened. They lament that the structure was marginalized and starved of activities as well as funds as they all lived in fear of offending the governor or doing something he might not like. The LG chairmen of the Caretaker Committee were all frustrated. They perceive themselves as “slaves” who could not decide anything for themselves. All their allocations were usually appropriated at the State level by the governor whom they all derisively call “Emperor” behind his back. They all feel choked, muzzled and powerless. The refusal of Aregbesola to hold the LG elections was considered deliberate to deprive them of the ability to build their own clientele and support base. Twenty seven of them were reported to have pledged allegiance to a PDP candidate in the coming elections.
Outside the Party structure, the Civil Servants are unhappy. They complained of being stifled. They are discontented that their salaries have been delayed for several months. They are more riled that when they complained, the governor and his men made them to understand that the civil servants would not be able to have any impact on the outcome of the coming elections. They are waiting in silence for August 9. As for the teachers, their fate is not different from that of their principals and headmasters. They are also owed salaries of several months. They are grumbling bitterly. Reportedly, the Chief of Staff had dismissed the fact that they might constitute any electoral threat on August 9. The governor even refused to meet their conference in the last four years until Kayode Fayemi was voted out in Ekiti. They felt patronized by Aregbesola’s gesture. They felt insulted, disrespected and undervalued.
The Local Government workers are also moaning. The chairmen of the Caretaker Committees have convinced them that they (the chairmen) had nothing to do with depriving them (LG workers) of their normal imprests which seemed to have completely disappeared. They showed how much were paid to them as allocation from the Federal Government and how much they were actually getting from Ogbeni Aregbesola. They washed their hands clean of any rigmarole concerning the lack of funds and activities at the local level. In addition, political appointees to Boards of Parastatals were never appointed until almost three years into Aregbesola’s tenure. In fact, many of them are yet to be appointed as we speak because only very few Boards have members appointed to them. Those appointed, mostly faithful party men at a point were allegedly owed seven months’ salaries.
There were also the retirees and pensioners who are owed several months of their pensions. Most of them have no other sources of income and are starving. Thanks to the Ekiti people for voting out Fayemi. Aregbesola suddenly found some money to pay down what he owes them. These pensioners are another group looking forward to August 9, 2014 as the “Judgment Day.” The teachers, the civil servants and the pensioners who are owed salaries are wondering if truly the state had no money because every month when Aregbesola did his “Gbagede Oro,” famous Fuji musicians come to town to play and allegedly leave with 5 million naira cheque for a day’s job!
The social welfare package put in place for the elderly by Aregbesola seems to be a hoax. It could not be accessed by many. Across many Wards and LGs in the state, there are agonizing stories of disappointment and frustration. It is either they could not get on the list after so many trials or you could not get paid after getting on the list. It was like jibiti to many across the state who could not access the 10,000naira monthly pittance. Like an elderly man, who is a retired school principal called it in Ijesha dialect, “Alaabaa ni ere” literally meaning “it is a useless programme.” While all these were going on, the governor was able to buy armoured vehicles for himself and some in his cabinet. Though, each of the vehicles was reportedly bought at the cost of 80 million naira, this writer has no way of confirming this amount but has seen the armoured vehicles. But regardless of the cost, how come armoured vehicles are the priority of a State government that could not pay the salaries of its workers and teachers? The people see these cars driving on their streets and wondered how they got it wrong to this extent. But their hope is alive as they wait for the “Judgment Day.”
While the armoured cars are driving on the streets of Oshogbo, all the Colleges of Education in the State were closed. Aregbesola was not perturbed. Neither his Deputy who oversees the Education Ministry. The issue with the lecturers pertains to the deduction of their pensions from their salaries which were not appropriately remitted. The government has no explanation what has happened to the money and was too arrogant to negotiate with the lecturers. Most of these lecturers were sympathizers of the governor who eventually got alienated. After the sack of Fayemi in Ekiti, Aregbesola hurriedly made arrangements to call them back on July 1. But the lecturers are not deceived. They are looking forward to the “Judgment Day” on August 9.
The arrogance of the governor and his team knows no bounds. The peoples of Osun, as far as the APC government is concerned, know nothing. The people of the State are treated like babies who have to do exactly what they are told. Peoples’ opinions and desires on the government policies did not matter. This was what happened on Aregbesola’s merger of schools. Everything is so muddled up that there is a lot of bitterness in the wake of this policy. Schools were indiscriminately merged. Methodist schools were merged with Ahmadiya schools, Anglican with Ansarudeen Schools, Catholic with Nawarudeen Schools, Baptist with Cherubim and Seraphim and so on and so forth. The saga of Fakunle Comprehensive High School is still a matter of great bitterness and regret among the people of Oshogbo and others from across the State. The old students of Ilesha Grammar School are still reeling from shock and hurt resulting from what their school has been turned to. The same story is repeated across Osun State. In the wake of this policy, a lot of History was mangled, wide range of traditions trampled and several sources of fond nostalgia mercilessly guillotined.
Then there is the issue of the school uniforms. There have been wide insinuations that the common school uniform imposition was a means to make the wife of the governor rich, but this writer could not really confirm the connections to Her Excellency. However, the fact that the governor was unwilling to hearken to the complaints of the generality of Osun people on this issue leaves a lot to be desired and seem to lend some credence to the suspicions of the people who did not like the idea in the first place. One of major fallouts of this misguided policy was the attendant religious tension and crisis that followed. If it was not because this is an environment where peaceful religious co-existence has been part of the tradition for over 1000 years, the story would have been different. It was an arrogant policy that disregarded the role of stakeholders and their input. The policy seriously alienated the Muslims and the Christians in the State. They are very bitter and feel very insulted and disrespected. But their only hope is invested in the “Judgment Day” on August 9 when it is believed the wrongs would be put right.
Closely aligned with the above is the disrespect and disregard of and for the traditional rulers in Osun State. Since Aregbesola assumed office, he has not called the meeting of the State Council of Obas just once. He did not think that the traditional rulers in Osun matter. While he befriended Iku Baba Yeye, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi II, the Alaafin of Oyo, he was showing unimaginable ingratitude and arrogance to the Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijeshaland, Oba (Dr.) Gabriel Adekunle Aromoran II who almost lost his throne because of his support for Aregbesola’s mandate. Oba Aromolaran was humiliated and publicly insulted by the previous administration to the chagrin of all Ijesha who saw the action as being directed at them rather than their traditional ruler. It was hoped that Aregbesola would show some appreciation when he assumed office. No sooner did he assume office that he engaged in arrogant behavior and disrespect of Owa Obokun. The Ijesha are very upset about this. They are not hiding their feelings. Every attempt to blackmail the Adimula did not go down well with the Ijesha who are currently seething with anger. They are not impressed with Aregbesola who they now consider a prodigal son that would deserve some call to order. They are waiting for the “Judgment Day.”
Several Obas in Osun who spoke to this writer complained of “open insults and abuse” by Aregbesola and his administration. One of them told this writer that he has since become smatter and looked for ways to avoid government functions because he was tired of being “dragged in the mud.” He noted that at every government functions, the Obas who are “the fathers of the people” are often made to sit in plastic chairs while the so-called commissioners and Special Advisers sit in cushion comfort on the dais looking down on them. “I am tired of being insulted and disrespected,” he had said with a quiet voice. He noted that his people would have something to say about what happens henceforth because he did not put himself on the throne of his forefathers. It would be politically suicidal for any section of the political elite to assume that our traditional rulers are not relevant politically. Our peoples still revere them. They obey them and hold them in high esteem. Our people love their Obas and are willing to even indulge them. The Obas in Yoruba land are the reminders of the greatness of our race, of the ingenuity of our forefathers and evidences of a very great tradition and a distinguished history.
Then there is the issue of the Tipper Owners Association of Osun State who are gripping about lack of jobs despite the amount of road constructions going on. They are lamenting that the contractors who are mainly from Lagos or elsewhere are demanding for 3 or 4 axles tippers which they do not have. They noted that when Chief Bisi Akande built the ultra-modern secretariat it was their 2 axle 6-tyre tippers they used to supply all the materials such as sand, gravel, stone-based among others. They wonder how such vehicles are suddenly not good enough. They felt marginalized and complained bitterly that every effort to meet with the Governor to listen to their complaints has been rebuffed. The experiences of other artisans of different genres are not different. In fact, in Iragbiji, the home town of the Chief of Staff, it was not until there was a riot and stoppage of work by the local welders that an arrangement was made to accommodating them.
There are also the members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). This is the only pressure group that is not unanimous in their detestation of the Aregbesola’s administration. They are divided almost 50-50. Their leaders are appealing to the angry ones to bear with Aregbesola and that at least he met them half way. Those angry are pointing to the time it took him to do anything about their complaints. Some of them are insisting that his train gesture to travellers was meant to undercut them and undermine their business especially during festive periods. A section of the Union sees this as selfish. Others insisted that meeting to discuss this with the administration would have helped. They are angry that Aregbesola was not accessible. The fate of the Okada Riders Association is not different. They are Balkanized. All are very angry, but not all of them are willing to turn against Aregbesola. It would appear that this would probably go 60-40 for the Omisore Campaign Organization.
The issue of demolished houses is still causing ripples among the Osun people. It is an issue more pronounced in Oshogbo than in any other city in the State. It caused a lot of sorrow and gnashing of teeth. A lot of businesses are affected. Some of them complained of drastically reduced turnover. While the people appreciated the need for demolition in areas like Igbona all the way to Ikirun road, the necessity for the demolition could not be fathomed on the two sides of Gbongan road all the way to the Secretariat that seemed well paved hitherto. The failure of Aregbesola to follow this up in demolishing the secretariat of the PDP along the same road despite falling within the range of other demolished properties seemed to suggest that only the poor and the powerless was being victimized.
There is a lot of anger that the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) business in Osun is contracted to a company closely linked to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It is public knowledge that all the taxes being imposed on the indigenes of Osun are inspired by what Tinubu did in Lagos without consideration of the fact that there are not as many businesses in Osun as in Lagos. Also, trusted sources have confirmed that the Land Use Charge would soon be given to the same company to further make money from the sweat of Osun people to be eventually repatriated to Lagos State. This close link of Aregbesola with Asiwaju Tinubu is a source of great discontent and the Osun people are not happy that their fortunes are being decided from outside the state.
Since the defeat of Fayemi in Ekiti, Aregbesola and his mentor, Asiwaju Tinubu have been trying to make a show of decampees and running helter-skelter to plead with some lead politicians and beg for support across Osun State. It has been alleged that former Governor Isiaka Adeleke was paid handsomely to decamp from the PDP to APC. This writer could not confirm this, but it seem evident that the former governor from Ede would have a tough time convincing his people from Ede to abandon the former Speaker of the State, Hon. Bello Adejare who has been picked as the running mate to Omisore in the coming election. Evidently, the people of Ede who are still unhappy that their traditional ruler has been publicly dissed by Aregbesola and are not likely to forget that in a hurry, are very excited at one of their own becoming a Deputy Governor in the State. That Isiaka Adeleke decamped to APC might not have any electoral value for the desperate Aregbesola.
The surprise visit to the home of another former governor of the state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola by his erstwhile enemy, Asiwaju Tinubu in the company of Governor Aregbesola may not bear any fruit for the Osun State APC in the August 9 governorship election. Prince Oyinlola is not against the candidacy of Otunba Omisore. He is just unhappy with some elements within the PDP. More so, he is still the court and INEC recognized National Secretary of the PDP. He would not be smart to throw that to the dogs and join the uncertainty of the Osun APC which support is fast vanishing and which has nothing tangible to offer him. Prince Oyinlola would not publicly endorse Aregbesola no matter what. In addition, this writer had it from a reliable source that his younger colleague from Ekiti, former Governor Segun Oni who recently joined the APC to support Fayemi’s second term bid has touched base with him (Oyinlola) with harrowing stories of regrets resulting from his move. The reason was to caution the Okuku Prince from making the same mistakes as he did.
Another great tragedy for the APC is the failure of their propaganda against the person of Iyiola Omisore. The Osun APC have thrown everything at him including but not limited to accusing him of murdering late Chief Bola Ige. The fact of this situation is that the Osun people are not buying the propaganda. They know this is politics and are convinced that Otunba Omisore was not responsible for the death of the former Attorney General of the Federation. The Osun people are aware that he has not been convicted in any court of law after being arraigned and tried. They are comparing this to the members of the APC convicted of murdering Hon. Olagbaju in Ile-Ife who were caught, arraigned, tried and convicted but later released by Aregbesola as soon as he assumed office. Osun people know that there are two sons of Chief Bola Ige who were never involved in the struggle for the Aregbesola’s mandate but are commissioner and Special Adviser now. Some in the APC see this as being to their detriment.
The stage is set for the “Judgment Day” as the people of Osun are calling the August 9, 2014 date. It is a day that would confirm the dimming star of the APC as a political party and the rejection of a cult of personality that has no enduring benefit for the people of Osun State.
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