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Dissecting Aregbesola’s unending political battles in APC

When it was reported that the Osun State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), last Wednesday, expelled the former governor of the state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and also went ahead to issue a stern warning to its members to distance themselves from having anything to do with him, the impression was that the presidency and national leadership of APC have finally wielded the big blow to do away with the erstwhile two term Commissioner of Works in Lagos State.

Prior to Wednesday, it had been rumoured that Aregbesola was trying to float another political party, with which he plans to sponsor a candidate to contest the next gubernatorial election in Osun come 2026. Besides that, it was rumoured that the former member of the Lagos APC’s Governance Advisory Council (GAC) may likely use the new political platform to frustrate President Bola Tinubu’s re-election agenda in 2027; all things been equal.   Therefore, the need to cut his wings and make him politically irrelevant in the next few years is imperative.

For the maverick politician, the last few years have been characterised with fierce battles to sustain his political relevance at the national level, in Osun where APC is in opposition and in Lagos, especially in Alimosho Federal Constituency, where he was once the custodian of grassroots politics.

While he held away as the governor of Osun State between 2010 and 2018, he explored his wits and street credibility to influence and determine the state’s political compass by deploying his clout to secure mass appeal among the populace.

Even though there were divergent views regarding his performance as the then number one citizen of the state, findings by The Guardian, indicated that he implemented some legacy projects in the education sector, through the construction of mega schools located in all the three senatorial districts of Osun, while he also constructed roads and bridges to aid the infrastructural development of the state.

However, a retrospective look at his trajectory shows that the decision on who succeeded him in 2018 signalled the beginning of his political travail, as he preferred his successor to emerge from the Osun West Senatorial District, against the wish of his benefactor, godfather and friend, President Bola Tinubu.

Tinubu, who had not been elected president then, was rooting for his nephew, Gboyega Oyetola to succeed Aregbesola as the governor of Osun. Oyetola served as the Chief of Staff (CoS) under Aregbesola’s administration for eight years.

That Oyetola, incumbent Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, later became the governor in 2018 in spite of Aregbesola, had become history, but the reversal of some policies of Aregbesola’s administration by his successor also created another wedge among the three (Tunubu, Aregbesola and Oyetola). This snowballed into the polarisation of Osun APC among members loyal to the political gladiators.

Though efforts were intensified to reconcile warring members of APC in Osun, the resolve of Aregbesola’s splinter group, The Osun Progressives (TOP), now Omoluabi Progressives Caucus, to maintain their position had further made peace elusive in the opposition party.

Apart from the fact that Oyetola, while in power, allegedly reversed most of Aregbesola’s legacies, the former minister in 2022 insisted that his successor should not be supported for a second term, a decision that was unacceptable to Tinubu.

Aregbesola’s grouse was that if the APC family dealt with former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode by depriving him of second term ticket in 2018 because of failure to adhere to party manifesto, Oyetola, who though is believed to be blood brother of President Tinubu did worse in Osun than Ambode and ought to have been treated similarly. This was the second stanza of the differences between Aregbesola and the president.

With in-depth understanding of the dynamics of Osun’s politics, the former minister of interior seized the opportunity of 2022 governorship poll in the state to take his own pound of flesh by working against the re-election of Oyetola through his alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which won the election for the incumbent Governor Ademola Adeleke, which was considered as a deliberate setback as at then to President Tinubu’s ambition.

The frosty relationship between Aregbesola and Tinubu continued when the erstwhile minister openly supported the former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s presidential ambition against Tinubu during the APC’s presidential primary.

Again pundits believed that the inability of Aregbesola to control his temperament made his reconciliation moves with Tinubu fruitless. For instance, all efforts including a meeting organised at the Governors House, Marina in Lagos to reconcile the matter was allegedly burst by Aregbesola, who rode in with Osinbajo to the venue of the stakeholders to indicate where he was heading ahead of the APC presidential primaries.

The differences further worsened on February 15, 2022, when Aregbesola was quoted to have said while addressing his supporters at Oriade Local Council of Osun State that Tinubu was exalted “beyond his status and he turned himself to a god over us.”

Aregbesola stated: “We came back home to reposition our party to where it was meant to be because we followed the lead of our leader that we thought was a noble and reliable fellow. We followed him (Tinubu) dutifully with all sense of loyalty.

“Some people even thought that we were no longer Muslims because of how we cooperated with him. We dealt with him without treachery but we never knew he planned evil for us.

“We exalted him beyond his status and he turned himself to a god over us and we had sworn to ridicule anyone who compared himself to God,” he fumed.

The incumbent Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi and the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, tried to resolve the matter but to no avail. The very last straw that broke the camel’s back was when Oyetola lost Osun to Adeleke.

To fight back, Tinubu’s allies in Lagos moved to demystify Aregbesola’s legacy across Alimosho just as Oyetola, within the remaining period he had in office in Osun, used his power to render the former minister and his loyalists redundant.

It is believed in some circles that Aregbesola ought to have been considered for key political appointment during the scheming that preceded the formation of Tinubu’s cabinet about a year ago but for his unhealthy relationship with his former boss.

The nagging question begging for answer now is how long can the former governor of Osun and one of the trusted allies of the president sustain this seeming cold war with Tinubu and his state chapter of the APC?  More importantly, what will be his political future if he eventually loses in this unending political struggle? Or will there be light at the end of the tunnel for Aregbesola against all the odds he is currently facing in this trajectory?

Pundits are of the view that despite his seeming strong will and unwavering conviction to maintain his hard stance, reprieve may not come the way of the former governor in this battle for the soul of the APC unless he sheaths his sword.

But a new twist was added to the imbroglio last Tuesday when the secretary of the APC in Osun State, Kamoru Alao, declared Aregbesola as a persona non grata in the party.

He also contended that the Omoluabi Progressives Group, which is one of the caucuses of the major opposition party being led by the former governor, is unknown to APC and warned members against associating with the group or registering with it.

Alao said Aregbesola has been reported to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party for allegedly distracting the party in the state.

But the spokesperson for Aregbesola, Sola Fasure, said the APC’s response showed that the major opposition party was in disarray.

He stated: “The Osun APC members are paranoid and apoplectic about anything Aregbesola is involved in. Their response shows they are in total disarray. They urgently need to see their doctor.”

Meanwhile, the state chapter of APC has warned its members to be wary of unlawful registration exercises being organised by some individuals, saying that the party has not commenced electronic registration as proposed by its national leadership.

APC chairman in the state, Tajudeen Lawal, in a communique issued after the party’s stakeholders’ meeting, cautioned its members to ignore such registration exercise.

He said that the meeting became imperative to review the party’s activities ahead of the upcoming electronic membership registration.

Lawal hinted that membership registration as directed by the national secretariat of the party would commence next week, urging all the party organs to prepare for the exercise.

However, while speaking during a chat with The Guardian, a staunch member of Omoluabi Progressives Caucus and former Commissioner for Information and Strategy during Aregbesola’s administration in Osun, Mr. Lani Baderinwa, said the party has an internal mechanism of resolving crisis.

When prompted further for reaction, Baderinwa humbly urged the reporter to rest the questions.

One of the implications of the face off is that it continues to exempt Osun State from the umbrella of progressive’s politicians in the Southwest. Some observers also said the extra beneficiary disposition, which Osun, being the hometown of the President, is supposed to be enjoying, is not there because it belongs to the major opposition PDP.

One of the leaders in the Osun chapter of APC, Alhaji Liadi Tella, said Aregbesola’s expulsion in the party was long overdue.

He said Aregbesola should take personal responsibility for all the predicaments he is facing, saying: “The two term governor of Osun State, two-term Commissioner in Lagos and who also served for four years as a minister consecutively got to a point that he overrated himself. The erstwhile custodian of Alimosho grassroots politics and the closest political ally of President Tinubu forgot that he is probably the luckiest politician in Yoruba land going by the records and also considering his background academically and in politics.

“When the crisis started, I personally went to meet him in his office when he was minister and advised him to settle with his successor, Oyetola. I told him point blank the likely consequences of his three front political battles with President Tinubu, Oyetola and the adversaries, who were anticipating his downfall in the party, particularly those he has offended because of his closeness to Mr. President over the years.

“I advised him based on the fact that I am a senior to him in age but he is senior to me in politics; but then he refused to heed my admonition. The worst offence a politician could commit is to cause your party or your action(s) to be perceived as the factor that caused your platform to lose an election for that matter a state!”

Tella said he did not wish Aregbesola any ill luck in life “but the truth must be told; the former Minister fought beyond the limit of reasoning. He ought to have rescinded to fate and allowed providence to intervene instead of allowing anger to cloud his actions.”

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