RIGHT OF REPLY
Nothing can undo the place of former Governor Olusegun Osoba in Ogun State politics, writes Olatunde Sodeke
Last week, a non-existent Sarah Olabimtan was granted a generous space in the THISDAY edition of Wednesday, April 27, where she wallowed in her folly. She feigned a very good knowledge of Ogun politics and by extension, the South-west. She started by playing to the gallery, singing the praises of some persons she elected to acknowledge and ended up rubbing it in on Chief Olusegun Osoba, a former governor of Ogun State at two different times with unchallengeable record as the living godfather of the state’s politics, whether in terms of administration, delivering on promises or the management of people, either in politics or other spheres of life. Osoba is a complete administrator of all seasons.
Perhaps, this response would have been needless had Sarah not attempted to undo the place of Chief Osoba in the annals of the state’s body polity. Like many before it, it would have been better dismissed as the ranting of a fellow high on the stipends of her pay master. Besides, the name Olabimtan is a prominent one from the Ilaro part of the state. Thus, an attempt to want to seek recognition by rubbishing someone else’s name built on goodwill, honesty and sincerity further called for this intervention, albeit in a most civilised and sane fashion.
Now, let’s go straight to business. This intervention is intended to address the misinformation that fraught the Sarah Olabimtan article on the recent meeting of some leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), at the Ikoyi residence of Chief Osoba, which in her ignorance, was termed the reconciliation of Ogun APC gladiators and went on to justify why the intervention failed since it did not take into account, people she reckoned were the main characters in the crisis of the APC in the state.
For the record, the meeting of April 3, 2016, had nothing to do with whatever is assumed to be happening in Ogun State in her wildest imagination. The meeting was a mere formality to tell the world that the Yoruba leadership in South-west is back together as one. Before that day, there had been a lot of personal contacts amongst the leadership. Indeed, at the end of last Ramadan, as a corollary to this, former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu drove straight from the eid to Chief Osoba’s residence in Ikoyi.
Of course, it is common knowledge that Chief Osoba and Asiwaju Tinubu have had their frosty relationship over political strategy. Thus, on that day, Asiwaju Tinubu visited Chief Osoba, alluding to Islamic teachings that the 30 days of fasting usually dwell on penitence and purity and therefore, they must put the past behind them. That day, they had both settled their personal animosity and what was left was the politics of it, which had greatly affected the South-west leadership in general, and that too, was resolved on April 3, in collective interest.
Maybe for the record too, I can touch briefly on what caused the differences between them. In the lead up to the formation of APC, Chief Osoba had canvassed the need for the South-west APC to negotiate concretely for the zone within the collective body. But Tinubu thought differently and wanted everything to evolve naturally since the party was just coming up, especially that such disposition could be suspicious. But Osoba wanted a clear understanding of what was in the merger and structure of the party for the zone. Indeed, the January 9, 2015 crisis in Ogun was contingent to that matter.
What you get today, as a result of that, is that no party leader is strongly involved in the activation of government policies, which has always been the standard in any ideal party as an association. The implication of ignoring such a strategic and standard practice by a ruling party is the crisis we are witnessing today in the APC. The Senate leadership crisis would not have arisen at all, the same way the embarrassment created by the budget crisis would have been cleaned up in-house, if there was an effective and functional structure. Osoba was right after all.
Realising this for a fact, the leaders of the South-west met and agreed to start with house-clearing. The initiative of the April 3, meeting was basically to start helping the government and the party as a critical duo in delivering on the change agenda. This is because the South-west leaders had already seen the danger in the Executive/Legislative crisis. Thus, the meeting was purely that of the party in the South-west and the government because if care is not taken, the Senate Presidency is up for taking by the PDP. No Jupiter can change that should the party and government mismanage the present crisis in the Senate.
To the issue of Chief Osoba’s non-popularity as propounded by Sarah Olabimtan, since according to her, the outcome of the 2015 election was an indication that Chief Osoba’s place in Ogun politics was practically non-existent. The truth about the last election was that two main factors were responsible. One, the “Jonathan Must Go” factor and two, the “Buhari Bandwagon”, both of which shaped the outcome of the election in practically everywhere, safe for the South-south and South-east that were impregnable, somewhat.
Everyone who matters in the country, the business community especially saw the handwriting and gave lifeline to the Buhari movement. It had nothing to do with Chief Osoba’s popularity or none of it. But if they insist Chief Osoba has no political value still, it is good to wait and see that replay itself in the next election. What is certain is that these two factors that shaped the 2015 elections would no longer be present and then, we would be in a position to truly measure the strength of everyone in the state’s politics.
As a journalist, not many people have his kind of tentacles, much less as a governor. But Chief Osoba has said at different times and occasions that he was not interested in any office, what therefore is the problem of these people, who yet see him as nobody in the state. He neither wants to be national chairman nor BoT chairman. In fact, he has told his people to steer clear of the party offices in the state and let “those who own the party run their show”. What more do they want? What really are they afraid of?
But Sarah and co should not forget so soon that the same people she condemned for coming together without “her preferred gladiators” produced Senator Ibikunle Amosun as governor in 2011. She alluded to some traditional rulers she claimed had begged Chief Osoba not to go but left regardless. What she did not know is that the same traditional rulers did not relent in their effort to get Chief Osoba back to the party and eventually, they had their way. It is also the same way the Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona intervened in the matter on January 22, 2014. Sarah should stop exposing her folly and zero knowledge of what she knows nothing about.
Sarah claimed Governor Amosun was the one funding the party and yet, Chief Osoba wanted to control the party. I challenge the governor to come out to tell the world those, who funded his election in 2011 and say how much he put into his own election. Interestingly, this is the part he detests to talk about. For emphasis, that election cost the party a little over 800 million naira and Governor Amosun contributed only 75 million naira in his own election that cost over 800 million. Chief Osoba single-handedly put in 500 million in the same election – an election in which he did not seek an office. In fact, the second highest donor was a presidential running mate from the state and not the direct beneficiary himself.
On the allegation of evicting the party from his structure in the state, that is true, at least to the best of my knowledge. But that happened over disagreement on a matter of interest. The governor wanted to come back for a second term and refused to allow other National Assembly members, which was the peace term of Chief Osoba. The governor only granted Chief Osoba’s son, Hon. Olumide the right to return but the young man too turned it down because it was selective and lacked justice to the other members of the team.
The talk about dishing out to Chief Osoba and others, the kind of treatment they also meted out to Afenifere leaders is an impression existing only in the minds of those, who conceived and are still selling it. Sarah may choose to ask to enrich her knowledge. Till Adesanya died, Chief Osoba was the only one that visited him regularly. And till tomorrow, Chief Osoba, Chief Olaniwun Ajayi and Chief Ayo Adebanjo still have a very cordial relationship, even though they disagree publicly sometimes.
This is why it is gladdening to many of those who admire the position of Chief Osoba in the politics of the state, zone and nation that despite spinning the falsehood that he had teamed up with former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, an assumption Sarah too referenced in her jaundiced article, the entire conspiracy theory had blown in their faces now as his name has not featured in any of the corruption mess flying about.
In case they do not know, Osoba and Col. Sambo Dasuki have been close friends for many years, when the latter was ADC to former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida. He also shares similar relationship with Chief Tony Anenih and yet, did not abuse his friendship.
It is important to note that President Jonathan actually made effort to reach Chief Osoba, especially through some of these people, but Chief Osoba declined all the entreaties on the grounds of principle. So, this story about Jonathan was no other but part of the blackmail that refused to fly. Chief Osoba has been relating to past leaders since the days of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and they all knew and related with him on first name basis.
When you now link such a meeting to 2019 in 2016, is something not utterly wrong with such thinking? The present government is barely a year in office with all its challenges and yet, should anyone be talking about 2019? That’s absolute baloney! What for? Is it that Chief Osoba wants to be president? Let’s not forget that it was the same story that former Governor Gbenga Daniel brandished that Chief Osoba had been finished politically? We can’t but wait to see what happens next. What is however sacrosanct is that Chief Osoba’s clout transcends Ogun politics by all standards and the earlier these idlers get this into their head, the better.
-Sodeke wrote from Abeokuta