During the campaigns, Governor Gboyega Oyetola and the APC team played it fair and saw no reason to induce voters because the people were solidly behind them. But the opposition saw the election as a do or die affair. They bribed, bought votes, created chaos, killed, maimed and this situation snowballed into a rerun because there were truly no elections in those seventeen polling units
Nseobong Okon-Ekong holds a discussion with Ayo Akinola a publisher, media strategist and aide to immediate past governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. He is the coordinator of an advocacy group, New Osun Renaissance, a mobilization apparatus which worked for the emergence of the new governor, Gboyega Isiaka Oyetola
What does your group stand for?
We are an advocacy group that does political enlightenment from time to time depending on the need. We actually started operation in Lagos under a different nomenclature during the reign of former governor Raji Fashola. If you could cast your mind back, Fashola was having it difficult because the opposition wanted to discredit his greening initiative which in actual fact was for the benefit of everyone. They claimed that he was neglecting key areas of development as well as taking over land pieces and setbacks which were the traditional but unallocated workplaces of mechanics and others. It was a deep battle and Fashola’s rating was waning through these falsehoods, especially among the grassroots. We came in because we knew that enlightenment cannot be too much and our systemic approach worked. We have a publishing arm because we reckon that we cannot do these things effectively if we do not have our own medium of reaching out. The media houses on ground sometimes may not share your thoughts and you just have to push these ideas out. At the end of the day, we published about three editions of our magazine, Development & Policy under the titles Lagos Wealth Report and The Lagos Environment. This was between 2011 and 2013 when another call of duty took us to Abuja and to the South east for another one year. In the case of Osun, during the trying days of Ogbeni’s regime in the hands of the opposition, in 2014 and especially in 2015, doing all they could to malign his government, we used the popular media as well as other platforms to reach out to the grassroots and coined a slogan, ‘Truth of the Matter’, and we published the maiden edition titled ‘Osun:Truth of The Matter’. This was a slogan we coined to showcase the facts as they were then. Just as the ‘O to ge’ slogan worked magic for Kwarans, ‘Osun Truth of The Matter,’ as well as other government efforts exposed their lies and presented the true situation. Through that publication and other follow-ups still in circulation today, the public have seen through their lies. But the opposition, in collaboration with enemies of the state in all strata, has always preferred to put up lies and turn facts upside down. You will remember that most Nigerians believed these people because certain section of the media chose not to do investigative reporting. When people come to Osun, right from the Asejire Dam that borders the state with Oyo, they start to notice incredible infrastructural deployments, different from where they were coming from and the lies they’ve been told. Same goes for the other border ends. So, it now becomes a pleasant surprise seeing what they least expect because they’ve been told too many lies.
I can vividly recall that some fact-finding groups came to Osun to verify facts having been told that what Aregbesola was showcasing in the media was not real…that they were internet pictures from America and Europe. And really, if you see these things yourself without coming to Osun, you would hardly believe that a government so disparaged will put up such quality structures for real. Same goes for anything that Aregbesola had his hands on. Look at the schools, the roads as well as other infrastructure.
You’ve painted a colourful picture of the legacies of the former government. Why then was it difficult for the party to have a smooth win in the September 2018 election?
The September 2018 election which you refer to here was won squarely by the APC despite what happened. It may seem otherwise for someone not familiar with the evil politics of a few people in Osun. I say this bearing in mind that in any social situation, it is the evil minority that always make the loudest noise and create havoc which are erroneously linked to the majority. If there is a student riot or unrest, those behind it are mostly less than one percent of the total students’ population. And it will be presented to the outside world as if it is the majority of the students that are bad or against school authority as the case may be.
My team and I almost fell into this thinking. But because of our trainings as pragmatic social scientists and our being apolitical, we resisted the temptation to just sit down and lay blames. We brought out our tools and did the research which was self-sponsored and we discovered that those whom the old order, pre-Aregbesola era favoured and who couldn’t think of survival in the corrupt-free Aregbesola era were the ones destabilizing the polity. We published our reports in the media.
How do you connect that with what is happening now?
It is the same set of people described earlier and their associates who still want to hijack government now and get through the window, what they couldn’t get through the main door which is the elections. Why the people always reject them is because they have a terribly bad history behind them. When the PDP was in power, the state was in a siege and the Aregbesola populist cyclone came and warded them off. You don’t expect them not to stage a comeback. This is a democracy. But they ought to have fought for the power in the right way rather than deploying undemocratic forces and means.
How do you mean?
The level of rigging and vote-buying by the opposition during the governorship election of September 2018 was legendary and horrifying. Osun people saw a desperate people trying to hijack power at all costs, leaving morality behind. They were shameless, nakedly shameless that they were openly talking of flooding the state with money when they ought to be telling the people what they will do. You know that in any fight or struggle, the gentleman player or fighter is sometimes the victim because he or she wants to be fair and play according to the rules while the crude fighter inflicts injury, in order to win at all costs. That is exactly what is playing out today. During the campaigns, Governor Gboyega Oyetola and the APC team played it fair and saw no reason to induce voters because the people were solidly behind them. But the opposition saw the election as a do or die affair. They bribed, bought votes, created chaos, killed, maimed and this situation snowballed into a rerun because there were truly no elections in those seventeen polling units.
But when they finally lost and the true winner emerged, running to the tribunal was what they thought could upturn the will of the people. Many observers saw their going to the tribunal as a mere face-saving activity, especially with the personality of the defeated candidate, his certificate saga and his party’s defeat at the Presidential and National Assembly polls in the state. What about his party’s colossal loss at the state Assembly polls where they won just three seats against APC’s 23 as well as the candidate’s inability to substantiate most of the allegations at the tribunal?
What is your advice on this impasse?
With the controversial majority verdict which many Nigerians have condemned and the tribunal Chairman’s minority verdict countering same and variously applauded, we believe that the judiciary is still the last hope of our democracy. We hope that the Appeal Court will do the needful and upturn the strange verdict. We cannot afford a stalemate and chaos at this time. The mood of the people of Osun to this strange verdict is sober culminating into popular demonstrations against their strange verdicts in major towns and cities last week. We call on true justice to prevail and that the Appeal Court to right the wrongs, to assuage the feelings of the majority of the people and let government business run smoothly.