“Oyetola never admitted that there was crisis in the Party”- Says Baderinwa former commissioner and a leader of a faction of APC in Osun State

Lani Baderinwa, a former Commissioner for information in Osun State and Secretary, The Osun Progressives, TOP, a faction in Osun State All Progressives Congress’ chapter says that the loss of the recent election by Governor Gboyega Oyetola was self-inflicted. The TOP leader who was the Chief Press Secretary to Chief Bisi Akande, governor in 1999-2003, expressed surprise that efforts made by his faction to ensure that the party was repositioned ahead of the last election were rebuffed by the faction led by Governor Oyetola. He said the governor’s lieutenants misled him to believe that he could successfully suppress the faction loyal to his predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, under whom he (Oyetola) served as Chief of Staff. He spoke about the crisis that rocked the party, efforts at reconciling the two factions and why the step taken by the Abdullah Adamu-led national body to resolve the logjam did not work.

Excerpts:

It is believed that the conflict within the All Progressives Congress, APC, contributed to the defeat suffered by Governor Oyetola. How would you react to this?

Basically, at the beginning of it all, we were convinced, I mean those of us who are in TOP (The Osun Progressives), that the party, as it were and it has gotten worse today, that it is not in good shape to win an election. The party wasn’t holding any meeting, there wasn’t any programme, nobody was mobilized or energized.

Nobody even knows what the government that the party is holding for was doing. So there is nothing for you to tell the people out there that this is what our government is doing, which is contrary to what we experienced in the last government. We told them that look, let us rework this party, let us energize, let us think if the work will be better than, make it inclusive, make it all-comer affairs, so that all can have a sense of belonging and all that.

(But it was apparent that they had other plans).

When they thought they could, they started attacking us. As a matter of fact, (a member of the governor’s cabinet who is from Ilesha) told the members that anywhere they see anybody calling himself member of The Osun Progressives, TOP, they should attack him. Because, according to them, we are not part of what they agreed and that attack (soon became) regular. Outside of such a situation, we have a governor, who feels that it was better he runs a government that does not include anybody that has anything to do with Rauf Aregbesola (former governor). My take is that they should have been able to handle themselves outside of party structure but, he brought alienation politics into the running of the party, so those who felt they were with him, cashed in on that, they encouraged it to continue along that line and so the party was sharply divided.

He (Oyetola) brought alienation politics into the running of the party, so those who felt they were with him, cashed in on that, they encouraged it to continue along that line and so the party was sharply divided. Click To Tweet

With the intervention of the party leadership, why was it so difficult to resolve these conflicts before the election?

Well, I do not think there was any genuine attempt at reconciling the two factions. Number one, I take it that the attempt at resolving (the conflict) may not necessarily mean addressing what we called the shortcomings of the party which would have aided and helped us to galvanise the party better and make it stronger ahead of the last election and the forthcoming general elections.

So it was like they wanted the situation whereby those of us who are asking for restructuring of the party should be rough-shuddered into submission. As a matter of fact, from the body language of the governor, because up until the last week of the election, he (governor) never accepted that there is a crisis within the party, and that what his lieutenants (latched onto), so the governor did not want a reconciliation. As a matter of fact, they described members of TOP as Erunrun Akaara (crumbs) whatever that could be translated to in English but as a Yorubaman, I know “erunrun akara” is not part of the main delicacy and you don’t take cognizance of it when you are eating.

I am telling you categorically that the governor never admitted that there was any crisis. Click To Tweet

So basically, I think there are certain things that were done that were apparently difficult. I remember that Chief Bisi Akande intervened twice and the third time, Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) came in to intervene. Unfortunately, nothing came out of the interventions because the governor was complaining that Aregbe (Aregbesola) did not want him to become governor.

How true is that claim?

Yes, at the beginning, he (Aregbesola) purportedly told Asiwaju that governor Gboyega Oyetola was not popular and that it may be difficult selling (his candidature), but Asiwaju, as a leader of Rauf Aregbesola directed him to go and make him popular and he (Aregbesola) went on with the campaigns and Oyetola emerged as Governor. The truth is that Aregbesola’s observation was not against the person of Oyetola. Rather, he (the former governor) was concerned for the party. But when he was asked to go and make him popular he went to work and delivered him as governor.

But for me, like many elders of the party, I did not work (against our party, APC). Click To Tweet

Is it true that it was The Osun Progressives, TOP that refused to reach a compromise with the Governor’s faction?

I am telling you categorically that the governor never accepted that there was any crisis.

We were attacked fifteen times in different parts of the state and we reported all of them to the then commissioner of police. Click To Tweet

That was the story of his lieutenants (that TOP was recalcitrant). People who were never there when we were in the barricade for seven and half years to bring back progressive to the government (in Osun) in 2010. They were never part of the struggle. (Some of these people then) went to another party and did everything humanly possible to frustrate (the governor’s success during the) 2018 election, but they came back looking for all means to be part of the government and keep blackmailing the members of The Osun Progressives, TOP. So, basically, there was never an attempt (by TOP to frustrate reconciliation). In fact, the attempt made by the National Secretariat before (the election), ….do not forget that Governor Oyetola was part of caretaker committee that was set up by NEC of APC to run the party’s affairs at the National level, he (Oyetola) was the Vice Chairman, (of the committee) headed by Governor Bala Buni of Yobe State. So, he used that advantage to block efforts at getting the national secretariat to mediate in the crisis in his state.

And every effort to make them realize (the need to reposition the party) was frustrated (by those in government). They made it look like we were saying nothing… The current National Chairman and the chairman of reconciliation committee came last year November to reconcile both factions and as a former governor and a long time politician, he was able to read between the lines the differences that existed, and gave recommendations, which were never implemented before the election. So basically, if anybody is telling you that there was an attempt at reconciliation, apart from the effort by Chief Bisi Akande, there wasn’t any serious attempt to reconcile the factions.

Fundamentally, there wasn’t an attempt to address the shortcoming of the party. Rather than attempt reconciliation, the step taken (by those in government at the state level) made it look like we were criminals.

They came to my house and shot sporadically. I was lucky that members of my family weren’t around and my party members were not also there. I wonder if they (my family members) had not traveled, what would the young ones think about their father.

We were attacked fifteen times in different parts of the state and we reported all of them to the then commissioner of police. The commissioner of police came around about two or three hours after an attack and said he didn’t have any information about the attack. We had a parallel congress and Osun State was not the only state that had the parallel congress, to warrant such attacks, two people were shot and bullets stayed in their body for over 15 days before the bullets were removed. So, if those ones had died, would anybody be talking about reconciliation?

What were the recommendations made by the National Chairman?

Well, they made it impossible for us to make it open to the public. I doubt if it was ever discussed at the National Caretaker Committee. Part of what we heard was that they recommended a give and take approach, which is the normal thing in politics. (But it was not adopted) because Governor Oyetola and his cohorts do not want such a thing.

What really does The Osun Progressives want?

What we want is to make the party work. In simple language we want the re-energising and reorganisation of our party as we have indicated back then.

It is believed that members of TOP worked with Governor-elect Adeleke to defeat APC, if true, can we know the objective behind that working relationship?

Number one, I know that we resolved that we are not leaving the party (APC ), rather we work for the party but in a situation whereby those at the helm of affairs did not give you the opportunity, could not even take you seriously that you are part and parcel of the party, in the last two or three years, we have been ostracized, I think that is the better word. We were called various names; we have been described in a painful way you can ever think of. So towards the election, even this election, the national secretariat constituted a committee and Rauf Aregbesola was not included, a governor who won for the party the governorship of the state in 2010, immediate past governor, who had won all the elections for the party in 2011 and also won in 2014 for the second term and all other elections and they constituted committee and he is not included.

They kept blackmailing him that he was high-handed and all that, they even toyed with the idea of bringing down most of the mega schools that were built by his (Aregbesola’s) administration in the guise that it failed the integrity test. I wonder what kind of thinking is that and at the end of the day, when people out there shouted them down that, “go and do your own thing, that you can’t be pulling down structures that are less down five years old”, that was why they left those structures, otherwise they would have succeeded in pulling them down to portray Rauf Aregbesola in a bad light in the eyes of the public.

Are these the objectives behind TOP working with Adeleke?

No! We had a seven point agenda; seven point focus, which is basically about the party and not about any individual. So basically, we said let us work on these seven areas so that the party… you can imagine for two, three years, the state executive council of the party did not meet for once. What could be the fate of members? Nobody knew anything about the party any longer, the party that used to be vibrant, that was always the talk of the town. If members had information about the party they would have gone out there to sell the manifesto of the party, but there wasn’t anything like that, so we started shouting…

So basically, if anybody decided to act otherwise, we are all human beings and we are limited by our shock absorber and every other thing that makes one human. So if people decided to work for PDP, I do not think they committed any offence. But for me, like many elders of the party, I did not work (against our party, APC).

How can I work where I was not welcome, that is virtually impossible. … nobody called me to come and work for APC and I stayed in my house. Click To Tweet

You really worked for the success of APC?

No, I didn’t! I cannot work now. (It is difficult to give) support for anybody (who does not even think you can add value). It is not something you can just go into and start working. For instance, if you do and they lost (as they have lost now, the accusation would be that you were actually working against them while pretending to be working for them), just like they said in 2018 that Rauf (Aregbesola) did not work for them.

So, how can I work where I was not welcome, that is virtually impossible. Although you can only give support, if you are called to come and give support, nobody called me to come and work for APC and I stayed in my house.

For those who worked against APC, were they not concerned that this may cause the party’s destruction in the state?

I am not aware anybody worked for the success of PDP

But the Governor-elect made mention of such

Well, I did not know if there was any proposal. I am not part of it.

If each side insists on standing on its own point and there is no meeting point, what would be the outcome of it in terms of political career, particularly of those of you who are principal leaders of APC in TOP?

There is always a meeting point (that was not possible before the election) simply because the governor is not willing to have a reconciliation… We were practically begging for understanding of what we have on ground to let us reconcile. They went to the extreme; we were harassed, we were embarrassed. Seven of our leaders were arraigned before the court on a Friday afternoon November 2011, it took wisdom, professionalism of the magistrate to know that “look this is purely a political matter”.

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