Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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Open letter to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu: The Osun calabash must not be broken!

(1) In 2022, Your Excellency, will celebrate triple democratic milestones. The first will be the 30-year anniversary since you – Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu – was elected Senator for Lagos West Senatorial District under the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). The Second will be your 23rd year anniversary of being sworn as the Executive Governor of Lagos State. The third being the 12th anniversary of the November 27th 2010 revolution in Osun State, when justice affirmed the mandate the people of the state gave the progressives and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was sworn in as Governor of Osun State. These three seminal events punctuate one of the great governing achievements of our time in Nigeria.

(2) Few have a recollection of the struggle for democracy in those early days in the 1990s. Fewer still actually played a central role in forging the democracy as you did as a NADECO leader, early at home, but most significantly in exile where you played the leading role for providing financial and moral support for pro-democracy activists symbolised by NADECO home and abroad then. To say that you played a leading role in birthing the democracy that we are now accustomed to in Nigeria will simply be an understatement.

(3) For my generation, whose political consciousness was forged in the cauldron of student activism in the aftermath of June 12th 1993 Presidential Election, the 1990s was a lost decade of fear, repression and hunger but efforts and struggles of people like you which later culminated in this present democracy brought succour and hope for us and majority of Nigerians.

(4) This democracy that you, Asiwaju, and others struggled for and midwifed presaged your eight years as Governor of Lagos state. In that time, you ushered in a revolution in governance, increasing Lagos State’s internally generated revenue from N600 million monthly in 1999 to N15 billion monthly when you left office in 2007. Your successors have built on your financial ingenuity and Lagos is now generating in excess of N40 billion monthly, making it the best state in IGR in the country.

(5) Today, your sound pioneering efforts in Lagos has made the Lagos Economy the 5th largest in Africa. The infrastructure development in Lagos over the last 23 years are a testament to your vision and example. By your example you helped restore faith in government, governance and society.

(6) Many have not forgotten your financial wizardry in managing the economy of the state and ensuring prompt payments of salaries and allowances of workers and yet continue to put in place people-oriented programmes and projects during the illegal seizure of allocations belonging to the state local governments by the Obasanjo administration. Even your worst enemies acknowledged your super ingenious capacity!

(7) You pioneered a model of subnational governance that states such as Osun have since sought to emulate. And, despite not holding public office over the last 15 years, you have nurtured a deep bench of first-class leaders and inspired many others like us. In fact, it is a testament to your living legacy that a Vice President, the current speaker of the House of Representatives, six serving and ex governors, a dozen senators and former senators, more than half a dozen or so ministers or former ministers are among those who have worked in your administration as Governor of Lagos or for you in some other capacity. Is there a governor of the 1999 vintage that has incubated the number or calibre of leaders the “Asiwaju Leadership Academy” has produced?

(8) For us in Osun State, we have sought to emulate what you did in Lagos. And for 12 years we have done just that. Massive investments in public works, building roads and bridges, schools and hospitals. Upgrading the skills of our youth with innovative programmes such as the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme. Supporting the elderly in Osun such as widows and pensioners. Promoting agriculture, mining and commerce making Osun as great a place to live as it is to work.

(9) Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola displayed the uncanny ability of a man who has learnt the rope from a master of the game and his eight years rule in Osun was one, the people of Osun would not forget in a hurry. The benefits of the massive Infrastructure and developmental projects and programmeshe put in place are still driving growth.

(10) In the last three years, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola has clearly proven to be a man of great achievements. He has not only built on the template you laid down that his predecessor adapted to Osun’s unique challenges, he has taken it further. He has re-energised, re-organised, re-branded and fixed many of the problems inherited, many of which predated November 27th 2010, and which his predecessor, given the parlous state of affairs he met, could not address, even if he had more time. The continuity of governance has been a tremendous benefit to Osun as the investments in public goods and services continues despite these hard times. The quiet revolution Osun is experiencing under the Oyetola administration belies the governor’s steely focus to deliver results without fanfare in the face of the greatest fiscal adversity Osun has experienced since it became a state. This is compounded by COVID-19 – the greatest public health challenge humanity has faced in a century. That these these two leaders had a ring side seat to the adversity Lagos faced during the Obasanjo administration is evidence of the depth of the institutional memory these two successive APC administrations bring in the transformation of governance in Osun.

(11) But sadly, all is not well in the State of Osun!

(12) Asiwaju, your able and loyal understudies: the current governor and the former governor, are at loggerheads and at political daggers drawn. This had deepened and widened the divisions within the party which is perilous for us as the primaries for the gubernatorial election get underway in a matter of weeks and elections a mere six months away. Suffice to add that if this crisis continues unchecked without your urgent intervention, it could potentially have calamitous consequences for our party.

(14) Asiwaju, you may recall the damaging effect intraparty feuds played in 2018 and their effect on the party’s electoral fortunes. What happened? A senseless intra-party crisis over who succeeds Aregbesola polarised the party and by the time of the elections, it had metastised cannibalizing the party. While APC managed to stop the electoral bleeding, winning by a mere 300 votes, it hemorrhaged over 49,000 votes to the ADP. ADP fed on the aggrieved APC members protesting the way the party flag bearer was picked.

(15) AlhamduliLLAAH! Oyetola won the rerun and was duly sworn-in as Governor but he still had to go through a harrowing legal battle for over a year before the Supreme Court validated his mandate. I recalled meeting you severally at the heat of the legal battle. Today, we seem to have veered back onto this road of perdition with potentially grimmer and apocalyptic outcomes for the party.

(16) While in 2018 it was the ADP faction that went away with approximately 50,000 votes, today it has now been joined by the TOP group, so the loss of the number of votes, God forbids, and the negative impacts, is better imagined. Asiwaju, our father, danger is lurking and the time to nip it in the bud is now!

(17) In this instance, if the present crisis is not controlled, the progress we have enjoyed over last 12 years, the struggle of the last 20 in Osun and your legacy, including the sacrifices and achievements of last three decades may be undermined and greatly too.

(18) But this dangerous fate can be avoided if only the animosity between Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and his supporters and Governor Gboyega Oyetola and his supporters are set aside. The crux of the dispute is neither strategic nor philosophical. Rather, its origins and manifestations are more prosaic, reflecting personalities and preferences. I stand to be quoted!

(19) Both Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Governor Adegboyega Oyetola are brothers from the same political parents but I must confess that the short-sighted synchophancy, greed and mendacity of some of us the followers have combined to not only drive a wedge ever deeper between them but to also gratuitously widen the gap on a daily basis through needless actions and unguarded utterances, dangerously eroding the political and developmental capital the party has built over 12 years in Osun and demoralizing the party faithful who see through their self centred motivations.

(20) The net effect is that they party is heading into these elections tieing its own hands having shot itself in both feet. The sad irony is that while the rival party is better prepared, its potential flagbearers are no match administratively, politically and institutionally for APC, nor do they have APC’s track record of performance. So basically, APC risks losing an election rather than the other party winning because some members, wish to cut off the party’s nose to spite its face by stroking egos and feeding resentment. It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic as both Ogbeni Aregbesola and Govenror Oyetola, if you ask either of them, will deny the feud in the obvious face of danger lurking in the dark.

(21) Such is the level of rancour and deepening animosity that the two protagonists can no longer resolve this crisis by themselves as they pull ever more tightly on a rope to which they have knotted themselves. These two leaders have allowed themselves to be at the mercy of unscrupulous followers, many of them take delight in their fight because of pecuniary gains accruing from it, not necessarily because of the love they have for them. Not at all!

(22) We have watched other Party Elders intervene, the Kabiyesis, the religious leaders, but who is really the best man to stop these two leaders from dismantling the building they jointly toiled and struggled to construct if not the Asiwaju, their teacher, mentor and role model? You, Asiwaju, are uniquely positioned to get these two to stop pulling on this rope. You can no longer afford to stand above the fray.

(23) Afterall, you, graced those of us privileged to be in Ogbeni Aregbesola’s first term team, with your presence at the first retreat of the ExCo at Offa, Kwara State. However, we missed your wise counsel at the Oyetola Administration’s first retreat with us in Ada, Osun State. I still remember you admonishing us to grow the “proverbial calabash” to accommodate those that are not at the table. The Governor (Aregbesola) and his then Chief of Staff (current Governor Oyetola) tasked us with implementation plans to grow that calabash. That has been the governing and development philosophy for Osun these last twelve years. The fruits are there for all to see: roads, schools, hospitals, economic diversification etc. Oyetola has brought in new investors in agriculture, tourism and mining and the state is poised for greater growth and development.

(24) But all these are presently at risk of going down the drain, as these same two leaders are now struggling over this calabash and they may end up breaking it, if care is not taken,. It seems all have forgotten the wise admonition you gave us twelve years ago.

(25) Unless you urgently intervene to remind us all of this admonition and bring these two leaders back from the brink, the Calabash may shatter and splinter into thousands of shards, with each capable of piercing the heart of APC in Osun and the entire Osun citizenry.

(26) To Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Governor Oyetola: mutually assured destruction is the only possible outcome if you continue along this path. For those party members egging them on, the Party will be destroyed and you will become political orphans. No one will gain, only ‘sorrow, tears and blood”. You can all accept this fact or continue to live in denial. Neither of you or your supporters can win. Your fight is a rolling stone that gathers no moss at the end of the day.

(27) We must not throw away our hard-earned mandate on a needless crisis that can be settled within our family house. This is why I want to call upon you our elder, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC National Leader, to solve this crisis. The time for you to intervene and end this is now. Do this and we will be able to honour your achievements and those of your political sons in this banner year of 2022!

(28) You are not called Asiwaju for fun, for you have proven time and again, your leadership qualities and large heart. Indeed, it was you as one of the driving forces of the merger between ACN and CPC that brought about the defeat of a ruling party in Nigeria in 2015. That feat had already been rehearsed in November 27th 2010 in Osun. Osun has special significance for you and for APC. You need to bring people back together again in Osun. Two warring brothers from your political stables, your own proteges, who eulogise and emulate you, who confide in you and seek your counsel will take your word as law, your exhortation as instruction, your admonition as regulation. Hence my clarion call to you, Asiwaju, that this is the time for your final intervention.

(29) To lose Osun, and lose we can by our own hand, for the other party cannot defeat us by theirs, the Asiwaju Political Family, political brand and reach will be damaged. The extent of such damage cannot augur well for anyone with aspirations for higher office. Oyetola needs a second term to complete the revolution Ogbeni started. And we need to ensure that the nation benefits from 30 years of unconventional progress, out of the box thinking and the unleashing of public and private capital for the growth and development of our nation. Your stewardship of the affairs of state is not over, as Nigeria will need you to get us through these difficult times. But you must first resolve the conflagration in your own house between your own political blood. And you have to do this without further delay or prevarication!

(30) I believe and I’m convinced that with you, Asiwaju, ‘Agba wa Loja, ori omo Tuntun wa ko le wo rara’. Assert your leadership sir, and take control of the ship in Osun APC to redirect its course. Enough of this rudderless sail sir.

Asiwaju, please take charge, Sir.

Akanni Omo Oba, writes from Osun Central Senatorial District.

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