ThisDay newspaper of Sunday February 20, 2022 delivered a front page screamer that read “Tinubu floors Aregbesola as Oyetola wins Osun APC primary.” This is what is known as interpretative reporting in journalistic lingo. ThisDay was simply interpreting the feud between Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola that predated the election primary for the selection of the APC flag bearer for the governorship contest in Osun State that will take place in a few months’ time. Neither Tinubu nor Aregbesola was on the ballot but they were prominent campaigners for their candidates and it was easy to say that the fight for the ticket was not strictly between the actual contestants but between their sponsors as well. In the election Tinubu supported the sitting Governor of the State Mr Gboyega Oyetola while Aregbesola was in the corner of Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, a former Secretary to the Government of Osun State. There was a third contestant and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Lasun Yusuf whose presence on the ballot was a very minor event. At the end of vote counting the chairman of the Osun APC primary election committee and Kwara State Governor Mr Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq announced that total votes cast was 235,550; Oyetola polled 222, 169 and Adeoti 12,927 while Yusuf recorded a miserable 460 votes. This column is, however, not about the election but the relationship between Tinubu and Aregbesola. In the public space Tinubu is well known as Aregbesola’s mentor who appointed him as the Director General of his campaign for the governorship of Lagos State in 1998. After winning the election Tinubu made him the Commissioner of Works and Infrastructure for eight years. This portfolio included the supervision of the Public Works Corporation and the State Electricity Board. In that portfolio he oversaw a large and lucrative investment in the State’s road infrastructure. Thereafter Tinubu helped him to become the 8th Governor of Osun State for eight years (November 27, 2010 to November 27, 2018.) Now he is the Minister of Interior under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government which was largely helped into office by Tinubu. It goes without saying that Tinubu as the National leader of the ruling party (APC) may have also helped his mentee, Aregbesola, to corner the office he now holds in the Buhari cabinet. There would have been no need for tracing the trajectory of their relationship if Aregbesola had not crossed the relationship line between mentors and mentees in a crude and uncouth manner. Recently, Aregbesola publicly denounced Tinubu in Ilesha, Osun State. He accused Tinubu of deceit and pride and went on to ask God to punish and dethrone his mentor from his peacock throne. That was clearly over the top. No one says that mentors and mentees cannot have disagreements. They can because they are both fallible human beings but the disagreement must be conducted – and settled – in a manner that does not unhinge that cherished relationship. Secondly, persons who serve in the public space must conduct themselves in words and deeds in such a manner that convinces the public that they are deserving of such positions as persons of propriety. Aregbesola’s coarse words which I do not intend to repeat here in full, reflects badly on him as a public persona and as a man who benefited immeasurably from the man he is bad-mouthing now. If it does not show him as an ingrate it may show him as a traitor. Again, no one expects a mentee not to quarrel with his mentor if the need arises but such quarrels must be conducted in such a manner as not to put a knife through the relationship like a sharp knife through butter. Such an approach rips the relationship apart. Even if Aregbesola feels, at this point, that he does not need the support of his mentor because he has reached a point where he can take his destiny into his own hands, there is still merit in preserving a relationship that had served you well in the past. Again no one says that a mentee needs to cling to his mentor’s coat tails for ever but there is merit in remembering the pleasant past and doing nothing to turn it into an avoidable headache.
Mr Aregbesola is perhaps fighting for political suzerainty with Tinubu. He probably wants to be the oga at the top in the politics of Lagos and Osun States which seem by all accounts under the firm grip of Tinubu today. Mr Aregbesola who has Alimosho as his political base seems to have lost it and as the recent Osun governorship primary has shown that too has flown away from him. In the election Oyetola, Tinubu’s man, defeated Adeoti, Aregbesola’s man at Ifofin ward eight which is the ward of Mr Aregbesola. Oyetola won Aregbesola’s ward with 309 votes to Adeoti’s 146. Tinubu seems to have flushed him out. If these failures are bringing frustration to him he should console himself with the thought that there are many more election battles to be fought. But the monarch of Aregbesola’s town Oba Adekunle Aromolaran made it tough for the minister when he hosted Governor Oyetola, denounced the minister and told the Governor that his second term was assured and non-negotiable.
When Aregbesola was the Governor of Osun State he drew a lot of attention to the state for the wrong reasons. In his first term his goals included banishing poverty, banishing hunger and banishing unemployment. He didn’t banish any of them because none of them is banishable. No society has banished them. Every society only strives to reduce them to the barest minimum. Nigeria is not anywhere near significantly reducing any of the three items, let alone banishing them.
When he was Governor he changed the name of the state from Osun State to the “State of Osun.” In the 1999 Constitution the states of the Federation are listed under the First schedule, section three part one and there is nothing like “the State of Osun.” It didn’t occur to him that the State of Osun is not a state known to the Constitution. It didn’t occur to him that the “State of Osun” actually means the “condition of Osun.” I think there is a court case on this matter of needless adventure into pedanticism. During his tenure as Governor he ran the State as a dictator, no commissioners, no executive council meetings for a long time. His claim was that he wanted to save money but the Constitution never envisaged a situation where a governor would be a lone ranger. I think someone also went to court on this matter and that brought the dictatorial approach to governance to an end.
He prescribed a certain uniform for all secondary schools in the state including missionary schools which were taken over by past military governments without paying compensation. Some of the states returned these schools to their owners but Aregbesola insisted on calling them public schools with a uniformisation of their dress code. He failed to recognise that all schools have their character, history, values, pedigree and legacy and would resist the attempt to obliterate these idiosyncratic attributes for the purpose of uniformisation. His extremism failed. His attempt to inflict his extreme religious views on a population that is about evenly divided between moslems and Christians brought tension to a state where adherents of both religions had hitherto lived in harmony. He was forced to back down.
Aregbesola did something that even his fierce foes considered desirable during his days as the State Governor. He tried to revive some of the cherished values that were fast vanishing in Nigeria: hardwork, honesty, fairness, egalitarianism, respect for elders and constituted authority. He called it the Omoluabi ethos. This was a philosophy that was needed not just in Osun State but in Nigeria as a whole because the country had suffered from a degeneracy in values. I even think that we need to have a national colloquium on ethics because we appear, at this point, to have lost our innocence in virtually all aspects of our national life. That is a digression. But when you look at Aregbesola’s insulting remarks on Tinubu, his mentor and his elder, you can’t fail to come to the inescapable conclusion that this apostle of Omoluabi-ism had failed to take his own medicine.