Checkout How Oyetola’s Lack of ‘Street Credibility,’ Other Factors Caused APC’s Demise in Osun

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Other factors that landed APC in trouble in Osun include an unending internal rift, poor choices of candidates for elective offices, ineffective kitchen cabinet, and arrogance of power.

In Osun State, for the first time since the 2011 general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC), an offshoot of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), will in June lose its pride of place in the state’s House of Assembly when the Assembly is inaugurated…… CONTINUE READING

The party’s abysmal performance in the 2023 general elections in the state may go down in history as the worst ever recorded in this Fourth Republic by the self-acclaimed “progressive political camp,” which identifies the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, as its progenitor.

When the 10th assembly is inaugurated, the APC will have only one member while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will have all the other 25 members.

Earlier, on 25 February, with a margin of 10,421 votes, the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, beat his APC counterpart, Bola Tinubu, to claim victory in the state.

While Atiku polled 354,366 votes, Mr Tinubu secured 343,945 votes.

Many residents believe that the low margin of Atiku’s victory in the state could majorly be credited to “Mr Tinubu’s political strength and the Yoruba’s “Awa Lokan” campaign”. This may be true, considering how PDP took the state’s three senatorial and nine House of Representatives seats on the same day.

With the loss of the 2022 governorship election to PDP’s Ademola Adeleke, the results of the 18 March assembly election marked APC’s third defeat in a row to the PDP in a state it governed for uninterrupted 12 years.

And with the latest verdict by the Court of Appeal reinstating Mr Adeleke as the validly elected governor of the state, thus upturning the 27 January ruling of the election petition tribunal which gave the victory to Gboyega Oyetola, the APC’s faint hope of recovery now lies with the Supreme Court.

Is APC’s defeat beyond imagination?

To many who have followed the state’s trajectory since 1999, the latest walloping of APC by PDP may seem unfathomable. Even in its worst years of facing public criticism, especially during the tenure of former Governor Rauf Aregbesola, when schools were controversially and arbitrarily merged, a single uniform policy introduced, and a “half-salary” policy instituted, APC still held its head high.

Many informed residents of the state had believed that after Mr Aregbesola’s eight years of alleged extravagance in governance, Mr Oyetola’s frugality that stabilised the state’s economy, and his prioritisation of regular payment of ‘full’ salary to state workers, among other remarkable achievements, should have earned the party a modest victory at the polls.

Dogged by controversies over academic qualifications, among other moral burdens, the PDP’s candidate, Mr Adeleke was not projected, especially by the elites, to outperform Mr Oyetola during the governorship poll. But the results of successive elections in the state have proved these theorists wrong.

Though Mr Oyetola’s media aide, Ismail Omipidan, has blamed widespread violence and manipulation by the PDP for the massive losses recorded by APC in the state in the last three elections, sources, including the Secretary of the Osun State Correspondence Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lateef Dada, said the violence is exagerated.

PREMIUM TIMES’ findings have, however, shown that there are many factors that combined to drag down the APC in the state, chief of which is Mr Oyetola’s disregard for populism or “street credibility”; the party’s protracted internal rift, wrong slating for elective office, poor communication and arrogance of power.

Street credibility

In 2008, Abolore Akande, with the stage name 9ice, popularised the term “street credibility”, especially in the South-west region. It was the title of the third track in his “Gongo Aso” album, which featured another Nigerian music star, Innocent Idibia (2face). Through the lyrics, 9ice boasted of his broad fan base and how much he is loved on the streets.

Soon the term found its way into the country’s political lexicon as politicians adopted strategies to identify with the commoners. Regarded as politics of patronage, the Convener of “Dialogue 365,” a socio-political forum in Osogbo, Osun State capital, Waheed Saka, however, argued that it trivialises the business of governance and smacks of deception.

But one of those politicians whose popularised the strategy is the former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose.

Mr Fayose became popular among his people by trekking around the towns, villages, and markets of Ekiti, buying and eating corns , groundnuts, and plantains by the roadsides, and riding on commercial motorcycles otherwise known as okada.

The practice is similar to the “Gbegiri and Amala” politics of the late Ibadan politician, Lamidi Adedibu, and another version promoted by the late Second Republic Senate leader, Olusola Saraki, whose house was a mecca of sort for poor residents of Ilorin, Kwara State capital.

From Mr Fayose’s okada riding experience to Mr Tinubu’s buga dancing, Osinbajo’s trending music rendition, Mr Sanwo-Olu’s public ice cream eating, and even Mr Adeleke’s public twerking, or the comic displays of a former senator, Dino Melaye, this practice is no longer a passing fad.With his ‘Asa Cultural Ensemble’ troupe and adept local drummers, Mr Aregbesola imported street credibility to Osun State. Apart from his skillful composition of songs to taunt the opposition, the former governor, and now interior minister, also introduced monthly “walk to live” exercises which took him across the 30 local government areas and Modakeke Area Council, jogging long distances with people of all classes.

Oyetola’s ‘strange’ posture

Though he served as Mr Aregbesola’s chief of staff for eight years, marking his entry into Osun politics, Mr Oyetola as governor refused to don the garb of populism. In what many of his party members described as his “boardroom approach to politics,” he was reportedly formal in his conduct and detested politicians milling around the government.

Unlike his predecessor whose administration promoted various interest groups, including the notorious “state boys”- young men functioning as an unofficial but state-backed security arm, Mr Oyetola ran a quiet government, focusing on governance and pure administration.

Mr Oyetola’s simplicity and aversion for patronage was spotted as early as 2018 during his election.

Having arrived at his polling unit located at Popo Local Authority Primary School in Iragbiji, Boripe Local Government Area from his residence in the Atiba area of the community in a long convoy, a swarm of voters, residents, and journalists had anticipated a cheerful candidate. But Mr Oyetola appeared cold and unenthusiastic. He had to be prompted to acknowledge cheers from his obviously discomfited kinsmen and party faithful. This was the shape Mr Oyetola’s administration took for four years.

One of the former governor’s aides, who does not want to be quoted, said “in terms of populism, comparing Oyetola with Aregbesola is like comparing sleep and death.

“Oyetola does not have time for such shenanigans, and that is reflected in the conduct of the business of the government. He simply faced governance, and political sycophants and thugs had no place in his administration,” the source said.

Though Mr Omipidan denied that his principal was not accessible, he agreed that he was different from Mr Aregbesola, noting that two persons cannot have the same character.

Mr Omipidan said the leadership and management style of his principal cannot be compared to that of his predecessor or any other person.

“Accessibility is different from populism which I believe is what you mean by street credibility. My principal is not only accessible but he also has listening ears, and that is reflected in many of his policies and programmes which brought about a conspicuous transformation in four years,” Mr Omipidan said.

However, the Dialogue 365 convener believes that if pandering to such inanity for a brief period would have saved Osun people from what he described as imminent crisis, he said he would have welcomed it.

“The truth is that a serious leader will not be dancing around. I don’t want to mean dance alone but all those things you call street credibility are just populism taking too far. But if that is what the people want, do it and save them from perilous times. But the country needs more than that, we need more than just that approach to governance,” Mr Saka said.

Beyond street credibility

Apart street credibility, other factors that landed APC in trouble in Osun State include an unending internal rift, Mr Oyetola’s reliance on exhausted party leaders for support, poor slating for elective offices, ineffectual kitchen cabinet and arrogance of power.

APC’s internal rift

PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported details of the conflict between Mr Aregbesola and Mr Oyetola. This in no small measure affected the chances of the party in successive elections since 2022.

The duo managed the relationship for eight years of Mr Aregbesola’s tenure until the party’s governorship primary in 2018 when the ambition of Mr Oyetola pitted Mr Aregbesola against their political mentor -Mr Tinubu.

But soon after Mr Oyetola’s administration kicked off, the conflict festered and led to the formation of The Osun Progressives (TOP) as a faction of the APC in the state.

TOP comprises key party leaders and grassroots mobilisers such as the former speaker of the House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam; former Secretary to the State Government, Moshood Adeoti; senator representing Osun West Senatorial District, Adelere Oriolowo; former APC Chairman and Secretary in the state, Adebiyi Adelowo, and Rasaq Salinsile, respectively; former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Kolapo Alimi; a former Deputy Chief of Staff to Mr Aregbesola, Gbenga Akano, among others.

While Mr Alimi defected to PDP, others stayed put in the party to do the damage. The situation can only be likened to the damage caused the PDP by its G5 integrity group.

Mr Aregbesola, after publicly declaring his support for TOP during a controversial public outburst against his estranged mentor, Mr Tinubu, has refused to take part in elections in the state.

In fact, he reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia for lesser hadj on 19 February, but this newspaper learnt that the Presidency ordered his return to Abuja on 22 February. But unlike other appointees who left for their states to take part in the polls, Mr Aregbesola stayed back in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, to monitor how his party was being defeated in his home state and in his political base in Lagos.

Poor communication

By his reticent nature, Mr Oyetola, for more than two years into his administration, refused to engage in significant media campaigns.

A commissioner in his cabinet who does not want to be quoted told this reporter that the major challenge the governor’s media team faced was his refusal to approve media reactions to criticisms, “even the most bizarre and unfounded.”

“His philosophy is that one’s work and conduct should be allowed to speak and not by engaging in sponsored media relations. Maybe Oga shouldn’t have been a Nigerian politician,” the ex-commissioner said.

Ineffectual kitchen cabinet

Throughout the tenure of Mr Aregbesola, there was conflict between the Osun-based politicians and those regarded as ‘ajele’- Yoruba term for foreigners. Mr Oyetola belonged to the latter, having not played any role in the state’s politics until his appointment as chief of staff.

But as soon as Mr Oyetola was appointed chief of staff, Mr Aregbesola surrounded him with home-based grassroots politicians as deputies. The trio of Mudasiru Toogun from Iwo LGA; late Jare Adebisi from Irepodun LGA, and Mr Oyetola’s townsman from Iragbiji who claimed he was to be the chief of staff, Gbenga Akano, provided the required balance. In fact, the SSG, Moshood Adeoti, remains one of the most popular politicians in the state.

But on his part, Mr Oyetola’s kitchen cabinet, with the exception of the young Commissioner for Works and Transport, Remi Omowaiye, was filled with those categorised as ‘ajele’ who knew little about the state’s brand of politics.

For instance, the chief of staff, Charles Akinola; his deputy, Abdullahi Binuyo; the SSG, Wole Oyebamiji, and many commissioners and other aides were unknown to the rank and file of the APC in the state. Many came to the limelight during Mr Aregbesola’s tenure.

Spent forces

Following the unresolved differences with the TOP faction in the party, Mr Oyetola found refuge in some elderly political leaders but with less relevance in grassroots politics. Egbe Agba Osun, comprising such party elders as former governor Adebisi Akande, former secretary to the state government, Sola Akinwunmi, and former Speaker, Mojeed Alabi, among others, became a major source of strength for Mr Oyetola.

In this group, apart from the new inductees like the National Secretary of APC, Iyiola Omisore, and the Senate spokesperson, representing Osun Central Senatorial District, Basiru Ajibola, there is hardly anyone on the side of the governor who could make significant difference. The ‘real’ politicians in the group are on the side of Mr Aregbesola.

‘Arrogance of power’

Ahead of the 25 February election, in circulation on social media, particularly Facebook, were recorded voice notes of conversations between the campaign office of Mr Ajibola and residents of the state who derided the callers for canvassing votes for their principal.

This derision and antagonism reigned supreme among the people in the state, including party members who accused government appointees of arrogance.

A former local government chairman of APC in the state, who does not want to be quoted, said: “Many of them became inaccessible and they looked down on party members. For instance, the crisis that led to the formation of TOP shouldn’t have been allowed to fester but they hearkened to no wise counsel.

“If Aregbesola could work with Oyinlola to win his second term election, I do not know what our people relied on to be so arrogant. Even one of the commissioners who was just one of our boys a few years ago became the star boy of the administration as he looked down on everyone.”

This may have also informed the identified lapses in the party’s choice of candidates for elective positions in the just concluded polls across the state. Some candidates who were handed tickets for either senatorial or House of Representatives elections were unknown beyond their communities, party members said…… CONTINUE READING

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