1. Osun: Aregbesola, PDP’s renewed ‘war’
Some policies of the Rauf Aregbesola administration have been faulted by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State. In this piece, TUNDE ODESOLA examines the contention
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” This popular quotation by British historian and moralist, Lord Acton, warns about the dangers of despotic use of power. At the height of the rule of the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun, former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola pronounced the opposition dead. “There is no opposition party in Osun. The opposition is dead and buried,” Oyinlola, in his characteristic jocular manner, declared to the ovation of acquiescent PDP supporters.
The Osun PDP subsequently shot itself in the leg when it went imperial and failed to ensure internal democracy in the handling of crises within the party. Also, the party alienated itself from the masses, who craved good governance and delivery of electoral promises. When the Oyinlola government was eventually booted out of office on November 26, 2010, the generality of Osun people took to the streets in wild jubilation.
With Osun’s 30 local government councils and 11 federal lawmakers, the Rauf Aregbesola administration, which also absolutely controls the 26-member House of Assembly, is, naturally, likely to feel the intoxicating effect of power.
But the immediate acting state Chairman, Osun PDP, Chief Adejare Bello, said the opposition party would not allow the ruling party any such indulgence in power. Bello, who is the past Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, said the PDP would ventilate Osun’s political space through constructive criticisms and provision of alternatives to government policies. Admitting that the Osun PDP played god while in power, Bello maintained that the ACN had embarked on the path to self-destruction barely after one year in office.
A leader of the party in Osun, Chief Abiola Ogundokun, who corroborated Bello’s position, said the PDP would prevent the ACN from unleashing despotic policies on the people. A former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said the beauty of democracy lay in the employment of dialogue and constructive criticism in political engagement. “The PDP is taking power back in Osun at the next general elections. The people have seen the difference between the ACN and the PDP,” Babatope explained.
A group within the ACN, Sogbadero, headed by a former youth leader of the PDP, Mr Gbenga Fowowe, however, differed, saying “I can tell you that we messed up as a party when I was in the PDP. You can’t compare the PDP with the ACN in terms of service delivery, trust and integrity.”
While in the opposition, the Osun ACN, employing an effective media campaign against the Oyinlola administration persistently put the PDP government on its toes with loads and loads of criticisms. However, the Osun PDP has been lukewarm in its criticism of the ruling party.
With heads bruised and bowed, the Osun PDP retreated into the cocoon of defeat after the 2011 April general elections.
Bello said, “Our strategy is bound to be different from that of the ACN because they wanted power at all costs; they were desperate for power, we are not desperate. We are taking over the state systematically without fighting anyone. This is why we have raised some critical issues in relations to the policies of the government.
“One, by March 31, 2012, all caretaker executives of the 30 local government councils of Osun become illegal because they would have been in office for more than the six months required by law. By March 31, 2012, any caretaker chairman who spends council money in Osun will go to jail.
“The governor has constituted caretaker executives for the councils twice with six-month tenure each. This is what the law recognises; any action that attempts to lengthen the tenure of Osun council chairmen is illegal and we will challenge such in court. Two, the granting of amnesty by Aregbesola to two persons convicted of the murder of a lawmaker in Osun, Odunayo Olagbaju, is wrong.
“The two convicts, Olaolu Adegbaju and Ekundayo Odubade, have appealed the verdict and the rule of law dictates that the governor should have allowed the appeal to be concluded before granting his amnesty. The governor also granted amnesty to Ahmed Owonikoko convicted of the murder of a PDP member in Oba-Ile. The repeal of Osun State’s Procurement Act by Aregbesola is also illegal and aimed at defrauding the state. How can you repeal the Act, which ensures due process? It is very wrong of the governor to meddle in the affairs of local government councils by saying he has saved N4bn into a joint account for the councils.”
“Aregbesola is contravening Section 162, subsection 6 of the Nigerian Constitution by meddling in the affairs of local government councils.”
He added, “Under my watch as Speaker of Osun State House of Assembly, we stopped Oyinlola, three months to the end of his tenure, from executing joint projects between the state and the councils because it was wrong. Funds meant for local councils must get to the councils.”
Reacting, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Sunday Akere, said in a decent and lawful society, the Oyinlola-led executive and PDP members in the House of Assembly between 2007 and 2010 should be in jail. He said, “It is incomprehensible, alarming and absurd that Bello, who openly admitted that the PDP acted out of consonance with its electoral promise and mandate by unleashing on Osun people an untold and unimaginable, reprehensible misrule for seven and a half years, could say this. What kind of politics are we playing?
“To start with, the Public Procurement Act during Oyinlola’s tenure was fraudulent; it was used to aid fake contracts whose files are still untraceable till date. When we assumed office, we couldn’t find the contract papers for the government’s printing press – the contract was given to a PDP chieftain in the state. Another example of the worthlessness of the Procurement Act by Oyinlola is evident in the execution of the Free Trade Zone Contract whose contractors are not traceable.
“We had to go to the Corporate Affairs Commission where we discovered that some of the contractors have no fixed addresses. We cannot use that kind of Procurement Act. What we have done is to make all contracts go from the initiating ministries to the Bureau of Public Procurement and then to the State Tenders Board which would forward the name of the contractors picked on merit to the executive council for ratification. This is the spirit of due process. In all the contracts we have awarded, we paid 15 per cent mobilisation and spread the remaining balance to cover 36 months.”
Commenting on the amnesty granted by Aregbesola, Akere said, “The governor has the right to grant amnesty based on the recommendations of the Committee of the Prerogative of Mercy, which was legally constituted by the state’s Ministry of Justice. It is the place of the committee to look at petitions bordering on injustices and make recommendations.”
Explaining that Aregbesola has never meddled in the affairs of local government councils, Akere said, “The governor, since assumption of office, has not taken a kobo of any council. What the councils have is a joint account, where they keep their funds. It is in this joint account that that each of the 30 councils is expected to construct 10-kilometre road in its locality.”
On the issue of council election, in November 2010, the ACN challenged up to the Supreme Court, the council election conducted by the defunct Osun State Independent Electoral Commission – under Oyinlola. The composition of OSSIEC members was also challenged at an Osogbo High Court headed by Justice Jide Falola. The Supreme Court ruled in our favour by declaring that the election was illegal. Also, the High Court ruled that the composition of OSSIEC was null and void. So, if OSSIEC is not recognised by the law, is it legal of the government to allow such an illegal body to conduct an election?
The state government cannot allow a vacuum to be created at the third tier of governance. Oyinlola left a debt of over N18.3bn for Osun. In a matter of nine months, Aregbesola paid up the debt and increased government’s savings by over N38bn. The governor, in line with his electoral promise, employed 20,000 youths in less than a year in office. Some people were killed by flood during Oyinlola’s era while Aregbesola, upon assumption of office, embarked on dredging of waterways and canals, saving Osun people the harrowing experience of being killed by flood.