How Aregbeshola exploited Vendetta to survive
By Bayo Ogunmupe
THE August 9 governorship election of Osun State has come and gone but the repercussions of the result are still with us. However, underlining the election outcome are certain policy platforms which influenced the results. Long before the gubernatorial election or any election for that matter are policy options, development projects sited in various Osun communities for the purpose of winning votes.
The first of those towns where spurious projects were sited is Ilobu, Irepodun Local Government in Osun State. Due to long years of neglect, the Federal Government sited an Aquaculture Entrepreneurship Centre in the town. The budgetary allocation for the centre had been approved since 2011. To monitor the progress of the project, the Olobu of Ilobu, Oba Ashiru Olaniyan set up a committee of his Advisory Council chaired by Alhaji Wahabi Falowo a retired executive of the West African Examinations Council. In fact, the town was agog for being remembered by the Federal Government.
Unfortunately, the town’s optimism soon turned to despair as more than three years elapsed without the people seeing any such project. In October 2013, Falowo sought and got access to documents relating to budgetary allocations for the centre for the years 2012 and 2013, where the project was classified ongoing. In 2012, the project was allocated N50 million and N30 million in 2013, as contained in a Compendium of Capital projects in the Appropriation Act.
An investigation of the location of the project took the community to the Federal Ministry of Agriculutre in Abuja and the Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, Lagos. Authorities at the Institute confirmed the existence of the centre as an ongoing project. Thereafter the Osun State Ministry of Agriculture was contacted so as to find out any project undertaken by the Federal Government in the State. The state ministry confirmed that there was not a single federal centre so founded in the state.
But there it is, the 2012 and 2013 budgets showed that the Federal Government was building an Aquacultural Centre at Ilobu in Osun State. It appeared in the budget as an ongoing project, but it did not exist on the ground in reality. Nothing was actually on the ground to confirm the federal allocation of funds to the centre. That is the crux of the matter.
Meanwhile, members of the fact-finding committee found a project of the same name of Aquaculture Entrepreneurship Development Centre at Ifon in Orolu Local Government of Osun State. Whether this project was diverted there or it was only a similar centre isn’t clear. Thereupon, a lawyer was engaged to write a petition to the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina. The law firm, Lekan Oladapo and Partners wrote the petition complaining about a centre sited at Ilobu, which had received over N100 million in allocation but which didn’t exist in physical reality. The solicitors copied the Director General of the Budget and all relevant authorities concerning the matter. Sadly no reply has been received on this matter between June 2013 and August this year.
However, a search party of the community has found that agricultural projects have been instituted by the Federal Government in Ilobu’s neighbouring town of Ifon in Orolo Local Government of Osun; Ago-Owu in Isokan LGA of Osun and in Iwo also in Osun State.
Others in the state are at Ila Orangun, Ikire in Irewole LGA, Ode-Omu in Ayedire. But the exact replica of the project in question was found only in Iresaapa, Surulere LGA of Oyo State. There, the centre had not been completed and not commissioned.
All of these projects in various communities smack of abandonment. In some, the buildings were erected but not completed. In others, the sites were merely cleared with mere signboards, without any buildings. The foregoing, which is well known to the electoral combatants in Osun went on to embolden Governor Raufu Aregbesola to contain the threats, intimidation and blackmail spawn by Iyiola Omisore his main opponent.
In a literate society, a group of Omisore’s ilk would never get audience with the people. But with half a bag of rice and five thousand naira for every voter, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still lost at the Osun polls. The victory in Ekiti had emboldened PDP while this rattled the APC. Happening in the Southwest, the bastion of APC where an incumbent governor was defeated made it all the more surprising. Although the people blamed it on stomach infrastructure, Aregbesola made sure it was not repeated in Osun.
With a combination of good campaign and favourable circumstance, Aregbesola was able to exploit poor and incomplete projects, large scale unemployment and ethnic loyalty to torpedo the PDP intimidation. Failure in Ekiti aided APC victory in Osun. It enabled the party to prepare the mind of the people for the heavy presence of military personnel during the election.
Unlike in the military era, soldiers could not do anything illegal during the poll. Besides, the APC has an array of lawyers to tame the PDP at the courts. If Osun had gone to the PDP, it would have dealt a crushing blow to multi party policies in Nigeria. It would have created a one party state with the PDP becoming more arrogant, worsening governance and transparency at the federal level. In governance, complacency is bad, breeding an arrogant ruling elite that is disconnected from the electorate.
The APC, in seeking to differentiate herself from other parties should not accept decampers so brazenly. New members should be accepted but they should not be given leading roles in the party otherwise, it would demean the APC. Also APC should rebrand as a centre left group by using commercial flights instead of private jets, adopt lifestyles that will position the PDP as a wasteful and careless party.
Like Aregbesola exploited the PDP misadventures in the old Oyo state, APC should start reviewing PDP stewardship in each state of the federalism ahead of the 2015 general elections. They should also ensure their members registered to vote because in today’s elections only card carrying registered voters can vote. In re-electing Aregbesola, the grateful people of Osun remembered his computer tablets preloaded with varying tutorial notes and past West African Examination Council question papers. He also distributed text books on 17 subjects freely to primary school pupils throughout the state.
Also, Osun people had remembered free meals served half a million primary school pupils costing the state government more than N3.5 billion yearly. He had also impacted by way of road rehabilitation in every town in the state. The people also remembered the 750,000 new uniforms that have been distributed free of charge to school pupils in the state.
Moreover, Aregbesola had attracted worthwhile factories producing computers, cell phones, plasma television sets to boost employment in the state of Osun. He won because the people believed and trusted every word of promise he gave during the election campaign. His action packed first tenure gave him that leverage and acceptance. It was impossible for them to say no to a performing and trustworthy governor. Whoever was chosen as APC presidential flagbearer should imitate Aregbesola for success at the February 2015 polls. He prays the most who works hardest.