“Oga (Aregbesola) simply told me he was offering me the opportunity to choose because what he had in mind for me might not be what I wanted for myself. But I told him that my preference was for whatever he had in mind for me. And he told me to be his chief of staff,” Mr Akano told PREMIUM TIMES.
He said Mr Aregbesola immediately introduced his then former aide de camp, “Ajasa, and also Bambo to me and said I should start working immediately.”
He said his phone numbers were forwarded to relevant offices, and embassies in particular.
Mr Akano said he immediately confided in the traditional ruler of Iragbiji, his hometown, AbdulRasheed Olabunmi, and sought his prayers on the new development.
He said he broke the news to his wife and elder brother, whom he said was a police officer.
“So when Alhaji Oyetola visited to congratulate the governor, I greeted him and also confided in him as an elder from our hometown. In fact, he specifically told me to always reach out to him whenever his support was needed,” Mr Akano added.
However, one of our sources, who asked not to be named for fear of “wrongful accusation,” said the monarch had also been approached by another indigene of the town and a school owner in Osogbo, Bisi Olaboopo, who reportedly sought support for his aspiration to be the Secretary to the State Government (SSG).
The source, who claimed to be properly briefed by Mr Aregbesola, said; “So, maybe Kabiyesi had forgotten what Akano earlier told him. He took Olaboopo to Asiwaju (Tinubu) and surprisingly they met Oyetola there. As soon as Kabiyesi spoke of his reason for the visit, Tinubu simply said the position of the chief of staff was for Iragbiji.
But before Kabiyesi would think it was Akano who was being referred to, Tinubu simply pointed at Oyetola. In fact, Oyetola too was surprised and said he would never take such a position,” the source added.
Other sources confirmed Mr Oyetola’s initial rejection of the offer to be chief of staff, with some saying Mr Tinubu had told the monarch that if Mr Oyetola refused to work with Mr Aregbesola, “then Iragbiji should forget any position in the administration.”
Another source said the governorship candidate of PDP in Borno State in 2003 and 2007, Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, told them how Mr Tinubu convinced his business partners, including himself, on why it was important to have Mr Oyetola who was from the businessworld join Mr Aregbesola in Osun.
The source quoted Mr Ibrahim-Imam to have said: “No doubt, we missed Oyetola in our midst. But Tinubu told us that Aregbesola needed a calm, trusted and financially prudent man as a chief of staff if the progressives would have any chance to visit Osun after Aregbesola’s tenure.”
Before his appointment in 2011, Mr Oyetola was a successful businessman.
He was the founder and managing director of Silvertrust Insurance Brokers Limited. He had also served as executive vice chairman of Paragon Group of Companies and as chairman of Ebony Properties Limited. He was also a director in Pyramid Securities Limited.
Also, in 2011, while Mr Aregbesola was 53 years old, Mr Oyetola was already 56. These and other factors were what many said had discouraged Mr Oyetola from taking the offer.
Asked if his principal truly rejected the offer of the position of chief of staff to the former governor in 2011, the chief press secretary to Mr Oyetola, Ismail Omipidan, said he could not comment on whatever that transpired before he joined his new principal.
“You know I only became the CPS about three years ago, it would be wrong of me to comment on a such a matter. I didn’t know what transpired before I came. The only thing I can say is that the allegation of division of the party against my boss is incorrect. He is a team player and did everything to build unity in the party by being just and fair to all parties,” Mr Omipidan told our reporter in a telephone interview.
But Mr Akano told this newspaper that though the monarch denied mobilising support for anybody, he was sure he took Mr Olaboopo to Mr Oyetola, and not Mr Tinubu.
He, however, said when Mr Aregbesola visited Mr Tinubu to tell him about his choice for his chief of staff, Mr Tinubu just informed him that “Oyetola is your chief of staff.”
orroborating Mr Akano, another ally of Mr Aregbesola and former secretary to the ruling APC in the state, who later became Mr Aregbesola’s chief of staff at the twilight of his administration, Rasaq Salinsile, told PREMIUM TIMES that “Oyetola was imposed on the governor by Tinubu.”
How Aregbesola ‘managed’ Oyetola
To support Mr Oyetola, the governor appointed Gbenga Adebusuyi as deputy chief of staff and Mr Akano, ‘Jare Adebisi (now late) and Mudasiru Toogun, as assistant chiefs of staff.
While Mr Adebisi was in charge of protocol, Mr Toogun was in charge of legislative matters and Mr Akano oversaw legal matters.
“But when I went to the governor to tell him the position I was given, he told me I shouldn’t bother and that whatever they gave me would never affect what he wanted me to do for him,” Mr Akano said.
He, however, denied assuming Mr Oyetola’s responsibilities as the chief of staff, saying his closeness to the governor may have led to such “a rumour”.
“People should note that throughout the first term I was not a cabinet member but I enjoyed deep closeness to the governor by virtue of how we had struggled together. But I can assure you that only the chief of staff signed every file twice. Even the governor would sign all documents only once,” Mr Akano said.
He said the chief of staff would sign all documents before they go to the governor and after the governor’s approval or otherwise, before they were returned to the affected departments, units or individuals.
But Mr Akano said he “begrudged” Mr Oyetola for not informing him when he decided to work with Mr Aregbesola despite confiding his own offer in him.
Eight years of feigned harmony
Throughout the eight years of Mr Aregbesola’s administration in the state, Messrs Akano and Oyetola were not on good terms. In fact, there were efforts by the Iragbiji community leaders, including the palace, to wade in many times but these efforts were rebuffed.
Our sources also confirmed to this newspaper how Mr Aregbesola navigated between the two aides without seeking an end to the conflict.
“Mr Oyetola was always in the office but I accompanied the governor everywhere,” Mr Akano said.
2018 governorship election
Osun has three senatorial districts – Central, East and West. Each has 10 local government areas with the exception of Osun East which also has an additional area council with headquarters in Modakeke.
Since its creation in 1991, Osun West had produced only the state’s first executive governor, Isiaka Adeleke, from Ede town, whose tenure was aborted by the military coup d’état of 1993.
Bisi Akande and Olagunsoye Oyinlola are from Osun Central while Mr Aregbesola, from Ilesa, is from Osun East.
Ahead of the 2018 governorship election, based on what some of our sources said was an unwritten agreement, Osun West was expected to produce Mr Aregbesola’s successor. But Mr Oyetola, from Osun Central just as Messrs Akande and Oyinlola, had his eyes on the seat.
Though Mr Aregbesola never spoke against Mr Oyetola’s aspiration, at least in public, it was obvious that he was not his preference.
Mr Salinsile gave an insight into this when he said just like Mr Oyetola was imposed on the governor as a chief of staff, Mr Tinubu just told the governor, “Rauf, Gboyega is going to be the candidate of the party, go and work for him.”
He said they were mere instructions and “nothing but instructions.”
This became obvious when many of the governor’s loyalists, including the incumbent senator for Osun Central senatorial district and Senate spokesperson, Ajibola Bashiru; the then commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, Kolapo Alimi, among others, campaigned for the then commissioner for finance, Bola Oyebamiji, who is from Ikire in Osun West district.
“It was at this point that Oyetola went to Rauf to accuse him frontally. You know he never expected his chief of staff who had remained humble all through to now be so bold and confrontational,” another source who does not want to be quoted, said.
Though Mr Aregbesola campaigned vigorously for his successor, many expected that he could have done more. Mr Aregbesola was blamed for the narrow victory of the party, secured after a supplementary poll and an alliance with the candidate of the Social Democratic Party in the election, Iyiola Omisore.
There is no love lost between Messrs Omisore and Aregbesola. It was, therefore, another bitter experience for the then sitting governor that Mr Omisore, who came a distant third in the poll, suddenly turned into a cornerstone.
While the campaign for the rerun polls lasted, Mr Aregbesola avoided meeting with Mr Omisore. It took the intervention of Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, to seal the APC’s deal with Mr Omisore.
Mr Aregbesola’s ‘attitude’ during the rerun was part of the allegations against him that he did not want his party to emerge victorious.
“This thing is simple. If Aregbesola was complaining about the antecedents of Omisore, why didn’t he also say the same of Oyinlola when he courted him during his second term election in 2014? It was not a matter of principle but fear of being overshadowed by Omisore who is also from the same senatorial district,” a leader of APC in the state, who does not want to be quoted for fear of ‘sanctions’, told this newspaper in an interview.
When Mr Oyetola assumed office in 2018 after a tortuous electoral battle, he had thought he knew more about the administration of his predecessor.
He, therefore, did not envisage much troubles apart from the perennial workers’ anger over “modulated salaries,” misgivings about some educational policies, and the intra-party crisis that had led to the exit of some of the leaders and members from APC to other political parties such as Action Democratic Party (ADP).
The senior special assistant to Mr Oyetola’s on students’ affairs and social mobilisation, Kehinde Ayantanji, told PREMIUM TIMES that the governor had never denied being a key cabinet member of Mr Aregbesola’s tenure.
Mr Ayantunji said: “That is why the governor has refused to speak on the major issues he felt were wrong with the administration of his predecessor. He, however, believes that only change is constant in life, and that when people demand a change for improvement, it must be granted.
“The reversal of some of the education policies were products of the survey conducted by UNDP and the demand of the people during Mr Governor’s ‘thank you visits’ to the federal constituencies after the election in 2018.”
This newspaper learnt that some of the things Mr Oyetola became unhappy about included the “award of a 29-kilometre Gbongan-Ode-Omu road at N1 billion per kilometre; the award of each of the nine mega school projects at N1.5 billion per school, and the Osun Freedom Park project which was said to have cost the state more than N400 million and executed without an agreement with the Nigerian Railway Corporation that owns the land.”
The source added: “Look at the Gbonga-Ode-Omu road, Oyetola would have queried it but when your principal says that is what he wants, what can you do? But the new governor was now shocked that despite spending all the N29 billion allocated for the road, it is still a death trap and remains uncompleted. In fact, when the federal government wanted to refund the money spent on the road to the state government, it pegged the contract at N26 billion after much appeals.
“Also on the mega schools, it is not hidden that the structures have failed integrity tests and may cave in any moment from now. Those are structures built at N1.5 billion each. And on the Freedom Park, throughout the tenure of the former governor, the private manager of the place, now a member of the new cabinet in the state, never remitted more than N200,000 to the government. These were some of the contradictions that sparked some differences.”
But Mr Salinsile accused the incumbent governor of constructing the Ilesa Grammar School for the same amount, an allegation another of the governor’s aide, who does not want to be named, denied.
“Whoever is saying that must be in the dark. Oyetola, I am very sure, did not take a single contract from the state under his principal. In fact, each time he complained, the former governor used to say, since he was a rich man, he shouldn’t bother about contracts in the state,” Mr Oyetola’s aide responded.
The Osun Progressives
Feeling alienated from party activities and governance in the state, a group of Mr Aregbesola’s loyalists reunited at their leader’s house in Lagos and launched The Osun Progressives (TOP).
The creation of TOP by Mr Aregbosla’s loyalists was said to be a ploy to get back at Mr Tinubu by removing his nephew as governor in the state.
According to Mr Salinsile, who is the chairman of the APC faction loyal to the former governor, members of TOP are the “real progressives” in the state and are determined to take back the control of the party by removing the governor from office.
The Tinubu factor
Following some unresolved conflicts and the perceived failure of both the former governor, Mr Akande, and Mr Tinubu, to “rein in” Mr Oyetola, Mr Aregbesola felt uncomfortable and reportedly decided to move on without his erstwhile revered boss (Tinubu).
Apart from clear division in the party structure in Osun State, Mr Aregbesola in May 2020 decided to relaunch the popular political movement once deployed to campaign for Mr Tinubu in Lagos – the Mandate Group.
At a meeting attended by various loyalists of both Messrs Aregbesola and Tinubu, the former’s close associate, Ayinde Enilobo, was announced the new chairman while James Odunmbaku, a cardinal, was announced as new leader.
Feelers suggested Mr Aregbesola aimed at using the platform for his presidential bid. He, however, denied this.
But confronted by the challenge the new group could pose to his ambition, Mr Tinubu reportedly asked the APC’s major political forum in the state, Governors’ Advisory Council (GAC), to announce the dissolution of all political groups and their collapse into the party structures.
This no doubt angered Mr Aregbesola and his close associates.
Until last Sunday when Mr Aregbesola openly castigated his erstwhile political leader in public, both had consistently denied any rift.
But keen watchers were more convinced that the relationship had turned sour when Mr Aregbesola failed to visit Mr Tinubu in London when the latter was sick.
Apart from his public attack on Messrs Tinubu and Oyetola, Mr Aregbesola also publicly declared support for Moshood Adeoti, an APC politician from Iwo and a former secretary to the state government between 2011 and 2018, against the governor.
Mr Aregbesola had asked his supporters in Osun to vote for Mr Adeoti against the governor, for the APC ticket for the upcoming governorship election in the state.
However, at Saturday’s primary election, Mr Oyetola defeated Mr Adeoti and other aspirants.
The governor won in all the 30 local governments, according to the APC, and will thus be the party’s flagbearer in the coming governorship election in the state.
Mr Aregbesola has, however, alleged fraud and said his group is still studying the results of the primaries