Adebanjo, others broke Afenifere, not Tinubu and I – Osoba
…On restructuring: We didn’t sell out, Adebanjo scuttled plan on true federalism
…‘I am not one of those he made governor’
…Accuses S/West leader of trying to railroad Yoruba into supporting Igbo President in 2023
By Yinka Ajayi
A former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, speaks on his disagreement with Yoruba leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, who, among others, he blames for the breaking of the South-West influential group, Afenifere. He also accuses Adebanjo of trying to railroad the Yoruba into supporting Igbo presidency in 2023.
But Osoba, in this interview, stresses the need for Yoruba to unite to achieve the dream of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, for the race. Excerpts:
How do you react to the allegation by Chief Ayo Adebanjo that you and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu sold-out on the issue of restructuring?
I want to give a strong notice to Chief Ayo Adebanjo that from now, I will return fire-for-fire. I have, over time, tried hard to give him the respect of a little difference in our age as a senior brother. I will come out forcefully to reply him anytime he speaks.
We were together on a programme about a month ago where he accused me of being a sellout. And I challenged him that I have an impeccable character and honour which he admitted saying that he didn’t say that I am corrupt or not reliable but that I sold out on the issue of restructuring.
I have consistently preached that this country needs genuine and true federalism. I have, over the years, campaigned that what we need is the Canadian/Australian model. His (Adebanjo) attitude is that you must agree with his definition and you must not have a contrary opinion.
I have, over time, told him that his behavior is inconsistent with the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s behavior. Awolowo tolerated dissenting views, he listened to second, third opinions contrary to Adebanjo’s attitude of rigidity.
It appears that you and Chief Adebanjo have been having differences. Is there anything that is personal?
Very much so. Over time, he has never wished me well. In 1984, soon after the military coup of 1983, the military offered the position of Managing Director of Daily Times to me. I went to our leader, Papa Awolowo, to clear the appointment with him.
Adebanjo was opposed to my moving from Daily Sketch to Daily Times on the grounds that it will be a sellout to the military. But Papa Awolowo took a very objective opinion and said “look, this is a professional appointment and it has nothing to do with politics and Osoba moving to Daily Times would be a big plus to the progressives”.
Of course Awolowo’s view manifested when I moved to Daily Times. Later we met at Lagos University Teaching Hospital when the late governor of Ogun State, Chief Olabisi Onabanjo, was hospitalized. There, Adebanjo requested that I should use Daily Times to run a campaign to have the road to his house constructed because the road was always water-logged. And I told him “but you were opposed to my going to Daily Times, and said I sold-out”.
Gboyega Onabanjo, the son of Olabisi Onabanjo, is alive to testify. Also in 1990 when I opted to contest for the governorship of Ogun State, he went all out to abort my ambition. He took many practical steps; he adopted Professor Olabimtan as his candidate and got the Awujale to call a meeting of Ijebus where a resolution was passed that “no Ijebu should vote for Osoba”.
But thank God it was the era of open ballot; we went to the primary and I defeated him even in his home town. During my first tenure as governor, I still invited him and others to an Elders Consultative Forum. By the time of my second coming, he again was opposed to me, he supported Femi Okurounmu. He is always against me.
He is always acting like the interpreter of Awolowo’s philosophy. I once challenged him: when did he become Awolowo’s Peter and when did Awolowo give him the key to his philosophy? I have always maintained that my relationship with Awolowo was independent of any of them. I met Awolowo when he came out of prison in 1966.
And I covered him even when he was Minister of Finance. I was among the few people Awolowo could see without appointment. I was free with Awolowo throughout his lifetime. I used to dine with Awolowo every other week and he was never uncomfortable with it. I have a strong credential of being an Awoist as he is.
He also accused you and Tinubu of pulling out of Afenifere to destroy the platform that brought you to power. What do you make of that?
Afenifere was opposed to my governorship in 1990. I am not one of those Adebanjo’s Afenifere made governor. Papa Adesanya, Papa Solanke, Chief Ayo Adebanjo were all opposed to my candidature in 1990 on the grounds that they had zoned Ogun governorship to Yewa. I went on to win the primary on my own.
I went on to win the governorship without any input from any of them. Papa Adesanya was one of the first to quickly call me and said that I won the election. He (Adebanjo) must never again say that he made me governor.
I was a governor against Afenifere’s wish in 1990. Afenifere never contributed a kobo to my being a governor in 1990. They caused it (Afenifere break up). After we were rigged out in 2003, they were gloating, happy to see us kicked out. Papa Adesanya then called a meeting at Jibowu to see how he could rebuild then AD (Alliance for Democracy) family.
They went after Otunba Niyi Adebayo (former governor of Ekiti) and Adebayo walked out on them on the grounds that they made uncomplimentary remarks about his father. He told them he “is not a bastard” that “he valued his father much more than he valued them”. That was how they destroyed the attempt to reconcile then AD governors. They then went ahead to recognize the AD sponsored by President Obasanjo because, at that time, Senator Akinfenwa, through Senator Ogunlewe, was the one we suspected was being promoted by Obasanjo as AD leader.
They went to Akure and recognized Akinfenwa as against Chief Bisi Akande. That was the beginning of the division in Afenifere. Also his utterances and attitude have caused many to pull away from Afenifere.
He said you are never consistent
Only he understands his interpretation of consistency. Here is a man who, when we were rigged out, was the first to jump on the PDP vehicle of Gbenga Daniel in Ogun State. Till tomorrow, he is the godfather of Gbenga Daniel. He moved from Gbenga Daniel to Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo under the Labour Party. And he went to pronounce Mimiko as the greatest of those executing Awolowo’s philosophy, that Mimiko’s free education was the best.
He moved from there to PDP in Osun to praise Olagunsoye Oyinlola and today he is with PDP’s Seyi Makinde in Oyo. That is his interpretation of consistency. He said we sold out to Fulani. When he campaigned for former VP Atiku for presidency, he forgot that Atiku is a Fulani man too. When they hobnobbed with former President Jonathan, that is consistency. Awolowo will never jump from one party to another. And Awolowo, if alive, would never hobnob with PDP.
Of the six South-West governors between 1999 and 2003, why is he particular about you and Asiwaju Tinubu?
Including Chief Bisi Akande. I told you Adebayo walked out on them in 2003 at Jibowu. It was all of us. The point is that Adebanjo has never contested any election. I challenge him to test his popularity. He should pick anywhere in Ogun, let the two of us walk around. There is no village in Ogun State that I will not call out three or four families.
He has always been antagonistic to anybody who rose to governance within the progressives’ family. He was antagonistic to the UPN governors when they reached out to the PRP governors in the Second Republic. He led the crusade against the governors and told Awolowo that the UPN governors had sold out. When Papa (Awolowo) got exasperated he called a meeting of the UPN leaders at Eko Hotel.
I recall Chief Onabanjo speaking on behalf of the governors and telling Chief Awolowo that “all the people shouting are not more loyal to you than we are, that if the party must win at the federal level, the party must relate with others outside Western Region”.
At the end, Chief Awolowo said the governors should continue with their association but they should report regularly to the National Executive Committee of the party.
They then expanded their association to 12 governors. That was the group that led Awolowo into signing an agreement with Dr Azikiwe in Benin ahead of the 1983 presidential election which Awolowo actually won. Their reaching out was very helpful. It was that same progressive association that helped us when we moved to the Third Republic SDP that produced the late Chief MKO Abiola as presidential candidate. My argument is that Adebanjo has never been comfortable with any governor either in UPN or in AD. That is what is manifesting now in his attack on Asiwaju Tinubu, Chief Akande and Niyi Adebayo who walked out on them in 2003. He bragged that he made us governors.
Who among us did not have political experience before we became governors in 1999? Lam Adesina as Oyo governor was, as far back as 1979, a House of Reps member in the National Assembly dominated by the late Chief Abraham Adesanya and co.
The late Chief Adefarati as Ondo governor was a Commissioner under Ajasin. Akande in Osun was deputy to the late Chief Bola Ige as old Oyo governor. So he is making a cheap statement by saying we are not consistent.
He maintained that before 2015, Asiwaju Tinubu and you were at the forefront of the agitation for restructuring but, when APC came to power, you slowed down on it and that, often times, when you are fighting for your interest, you present it as if it is Yoruba interest.
He should define the interest that we are protecting. I decided not to hold any public office again since I left in 2003. Yes, in 2015, the APC produced President Buhari, has he ever called us to sit us down? When we were forming APC, we met and insisted on true federalism, which is restructuring, in our constitution. Our manifesto is on the internet.
He can use the word ‘restructuring,’ we can use other words like ‘true federalism.’ It is all one and the same or we can use the word ‘devolution’ which is happening in the UK now. Power is being devolved from Westminster to Wales and Northern Ireland. We are in government; we don’t have to go about shouting in public.
He should have taken the trouble to find out what we have done. Chief Oyegun, when he was APC National Chairman, set up a committee headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai to produce a report on true federalism. The matter went to our National Caucus with the President in attendance adopting the report.
But instead of engaging us to let us fight to get it to the National Assembly, he (Adebanjo) doesn’t recognize the role of the National Assembly. Yes we may have our own internal problem but I will continue to fight within the party. He cannot be making statements the way he is making them and fighting for true federalism and regional system.
Were you this divided under Chief Awolowo’s watch?
It was not so. Baba Awolowo used to tell us, ‘the three musketeers’ (then MDs of powerful newspapers), that within his fold were all kinds of foxes and snakes with different characters, and he was managing them. Awolowo was a manager. That is the difference between Papa Awolowo and Adebanjo. Awolowo managed people.
Adebanjo is instrumental to Afenifere breaking into different sub-groups. He speaks so annoyingly about so many people. Inside Awolowo’s house in Ikenne, Yoruba Unity Forum, founded by Bishop Ladigbolu, regularly meets. From Afenifere, we have Wale Oshun’s Afenifere Renewal Group, we have Prof. Banji Akintoye’s Yoruba World Congress, we have Deji Osibogun’s group and we also have Yoruba Council of Elders headed by Pa Alayande. Can you question the credentials of Alayande and say that he’s not a core Awoist?
I keep arguing, “let us first unite the different groups within the Yoruba race”. Can we go into war with these different groups? Along the line, we had OPC (Oodua People’s Congress) about 12 groups. Yoruba are intellectually endowed, where is the paper or road map they want us to follow to arrive at our self determination?
Who is against self-determination? The Yoruba are the greatest beneficiary of the regional system under Awolowo. Awolowo was able to use the regional system to create a first class region. Who among us will not want us to go back? For example, in his dictatorial way, he says he has now zoned the presidency to the Igbo. Who is he to zone the Yoruba race out of the 2023 presidential race?
Where did we meet as Yoruba? Awolowo will not behave like that. There will be a meeting where there will be consensus. Of course the Igbo have the right to contest in 2023 just as I as a Yoruba man also have the right to contest.
He unilaterally zoned it like a dictator that he is. Secondly, he said we must boycott the 2023 election. Where did we sit down to decide that Yoruba should boycott the 2023 election? He doesn’t read history. In 1964, he was in exile in Ghana, the issue of boycott arose, we went into alliance with AG and NCNC to form UPGA, overnight they started to boycott.
Awolowo sent a message that never should we boycott, that boycott is not recognised by court anywhere, that we would lose out. Of course we boycotted and lost out in the government that was formed in 1964. Awolowo never supported a boycott. He should tell me where he got that philosophy from?
What is the way forward from the seeming war between the two of you?
I have no war with him as far as I am concerned. Let us stop using unhealthy, abusive language antagonizing too many people. Let us find a way of bringing different opinions and views to the table. In a democracy, let everybody have a say.
The way forward is that the Yoruba nation must come together and all the young elements must be brought in. I am 81, he is 92. At this age, people like him should be in the forefront. Let us bring everybody on board, and reach a reasonable consensus on how to address these issues.