Labour, civil society back Aregbesola, calls for peace
By Samuel Ogunsona
Several civil society, labour and community based organisations in the South West have expressed support for the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who was also former Governor of the State of Osun.
The groups at a press conference in Lagos said Aregbesola represents the link to the grassroots in the South West adding that attacks on him represent disdain for the masses and progressives movements across the South West including Kwara and Kogi States
The group addressed the media under the banner of League of South West Community Based Organisations. Over 80 people attended the event from different backgrounds.
The event addressed by Comrade Taiwo Adeleye was attended by leaders of Automobile Mechanic Association led by Comrade David Ajetumobi, Comrade Ade Ikuesan, Chairman of Okada Riders Association in the South West, Agbekoya, several leaders of Pan Yoruba and civil society groups.
The groups said Comrade Aregbesola is well known to the progressive forces in the South West adding that his reputation, strength of character, honesty of purpose, transparency and credibility are not in doubt.
“His iconic political heritage could be traced back to the 1980s as a strong member of the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANs). He was a stormy petrel in the labour movement and a striking personality in the anti-military campaign alongside prominent Nigerians including Dr. Beko Ransom-Kuti, Prof Wole Soyinka, Pa Anthony Enahoro, Oweh Lakenfa, Salisu Lukman, the late Chima Ubani, Joe Okei Odumakin among many more progressives” the group said
The labour and civil society groups sad those claiming Asiwaju made Comrade Aregbesola are speaking out of historical contexts.
Speaking on the qualities of Aregbesola, the league said the truth is that Aregbesola already made his name in the progressive fold as a decent man of truth and integrity driven by people’s aspiration for radical change. These are evident in his days in the students’ movement through his active participation in various social movements, the anti-SAP mass rallies, the Labour movement, the anti-military campaigns of the 1980s/90s through which his energetic network with artisans, students, workers, Pan-Yoruba groups were rooted.
“We must admit that Comrade Aregbesola and Asiwaju were major actors on the field of the June 12 election campaigns” the group said.
The group argued that Aregbesola was a fighting spirit, galvanising the masses in the fierce anti military campaign at the risk of his life. He had the option of going into exile but bared his chest at the homefront to confront evil at the risk of his life.
It added that many attempts were made on the life of Aregbesola during the tough anti-fascist campaign
The group said it was Aregbesola-,s quality that Asiwaju, when he returned to Nigeria in 1998, saw in him in which made him to seek an alliance with him during the Lagos 1998/99 gubernatorial election not forgetting that they had both met when Aregbesola sought a ticket to go to the House of Representatives from Alimosho while Asiwaju Tinubu equally sought to contest for the Senate in the days of the Social Democratic Party.
“At this time, while Asiwaju provided the funds, Aregbesola provided the intellectual power, the revolutionary flavor and the rare blood-bound alliance with the Lagos masses was worked out by him which culminated in Asiwaju’s victory in 1999, a feat repeated in 2003, making Lagos State the only one retained in the South West. It should be known that Aregbesola was actually in charge of the campaign in Lagos in 1999” the group said
The group said Aregbesola’s decision to contest the election in Osun state was taken by the radical movement and the progressive wing in the then Action Congress, (AC). We admit that Asiwaju provided funds but the real work on the ground, the mobilization of the masses, market women, farmers, peasants, teachers, cobblers was led by Aregbesola, through the Oranmiyan movement which became a revolutionary movement that galvanized Osun State. Aregbesola’s achievements in Osun are legendary, through out the 8-years he was at the saddle, and these have been acknowledged by local and international development organisations.
The group said Aregbesola symbolises, championed and delivered a transformational model of governance that elevated Osun to one of the highest human development index and employment rates in the country attested to by local, national and international development bodies.
It noted that his interventions in education won several laurels including commendations from UNICEF, World Bank and Innovative e-Learning Award for his government introduction of Opon Imo, the Tablet of Knowledge.
The coalition said Aregbesola’s people-first infrastructure development programmes reduced unemployment rate from 17.2% in 2010 to 5.3% when he left in 2018.
“His Social Investment programme, for Youths, Home School Feeding and Care for the aged have now become models adopted by multiple sub – nationals. The Federal Government which now delivered the largest social investment impact Nigeria has seen in recent times drawing inspirations from his innovations in Osun.”
The group said that as of 2018, just after 4 years of adopting these people-centric programs, the FG has fed 12m children through the home-grown school feeding program, empowered hundreds of thousands of local farmers and cooks.
It added that through the Conditional Cash Transfers, over 1m households have benefitted from monthly living stipend, through the Government enterprise and empowerment program, 2.5m the petty traders and market women have been supported with soft loans and over 600,000 youths empowered to do community services through the N-power Programme.
The coalition said “We must recall that while Comrade Aregbesola performed these feats in Osun, he was a source of pride to Asiwaju Tinubu.
One of the days Asiwaju Tinubu was most proud was the historical unveiling of the Tablet of Knowledge in Ijebu Jesa in 2014. Comrade Aregbesola’s fault may be extreme loyalty. We do not blame him for this. He has been loyal to his cause without submitting to the whims that money is everything.”
It argued that Aregbesola believes that ideas and respect for the value of knowledge is the most important driving force in any great society adding that Aregbesola is loyal to Asiwaju to the extent that the loyalty would not betray his loyalty to God and to the people. When loyalty to God and the people contests with being faithful to an individual, it is traditional that a decent man will choose God and the people.”
The coalition said given the landmarks that were achieved during the eight years of Comrade Aregbesola, the actions of his successor, who served as his Chief of Staff and was seen by many as the de facto Governor, would naturally spark division within the party.
It said reviews of government policies are normal and it is the ol belief that even Comrade Aregbesola reviewed some of his own policies before leaving office but that the modus operandi of these reviews should have been done with greater caution not to jeopardise the image of the party as inconsistent with that of his predecessor.
“In the interpretation of many, the reversal of these policies significantly bore the semblance of a conscious attempt to undo Comrade Aregbesola eventhough Aregbesola served Osun State without blemish.
“He did not acquire wealth for his personal interests neither was he involved in primitive accumulation of wealth as evident even amidst rumours mongering and fairy tales that lack any substance.
He also supported Governor Oyetola to emerge as his successor.
Given their years of relationship, it is natural for Comrade Aregbesola to have expected his leader, Asiwaju Tinubu to caution his brother against the path he chose. In this, we expected Asiwaju, as the leader of both to have acted fast to stem what snowballed into this huge division.”
It should be noted that there was no policy decision in the 8-years of Aregbesola that Oyetola was not a key stakeholder.
He did not only defend these positions, he signed some of the policy papers. To make the reversal of these policies his number one cardinal focus is nothing but a conscious attempt to destroy Comrade Aregbesola. We do not think this is right.
Aregbesola served Osun State without blemish. He did not acquire wealth for his personal interests neither was he involved in primitive accumulation of wealth as evident even amidst rumours mongering and fairy tales that lack any substance.
He also supported Governor Oyetola to emerge as his successor adding that the victory of APC in the last election was influenced by Aregbesola’s performance