I didn’t give Aregbesola N2bn to unseat Oyetola in 2022 – Senator Oriolowo

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The All Progressives Congress member representing Osun West Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Senator Adelere Oriolowo, tells SUNDAY ABORISADE why hoodlums attacked him in Osun State recently and the alleged rift between Governor Gboyega Oyetola and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, among other issues

Some reports stated that you were attacked by some of your party members (The All Progressive Congress) in Ikire during a political meeting but your social media handlers claimed that the attackers were suspected assassins. What is the true position of things?

I went for one of our senatorial district meetings which was earlier slated for December 28, 2020, but shifted to January 10, 2021, due to certain reasons. I was to travel but I postponed my journey to enable me to attend the meeting. I had, earlier that day, attended a stakeholder meeting of Iwo Local Government Area which was held in Osogbo. The stakeholders’ meeting ended late so I arrived at the Ikire meeting behind schedule. I was received on arrival by many party leaders and supporters. Hence, it would be wrong to conclude that I was attacked by aggrieved party members because they came to receive and usher me to the seat reserved for me. However,  no sooner than I started to give my speech that some hoodlums, armed with different types of arms and ammunition,  including axes and cutlasses, emerged from behind me and started shouting and surging towards my direction. When I discovered that I was their target, I quickly rushed into one of the vehicles in my convoy. My security details did not usher me to the vehicle that took me to the meeting. I think that the target was on the vehicle that I took to the venue because it was seriously damaged by the hoodlums.  My attackers did not stop at that, they also locked the gate.  I even identified the young man that locked the main entrance to the venue because he was struggling with my security men, trying to stop them from opening the gate. We had to use our vehicle to bring down the gate before we could escape from the scene. It was after the scenario that we tweeted about the incident.

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What was the immediate reaction of the police officers who were at the meeting to provide security?

Apart from my personal security details who were two in number, other security personnel who came with either the Deputy Governor (of Osun State) or attached to other political functionaries did not actually take any action to ensure that we left the place safely. I saw the deputy governor coming behind me as I was rushing out of the venue. He also wanted to leave the venue immediately the incident happened. In fact, he left as soon as I left the place. We later met at the Government House (in Osogbo).

Did the hoodlums make any attempt to attack the deputy governor, having realised that you had escaped from them?

No. There was no attempt to attack any other dignitary at the occasion except me.

Does that not suggest that your attackers were actually aggrieved party members?  Why do you insist that the young men were hired assassins?

Well, the assassination attempt may be political. There is no reason for any political leader or member of my political party to be aggrieved against me, looking at my performances in all ramifications. I challenge any first-time senator or House of Representatives member, who has surpassed what I have achieved within the period I have been in the National Assembly,  to come out and showcase their scorecard.

There were allegations that you don’t include ‘stomach infrastructure’ in your empowerment programmes, hence some of your supporters are not happy with you

Many people are looking up to politicians to get consumables, that is, what they can eat immediately. They don’t think about their future. Also, many politicians have also bought into the idea of sharing foods to the people instead of empowering them with skills that could put food on their tables. More than 90 per cent of Nigerian politicians are focusing on the next elections, only very few of us are focusing on the next generation. If the members of the public could be thinking about their future and the politicians in power are thinking about the same, things would be better for us in this country.

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Why would you think some people singled you out for attacks, having suffered a huge loss during the #EndSARS protests when your businesses and homes were looted and destroyed?

I was not the only one who was attacked during the #endSARS protests. The property of Senator Bashir Ajibola from the Osun Central Senatorial District was also attacked while four APC members in the House of Representatives from the state also suffered some losses. Only a few of our members in the National Assembly were spared. The only thing I noticed about the #EndSARS attacks was that they were concentrated on the APC legislators because there was no report of such attacks on the elected members from the other political parties. However, I will admit that the level of attacks on my property and businesses was definitely higher than the attacks on others.

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Don’t you think that some unseen forces within the state could be trying to frustrate you politically?

Well, that is obvious but I am not bothered about that. As a farmer who specialises in animal husbandry and keeps birds and other animals, I know that whenever I bring in new stock and mix them with the older ones, those on the ground tend to peck the new entrants. It is possible that a small number of those already in politics before me may be feeling uncomfortable with my achievements but when it comes to personal attacks, one needs to raise the alarm.  In most cases, some people could feel threatened that someone who is coming from the civil service has come to occupy the senatorial seat. However, my activities when I was in the civil service could be one of the factors that my people saw and preferred me to the others (contenders).

Don’t you think that you are suffering these attacks because of your alliance with the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who is believed to be currently having a running battle with Governor Gboyega Oyetola?

I don’t think so because I have consistently and persistently declared my non-alliance politically with any group. I belong to the APC and my loyalty is to the APC and the leadership of the party in which the governor is the leader in the State of Osun. There are usually insinuations here and there in politics but as a person, I don’t take all those gossips and hearsays about issues seriously. I agreed that I worked with Ogbeni Aregbesola. He is my friend and we were classmates. However, our relationship is purely on the level of friendship. As far as politics is concerned, I think I have an independent mind. I am also friendly with Governor Oyetola. I worked directly with him for eight years when Aregbesola was governor. If I made any success in my projects as the general manager and later as permanent secretary, I can never write off the support of Governor Oyetola. I have no bias neither do I have a favourite between the two of them. They are just like father and mother to me. When your father and mother are fighting, it is only God that can help you to make it because you cannot afford to take sides and you cannot ignore calls coming from any of them. What you then need is to pray to God for divine intervention so that you will not become an unfortunate child.

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Are you confirming that there is a serious cold war between the governor and Aregbesola?

It is the people that are really making something out of nothing. The two individuals are friends;  they are colleagues and political allies. They have worked together for eight years.  So, I don’t think the issue is as deep as people are putting it.

Is it true that Aregbesola preferred you to succeed him in 2018 before Asiwaju Bola Tinubu overruled him and picked Oyetola who is believed to be his cousin?

This is an opportunity for me to clear the air on the issue. First, throughout my moves to pick the APC governorship ticket during the primary election, Ogbeni Aregbesola did not speak with me on the issue.  He was not in any way involved in the arrangement. We only held two discussions on the issue of the governorship primary. The first one was when the party asked all interested members to come to the secretariat and show interest. Then I was in Singapore and on my return, I stopped over in Lagos to see him (Aregbesola). This was because as my governor, I needed to inform him about my intention to contest and he said, You are a citizen of Osun, you are free to go to the party secretariat and show your interest too. That was the first talk I had with him on the issue.  The second occasion was when he called us to support Oyetola to be governor. He said all the aspirants must support Oyetola since he had emerged as the party’s candidate so that our party could win the election.  I hearkened to his advice and started working for the emergence of the governor. I thank God for crowning my efforts with success because the result from my federal constituency is a testimony to that.

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Is it true that Aregbesola later compensated you with the senatorial ticket and imposed you on the preferred candidate of the party in the state?

Aregbesola did not know anything about my senatorial election. Rather, he was of the opinion that somebody who had been to the National Assembly before should be allowed to contest on the platform of the party. My leaders in Iwo called and asked me to contest because I would show quality representation for the people of Osun-West. I then gave them a condition that they must buy the form for me. I promised them that I would agree to contest the moment they handed over the form to me. All the party leaders in Osun-West then decided to meet Aregbesola to tell him their position. I learnt that it was a thug of war that day because Aregbesola had somebody else in mind. I also learnt that it got to a point when one of the leaders asked him if he wanted to impose someone else against the choice of the senatorial district. It was at that point that they said Aregbesola agreed that the people’s choice should fly the party’s ticket. Aregbesola did not have direct input in my emergence as a senator.

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Could that be the cause of the incessant attacks on you?

When somebody is coming into politics newly and he won an election and started performing when nobody expected that he could deliver well in that position, there could be some misgivings. Already, some people believe that I am not a veteran in politics. My party leaders and my people worked hard to ensure that APC won all the federal constituency seats in my senatorial district under the able leadership of Mr Adedeji Gbadegesin. It is natural for some people to think that they could do what I am doing or even do them better.

Is it true that the governor has not sympathised with you on the Ikire attack?

It is not true. Mr Governor started calling me immediately it happened on Sunday but the phone was not with me. It was with my security agents. The governor sent a text message when he did not receive any response from me to notify me that he had been calling me. When I saw the missed calls and the text message, I replied to the text message to acknowledge it and thank him. The deputy governor also invited me to his residence on the same day of the incident and I went to meet him.

You said earlier that you were not taking sides with Aregbesola in the perceived cold war between him and the governor but there were reports that you spearheaded the “10 years of progressive politics” event in Osun State to counter the two years of Oyetola in office. What is your reaction?

It is a big lie, nothing of such happened. There are people out there who are probably looking for positions or other forms of patronage; they simply wanted the seeming rift between Aregbesola and the governor to continue. All I could recall was that on a Tuesday morning when the scrutiny of the 2021 budget proposal was at its peak at the National Assembly, the Chairman of our caucus, Senator Ajibola Basiru, called me and said that the Chief of Staff to the Governor had invited the National Assembly members to attend a programme on the aftermath of #EndSARS on the following day. He said the Minister of Interior (Aregbesola) had been invited too. Basiru was of the view that it would be difficult for all of us to leave the National Assembly at the time. He then arranged a meeting of all the APC members from Osun State in the National Assembly which was held in my office.  Five out of the eight of us attended the meeting while the remaining three sent in their apologies. After a brief deliberation on the issue of the invitation, we concluded that we would not be able to attend the Osogbo event on the following day.  We then agreed-just as we did the previous year (2019) during Oyetola’s first anniversary when we organised the Governor’s Cup football tournament-that we should organise a public lecture. Also, since the state government was inviting the minister (Aregbesola), it would be an opportunity for us to bring the two of them together again for the public to see that there was nothing (no rift) between them.  That was why we agreed at the meeting in my office that we would come up with a topic tagged, “Ten years of uninterrupted progressive government in Osun State.” We were not planning a separate anniversary celebration. Members who attended the meeting were given different assignments. However, on the second day, the story was twisted by some fifth columnists to mean that the National Assembly members wanted to support Aregbesola on his 10th anniversary. It was nothing but another attempt to further cause trouble. In spite of that, I attended the second-anniversary celebration.

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There are insinuations that your people still want you to contest the governorship position in 2022 and we know that the governor would most likely seek a second term in office. Are you not in for fresh trouble?

It is not true that my people wanted me to contest the governorship election. It is an unfounded rumour. As a person, even before I joined politics, I have always believed that the tenure of a governor is eight years. The first four years is the mid-term review. For any member of the ruling party in the state to say that the incumbent should not continue means that such governor must have performed so woefully and it is not the case in Osun State.  Anybody that wanted to think along that line obviously wanted to heat up the polity. I am not part of such people who think that the governor should not go for a second term.

But there was an unconfirmed report that you gave Aregbesola N2bn as part of moves to unseat the governor in 2022?

I also heard the rumour but it is not true. I am appealing to both of them (Aregbesola and Oyetola) to see the rumour as a blatant lie. I can also confirm that none of us in the National Assembly is interested in contesting the 2022 governorship election in Osun State. Anybody saying such things wanted to destroy the party. Anybody with the evidence should come out in the open to challenge me on this. As I am sitting here now, I don’t even have N2m in any bank,  not to talk of N2bn. If I have N2bn, I will use it to help my people without contesting any election.

Did you receive any compensation from the Osun State Government when your businesses and homes were attacked during the #EndSARS protests?

I don’t think that the government has started compensating anybody. If anything would be done along that line, I will not be excluded

Have you made any request for compensation?

No, I have not done that. I know the financial status of the state because I am part of the government but if there is any form of support to states from the Federal Government for the purpose of compensating those whose properties were destroyed,  it will not be hidden from me.

What is your take on the clamour by some politicians that 2023 presidency should go to the South -West?

Of course, I am from the South-West and I will support anybody from my zone.

Do you also believe Asiwaju Bola Tinubu should be supported to become president in 2023?

The plan to support Asiwaju Tinubu to be president in 2023 is a Nigerian agenda. It is not limited to the South-West geopolitical zone alone. I will support Asiwaju with everything I have. He is someone who could bail Nigeria out of its present predicament as a nation. The progressive development we are experiencing in Lagos started with Asiwaju.  He laid its foundation and built it to an enviable height before he left as governor while his successors have been building on his achievements. Let some people say whatever they like, there are credentials on the ground that could testify to Asiwaju Tinubu’s ability to lead this nation effectively.

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