If there is one man that’s been consistently in the news lately, and sadly for the wrong reasons, then that man has to be the former governor of Osun State and current Minister for Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. He has been in the eye of the storm. He had been locked in a running battle with the incumbent governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, who, incidentally was his Chief of Staff while he was in office. It is common knowledge that, though Oyetola was his Chief of Staff, he was not his preferred successor. He had a different agenda as to who would succeed him. The former governor tried to make a case for his choice of successor but he was prevailed upon by the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to allow Oyetola succeed him. And grudgingly, he agreed. But that was only the beginning of his problems with Oyetola.
Presently, Aregbe is not only at daggers drawn with his former Chief of Staff, he has also drawn the battle line with his former boss and mentor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. A couple of weeks ago before the Osun APC primaries were held, he accused Asiwaju of playing God and denigrated him for forcing Oyetola down his throat. He even directed some sarcasm at Tinubu when he remarked that the national leader had started peeing on his body owing to unconfirmed health issues. According to him, Ambode was stopped from going for a second term in Lagos, so why couldn’t he do the same to Tinubu’s boy, Oyetola, in Osun.
Many had wondered what had gotten into the Minister for Interior, who for several years was Asiwaju’s right-hand man and head of one of the two most powerful groups in the Lagos APC, The Mandate Group. He was acting like a man consumed with intense rage and hatred for Asiwaju. After the primaries had been held and Oyetola declared the winner following a landslide victory over Aregbe’s candidate, Adeoti, Ogbeni has come under serious attacks on social media. He has been called all sorts of names and told to pack up and leave the state for the governor to run without having to deal with Aregbe’s constant distractions. It remains to be seen whether Ogbeni will heed this advice or choose to ignore it. According to those close to Governor Oyetola, they describe him as a gentleman, an easy-going person who detests any form of bitterness and infighting within his camp or around him. He may just choose to ignore his former boss and move on. He probably has forgiven him for all of the horrible things he said about him, especially in the days leading to the primaries. But there is one man who may find it difficult to forgive Aregbesola for what Aregbe did to him a few years ago while he was the sitting governor of Lagos State. That man is former Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
Many will still recall how the former Governor of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode, was pushed out of office after completing just one term in office. Lagosians didn’t see this coming at the time. Everyone felt that Ambode had done more than enough to earn for himself a second term in office. His performance in terms of infrastructure was impressive. He was particularly strong on road construction. No one thought he would have difficulty picking up the party’s ticket for the 2019 governorship elections. It came as a huge shock when the incumbent Governor Sanwo-Olu and his running mate, Femi Hamzat, were thrown up as the pair to contest with Ambode at the primaries. In the end, Ambode lost the ticket, lost his second term and the rest, like they say, is history.
Till today, there are still various versions of the reasons why the former governor was not allowed to complete his tenure. But in most of the versions thrown up within the political space, one person whose name featured prominently in all of them is Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. According to City People investigations, Aregbe was one of the major antagonists of the former Lagos Governor while he was in office, and indeed the major force behind the humiliation suffered by Ambode when he was kicked out of office unceremoniously. In fact, it was said that Aregbe had vowed that he would do everything within his power to deny Ambode the party’s ticket to contest for his second term in office. What happened between these two? Why did Aregbe become Ambode’s antagonist to the point that he vowed he would see to it that Ambode did not get a second term in office? Who offended who? Who first crossed who’s path?
City People learnt that the problem between Aregbe and former Governor Ambode started while Ambode was in his second year in office. According to the story, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola had paid his Lagos counterpart an unscheduled courtesy visit as he (Aregbe) was in Lagos on an official assignment and thought it necessary to drop by and say hello to Governor Ambode, his Lagos counterpart from the same party. But surprisingly, Ambode not only disrespected Aregbesola’s aides, he disrespected Aregbesola himself, an aide of Aregbesola shared on condition of anonymity.
According to the aide, “This is how it happened. Aregbesola had stopped by Ambode’s office in Alausa, accompanied by one or two of his aides. He was kept in the reception for four hours. Four hours!!! Imagine that!! “When Ambode finally asked Aregbesola in, there was a snag. Aregbesola and one of his aides were ordered to drop their smartphones with the security personnel at the reception before making their way into Ambode’s office.
“Aregbesola never really saw that coming and as his aide protested the order from the security personnel, Ambode emerged at the reception and said something along the lines of: ‘If it’s about dropping the smartphone, that’s standard protocol, just obey.’ Aregbesola was shocked and embarrassed. He didn’t believe that as a governor, he had to leave his phone at the reception before seeing another governor. I think that was the day the relationship between Ambode and Aregbesola went from cordial to frosty real quick”, said the source. But Aregbe still tried to keep the relationship cordial at the very least. Clearly, they both were not as close as they used to be but both maintained some sort of cold but cordial relationship. It was at the tail end of Aregbe’s tenure that Ambode struck him the fatal blow that permanently ended their relationship.
Towards the expiration of Aregbesola’s tenure as governor of Osun State, he had approached the then Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode and indicated his interest to contest for Lagos West senatorial election in 2019 and was hoping that once he was able to get Ambode to buy into his ambition and approve of it, it would be easy for him to get Asiwaju to sign off on his ambition. But Ambode blatantly refused and gave him a resounding, No. He told Aregbe he could not support such a radical move. Aregbe was shocked and his ego badly shattered. He was deeply hurt that Ambode could simply throw his request straight out of the window without giving it a second thought. And when he approached Asiwaju to make the same request, he got another no as well. Asiwaju advised that he stayed put in Osun and develop the APC in the state.
Expectedly, this did not go down well with Aregbe. He vowed at that point to deal with Ambode and make him pay for what he did to his senatorial aspiration and the humiliation he meted out on him when he kept him waiting in his office for hours. Aregbe believed that he shouldn’t be denied the right to continue his leadership position in Lagos politics while he controls Osun APC. And don’t forget that Aregbesola was the leader of one of the two most powerful groups in Lagos, The Mandate Group. It was with this group that Ambode pushed the ‘No second term for Ambode,’ agenda. And he succeeded.
Unfortunately, Ambode had also stepped on a few other powerful toes within the party, including shocking Asiwaju himself when he ordered the demolition of the local system of waste disposal for the engagement of a new contractor, Vissionscape. This was viewed by Asiwaju as an affront, especially because, he as the initiator of the original operation, was not carried along before it was axed.
Events that unfolded afterwards, regarding the scrapping of the PSP project gave Asiwaju reasons to condemn Ambode before Aregbesola and other party leaders when the pressure to stop Ambode’s second term bid started to mount. And so, Aregbe being Jagaban’s right-hand man, with his powerful group behind him, stopped Ambode. It was a pure act of revenge on Ambode for refusing to allow him to contest for the Lagos West senatorial seat. This is why those who know within the party have insisted that Aregbesola was the mastermind behind Ambode’s removal and for this, Ambode has been extremely embittered about all that happened. Despite his impressive performance in the state, he was disgraced out of office, and relegated to the background as far as Lagos politics is concerned. The man, till date, is still badly hurt by the whole drama that led to his removal from office. It is highly unlikely if he would ever forgive Aregbe and every other person behind his painful exit as governor of the richest state in the land.