Fighting Osoba

Since he became the Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel has sustained a frosty relationship with his predecessor, Aremo Olusegun Osoba. aremo-olusegun-osoba-former.gif

By Babajide Kolade-Otitoju

Aremo Olusegun Osoba, two-time governor of Ogun state, is a proud Egba man. He is proud of his achievements not just as a journalist, but as a former governor of the Gateway State. But Osoba, his aides admitted, is not a happy man. So displeased is Osoba with the way Otunba Gbenga Daniel has been running Ogun state that he has not visited Abeokuta, the state capital, for over two years.

Last week, in different chats with the magazine, aides of Osoba’s, who declined to grant an interview on the man who supplanted him in office, claimed the last time Osoba visited Abeokuta was during the coronation of Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo as Alake of Egbaland.

But why would a man avoid his homestead the way Osoba has done? His aides say governor Daniel left him without a choice. “Every time something negative happens to him, he blames it on Osoba, so the Aremo would rather keep away,” said an aide of the former Ogun governor. He mentioned what happened on 19 October 2004 to buttress his assertion. On that day, students were demonstrating in Ilaro against dismal power supply as well as non-payment of bursary. But governor Daniel’s wife, Olufunke, was on her way to the town for a ceremony when she got a radio message that the students were spoiling for a fight. Indeed, her convoy ran into the demonstration and was stoned by the demonstrators. Hours later, Daniel rushed to the area and accused Osoba of trying to kill Funke.

The accusation was said to have deeply hurt Osoba, as Olufunke Daniel is Osoba’s distant cousin. That was not the end of the trouble for Osoba. Daniel allegedly sent the Ogun State Police Command after him. Osoba refused to be arrested by policemen from the Command, but gave himself up to men of the Zone 2 Command in Lagos. He was briefly detained and accused of plotting to assassinate Governor Daniel. He eventually got a bail to the tune of N50 million.

Aides testified that Osoba is still seething with rage over his arrest, at Daniel’s instance, as he was neither charged to court nor the bail bond discharged. “Osoba thinks he deserves an apology from Daniel, the same way ex-Governor Osunbor apologised to Adams Oshiomhole when he was accused of killing Carlos Enoma, an ex-Commissioner for Information in Edo State, only for it to be discovered that Enoma had, indeed, died in the bosom of his girlfriend in an hotel,” an Osoba aide told TheNEWS. The aide noted that a report on the alleged assassination plan written by the Zone 2 Police Command indicated nothing like that happened.

Osoba’s allies also accused governor Daniel of setting out to probe his predecessor immediately he took office without valid grounds. He reportedly caused the Ogun State Assembly to probe Osoba’s administration, accusing it of buying two studio cameras for N140m. For this, the House invited the Commissioner for Finance under Osoba, who argued comprehensively that what was purchased was a full-fledged studio capable of taking two giant cameras. The state assembly recommended that the matter be referred to the Attorney-General of the state and the security agencies. However, till date, Osoba has not faced prosecution over the matter. His aides said that is understandable: Daniel and his people merely lied against Osoba, as the studio has been functional, even generating good money for the state. TheNEWS’ investigations showed that the same kind of studio was supplied to Lagos Television, Channel 8.

Osoba’s aides maintained Daniel routinely lies against their principal. A year after he took office he caused security operatives to investigate Osoba, accusing him of planning to disrupt his first anniversary at a time Osoba was in Poland to attend an event of the International Press Institute. And when Osoba allegedly swore at ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo during a meeting at Imeko, Daniel allegedly presented a video of the proceedings to Obasanjo, with the intention of showing that not only was Osoba undermining the government, he also deeply dislikes Obasanjo as a person. An enraged Obasanjo was said to have summoned Osoba to Otta to explain himself and what the matter was between him and Daniel.

Osoba’s aides accused Daniel of removing signposts and commissioning plaques erected at the site of projects executed by the former, replacing them with giant Daniel billboards. Again, the aides claimed, when Governor Daniel could not provide the state with functional and regular water supply, which had been available from the colonial era, he looked in the direction of Osoba and cast him as a saboteur. The former Ogun governor was accused of damming water meant for the entire Abeokuta Government Reserved Area. Government water meant for Osoba’s house was subsequently disconnected.

Though Osoba was unwilling to talk about it last week, it is suspected that the relationship between him and governor Daniel has been worsened by Daniel’s alleged refusal to regularly pay Osoba’s pension. According to the Ogun State House of Assembly Fourth Legislative Enrolled House Bill No 31, 2003, “any person who has held office as Governor or Deputy Governor shall be entitled to pension for life at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent Governor or Deputy Governor.”

An avid watcher of Ogun state politics suggested that Osoba could be paying “for his perceived hostility towards his governor”. For example, it is said that Osoba never attends any of the governor’s functions. But an Osoba aide retorted that “there is no law that says a former governor must be seen at every government function. Out of spitefulness he does not pay Osoba’s pension, but does Margaret Thatcher go to Downing Street? How many functions of George W. Bush do you see his dad or Clinton attend?”

There are indications, however, that Otunba Gbenga Daniel will want Osoba to think he means well. On 12 December 2008, Chief Osoba got a letter referenced MSD/NHA/004/1/118 from the then Minister of Special Duties, Godsday Peter Orubebe, inviting him as recipient to the 2008 Nigerian National Honours Award. The investiture was billed to take place on 22 December. The meeting at which the decision to give Osoba a national award took place on 10 December.

However, Osoba and his aides were shocked when a congratulatory letter dated 12 October, 2008 was sent to Osoba by governor Gbenga Daniel. Though the tone of Daniel’s letter was ambiguous, Osoba’s allies believed he (Daniel) wants to take credit for the honour done the Aremo by President Yar’Adua. But as far as they are concerned, Daniel could not have recommended Osoba for a national award given the battles he has waged against Osoba over the years.

What makes the whole saga intriguing is that the Daniel congratulatory letter to Osoba was despatched by DHL on 16 December, 2008, which would mean it was sent to Osoba more than two months after Daniel wrote it! Indeed, the manner the Ogun state government advertised the congratulatory message indicated that they were keen to take credit for the honour and cast Osoba as needlessly hostile to an administration that wishes him well. Whether or not Daniel and his people recommended Osoba for the national award will be made clear in the fullness of time. But in the meantime, Osoba and his friends and aides are in the least so convinced.

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