Elder statesman and former Ogun State Governor Olusegun Osoba yesterday spoke on the political earthquake that swept through the five Southwest states in 2003, saying that former President Olusegun Obasanjo betrayed the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors and Afenifere leaders who supported him for a second term.
He said apart from the ‘D’Rovan Presidential Electoral College fiasco of AD in Ibadan, another factor that led to the implosion of Afenifere and the AD was the pact the party and pan-Yoruba organisation had with the former president.
Aremo Osoba emphasised that, contrary to the impression in some quarters that the AD governors were solely responsible for the Southwest’s support for Obasanjo in the 2003 election, it was the collective decision of the Afenifere/AD hierarchy.
He recalled that the AD governors were not in good terms with Obasanjo, pointing out that they only decided to rally round him when the House of Representatives, led by former Speaker Ghali Umar Na’Abba wanted to impeach him in August 2002.
Osoba reflected on the defeat of the AD in the Southwest in his 341-page memoir: ‘Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics,’ published by Diamond Publications Limited. The book will be presented to the public next Monday as part of activities marking his 80th birthday in Lagos.
He lamented that after assisting him to overcome the impeachment hurdle, he later waged a virulent political war against his Southwest benefactors.
Osoba recalled: “As it turned out, unwittingly, we gave Obasanjo a breather and tool with which he later dealt with us too. I told him to “stoop to conquer.” After doing that with the National Assembly and surviving the impeachment plot, he also later “stooped to conquer” against the AD governors and Afenifere.
“After he survived the impeachment plot, he never showed any sense of remorse. To all of us involved we could not believe his new bellicose approach when in a national broadcast he described the impeachment plot as “joke carried too far.”
The former governor said before the agreement to support Obasanjo, Southwest leaders gave his some conditions, particularly restructuring and restoration of true federalism.
Osoba stressed: “A meeting was held in Lagos where the conditions for negotiating with Obasanjo were agreed upon. After the meeting at the home of Pa Adesanya, he led a team with Afenifere charter of demand to Ota to discuss with Obasanjo.
“The delegation to Ota included Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Femi Okunrounmu and Dr. Cornelius Adebayo. Senator Okunrounmu and Dr. Adebayo were mandated to speak on behalf of AD and Afenifere respectively at the meeting with Obasanjo. Chief Adesanya called me and asked me to join them at Obasanjo’s Ota Farm, from my station in Abeokuta.
“The conditions presented to Obasanjo amongst others were: the restructuring of the Nigerian federation, devolution of power, including moving some items from the exclusive to the concurrent list and ensuring fiscal federalism.
“ Obasanjo was made to agree to organize a credible and transparent national census. We also demanded that the constitution must include merit as a condition that must be followed alongside federal character and quota system in the recruitment to federal positions across the country. When all these conditions were tabled before Obasanjo, he assured us that he was satisfied with them and that he clearly identified with them.”
Osoba said apart from the AD governors and Afenifere leaders, Obasanjo also reached out to royal fathers and other prominent Yoruba leaders to support his second term bid.
He said prominent leaders he reached out to mount pressure on the AD governors and Afenifere leaders included the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Alake of Egbaland, the late Oba Oyebade Lipede, the late Oba of Lagos, Oba Adeyinka Oyekan, the Ataoja of Osogbo, the late Oba Iyiola Matanmi and the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona.
Besides, he said members of the “Hope Family,” led by the late Chief Debo Akande, including Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, the late Chief Folorunso Oke, Chief Jide Sawyer, and the late Prince Supo Adetona, supported Obasanjo’s bid.
However, Osoba said former Oyo State Governor Omololu Olunloyo warned him about any romance with Obasanjo, saying that it could be counter-productive.
He added: “As we were coming out of one of the meetings at Obasanjo’s lodge in his Ota farm, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, former governor of Oyo State who was waiting to see Obasanjo called me aside and whispered in my ears: “Be careful. You and Lam Adesina are being spied upon; they are monitoring your activities as governor. Be careful and before you reach any agreement with Obasanjo, think twice and think well.”
“It was the second time within a month that Olunloyo was warning me about Obasanjo. He had earlier done so at the 70th birthday celebration of Senator Biyi Durojaiye in Ijebu-Igbo. Olunloyo’s wife, Ronke, is from Ijebu-Igbo and a distant relation of Senator Durojaiye. Aside Dr. Olunloyo, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA,) Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) came to Abeokuta in the heat of the 2003 elections campaign to admonish me to be wary of any collaboration with President Obasanjo.
“Many longstanding friends like General Emmanuel Abisoye expressed serious reservations. My son, Hon. Olumide Osoba, right from the outset never believed in the alliance.”
Osoba noted that, in a desperate move to get him to support him, Obasanjo also paid his family an unsolicited Christmas visit in Abeokuta, Ogin State capital.”
He recalled that two weeks before the first election, Afenifere leader, Adesanya led a delegation of the group to Ota Farm for another meeting with Obasanjo, where Oba Adetona, Oba Adekoya Dagburewe of Idowa, Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi of the Anglican Communio and Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu of the Methodist Church.”
Osoba added: “ To our shock, Chief Adesanya opened fire at Obasanjo, shooting straight from the hips. “Mr. President, we hear you are planning to use military tactics to ambush us during the election,” he said. “From our intelligence gathering, we have learnt that you are planning to run us all aground and rig us out of power in the south-western states. By doing that you would have betrayed our trust and support for you.”
“Bishop Gbonigi also added credence to Adesanya’s information, firing more shots in the direction of Obasanjo. “Mr. President, what Chief Adesanya is saying is true,” he said. “We also hear that your people are in Ondo State training some people who are expected to wear fake police uniforms on the day of the election with a view to rig the elections for the PDP, your party.”
“A visibly angry Obasanjo had to fire back asking the bishop: “What’s your source of information?” “My source of information? I got the intelligence information from my friend, Governor Adefarati.” “Governor Adefarati is lying.” Obasanjo said. “He is not lying. We grew up together from childhood; Adefarati has not been known to be a liar,” Bishop Gbonigi replied.
“The whole meeting was running into stormy waters with the exchanges between Obasanjo and Gbonigi. “I swear to God that the allegations are untrue and unfounded,” Obasanjo said. “I can never be part of such a betrayal.” “Mr. President, I still insist you are deceiving us,” Adesanya chipped in. “And I know that no betrayer would go unpunished. As our people say, he who betrays the earth would end up being swallowed by the earth.”
“It was the intervention of the Awujale that calmed the frayed nerves. He intervened and said that what was needed was for the president to assure us about what he intended to do to allay the fears of the Afenifere/AD leaders.”
“Obasanjo jumped at that opportunity to make a solemn promise that he will do everything possible to make sure that the elections were conducted well, to the satisfaction of all that parties. It was on this note that the meeting ended.”
However, Osoba said events subsequently proved Adesanya right, recalling that the results of the National Assembly elections had been forged before the polls and the outcome of the governorship elections were also manipulated.
He added: “Fictitious figures were already available to declare the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, as winner. My then current and former deputies, Alhaji Gbenga Kaka and Alhaji Rafiu Ogunleye, who went for a pre-election meeting at Ogun Stae INEC reported that some people in INEC revealed to them confidentially that the elections were “a foregone conclusion”
“By 8pm on the Election Day, a total of one million, three hundred and sixty thousand, one hundred and seventy (1,360,170) votes had been announced for Obasanjo. Gbenga Daniel was declared winner of the gubernatorial election with four hundred and forty-nine thousand, three hundred and thirty-five (449,335) votes.
“The sheer shamelessness of the PDP and its candidates was revealed even by the Federal Appeal Court. In the judgement, the judges cancelled Ogun State results and noted that the presidential election received 615,873 votes over and above the votes cast for all the governorship candidates.
“The judges queried the “yawning gap” between the votes recorded for Obasanjo and those assigned to gubernatorial candidates of all the parties in the state. The court concluded that the difference was “indefensible” especially when both the presidential and gubernatorial elections were held simultaneously.
“ In the lead judgement, Justice F.F. Tabai even added that “all allegations in Ogun State were criminal in nature. They ranged from violence, fingerprinting, official intimidation, bias and falsification of results.”