OPINION: The Ruckus In Osun | By Abiodun Awolaja

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In the ongoing brickbats between the Osun State governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke, and his predecessor, Gboyega Oyetola, I have observed targeted stylistic choices. Governor Adeleke’s team has drawn images of theft while Oyetola’s officials have drawn from a mental health lexical pool, characterizing the present governor as either “confused” or “ignorant.” While Governor Adeleke and his men insist that the Oyetola team looted government properties, submitting to the court of public opinion images of the office of government property stripped bare, the Oyetola team has sought to dismiss the claim as comedy, but has inadvertently woven self-indictment into the fabric of its ripostes.

Benedict Alabi, the ex deputy governor, described the allegation that his former residence was looted as “spurious and unverified,” providing a list of items he left behind in his former residence, including “three (3) sets of seating room furniture, dining set, many air conditioners, television sets, refrigerators, freezers, kitchen cooker and many others.” But the immediate past Information Commissioner, Mrs Funke Egbemode, actually acknowledged the looting, but chalked it up to the activities of “unknown men” who I assume must be civil servants.

Her words:  “The state commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, was officially informed of the looting of the official residence of Deputy Governor Gboyega Alabi and other quarters within the Government House by ‘unknown men’. In a letter with reference number SEC 43T/352, dated November 25, 2022, and signed by A.T. Komolafe, on behalf of the coordinating director, Governor’s Office, the NSCDC was notified of the ongoing looting of government properties in different quarters following the then-Governor Adegboyega Oyetola’s departure from the premises. Mr Komolafe, in the letter, asked for armed security to stop the looting in the Government House of Okefia GRA.”

There’s no reason to suppose that any of the parties is deliberately spinning falsehood. I will therefore declare straightaway that it was Governor Oyetola who created all of this mess by failing to conduct a proper transition process. On current evidence, Oyetola and his team not only treated the current governor and his team with contempt, they also failed to discharge moral and ethical responsibilities. While I do not believe that they personally looted government properties, the vacuum they created by their refusal to extend a hand of fellowship to Adeleke and his men must have created the opportunity for unscrupulous civil servants and their acolytes to loot government property.

Had Oyetola properly discharged his duties as governor, the “unknown men” referenced would have been rounded off and clamped in jail. The truth is that having lost election, he just couldn’t be bothered.

Regardless of Oyetola’s strides in office, the fact that he conducted a shambolic local government election that has now been invalidated by the court of law, constituted no transition committee, provided no handing over notes and extended no courtesies to the incoming government, cannot be defended by anyone with a conscience. Given that, as we are told, some civil servants specialize in looting government property during transition periods, Governor Oyetola had a duty to secure government property until the handing over hour. Until Adeleke was sworn in as governor, Oyetola was the governor of Osun State. Therefore, the suggestion that he and his deputy could bear no responsibility for the safe-keeping of public property simply because they had vacated Government House is sheer bunkum.

I hereby overrule the alibi that the Oyetola administration had also received similar treatment four years ago when it took over, and had instituted legal action challenging Adeleke’s election. It is of no moment. The responsibility to conduct a proper transition was Oyetola’s, and the way he handled it, like the typical Nigerian politician does, is simply unconscionable. Politicians must learn to be democrats even when they have lost election. The crudity that often marks transition processes in Nigeria, especially where the outgoing and incoming governments belong to different political parties, must be curbed. Deliberate stonewalling because you lost an election, as the Ibikunle Amosun government was accused of doing to the incoming Dapo Abiodun administration in 2019, is a disincentive to democratic governance.

The other angle of the Adeleke-Oyetola war concerns money. While exiting office, Governor Oyetola had painted a picture of a financially healthy state, revealing that he had left ‘N14bn in cash’ for his predecessor. But Adeleke painted the opposite picture while briefing traditional rulers at the State Secretariat on Thursday. He said the state was owing N407.32 billion debt and charged his predecessor to explain why it was owing N76 bn salaries and pensions after having got N50 billion as bailout for salaries. And speaking on Channels TV, Malam Olawale Rasheed, Adeleke’s spokesman, said: “We came into Government without handing over notes, without anybody giving us statement of accounts, and we called the Accountant General of the state and said give us the liabilities and assets of the state and mind you, this Accountant General worked with Oyetola for four years, so he is not our appointee. This man (Oyetola) said he left N14bn and we cannot find any N14bn in the account. In fact, after paying November salaries, the treasury is empty…N18bn loan came in in July and was expended before they left office. But we cannot find any trace of what it was used for. Unfortunately, the repayment terms were also not listed.”

Governor Oyetola should end the controversy by stating the banks and the accounts in which he left N14bn, etc, thus educating his successor and curious Nigerians. In a letter to his successor, ex-Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, gave specific details of the financial health of the state. He gave account details and stated the various sums he had left in the state’s coffers. In subsequent years, he has named the managers of the banks in which the various stupendous sums were saved, asking Nigerians to verify his claims. When the current Oyo State governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, assumed office, he published his assets in a way that no Nigerian politician had ever done.

He gave addresses of the properties he owned and their contents, the exact amount of money in each of his bank accounts, etc, and was in fact the subject of an editorial by The Punch. He did not behave like Buhari, who played ping-pong with assets declaration, saying he had “less than N30 million” even while claiming to have borrowed N27million to obtain nomination forms. Governor Oyetola should follow suit. I rise.

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