Alhaji Moshood Adeoti is a frontline progressive politician who had served consecutively as the Chairman of the Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before he was appointed Secretary to the State Government of Osun in 2011. In this interview with ISMAEEL UTHMAN and SOLOMON ODENIYI, he shares his experience on the seven-and-half years of being an opposition leader and ten years of uninterrupted progressive government in the state. Excerpts:
How went the journey of steering your political party through opposition to a ruling party?
The journey was rough and tough. The seven-and-half-year journey witnessed the darkest political period in the history of the state. I came in as Chairman of Alliance for Democracy on December 13, 2003 after the Peoples Democratic Party railroaded the AD. The party was at its lowest ebb and was in disarray when I took over. Serving first, as Councillor, then Supervising Councillor and Local Government Chairman during the time of Chief Bisi Akande afforded me great experience to steer the affairs of the party. During this period, I learnt how to manage people and resources. On March 27, 2004, we had the local government election under the watch of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and in that election, it was clear that the AD was still very much on ground, even when the election was marred with rigging and other irregularities. If the real results were declared, AD would have won almost half of the local governments in the state. We achieved all we did then through the dexterity and handwork of the executives of the party. We had brilliant and determined minds at the helms of affairs in the party. People like Senator Bayo Salami, who was the Vice Chairman of the party for Osun Central, Ishola Oyewunmi was the Vice Chairman for West, Pa Famuyide was the Vice Chairman from East, Barrister Wale Afolabi was the Secretary, Bisi Odewumi was his Assistant, Chief Kunle Odeyemi was our Treasurer. We were able to put up a formidable team and with the goal of bringing the party back to power.
We started building the party till 2007. We were keenly contesting the 2007 governorship election with a brilliant, focused and resourceful candidate, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who galvanized the party, because the party then was a vehicle without tyres. It was Aregbesola that got the party moving.
2007 was a year I will never forget in my life. We suffered a lot from the hand of the oppressing PDP government. Many of us were remanded on trumped-up charges. We held governorship election on April 14, 2007; I was in my house here in Iwo on Sunday, April 15 when the results of the election were declared. People went on rampage both in Osogbo and Ilesa because the election was rigged. I need to tell you that some chieftains of the PDP in Iwo were with me when we heard that there were riots in Ilesa and Osogbo. People like Debo Badru, who was the Chairman of PDP in Iwo then, Alabi Akinbaru, Chief Abiola Ogundokun and of course the late Oluwo, Oba Asiru Tadese called me on that very day and we together worked hard to ensure the crisis did not erupt here in Iwo. To my surprise, when the dust had settled, I was arrested and charged for arson. It was alleged that I led some people to raze the house of one Alhaji Baruwa. The funniest is that up till date, I don’t know where that Alhaji Baruwa’s house is in Osogbo. Again, in June 2007, the PDP government said there was a bomb blast at the State Secretariat, Abere and we were accused of being behind that too. We were arrested and charged to court. We survived that and many more. We took delight in the November 26, 2010 victory, being the date when Aregbesola was declared governor and sworn in the following day, November 27, 2010. 2010 was our turning point. It was a year the shackles of underdevelopment, darkness, oppression and social vices were broken in Osun. It was a year peace, freedom and progress came back to the state.
The government came and I was, to my surprise, appointed the Secretary to the State Government. It came to me as a surprise when my name was announced. Nobody sought my consent and that was the first time I would see a position lorded on a person who was not interested in it. My belief was that while Aregbesola was in control of the government and governance, I would be overseeing the party, which would make us stronger. My appointment marked a turning point in the affairs of the party. The person that took over the party after I left had to start again. Mind you, when my name came up, people did not raise an objection, but left to me, I would have loved to continue as the party chairman. Jumoke Ogunkeyede is a living witness; he was the person that broke the news to me on January 7, 2011. It was after that that Gbenga Fayemiwo called and asked me to send my CV. You can ask the former governor, Aregbesola if I lobbied for the position. But some people felt on the one hand that since Aregbesola and his deputy, Titi-Laoye Ponle just returned from Lagos, they needed someone who had been on ground and knew the terrain to be in government with them. On the other hand, some people saw it as an opportunity to have their own man who understood them inside that government.
Why did you not reject the appointment since you said it was not your wish?
I could have rejected it but I sensed it would send a wrong message to the people of the state. And that was not a good sign for a new government. I reluctantly accepted the position. But I must say the truth, many of our people later did not like it, they lamented that it was my presence that cost most of them the opportunity to be in that government; but I atoned for it. I also did my best in the area of giving political advice to the governor, which is one of the main responsibilities of the SSG. I never lobbied for the appointment.
How would you describe the 10 years of uninterrupted progressive governance in the state?
The Aregbesola administration, which I was part of, marked a new era of governance in the state. Aregbesola is the architect of modern Osun. Before our coming to power, Osogbo, the state capital was a glorified local government headquarters. Our administration changed the outlook of Osogbo. Under the former governor, 10 kilometres of roads were constructed in all the local governments in the state. Rural roads were not left behind. In terms of infrastructure, the state had never had it so good. This not all, we touched the lives of the people of the state in all ramifications. These 10 years of unbroken progressive governance in Osun is nothing but a blessing to the people of the state. We have changed and raised the bar of governance in the state even after Aregbesola left. The development has been in leaps and bounds under Governor Oyetola. What we are praying and hoping is that after Oyetola might have completed his tenure, we will be able to win again so that the good work could continue.
One of the albatross of the Aregbesola administration is the issue of modulated salary and education policy. How did you arrive at those decisions?
The Aregbesola administration had been up and doing on the payment of salary. But in the second quarter of 2013, there was financial crisis at the federal level and it affected the state badly. What we were getting from the Federation Account had dropped and the Internally-Generated Revenue could not help either. We also had numerous projects to do without intending to incur debts. To save the situation, we constituted a committee, under the chairmanship of Comrade Hassan Sumonu, to look for a way out. The labour side was headed by the NLC Chairman, Jacob Adekomi, while the government was represented by the Chief of Staff of the time, now the Governor of the state, Adegboyega Oyetola. It was the recommendation of that committee that we acted on and it was approved at the State Executive Council meeting.
On the education policy, I can boldly say that we took all the decisions together at the exco meeting. Nobody can exonerate him/herself. One thing symbolic about Aregebesola as governor was that he was always abiding by the decisions we came up with at the executive council meetings; whether it was he who presided over it or not. When this education policy was discussed, I was not in town but I was on ground the day we ratified it at exco meeting. So I can’t claim I was not part of the process.