By Bola Bolawole
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When the new Osun State governor, the dancing-Senator now turned dancing-governor, Ademola Nurudeen Jackson Adeleke, announced that Osun State Government House and properties, including items such as vehicles, had been looted, I was not surprised. Pictures of how the Deputy Governor’s and other staff quarters were stripped to the bone later surfaced to confirm the allegation. Condemnable as this act of common criminality is, it is, nevertheless, a usual occurrence in Nigeria, especially where the government that is vacating office and the one that is taking over are hostile one to the other. Between Gboyega Oyetola, who was vacating office, and Nurudeen Adeleke, who was taking over, there has been no-love lost. It is not just that Adeleke denied Oyetola the opportunity of a straight second term in office but the general belief, with empirical evidence to back it up, is that four years ago, Oyetola and his party, APC, stole the mandate that belonged to Adeleke and his party, PDP. So the latter had to tarry in the cold for four years before the opportunity came for it to retrieve the mandate that belonged to it. Thus, the last 22nd September, 2022 Osun governorship election, which INEC declared was won by Adeleke but which Oyetola is still contesting in court, was not your mill-of-the-run election but a grudge war between the two gladiators.
As would be expected, Oyetola refused to accept the result of the 2022 election, just as Adeleke had also refused to accept the result that went in favour of Oyetola four years ago. Adeleke did not congratulate Oyetola for his victory in 2018 just as Oyetola has also refused to congratulate Adeleke for his victory in this year’s election. Adeleke went to court to challenge the result of the 2018 election just as Oyetola is in court as we speak challenging the result of the 2022 Osun State governorship election.
In 2018, taking over the reins of government was relatively easy for Oyetola because it was his own party man, Rauf Aregbesola, in whose government he had held the very critical office of Chief of Staff, who was relinquishing office. So, the handing over process was smooth and no case of stripping the offices bare was publicly reported. If there was anything of such, the likelihood is that it would have been treated as an atrocious “family affair” made popular by the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration. This time around, the situation is different. An APC governor has been reluctant to hand over to an in-coming PDP governor; hence the shenanigans witnessed during the last months of the Oyetola administration, especially immediately INEC had announced that he lost the election.
Oyetola is said to have refused to set up a transition committee on his own side that would liaise with a similar transition committee on the side of the in-coming governor. The import of a transition committee is to ensure smooth transition since government is a continuum. Had this been done, the in-coming government would have been apprised of government operations even while it was yet to take office. Most governors and top government officials vacate their official quarters weeks or days before the terminal date of their tenure to make room for inventories to be taken and for renovations to be done where necessary. Sensitive information is shared with the in-coming government. Government properties are secured as they are handed over to the security agencies in charge of securing Government House and other offices. But where relations between the out-going and in-coming government is frosty, all manner of booby traps would be laid by the latter for the former. All manner of frivolous and fictitious contracts would be awarded; government vehicles would be auctioned away at ridiculous prices, and some governors would pay themselves and others humongous amounts as severance packages!
The standard practice everywhere, especially in a presidential system, is that an out-going administration is seen as lame duck, in which case it is no longer expected to take critical, earth-shaking decisions like Oyetola did in Osun even after it was clear to him that he had lost the election. Granted that he meant to contest the INEC verdict, he should have factored the reality of the likelihood that he could be out of power into all his decisions from that moment going forward. It was in those dying minutes or “injury time” of his administration that Oyetola began to conduct local government elections, employ workers, appoint permanent secretaries, and approve the appointment of Obas! In the event that he considered these decisions as “cannot wait”, did he discuss with the in-coming governor knowing full well that it is an aberration for an out-going governor to tie the hands of an in-coming government? To do what he did can only mean that he was up to some mischief; deliberately strewing the path of his successor with landmines.
But, remember, we had said in “Adeleke: Putting the wrong foot first” or putting the wrong foot forward, that Oyetola statutorily had the powers to act as governor up till the last minute of his tenure and that Adeleke, likewise, could not have acted as governor until he was sworn-in as statutorily stipulated. Some people must have pulled Adeleke’s ears as he has said he did not say what he was reported as saying in his moments of madness sacking this and banishing that! That being the case – that the law recognised Oyetola as the de facto and de jure governor of Osun state up to his last seconds in office – how come he was more concerned with making last-minute appointments but neglected to protect Osun State Government properties that were still in his care? Why was he more interested in laying landmines for his successor than in preventing Osun state from suffering loss as a result of the activities of looters who could not have come from outside and who, for sure, could not have been Oyetola himself or any of the fat cats? From my own experience, junior staff and security personnel with access to the staff quarters in question usually treat such properties as their own “severance packages”
I, however, found the alibi offered on behalf of Oyetola and his administration by my sister and respected professional colleague (at The PUNCH newspapers), Mrs. Funke Egbemode, jejune, to say the least. Silence would have been golden. Hear her as she was reported by a news medium: “Osun Government House Was Looted By ‘Unknown Men’ After Oyetola Left… The statement read in part, “It is also important to note here that 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’ She argued that for the matter to have been officially reported to the NSCDC boss in the state, Governor Adeleke’s administration must be ‘confused’ to still accuse his predecessor of the looting. “So, how exactly is Mr. Oyetola guilty of this looting by ‘unknown men’ after he had vacated the Government House?” she questioned, adding that the ‘apparent confusion of this new government keeps deepening with every new step it takes’ The former commissioner added, ‘If, as claimed, it has established a review committee for stock-taking, why is it launching a media trial to force its preconceived conclusions down the public’s throat?’
“But Governor Adeleke’s spokesman, Olawale Rasheed, has been quoted as saying that his principal had a duty to report what he met on ground since the ‘Oyetola administration refused to conduct proper handing over’ Rasheed (however) commended the former commissioner for confirming that there was, indeed, looting of the Government House…’”
Now, Oyetola should have acted before the looting started, not when it was already in full swing. Prevention would by far have been better than cure. If Oyetola had set up a transition committee and had allowed proper handing over procedure, this disaster could have been averted. In that he did not; in that it happened under his watch; in that the buck stops on his desk; and in that his withdrawal from the Osun State Government House appears as uncoordinated as the United States’ President Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Oyetola bears the precarious liability for what happened. I, therefore, find him guilty as charged! Let me also place on record a new vocabulary that has emerged as a result of this case: “Unknown soldier” burnt down Fela’s Kalakuta Republic. Now, “Unknown men”, according to Egbemode, looted the Osun State Government House! Why not also “Unknown women”? I, therefore, find Mrs. Funke Egbemode guilty of aggravated feminist assault against the men folk! And the court shall rise!