Posted by By FUNKE EGBEMODE on
Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola has had a flourishing military career and he is presently doing same with politics.
•Life as 43rd prince of Okuku • How daughter was kidnapped • Military career • Close shave with death in Somalia •Aregbesola’s challenge
Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola has had a flourishing military career and he is presently doing same with politics.
During the week, he spoke exclusively to Sunday Sun in Osogbo at which he revealed, as never before, very important facts about his life.
A prince from Okuku, he was the 43rd in a large polygamous home of 22 wives and 64 children. Orphaned at eight, but he said ‘he lacked nothing’.
Oyinlola said his military career was to him, until he retired in 1999, his first love.
He took on Rauf Aregbesola, Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in the 2007 election in the state and promised to send a ‘private’ letter to Sam Omatseye. EXCERPTS:
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, has said that Lagos State would be captured by the PDP in 2011 and that he would do anything to stop the state in conducting local government elections in the development centers. They have also replied him that he is too insignificant and anonymous to say anything like that.
What is your opinion?
Well, it is the aspiration of PDP to bring into our fold, Lagos State, as it has remained the only state in the whole of the South-West geo-political zone that is still outside the ruling party. We wouldn’t want them to miss out on the development efforts that are derivable from the center. May be, they could hold this long because of the revenue base.
But we want the entire South-West to have the opportunity of benefiting from the type of federalism we are practicing. If we were to practice federalism to the letter, one wouldn’t be much disturbed. But with the kind of federalism, where everything is at the center in Abuja, it will not augur well for our people in the South West generally if we don’t collectively work to derive the dividends of democracy for our people. That’s why we are of the hope that we would work strenuously to bring Lagos into the PDP family.
Talking about the comments of the Speaker of the House of Reps, he is just voicing out the wishes of the PDP, that we want to bring in the peoples of Lagos into the PDP family.
But for the AC to come up and say that he is insignificant is, to me, nonsensical. If the number four citizen of the country is insignificant, is it the only one governor out of the 36 states that belong to the AC that is significant? To me, that is absolutely nonsensical and for them to say that they will do all they can to remove the Speaker, I think is madness. Politics is a game of number.
How many AC members do we have in the House of Representatives to warrant them voting out whosoever the PDP wants to put in as a Speaker? No person from any other party can occupy that position other than a PDP member. And because it has been zoned to the South-west this time, the Speaker of the House of Representatives must be a person from the South-West until there is a new arrangement after this time.
But the claim is that they helped him become the Speaker and they could also remove him.
Well, I don’t know how they helped him – because I know that it was majority of the PDP that voted and elected him. When the meetings were being carried out, how many people from the AC belong to the Integrity Group, which master minded it that they now want to say they helped him? They were only coasting along; they wanted to be relevant because even without the AC members in the House, we would still have picked our Speaker. Remove the member of the AC in the House and see whether the remaining number could not have picked a Speaker for us.
You are at the tribunal with Aregbesola. Does he have a case?
You know propaganda can only work for a while. Whatever folder he is holding, why can’t he come and drop it with the tribunal. It is the tribunal that needs to see his folders and files. He should stop propagating his case on the pages of newspapers. He has given all his evidence and facts to the tribunal and so far he was to call over 100 witnesses, 93 have appeared.
As at last (penultimate) Friday, his counsel said they had no more witnesses to call, only for them to say days later that they wanted to call other witnesses. That was why the tribunal told them that you can’t be wasting our time. Somebody who is in a hurry to take over the government should not be the person to delay the workings of the tribunal.
So, why do you think it is staying too long at the tribunal?
It is because he doesn’t want the end to come because people will discover him. At the end of the tribunal sitting, he will be finished. This is because he said that he would be sworn in within 90 days and we are in May, so ask him what is delaying his swearing-in ceremony. He called a press conference in Lagos that insha-Allah, he would be sworn in within 90 days. I am sure that from January till now, it is more than 90 days. So, I keep asking ‘what is delaying the judges from swearing him in as governor?’
But don’t you think the delay by the tribunal has affected governance in Osun State?
No, I have continued with my programmes. I am too seasoned to be distracted.
My background has taught me to remain focused. You know in the military we have as a principle of war the selection and maintenance of aim. I have selected my policies and programmes for the people of Osun state and I am marching on irrespective of what is going on. I know that there are some distractions so that at the end of the day, they would say I did not perform. I have laid out my programmes and I am taking them one by one irrespective of what is happing at the tribunal.
So, you are so sure that the outcome at the tribunal will favour you?
Certainly, if you have been following the trend of what is happening at the tribunal, you would have known that the people of Osun State voted for Oyinola. If not, why arguing for stay of proceedings and you are in a hurry to become Governor of Osun State. He is the one throwing spanners in the works of the tribunal but let him continue with the tribunal while I concentrate on governance.
There are insinuations that the constituency money for members of the House of Assembly is now causing ripples. What was the money for and what are the AC law makers arguing over?
I think the AC lawmakers are simply mischievous and I know, too well, that their decision is not their own making but being teleguided from Lagos. I say so because before we wrote the project, I called the members, especially the Speaker; I told him that I once heard that Aregbesola said he is not well disposed to the idea of constituency project. Now that we have a mixed house, I don’t see the sense in continuing with that project even though that is a project that has assisted us to take governance to the nooks and crannies of the state. We have executed it such that it has become a model nationally.
Almost all the states of the federation came to study that model. Mr Speaker was of the opinion that such a good thing that is taking dividends of democracy to the remotest part of the state should not be stopped. So, we had a meeting with the AC lawmakers here at Government House.
I told them, yes, I said so because of information at my disposal that your boss, Aregbesola is not well disposed to the constituency project. He was said to have emphatically said that if anybody is expecting it, he would not go for it and he would stop it. Not only that, he went on to say that the model of university we started, he would cancel. And the lawmakers said, look, this has assisted growth at the constituency level. I must be sincere, even one said that Mr. Governor, has there been any bill sent from me that was opposed by the House? I said no, because I believe that we have gone beyond politics, this is governance to deliver the dividends of democracy to your respective constituencies.
So, why should I stop this programme because they are members of the opposition? I am not stopping it, I am only reacting to the thinking of their leader. They said no, you should continue with the project. That was why I made the programme to be accommodated in my 2008 budget. Throughout the debate on the appropriation bill sent to the House, there was not a single dissenting voice in the House. The motion was moved for adoption by a PDP member in the House and seconded by an AC member. And it was passed into law. I think it is a disservice to their constituencies to now turn back and say they will not do it. If they are trying to get at Oyinola, I can say with all modesty that Oyinola is Mr. Due Process in Nigeria today.
Our style here is being studied by many states in the country. So, if it has been duly appropriated for, and duly passed by the House, then it is a genuine programme of the state. Now, payment into respective accounts, it is not my duty. The assembly is an independent arm of government that is self accounting and financing. What the government has been doing since we started the programme is to disburse to the House
.That is all.
But it was reported that some of them have returned the constituency money. Are some of the people who have started the project part of those who returned the money?
I don’t know those who have returned money but what is the essence of returning money you have collected.
The simple thing is that they are reacting to the directives from Lagos because some of them have commenced the projects. Now, if they refused the money, where did they get it from if not that somebody in Lagos was trying to forment trouble in Osun State. I have been reading in newspapers about anarchy and chaos in my state. It only exists in their minds and on the pages of newspapers they control.
You don’t think that they can use this to cause trouble at the Assembly?
How will they cause trouble? Tell me.
The only thing they can do is to stopthat a bill that requires two thirds, but if it is the one that requires a simple majority which I have, they cannot do anything. So, they cannot disturb my programme. If they want to be inconsequential in the politics of delivery of the dividends of democracy in their constituencies, let them be playing politics and not do governance.
At the end of the day, people of their constituencies would ask them whether they were sent to the Assembly to go and play politics or to go and govern.
The PDP chairman said the ruling party would rule for 60 years. If that happens, Nigeria would almost be a one-party state. Do you think that is democratic?
Democracy is a matter of choice. If it is the collective wish of our people to say the PDP is doing well and they say the party should continue, what are you talking about democracy?
Do you think that is democracy?
If it is the will of the people of Nigeria that the party should continue, who says it is not democracy? No, you go according to the will and wishes of democracy. I don’t know how people think that there cannot be a democracy in a one-party state. What if it is the people that say that is the way we want it. Now, if the PDP-led government continues to perform to the satisfaction of people of the country, how long do you think people would remain in the opposition.
If you remain in the opposition, it means you will not benefit from the dividends of democracy and you will be short changed. So, you have to belong to where you are sure that your dues, according to democracy, would come to you. I’m not saying that it is going to be a one party state but if it is the will of the people entirely, there is nothing any opposition member can do about it.
How many states are being controlled by the PDP to day out of the 36? You should be talking about 29. What will stop other states to say, oh lets go and find out what makes the 29 states to belong to the PDP. We are not 29 during the last dispensation. Others joined and many more will join. If Nigeria then becomes a one party state through that, that is the will of the people. The people of Osun State voted for the PDP and it is their decision. Democracy is about choice, the will of the majority.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is being vilified by many Nigerians. Nobody thinks he did anything right in his eight years rule. What do you think is happening?
It is really sad. It is very, very sad to say that somebody was in the saddle for eight years and we, Nigerians, folded our hands and were just watching.
One thing I know about President Obasanjo is that only the future will tell. This is because no reform is ever popular at the end of his tenure.
This is because trying to reform, many toes were stepped on and I believe the criticisms are coming from such people. How can somebody wake up and say in eight years that he did nothing? I think that it is not fair to him. We are all human beings and none is perfect.
My only suggestion is that lets study the failure of Obasanjo, point it out to the present administration so that they can take adequate correction, so that the people of Nigeria can get good governance. But to come out and say Obasanjo did nothing for eight years, I mean it is unfair. Is it not the same Obasanjo that reformed the communication sector, is it not him that secured debt relief for Nigeria and yet we said he did nothing.
We have to give him his due and also point out his errors. The idea is for the new government to take a cue from his own pitfalls so that good governance can be given to the people of Nigeria. I think it is sad, crazy and senseless to say that for eight years he did nothing and we folded our hands and did not chase him out. We are all guilty then.
Is it true that when you were in Somalia that you were ruthless and that as a commader you failed. Any truth in that statement?
Well, am trying to give a reply to the comments of Sam Omatseye so that I will utilize that one to re-educate the people about me. My modesty and humility are making some people to have a misconception about who I am. I will give a private letter to Omatseye to know who Oyinlola is. I will tell him everything about myself and I will want him to investigate every submission I give him. This is will enable him to compare it with the life of his mentors Bola and Rauf Aregbesola.
He will discover that I am not one eyed in my profession and that with every modesty, I am a round peg in a round hole. How can they say I am a failure? What do they know about the military?
How can I be a failure? I joined the army at 18. After 15 months on service as a private, I became an officer and 76 of us graduated from the Defence Academy. Until I got retired, after 30 years of my service, there were only two of my colleagues, that we were matching up together and we became Briagadier-general.
A failure will not have that kind of record. I was never passed over for promotion even for once. It was my performance in Somalia that made me become known to the late Gen. Sani Abacha. I had never worked with him before then. I will give you a copy of my letter because even though it is a private letter, am going to make it public. So, you can see what Dangiwa Umar said.
You know he is not given to frivolities and he was my course commander. After the interview I will bring one of his letters bring one of his letters about me which I will include in what I will send to Omatseye. What he said about my choice of going to Somalia and I will tell them to go and ask Babangida who hand picked me. In fact, I have never been found wanting in my military profession, because it is a job I love so much.
I decided to serve in the military when I was 10 years old. When I was living with my brother at Abeokuta, people returned from the Congo and I was then at the age of 10 that I decided that if I grew up that was the job I was going to do. I loved it so much and devoted everything to it and that was why my wife knew that she comes second to my job.
She sang praises the day I retired. She was shouting Halleluyah and singing praises to God for the retirement. She was saying now I have my husband. She is alive, go and ask her. An indolent officer will not be engaged in any operations. Besides, I will give the dossier of my training and I will want then to go and find out whether there is any officer serving or retired that has been trained in that manner. Let them assess the way and manner Oyinlola has been trained. So, if am not competent, I wouldn’t have enjoyed that kind of attention in the military.
Go today to the military, to those who know me and some who have retired and sample opinion service wise and hear what people would say about Oyinlola. It is only somebody who doesn’t know me that would say I am a failure. I got commendation letters and those are the thing I will put together so that they will read. We are not loud speakers but we belong to the group of quiet achievers. The whole world would know about Oyinlola this time.
Any memorable events as a career soldier?
In Somalia. I remember one vivid thing which came as a revelation. There was a day I woke up in the morning and a swarm of bees came into my tent and they were there. I recorded it in my war diary. I said, leave them since they were not hurting anybody. And by the evening of that day, they took off. So, I recorded it and it was on March 22, 1993. That was the day my daughter was stolen from school in Jos. I recorded it and when I read my diary I discovered that it was the same day.
Do you think there was a link?
I just feel that it was away of indicating that yes something was happening.
What actually happened to your daughter?
Somebody just stole her. A four-year-old girl. The kidnapper wanted to keep her as her own daughter. She gave her another name Rekiya. She took her for three weeks and only God brought her back-with the help of her sharp mouth like her father’s own.
How did her sharp mouth rescue her?
The lady renamed her Rekiya and if she calls her and she refused to answer, she would beat her. Her kidnapper told the villagers that my daughter was hers. But the senior brother who was on leave and who had not gone on leave for a long time and was asking her that this your daughter does not speak a word of her own language and she said, no, she only knows how to speak English.
One day as fate would have it and this kidnapper went to the market to buy things and this her senior brother called Rekiya and that was when my daughter said, no, my name is not Rekiya. That man then, asked my daughter, then, what is your name, and she told him, my name is Yinka Oyinlola. He asked her, where is your father? And she told him that I was in Somalia. He asked where is your mother and she said Jos. To tell you how my wife knows that I love my job, she told the Army authorities not to inform me of the development because I must not be disturbed in my job. They sent out signals to all the police command that they must find that child.
It was a national news, on radio, T.V and pages of newspapers. It was reported that while Oyinlola was trying to keep peace in Somalia, there seemed to be no peace in his home.
So, when the woman came, the senior brother bundled his sister and my daughter straight to the police station. As soon as they got to the police station because the signal had been sent round the commands, the officers saw her and said this is the child the IG said we must look for.
From Oturkpo, to Markudi, and to Jos and by the time they got there, it was late and they asked her because she used to attend the Air force primary school and they asked her do you know the road to your house she said yes and led them to Zarmangada. They were praying and it was because of my wife’s faith that made some people change their religion. All along, she kept saying that her daughter would come back. Many people thought that she was not the one that had the baby for me. They felt that if she was the one, she could have been more disturbed.
You said at age 10, soldiers returned from Congo. What was it about that single occurence that made you want to join the military?
That day, I remember my mother flogged me seriously. You know when they returned, there was something I discovered as flag matching when I joined the army. As at that time, I belonged to the Boy Scout and brigade. So, when they came all the way from their barracks in Lafenwa and we were living at Imo, they marched up to Imo and in front of the post office there at Shapon Market, they were doing drills and I saw about 500 people yielding to the commands of one person without any of them making mistakes. I imagined then that a machine must be turning them because in the Brigade and Boy Scout, when they said turn left, half would turn in the opposite direction. So, I was watching for somebody to make that kind of mistakes we make in the Boy Scout or Brigade.
When I came to understand that there is an army pouch collar, that is the web belt where you put your extra magazine, I said that must be the machine turning them. I said if not, it is not possible. So, that day I marched with them from Emma to Lafenwa and by the time I came back my brother had returned.
I normally prepared his food because he taught me how to cook even from that age of 10. The food was not ready and he flogged me. That was the day I said if I grew up, I would join the army.
Did you tell him you wanted to become a soldier?
I did not but I had it in my mind. He was not however surprised when he heard that I had joined the army because he was staying in England at that time.
Did he make any attempt to stop you from joining the Army?
My elder sister did.
What did she do and what were her fears?
When I was in form four, I wanted to go and join the Army. Then I had a senior brother who was in the Army but because of the low education he had, he advised me to finish my school certificate so that I can become an officer and not be in his level. He retired as an RSM.
He was the one that said I should not go and when my other brother, Ajibola knew that I was trying to join the Army after my school certificate, he bundled me straight into the vehicle and sent me to my elder sister in Sokoto. It was in Sokoto that my senior sister discovered that I was receiving letters on active service. You know during the civil war, soldiers don’t post with stamp, they quilt stamp it on active service and you know that is a military man. So, my sister was wondering, this man has not abandoned his dream of going in to the Army. Meanwhile, I had secured admission to study in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Then came this day, they were doing enlistment into the signal corps of the Nigerian Army under the command of Muritala Muhammed and without telling anybody I went in Sokoto. I went through the selection and was recruited. Then came the medical test and my sister was the Chief Nursing Officer and was the one taking everybody. So, I was dodging until she came to my turn and she saw me and left the place and I knew that she was crying. So, when we got home that day, she told her husband, Engineer Poopola of blessed memory and he said look, this boy has made up his mind. Give him your prayers and let him go to where he wants to go. He told me you don’t have a father or mother and I told him that makes it better. I said it even makes it pleasant as nobody would cry when I die. That was how I joined as a private. I was so married to it that I thought of nothing else than the job. I wanted to make it to the peak of my career.
What was the peak you were looking at?
I wanted to make it to the Chief of Army Staff as that is the goal of every officer, to command army. That was why I didn’t involve myself in any indolent or mischievous act in the military. As at the time I was retired in 1999 like I said, only two of us were marching on together. So, how can you talk of a failure in a profession I can safely say I excelled and I have documents to back my claim.
What about soldiers that Aregbesola said were killed under your watch?
He doesn’t know anything about operations. In operations, when you depart, it is certain that not all of you would return. The only thing you would not know is who would not return. If he cares to know, he can go and inquire because what happened in the fight we got involved in that claimed the lives of seven of my soldiers, the Indians got into the same situation and lost over 100 soldiers.
So, when you go into operation, you are not going for picnic. You are shooting at people who are also shooting at you. So, you can see how uninformed he is. Let him go and find out how many operations people go and all of them return if he knows what is called combat. I mean, why do you want to delve into a thing you don’t know. It is very silly thinking. Aregbesola said he is an engineer and I have gone through the names of engineers and I have not seen his name. He is a refrigerator repairer.
You say if people go to operation, it is not everybody that would return, at what point was your life threatened?
There was a day I thought I was very, very close to my end. That was the day I just returned from Nigeria and landed in Mogadishu. My unit was located at the border with Ethiopia. As I landed, that was the day the rebels were at work. I went into one of my camps when this mortar shell came. Honestly, how I remained alive, I cannot tell because I fell and got covered up and it was when I got up, shook my body and discovered that not even a single staple got me. People died and in my career, I would say that was the closest threat to my life.
You grew up in a large family. What was it like growing up?
It was a very pleasant experience that I would not mind to pray to God to give me a similar experience if I have to come back. I said it was a wonderful experience because this is a family where the old man had 22 wives and 64 children and me being number 43. Despite the fact that I became an orphan because I lost my mother when I was eight years old and my dad when I was nine, yet there is nothing anybody that had parents got in terms of education, guidance that I did not get.
How did that happen?
When the woman died, the old man had a philosophy, which is any child who wants anything from him; he or she was wasting time. The only thing he is going to leave as a legacy is education for the children. Despite the fact that he had a large family, he worked hard to accomplish that ambition.
An individual at that time, not many people had as much farmland as he had and I hope that you know that he is the architect of white-kolanut and that was why he was called Obi Olokuku. After his death, the grown ups, who had barely finished their secondary schools, had a meeting and decided that none of the properties of the old man should be sold. Whatever is realized on that time should be used to continue the education of the young ones. Those of them that have finished secondary schools, they should strive on their own to further their education.
They took another decision on education that for those whose mums were dead before the demise of the old man, each and every one of the grown ups should pick one.
It was Duro Oyinlola, the former property manager of UACN who picked me and that was how I grew up in Abeokuta. We are of the same mother and others also picked those who were not of the same mother. They just picked whosoever they liked. And none of them picked the one that was of the same mother. The old man had a unique system that makes polygamy a model.
And you didn’t get a second wife?
It was the only first born of my father that had two wives. He had it not by his own making out at the orders of the old man. He had his own wife and our further said he must have a second. That was how he was the only one that had a second wife.
Secondly, he was the only one that had marks and how he got it was that Daddy traveled to Ghana and before he returned, the senior brother has presented the first son as it was a time for tribal marks.
Why didn’t he want anybody to have marks?
It is civilization. You didn’t expect somebody who had been traveling between Nigeria and Ghana not to have civilization.
He was not educated but his belief in education was so supreme that he forced and put other peoples children in school. Late Dr. Kusamotu followed his father to Obas meeting when my daddy said this one is of school age and that was how he started school. So anybody that was of school age, my father would not see such a person roaming about. Even though he did not have any formal education himself, he learnt to read and write Yoruba so that he would be able to read his catechisms.
By the grace of God, if not his ability of read and write in Yoruba, he would not have known our date of birth. Every thing about his life was well documented including the money he loaned to people. In the family, we all feed from the same pot and only one woman cooks in a day. The rest may assist but there would be smoke coming out from only one kitchen. We would all file in to go and take food from that kitchen according to age grade. And one thing we learn from him was that the moment you were three years of age, you no longer stay in your mother’s room, you are transferred upstairs where you would start receiving the discipline of your life. When you woke up in the morning and there was saliva marks in your mouth, too bad. And, if your nails were too long, too bad.
What kind of punishment did he use?
He was not the one dishing out the punishment but the senior ones. That is why in my family if not now that things are modernized, if somebody is born in the morning and you in the evening, you cannot call him by name. It was like barracks you call your senior by name and about three knocks would be on your head. And there was no way any of the senior ones would discipline you and the mother would say anything. She dared not because the old man would call her and say when you were coming here how many children did you bring?
Can you remember any particular disciplinary incident?
There were plenty. When those ones in secondary schools return that would be period for trouble. They would call us out and say bring your finger nails and they would use ruler and show you pepper. But the discipline paid up as it was a foundation. That was why because of his commitment to education, we willingly donated his farm for the building of the university free of charge.
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