Concerned Yoruba leaders are already making moves to resolve the dispute between two elder statesmen, Olusegun Osoba, a former governor of Ogun State and Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the 2014 National Conference, Senator Femi Okurounmu.
The two octogenarians from Ogun State, who recently launched memoirs to mark their birthdays, have been engaged in throw of verbal missiles at each other.
While Okurounmu titled his memoirs ‘The Dream: Pursuing the Black Renaissance through the Murky Waters of Nigerian Politics’, Osoba’s book is titled ‘Battlelines: Adventures In Journalism and Politics’.
Osoba fired the first salvo in his book, where he said Okurounmu has no knowledge of his ordeal in the hands of the military during the struggle for the June 12 mandate as he was not an original member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).
Responding, Okurounmu, in an interview, described Osoba as a traitor and double agent who was collaborating with the military junta and NADECO at the same time, just as he alleged that Osoba was arrested not because of the June 12 struggles but because he was a spy.
This prompted another response from Osoba last week, as he described Okurounmu as “a frustrated and unfulfilled politician who also failed in his chosen profession.”
The veteran journalist, who said Okurounmu’s relentless attacks on him, was borne out of envy also threatened to drag him to court for alleged libel.
Osoba, through his lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), demanded a sum of N3 billion as damages for the said libelous publications and also gave a 14-day ultimatum for Okurounmu to comply with his demands.
In a July 23 letter addressed to Okurounmu, which was made available to newsmen on Tuesday, the former governor accused the Afenifere chieftain of making libelous statements against him in two national newspapers.
This was fallout of a recent media interview in which Okurounmu described Osoba as a “traitor and double-faced politician” who betrayed the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election, late Chief MKO Abiola.
In the letter, Olanipekun declared that the words employed by the Afenifere chieftain in defaming his client were weighty and far-reaching.
He, therefore, demanded a retraction of the said interviews and a public apology to be published on the front pages of seven consecutive editions of the concerned newspapers.
The statement read inter alia “Arising from the foregoing, we have the further instruction of our client to demand from you the following:
“Directing a retraction of the said interviews granted by you and published in the Daily Independent newspaper of Thursday, July 11, 2019 and the Saturday Sun newspaper of July 20, 2019;
“Public apology to our client to be published on the front pages of seven (7) consecutive editions of both newspapers, starting from Monday, 29th July, 2019;
“A sum of N3, 000,000,000.00 (Three Billion Naira) as damages for the said libelous publications.
“You are given fourteen (14) days from the date of this letter within which to comply with our client’s simple demands; otherwise, our final instruction is to commence proceedings against you, claiming reliefs in terms of the said demands, plus aggravated and exemplary damage.”
However, speaking with newsmen, Okurounmu said he will not respond to Osoba’s demands as he has resolved not to join issues with him again on the pages of newspapers.
He said, “Why do I need to be answering him? I don’t want to join any issues with him again in the newspapers. He said I am envious of him, I don’t know what he has that I am envious of.”
When asked if he will opt for out of court settlement, Okurounmu said “I don’t have any comment right now.”
An aide of Okurounmu, however, said he may also take legal action against Osoba for the unprintable words used against him in his interview.
Speaking, a prominent Yoruba leader who spoke on condition of anonymity, said arrangements have been made to reconcile both men as their altercations are not good for the Yoruba nation.
He said he is confident that the matter would not get to the court.
“A committee has been set up by concerned elders to reconcile both men. The committee will first visit them individually and after that, arrange a meeting where both men will meet. The matter will not get to the court,” the source said.
Afenifere on its part described the libel suit filed by Osoba against Okorounmu as unfortunate, noting that the two men belonged to the same family and should not engage in a legal battle.
The group’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved amicably, noting that Afenifere would prevail on the two Egba elders to dialogue.
He said, “I don’t think he (Osoba) should have taken it to the level of filing a libel suit; I believe that must have been done in the heat of passion. Two of them are Egba chiefs.
“I am sure somewhere down the line, there would be an amicable resolution of the issue. They are in the same political family but in different wings, but we would always call for a peaceful resolution.
“What concerns the zone now in the face of insecurity and other critical challenges is bigger than acrimonies. There is no need to fight over what happened more than two decades ago,” Odumakin added.
Similarly, the Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, described the libel suit as an unfortunate development.
He stated, “It is very unfortunate that this matter has to go to court but we will talk to them and wade in for them to bury the hatchets.”