I do not know how many of our present crop of political leaders subscribes to utilitarian values of leadership. The popular imagination is that Nigeria is a huge desert of inept leaderships with few oases of entities parading purposeful and sparkling leaders. One of them, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the governor of the State of Osun, is the focus of my article.
In his South West abode, charlatanism is a much disparaged leadership paradigm. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the region’s foremost political leader in history, lit the light of progressive politics, and with his disciples such as Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Chief Bola Ige, and Pa Adekunle Ajasin, among other too many to list, he gave new meaning to governance and established the benchmark for progressivism. Which was why the counterrevolution that swept the progressives out of power in 2003 burnt out very fast; and the likes of Ogbeni Aregbesola are now on the saddle.
He is a chip off the old block, radiating such candescence of Awoism. He displays such rare passion on issues of Osun State’s comprehensive development that you would think his political life, on daily basis, begins and ends with the State of Osun.
This is why I find it curious that his Education Reform as it affects the reclassification and merger of schools in the state has been met with stiff opposition from Christian leaders. And in justifying the opposition, all kinds of untruths have been peddled. The leadership of CAN in the state, especially the Baptist clerics, have created the impression that they remain the owners of all schools bearing such name and must therefore, resist any attempt to obliterate the Baptist values the schools are known for.
To avoid making blind postulations, I made several calls and did extensive investigations. Here are some of my findings. First, all the primary and secondary schools taken over in Osun State since 1975 have remained under the total control of the state government. The implication is that any school with the tag Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Apostolic and Ansar ud Deen, etc, only exist as such in name with the religious organizations having nothing to do with their funding and administration. Second, the current Education Reform is the product of an elaborate and exhaustive engagement of stakeholders, so named Education Summit, and held in February 2011 for two days with Professor Wole Soyinka presiding. And lastly, the opposition is nothing but the manifest cravings of those behind it for a dying legacy.
My investigation took me to Dr Isiaka Ayodele Owoade, Special Adviser on Education to Governor Aregbesola. I asked him two questions in the first instance. First if there are independent/private schools in the state, and second if the voluntary agencies could still establish faith schools in the state if they so desire. To the two questions he answered in the affirmative. Then I raised the issue of compensation for the owners of the schools.
His response to this last question was that there were demands for compensation by the various religious groups after the takeover in 1975, but that such demands were dropped no sooner they were made when the authorities then computed the contributions of the state to the maintenance of each of these schools and they discovered that they would indeed make refund to the state if they pursued their line of argument!
I am a Catholic and a product of a Catholic secondary education. I have been living with the aberration of ladies turning up for St Patrick’s College, Iwaro-Oka, Ondo State Old Students Association meeting. This was a single school up till the end of the 1973/74 session! There is no doubt the military perverted some of the nation’s cherished values, including religious education, in their self serving messianic mission to save Nigeria from unpatriotic politicians.
Some of the contradictions spawned by such intervention have created lingering distortions in our collective psyche. But life must go on. Some states have since handed over the faith schools in their domain to their original owners. But in the State of Osun, this has not happened. And so the rumpus over Aregbesola Education Reform is an unnecessary distraction. Curiously, even among the critics of the policy, none has accused the governor of nonperformance. The profound renewal in the state’s education sector has been roundly commended. But what remains problematic is the use of subterfuge by some religious leaders to hint at an ownership that has no legal basis.
My advice for this set of religious leaders is to start all over. One of the fruits of Pentecostalism in the South West region and indeed the entire nation is the new generation universities built by Deeper Life Bible Church, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Mountain of Fire, Living Faith Church World Wide (Winners Chapel) etc. There is nothing stopping the Baptists and any other religious group, from engaging in new secondary schools development in the state to compete with Aregbesola schools!