He, who comes to governance in Nigeria and wishes to be on the good side of history, must do so with a good dose of creative ingenuity mixed with the power of vision. He must come with candour laced with uncommon courage; to dare where angels feared to tread. And to leave impressionable imprints in the sands of time one must be propelled by policies and programmes that are people-oriented, pragmatic and purposeful as Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has done since November, 2010. But it does not come by mere wishful thinking. No!
The sterling factors that fuel such feats come from an inner nudge- to do one’s best and let history be the ultimate judge. Add these to some forms of divine touch; implicit belief in God the creator, a measure of righteousness and never forgetting the source of the rivers of fortune and the picture of the positive persona of our subject, Aregbesola seems complete. For a gubernatorial hopeful, who put all his faith in God during the trying years to reclaim his stolen mandate, and for a Nigerian male, who confessed openly that he had never philandered or strayed away from the arms of his loving wife and for a principled politician, who has remained steadfast and grateful to his political mentor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, unlike the generation of goats, there are several lessons to learn. As for his support for the Yoruba cause,the South-West integration and the progressives he has been consistently focused.
Driven by the will to win, against seemingly insurmountable odds, staked high against his frail figure, Argebesola came into office eminently qualified with a wealth of experience that spoke volumes about his sheer determination to make the desired change. For instance, as the erstwhile Commissioner of Works in Lagos state, the Centre of Excellence, the roads and bridges constructed during his tenure remain enduring legacies till this day. These as well as the solid infrastructure the admirable administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu laid formed the foundation built upon by the current Governor Babtunde Raji Fashola-led administration.
Mounting the saddle as a critical thinker, he saw the need to reposition Osun within the constitutional framework of fiscal federalism that we all still dream about. So came: ‘The State of Osun,’ complete with its anthem and logo and the Omoluabi as the driving mantra for morality and responsibility in governance as well as a means for the citizens to have a sense of self-identity. Though back then lesser minds tried, vainly to rouse a rabble, they were soon reminded that before him Alhaji Lateef Jakande did the same in Lagos state. If Shehu Shagari as the then president did not bat an eyelid why should anyone now? And come to think of it-if we truly want to imbibe the doctrines of presidential democracy as the United States which we claim to emulate then each and every state needs such a distinct identity. Not just for its name sake but to imbue in the citizens self pride in what rightly belongs to them, rather than being seen as a mere appendage to an overlord of a federal government.
That singular rebranding of Osun state was a right signal of the ground-breaking and epoch-making achievements soon to be unfolded from the fecund mind of the man fondly called Ogbeni Aregbesola. He knew from the outset that he needed to assemble a team of top technocrats to drive his vision which took some thorough thinking through. It was that team that came up with the now hailed Six-Point Integral Action Plan.
And fully aware that no meaningful progress could be made in the absence of peace, communal peace and progress has reigned supreme in the entire state since the assumption of office of the administration in line with the sixth item on the Six-Point Integral Action Plan. At the inception of the administration, one major step taken in the line of enhancing justice and facilitating the judicial process was the institution of the Peace and Reconciliation Panel. That formed the platform for victims of “various acts of oppressive threats, intimidation and tyranny had been meted in the past went to table their plights. The intent of this, as defined and demonstrated by the administration, was not to punish, witch-hunt of black-list anyone; but to reconcile all opposing parties in every dispute and entrench peace process in the true spirit of Omoluabi.”
Before then there were series of communal conflicts and centrifugal forces mostly by chieftaincy disputes and/or land boundary disagreements. It would be recalled that the erstwhile PDP-led administration in the state put in place forceful enthronement of royal/traditional fathers in many communities where such stools should ordinarily be declared vacant. But these have since been amicably resolved. The Aregbesola-led administration pacified the aggrieved parties; letting them see the need for peaceful resolution rather than taking the laws into their hands.
One other area that deserves commendation is that of reducing to the barest minimum the culture of wanton waste that characterized local government administration in the state. It was the practice during the locust years of Oyinlola for PDP chieftains at the community level to grace the premises of local government council secretariats all over the state. That was especially on pay-days to collect unmerited salaries. The consequences were grave as that the councils were unable to achieve or execute impact-making solid infrastructure or put in place capital projects for the benefit of their people.
According to Osun Defender, “another area where local government councils were victims of compulsory deductions from their monthly statutory allocation from the Federation Accounts was the compulsory N1 Million deduction from the monthly statutory allocation coming to each o the thirty local government councils and the Ife East Area Office in connection with the Songhai Programme. These deductions were made for a period of more than a year.”The rip-off amounted to N31 million every blessed month! But Ogbeni by plugging such obnvious loopholes, has since restructured them from drain pipes to service pipes delivering goodies to the rural populace with accountability as the watchword.
Fully aware that sound education delivery would revolutionalize the thinking and actions of his people he took off on an illuminating platform. He had this to say on August 27, 2012 during the 21st anniversary of Osun State: Our focus is human development because it is humans that drive development, not machines…If our people have quality education, are gainfully employed and well fed, they will recreate their environment, create wealth and engender development. Our people are great and we have a history of greatness. Events since then have proved him right.
The introduction of the first-of-kind Opon Imo as the Tablet Of Knowledge is one of such giant steps taken. In specific terms, it has 63 e-books covering 17 academic subjects as well as the History of the Yorubas, Civic Education, Sexuality Education, enterprise education, Ifa teachings on morals with tips on passing SSCE and living a healthy and happy life. Furthermore, the test zone comprises over 40,000 UMTE and WAEC practice questions sand answers spanning over two decades. There are mock tests in over 50 subject areas packed full with 29,000 questions with relevant images numbering 825.
As rightly highlighted by Aregbesola during the launch of Opon Imo, it will enhance the students’ access to relevant texts “regardless of means, location or status.” Similarly, the students would be able to read ahead of their teachers on various subject areas. They could test their ability to grasp how much of the lessons taught has been fully understood.
Also important, is the economic implication to the government purse. As noted by the governor: “If the government was to buy textbiooks for 17 subjects,51 Audio Tutorials, and JAMB past questions for for ten years for the SS class students it would cost the government abot N50.25 billion”.
Interestingly, this laudable initiative is springing forth from where the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo instituted free education in the defunct Western Region back in the sixties. The joy in it all is the focus of government on providing quality education right from the secondary school level, ‘the fruits of which would be visible in a decade or even less from now.’
Honestly,the current status of education in the country is far cry from what it should be. According a recent World Bank report, over 10 million Nigerian adults are stark illiterates while another 10 million of children of school age are out of school. It also decries a situation where there is a glaring disconnect between the supply of schools and the labour market.
In a similar vein, the recent Education for All global Monitoring Report from UNESCO made available in May 2013 during the World Economic Forum on Africa, says that if the mineral and oil and gas resources in the country were judiciously utilized in a transparent manner Nigeria would be able to take 2.4 million out of the about 9.6 million out-of-school children off the streets. The country was listed as one of the 17 developing ones that could effectively make access to education for 86 per cent of this category of disenfranchised youths.
Still on education, at the inception of the multi-campus Osun State University (UNIOSUN) in 2005/2006, the Oyinlola administration could not afford the means to finance and sustain simultaneously with theadded task of funding Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, co-funded with its partner Oyo State. Oyinlola’s turned to local government for compulsory imposition of levies deductible from source of the monthly statutory allocation from the Federation Accounts. At the beginning, the fraction deducted was 10 per cent. Later it was reduced to 5 per cent monthly. But the harm has been done already. Again Aregbesola has since brought sanity to that querulous area of running the tertiary institutions in the state.
.For long in the State of Osun, elections could not be held into local government councils. The issue at stake was to challenge the constitution of the State of Osun Independent Electoral Commission (OSSIEC). But on Friday, December 17, 2010, justice was dispensed through the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
On the infrastructural front various completed and ongoing local government feeder roads attest to the desire for true rural transformation. Many have been achieved through the World Bank/ FGN- assisted Rural Access Mobility Project (RAMP).They are still being executed in the state in tandem with the well thought out Six-Point Integral Action Plan.Worthy of mention also is the Rural Electrification. The efforts made so far in the area of rural urbanization are contained in the activities of the Urban Renewal Committee.
In a similar vein, the Lands, Housing and Physical Planning sub-sector has transformed the city of Osogbo in particular, which doubles as the host of the seat of the state capital. A lot of structures that were erected without proper planning have since given way to modern buildings. Before his coming, many residential houses were built anyhow and anywhere without approval from constituted authorities and without bathrooms, toilets and other conveniences; in gross violation of modern acceptable standards. Major roads linking Osogbo, Ikirun, Ila Orangun, Ede, Iwo, Ejigbo, Ikire, Ilesa and Ile Ife, Osogbo/Ikirun/Ila Odo/Erin Ile, Kwara State Boundary Road project as well as the Oba’s palace and Old Garage Area have enjoyed a face lift under the Urban Renewal Project. Indeed, the story has since changed for good.
Still on infrastructure, in Osogbo metropolis alone, there are three international markets including the Ayegbaju International Market, the Aje International Market and the Dagbolu which have been transformed beyond the dream of the residents.
Add all these to the paradigm shift to agriculture with O-YES project boosting food security, creating jobs and wealth for the teeming youths and one cannot applaud the political sagacity of Ogbeni Aregbseola. The acclaimed State of Osun has taken its rightful place not only as the economic hub of the South West but as model to others in the country. Osun’s transformation is no longer a dream but a sweet reality in only three years! Surely, he deserves another term to continue the good works he has started.