Osun State governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola has run what he refers to as an unusual government over the last three years. He has since his assumption of office as the fourth civilian governor of the state touched almost all the sectors of the state’s economy and in his assessment of his administration, he declared that he has satisfied his conscience at developing the state. He will this year again contest the governorship of the state under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), having been endorsed as the candidate of his party.
The governor, who has always expressed his willingness to continue with the programmes that will uplift the lives of the people of the state, assured that if given the opportunity to rule the state for a second term, he will do better than he has done in his first term.
Aregbesola, who also bares his mind on sundry national issues in this interview with some journalists in Osogbo, declared that his passion for the development of the state was born out of his interest in the people. He responded to some criticisms trailing his style of governance, among others. Excerpts:
You are over three years in office as governor of Osun State, how have you been faring with the challenges of governance considering the level of opposition to your government at both the state and federal levels?
We are being driven by the passion to turn around the economy of Osun State. We believe strongly in the divine intervention for guidance and success. This foundation made it possible for us to be guided in the appointment of the right people in the right places. We cannot ascribe the success to ourselves but to the Almighty who will continue to support and make it possible for us to achieve our plans to execute mega projects that will attract investments from across the developed nations to the state.
And that passion definitely inspired more than ordinary effort to get our resources to drive our vision. However, God has established His laws; it is left to human beings to take maximum advantage of the laws of God for their benefits. So, with the abundance of God’s provisions, human beings only need to put their minds in what they want and help from sources that are never envisaged will just come. Yes, what we are doing in all spheres of life are definitely beyond the capacity of a state. So, effective, efficient and prudent management of our resources have helped to push the frontier of development. Our success in that regard is beyond the capacity to prudently, effectively and efficiently manage the economy. That is where the divine angle comes in. You just realize that even with the best management skill, which we have on ground is just beyond human comprehension. It is the gargantuan scope of our development strides that has confused the opposition to the point of hallucination. Now, they don’t even know what to say or what to do, others promote lies about debt burden. They cannot talk about lack of performance because that is beyond them to do even with their somewhat skilled sense of evaluation to whittle down our achievements and appreciation by the people. They still go about this totally uncoordinated hype on phantom debt burden which is unsustainable if you are going to be honest with it. So, I used to tell people, in addition to what I just told you that I served under one of the best public finance experts in the person of the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The tutelage paid off so handsomely and the result is what you are witnessing in Osun today.
You are one of the most criticized governors in the country, what are you doing to limit the criticisms against your government?
When a man is criticized the way we are criticized, it is due to success. Success brings criticism definitely. In fact, what I will say is that success largely brings controversy. Probably that is what is making people to criticize our government. Success brings controversy, success brings hostility and success brings envy. We are indeed successful in our programmes and projects. You see, we were not unconscious of the reactions some of our programmes, projects and activities would attract. Don’t forget, we heartily call our administration even during the campaigns ‘an unusual government’. We branded our government ‘an unusual government’ even during the campaigns. So, it would be difficult not to have the spate of antagonism that we have experienced over this period of time.
It would be totally abnormal not to have such reactions.
Election for your second term in office is just few months away, how prepared are you for the election?
We have been working from the very first day with the firm belief that there will be a day of reckoning which elections usually mean to politicians. Elections are the days of reckoning. They are the judgment days for politicians. So, from the day we were sworn in until now, we have been working assiduously for that auspicious day that the electorate will have the opportunity to renew our mandate for another period of time. For a thing that we have been working at for the past 37 months, I will want to say we are doing well at it.
The PDP has been engulfed in leadership crisis for some time now, what are the effects of the party’s crisis on the APC?
There was no crisis in PDP when we assumed office. To us, whether the party is one, fragmented or weakened by internal crisis, it is their own headache. We are engaged by the people and that is important to us. Our engagement with the people has been so firm, so serious, so symbiotic and so wholesome. Whatever is the situation of PDP in Osun, it is of no importance to us. If they are together, they do not matter because the people are the sovereign. The people are the sole decider of victory or defeat in an election. Parties will only mobilize support from the people. Parties cannot force the people.
Parties can stimulate the interest of the people in their activities.
Parties cannot compel the people to adopt or accept their programmes. So, since we have realized this from the very beginning, our works, our programmes, our activities are directed at meeting the needs of the people, satisfying the people, mobilizing the people to accept our programmes and policies, believe in us as their friends and people who are committed to their progress, welfare, peace and prosperity. Our people-oriented programmes are also designed to adopt us as their own representatives. So, once those critical or those fundamentals of engagement with the people are met, the rest is little. With what we have done with the people, with the response we have from the people, it does not matter the crisis or no crisis in PDP. The crisis in PDP doesn’t matter anymore. Whether they are together or divided, weakened or strong, as long as we are one with the people and represent the aspirations of the people to give our people the hope of realizing their desires and wants, let other parties do whatever they wish to do. God be with us, success is our own.
By your assessment, how will you rate the economy of Osun today?
Nigerian economy is weak. The Nigerian economy is very weak and unsustainable. It is too dependent on crude oil to the chagrin of the economy itself and the people. But what do we mean by that statement? An economy that is not value-oriented is an unstable economy. It is a very unstable economy. Our economy today depends absolutely on the vagaries of the international oil market.
This should not be the case for a nation with the size of Nigeria, people and landmass. We must have a less mono-resource dependent economy. We have the land; we have the people, what we should have used the oil money to do is to diversify our economy. For a state within such a badly-managed nation to seek to isolate a constituent of such a nation, in economic analysis will be very difficult. This is particularly a hard task when you bear in mind that this is a state that has been administered along the line of the laize faireeconomic management for over 19 years before our advent. Indeed, this will be very tough and I want you to see it from that angle. Bearing that in mind, we are turning the economy of Osun around. A major focus of our economic success is the drive to re-jig the economy of the state. Even with the obvious challenge we have as a nation, we have grown the income of the state. For instance, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state has jumped from N300 million to over N1.6 billion per month. We are attracting investments to specific sectors of the state and hope to achieve over N3billion IGR.
We are supporting farmers at all levels, from peasant to new generation farmers and high commercial farmers. We are empowering our people to produce food and help them with the market for their products. We are supporting market men and women in their businesses. Part of the industrial development that took place since we assumed office is the Omoluabi Garment Factory where uniforms are being made for our students on a commercial and large scale basis. This was initiated not only to reduce the cost but increase the quality of wears. Today, the factory is not only producing uniforms but it is producing other garments and uniforms for school children nationwide.
It is producing other garments from other wears to T-shirts and sports wears. There is another company that is built to manufacture electronics such as plasma television set, computers of all types, desktop, laptops, palmtop, the LG factory will produce another one just like we have a factory in Osogbo to produce Opon Imo for schools in the state. It was designed in the form of a mini iPad as a portable touch screen Android-powered e-learning device, the first of its kind in Nigeria provided by the state government to equip students with knowledge and make it easier for them to pass school leaving certificates examination. It is a standalone, educational, multimedia e-learning content platform that comes with pre-loaded applications for WAEC and JAMB approved text books.
What are the factors actually attracting these companies to spring up in Osun State?
Several factors are responsible for the attraction of investments to the state. It is our own initiative. This is because we are deliberately attracting those outfits as well as putting in place activities that will make such investments difficult to avoid our state and difficult to escape from our territory. There is massive transformation of the state in terms of infrastructural development.
If we talk about roads, drive round and check the kilometres of standard roads, standard bridges, beautiful streets with flowers, dual carriageway that is incomparable and the return of peace. Most of these projects completed did not receive a fanfare commissioning as practised in the past. Also, the present administration in the state has created opportunities for existing investors who are looking for high yields, by creating instruments and bonds in the state. When we launched non-interest bond recently, the critics embarked on negative campaign but today we have succeeded in securing funds for infrastructural development of Osun at fixed returns.
When we took the Sukuk bond, there was no way we could do it at 14.75 per cent returns because banks were lending to one another at 25 or 30 per cent. So, I am not surprised that not only are we beginning to have interest, what we have done is that we have pioneered that instrument and have contributed to the infrastructural development of Nigeria.
In 2006, you narrowly escaped being killed during Osogbo Oroki day celebration, what is the situation of security in the state now?
There is no comparison. You can’t compare light with darkness. You can’t compare progress with failure. If you have the people with you, you will be swimming in an ocean of limitless confidence, composure and peace of mind. However, if the basis of your mandate is fraudulent, if the basis of your mandate is exploitative, if the basis of your mandate is criminal, that is, based on manipulation and compromise of the process, you can never run away from fear, intimidation and neurosis.
The outward manifestation of the underlining basis of the emergence of our administration clearly shows the character of our administration. This is totally different from the administration from whom we took power considering the fraudulent nature of their mandate. Our people are not reactionaries. Yorubas are progressive in their customs and culture and in their social relationship. We are a people with an ingrained attitude of live and let live. The Yoruba have fine human relationship, excellent character, and remarkable world-class commitment to human values and ethics that is not comparable globally. It cannot be imagined that a decadent, uninspiring and reactionary political party will lead in
Yoruba land, it is almost unthinkable. It is not for nothing that late Papa Obafemi Awolowo emerged from nowhere, he dominated the political scene while alive and his tendency, belief and political traditions are still dominant and effective in the Yoruba land. It’s not for nothing. It is because of the natural tendency and capacity of our people to pursue programmes that will guarantee maximum progress, maximum benefits and maximum development for the highest number of the people. So, because of that, the party that was here before our emergence could not have guaranteed peace if anything at all, the best they could do was what they did. That is, intimidating the people, persecuting them, treating them with contempt and disdain, repressing them, and sowing fears in their mind as the only way of retaining power. That was the reason the state was not secure.
Everybody lived in fear. Life was brutish, sad and rough before our advent. At our advent, it was like bringing a balm to a sore and painful joint. My team and leaders of our party brought calm and peace. We brought joy, we brought goodwill, and we brought happiness to the communities and the state. The people of the state have regained their happiness, they’ve regained their laughter and they’ve regained their characteristic Yoruba love for life and ceremonies. There is no threat anymore in all parts of our state. People sleep with their two eyes closed, they are no longer living in fear of harassment, persecution and intimidation. They go to where their business is either for religious, political, commercial and economic without fear or hindrance. We are proud of ensuring true peace in Osun. The instances of disturbance are not in any way linked to the government. They are essentially usual misunderstandings that characterize life. You cannot find our government involved in any social disagreement. The natural dynamism of existence could lead to rough edges around. Today, Osun is now the most peaceful state in Nigeria. And this is even why the economy is growing within the limit of what the larger Nigerian society can offer.
Nigeria is 100 years old this year, what is the hope after the centenary celebration?
Well, I pray for Nigeria to grow as a global leader which it is destined to be. That is my remark. I pray that Nigeria assumes her historical role as a leader in the world. The destination of Nigeria is to be an African leader and consequently, a leader in the world. My wish is that Nigeria enjoys the grace and assumes that position. That is my expectation. Nigeria requires fervent prayers that as she turns 100 years by the grace of God and the will of the people, she will have a leader that will drive her to her ultimate destiny of being the bearer of the emblem of Africa as a leading black nation of the world.
Nigeria requires prayers for a leader that will make the country a major player in the global economy and universal theatre of life. I am proud of Nigeria and will pray for Nigeria to lead Africa with a good leader to rule the world economically.