The Punch And Ill-Motivated Attacks On Governor Aregbesola

PUNCHBy its latest editorial of Tuesday, January 21, 2104 captioned ‘Aregbesola’s misguided church project’ has further revealed its open antagonism to the government of Mr. Aregbesola and consolidated itself as the official mouthpiece of mindless opposition in Osun. A mere cursory perusal of the Punch reportage and feature story on Aregbesola’s program in the past couple of months has shown a clear attitude of deliberate negative and antagonistic predisposition without any modicum of regard for facts, accurate reporting and some sense of objectivity. We have read and studied the editorial and it will be shown that the editorial is a hatchet job and merely calculated to malign the Governor and the Government of the State.

Subtle Allegation of Religious Extremism

From the start, the obvious intention of the writers of the editorial became manifest. It was stated that Aregbesola “appears impervious to moderation in matters religious”. This clear meaning of this euphemistic assertion is that the governor is a religious extremist. Assuming, without conceding, that the contention of the editors that it was wrong for the state to construct the Open Heavens Arena was correct, does this make Aregbesola a religious extremist. By parity of reasoning, it would mean that Governor Godswill Akpabio is an extremist for reportedly spending hundreds of million of Naira on Christmas Carol or that simply escaped the attention the Punch editorial team. In which religion is Aregbesola an extremist when in the same editorial, the allegation is that it was wrong for Aregbesola to do the bidding of all religious groups. What are the facts upon which the damning opening assertion of punch editors is based beyond an apparent intention to demonize the Governor without basis? We challenge the Punch editorial team to make public the facts to justify the calumnious assertion that Aregbesola “appears impervious to moderation in matters religion”.

Purchase of Farmland?

The clear mischief of the Punch editorial came to fore when it asserted: “While previous governments in Osun have sought to expand farmlands for production and encourage farmers, Osun State in 2014 is acquiring farmland to build an interdenominational center.”

First, it is deliberate falsehood to state that farmland was acquired for the proposed interdenominational center. The land for the center was a fallow land given by the communities to the government and compensation was only paid for economic trees on the land as is customary with any land acquired by government for any purpose whatsoever. We challenge Punch to publish the picture of the farmland on the site of the center.

Secondly, it is calumnious to create an impression that the present Osun government is not expanding farmland and encouraging farmers. At the risk of sounding immodest, there has never been a government in the history of the state that has taken intervention in agriculture than Aregbesola Administration. Are the Punch editors claiming ignorance of the many successes of the achievements of the flagship agriculture intervention programs of Aregbesola’s government in agriculture like Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Program (OREAP); Quick Intervention Program (QUIP) under which billions of Naira were given to support farmers; Rural Access Mobility Program (RAMP) under which many kilometers of rural roads and bridges were constructed; Land Clearing Program under which several acres of land were acquired and cleared and given freely for agriculture purposes.

Deliberate Distortions of State and Religions In Nigeria

One is at loss whether the esteemed editors of the Punch do not know the difference between a church and the intended open Heavens Worship Center. Perhaps it is part of the deliberate get up of the scandalous write-up. The editorial labored to criticize the proposed Open Heavens Worship Center and that its concern is that it “is about shocking lack of understanding of what are the functions of government”.  This is rather too capricious because across all governments in Nigeria, there has been involvement of governments in construction/rehabilitation of religious centers and institutions. Were there no involvement of governments in the construction of the National Ecumenical Centers and the National Mosque? The Church inside the Aso Villa was also built by private enterprise? There are appears to be confusion or apparent mischief by the Punch editors treating secular and multi-religious states as identical. In all honesty, all the vituperations by the Punch editors would have been justified assuming Nigeria is a secular state. Alas! Nigeria is a multi-religious states and that is why all levels of governments in Nigeria, with Osun not an exception has to patronized, as a matter of duty all religious organizations. It is in that sense that worship centers are either built or supported by all governments without exceptions and also the expenditure on Christians and Muslims pilgrims Welfare Boards. We challenge the Punch to come up with evidence that in Nigeria, it is only the State of Osun that is assisting with facilities for religious worship.

Casual Dismissal of Economic Rationale For the Project

Apparently set in its outright castigation mission, the Punch derogatorily dismissed economic benefits arguments set to be put forward by two government functionaries as “hogwash” without demonstrating how same is so. A sincere editorial would have ventured to demonstrate the falsity of the contentions.

However, the truth is that it can never be contested that any facility that can attract thousands of people will generate serious economic benefits. For example, in 2013, the Osun government supported the Baptist in hosting its Annual Baptist convention, which attracted thousands of people to the State, and the traders and entrepreneurs in the state derived serious economic and commercial benefits. Can anyone honestly deny that the construction been contemplated will not support local economy and open up the areas to further development?

False Allegation and Instigation of Christian Association of Nigeria against the Government

It would also appear that aside the obvious intention to malign the Governor; the editorial is also intended to falsely instigate the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria and indeed Christians in the state against the governor. The Punch described the project as Greek Gift without demonstrating how is it a Greek Gift. Also, in bad taste is the reference of a project that has the endorsement of all relevant stakeholders as a “bribe” or “baleful political gimmick”. Bribe to achieve what purpose? Perhaps, the editors of the Punch are not aware that the Government has also improved facilities at Osun Grove and World Ifa Temple at Oke-Itase, Ile Ife for traditional religious worshipers and as well support rehabilitation of Muslim Worship Centers too. So, where is the Greek Gift? Also, the government supported the Baptist in the State in hosting its annual Convention and the rehabilitation of the Convention ground and yet did the not stop the Baptist for criticizing the government when it has difference with it on the implementation of the school reclassification program. We view the instigation of the Christians against the project as irresponsible of a national news organ and calculated to cause division among religious groups in Osun. The Punch editorial also falsely quotes the Nigerian Constitution out of context as part of its deliberate misinformation of the Nigerian people. In any events, all available facts in Osun showed that equality of treatment among all faiths and the Government practices religions and the Punch apparently does not like this. Remember that it was the Punch that came out to attack the declaration of Hijrah as a public holiday in another editorial full of lies and capricious assertions like the present one.

Selective Use of Data

Just like in its editorial attacking the Hijrah holiday, the present editorial is also guilty of deliberate distortion of data to prove wrong assertion. The editorial claimed that the most functional political systems and lower crime rate are those that separate state from religion. One would ask the Punch whether Saudi Arabia and the Vatican separate state from religion and if not, whether they are not functional political systems and have high criminal rate. An editorial must be well grounded in data to back its assertions. The present one appears to be bereft of that.

Developmental Focus of Aregbesola

The way the editorial was concluded was as if Aregbesola has neglected needed areas of development in the State. This is another way of the Punch editorial desire to call a dog a bad name in other to hang it. There is no doubt that the three years of Aregbesola has brought serious improvement into all the facets referred to by Punch, that is, “health, education, infrastructure, job creation, agriculture and industrialization”. The records are there for all discerning minds.