OPINION: On The Aregbesola Church Project Controversy

Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola

The PUNCH is my number one newspaper, at least for now. I am also an avid reader of the columns anchored by both Azuka Onwuka and Niyi Akinnaso every Tuesday. I read these two great columnists in the Tuesday, January 28, 2014 edition of the newspaper.  Interestingly, both addressed the same subject but from different perspectives.  While the content of Akinnaso’s article reveals a dispassionate analysis of the contemporary happenings in Osun State, and what I describe as an unfair onslaught on an administrator who is only sincerely and unapologetically passionate about the development of his domain, Onwuka’s surprisingly, reveals the usual tendency in many Nigerians to address issues from our often held primordial sentiments.

I am a citizen of Osun and I am very closely attached to my roots. Indeed, for good reasons, in the last 21 years, there has been no weekend that I would not visit the state unless I am some 300km radius away, or, I am held down by official duties elsewhere.  It is amazing the unprecedented development and modernisation in every sector taking place in that state in the last three years. For once, we see and feel a government at work. With such a scenario, it is only natural that some toes be stepped upon, which is the basis for the kind of ongoing reactions. Many commentators on contemporary happenings in the state have never visited that state, yet they make comments that even smack of  hatred and able to ignite a needless crisis. Just check out the social media.

Sadly also, many of these negative comments are by our so-called elite, many of whom are detached completely from the realities in our deprived society. All that the ordinary citizens crave for is sustainable livelihoods which can only happen in the long run through such enabling efforts as being witnessed in Osun.  The ordinary citizens do not care where their administrators hail from or where and how such administrators worship.  I think we, the elite, owe society and indeed posterity a duty to exercise caution in our utterances and comments, particularly, where and when sincere public policies are at variance with our immediate and narrow interests. This is succinctly captured in the parting words in Akinnaso’s article mentioned earlier: “This puts a major burden on reporters (and indeed the rest of us who have access to the media) to always look beyond the controversies surrounding well-intended projects (and policies) and not allow their reports to merge with those of the opposition.

And this poser: Will reactions that have followed the situation in Osun State have been different if the governor did not profess his current faith, or put directly,  if he did not spot his Mullah’s beard which for strange reasons some people perceive as a trait of a religious fanatic?

Director, Centre For Sustainable Development

University of Ibadan



A Reader’s Comment…

The editorial of The PUNCH of Tuesday, January 21, 2014 on the subject stated above was quite characteristic of the newspaper: blunt. However, the rejoinder by Semiu Okanlawon, which was published in the same newspaper on Thursday, January 23, and the piece by Prof. Niyi Akinnaso on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 appear convincing. However, the responses probably couldn’t have emanated if that editorial was not published earlier. To me, as an indigene of Osun State and admirer of good developments anywhere in Nigeria, I strongly feel that Governor Rauf Aregbesola is so far the best in the state.
Department of Political Science,
University of Ibadan, Oyo State.