It is a great honour to be the subject of today’s memorable gathering. I wish most sincerely to thank the Editorial Board and Management of Independent Newspapers Limited (INL) for freely finding me worthy of your Man-of-the-Year 2013 Award.
I commend you for standing with a vast majority of people who continue to express profound appreciation of the uncommon good governance through which I and my dependable team are re-engineering the socio-economic soul of the State of Osun, to the enthusiastic admiration of a vast majority of our people.
In instituting this award and remaining consistent with it, the Editorial Board of the INL demonstrates its commitment to promoting excellence and the virtues of hard work, dedication and achievement, particularly among political office holders.
Thus, in celebrating our ground-breaking feats in the different sectors of public life in Osun, you prove your utmost concern with the progress and development of our people. This affirms the sense in the view of eminent social thinker, Voltaire, that, ‘By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property’.
For me, this award is a notable gesture that will deepen my resolve and commitment to guarantee freedom and make life more abundant and meaningful to the ordinary people as a political leader. It will motivate me to be more devoted to the progress and development of humankind. It is in view of this that I accept the award wholly and whole-heartedly.
The award I am being honoured with today is in recognition of the verifiably unprecedented feats that we have achieved in the areas of human welfare promotion, education, job creation, and physical infrastructure development. It is only those, like you at INL, who were well familiar with the near total absence of governance in Osun prior to our coming to office that can properly appreciate the considerable changes that my administration has effected in all the sectors.
We took the reins of power when the state was suffering from the cancerous pains of huge and badly negotiated debts. It was a time when tensions arising from youth unemployment and political infractions reigned like mighty waves on turbulent oceans. All there was to governance then was mere form with insignificantly little substance.
But when we assumed office, we had clear understanding of what we would do about the substantial decay and ineffectiveness that had weakened the pillars of the state’s education sector. We knew that only firmly sustained and coordinated assaults on poverty, hunger, unemployment, and decrepit road infrastructure could restore the dignity of our people.
Thus, armed adequately with our viable blueprint – the Six-point Integral Action Plan, which aims at banishing hunger, poverty and unemployment, providing functional education, restoring healthy living and communal harmony – we frontally engaged the problems we inherited with a depth of empathy, a breath of ingenuity, and a keen sense of responsibility.
Thus, the malady of arrested development that made Osun unliveable in the past has received the cure of effective people-oriented policies and the therapy of uncommon responsible democratic governance.
Specifically, we have reformed and reorganised our public schools into Elementary, Middle, and High Schools for easy administration.
The pupils in each of the schools now get the attention which squares aptly with their educational needs. For instance, those in the Elementary School (Grades one to four) are given free protein-rich meals every school day in order to fortify their mental redoubts.
This programme covers 300,000 pupils and gulps N3.6 billion for its yearly sustenance. We have as a result of this programme recorded unusual increase in the enrolment figures of pupils. I’m sure it is no longer news to this distinguished gathering that Osun now has the highest primary school enrolment figures in the country.
The introduction of the computer tablet (Opon-Imo) to public school education in Osun is another marker of the innovation that our administration spearheaded. Indisputably, this is a world-beater in innovative e-learning. This ground-breaking innovation enables us to reduce the huge sum that goes into the purchase of textbooks.
Preloaded with different tutorial notes, past questions, and textbooks on 17 subjects that students register for in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), the National Examination Council (NECO), and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), the device puts a permanent end to the worries of parents, teachers and students with regard to the unavailability of requisite learning materials. Our administration has so far committed N1.2 billion into this project. Several thousands of units of this device have already been distributed to teachers and students in our public secondary schools; our target is for all the 150,000 students in the high schools to each have one unit of the device.
I am happy to inform this gathering that today in Ilesa, there is now a factory that will see to the production of Opon-Imo, as well as mobile phones, plasma television and computers. This, in addition, will also create more jobs for the wellbeing of the youths of the state.
New modern, standard school buildings are also springing up in different local governments within the state. While some have been completed and are already in use, many more are at advanced stages of completion. Through the School Infrastructure Development Programme, we are changing the physical infrastructure of learning.
Thus far we have expended the sum of N14.8 billion on the construction of school buildings under the O’School programme. The total capital expenditure we have disbursed thus far on schools in the last three years is N31.31 billion. This underlines the importance we place on the education of our youths. The recurrent expenditure on education translates to an average expenditure of N84,000 and N30,000 on each elementary and secondary pupils and students respectively.
The change of school uniforms and the free distribution of 750,000 pieces of new uniforms are vivid demonstration of how important the physical appearance of our students is to us. The education sector in Osun has and is still benefitting from massive funding and provision of essential facilities for the attainment of greater value. Education remains the bedrock of the functional development being enjoyed in the state. Through it, we are innovatively shaping the future of the citizens.
Under our watch, road infrastructure development in the state is being recorded on an unprecedented scale. Through uncommon financial engineering, we are rehabilitating and constructing roads across the cities and towns in the state. These roads are not selected whimsically. They are the ones, including federal roads, that impact most on the economic and social life of the people. If we magnify the fact of our meagre federal allocation and income, we will never venture near the massive road projects we have on our hands. Our prudence and creativity in the disbursement of resources do it for us.
I dare say, with all sense of modesty, that the State Government of Osun does not depend alone on federal allocation to fulfil its statutory responsibilities. With sound innovations and plugging of leaking ends, we have been able to increase our Internally Generated Revenue from the N300 million we inherited to N1.6 billion monthly.
In job creation, our record is noteworthy. Through the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O’YES), we have drastically scaled down the high incidence of youth unemployment. This has reduced social tensions in the state. We are creating the right socio-economic environment to enable our active adults earn their sustenance.
And through the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (O’REAP), we are translating agriculture from subsistence level to commercial scale. Farmers in Osun now have what it takes to do serious agricultural business. We have opened up the rural areas and new roads are being constructed for easy transportation of farm produce to the urban markets. We have thus, through agriculture, been able to create wealth and provide jobs for our people.
So real and impactful are the delivery of our policies and programmes that there is no citizen in the state that does not feel the direct impact of our responsible governance in one way or the other. The reason is simply that the citizens are genuinely the focus of all our developmental efforts.
For us, the development of human capacity and their wellbeing is the main responsibility of government. All development efforts must necessarily add value to the life of the majority of the people. That is what our policies on welfare support for the critically vulnerable elderly citizens, health, education, security, agriculture, tourism, job creation, and infrastructural development have done to the greater majority of our people.
In more concrete and realistic ways, our administration has demonstrated that government exists to protect life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; to provide an environment for commerce to thrive, for the young and economically deprived to be educated, for the sick who cannot afford sound healthcare to be taken care of, for the provision of security for all, and for the enforcement of the rule of law and maintenance of law and order.
Let me assure all that the good works we are doing in Osun will not stop. We are determined to give our best for the happiness of our people.
It is noteworthy that INL considers us worthy of this award because we ‘offered an alternative perspective to governance’. This, to us, is the highest attraction of this award. It was Albert Einstein that described insanity as doing the same thing, the same way, all the time, and expecting a different result. Many of the problems of development besetting us as a people arose because too many people in leadership positions, regrettably, cannot think outside the box. Yet, doing things differently will surely exact a price.
This price, for us, has been huge and enormous, but not unaffordable, if we consider the end result. The first is that we have been misunderstood (sometimes deliberately) and unfairly maligned. Many surely dwelled on non-issues and falsehood and mischievously projected them as the marquis achievements of our administration. Sometimes our people marvel at these insidious reports, wondering if they were concocted from another planet, since they are strange and contrary to the good governance and revolution going on around them.
Some of our critics went to the diabolical extent of inciting religious partisans against each other and against the government. They do not care a hoot that they are instigating religious crisis which conflagration and consequences are unimaginable.
Nevertheless, this award has put a lie to their evil machinations. I am glad that the path we are threading and the efforts we are making are not unnoticed by this perceptive media organisation. With this, you are also offering a fresh perspective to governance evaluation and appreciation in the country. It is a demonstration of your objectivity, intellectualism and unparallel public service that have also won you the newspaper of the year award in the past. I have no doubt that you can only keep going up.
Let me, once again, thank INL (for the honour and basis of the award), my amazing team that made our achievements possible, the good people of Osun who through their enthusiastic support inspire and encourage us, our friends all over the nation, particularly Lagos, and every person of goodwill that have unshaken faith in us and supported us through thick and thin.
I thank you all for your kind attention.