He spoke in Abuja while delivering a lecture at the Good Governance Forum organized by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission.
The ICPC chair, Ekpo Nta, said the forum was for governors, professionals and public officials “who are adjudged to have impacted meaningfully on the lives of Nigerians”.
Speaking on the title, “Governance, Accountability and Transformation”, Aregbesola said with education reforms and good policies, “Nigeria can achieve more success than the Asian Tigers and the newly industrialised countries of South America”.
According to him, government has no meaning if it does not translate to welfare of the people, their security and improvement in their conditions of living and beautiful things they aspire to have.
In a veiled reference to President Goodluck Jonathan’s comment that he inherited the rot in education, Aregbesola said, “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There is never a time when there will be no excuse for failure.
“ICPC don’t be annoyed oh. I won’t mention name. One government said ‘I didn’t bring the rot in education, I met it’. Baba Obasanjo said ‘I dey laugh o’. Me too I said I dey laugh o. We know that was why we elected you to change it. If this is how you met it then change it.
“The good thing about democracy is that it periodically provides opportunity for us to kick out a government that offers excuses all the time and blames others for its failure.”
Explaining the situation in Baptist High School, Iwo, where students wore masquerade attires and choir gowns because some wore hijab to school, the governor said he would have suspended 92 of the 2000 students responsible for the crisis.
He said, “Because I am a humanist that believes in the right of the people to protest, I allowed them to have their way. As a matter of fact, if you want to go to the root, there are over 2000 schools in Osun and more than one denomination of Christians; but the Baptist group for whatever reasons chose to be recalcitrant. We are still engaging them.”
The governor said he could not be labelled a fanatic because in the past he had been accused of promoting traditional religion.
“A personality that is fanatical will not recognize traditional religion. Osun is the only place where Ifa people do their things officially. I am a Muslim and I am serious about it; but beyond that, you can be anything.
“I don’t even discuss religion with my wife. Look at my wife, she does not wear hijab. If my wife does not wear hijab, how can I force another person to wear it?
“Which one do you want to accuse me of? Take your mind of this. Osun is at peace with everybody. I am a Muslim; there is no doubt about that.”
Aregbesola boasted that Osun was a trailblazer in education for providing free uniform for over 750,000 students which had generated 3000 jobs, providing one meal daily for over 250,000 students with 300,000 eggs, 15,000 chicken and 15 herds of cattle weekly.
“We are not deterred by the antics of our detractors, who being mortally afraid of our success in this area, are raising storm in a teacup by shifting the focus of our reform, imputing religious motives and fictively inventing a religious crisis when they could not rouse one,” he said.
The governor lamented that corruption had become a national albatross that had made government irrelevant to the people and therefore defeated the purpose of governance in the country.
He said accountability, legitimacy of government and transparency in democracy were needed to ensure good governance.
“The point must be made very clear that democracy only guarantees the people choice – in determining their rulers and in policy-making. It, however, does not guarantee good governance.
“In spite of its imperfection, democracy offers the highest assurance of a very high probability of good governance.
“This is because it is only in a democracy that the rulers can be most accountable to the people. It therefore follows that when governance is accountable and transparent, it would bring about positive transformation in the lives of the people, which ultimately is the end of government and governance,” he said.
Aregbesola advocated for financial autonomy for states to check mismanagement of public funds.
He said, “Many of our governments, at all levels, lack imagination and zeal. We all wait for the monthly federal allocation which in most cases is barely sufficient to pay salaries.
“Also, because the federation account allocation is more of an unearned rent, it is spent as freebies and this is one of the impetuses of corruption.
“Every state, including the Federal Government, should strive for financial autonomy and self sufficiency. The federal allocation should not be used for paying salaries and running government. It should be tied to specific development projects.”