Writing about the two major candidates in the August gubernatorial elections in Osun State is a daunting task for me, given one’s background. The incumbent, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has known me since I was a boy. An activist and strong believer in social justice, Rauf, as he was known in those days believe passionately in a developed human being as the tool with which to change our socio-political space. As an undergraduate, one has had cause to also rally round him in a fight against social injustice, which he represented during a period many were afraid to stand up for their rights due to economic reasons.
When a senior colleague, Mr. Segun Babatope, described me as a Yoruba irredentist towards the 2003 general elections in Lagos State, it was with an inner laughter Rauf immediately came to my mind. Ogbeni believes an emancipated Yoruba race is the light out of the Dark Tunnel that the African continent and indeed, Black people in the Diaspora, have been waiting for. He will not give anything in exchange for his Yorubanness. He might have picked Oranmiyan for his campaign theme, which to me, is like a pledge to restore practical Yoruba values, I suspect that Oodua would have been his first choice, if the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) had not been in existence.
But if kinship is to be measured by ancestry, former Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Iyiola Omisore, should naturally be my uncle. An Ile Ife son, the former Osun State Deputy Governor is from the land where my ancestor left as a reigning monarch to settle with his chiefs in Ijebu Ife upon a directive by Ifa to do so. Olofin Ogbolu sleeps till tomorrow in Okeliwo, where my parents were born. Beyond a possible kinship, Omisore is a close friend and almost a brother to a very special Egbon, Senator Lekan Mustapha, who until recently was representing Ogun East Senatorial District in the National Assembly as a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker.
One’s knowledge about Omisore, beyond occasional discussions with Mustapha, is limited. What remain in my head are issues that revolve largely around his tenure as deputy to former Osun State Governor, Chief Bisi Akande, and the events leading to the assassination of former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige. Yes, a court acquitted Omisore. But the events of those heady days are issues that a sane mind will not readily throw away as it is common knowledge that with proper connections, anything is possible in Nigeria. What with the manner the old man, who was a serving minister at the time, was treated in the palace of the Ooni of Ife?
Moving on, I have had cause to criticize some positions taken by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, especially on the eve of the Nigerian civil war. But Papa’s target to develop Yorubaland through Human Capital Development is an objective that any sane lover of these parts should adopt without batting an eyelid. Awolowo worked on infrastructure. But his priority was the human being ahead of any other consideration. Equip the man with knowledge almost from the cradle using Western education; make healthcare services accessible to him; work towards ensuring that food is readily available through development of agriculture; and endeavour to encourage gainful employment where he can get daily bread with dignity for his needs. These are issues which voters in Osun State should look at dispassionately towards this year’s election.
Both contenders for the gubernatorial seat should campaign with records of what they have offered Osun State, either currently or in the past, along the lines laid down by Awolowo. For instance, Omisore being a past holder of such a very powerful committee position in the senate (Appropriation), which approximates almost 30 gubernatorial positions, should tell us the projects that he facilitated for either Osun State or the South-West during his tenure. Without approval from this committee, there is no Federal Government project that can take off, or continue. It is the committee to lobby when you need any federal project in any part of the country. It is the Appropriation Committee of either the Senate or House of Representatives that will activate funds for such a project.
Of course, the projects one expects Omisore to talk about should be in the areas of Education, Healthcare services, Agriculture & Rural Development and Employment Generation. The Awolowo template remains the scale upon which Yorubas regularly measure performance by politicians in office. It is not enough to claim one can do it better, the past remains a veritable method of measuring how the future will look like in a political contest.
It is also a waste of time canvassing the ownership of multiple university degrees as proof that an office holder will deliver if elected. Baba Kekere, I am very sure, does not have a B.Sc. Yet, his four years in office as Governor of Lagos State has also remained another standard scale for measuring performance in office. This is more so when Omisore has served as a deputy governor also. What did Osun State and its people benefit from Omisore during his tenure as deputy governor?
As a chairmanship aspirant under PDP platform in Ijebu East Local Government, Ogun State in 2012, a major item for me was free lunch for primary school pupils. My campaign team at the time also insisted we include free school uniforms. Aregbesola has already done this, and more. A confident child, in a healthy school environment being fed a balanced diet along with a contended parent, who has no fear of school fees or what the child will eat and wear, is a sure guarantee for a solid socio-political and economic foundation in every respect.
During my brief stay in the United Kingdom as a student, the attitude of their primary school pupils often amaze me. It is as if there is an injection they give them in school, which set these children apart from their peers in Nigeria. Confident and innovative with little or no fear of tomorrow, the can-do-spirit in them is infectious to the point of making you afraid. They see themselves as offsprings of the state, thus have nothing to fear. Properly handled, Osun State seems set in this direction with the policy about these kids.
With the current wave of an intolerant version of Christianity and Islam in Nigeria, Aregbesolaâ€™s intervention on the side of African Traditional Religion is a welcome development in a polity fearful of the influx of Boko Haram elements. But his media aides need to inform the public more about the fact that all public schools in Osun State are 100% owned by government despite the religious names attached to such. Yours truly was angry at some point that children of other faiths were being forced into schools belonging to others, not knowing that these institutions have for more than 30 years been owned by the Osun State Government, only that the names were retained.
Agriculture and self-employment have been given a facelift by the Aregbesola administration. But in a typical Awo fashion, many may not observe the linkage between the free school feeding programme and a boost in agriculture in the state. Those involved in animal husbandry in Osun State and its neighbours are currently smiling to the banks courtesy of regular supplies to those feeding the children. Poultry farmers, who were almost wrecked by a glut in the market due to Boko Haram activities, are a joyful lot today.
In addition, newly elected President of the Nigeria Tailors Association, Otunba Wasiu Taiwo (Wessy Creations) recently lamented in Abeokuta, Ogun State that standards were becoming a thing of the past among artisans in the country. But he singled out the garment factory producing school uniforms in Osun State, Sam & Sarah, as a veritable signal that Aregbesola wants a restoration of standards among tailors, confirming that the outfit trains young persons to become acceptable experts in dress-making. This is very good.
Along with the foundation being given the children concerning their education, the adoption of Afenifere’s anthem, for me, is another signal that an Evangelist of Yoruba values is currently at work in Osun State. The anthem remains a sacred affirmation that whosoever imbibes its words will forever work for the upliftment of his/her space in Yorubaland. I will still write more about both candidates. But, for now, Aregbesola is it, until Omisore is able to present the scorecard mentioned earlier.