Osun’s Walk-to-Live provides therapy for health and politics. In no distant future, Osun will have the capacity for drawing tourists from all corners of the globe as its monthly health and physical exercise programme Walk-to-Live, now puts on the colour and trappings of a real tourist’s attraction. In deed, the recently held 15th edition of the event did not disappoint those who to witness it.
The Osun’s Walk-to-Live proved to be an excitement as even the elderly could not resist it. The spectacle of the 92 year old Madam Wulematu Alamu was an attraction to behold as she swung her frail torso in rhythmical gyration to the energising percussions of the mobile musical band.
It was Saturday April 5th, 2014. It looked like the first time the sleepy Edun-Abon town witnessed such a tumultuous crowd; a long winding procession snaking through it; waking the entire town up in a frenzy of activities that took away farmers from their farmsteads and traders from the shops. The towns along the route to Ipetumodu- Edun, Moro, Edun-Abon, Yakoyo-literally went alive in a celebrative mood that would be hard to forget.
“A o ri iru eleyi ri” (the crowd is strange to us) were the only words the old Madam Alamu could utter in Yoruba when this writer walked up to her to discover the source of her joy. She represented the mass of such old people and young ones who could not hide their excitement at the massive crowd that brought joy to their communities.
It was the 15th edition of the Osun Walk-to-Live physical exercise aimed at promoting one of the cardinal points of the Rauf Aregbesola administration –Healthy Living. On this edition however, a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, had joined Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who had the entire members of his cabinet with him for the programme.
“I didn’t know I would be able to complete the walk”, said the former Governor of Abia state when it was his turn to speak at the ……High School, Ipetumodu, where the walk terminated while confessing it was the first time he was undertaking such a rigorous but healthy walk in his life.
“But Madam Deputy Governor (referring to Mrs. Grace Tililayo Laoye-Tomori, Aregbesola’s deputy), kept urging and pushing me on and when I saw the way she was not looking tired, I summoned the courage to complete the exercise with your governor. Here I am, completing the exercise.”
Governor Aregbesola led other top government functionaries from Osogbo, the state capital in a 20 minute drive to Edunabon which was the starting point. It was from this point that a horde of organisations ranging from social to political waited for the Governor’s convoy to arrive for the proper take off of the 7.9kilometre walk through the towns.
Madam Alamu’s excitement was understandable. The resplendence of the colours brought to town by the event could not be lost on anyone. Apart from the T-shirt purposely made available for the participants, it was a harvest of many colourful attires as provided by various groups ranging from Oranmiyan, the socio-political organization whose platform saw to the emergence of Aregbesola in the first place; De Young Mandate group in green, association of food vendors who provide the meal for the school children under the state’s massive O-MEALs scheme that feeds about 300,000 pupils every school day in the state. These women were in their professional attires along others who donned various t-shirts provided by various political appointees and political associates of the governor.
The participants walked, they danced as the governor reminded them of the need for constant physical exercise to produce citizens with sound minds in sound bodies. But was this walk all for physical exercise? Even if that was the aim of the event has taken a life of its own garnering massive support for Governor Aregbesola’s government in the minds of the populace.
“It makes the Governor to be simply popular among the people,” says the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti. Anta Laniyan, popular Yoruba movie star, who joined almost 20 other actors and actresses in a short presentation at the event, said so many things are going for Aregbesola that would etch him in the consciousness of the Osun people.
“You cannot be more than a man of the people than this,” said the actor who also said he was sure no other name would be in the minds of Osun people when voting other than Aregbesola. “
For Dotun Oladipo, Publisher of The Eagle Online, “this has all the trappings of how to use sport or physical exercise to galvanize the citizenry towards participatory democracy. You cannot have a docile populace when you put in place programmes such as this that bring them out of their shells,” said one of the leading online publications in Nigeria. But seeing their governor walk with them, dance with them remove all those myth, which I think is one thing Governor Aregbesola is trying to demystify,” Oladipo said.
“How many governors can walk among their people the way your governor has walked without people throwing sachets of pure water,” asked Kalu. But we have walked today, there was no pure water. Rather, what we saw are cheers, waving of hands in demonstration of love for your Governor. I congratulate you Governor Aregbesola, for this wonderful innovation.”
But could Kalu have been wrong to call it an innovation? A senator from Ebonyi State in the South East part of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwe could not but describe Walk-to-Live as “an innovation in the Nigerian Space.” We have friends in the PDP, we will tell them that, in Osun, from what we have seen, PDP is lacking. Senator Emmanuel Onwe
Much as Aregbesola would say the Walk-to-Live is to make his people healthy, the Saturday April 5th event further shows how much of confidence the administration has over its popularity with the people. The event took place on a day that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party was organising its governorship primaries at the state capital. But despite being a leading member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Kalu said this would not stop him from endorsing what he saw as the good works of Aregbesola.
“Omisore is my personal friend,” the former Abia State Governor declared point blank. He drew a deafening applause from the crowd. I am still a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, but what I have heard and seen about your governor made me to come out in the open to support good work. Iyiola Omisore is personal friend of mine, but I will always say the truth. Few days that I have spent here and the way his people talked about him truly showed that governor Aregbesola deserves another term to complete that good work that the Lord has used him to start during his first term.”
Of course, it was a platform to reel out the various achievements of the current administration in the areas of education, health, agriculture, roads and other infrastructure, tourism, security and job creations.
“The governor seems to have a good grasp of what it takes to hold a people together,” said Musliudeen Tijani Adekilekun, a Pharmacist based in Birmingham United Kingdom who hails from Ede and is eyeing a seat in the Federal House of Representatives for the Ede South/Ede North/Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency.
Adekilekun’s assessment of the exercise is that it brings together almost all the stakeholders in the polity “in a way that no section of the society is left out of the vehicle for mass mobilization. Women, children, old and young have one reason or the other to want to follow him,” Adekilekun said.
Comrade Biyi Odunlade, who has the responsibility for organizing the event, considers the Walk-to-Live one of the most important assignments he had handled in his entire career.
“It is one assignment that tasks one’s sense of organization, concentration and cooperation,” said Odunlade. To Odunlade, an Ife-born politician, the need to conscious of the dual purposes the event serves places major responsibility for ensuring success.
“Every edition of the programme is to me a major tool for making our people live a better, healthier live. And at the same time, the fact is not lost on us that Walk-to-Live has assumed a life of its own as a catalyst for mobilization. I think we are not failing in those major regards,” Odunlade said.