What does the governor of the State of Osun, Rauf Aregbesola want to achieve by preferring the appellation, Ogbeni to Your Excellency? In Yorubaland, the word, ogbeni, which simply means mister, connotes simplicity and courage.
It has been argued in some quarters that the title reflects the governor’s character and view on governance as it relates to the people and government officials.
Unlike previous administrations in the state, it is said that he is not intoxicated by the reins of power; he is rather concerned with how to make meaningful changes in the lives of the ordinary people of the state.
But beneath his unassuming simplicity lies a spirit of resoluteness and unshakeable believe that it is not unnatural for the wealthy to be few. Ogbeni Aregbesola, however, understands that you can’t solve all the problems for all the people all the time, but governance means creating and sustaining prosperity and alleviating poverty. This is the hallmark of the Aregbesola administration, and it cannot be compromised.
As many Osun indigenes will testify, the state is very different today. Unlike what it was under previous administrations, it is a more peaceful, prosperous and a better place to live. But expectedly, the governor is not immune to distraction and poisonous criticisms.
To some, his views are grotesque, defective and deficient. Some have accused him of always playing to the gallery. Some would have people believe that the man is an enigma with a stigma. They distort and misrepresent his steadfastness for stubbornness, his tenacity for dogmatism, his vision for delusion, and his policies for extravagance.
Against all manner of criticisms by the opposition, the governor’s work speaks for him. For instance, his first major decision was to set up the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O’YES), through which 20,000 youths were trained and subsequently gainfully employed. That was in his first 100 days in office. And the gains are still here.
The result of this scheme is that Osun now has the lowest unemployment rate in the country as well as the second lowest poverty rate in Nigeria, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
It is advisable that a scheme of this nature be introduced at the national level as it will drastically reduce unemployment and positively affect the nation’s economy. Other states should also follow suit.
Although Ogbeni Aregbesola was stoutly criticised for attempting to create a new state identity through the introduction of a new logo, state anthem and slogan, other governors followed the trend. Example is the governor of Bayelsa State.
He was also criticised for creating the Islamic Bond (Sukuk) in the state, but it has ushered in an affordable and manageable means of raising finance for capital projects. It was so successful that the bond has been heavily subscribed. To add spice to it, the Sukuk Bond recently won an award in far away Dubai, United Arab Emirates. At the award night of world acclaimed Islamic Financial News magazine, Osun Sukuk won the ‘Deal of the Year’ Award.
By making the day of Hijrah in the Islamic calendar and ‘Isese Day’ state holidays, Ogbeni has preserved the celebration of core traditions and rich culture in Osun. It is no surprise therefore, that Osun is one of the states in Nigeria that can boast of a United Nations World Heritage site.
The introduction of Tablets of Knowledge (Opon Imo) to students in Senior Secondary Schools in the state has propelled Osun into one of the leading states in ICT-driven education. Millions of naira that would have been spent in buying textbooks for the students has been saved. Opon Imo also won the United Nations World Summit Award in 2013. This is even as new schools are built, free school uniforms distributed to students and pupils while funding is increased.
The process of teaching and learning has taken a whole new dimension.
As part of his education reform programme, the governor merged schools. This action was aimed at improving service delivery, but he faced the worst criticism. He was accused of destabilising the education system in the state. But the people know better.
The governor has also done well in infrastructural development. Among other things, several roads have been constructed; others are ongoing, while some are rehabilitated.
Going by the achievements of the governor, it is a known fact that Osun indigenes, who are tired of politics of bitterness and terror, have vowed never to return to the era of underdevelopment.
As the people prepare for another election, it is expected that the state would not be dragged into the dark days of old. The state and its people must move forward in the right direction. The electorate must be wise to keep political businessmen and women out of the state’s Government House.
The author, Senior Special Assistant on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Governor of the State of Osun, wrote from Osogbo.