WITH the swing of the pendulum, albeit by judicial decision, from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the Action Congress (now, the All Progressives Congress), on November 26, 2010, there was a blast of fresh air in the administration of Osun State. Ever since, the engineer-turned politician has been playing pivotal roles to leave his footprints in the sands of history. By what is a political party’s flag bearer assessed?
In addition to Rauf Aregbesola’s intimidating credential, this Ilesha-born APC candidate’s background political experiences stand him in good stead in the services of Osun State. He was a political activist who managed the beginnings of the infrastructural transformation of Lagos State. Religion is a sine qua non in this nation’s continued existence. Therefore, in terms of religious faiths, Rauf Aregbesola remains an unshakeable pillar, a hyphen that joins and a buckle that fastens together all the different faiths – Christians, Muslims and Traditionalists in Osun State.
Having served for almost a decade as a Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Lagos State, he offered himself as the Governor of Osun State. Three-and-a-half years into a four-year-term, he had a royal battle in the flawed 2007 elections, a struggle which moved to the judiciary, hallmarking his belief in democracy and the rule of law. Why is Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola demanding for a re-election? The late British Prime Minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher had a saying: “We are not in politics to ignore people’s worries. We are in politics to deal with them”. Along with this line of reasoning, in reality, Osun State is enmeshed in multifarious worries that could not be fully solved at one fell swoop, there is need for the incumbent Governor Aregbesola to complete the unaccomplished assignments. To deny him of a re-election is to deny him of the opportunity to deal with the people’s worries. But to grant him a re-election is to afford him the chance of dealing with and solving the people’s other worries.
The APC of which he is standing for a re-election is, without doubt, an off-shoot of our enviable Action Group of old. By any standard, the two political parties are almost of identical template, in terms of service deliveries. Aregbesola has focused on strengthening Osun State in the areas of agriculture, economic development, youth employment, education and security. His bold vision for the state is encapsulated in his Six Point Integral Action Plan – to banish poverty, hunger, unemployment, restore healthy living, promote functional education, enhance communal peace and progress. Within his first tenure, these seek to ensure that the fruits of economic development impact on the people. In 100 days, he created 20,000 people-friendly programmes, a la the Action Group and the Unity Party of Nigeria of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. For these reasons, Aregbesola requires a re-election to consolidate.
In its previous administration of seven and a half years, what the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) could not achieve, Aregbesola’s APC attained them in record time. The PDP did not execute any meaningful project while in control of Osun State’s resources. In Yoruba folklore, there is a saying: “Ere ti aja fi ogun odun sa, faaji ni fun eshin”, meaning that what the PDP could not attain in nearly eight years, Aregbesola’s APC easily made them in short tenure. What he is saying is that, like the Roman of old, the Osun State people must “Give me a place to stand to move the state to greater heights – “Da mihi locum standi”. In unflinching confidence, he demanded: “Let us, including the Labour Party, Social Democratic Party and the PDP governorship candidates, meet at an open debate and they’ll be disgraced out. Give us just one hour and see who among us will have the day”.
Why he should be re-elected? He introduced free feeding of primary school pupils, irrespective of their religious faiths or political affiliations. For security, the incumbent governor constructs an Emergency Security Centre where calls can be directed for assistance and rescue operations in case of any emergency. At the time of writing this piece, what remained for its functioning was a short security code approval from the PDP’s Federal Government. With the code, a helicopter could touch down anywhere in Osun State within 15 minutes to identify crisis spots and mobilise security personnel to the spot. It must be realised that security threat does not discriminate. If the Security Centre is functional, that young journalist who died along Ife Road could have survived the accident, if help reached him on time. If the PDP truly believes in the “welfare of the people as the supreme law”, and is people-oriented, security issue, like security code, must not be politicised. As the Father of the Nation, President Goodluck Jonathan, must be magnanimous by releasing the Security Code.
Moral blackmail is a weapon of destruction. Contrary to persistent claims by the PDP, alleging that Osun’s government under Governor Rauf Aregbesola is indebted to the tune of over N350 billion, the Debt Management Office (DMO), in Abuja, has refuted this. Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, the Director of the DMO in the Presidency disclosed that Osun is one of the best states with public debt management, describing the claims to heavy debt burden in Osun as propaganda and hoax. The DMO Director declared that Osun State status is very sustainable as it does not borrow beyond its capacity. It is also the first state to take Sukuk.
If Aregbesola is re-elected to accomplish other missions, so much the better for the electorate. The Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O-YES) is introduced and empowers 20,000 volunteers across the state’s Local Government Areas, including Ife-East Area Office, aiming at empowering 80,000 or more volunteers in eight years. By the O-YES scheme, each volunteer receives a stipend of N10,000 monthly and provides Community Services in return. With this, about N200 million monthly is injected into the grassroots economy for over two years now.
The scheme has skills development component to arm the volunteers with functional skills and prosecute productive life. As if these are not enough, the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (OREAP) is another scheme to achieve agricultural development objectives of reformation and economic growth, as the food basket of the South-West and serves 10 per cent of the Lagos food market. By these, restiveness and idleness are tackled among the youths during Rauf Aregbesola’s administration. Therefore, what is expected from Osun State electorate is to return Rauf Aregbesola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the Governor on August 9, 2014 elections.
However, this writer can identify a lacuna in Aregbesola administration. His achievements, commendable as they are, do not focus on culture enhancement. His predecessor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, focused on Yoruba cultural heritage with religious and patriotic fervour. This might arise from his Royal status as a prince. Be that as it may, because all his records of achievements are consistently and directly people-oriented, Aregbesola did not give priority to culture enhancement. This single minus is pardonable
In a style reminiscent of Daily Service (later, Daily Express) on election days in the late 1950s and early ’60s,a the front-page screaming headlines would read: “it is up to you” to make the right choice. In similar vein, this piece is concluded with the advice, it is up to you, Osun State electorate, to re-elect Rauf Aregbesola as the Governor on August 9, 2014 to consolidate his achievements.
• Oshisada, a veteran journalist, lives at Ikorodu, Lagos State.