Osun On The March Again

4As the final countdown to Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Osun State begins, global attention would once again be focused on Nigeria as the wobbling and fumbling continues in the nation’s quest to join the leagues of real democracies.

And as had always been the case with elections in western Nigeria since independence, it is going to be a straight fight between federal might and the people’s will. Why the federal government or rather the party at the centre is always interested in controlling south west Nigeria against the wish of the majority beats one’s imagination. I don’t want to hazard a guess, but suffice to say that each attempt whether successful or not have always had grave consequences for the country.

Attempt by the NPC/NCNC controlled federal government in the first republic to take over western region through its lackeys in the region led to the western regional crisis that later snowballed into the crisis that eventually ended Nigeria’s first attempt at democratic rule. Recall what happened to the second republic when the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) of President Shehu Shagari forcefully claimed victory in Ondo State. The only ‘successful’ takeover of political power in the south west by the party at the centre to date was in 2003 when ‘son-of-the-soil’ President Olusegun Obasanjo manipulated the process, using the federal might, to claim victory for his Peoples democratic Party (PDP)in all but one of the south west states.

But not too long after, the people realized their mistake and took back what they lost to the PDP, safe Ondo State. Again, applying the federal might policy of intimidation, the federal government is on another mission to forcefully take over the south west targeting Ekiti and Osun states as prelude to pocketing the remaining four states of the region in the 2015 general elections. And with Ekiti already in the bag, Abuja is full of confidence that Osun too will fall. In the last few weeks, the state has been fully militarized by the Commander-In-Chief, President Goodluck Jonathan, who in defiance of wise counsel has moved soldiers, State Security operatives and of course the police into Osun to ‘deliver’ the state to the PDP. Whether he succeeds or not and what becomes of our democracy after Saturday is in the hands of time. For Jonathan, securing Osun, Ekiti and the rest of the south west states is not so much for the wealth of the region, but the millions of votes he needs to secure a second term. Whereas his party men in the region are only interested in the key to the treasuries of the Yoruba states in order to squander the resources.

With this premise, it is easier to understand the battle that lies ahead for the people of Osun State as the local ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate Governor Rauf Aregbesola confronts the PDP and its flag bearer, Senator Iyiola Omisore stoutly backed by the government at the centre.

Saturday’s election is not so much in the hands of Aregbesola or Omisore but the people of the state who must decide the direction they want to take their future. Where Osun State was before Aregbesola came in and where it is today should be their guide, and I will use education to illustrate my point here.

As a beneficiary of the Bola Ige administration free education programme in Oyo in the second republic, I recall what most members of my generation then were going through to go to school and stay in school before the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) came to power in the region in 1979 and education was made free. No more school fees; no more buying of books, all our parents had to do was feed us and buy our school uniform. I can still recall the happiness on my parents’ face when newly sworn in governor Bola Ige announced this at the Liberty stadium on October 1, 1979. They both heaved a sigh of relief as they listened to the pronouncement on radio. Before then they had been finding it difficult paying the school fees of my siblings and I. Even though the skeptics, especially in the NPN said it wasn’t possible and derided the quality of education we were getting in public schools, millions of parents stood by the UPN and their governors defying the federal might to secure their children’s future. Today that decision has been well justified; their sacrifice have not been in vain, their children are now successful men and women in their various fields, thanks in no small measure to the free education programme of the day. The NPN federal government did offer rice and money that time but they rejected them.

If one looks at the contributions of the Aregbesola administration in the last four years or thereabout to improving the standard of education in Osun State, one is tempted to say that if only for that he deserves, without blinking an eye, a second term in office. And that is the truth.

I don’t want to talk about the beautiful schools he has built all over the state or even the reclassification of schools that he has done, as some are wont to argue that aesthetics are not enough to make good schools, what about the free feeding programme on which over N3 billion is being spent annually; free school uniforms. What about the tablet of knowledge or ‘Opon Imo’ (a miniature computer or tablet) containing the entire senior Secondary School syllabus, books and WAEC/GCE examination papers given to Senior Secondary School students to prepare them for their final exams.

Any parent or guardian that understands what it takes to buy whole set of books for their children or ward(s), buy their uniform, pay their school fees and above all feed them (at least once a day) will appreciate the burden that Governor Aregbesola has taken off their shoulders. And it is only right and even godly to appreciate the man by giving him another term in office. This is the least they can do for a man who has taken it upon himself to better their lot. To Governor Rauf Aregbesola, serving the people (of Osun) is a commandment from God. I chose to dwell on his education programme (only a fraction of his achievements in this sector) because I believe, like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who saw the future of his Yoruba people in education far back in the 50s that is the best foundation for the future.

Aregbesola has laid a solid foundation for the future of his people in Osun, the people should allow him to build it further by rewarding him with a second term. Any other decision to the contrary could lead to eternal regret. A word is enough for the wise.