Aregbesola: Giant Strides of the ‘Ajele’ at 60! By Abiodun Komolafe

Two major factors influenced my decision to support Rauf Aregbesola, especially, in his reelection bid as governor of the State of Osun in 2014 and I think they are worth repeating here; perhaps they may be helpful to the cause of this piece.

 

I left Ijebu-Jesa in 1985, after the completion of my secondary school education, but by the time providence would take me back to my Native Nazareth some years later, almost all the roads on the axis had become so impassable that it’d not be out of place to ask if there had ever been a government in place in the state. As good governance would have it, the narrative took a turn for the better less than two years of Aregbesola’s assumption of office. As at last count, government has constructed not less than 1000km of roads and they traverse all the nooks and crannies of the state.

Closely connected to the above was my preference for this fiery and fearless politician at a time it mattered most. Like the story of the elephant and the knife on the day of the former’s date with death, some funny characters whose political antecedents were sufficient enough to qualify them as unworthy candidates for ‘Bola Ige House’ had thrown their hats into the ring in a desperate attempt to capture power from the incumbent governor. Unhelpful also was Nigeria’s political landscape, with its ‘the-more-you-look-the-less-you-see’ features in dubious connivance with the ‘by-any-means-possible’ disposition of its handlers. A third reason for supporting his reelection bid was his integrity. Amongst all the contestants, his integrity stood poles ahead and was clearly non-comparable with his closest rival from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

On my part however, I was of the opinion – and, rightly so – that spectatorship was not an option in an event that was designed to shape the future of my state as well as define the destiny of its people. The rest, as it is often said, is history! Of course, these, added to one or two other reasons here and there, have continued to increase the clockwise ticking of the clock of my admiration for the “chattered politician” and I am happy I took such a decision at such a critical time in the life of my state.

Although, democracy has become so acceptable in this part of the world that we now regard service as an established fact, it is important that lovers of good governance use the opportunity that Aregbesola’s birth anniversary presents to briefly reflect on the real definition of service to the people and what the people stand to gain from the presence or absence of it. For instance, why did Aregbesola leave his comfort zone in Lagos where all things were bright and beautiful to become a symbol of resistance to a system that was well-stocked with characteristic fancies and unusual features in Osun?  Why did he choose to become a story of courage to a struggling state which, pre-November 27, 2010, was fraught with false starts, painful groping and failing fortunes, indeed a system which wheel of progress was already on its way back to the bottom of the hill?

When, in his essay, ‘The three types of legitimate rule’, Max Weber particularly pointed in the direction of charisma as an essential ingredient a leader must possess if he must succeed, he probably might have had the likes of Aregbesola in mind. But Weber’s option of courage amidst the tragedy and the savagery of primordial sentiments has again brought to the fore the way we are as a state and as a people. A few questions will suffice. Why have professional hoppers who derisively described Aregbesola an uneducated mind so lost memory of historical facts that this gentleman, noted for technical finesse and political astuteness, once had a stint as a teacher at Imesi-Ile High School in the 1970s? Why is this achiever, who has within a short period of six years set the ‘Land of Virtue’ on fire with his dreams, being tagged a ‘debtor-governor’ when, indeed, in the universal space called salary palaver, Osun is just a sample space for other states in Nigeria? Again, why are they equating his vision for Osun with a mission to Islamize the state even as the governor has consistently wondered why trying to be a good Muslim should be misconstrued for ‘conversion campaign’?

Some crooked beings even go as far as referring to him as Bola Tinubu’s ‘Ajele’ (Sole Administrator) in Osun. Agreed, he is! So what? Well, the sad side of our Nigerianness is that there’s nothing one can do to immunize desperate politicians from wallowing in delusional insinuations. Be that as it may, it is a settled premise that Tinubu is a leader whose creative ingenuity and ceaseless potentials unravel by the day. Driven by pure interest and manifest integrity, the Jagaban Borgu is a principled, dependable and caring historian of sort who positively and masterfully replenishes his stock each day through his deeds and actions. It needs to be noted that, despite the “petty envy and outright jealousy by those that feel dwindled by his greatness”, Tinubu is one politician who cannot do any evil beyond his devotion to his political party and commitment to humanity.

In any case, as ‘Ajele’ which the opposition has nicknamed him, Aregbesola is very proud of his relationship with the ‘Governor Emeritus’ of Lagos State, his leader and mentor. Little wonder many refer to him as the ‘Symbol’. On the other hand, in Tinubu’s clan and court, ‘Ogbeni’, as he is fondly called by his admirers, is the ‘numero uno’; but not to the point of being subservient. No doubt about it: Aregbesola is one person whose political judgment Tinubu respects. Essentially therefore, if ‘Ajele’ is a synonym for transformation and rapid development, then, Osun will need several ‘Ajeles’ to bring it at par with the leading states in the federation. Gladly, too, Elisha, the son of Shaphat (1Kings 19: 19-21); Nelson Mandela; Abraham Adesanya; and Bola Ige, evenTinubu, among others, have at one time or another demonstrated that, for one to succeed in life, the ideal thing is to start as an apprentice, a disciple, or a protégé.

An American politician, Benjamin Franklin, once remarked: “human felicity is produced not as much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day.” One noteworthy reality is that politics is about the economy and economy is about the people. It is about prioritization and allocation of values. Put succinctly, politics is about the people. It is about generational prosperity and usefulness to humanity. Without being immodest, Osun’s developmental strides have presented Aregbesola as a worthy product of Tinubu’s school of politics. An activist whose primary concern is how to build a super system, not super human,  Aregbesola has happily and healthily given pleasure to others by ‘rambunctiously’ spearheading the technological transformation of Osun into “a developed, cleaner, safer and more beautiful state”. The man behind the ‘O’ Revolution in Osun is an outstanding politician of authority who has by his pursuit of causes with unblemished peculiarities shut the mouths of enchanters whose remit is in sounding like broken bottles for reasons not unconnected with selfish ambitions and personal gains.

Mention his accomplishments! Is it in the education sector where, as at last count, a total of 55 new structures, comprising 20 Elementary, 22 Middle, and 13 High School have been added to existing structures while a total of 82 school blocks, comprising 1,534 classrooms across the state have been refurbished by his administration? Or the Elementary School Feeding Scheme, (O’MEALS) which has also greatly reduced unemployment by absorbing no fewer than 20,000 food vendors, in addition to providing certain categories of pupils with highly nutritious meals on a daily basis? Or the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) which, with its mopping up of more than 40,000 youths off our streets and productively engaging them, has succeeded in reducing the scourge of unemployment among our youths? Have we forgotten the creation of additional 31 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), 3 Area Councils and two Administrative Offices for the overall purpose of bringing government closer to the people? Or the procurement of 25 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) and 100 Patrol Vehicles which has greatly helped in making Osun “the safest state in Nigeria”? Of course, the list is endless!

Aregbesola’s intervention in the hospitality sector has also not gone unnoticed. For instance, Osun now has more than 400 hotels, out of which more than 15 are in ‘Category A’ (equivalent to a ‘3-star’ hotel). Before this administration came on board, the state could only boast of less than half of this figure. Added to these are more than 80 Tourist Attractions in the state. The establishment of Osun Microcredit Agency has also gone a long way in reducing unemployment as well as alleviating poverty in the state. Taken together, these  laudable initiatives have  helped  a great deal  in shoring up the state’s internal revenue base, particularly, at a time Nigeria  is painfully hemorrhaging from dwindling economic fortunes as a result of global oil glut.

According to Woodrow Wilson, “a man has come to himself only when he has found the best that is in him, and has satisfied his heart with the highest achievement he is fit for.” So, which is easier to say:  ‘Aregbesola has no money in any bank anywhere in the world’, or to say: ‘he has not drawn salary since he became governor of the State of Osun’? Or that he has only two buildings: one in Egbeda, Lagos; and the other one in Ikeja-Lagos, given to him as ‘retirement benefit’ by Lagos State Government for serving as its Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure between 1999 and 2007? Of course, this is where plunderers who latch on the rebellious twists and turns of seeming adversity or perceived inadequacy of the moment to judge Aregbesola’s government are missing it. Today, we discuss Obafemi Awolowo in glowing terms, not because of the money he stashed in any local or foreign bank; or the number of houses he built. Rather, it’s because of his transparent commitment to the development of Yorubaland in particular and Nigeria in general.

As ‘Ogbeni’ floats through the years ahead with grace and good cheer, may principalities and powers, assigned to rubbish our leader’s efforts, scatter!

*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk)