Bolaji Tunji: Another look at Aregbesola’s Osun
My piece today is not going to be popular with some people. But everything is not all about criticizing government. It is equally important to praise where government has done well and that is what this piece is about. It is a focus on the governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. The idea is not to whitewash him or paint him in negative colours, rather, it’s to tell the story of Osun the way it really is, based on a visit to the state recently.
Indeed, I have always been accused of being unsparing in my criticisms of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but what those who have formed such opinions failed to understand is that as journalists, we have a huge responsibility to write in ways that would elevate the country and make it better than it is. To educate, if need be, praise and criticise in order to bring improvement into the society. Such huge responsibility is not personal and is devoid of partisanship. If it had been the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the saddle today, I would also have been unsparing in my criticism.
Nigeria is in a bad shape, hunger has taken over the land. Expectations of the people are not being met. Nigeria is not yet the country of our dream, so there is always something to talk or write about to make it better and keep our leaders on their toes, knowing that they have a huge responsibility while not forgetting that the expectation of about 180 million Nigerians is riding on them, including those of the unborn generation. Thus, leadership is a huge responsibility and it requires a whole lot of sacrifice which politicians, who have the collective mandate of the people, must constantly be reminded of.
But back to the state of Osun. There’s no one in the country today that would say he has not heard or read about the many criticisms that have trailed the governor. If it was not about the religious issue which made some organisations to instruct their wards to wear their religious raiment to school, it would be about pensioner complaining about non inclusion in the bailout fund. My take is that some of what the governor tried to do was misunderstood while a lot of them were equally due to “politics”, the way we play it in this part of the world. Take last week’s protest by pensioners, that they were not paid from the bailout which was meant to clear salary arrears. The pensioners were paid on the same day the workers were being paid despite the fact that they were not included in the bailout fund. Paying them was solely the governor’s initiative.
Some of the major problems we are confronted with in the country today are politicization of issues and religious sentiment. Both have blinded us, such that we fail to appreciate the good in others even when it is starring us in the face. Nigerians have not been allowed to look beyond the criticisms and see the giant strides of Aregbesola in Osun in areas of education, social net provided for indigent and the aged, infrastructure development and the vision behind the different actions of the governor. One thing is clear, the governor is positively unconventional in his way of doing things, maybe because the conventional has not been yielding the intended results.
Most critics of the state government have always tried to understand why he remained popular among the masses or why he was always followed by a massive crowd anytime he walked on the streets of Osogbo, the state capital or any part of the state. The answer, as I later found out was because he was impacting in the life of the people. There are two governors in the country today that have taken governance to the street and have shown genuine care to the masses- Ekiti governor, Ayo Fayose and Aregbesola. They walk and work the streets and mix with the masses without fear. The cloth they wear is a reflection of who and what they are. You hardly see them in flowing agbada that politicians favour. It makes it easy for them to move in the crowd.
Apart from the fact that the state of Osun is one of those with the lowest revenue allocations in the country, it has been able to marshal what it has to great advantage with maximum impact. In the area of education, there is a vast infrastructural development. Modern classrooms are being built with modern conveniences. This is replicated in all the local government areas in the state. I recall that shortly after the governor was sworn in, he constituted an education summit which came out with a blue print on what to do to improve education in the state. The result is what is seen today. Each pupil is given two school uniforms by the state. Also, a meal a day for the student is ongoing. The implication of this is that, there have been massive enrollment in schools from 155, 318 to 254,793. It has also translated into improvement in the life of the people. The food stuffs for the food for the pupils are sourced from the local market. Farmers are smiling, produce sellers are equally smiling. The pupils are happy and the parents are relieved. It’s really a win-win situation.
There are school buses to convey students home after school at subsidized rate. iPad (opon imo) loaded with instructional material are also given to certain categories of pupils.
In road construction, one of the achievements of the administration is the construction of a minimum of seven and maximum of 10 kilometers of road per local government in each of the 31 Local government areas. But the most impressive of the road constructions are the three legacy roads – the Gbongan-Akoda, Osogbo-old garage to Kwara state boundary and the Oba Adesoji Aderemi roads. Work is on going in all these roads. To complete some of these projects, the state recently took a Sukkuk bond of N11.4billion.
Other areas of impact of the governor is identifying elderly people who were too old and were really waiting for their final moment, the state identified these people and gave them a reprieve. There was the story of the old man who could no longer walk but lived in a story building. Anytime he needed anything, he would tie a rope to a bucket with his money inside and would lower it to the ground floor. Once the item is placed in the bucket he would pull it up again. He was one of the 1,600 citizens identified across the state who collet N10, 000 every month. The project goes by the name, Agba Osun (Osun elders) programme. In Osun state, you could hardly walk the street and see a mentally-challenged person, this is because the state has a programme of rehabilitating such people. The youths are equally recruited into O’YES (Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme) to keep them off the street, as the saying goes, an idle hand is the devil’s workshop.