OPINION: Osun State Reclassification And Other Reforms
Contrary to misinformation spewed in the public domain, the missionaries do not own, manage or fund the only girls’ schools in the State. Since the 1975 take-over of the schools by the government, over 100 schools were built by the Baptist Convention without any as a single sex school.
Perhaps, there is the need to pierce the religious mask given to the agitation. In essence, there is an urgent need to appraise the past. What was the state of education as directed by the predecessor of Aregbesola? A cursory check shows that most public schools then were P.T.A-run. It was the parents’ body that employed teachers for the schools, most of whom were secondary school graduates. They were paid N7,000 (seven thousand naira) as salaries and classically called ‘P.T.A-teachers’. Parents provided chairs and tables for their children to use at schools.
Most often, for the lack of security, the pupils carried the chairs on their heads in the morning to their respective schools and to their homes after closing hours in the afternoon. The parents also had certain amounts they contributed to the schools as development fees. The contributions of the then government were one or two blocks of buildings of low standard in each schools and the payment of salaries to a handful of regular staff. Since there was no provision for toilets or latrines, the pupils eased themselves around the school compounds. By the time the government was packing its bag and baggage in 2010, after seven and half years in the saddle, most of the buildings had become dilapidated and the school surroundings were in total shambles.
But the odour of the putrid degeneracy in the education then was probably not strong enough to spring the Christian and Muslim communities into the kind of actions they have engaged in recently. Notwithstanding, it is a common knowledge that during that time, while public schools were festering like a sore thumb, the private schools, though very expensive, were blossoming like the fertilized flowers. Thus, the proprietors of these schools then smiled to the banks with their windfalls. Sadly enough, there was no agency or body to supervise and monitor their low quality and poorly paid secondary graduate ‘teachers’ that they exploit to teach the innocent pupils. Therefore, it was a ding dong case of ‘you rub my back and I rub yours’ between the government and the private school owners.
I am sensing, possibly, that the sin of Aregbesola is that he has come with the determination, never seen in any previous government in the state, to salvage the educational system of the State. Initially, it was dismissed as a joke of the political soapbox. But when they started seeing buildings rising up with modern facilities, they became jittery of what would become of the fate of their own private schools. The governor is now seen as a man possessed with a strange spirit that has to be exorcised.
But there are other sins of the governor. He is not just a Muslim but a devoted one in look and nature. His government was the first (and the only one so far) to have declared Hijra as a public holiday for the Muslims. This earned him all sorts of names from a Muslim fundamentalist to a Taliban and Boko Haram. And the Christians declared that he came with the agenda to turn Osun into an Islamic State.
The governor, however, had not finished yet. He further declared a public holiday known as Isese day for the traditional religious practitioners. The Muslims, who had earlier commended him for recognising their “New Year day” pitched an uncommon tent with their Christian counterparts and labelled him a babaalawo (herbalist) and an occultist. In a similar vein, school uniforms distributed freely to students has ELLA (Education and Learning Leading to Accomplishment) as the label of the school uniform; the cry was that the children wearing the clothes would become victims of money rituals.
Equally, Aregbesola remains the only governor to have accorded traditional religion practitioners an equal leverage to operate. (That is understandable in a State that can be rightly described as the cradle of Yoruba race and traditional beliefs.) Today they have more courage to be proud of their chosen faith. Despite the high level of disenchantment and no love lost between the Christians and Muslims, they have always found a common, hypocritical ground when it comes to condemning traditional religion. Meanwhile, the sermon of the governor is that religious tolerance is when a thousand flowers of religions can blossom together. And that the sky is wide enough for the millions of birds to fly together without any clash. No wonder, there has never been a reported case of a religious clash in the State of Osun.
Life can be so ironical when one looks at what a genuine leader has to pass through in bringing a progressive change to his society. As a leader, who is committed to education, Aregbesola sent about 98 medical students to Ukraine to continue their medical programme. These students became victims of the Osun State University, established without any provision for their clinical training. No university was prepared to accept them for the requisite training. Hence, their fate was left hanging until Aregbesola assumed office in 2010. He could have ignored them and denied ever been the cause of their predicament.
Aregbesola, who is called an Islamic fundamentalist, donated millions of Naira to Baptist Convention during its 2013 convention in the State of Osun; gave N10 million to Osun CAN and provided N35 million for the burial of late Prophet Abraham Obadare, the former General Overseer of WOSEM. All spent from the taxes of the hardworking payers.
Each time I reflect on all this, what comes to my mind is the song of the musical maestro, Ebenezer Obey, in his record titled the ‘The Horse, The Man And His Son’. He opines in this record that no matter how wise you are, you can never satisfy human beings. But what is important is that you are serving the good of the generality of your people to the best of your conscientious ability.
What Aregbesola has brought to Osun is a revolution without bloodshed. But what has been realised is that, revolution, whether bloody or non-violent, must have its resisters. The only thing that does not resist itself is change itself. Concluded
Amusan writes from Lagos