Aregbesola and challenges of development in Osun
Becoming governor was not, for Rauf Aregbesola, the fulfillment of an ambition. It was for him, the beginning of a mission: a mission to transform his beloved state, Osun to its Eldorado. Prior to his assumption of office on November 27, 2010, the scandalous performance of successive governments, with the rare exception of Akande administration is better imagined than real.
As a result of poor governance by successive governments and the inherent institutionalized corrupt tendencies of public office holders, the state Infrastructural facilities were in a state of terrible decay and needing urgent attention and rehabilitation.
The level of rot, particularly, the degree of moral decadence he met on ground was totally unacceptable to him. Consequently, he embarked on far –reaching reforms to make the state measure up to the standard of what a modern state should be and put it on the path of irreversible posterity.
The arrested development of the state a result of the maladministration of his immediate predecessor in office explains why Aregbesola was in a hurry to develop the 25 year old state when he came on board in 2010, and was consequently spending up to 80 percent of the state’s resources on capital projects.
Corrupt public officials and beneficiaries of the old order were not happy with him because, after devoting such a humongous sum to the execution of capital projects, there is little or nothing to steal couple with the fact that he also blocked all areas of leakages.
The foregoing made him unpopular amongst the elites and thieving public officials who have being feasting like vultures on the meager resources of the state. But to the commoners, the toiling masses and the vulnerable who are in the majority, the anti-corruption and attitudinal change crusade of Aregbesola is a welcome development. In any existing economic or political system, there are those who would naturally oppose the emergence of ideas formulated towards endowing a progressive society.
These are those that have been recently uncovered and referred to as a “cabal” opposed to the provision of the people of the state of Osun with the right kind of leadership as symbolized in the pragmatic and quality style of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. They are practically those who have gone to town, a section of the traditional media and the internet with wild, despicable allegations and malicious propaganda to paint Ogbeni Aregbesola in bad light, cause mischief, misinform and disrupt the existing good relationship between Aregbesola and the appreciative people of Osun.
Like Winston Churchill, ogbeni might be vilified for his principled position, but no one can fault the altruistic and patriotic motivations for his actions. Like the saying goes, “Diamond are forever”. Changing global reality in our new world is making leaders that have vision look like narrow minded, satanic, heartless and wicked leaders while making those without vision look like saints. Before this intervention, I had watched with a sense of bewilderment, the unrelenting smear campaign against Aregbesola administration and his person unleashed by corrupt politicians founded newspapers and their hirelings.
It is as if Osun is the only state in Nigeria owing its workers salary arrears due to dwindling allocation from the federation account occasioned by misappropriation of funds that suppose to go into federation account for joint sharing by the three tiers of government, no thanks to Jonathan led PDP led Federal government and the down ward slide of the global price of oil, the main stay of our economy.
I think it is a piece of ignorance when one refuses to acknowledge anything good one’s enemy has done right. It is patently clear that there is a calculated attempt by Aregbesola’s political enemies to rubbish his 5 year reign. The opposition, a section of the media on its payroll and the “lynch mob” have found an opportunity in the current economic recession affecting the whole world to vent their spleen for the sole purpose of transferring away the pressure and attention from the uncomplimentary activities of their days in power, that is partly responsible for our present economic woes towards an “ideal scapegoat”.
Apparently, blackmail, unpopular advocacy, false, wild, mendacious and ill-intentioned allegations are the only known tool to them to further their campaign of calumny and primarily justify their inordinate desire to rubbish the unprecedented landmark achievements of the Rauf Aregbesola phenomenon.
A candid assessment of the performance of Aregbesola in his first three years in power which has attracted widespread commendation and applause, both locally and internationally, can best be described as nothing but superlative.
In just three years, Aregbesola has been able to prove that something good can, indeed come out of Nazareth. He has pulled Osun from the backwaters of underdevelopment, illiteracy, ignorance and disease, to a state that is on irreversible path to prosperity. Holistically, we should start by underlying the various freedoms we enjoy as citizens.
A throw back from the days of yore and of gore. We are comparatively freer. Only those in a state of collective amnesia, take this aspect of governance for granted. To realize his vision, the governor had, on assuming office, initiated a strategy of building up reserve of funds with which it could leverage for the projects it has planned to do.
The innovative approach adopted by Rauf Aregbesola led government at the most excruciating period of the state is worthy of emulation by any well meaning government the world over. His government did two things that nobody thought he could do. By November, 2010, when it assumed office, the state borrowed a whopping N1 billion to pay salaries. That was the same time it starts recruiting 20,000 OYES members! It was that same period that the state paid bonus to its workers. The abiding question is: How did the “magician”,Aregbesola did it? By March of the following year, to be precise, March, 2011, ogbeni had restructured the state finances that the state was no longer in any precarious condition.
The state has stopped borrowing money to pay salaries on the 25th of every month yet,it never failed to pay N200 million monthly allowance to OYES volunteers. In less than three years of his first four year- tenure, chroniclers of history would establish Aregbesola’s massive interventions in hitherto rotten and neglected sectors such as education, environment, agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, health and security. From better –developed education system, to well- equipped hospitals, to empowered people; to policies geared towards empowerment, poverty alleviation and a social security programme that protects the vulnerable.
The vulnerable are the old who cannot earn any more money, the young and old who cannot get healing, the children too poor to afford books and food at schools, the disenfranchised business person who cannot get seed money to pursue his/her dream s of breaking away from poverty. They are the people whom Abraham Lincoln referred to as the reason for government. Those that need help to survive. The state of Osun’s present experience in the spheres of infrastructure and human capital development worthy of commendation when compared to what the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola met on ground and how he has been able to transform Osun, in less than 3 years, the current economic recession affecting the whole world, notwithstanding.
Aregbesola has so far demonstrated that, with great determination, Osun state could become the envy of many and the pride of her citizens at home and in the Diaspora. Not a few will agree with this commentator that Osun state infrastructural facilities, though yet to be completed due to the economic meltdown, is the symbolic representation of Aregbesola’s government resolve to eradicate the decadence of the past and link the state and subsequently, the people with the future. So far so well for the state of the living God! Without doubt, Aregbesola’s efforts at re positioning the state of Osun have not gone unnoticed.
The World Bank in conjunction with 14 states in Nigeria have replicated the OYES initiative in those states. Ogbeni was invited to address the UK parliament on the Schools Feeding Programme and the tablet of knowledge, “opon Imo”. Even the Buhari led APC Federal Government has incorporated some of his programme, especially the School Feeding Programme and the N5000 stipend for the unemployed graduates into his manifesto.
No doubt, Rauf is a man of uncommon brilliance, boundless vision, incredible sagacity, humane passion, selfless discipline, unmatchable genius and a realist, who is at the same time innovative. He was born a genuine transformation head and he live up to his iconic image. Aregbesola has within three years in office pioneered changes geared towards the achievement, improvement and sustenance of good quality of life for the citizens of the state.
Fellow of Nigeria Society of Engineers (FNSE), Aregbesola has within so short a time in office demonstrated that where there is a will, there is always a way. A man of immense responsibilities to himself, his society and the world as a whole, he is down- to- earth, with creative determination, delightful coherence and comforting commitment suitable for any leadership position.
Surely, the good that Aregbesola has started in Osun state, though, temporarily hinder by the current economic recession, will outlast him; it will live long after he will have passed. So since he meant well for the state, he deserves the support of people, not lack of it. In this historic battle of repositioning the state, he needs to be encouraged, not scared. And since this battle is collective, not personal, he deserves solidarity, not brickbats. Without mincing words, Aregbesola and his team has so far demonstrated that they are ever “ready to march into the new frontier”.
So, with “greater determination and strong commitment” in their approaches, there is no doubt Osun state is “set to join the league of develop economies.” And the Promised Land will be easier accessed than ever imagined. May God save us from ourselves!
The writer, Lanre Aminu is the National Coordinator, Oodua Youth for Good Governance