Osun: History Meets The Historic
The excitement reached a head, as the party hit the November 27 interchange, that flies over Gbongan road, in Osogbo.
He was no yokel; but in his excitement, prancing and skipping, he yodelled like one.
“Ogbeni, the Awolowo of our time,” he chirped, “don’t forget the Bisi Akande trumpet!” — and, all zeal and fervency, he pointed towards Gbongon.
The Bisi Akande Trumpet Bridge was some 40 kilometers away, at the old Gbongan junction, with Ibadan-lfe expressway. But this enthusiast couldn’t imagine Osun Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, letting go of his Guild of Editors guests, without showing off his architectural wonder.
It was March 18. The Guild of Editors chose to hold its committee meeting at Osogbo. The governor also seized the occasion to show the elite of the Nigerian media Osun’s developmental strides. Though Ripples is no member of the Guild, he was invited to join the August visitors in March.
The bussed company, with the governor himself in-situ, set out, from the Oke Fia Government House, quietly enough.
But they lost their anonymity that moment, at the Olaiya junction of Alekuwodo, in Osogbo’s commercial hub, someone sighted the governor, and let go a yelp.
Before you knew it, an excited, beaming, dancing company was pumping fists and flashing “V” (for victory) signs, with their two fore-fingers, a sign original to Winston Churchill, Britain’s World War 2 hero; but popularized in these climes by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, first premier of the old Western Region.
The governor, himself a study in boyish excitement, returned the “V” compliment; and an impromptu carnival of love, mutual doting and appreciation ensued. As the convoy rolled slowly by, on the newly named Workers Avenue, so did the excited people swell in their numbers.
But everything got to a head on the November 27 bridge, when the governor and his entourage disembarked, the accompanying officials explaining the work-in-progress; and the governor himself chipping in now and then, especially the engineering and technical details.
The first leg of the tour was on the Oba Adesoji Aderemi ring road, that ripples with history, old and contemporary.
Oba Aderemi (1889-1980), was Ooni of Ife (1930-1980); and was first indigenous governor of Western Region, during which time Chief Awolowo, as Premier, performed his social transformation wonders, that hauled the old West clear of the other regions, of North and East.
But, as Oba Aderemi offers today’s Osun a symbolic tieback to the Awolowo golden age, so does its 17.5-kilometre stretch project, to a future Osun, clear historical landmarks.
Those monuments capture its infrastructural remake, from a backwater “civil service” state that rose and fell by Abuja’s dole; to a land poised to harness its resources, in the finest tradition of the Yoruba Omoluabi.
It is a classic case of history meeting the historic-minded.
Those monuments? Four bridges, really.
Five Judges, to commemorate the five Court of Appeal justices, whose verdict reclaimed the Aregbesola mandate, after almost a four-year struggle; November 26, the day that judgment was given; November 27, when the first Aregbesola administration birthed, and August 9, the day the governor won re-election, despite the hideous plots to skew the vote, by the Jonathan Presidency, flush with success in a similar gambit in Ekiti.
By design or by accident, November 27 and Bisi Akande Trumpet bridges appear the grandest of the signature road projects, wrapped in political symbols, that would in history, define the developmental temper of the Aregbesola years.
Bisi Akande immortalizes Osun’s very first attempt at serious governance (1999-2003), since its creation in 1991.
But that attempt was scuttled, during the Obasanjo South West electoral tsunami of 2003. November 27, on the other hand provided a doughty root for August 9, that day in 2014 the Osun local forces trumped illicit “federal might” to renew Aregbesola’s mandate.
The rest of the project tour, the Osogbo Government High School, one of the 11 avant-grade public schools springing up in different locations of the state; and the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park, Osogbo, are no less impressive symbols of developmental governance.
But the Mandela Freedom Park offers something somewhat novel — an informal museum of leisurely history. Mingling with park seats, on close-cropped lawns, is a special section bearing busts of Titans of the progressive politics of the West, from different ages: Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Bisi Akande and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Yet, another section of mini-galleries, boasts marble plaques, that encapsulate the tenure of every Osun governor, military or civilian, from Col. Leo Segun Aborisade, the first governor (military administrator) to Aregbesola himself. So, as loungers relax, they can read up their history and civics.
Dominating the park landscape is the impressive Atewogbeja Fountain, a tribute to the Osun river and its trove of fresh-water fishes. The fountain waters are electrically programmed, at night, to tumble down in a rainbow of colours.
Incidentally, the tour ended at Olaiya junction, with the unending tryst between an appreciative people and their governor!
From the tour revelations, Osun, of the Aregbesola years, would appear in a flux of rapid change; to justify the Heraclitean quip: you can’t step in the same river twice! Indeed, Osogbo had come a long way from the old rural town, to a growing modern city, gradually holding its own in serenity and winning infrastructure, drawing new businesses across different sectors.
So has Osun shrugged off its laggardness to, despite its puny resources, point the way in the schools feeding programme, which the Federal Government just adopted on a national scale.
Surely then, the Aregbe legacy is assured, came what may? Not exactly.
Indeed, Osun is painfully poised at a critical juncture between the short-lived but enduring Western Renaissance under Awo, before the SLA Akintola Demo forces blighted everything; and the post-1999 Lagos of sound developmental governance and golden continuity, which has become a national reference.
You could feel palpable panic, the way some Osun conservatives, in concert with Yoruba irredentists, tried to mould themselves into emergency Yoruba warriors against phantom Hausa-Fulani threat, when the Ife disturbance was nothing but mutual criminality.
The Afenifere veterans that dived into bed with Femi Fani-Kayode’s subversive Yoruba nationalism would appear splashing in the Osun political river, panic-stricken that, after the Aregbe years, so much has changed you can’t step in the same river twice.
So is Iyiola Omisore, with his trademark spew of verbal rot, perhaps gripped with the fear that, with the balance of forces, he might just be graduating, from serial failure to veteran failure, in his quixotic gubernatorial quest.
Still, that would appear no done deal. Even as Heraclitus declared nature was in a flux, Parminides, his Greek contemporary, countered nature was static and unchanging! That contradiction could give the conservatives some hope, no matter how tenuous.
So, Osun could well be changing; but maybe not rapidly enough to banish that 2003 electoral ghost, that traded solid gold for glittering tinsel. For that, the state paid a stiff price in hideous stagnation, in the dreadful pre-Aregbe years.
However it goes, Aregbesola’s personal legacy, like Chief Awolowo’s before him, appears secure.
But not the Osun developmental fate, ironically again, like the old West, where Awo wrought wonders only for the Demo renegades to blight everything.
Osun’s best bet, therefore, is a post Aregbe-era of stellar developmental strides, anchored on present efforts. That way, Osun may yet emerge the ultimate development wonder of the 4th Republic, just as the old West was the 1st Republic’s.
Ay, Lagos holds that honour now. But even the most doting of Lagosians would admit the post-1999 Tinubu movement (which incidentally Aregbesola was part of) only re-engineered a decaying former federal capital. Osun, under Aregbe, never had such a head start.
But the threat to Osun enjoying a Lagos-like golden continuation, and not enduring the old West’s reactionary roll-back, would appear to lie less with the Osun conservatives, no matter how desperate they may be, but with the governor’s own internal foes, craving pork but pretending all is cool.
That is the direction to address, if Aregbe must, like Tinubu in Lagos, get the successor(s) to further entrench Osun’s unfolding renaissance.