Kikiowo Ileowo: A Rejoinder to ‘A prayer for Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the impatient reformer’

In my few years of sojourn on earth, I have encountered diverse kinds of people; but of all humans, Nigerians stand out.

 

Nigerians are a special breed of people. Our ability to stay satisfied with underdevelopment and even crucify those who dare change the status quo is unprecedented.

I recently read with amusement, an article put together by a citizen who heads an ‘organization’ calling for Renaissance in Ijesaland.

Though the entire write-up betrays the very thing Renaissance stands for, I will try my best to analyze some of the issues raised in Oluwatomilola Boyinde’s piece titled, A Prayer For Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, The Impatient Reformer, published on the platform of YNaija online newspaper.

Though, I tried to identify some of the issues Boyinde raised, a large part of the article though laced with fine English, lacks a fair grasp and depth of the real issues facing the state of Osun.

I will start by stating that Boyinde’s introduction was accurate, but at some point, he veered off reason and logic, dealing only in the realm of clairvoyance and Hocus Pocus that has kept our people living the life of 1900s in the 21st century.

That Aregbesola started “with a steering mission, one deeply rooted in the vision of our heroes past; people-driven governance, reminiscent of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Bola Ige eras” is not in doubt, however unknown to Boyinde, Ogbeni remains focused in that path, despite genuine economic reasons to abandon ship.

In the mindset of many Nigerians, it is more than okay for a governor to pay salaries of civil servants for eight years; I bet that is optimum performance for many. In fact, before leaving office, public office holders who can do this consecutively during their tenures are showered with numerous award of performance, excellence, merit, distinction and other nonsensical appellations to massage their ego. We must refuse this narrative.

It saddens my heart that in a time when the world is moving at tremendous speed beyond technological advancement into sustainability, a citizen in Osun is clamouring the society craws out of the 19th century.

The Martin Luther Kings and many other reformers of this world, refused to accept the status quo, they stood radically for what they believed in, though it was against the norm of their time.

Aregbesola leads a unique government in Osun, a government impatient with backwardness, poverty and under-development. 8 years is too short to be ‘patient’ about reforming a state considered one of the most backward in Nigeria prior to 2010. The state needed a leap and that is what the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola rendered.

Boyinde in accusing Ogbeni of financial impropriety; ignored facts that are publicly available, dwelling only on fiction authored by the opposition to discredit a performing, but financially challenged government.

What are the facts?
The state of Osun has an over bloated civil service.
World over, no one sees government completely as a business entity, hence, the reason many in the Osun civil service haven’t being sack – in fact, no politician will dare touch this special breed of workers. Anyways, I see the Civil service in Nigeria as a Social Protection Scheme used for Cash Transfer to a privileged few.

With all due respects to professionals who are in the system, many others who are in the civil service have no business in government business. The proper thing would have been to sack over 60% of government workers, and save the state a huge cost.

I find it absurd for a segment of people not up to 1% of the entire state population; gulp more than 80% of revenue that accrue to the remaining 99%. It is unfair on other citizens and such is the case across states in the country.

But despite this, Ogbeni’s Osun has paid its civil servants till date. In fact, the December salary was paid two weeks ago, days after the federal government shared the December 2015 allocation. Contrary to the wrong information in Boyinde’s piece, Osun Pays it’s Salaries.

This is the story of Osun many in the rank of Boyinde don’t want you to hear, while states like Ondo, Imo among others, still owe upward of 3-6 months salaries.

People Don’t Argue With Results.
In the game of football, you don’t rest your best players when you need goals the most. You encourage them to deliver results. Aregbesola despite the cash crunch continue to feed over 250,000 pupils in public schools daily. 3000 caterers have been empowered through Aregbe’s O-Meals programme alone, this excludes other citizens employed in the supply chain.

The O’Meals programme consumes 250, 000 eggs, 15, 000 chickens and 15 cattle heads on a weekly basis. This is about the protein contents. I am not talking about the carbohydrate content which sees 250, 000 loaves of bread also consumed by pupils on a weekly basis. And, as at today, the feeding is still ongoing. Little wonder school enrollment took a 25% leap in the space of 3 Years.

What’s More?
Old schools across the state have virtually turned to construction sites due to the reconstruction and upgrade of most of them. As at the last count, 22 elementary schools, 18 middle schools, and 10 high schools are at various stages of completion. These are projects embarked upon in the last two years alone. They do not include several elementary schools that have already been commissioned across the state.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Unemployment dropped from 12.4% to 3% in 3 years.

It is no joke that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, recently declared that Osun is one of the states with lowest in poverty in Nigeria.
“The indication (in Osun) is that because there is a lot of investment on the people, poverty has been reduced and that is what we (the Federal Government) are trying to achieve in Nigeria,” Osinbajo said.

Osun, out of the 36 states, has the lowest rate of unemployed people, particularly among her teeming youths, due to the determination of Ogbeni’s administration to banish poverty and unemployment among its people.

Around 10 kilometers of roads have also been constructed in each local government in the state of Osun. I can go on and on reeling the achievement of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, but maybe some other time.

Osun is working with the World Bank and French Development Agency to fund the construction of 500km rural roads across the State. One of only 6 states being partnered on this. Osun’s rural road maintenance practice has been singled as a model for these 6 states and the nation.

Conclusion – Osun, A Bright Future Ahead
Boyinde’s paradoxical article is what happens when citizens who ought to know better reduce a governor to a man elected to pay salaries for 8 years.

Equating Osun’s policy of promoting its cultural assets and freedom to Ogbeni abandoning his God, is nothing short of crass ignorance and deliberate wickedness. The Ogbeni I know does not joke with his God. He prays five times a day as a devout Muslim, and has continually allowed other religious beliefs to flourish around him.

Aside this mundane talk on religion, Osun’s Internal Revenue Service is being revamped for effective service, with a monthly target of N5billion in the next few months. The state itself is determined to be self-reliant on its agricultural assets and solid mineral resources.

I won’t be surprised if the state of Osun no longer relies on allocation from the federal government when Ogbeni is handing over come 2018.

This is Osun under Aregbesola. Osun may be financially challenged, but it is not a failed state. Osun still meets its going concern with the internal revenue it generates monthly.

The (social) media in Lagos may be unhappy with Ogbeni’s unusual style of governance or dressing, but that does not make Osun unviable or make the citizens hate their governor. On a recent trip to few local governments in Osun, I was shocked at the people’s instinctive show of love for Ogbeni.

Testimonies abound on how he has transformed their lives. One wonder what is it that endear them to him this much even in these difficult times. It appears his commitment and Investments in the Human Infrastructure, School Feeding, Education is unrivalled in the States history.

No government before him has brought so many economic opportunities and development for the people. When he leaves in 2018, he will be leaving a very big shoes for his successor to fill.

 

 

Kikiowo is a social commentator.

 

 

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