By Olumide Lawal
There is nothing more difficult to carry out, not more doubtful of success, not more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. The reformer has enemies in all those who profited from the old order and only lukewarm defenders in all those, who would profit through the new order. This lukewarm arises, partly from incredibility of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new, until they have actually experienced it. It is in this situation, that the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, found himself when he came on the scene in Osun State, when its progress was at the lowest ebb. But the Ijesa-born politician was determined to go the whole hog of making Osun State an Eldorado, no matter what. Only an administration with the heart of steel and grim resolve could accomplish such feat.
Setting out to achieve his avowed goals expectedly met with resistance from those, who profited from the old order of doing things in Osun State. It was they first and the larger populace last. To the glory of God, Ogbeni Aregbesola has opened up Osun State to certain level of socio-economic development. In the course of his first term in office, far-reaching infrastructural facilities were put in place to international standard with frugality. Roads, hitherto considered unpassable and difficult to rehabilitate saw the magic wands of Ogbeni Aregbesola and residents of such areas heaved a sigh of relief. Shout of “ONA BABA ONA, rent the air.
For the first four years of Ogbeni Aregbesola in the saddle, workers’ salaries and pensions were paid as and when due and his government was regarded as worker-friendly. Even certain percentages of the workers’ salaries were paid as 13th month bonus. But now, that the world is witnessing economic recession, Governor Aregbesola should device a means and a solid one too, whereby payment of workers’ salaries and pension would not suffer unduly. It is said, that a labourer’s wages should be paid before his or her sweat dries up.
For workers to remain on empty stomachs for several months in certain cases speaks volume. The government should be prepared to invest in human capacity. If certain projects have to be scaled down, so be it. According to Uruguay President, Jose Pepe Mujiba, who in anyway goes to work in an old Volkswagen Bettle car, said and I quote: “It’s no mystery-the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources”. Osun economy is tied to workers’ salaries and pension. We are ‘naked’ industrially. What do we do should the black gold, known as crude oil, dries up? In Osun State, we should start setting the pace, by looking aggressively into areas, where we can boost internal revenue and jobs generation.
All the cries by state governors that accruals from crude oil to their states are diminishing only show laziness on their parts. They should source for alternative revenue sources. The First Republic was without crude oil and those in governance served their people well. Osun State should not be in the league of those who will depend absolutely on oil revenue. But for all that I know, our governor is working round the clock to leave enviable legacies behind him after 2018, which is around the corner. He should put in place a formidable economic team that is truly indigenous to fashion out the way forward for the State. An economic team that would bring back the sweet aroma from Osun Cocoa Products Industry, Ede and return the factory to production. Sir Adewale Adeeyo should speak out as the current Chairman of the Board of the Company.
Here is an ‘unusual’ governor, who like the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory, do not lay claim to monopoly of wisdom. But while, some in positions of leadership and rulership are busy fraternizing with men of shady characters and carousing with women of easy virtue, Aregbesola, like a few others, remains at his post, working assiduously to find solutions to Osun State problem. Only the deep can call to the deep. His likes are found in other South-West APC governors, who like Ogbeni Aregbesola, are steadily transforming their states to the applause of their citizenry.
Ogbeni Aregbesola should continue firing from all cylinders to take Osun State to the Promised Land. There should be no looking back, even where detractors are busy putting one hurdle or the other on his way. Those who will stop at nothing to distract him, going by the recent satanic rumours peddled against his amiable son, Kabiru, who of course has been vindicated. Such is the price to pay for leadership, though it could be a bitter pill to swallow.
For those who may wish to settle one political score or the other with Governor Aregbesola, they should not engage in such political pettiness of dragging the good name of an innocent young man like Kabiru in the mud. They should discuss issues, rather than character assassination of innocent people. And journalism in Nigeria should not be reduced to Jankara market affairs. Facts are sacred and comments free and when in doubt, you leave out, so goes the ageless maxim in the noble profession.
I am quite convinced that with the new administration of President–elect, Muhammed Buhari, Osun, with pragmatism and political wizardry of Ogbeni Aregbesola, will partake of the largesse that would accrue to states. Osun State progress, according to some narrow-minded people, was allegedly retarded in the last four years because of Ogbeni Aregbesola “unrepentant antagonistic postures” toward outgoing President Jonathan. Whatever that means! But now, that APC is in control of the Central government, Governor Aregbesola should curry the favour of the Federal Government and attract federal projects to Osun in quantum. And if need be, the governor should re-appraise the ongoing Gbongan-Akoda, Osogbo-Ilaodo roads under construction, and do the necessary things with the Federal Ministry of Works or hand over such projects to the Federal government, using his excellent relationship with the President-elect for the good of the people of Osun State. If Governor Aregbesola spends four terms in office, he cannot finish the development projects in Osun State. He should tread softly. Try his best and leave the rest for others. What Governor Aregbesola needs do in Osun State right now is to re-order his priorities and make human capacity development the centre stage of his administration, while continuing to plug all loopholes that are areas of wastage to the government, even if those who profiteer through such old order of “silent looting” of government treasury are not happy. He should not care a hoot about their grouse, which are unjustifiable.
All he needs to do is to pay workers salaries and pensions as and when due. With this, he would have shut the mouths of those who are living big outside their legitimate incomes. While re-appraising his capital projects, Governor Aregbesola should not forget his promise of dualising the Ede major township road. The Babangida Way. He should send Julius Berger to Ede to work, if only as compensation for Senator Isiaka Adeleke’s unquantifiable support for him in the 2014 governorship election.
And this brings to the fore, the necessity for Governor Aregbesola to set necessary machineries in motion to conduct the Local Government election in Osun State, with the release of the result of the referendum conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commission under the able leadership of Otunba Segun Laditan for the creation of Local Council Development Areas as a prelude to the exercise.
It is baffling that four years on the same set of people are running the affairs of the Local Governments in Osun as caretaker committees. This is unwelcome. Is there anything more to it than meet the eyes? Where they were elected, the Local Government Council officials are constitutionally entitled to three years in office. What is at stake, our dear Governor Aregbesola? If it is your wish to make do with caretaker committee for the rest of the life of your administration, please extend the favour to other party members, so as to see you as a true democrat and a leader for all. You cannot afford to be dictatorial in this regard.
They may not say it out, members of APC in Osun State are grumbling over the Local Government Caretaker issue. Please do something before the grumbling becomes louder. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. Everybody contributed his or her own little quota to your success at the August 9, 2014 governorship election. The conduct of local government election in Osun State, without further delay, should be paramount in your mind as soon as funds are available for the purpose. The State House of Assembly should also play its check and balance role in this regard. For all I know, at the end of the day, Governor Aregbesola will leave Osun State better than he met it. I trust in his ability to deliver.
Once again, let us engage in politics of love, affection and development in Osun State. We should continue to wish our leaders well and pray for them as a demonstration of our obedience to the Biblical and Quranic injunctions. We should not behave like that man in Ekiti State who pointedly wished our President-elect dead. May God forgive him and forgive those who orchestrated the evil machination against the Governor’s son-Kabiru-, whose services are also needed in the development of Osun as its bonafide citizen.
To accelerate the state’s internally-generated revenue, Governor Aregbesola should embark on aggressive property tax collection to boost the State revenue. Despite the economic downturn, gigantic and imposing structures called homes by the super rich are springing up at Osogbo G.R.A and other locations in the state capital and other choice areas of the state. If those involved could have so much to erect such structures, they should spare the state something substantial as property tax. After all, such locations in G.R.A enjoy the best of road network and electricity supply, as they are on dedicated lines from whatever you call it. Are the numerous ‘five star’ hotels that now litter Osun State paying up the correct taxes to the government?
Osun shall certainly excel and be a model for other states to emulate. It should be many steps ahead of others. We all have our patriotic roles to play. We are ready to do that if the Governor provides a level-playing ground to do so. He should not give room to those who will tell him only those things that are sweet to his ears. They are the ones who will cry Hossanah today, crucify him tomorrow.
*Lawal, a public affairs analyst, writes from Ede, Osun State.