SOME 8-year ago, the briskly moving revolutionary dynamo and tedious beard spotting personage had a "pact" with the people of State of Osun. As a dealer in hope with a mission to rekindle in his people the vanishing virtue of humility, industry and self worth in the 'Land of Virtuous' for which Osun and Yoruba people are known, Governor Rauf Aregbesola neither fail none falter.
As a social democrat, Aregbesola leverages on the shared commitment of a political, social and economic ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity in a capitalist economy such as ours. Little wonder he has been forensic in his demand for precise accountability in administrative governance.
The idea — primarily is to ensure that the state's income redistribution and regulation of the economy is executed in the general interest of the greater numbers of Osun people. So far, Aregbesola has evolved governance processes and conditions leading to egalitarian, solidaristic and inclusive development — a set of socioeconomic policies that levitates a once agrarian state to a boisterous economic destination.
Ogbeni's social democratic philosophy of total commitment to policies aimed at curbing inequality, oppression of underprivileged groups and poverty, including support for universally accessible public services like care for the elderly, child care, education, health care and workers' compensation are the major achievements of his 8-year feat at the saddle.
Aregbesola's wide readings have made him an indispensable ally of the oppressed, the disadvantaged. His ascetic way of life incubated in integrity and discipline materialised inherently in the way governed Osun. Since the Polytechnic, he remains the last man standing in the defense of truth and the masses.
Those who say Ogbeni is a true reincarnation of the late Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo saw through his 2007 campaign manifesto, christened "The Green Book, My Pact With The Osun People", and the fulfillment of those promises. Coincidentally, Aregbesola was two-year old at the time Chief Obafemi Awolowo exited power in 1959 as the Premier of the then Western Region of Nigeria.
But the question has been how far between has Aregbesola be able to implement his "Six-Point Integral Plan of banishing poverty, banishing hunger, banishing unemployment, (create work/wealth), restore healthy living, promote functional education and enhance communal peace and progress, 8-year after? In addition, did he restore to the people — a state of peace — opportunity for progress and room for the pursuit of prosperity in his time under a people friendly government, as he promised?
The other questions have been, what are the impacts of social democracy in Osun State since Aregbesola took office? What will be the verdict of history on his administration? What will happen to his policies going forward? As lofty as his internationalizing of Osun state was from the very beginning did Aregbesola make Osogbo the second hub in international trade in goods and commodities in the Southwest? Finally, can we say his "Six-Point Integral Action Plan" that constitute his articles of faith for which he wanted to be held accountable at any time during his stewardship been fulfilled while in office?
Aregbesola's emergency on the Osun political scene is a perfect storm and needed catalyst that ignites unprecedent transformation to the admiration of all. His administration so compelling and overwhelming to the extent that Osun now occupied the center stage as a pace-setter in effective governance in Nigeria.
Thousands of youths were taken away from the streets and given jobs under the O’YES programme; thousands more of children were attracted back to school as parents took advantage of the reformation Ogbeni effected in education. As the revolutionary transformation in education progressed, marvellous state-of-the-art schools that outclassed private ones emerged and the surge began into government schools as enrolment in them rose exponentially.
One of the marvels of the Aregbesola phenomenon is the infrastructural development undertaken by his government. And naturally, the state capital, Osogbo and other city centres, experience the most expansive accomplishment. The roads network which Aregbesola has constructed (and is still constructing) is unprecedented in the history of the state of Osun. Alread, Aregbesola has set a standard in governance structures his successors can build on.
The consensus has been that Aregbesola's government offers Osun people what he termed "Unusual" — a Government totally committed to unlocking the latent potentials in his people, a phenomenon unknown in Southwest Nigeria since the glorious days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. This is different to what obtains across the country where a ruling class tainted with greed, avarice, ineptitude and barefaced terrorism is the order of the day.
Aregbesola's governorship since 2010 brought an abrupt end to unremitting poverty through his work/wealth creation police, tackles threatening insecurity challenges, diseases and the inhuman squalor visited on Osun people since the end of the twenty years civil war in Yoruba Land (KIRIJI) on October 1886. For the record, Osun people’s natural affinity for commerce has been dampened over the years by unfriendly and unfocused economic policies of government, thereby popularising poverty amongst a people, who are naturally hardworking, industrious and adventurous.
The transformation of Osogbo into an international market where good will be procured at prices comparable to any other part of West Africa is remarkable. Ogbeni's relentless strives for all-round development of Osun partly inspires this: "The Moshood Kashimawo Abiola Airport, initiated and being built by Governor Aregbesola...is a demonstration of the incredible managerial acumen of Ogbeni. This singular project has placed Ogbeni among the stars of perpetual reckoning in the political cloud in the State of Osun. It is simply a demonstration of extensive courage and resilience in the face of paucity of funding.'' (page 116), excerpt from the book: "From Cradle to Power" By Erasmus Ikhide and Igbotako Nowinta.
It's truly intriguing — amidst paucity of resources — how Aregbesola managed to revitalise commerce and restore wealth back to the state through market friendly policies that revive the customary activities in Osogbo and other towns in Osun. In a country where the populace see politics and governance as scam, genuine dedication efforts such as exhibited by Aregbesola that promote and support activities towards wealth creation for a long suffering people is celebratory.
Without mincing words, it's heroic how Ogbeni militantly survived the trying epoch, triumphant in the discharge of his duties to the people and posterity. Consistent in his pursuit, mindful of the contradictions that have been thrown up in the Osun firmament, he remains a beacon of hope to the vanquished political disequilibrium of his people and the nation.
As we revisits Aregbesola's "Unusual Government Mantra", his style of governance and strategic interface with his people and Nigerians at large, one can only but advocate for continuity in the face of the obvious traumatic transition — bearing in mind that it would be foolhardy to assume that Aregbesola has solved all of the Osun people's problems. Osun is a work in progress. It's only Aregbesola's kind of unforgettable Master's plan that can ensure Eldorado in the Land of the Virtuous.
Erasmus, A Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos Email: [email protected]