As a momentous era of transformation comes to an end, SOLOMON ODENIYI looks at the interventions of the symbol of progressive politics, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola in the state of Osun.
Before the long battle to reclaim his stolen mandate on November 26, 2010, he had mapped out a plan to salvage the state from the state of comatose it was drowning into, this he called the Six-point Integral Action Plan.
Expectedly, many have easily predicted that the battle would consume Rauf Aregbesola, but on all occasions, he came out stronger until the battle was won. Within the first 100 days in office, he had commenced his six-point integral action plan of Banishing Poverty, Banishing Hunger, Banishing Unemployment, Restoring Healthy Living, Promoting Functional Education and Enhancing Communal Peace and Progress which was designed to lift the condition of the people from poverty stricken to being wealthy.
In his close to eight years in the saddle, he instituted progressive reforms that have changed the face of of Osun some of which are;
Saying the greatest impact of Ogbeni Aregbesola led administration has been felt the most in the education sector is not out of place.
On assumption of office, his first point of call was an education summit which was chaired by Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka. From that summit emerged the blueprint that guided policies implemented in the education sector.
This helped in reclassification of schools into elementary, middle and high schools. The elementary and middle schools cover the primary and junior secondary schools. The high school is the senior secondary school.
So far, the government has recruited more than 12,000 teachers to boost manpower in the school system. Teachers are also being motivated. A policy that makes teachers in elementary and middle schools to rise to grade level 16 was put in place, coupled with the appointments of three Tutors General, equivalent of Permanent Secretary, in the three senatorial districts of the state. Also, the governor appointed nine Headmasters General for effective coordination, management and administration of elementary and middle schools in each of the nine federal constituencies of the state.
He also established the Osun Education Quality Assurance and Morality Enforcement Agency to ensure sound education quality and enforce morality in schools.
The eLearning tablets (Opon Imo) for grade 12 final year high school pupils in the state is meant to enhance learning. Aside that, new schools have been built and lots renovated to meet up with latest standard.
Recently, the state Bureau of Statistics released, figures of schools built and reconstructed by the Rauf Aregbesola administration in the last seven and half years, saying, “the Osun East Senatorial District had 583 elementary schools, 106 middle schools, 54 high and 67 middle/high schools. The Osun Central Senatorial District had 308 elementary schools, 91 middle schools, 50 high and 29 middle/high schools. In Osun West Senatorial District, we recorded 482 elementary schools, 45 middle schools, 23 high and 52 middle/high schools.
Signed by the state’s Statistician-General, Prof. Wasiu Gbolagade, the statement said, “The total numbers of newly built schools in Osun are 1,373 elementary schools, 242 middle schools, 127 high and 148 middle/high schools. The grand total of newly built schools with ultra-modern facilities is 1,890.
“Forty staff common rooms were built for elementary schools, 22 staff common rooms were also built for middle schools while 78 staff common rooms were built for high schools.
“In addition, 20 multi-purpose halls were built for elementary schools, 22 multi-purpose halls for middle schools and 13 multipurpose halls for high schools. Twenty food courts were also built for elementary schools, 22 food courts for middle schools and 13 food courts for high schools.
“Twenty libraries were built for elementary schools, 22 libraries for middle schools and 13 libraries for high schools.Twenty sickbays were built for elementary schools, 22 sickbays were built for middle schools and 26 sickbays for high schools.
“In elementary schools, we have 240 toilets for pupils while 80 toilets are for the teachers. In middle schools, we have 264 toilets for pupils and 264 for teachers. For high schools, 624 toilets were built for pupils while 104 toilets are for teachers”.
Also of note is school feeding programme (OMEAL) through which school children are being fed and have in turn increased enrolment into public schools”, Gbolagade analysed.
The security of lives and properties is said to be the basic function of any reasonable administration world over. However, this appeared to be the weak link for the state before Aregbesola’s era.
Many had lost their hard-earned properties and lives to hoodlums, fraudsters and armed robbers in Osun as a result of inadequate security. For decades, Osun served as haven for street urchins, hoodlums, kidnappers, armed robbers, pick-pockets, and other vices. Many in the state who fell victim of these unpalatable activities would not have forgotten so soon between the Osun of then and Osun of now. Also of note was the alarming rate of communal clashes then.
Indeed, this portrayed the state in bad light and it scared away investors. Ogbeni however, mobilised resources for effective security and maintenance of law and order among other things he did and the rest as they say is now history. The state under his watch has enjoyed an unbroken peace.
The procurement of 25 Armoured Personnel Carriers, 120 patrol vans, helicopter for aerial surveillance are some of the intervention that could not be easily forgotten.
Long before the federal government saw the need to diversify the economy of the country through Agriculture, Osun had begun its investment in Agriculture in order to feed its people.
This led to the formation of OREAP, through which his administration has been able to execute many other programmes like rural development, land clearing and access to rural communities, as well as youth training in agriculture.
He made available to farmers more than N2 billion interest-free loans in addition to yearly provision of farm inputs. His administration has also sponsored some sets of youths to Germany for training in modern farming techniques. Also, the government went into an agreement with the Nigerian Railway to ferry agricultural produce of farmers in the state to Lagos for sale. This was in a bid to encourage farmers to export their farm produce to the large market in Lagos.
Social intervention Programs
His administration has been given a lot of plaudits in this regard. According to political commentators, Aregbesola has been said to have carried out the most comprehensive and successful social programme in Nigeria. Such programmes include:
The Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme (OYES) has engaged 62,000 youths in batches and made majority of them self-dependent. The formation was as a result of the high rate of unemployment among youths. The administration saw that the situation was not healthy for the state’s development and since 2011 he launched the scheme, youths have been taken off the streets in the state, having been productively engaged.
Also, other social welfare schemes range from the care of widows, the elderly (Agba Osun), destitute, physically challenged and other vulnerable groups in the state. The government pays monthly stipend to the critically vulnerable elderly citizens; destitute and lunatics, were taken off the streets for rehabilitation and reintegration in a bid to be useful in their various societies.
Under Aregbesola, Osun has remained a reference point for several states of the federation and even the federal government as a result of his unusual style of governance laced with developmental projects such as OYES and O’MEAL. The Federal Government has adopted these two programmes of the state government. The OYES scheme has come in the form of YOUWIN before it added SUREP to its youth engagement programmes during the President Goodluck Jonathan days having understudied the OYES scheme. However, same was done during the administration of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari coming in form of N-power while the OMEAL was studied in its entirety before the federal government started its school feeding programme institutionalised at the federal level for all other states of the federation.
The O’MEALS also attracted the attention of Partnership for Child Development (PCD) of Imperial College, London and the World Bank, which extended hands of support to the programme and recommended it to other states and countries, as part of the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, the governor was invited twice by the British Parliament to speak on the programme.
Another delightful thing is that organizations have come to understudy the scheme on how it could serve as a template to solving the high rate of unemployment among youths. The commandante of the OYES said, Colonel Enibukun Oyewole said, “many governors sent representatives to Osun in 2012/13 to come and study, with a view to establishing a scheme similar to OYES. We had representative from Niger, Zamfara, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Kwara, Ondo, and Oyo among others. More than that was the World Bank which saw the relevance of OYES as the solution to high unemployment rate in the country and after a lot of understudy, the UN came up with YESSO.
Also the National Bureau of Statistics stated that Osun has 3% unemployment rate, the lowest in the whole federation. Osun is ranked second in human capital on Nigeria’s first sub-national competitiveness index released by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria. The state also has the lowest poverty level and rated the second richest state in Nigeria by the United Nations Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index in 2017. The state also came second in the national assessment on infant and maternal healthcare delivery. The state is the most peaceful states in the federation, a rating by the Nigeria Peace Index in April 2018. To cap it, twice Aregbesola was honored with the governor of the year award, a rare feat among his contemporaries.
However, some stakeholders in the state have reacted in the manner of appreciating the governor for taking out the state from the doldrums it was plunged into. Some of the stakeholders include, the state APC chairman, Secretary, Acting SSG and the chief of Staff, the state Coordinator of O’RAMP among others.
The acting Secretary to the State Government, Senator Mudasiru Hussein described Aregbesola’s achievements as numerous.
He said, “Many doubted how he would carry out all the plans he had outlined but today Ogbeni has delivered. No government since the creation of the state has done half of what Aregbesola has done.
Hussein, recalling the precarious situation of the state before Aregbesola said, his administration has brought relative peace to the state as residents can now sleep with their two eyes closed without fear of being attacked.
He urged the people of the state to help in sustaining the trend by voting for continuity.
Also, the State Coordinator of O’RAMP, Engr. Adelere Oriolowo said, “Anytime I look back in reminiscence to the sorry state of the state in the past, and I look at what Ogbeni has done, as well as the ongoing projects across the state, I see that something historical and unprecedented have happened both in the cities and rural areas”.
He added that the only assurance for all the giant strides seen across the state to continue is for the people of Osun to vote for Gboyega Oyetola.
The CEO Omoluabi Holdings, Babatunde Faleye noted that the commitment to needs and aspirations of the people made the governor to expand the frontiers of investment seen in the state.
He added that unlike before when investors snubbed the state, all these changed due to Aregbesola’s transformational programmes.
He said, “Aregbesola’s years at the helms of affairs has raised the bar of investments in the state beyond what it was known for. Aregbesola facilitated business with ease within the state which has been attracting investors.
“It’s as a result of his innovativeness that the income base of OSICOL became expanded. We now have OSICOL petroleum, OSICOL Properties and Estate Management. Coming to power, he came prepared, that’s why I believed he has done this much.
“Were the constitution allowed his stay beyond the stipulated 8 years, I have no doubt that our people would have loved to have him around for the completion of his great works. Fortunate for us, we have Gboyega Oyetola, the major brain behind the giant strides seen in this administration contesting. Apart from being erudite, he is not new to governance of the state. A vote for him is a vote for more development in the state”, Faleye said
Osun State chairman and Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Gboyega Famodun and Alhaji Rasaq Salinsile who described the governor as an administrator per excellence noted that the state under him has gone a long way, as every aspect of governance has felt his impact.
They added that they are glad to have him as a member of the party, and they were glad they were at the saddle when history was made in the state through him.
Ogbeni’s laudable projects are signs that democratic governance is achievable; the idea of the governor is indeed an overwhelming one to give the state a facelift. His groundbreaking strides have helped in promoting public confidence in democratically elected leader in this part of the world.