By MURTALA AGBOOLA
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola retrieved his 2007 gubernatorial election mandate three years later on November 26th 2010 at the Court of Appeal in Ibadan after a protracted legal tussle.
The April 14, 2007 election was marred by electoral malfeasance at the instance of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Lives were lost while the legal battle attracted some of the best legal luminaries in Nigeria.
The entry of Rauf Aregbesola into the election competition through the Oranmiyan group encountered series of difficulties placed in his way by the then ruling PDP.
Earlier in his campaign programme, the State of Osun helmsman had embarked on massive mobilisation and sensitization on one man, one vote.
This, a lot of politicians considered political suicide because election in this part of the world is based on how best candidates can outwit themselves in electoral malpractices. However, Aregbesola elected to do the right thing which some considered anathema.
The first sign of the brouhaha that laid ahead manifested in the form of attack on him on Oroki Day in 2006 where his personal car, a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) was shot at Olonkoro, in the heart of Osogbo.
He was a guest of the Osogbo Progressive Union (OPU), organisers of the annual Oroki Day which held after the Osun Osogbo festival. But for divine intervention, he would have lost his life.
Trump-up charges were brought against him at the High Court in Osogbo before video evidence exonerated him from the violence that took place in 2006.
It was the video that showed clearly that he was the victim rather than the aggressor.
As a result of the persistent attack on him and his relatives, some of them relocated from the state.
The final judgment on the case he instituted against his electoral defeat was delivered at the Court of Appeal in Ibadan on Friday, 26th November, 2010.
The Election Petition Tribunal had earlier delivered judgment in favour of the then incumbent governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. After his inauguration, he began work in earnest.
As somebody who had a blueprint of what to do, he started with strong drainages on roads which could assist the roads to last a very long time. Later the road infrastructure was added.
What is today the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park was a place of shops, residential buildings and offices. Owners were compensated and asked to relocate. Today, the Freedom Park is not only a parks and garden where people could relax especially during festivities, but also a place where public outings such as campaigns, religious crusades and wedding ceremonies are taking place.
The first set of overhead bridges was constructed in the state under this administration. The November 27th bridge on Oba Adesoji Aderemi East by-pass linking Offatedo with the Ilesa Garage section crossing over the Gbongan Road at NECO office was built. The Bisi Akande Trumpet Bridge at Gbongan in Ayedaade Local Government Council area was also constructed besides numerous good and quality roads that adorn the state.
The paucity of funds especially from the federation account, no doubt, had a telling effect on the economy of the state. One of such effects was the introduction of Modulated salary structure to accommodate the lean revenue from the federal government.
Civil servants have complained bitterly about the modulated salary structure which gives officers on Grade Level 8 to 10, 75% of their salary, levels 12 and above 50, but between level 1 and 7, 100%.
The government of Ogbeni Aregbesola was of the view that retrenchment was not the solution to the problem of low revenue but to retain the workforce with adjustment in their salary. This was done on the condition that the balance would be paid whenever the finances of the state improve.
All revenue leakages in the local governments and the state civil service were blocked.
State of the art classroom buildings were erected in the state. Elementary, Middle and High schools were beneficiary of the new school complexes.
The level of criminal activities was reduced to the barest minimum as a result of pro-active measures put in place. Armoured personnel carriers were procured to stem the tide of criminal activities.
There is virtually no part of the state that has not benefited from the good governance of Aregbesola.
O’Ambulance project carried out by the government is the procurement of ambulance vehicles to attend to emergency needs of people in critical conditions.
Rebranding of the state was also undertaken which rechristened the state as the state of the Virtuous (Omoluabi) instead of State of the Living Spring.
School feeding programme was restructured so well that it was imbibed by the federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Rural development through the O’RAMP (Osun Rural Access Mobility Project) has helped to provide motorable roads in the rural areas to help evacuate farm produce from the villages to the urban centres where they are sold.
Osun government in partnership with the French government and the European Union are responsible for carrying out the projects.
The Osun State Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) is helping to provide social amenities in the rural and semi-urban areas through provision of transformers, construction of culverts and town halls amongst others.
The government pays its counterpart funding while the World Bank pays the rest helping people enjoy these facilities mentioned above.
As his government winds down, and he celebrates the last birthday in office one cannot but wish this enigmatic engineer turned politician Rauf Aregbesola a blissful birthday.