With this piece, OSUN DEFENDER Magazine pours out glowing tributes on the life and times of the Great Achiever and Avatar of Selfless, Conscientious and People-Oriented Governance, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, as he adds another year today. NIYI OLASINDE sifts through the archives to roll out this documentary.
“IT is not life that matters; but the courage we put into it”, thus runs the ancient adage. Sayings like this are many and diverse. Sages’ diaries are replete with adages that refer to the courage, wisdom, chivalry, valour and vibrancy of great men. In one such aphorism, they reckon that there are no events without great men. A further affirmation to that assertion is that great men became great because they willed it. It is time again to roll out drums in copious celebration of the worthy life and times of a great man in all the ramifications of the description. We talk about none but the current Minister of Interior, Federal Republic of Nigeria; who doubles as the immediate-past Governor of the State of Osun, South-West Nigeria, the State of the Virtuous. Here is a man who Fortune and Providence have delight to smile at; so much that he is currently bestriding our terrestrial ball like the evergreen Colossus; a man who attained greatness not merely by dint of luck; but with robust doses of strong will, determination, Godliness, contentment and hardwork. We doff our hat for the Great Man of History; the epitome of selfless service in governance; genuine friend of the masses, especially the poor and the downtrodden, who he lifts with milk of kindness flowing through his veins. We salute with pomp, today and always this great man. We extol the rare virtues in the Celebrator, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola.
BORN into the family of Pa Sheikh AhmadRufai Alli Aregbesola (deceased) and Mama Alhaja Saratu Aregbesola, a.k.a. Mama Olobi (also of blessed memory) of Ogbon Arogbo Quarters of the ancient city of Ilesa in the Western Region of the time on May the 25th 1957, Rauf lived the earliest part of his childhood years with his father in Ikare-Akoko in the present-day Ondo State, where he was privileged to follow his father to many places on account of the nature of his father’s calling as farmer, motor dealer and practitioner of the popular Osomaalo business in Ijesaland; which translates to credit and thrift practice in the traditional sense of it. His father was also a professional carpenter who used to build wooden frames for lorries in Ikare-Akoko and later diversified into sales of automobiles. Alhaji Ahmad Rufai practised Islam with good devotion and understanding. He kept and extended a peaceful family where the children were brought up with cherished Islamic values and injunctions.
We need to say in passing that young Rauf had philanthropic gestures and religious piety as his ancestral heritage cum legacy; as his grandfather, Alfa Alli Aregbesola was known in his days to be an Islamic scholar, development mobiliser, community leader and motivator of progress-loving minds.
As a young boy, Rauf Aregbesola started his education at St. Gregory’s Catholic Primary School, Ikare-Akoko. Afterwards, he proceeded to Manuwa Memorial Grammar School (MMGS), Iju-Odo, Okitipupa for his secondary education, but completed it at Arigidi Akoko Grammar School because his elder brother and guardian who was a teacher at MMGS had to proceed for further studies. At school, Rauf’s preference for the sciences became obvious as he scored Grade “A” in all the science subjects he sat for in the WASC Examination. The one-year interlude between his secondary and tertiary education was spent as a teacher at Imesi-Ile High School. After this, he proceeded to the Polytechnic, Ibadan for his tertiary education, where he studied Mechanical Engineering, obtaining his Ordinary National Diploma (OND), and later his Higher National Diploma (HND) in 1980.
He had his mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in Kaduna, where the young engineer worked with the National Freight Agency and afterwards worked as a pioneer engineering staff of the Nigerian External Telecommunications (NET), at its Kujama Satellite Earth Station in Kaduna. He also worked at the Lagos Airport Hotel and later worked with a friend of his who founded Rubicon Nigeria Limited. Having acquired remarkable experience, Rauf established his own engineering firm, Aurora Nigeria Limited in 1986. The company has since its establishment handled numerous major projects for both government and private organizations in most states of the federation.
RAUF Aregbesola is a fellow of
many professional bodies
which include the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Nigerian Association of Technological Engineers (NATE) and Certified Marketing Communications Institute of Nigeria (CMCIN). He has also earned meritorious awards such as Ambassador of Goodwill for the State of Tennessee, USA, Nigerian Society of Engineer’s Merit Award (Contribution to Engineering Discipline) and the Best Commissioner in Lagos State Award. Rauf added another feather to his cap when he bagged the Associate Membership of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers (AIIE).
Aregbesola’s foray into politics started in his undergraduate days around 1977 / 78 as Speaker of the Students’ Parliament at the Polytechnic Ibadan. He was also the President of the Black Nationalists’ Movement, a position he held between 1978 and 1980. Similarly, he was an active supporter of other progressive student movements nationwide, which earned him life membership of the National Association of Technological Students (NATS).
Outside the tertiary institution, Rauf Aregbesola played an active role in the struggle against the Abacha military junta between 1993 and 1998. In June 1990, he became an elected delegate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) Inaugural Local Government Area Congress. In July of the same year, he was also a delegate to the party’s first National Convention in Abuja.
During the transition period to democratic governance, Aregbesola was a vibrant pro-democracy and human rights activist; as he towered prominently in the demilitarization and pro-democracy struggles in the 1990s. A consummate community mobiliser with in-born sterling leadership traits; Rauf has been active in community associations, especially in Alimosho, Lagos, his base; where he remains the Secretary to the LGA Elders’ Forum till date. On the twilight of Nigeria’s actual return to democratic rule, he became the Director of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organization (BATCO), which engineered the electoral victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the Governor of Lagos State in 1999. He performed similar feat, using the platform of the Independent Campaign Group (ICG) to ensure the re-election of Asiwaju Tinubu for a second term in office in 2003.
IN the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rauf Aregbesola served as the Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure. Through the ‘Operation Taxpayers’ Money in Action’ and ‘Operation Patch it Well’, he successfully rehabilitated and fixed several roads through the Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure. Within this same period, the ministry renovated and furnished several staff quarters, maintained an all-year-round drainage clearing gang (drain ducks) which cleared over 1250 kilometres of drains in Lagos and instituted the streetlight maintenance programme. Furthermore, under his leadership, through the Independent Power Project, the ministry supplemented the National Electric Power Authority’s power supply with an additional 270 megawatts.
Since his appointment and reappointment, Engineer Aregbesola had continued to confound all with the strength of his commitment to selfless service. His diligence, sincerity and tirelessness in the administration of the vast Ministry of Works and Infrastructure as well as supervision of the Public Works Corporation and State Electricity Board has been acknowledged as being responsible for the outstanding success recorded during the entire eight-year tenure of the Tinubu administration in the Centre of Excellence, especially in road construction, rehabilitation, maintenance and street lighting.
In addition to the feat placed on record above, the astute and seasoned engineer had to his credit the successful rehabilitation of about 841 roads, through the Public Works Corporation’s Operation taxpayers’ Money in Action (referred to above); and over 600 roads the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure’s Operation Patch it Well (also earlier referred to). These two agencies, it is placed on record, worked round the year, day and night in areas of road maintenance, drainage and canal channelization and all the rest.
WITH the wealth of experience gained from the private and public works and administration, Rauf Aregbesola was emboldened to replicate his achievements in the State of Osun, his native home. His interest in society, the condition of living of the people, their attitude towards production and wealth creating activities and how all these affect their status motivated him to participate in the Gubernatorial race for Osun State in 2007. As a true African who always seeks to find expression and connection to his cultural roots and history, he decided to use Oranmiyan platform as a metaphor and a symbol of his ambition to liberate the people of Osun from the yoke of misrule, corruption and bad leadership. He therefore became the initiator and a member of Oranmiyan, a socio-political group which promoted his ambition as the Governor of Osun State in 2007 General Elections. The group has a long-term vision of initiating a Yoruba socio-political renaissance. Although radical and progressive, Oranmiyan has an Awoist tendency within the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); which has with time metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress (APC), the current Ruling Party in Nigeria.
In the 2007 elections, Aregbesola contested under the platform of the Action Congress (AC), which later came to be known as Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); and later metamorphosed into All Progressives Congress (APC). After the polls, one of the strongest opponents, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner. For Aregbesola, Oyinlola’s victory was a case of stolen mandate which had to be challenged and taken back. The court case took a long time, to the extent that many people had lost faith in Aregbesola’s appeal in the court. But Aregbesola assured them that
“…by the grace of God, I, Rauf Aregbesola will assume the mandate that the people of Osun freely gave to me on April 14, 2007. I don’t believe the judges are delaying the ruling. I think they are taking their time. Victory is sweeter when it is delayed”
ON November 26th 2010, after almost three and half years of serious legal battle, Oyinlola’s election and his government were declared null and void by the Court of Appeal sitting at Ibadan. In his place, the court declared that Rauf Aregbesola was the winner of the polls, and thus, should immediately be sworn in as Governor. Amidst a massive crowd, Rauf Aregbesola was sworn in the following day – Saturday, November 27, 2010- as the sixth civilian governor of the State of Osun.
Indeed, the story of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Executive Governor of the State of Osun exemplifies life streams out of the belief that the passion to fight social injustice is never connected to unpleasant incidences experienced in life but an absolute altruism borne out of the firm conviction that life is a trust to serve. He is one of those few selfless people that strive to straighten our crooked world, even in the face of obstinate challenges.
As a great lover of literature, Rauf widened his knowledge of the different parts of the world by reading extensively. As a young Primary III pupil, he started reading Chinese literature and other Communist books as a subscribed reader. This keen interest in Communist publications ingrained in the young Rauf a great concern for welfare and well-being of the people around him.
His Six-Point Integral Action Plan; through which apogee he delivered most successfully during his eight-year, two-term tenure as helmsman of the State of Osun, is focused on creation of wealth through active engagement of the abundant human resources available in the state, banishing poverty, massive food production, youth and women empowerment, promotion of healthy living and promotion of conducive environment for the sustainable growth of commerce.
Through his plan as guiding star, his government sought to recreate a socially responsible system of governance with welfare of citizens as a cornerstone. It also sought to recreate the glorious period of Yoruba political era built on Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s social welfare and well thought-out political strategies and performance; a government of the people, by the people and for the people by the Grace of the Almighty God. And so it was!
ALL said and done, Aregbesola can rightly (and most aptly) be
described as the Architect of Modern Osun. Having ruled the state meritoriously and having handed over successfully to a legacy successor, ours is no longer a matter of frantic efforts which abound in merely outlining the direction of the Aregbesola administration, based on the promises made to the people of th State of Osun before the April 14, 2007 Elections; reiterated during the inauguration of the new government on November 27, 2010; and fresh promises made during the 2014 Gubernatorial Election Campaign period. As things stand today, the nooks and crannies of the state are replete with solid, concrete achievements, with which to rate the administration’s achievements as superlative during its entire period in office.
Generally, Ogbeni Aregbesola never wavered nor refracted from delivering his pact based on his Six-Point Agenda for the development of the State of Osun. A cardinal objective of government is to create a highly motivated workforce since the success of government programmes depends to a large extent on how well they perform their duties. It is therefore not surprising that one of the first actions that he took was to approve the payment of thirteenth month salary to workers in the state public service as end-of-the-year bonus. This was in addition to approving the payment of N47 million as leave bonus for public officers in the state civil service, including teachers of secondary schools across the 30 local governments of the state, with the inclusion of the Ife East Area Office. Equally, the governor approved the payment of N61 million as leave bonus for local government staff who also got the sum of N18 million as end-of-the-year bonus. More and more of these worker-friendly incentives were rolled out throughout the lifetime of the Aregbesola administration.
Second, and in the area of education, the governor approved the release of N21, 666, 000.00 for the payment of the reaccreditation fees for the National Examinations Council (NECO) to release the results of Ordinary Level Examinations conducted in 2010. NECO had withheld the results of the candidates who sat for the examinations conducted by the body because the immediate past administration reneged on making payment. Again, the governor also directed that all corps members serving in the state starting from March 2011 be deployed to schools to strengthen the development of that sector in line with his policy of delivering quality education to the future generation of the state. The governor also took immediate steps in evacuating corps members of the state’s origin who were trapped in the post-election violence which broke out in some Northern states. The mission successfully evacuated more that seventy corps members back home. Not only that, State of Osun indigenes who were affected by the political logjam and civil unrest in Cote D’Ivoire were also evacuated and brought home in several luxurious buses. They were later supported with cash donations, food and other materials to help them settle down. Meanwhile, the administration has also organized an Education Summit where issues affecting that sector were discussed. Since that inception stage, trends and developments in the education industry in the state have been traceable to gains from that first-ever summit!
Needless to say, education in the State of Osun all through the Aregbesola administration was not only free; it was also comprehensive and qualitative. The introduction of timely intervention nuggets, like the State of Osun Schools’ Infrastructure Development Project (O’SCHOOLS), the Free Elementary Schools’ Feeding and Health Programme (O’MEALS), the O’UNIFORM, O’CALISTHENICS and the Opon Imo (Tablet of Knowledge) were novel and innovative programmes in the annals of public education in the state that hugely transformed the state into envy of its counterparts within the comity of states.
IN other sectors and sub-sectors, other laudable programmes exist, which have impacted positively on the lives of residents of the state. In agriculture and environment sub-sectors for instance, we can cite the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (O’REAP) and the O’CLEAN Project. Other “O” programmes that can be easily underscored include the O’ Honey, O’ Beef, O’ Fish and O’ CLEAN Plus. Limitations imposed by time and space will not allow us to go on and on in listing the varieties of initiatives brought into governance under the Rauf Revolution in the State of Osun.
The administration also recorded a major feat in terms of drawing the attention of the international community to Osun State by hosting the 4th World Summit of Mayors from February 25 to March 2, 2011. A major issue for discussion at the conference focused on how to eliminate corruption among other social problems facing the black race. An immediate impact of the conference on the state was in the area of tourism. The Aregbesola government used the occasion of the conference to project the image of the state as a potential tourist destination; as various programmes were outlined for the over one thousand guests that were hosted.
In tackling unemployment, the administration started the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) to register unemployed youths and assist them in finding and pursuing a career of their choice. The government has therefore employed twenty-thousand youths in more than three streams in all; in various sectors in the state. In other words, the administration was able to cater to the employment needs of at least 80, 000 youth in about four streams! This feat has earned widespread applause from observers within and outside the country and has fast become a model for emulation. The OYES initiative developed in line with the objective of government to banish poverty and hunger from the state through job creation and employment opportunities for its teeming youths.
THROUGH a responsible and responsive spasm of leadership and stewardship, Aregbesola demonstrated his rare quality as great leader of unequalled enduring ability through thick and thin. His rare and unfathomable cope of governance through adverse economic climate which characterized the latter parts of Goodluck Jonathan years; stretching to the recession years that climaxed his years in office placed him in the fore as monumental achiever and quintessential trail blazer, especially in putting on ground solid, physical infrastructural projects which are of immense overall benefit to the good life and benefit of his people.
Till date, his giant strides remain unabated; even in the face of unfriendly financial challenges being faced by virtually all states in the federation called Nigeria.
Long after his glorious exit from office, glowing timeous vindications continue to trail his administration’s long list of track records and giant strides. These vindications, which silence detractors and keep unapologetic traducers’ mouths wide agape in fearful awe include: good and consistently improved results for certificate year students at public schools in the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and National Examinations Council (NECO) final examinations; good performance of Osun candidates at public examinations like the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) organized by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) – to the extent that two of the state’s public school students came atop in the examinations in 2018. Still on the education Sector, and relating to the trend of timeous vindication opened above, an SSIII student of Osogbo Government High School, Abdullahi Akanbi Akintade recently emerged the best in the annual Young Nigerian Scientists Award in the entire nation and was so honoured recently at a public event by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
Aregbesola’s superlative performance in the Education Sector consisted in the building, delivery and commissioning for use of 67 elementary schools, 49 middle schools and 11 high schools; even in the face of dwindling Federal Allocation and lackluster profile of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state. Not only this, the performances of graduating students in the state’s public schools soared in ranking to 46 per cent in 2016 from the unimpressive figure of less than 15 per cent that it was in 2010 when Aregbesola assumed the reins of power and governance.
Just of recent, two feats recorded kept immediate past administration in the state in reverberating glow. The State of Osun was named as one of the beneficiaries of a monetary grant, which accrued to some states of the federation on the basis of performance-based component of the World Bank Assisted State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme-for-Results. By this token, the state, alongside twenty-three (23) other states got its share of the 120.6 million dollars (N43,416,000,000) which it co-shared with co-benefitting states on the basis of performances in their economies in yesteryears.
In similar vein, the state got ranked recently the state with the third lowest poverty index in the entire nation. This ranking, the Nigerian Poverty Index report for 2019, as conducted and released by the National Bureau of Statistics translates to the fact that Ossun is the third richest state in Nigeria; coasting third after Lagos and Delta states!
This feat takes root from landmarks reached during the period Aregbesola held sway over the affairs of the state. Within the space of the last decade, the state has been through a lot of innovative pogrammes poverty alleviation, capacity building and empowerment. Little wonder that, the state was ranked second less poverty-ridden in year 2016; while it took the first shot in 2017.
As Nigeria’s Minister of Interior since August 2019, Ogbeni has displayed his rare talents in wielding the Midas’ touch anywhere duty calls for him to serve. The change in nomenclature of custodial centres and correctional institutions, first-ever retreat for officers and men of the various services within the ministry as a way to upscale strategic actions and forestall tragedies of insecurity are part of reforms he has brought to bear on the service. In addition to these, decongestion of correctional facilities; even long before the outbreak of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic and the successful introduction of some modern modalities of visa entries in compliance to global best practices are other reforms that got anchorage through his ingenious and relentless efforts as political head of the ministry.
OSUN DEFENDER Magazine wishes the birthday boy greater grace, abundant wisdom, sound health and God’s guidance and protection; even as he forges ahead with his visionary strides for his nation, Nigeria; his indigenous State of Osun and his beloved people.
Happy Birthday, Sir!