Aregbesola Has Made Osun Shine More Brightly – Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
At this moment, it is fitting and proper that we pause to acknowledge the work and contributions to the State of Osun and to Nigeria of an extraordinary human being, that we take stock of the man who has served the people of Osun as their governor for the past eight years.
A person like Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a rarity in any place and at any time.
Traverse the world to find but one person like him then you can say that generation has been blessed. In this manner, we have been blessed to have this stalwart man among us. He is a man who combines a noble bearing with a disarming smile and humble manner. He is a visionary progressive but also an astute master of the craft of practical politics. His ample personal capacities are only surpassed by his compassion for the people.
In a place and time when it is easy to be selfish or to cater to the interests of the mighty, Ogbeni walks his unique way. He would rather sup with the average man than dine with kings. He would rather give of himself to the poor than to consort and share great fortune with the haughty and powerful.
This man is a living example of the best of Nigeria and of our brand of progressive politics. That I am honoured to know him as my friend and brother only compounds the elation I feel at rendering this tribute to him this day.
Permit me to reflect back a few years ago when Ogbeni was a vital cog of our dynamic team in Lagos State. The things he did as Works Commissioner laid a foundation for the progress and development we continue to experience in Lagos. When the history of Lagos is written, his name will figure prominently as one of the founding fathers of the new and progressive Lagos State. I selected Ogbeni to take the strategic portfolio of Works Commissioner because I saw him as the best and really the only man for the job.
His superlative performance, laying infrastructural foundation for the state and erecting structures, affirms this as one of the wisest decisions I have made.
Given his enormous talent and leadership abilities, we had no other option than to stand by him when he decided to run for governor of his home state. We knew that if he won, the people of Osun would have won an ever greater victory.
Running for governor, Rauf, as is his style, threw himself completely into the difficult task. He showed himself to be adept at organizing, mobilising and canvassing for votes and the mandate of the people of Osun to change their lives for better. He combined the strategic acumen of a chess player with the vibrant energy of a community activist. His quiver of personal talent and ardour proved to be an irresistible force. He simply could not be denied.
Because of his undiluted conviction, his clarity of vision and the force of his argument, Aregbesola endeared himself to the people. He was one of them and they were of him. He was nicknamed Oranmiyan. That name soon reverberated across the state like a chorus being sung in every village, house and hamlet.
When the election results were announced, he won convincingly. That was no surprise. But the powers of that day were afraid of a man like Rauf. Such a person could ruin their designs of suppressing the people and lording over them for the next 60 years.
They conspired to steal his mandate. We were determined not to allow this band of thieves to take from Rauf and the people of Osun what justly belonged only to them.
Thus began the legal battle to retrieve the mandate freely given to Aregbesola by the people of Osun. For nearly three years, we fought relentlessly. During this long trek, many gave in and gave up. Yet, Rauf remained steadfast like a pillar made of the firmest brick and stone.
During the ensuing legal and political battle, many came to realise the deep reservoir of energy and vigour packed into Aregbe’s slender frame. He mounted the rostrum in towns and villages in the state, drawing attention to the electoral heist perpetrated against the people.
Those who stole his mandate were discomfited by Rauf’s boldness; they tried to silence him through violence. The more violence they used, the bolder Rauf stood. He fought their arsenal of unjust might with the slingshot of the truth. This proved to be an uneven battle.
Had they asked me, I could have warned them that their efforts were futile despite the vast array of assets at their disposal. Rauf was destined to win.
Aregbesola won in court. With his victory restored, in November 2010, he was inaugurated as the fourth Governor of Osun. Upon his inauguration, he began implementing people-oriented policies and programmes, improving the lives of the average person and transforming the state.
He laid the infrastructural and socio-economic foundation for the state. Available statistics show that the Aregbesola government delivered over 1000 kilometres of urban roads across the states, particularly in the capital Osogbo, which has been beautifully transformed.
The government reconstructed 27 intercity roads, covering 381.89 km and upgraded 81 township roads, covering over 255.17 km. On the economic front, the government improved on the economic and financial management of the state, displaying transparency and tightening up the finances.
The government, among other laudable policies, established the multi-billion naira Osun Micro-Credit Agency for Cooperative groups and societies in a bid to indirectly power small scale businesses. Today, Osun ranks among the best of Nigeria’s 36 states in the unemployment index and ranks high in the Ease of Doing Business in the country.
The educational infrastructure he constructed in the state is particularly remarkable. The Millennium Schools will be lasting monuments to his progressive vision and his appreciation of the role education plays in human and social development.
All the major cities and towns in the state can now boast of educational institution comparable to those found in any other part of the continent. The state came up with innovative ideas. For instance, the school-feeding programme, now embraced by the Federal Government and being implemented in more than 21 states, was birthed by the Aregbesola government.
With the programme, enrolment jumped drastically across the states, in the process stemming juvenile crimes as children are now taken off the streets. The value of this investment in education cannot be overstated. What Rauf has done will pay endless, perpetual dividends. It may be the single most important element in the relationship of this state to its populace. History will record that Rauf gave the people the most valuable and effective weapon to combat poverty and win prosperity now and for years to come.
Indeed, eight years have now passed and this people’s governor has achieved greatly. Osun recorded giant strides under Aregbesola’s watch. This is not to say there were no challenges or that no challenges remain. As long as there are people, there will be challenges. No man, no matter how great he is, can answer all things for all times. However, the way and manner Rauf’s government tackled this challenges, displaying honesty, commitment and transparency, is laudable and presents a handbook for future leadership.
Aregbesola has done nothing to which shame is attached. What he has done, he has done well. He has made me proud. He has made Osun shine more brightly. He has made the lives of the people better. His time as governor now comes to a close as required by our form of government. We thank God the new governor, Alhaji Adegboyega Isiaka Oyetola, with his background and reputation as a successful private sector player, has the intellect and good sense to build on the excellent foundation laid for him by his predecessor.
I congratulate Ogbeni for his excellent achievements. He is leaving the Osun governorship but I know he is not leaving public service. He has so much talent and is destined to contribute more to the national cause. Nigeria needs you and I know you shall answer the call of our beloved nation.
You have done exceedingly well as governor but I sense an even greater greatness awaits you.
You are a good man and such a man need not fear tomorrow. The future beckons. I wish you Allah’s guidance and protection that He may steer you onto your finest path not only for your personal benefit but also for the good of Nigeria.
ASIWAJU BOLA AHMED TINUBU