A Progressive Voice At The Helms By Prof Mike Ikhariale

A Progressive Voice At The Helms By Prof Mike Ikhariale
  • PublishedNovember 27, 2018

Excerpts from a presentation by Prof Mike Ikhariale at yesterday’s colloquium, “Governor Rauf Aregbesola In The Eye Of History”

For someone who has accomplished so much in his life as Governor Rauf Aregbesola, the Ogbeni, has done, there will always be the challenge as to which aspect of his multifaceted life that any interested evaluator or chronicler should begin with, especially if that person is charged with the duty isto undertake an authentic and fair assessment of his overall performances, mostly as they relate to his numerous extraordinary exploits in public service. Honestly, where do we start from?

I am however quite fortunate in that regard as the subject-matter of this exercise is someone whose positive reputation is already firmly established in the public domain and, as we say in the Law of Evidence, his is a typical case ofres ipsa loquitor, namely, the fact speaks for itself, because the evidence of his excellent performances in all the public offices in which has performed eloquently speak for him.

Being a resident of Lagos State, I can without being immodest, say that before the good people of the State of Osun became the beneficiaries of the colossal technocratic dexterity, leadership endowment, gubernatorial industry and the indefatigable progressiveness of His Excellency, the Ogbeni, Aregbesola, Lagosians were already well aware of the immensity of his personal industry, operational integrity and a phenomenal “can do” spirit, especially in his then capacity as the Honourable Commissioner of Works. Residents of Lagos State are forever grateful to him for the rapid and systematic ways he transformed Lagos under the general superintendence of the Jagagban, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the effervescent Governor Emeritus because, as they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating.

For the first time since after the departure of the colonial administrators, Lagos started to see a people-centred government under Gov. Tinubu in action as they witnessed a government with a discernible systematic approach to the complex infrastructural regime of Lagos as against the hitherto lip-service, haphazard and hardly-coordinated approaches to tackling the city’s infrastructural challenges. With Aregbesola in charge as the Commissioner for Works, toiling day and night to fix those previously collapsing roads and other dilapidating physical infrastructures, we all started to appreciate what the phrase “Dividends of Democracy” really meant. As a result of the great developmental projects that Aregbesola diligently and skillfully executed in Lagos, those of us who reside there today there are forever grateful to him for the way he positively changed the physical landscape of our previously unlivable urban jungle and I am therefore personally very proud to the called upon to say something about such a great man of history.

At a personal level, being a progressive scholar, it is something of joy that one of our own has been so successful in all his public assignments, first as a Commissioner and currently as a State Governor and it gives us hope that progressivism did not die in this country with the gracious passing of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1997 as their still exist within our embattled school of thought a few ideological combatants who could be counted upon to carry on the lofty flag of progressivism and actually go ahead to perform without blemish.

Without doubt, you also see the Ogbeni, your governor, as a very hardworking, eruditely bold speaker and, of course, an accomplished administrator with enormous leadership acumen but I see him, first and foremost, as a loyal practitioner of the ideology of progressivism which always seek to always put the welfare of the people first. Anyone whose ideological standpoint is anchored on the relentless pursuit of the welfare and the good of the common man is necessarily going to be bold, hardworking and free of all the usual primeval shackles of corruption, greed and primitive accumulation because he doesn’t have much time to think about his personal comfort or material benefits.

I came to this conclusion some years ago when I was a guest of His Excellency at his Ikeja Guest House in the company of some progressive scholars and top journalists. For the period we spent with him, the focus of the parley remained how to make Nigeria a better nation particularly in the wake of the dwindling resources following the ravaging recession and the debilitating effects of the aggravated corruption that was irresponsibly inflicted on the nation by the previous PDP-led government.

I was surprised to hear how he brilliantly dissected the fundamental problems militating against our overall development as a nation state. When we moved on to global affairs, I expected that he would now yield the turf but I was amazed by how much he understood the nitty-gritty of the dynamics of contemporary international relations and the ongoing global conspiracy against the underdeveloped economies.

My take away from that encounter was extracted from when he said that it is the ability to print money that is legal tender in the global market that constitutes for him, real sovereignty. As a student of international economic law, that statement naturally detonated a huge conceptual bomb. Whereas he was speaking in the specific context of the hardship that state governments were facing in the aftermath of the extremely steeped devaluation of the Naira vis a vis the Dollar, its Political Economy import was far-reaching.

That statement opened a new vista of enquiry for me because when applied to the international economic system, the reality of what he casually said while lying on a sofa late that evening was indeed a fundamental challenge to the global monetary institutional order because those countries that conduct their international trade on the platform of the US dollars have, to a reasonable extent, compromised on their individual sovereignty to the extent that they do not control the supply of that currency with which their economic viability is ultimately calculated, a development which further confirms the fact that the ability to print currency that is legal tender and, nothing more pretentious, constitutes the real sovereignty. It would seem as if China, India, Russia and many others, with the possible exception of Nigeria, were listening to him as they are today actively thinking along the line of the “Aregbesola Doctrine”.

Professor Michael Ikhariale was Dean of the Law Faculty, Lagos State University and was Visiting Professor of Law at Havard Law School.

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