By Donald Inwalomhe
One of the dire tragedies of Nigeria is wilful false narratives by media commentators who know nothing but pronounce on issues with combative ignorance. A little bit of humbling research would have saved such writers from their empty bombast; and protected readers from the toxin they spew.
One of such pieces was “On the purported death of Rauf Aregbesola”, a column piece by Abimbola Adelakun, in The Punch of February 24, 2022. Now, this Adelakun always rants, like a newspaper version of excitable market women. That she did rant in this visceral piece was no surprise — and strictly wouldn’t have merited any response.
But she blundered into new lows, when she wrote of the epochal achievements, in ordinary folks’ human development, of Rauf Aregbesola when he was governor in Osun State: “Meanwhile, some of his so-called welfarist ideas such as O’Meal, OYES and conditional cash transfer schemes were replicated at the federal level. They failed at that level too, thus consistently proving the lack of reason behind the execution of these ideas.”
To start with, if OYES, O’Meal and conditional cash transfer for the old and most helpless citizens of Osun were such a grand failure, why would the Federal Government, under President Muhammadu Buhari, adopt all three, and make them federal safety net intervention programmes?
That fails the most basic test of common sense; and even a rookie, in a Logic 101 class, would realize that. That Adelakun failed such a simple test just showed her piece was more visceral than logical, which is a serious indictment of her and the newspaper she writes for.
She would prove the shallowness of her position (perhaps too late realizing the thumping fallacy), when she declared that all the adopted safety net intervention schemes had failed as federal programmes. Proof? Just because she declared so? Pray, when did spite start to banish the sweetness of honey?
It’s concentrated ignorance, like Adelakun’s, that made Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouk, minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, to rebuke the annoying elite ignorance in the Nigerian space. How, for instance, could the federal school feeding scheme, which has led to improved school enrollment nationwide, have “failed”?
How could poor folks that the system had left for dead, but now receive a N5, 000 monthly stipend, be a failure from the perspective of the Nigerian long-suffering poor? By the way, the corresponding Osun figure, under the Aregbesola Agba Osun scheme, was N10, 000 — which, by the way, is now gone with the winds since Aregbesola exited government in 2018.
How could such critical safety net under Aregbesola attract condemnation, while leaving the Osun old and vulnerable to their fate, under the present governor, a thing to toast? O, by Adelakun-speak, perhaps they were all “white elephant projects”, which included futuristic schools and roads and bridges that, in eight years, transformed Osogbo from a glorified village into a modern state capital!
But back to OYES, O’Meal and Agba Osun — this trio was the most spectacular development schemes by any government, federal or state, in Nigerian history.
OYES — and its recruitment of 20, 000 graduate volunteers in Aregbesola’s first 100 days — was so successful the World Bank adopted it as model for tackling global youth job and empowerment among the developing nations of the world. The World Bank named its own variant YESSO (Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation); and paid N5, 000 compared with Aregbesola’s N10, 000.
O’Meal drove up Osun primary school enrolment figure by 40 per cent, with the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) once declaring Osun as having the highest rate of primary school enrolment in all of Nigeria.
Agba Osun delivered N10, 000 monthly stipends to some 114, 000 needy Osun seniors, product of a pre-project empirical survey. The programme cost the Osun government N20 million each month; and it included sundry welfare: medical and even rehabilitation of the mentally challenged, under the concept of Special Needs. Every year, starting from January 2012 till he exited power, Ogbeni Aregbesola’s government spent N240 million as direct stipend and sundry care for Osun’s poorest and most helpless.
What was the cumulative impact of OYES, O’Meal and Agba Osun? It drove Osun’s poverty rate from 37.5 per cent in 2010 to 10.9 per cent in 2018, by NBS figures. Unemployment rate also tumbled from 17.2 per cent in 2010 to 5.3 per cent in 2018. That’s Adelakun’s idea of failure! But then, her ignorance is as combative as they come!
Yes, there is another brilliant piece of “white elephants” — the high capacity schools! Well, when the first of the lot (the Wole Soyinka Government High School in Ejigbo), did Adelakun even know that the local pupils there rushed to occupy the classrooms, even before its formal commissioning? That’s how much poor and disinherited kids love “white elephants”!
Of course, Nigerian columnists running their mouths over stuff they don’t know didn’t start today. Good that Adelakun cited the great Chief Obafemi Awolowo in her piece. When Awo started his Western Region free primary education programme in 1955, he was not short of that era’s Adelakuns, screaming and bawling “nay”!
Much worse: when Ladoke Akintola rolled back development to play cheap politics (as Governor Oyetola is doing now), many Adelakuns back then blew their base trumpets to traduce and criminalize the Action Group (AG), because Akintola’s NNDP (“Demo”) had seized temporary power; and was trying to wipe out Awolowo’s revolutionary legacies.
That is the script Oyetola is acting today. So, it’s little wonder his confederates in the media now try to demonize The Osun Progressives (TOP), the Aregbesola tendency in the Osun APC, that did most of the revolutionary work; just as the Adelakuns of the First Republic tried to paint Awo’s AG as a criminal enterprise; or at best a cult which no decent person should associate with.
But the sweet thing is that history never forgets. Those reactionary forces that bad-mouthed Awo and his ideological and developmental braves are now totally forgotten — just as the media Adelakuns of that era, who wrote rubbish on stuff they didn’t understand — or even cared to understand.
But Awo’s great strides live behind him, eons after Awo himself had crossed to the great beyond. That will yet be the verdict of history for Ogbeni and his TOP, despite the present contrived setbacks. As for Oyetola, like Akintola before him, let him enjoy his brief day in the sun.