Osun and the Aregbesola years

The swearing in of a new governor for the State of the Living Spring and the exit of Aregbesola offers a good opportunity to review the Aregbesola administration

Wale Sokunbi

Yesterday, November 27, was the end of a most remarkable era in the history of Osun State. The governor of the state in the last eight years, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, handed over the baton of leadership to his former Chief of Staff and fellow member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, at the Oshogbo Township Stadium in the state of capital.

READ ALSO: Osun: Goodbye Aregbesola, welcome Oyetola

The swearing in of a new governor for the State of the Living Spring and the exit of Aregbesola offers a good opportunity to review the Aregbesola administration and its impact on the people of the state. Like him or hate him, there is no arguing the fact that Aregbesola made a great impact on the governance of Osun State. Although he, throughout his administration, had to suffer a most virulent opposition which saw no good at all in whatever he did, and employed pensioners, some civil servants and others to attack his every step, he still did so much to transform the physical landscape of the state and develop its human capital. At the end, his achievements were such that the Council of Obas (traditional rulers) in the state, on his last day in office, caused to be published in the newspapers a Press Release entitled Salute to Good Governance, as a testimony to his remarkable achievements. Among the achievements listed by the Obas in the press release are: the transformation of the state capital, Osogbo, from what formerly looked like a local government headquarters to a new look befitting its status as a state capital; the state’s good road network and modern school infrastructure which they said “arguably rank among the best in the world” spread across the state. The press release was signed by 20 prominent traditional rulers in the state, among them, the Ooni of Ife; the Ataoja of Osogbo; the Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland; the Oluwo of Iwo; the Akirun of Ikirun and the Olufi of Gbongan.

If these traditional leaders who are close to the ordinary people of the state are testifying to the achievements of Aregbesola, even on his last day in office when they can expect no favour from him, it goes to show that the erstwhile governor truly made an impact which even the most ardent of the opposition forces cannot wish away.

Aregbesola is a man of great vision, a strong will and uncommon courage. Those who are not enamoured of him will probably describe him as stubborn, as he is not one to lower his standards or let go of his strong convictions. His emergence as governor of the state on November 27, 2010, was in itself a testament to his strong will and his unrelenting courage to bring his convictions to reality.

He had contested against a former state military administrator, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, in the Osun State gubernatorial election about three and a half years earlier, and Olagunsoye was declared winner contrary to what Aregbesola and his party believed to be the true result of the poll. So, he went to court to contest Olagunsoye’s “victory.”

That court battle took him and his party all of three and a half years before he was declared the true winner of the poll and subsequently sworn into office on November 27, 2010. Since that time, the passion he brought to the office of governor after the recovery of his mandate has been widely adjudged as uncommon. He began his tenure with a clear vision for job creation, educational advancement and human capital development. He is,undoubtedly, a leader in a hurry and his decision to fast track the development of the state, using the best talents from anywhere he could get them, set him up for his earliest battles with the elites in the state, and the opposition members who were still smarting from the pain of their loss of the governorship.

He organised an education summit early in his administration and remained faithful to the implementation of its recommendations to the chagrin of many people in the state. For example, he introduced the policy of reclassification of the education sector, with the old 6-3-3-4 system of education reclassified into Elementary, Middle and Higher Schools. This reclassification was backed with the construction of huge mega schools that will, till the end of time, testify to his passion for education in the state. Such is his love for schools that one was still launched a few days to his handing over of the state administration to a new governor. The huge school projects were built at a huge cost sourced through loans, which, with the drastic fall in financial allocations to the state, made it difficult to pay full salaries to senior civil servants, as is the case with many other states that had nothing to show for the monies spent. This became a sore point on which the opposition feasted throughout his tenure. Aregbesola also introduced computer tablets which he called opon imo for senior secondary school students in the state. This, surprisingly, also earned him knocks from the opposition, which described computers as sources of immorality and a distraction to students!

Other notable developments in the Aregbesola years was his policy on the same school uniform for all students, which his critics reportedly claimed took the job of uniform sewing out of the hands of ordinary tailors in the state in favor of one or two large garment manufacturing companies. His traducers were not impressed with the fact that he supplied free uniforms to students. There was also the hijab controversy which was largely fuelled by the opposition. The opposition remained a pain in the ass for the Aregbesola administration throughout its eight years, using pensioners, students and, sometimes, the state civil servants, to attack the administration’s policies and cause confusion by protesting in the streets and on the pages of newspapers. The former governor will, however, go down in history as one of the most dynamic and creative persons to ever administer the state. Indeed, he was a man of great intellect. He was also a man of ideas who never shied away from implementing them as long as he was convinced he was on the right track. He fought vigorously to keep his programmes on track and did a lot to positively change the landscape of the state, especially in the area of school and road infrastructure.

There is no arguing the fact that Aregbesola brought a lot of innovations to the state. Among these are his social intervention programmes such as school feeding project, O Meal, which was later also adopted by the Federal Government and commended internationally. There was also his remarkable initiative on human capital development through the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) through which thousands of youths put at 20,000 by the government were trained and deployed to different areas of operation in the state. These initiatives contributed significantly to the state’s rating by certain international organisations as having the lowest poverty rate in the country. The school feeding programme also provided jobs for cooks and farmers, thereby helping to reduce unemployment and its twin problem of criminality in the state. There was also the O’Ambulance scheme.

Aregbesola, despite having to contend with the most virulent opposition any leader can imagine, went on to achieve one of the most peaceful and economically stable states in the country. Here is wishing Aregbesola a well deserved rest after his latest APC reconciliatory assignment. Here is also wishing his successor, greater successes in his new assignment.

READ ALSO: Crude oil price increase shouldn’t affect economy diversification – Osun lawmaker

The post Osun and the Aregbesola years appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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