Osun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Sunday Akere, believes the state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is being misunderstood over some of his actions. He speaks with Raheem Akingbolu about the governor’s style and achievements in the last two years.
As a commissioner in the Rauf Aregbesola administration, how would you describe developments in the state in the last two years?
The last 24 months of Rauf Aregbesola is one that we can confidently say the people of the state of Osun craved for and prayed fervently to get and God in His mercy answered their (people of Osun) prayer. The administration is different because it is arguably the second time in the history of the 21 year old state that somebody who prepared for the office eventually came on board. Aregbesola was a commissioner for works and infrastructure in Lagos state for many years and as far back as 2005, he had commenced his preparation to become governor in the state of Osun. From day one, he came in with a pact with Osun State people through the ‘green book’, in which the six point integral plan were highlighted. These include; banishing hunger, banishing unemployment, banishing poverty, restoring healthy living, providing free and functional education and enhancing communal peace and progress. To the glory of God, he has justified this, having fulfilled almost all his promises.
Aregbesola is seen by many people as a controversial person, can you describe his personality?
Let me clarify that I have known Ogbeni Aregbesola for many years before he became the governor and so our relationship goes beyond the last two years. Now, before I answered the question, let me give an analogy. About a month ago, environmentalists from the 36 states of the federation came to Oshogbo for a conference and the governor had the privilege to declare the conference open. After the declaration, he left with his team but I found out later that the participants did nothing during the afternoon session except to discuss Rauf, who they saw as an enigma of sort. Rauf is a plain, pragmatic and open person, he will say it as it is and will not deceive his people. I will give you an example, in January this year when the FG increased the pump price of fuel, it was only Ogbeni Aregbesola in the whole federation that stood up and said what the FG did was wrong.
But he attracts criticism because of his unusual approaches and ideas?
We are saying the same thing. You hear some people describe him as being controversial because they see his genuine approach to governance as an unusual way simply because our system had long been polluted. The truth is that he believes that if things have been done in the past wrongly, whether you accept it or not, he will advocate that it should be done correctly. A good example is the way we call our state, when we introduced the idea of the State of Osun; the entire people castigated him and rose against the idea. They accused him of trying to secede, but we made people realised that how would that possible, especially, with the geographical location of the state. The state is like an enclosure, we are surrounded by five other states, but because we believe that things must be done correctly, people were saying we were seceding.
Look at it, states of the federation like in Malaysia, India, Germany, Brazil, and USA comply with this standard, which is the most appropriate and someone came and said we did something wrong simply because of ignorance. If that is their definition of controversial, I think it is a just one.
Considering the number of projects that are ongoing in the state, it is believed that the administration is biting more than it can chew, especially when it has just two years left.
One thing is clear about this, when you have the mandate of the people to serve, you only have four years and in the four years, you have just 3 years to do whatever you want to do while the remaining 12months would accommodate campaigns and other activities for another election. We are 24 months into the first term of this administration and we have a lot to do, we want them done now, there is no local government you will get to in the state of Osun and you will not feel our impact. We are constructing roads in all the 30 local governments and area offices; we are building schools, developing hospitals and other infrastructures. We are opening up farm settlements and agricultural centers. All these are to tell you that we have determination, we know that the only period we have to deliver is the next 12months and we are hell bent on delivering. People are saying he is biting more than he can chew and that we have borrowed too much money, which are all lies anyway.
Majority of the contracts we are doing are works that we are exhibiting through what we call contractors finance agreement.
Don’t you think the governor is really behaving like a religious zealot, as is being alleged in some quarters?
Governor Aregbesola that I know is not a fanatic, though a believer and a strong Muslim. This notwithstanding, I want to tell you that even those of us that are Christians, we don’t know the bible as well as he does and he doesn’t use his knowledge for persecution but for allusion. He respects everybody’s right. While contesting for the election in 2007, it was only the governor and his deputy that flew the party’s flag. Today, we are 34 in his cabinet, including him and out of the 34, 32 of us were appointed by the governor to make up his team. In the 34, there are only nine Muslims, 25 of us are Christians. So, if he is really a fanatic and he wants to lord one religion over the other, he has the right to bring people of his faith into the government. He also had the opportunity of influencing those who would vie for House of Assembly election but he never did.
Another example is that at every state function since Aregbesola became governor in the last 24months, prayer is offered in the 3 religious ways. Aregbesola believes that everybody has the right to call his own God the way he wants and he believes that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
So there is equality of religion in the State of Osun?
Yes, Aregbesola is not putting any religion over the other. In our state, any programme the traditionalists want to do, they do approach the government as they did when they wanted to host the ‘Orisa Agbaye’ here in osun. They came to government and we gave them the money that would make them have a befitting ceremony. Does that now mean that we are putting Orisa Agbaye over other religion? Ogbeni will tell anybody, who care to listen that if God doesn’t want the co-existence of different religious groups, he would have phase some out and that since, we are existing together, we must endured one another.
What is your take on the allegation that the governor is upturning some of the good things that his predecessors had done in the areas of appointments and projects?
Let me answer that one straight by stating that Aragbesola was the first governor that inherited a Head of Service, from a previous administration and retained the person. He took over the reign of governance on the 27th of November 2010 which was on a Saturday He addressed a press conference on Monday 29, and said he had become governor of all the political parties in the state. He warned the people that were fighting all over the state, seeking to take vengeance from members of the opposition party that delayed them for three and half years, that nobody sent them to do and that vengeance belongs to God. The Head of Service I mentioned earlier served Oyinlola for 7 and half years as head of service and we retained him till he reached the retirement age without being frustrated out.
We inherited 21 permanent secretaries from Oyinlola and all of them ran out their time. When the former governor Rtd. Brigadier Oyinlola was there, some of the people that served in the cabinet of Akande were denied of their entitlements. For instance, former Attorney General Barr. Niyi Owolade was a commissioner in Chief Bisi Akande’s regime. When Akande left office in 2003, for 7 and half years, Oyinlola did not pay Owolade and his colleagues their severance entitlements. It was when Aregbesola came in that he paid all their entitlements, including that of the retired military officer and people that served him. We have an open spirit and believe that it is only God that puts one in position.