Gov. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola
By Waheed Alao
Those who are uncomfortable with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola are at war with again over his education reform policy project. There are three components in this project which have become controversial and have generated some inclement comments from political opponents and rabid critics.
These components are: merger of schools; Opon Imo (the computer tablets); and Hijab.
So controversial is the last component that the matter has become a court case in Osogbo, the state capital. At issue is a bogus conception that Ogbeni Aregbesola, as part of a phantom Islamisation agenda has introduced the wearing of hijab - a covering for a moslem woman’s hair and neck) - into public schools in the state.
At the forefront of the campaign against Ogbeni-led government is the Osun chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN that went to town recently with a statement practically accusing the governor of stoking religious crisis by allowing the use of the hijab in publuc schools.
But almost simultaneously as CAN was peotesting in the press, the moslems went to court seeking an order to compell Ogbeni to allow them the use of the hijab in public schools, embarrassing CAN, which had already alleged that the governor had given to moslems what they were seeking in court.
The whole thing became a theatre of the absurd when the same CAN jumped into court asking to be joined with Aregbesola’s government as co defendant in the moslem suit seeking affirmationof its women’s right to wear the hijab in public schools!!! CAN simply looked desperate about nothing.
If CAN had been properly advised, it would possibly have waited for the court’s interpretation of Section 38 sub-section 2 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states inter-alia that:
‘No person attending any place of education shall be required to take religious instruction or take part in or attend any religious ceremony, observance if such instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or a religion not approved by his parent or guardian’, before it went to town with its allegations against the governor.
However, the sub-theme of CAN’s criticism bears both political and religious incitement, the latter of which cannot succeed in Yorubaland. So why this level of intolerance? Well, there are suggestions that the Osun CAN may have been politically motivated by ACN’s principal opponent in the state, but this is not substantiated. The question to ask is, what is CAN’s interest in public schools run by government, which is supposed to be neutral on religion?
Why is the christian body making itself look like an ally of the PDP in the State of Osun by repeating verbatim that party’s discredited allegations against Ogbeni which were outright lies contrived to score silly political points. We may never get to the bottom of this, but it is a very sad development which questions the integrity of those behind Osun CAN’s latest outbursts.
On the question of merger of schools. Some of the criticisms don’t make sense at all. In particular, the one that says Ogbeni should have renovated old schools rather than build new ones is fundamentally dumb. We are talking here about renewal of a totally broken down infrastructure in the educational sectorin such a way as to maximize available resources in creating a new, modern school infrastructure that would make both citizens and students proud. Whoever has been to Osun and seen some of these new schools would wonder what kind of mentality is behind all the criticisms against Ogbeni’s educational reform project.
On the questions raised about different communities’ schools that were merged, as well as the issue of new ‘hardships’ created by distance and commuting to and from the schools’ location; it should be admitted that painful as these challenges may be to a few, the benefit to the entire communities involved outweighs the objections and criticisms to the project’s execution.
Perhaps we may remind the critics that change (especially the type of revolutionary changes being introduced by Ogbeni in the State) cannot occur without some pain. That is the opportunity cost every backward society would have to pay to move forward in the modern world otherwise the hardship which will attend stagnation in backwardness would be worse than the pains that you experience in the transformation to a better and.progressive circumstance. It is only from this point of view that intelligent people would have to assess Ogbeni Aregbesola’s reformation project in the education sector.
With regard to the ‘Opon Imo’ (the computer tablet) which is designed to help students improve on their performance in WAEC and NECO school-leaving certificate examinations, the critics are pathetically uninformed. The unintelligent attempt by PDP and its minions to discredit the project on account of alleged ‘inappropriate’ disbursement of funds on two aspects of thr components of the project is in very bad taste.
We had explained this before that a key aspect of Ogbeni’s six-point integrated transformation agenda is education, and because of its importance, the operation is domiciled in the Governor’s office. So if the governor signed two or three documents authorising disbursement of fund to execute done deals on the same day, what’s the big deal about that? Would these rabid critics please supply evidence that those disbursements were fraudulent!! The stolen documents that they published didn’t prove fraud. So what’s the big deal?
The PDP inspired critics have still not learnt that they have an incorruptible politician in the person of Ogbeni to deal with. And the more they look at him from the prism of their own fraudulent philosophy of governance, the more they will be deceiving themselves on the purpose of this man in government. PDP is a ‘come and chop’ party.
That mentality appears to have crippled their intelligence so much so that they only can perceive every monetary transaction of Ogbeni from that prism of graft, fraud and squandermania that motivate their own participation in government, and characterized their disasterous 90 months in office between 2003 and 2010 in Osogbo.
Keep in mind the fact that the infamous statement, ‘we invited you to the PDP government to come and chop’, originated from one of the most prominent PDP members in the South West during the Obasanjo presidency. That had been and continues to be PDP’s philosophy of governance, it is the reason Nigeria is collapsing into a failed state.
So you don’t expect such people’s ethos to be framed outside fraud. That’s all they can see in, and know about governance. But unfortunately for them, Ogbeni Aregbesola operates from a commanding height of public interest, morality and integrity. Try as hard as they may, PDP cannot fault Aregbesola on these high ethical values.
• Alao works in the Directorate of Publicity, Research and Strategy of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Osun.