Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, recently gave account of his stewardship so far, but not without some hints about his political future, writes Shola Oyeyipo
It was an interesting blend of important political discussion that boiled down to giving account of stewardship and a well-packaged entertainment penultimate Friday, which dragged till the early hours of Saturday, when the Osun State Governor RaufAregbesola held his usual â€˜Aregbesola Till Day Breakâ€™. The musical interlude had ignited a typical party mood and the governor and other notable personalities at the event danced willfully to various music genre.
The event itself was a no-holds-barred question and answer session, which provided participants with the opportunity to ask burning questions on issues relating to all aspects of governance under the Aregbesola regime. There was also the phone-in segment, where those watching the live televised event at home could call in to ask the governor to shed light on any issue of concern.
But just as in when a student passes an examination, Governor Aregbesola, claded in ash colouragbada attire, would take to the stage and dance happily while the crowd joined him in the numerous dance episodes that characterised the seven hours event held at WOCDIF Event Centre, Ring Road, Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
However, despite the fanfare that lighted the mood and prevented the audience from sleeping during the all-night long programme, the real intention of the initiators of the interactive gathering was not lost. Some very important issues were raised. Many questions were asked. Aregbesola too did not prolong his answers. He gave short answer to every question and they were apt and instructive.
For instance, on what the governor considered as his biggest challenge throughout his tenure as the chief executive in Osun State, he simply said it was money. That he never had enough to accomplish all he had wished to do.
â€œThe biggest challenge that the government has ever faced over the years has been money. States cannot print money. Though a federating unit, it has no capacity for solving currency paucity. The capacity to internally generate revenue was at most N300m; we have jacked it up to about N700m but it is not enoughâ€, he saidâ€, adding that with the dwindling oil revenue and it consequences for the state, â€œThe paradigm on which the administration projected its developmental agenda changed.â€
Another sensitive question that was asked and one which members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been pushing for was whether or not he had been inflating the cost of the many roads embarked upon by his administration.
Aregbesolaâ€™s reaction to that was: â€œWe are not inflating costs of projects in Osun as speculated by some people. We are prudent in the way we finance the roads we constructed. We constructed our roads at reasonable costs. We cannot specifically give the cost at which we constructed roads per kilometer because certain portions of the roads required special treatment. The structures of our roads are very superb and we cannot give the cost per kilometer.
â€œCheck the cost of road construction in other states and compare it with the cost at which we are constructing roads in Osun. The roads we are constructing in Osun are the best and we built them at reasonable costs. Those that are accusing me of inflating contracts are not fair to me. As a governor of this state in the last six years, I donâ€™t have a house in my hometown and I donâ€™t spend money on women and other frivolities. I donâ€™t eat too much and that is why Iâ€™m lean. As you can see, Iâ€™m not sick and yet Iâ€™m very lean. How many governors are lean like me? That tells you that Iâ€™m not stealing money.â€
The administration has been commended severally for the good quality of roads constructed. Prominent among such was by the paramount ruler of the state capital, the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba JimohOlanipekunLarooye, who once described the various interventions of the governor as unprecedented in the history of Osogbo land and Osun in general.
â€This administration has done what we never expected or dreamt of in Osogbo land. Osogbo is now gradually becoming one of the most beautiful cities in Nigeria because of the efforts of OgbeniRaufAregbesola. We shall continue to show our loyalty to this administration in all ways we can because our town is now the cynosure of all eyes for good things.
â€œThe roads and schools that are being constructed are of high quality and standard that we are so sure will stand the test of time. He has also done so much in the health sector. Osun is also very safe and secure as at today,â€ the royal father was quoted to have said during a visit to the governor with his chiefs.
One other question the governor, who was Commissioner for Works in Lagos, answered cleverly but which still generated the feeling that the insinuations about his political future was correct was about his purported interest in contesting the Lagos West senatorial seat at the expiration of his tenure in Osun.
Though he didnâ€™t give an affirmative response, he said: â€œWhen I told my relation that I was coming to wrest power from the incumbent (former governor OlagunsoyeOyinlola) then my family warned that I should not embark on a suicidal mission. My relation could not even believe that it was possible. I was so determined to look at the incumbent. The incumbent said I was an irritant. From irritant I became a governor.
â€œI am as large in Osun as I am large in Lagos. Not many politicians can say they are large in one place and another. So, if I have to contest, I donâ€™t need to tell anybody. I can contest anywhere. It is not by my power, it is God in His infinite mercy, and the people of the two states. I pray that God will prolong my life to prove to the world that politics is a good calling. We are fanning sectarianism, pauperisation. If we are sincere about having regional integration, why are we critical where a Yoruba man comes from? So, Rauf can appear from anywhere when the time comes.â€
He however added: But let me tell you, there is no such decision yet. When I finish on November 27, there will still be six clear months before any election; there will still be enough time to decide on what to do.â€
The truth, however, is that the people are not convinced that the option was not already on the card. It was for same reason that many thought he was only being political and frugal with the truth and as such, they would not be surprised if he eventually becomes the APC candidate for Lagos West in the coming election.
When a journalist contended that the â€˜OsunwonOmoluabiâ€™ (a gauge for good virtues) which constitutes one of the cardinalprogrammes of his administration had failed. The governor disagreed. He argued instead that it is an ongoing concept that must be imbibed by all and sundry.
Arguing that the concept of Omoluabi is an attitude of modesty entrenched into every facets of societal life, particularly the aspect of commerce and social interaction, Aregbesola said, â€œIt is an attitudinal thing and it has not failed. All of us must combine to make it work.
â€œYou said by your own standard the â€˜OsunwonOmoluabiâ€™ has failed. No! It has not failed. We said we are bringing the omoluabi ethos into our commercial activities. It is either you want to accept how we trade without honesty â€“ without accuracy in what we buy or sell. It is unacceptable. In your judgment, it has failed; in my judgment, it is an ongoing process. We are the state of the virtuous. We believe whatever cannot be measured cannot be managed and that civilisation is about you ensuring that you meet up with global standard,â€ Aregbesola maintained.
On the struggle for his successor, which some say is already tearing the party apart, Aregbesola said, â€œOur party is as solid, strong and effective as any party could be. There is no aspect of party organisation, administration and management that has suffered here in Osun APC. We are united, connected and we are working. If a party working over six years is as cohesive and the only opposition party is as scattered, dismembered and uncoordinated, where is your fear?â€
When the APC chairman in the state, Mr. GboyegaFamodun, was called to the podium to speak on the coming 2018 election in the state, he corroborated the governorâ€™s stance, saying the party has not chosen anyone as its candidate, adding that â€œThere is no governorship aspirant in the party as far as I know. The insubordination of a few members of the party does not mean that the party is being threatened ahead of 2018 governorship election. We have a very strong structure in the state.â€
Though the people had a fun-filled weekend with their governor, coupled with other issues that were discussed at the event, it will surely resonate in the minds of most of the participants for a very long time.