As Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola of Osun State bows out of office today and wears the permanent prefix of ‘ex’, political analysts and stakeholders alike have evaluated his eight years in office with accolades and strong knocks.
Aregbesola, a former cabinet member in Lagos State, in charge of works and infrastructure between 1999 and 2007 contested the governorship seat of Osun State alongside Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a retired military general and former military administrator of Lagos State.
He, therefore, readily got involved in the murky water of Nigerian politics for the first time when the electoral umpire declared his opponent winner of the contest against what he and his political allies considered to be the voting pattern of the people and level of popularity of his party.
Aregbesola, by this scenario rekindled his revolutionary spirit of the 80s in the Polytechnic, Ibadan, when he held sway as the Speaker of the Students’ Parliament and experience gathered in the trenches as pro-democracy fighter in the 90s; he kicked off a legal battle and fought on till his mandate was retrieved on November 27, 2010.
Determined to make a change and justify the efforts and resources expended in the struggle to reclaim his mandate, the governor embarked on aggressive developmental drives vis-a-vis human capital development, not minding the limitation of state’s resources and uncertain source of revenue.
Many applauded Aregbesola for hitting the ground running at the inception of his administration, the dominance of non-indigenes of the state in critical sectors of the economy through consultancy, especially in the area of project execution marked the beginning of resentment against the government, especially from the elite.
Also, many, however, faulted some of his policies on education and health, describing it as being lopsided and crude. For instance, his policy of reclassification in education sector, where the age-long 6334 system of education was changed to 933, which comprises of Elementary, Middle, and Higher schools.
The introduction of computer tablet popularly called ‘Opon Imo ‘ in the senior secondary class, which reportedly gulped billions of naira has been criticised as total failure and a curse to the education sector rather than blessing.
A retired principal from Ayedaade local government, Mr Hameed Teslim, said the introduction of the computer tablet inadvertently worsened academic pursuit amongst students and brought about serious moral decadence.
According to him, the students, rather than using the device for studies turned it to device of pleasure, as they started watching all types of illicit contents, which further aggravated moral decadence among students and practically eroded reading culture.
“In my considered opinion, the education policy of Aregbesola government turned out to be counterproductive, it ended up in shambles as standard of education abysmally dropped while social vices became more pronounced to the dismay of many in the state.
“For instance, the introduction of Opon Imo, the computer tablets have impacted nothing positive on our education sector other than making our students less focused and constitutes total distraction and a means of moral bankruptcy.
” There were even feelings in some quarters that the Governor came up with the idea to enrich his son who just graduated from a university in Cuba then as a programmer; meaning that the project was just conceived and implemented as a post graduate experiment for the governor’s son and turned him to a sudden billionaire”.
Osun Govt Reels Out Key Achievements
Meanwhile, the government, in the recent figures released and termed ‘Key Achievements’ claimed to have delivered over 3685 new classrooms across the state, and fed over 1.5m school children through O-Meals programme, and 7,057 jobs created through this means.
It listed employment of 12000 teachers between 2011 and 2013 in secondary schools and approximately 3, 230 regular teachers were absorbed for elementary schools, coupled with provision of 45 school buses distributed amongst schools in the state to make free transportation services available to all school pupils and students among others as part of government’s giant stride in the educational sector.
It also said over 1000 km of urban roads, 231.057km Council roads across all the 30 local governments, 27 intercity roads, 81 township roads covering over 255.47km and many others have been constructed to give access roads to inhabitants of the state.
Opposition Parties Kick
However, the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has described the claims of Aregbesola led administration in the education sector and developmental drive as nothing but a ruse, saying he has superintended a failed government.
The Chairman of the party in the state, Hon. Soji Adagunodo, said contrary to what the governor is making people to believe as achievement in infrastructure and human capital, “Aregbesola is leaving the state worse than how he met it in 2010.
“There is no better indication of the governor’s failure than the dysfunctional educational system, comatose healthcare, gargantuan debt, deplorable roads, abysmal water infrastructure and several other negatives, which the governor is leaving behind for his successor.
” It is already on record that it was during the tenure of Ogbeni Aregbesola that Osun was ranked by BUDGIT as one of the four most indebted states and the least fiscally responsible state in Nigeria.
“It was during these same years that the state found itself on the lowest rung of performance of students in public examinations; a situation which made us a laughing stock even among states hitherto considered educationally disadvantaged in Nigeria.
” Human life and development had never been this compromised as medical doctors, health workers, lecturers, and civil servants embarked on strikes for a cumulative period of not less than 3 and a half years during Aregbesola administration.”
The party also described acclaimed road infrastructure around the state as nothing but death traps, citing township roads in Ejigbo, Iwo, Ede, Ikirun, Ila Orangun, Ilobu among others as seriously deplorable.
The party added that the roads from Osogbo to Ila-Odo, Akoda-Gbongan, Orile Owu to Ijebu-Igbo, Iwo to Ejigbo and several others which it said the governor used as cover to obtain various huge loans have been abandoned at stages ranging between 15 and 40 percent completion.
” The road from Osogbo through Iwo to Ibadan, which the governor boasted would be rehabilitated by Julius Berger in 2012 was never started and must today rank among the worst roads in Nigeria”
” It is similarly on record that a recent survey by an international organisation ranked Osun as one of the 3 dirtiest states in Nigeria. This is in spite of the billions of Naira siphoned by Local and State government officials in the guise of environmental drive”.
In the same vein, the Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, in its assessment of the Aregbesola administration concluded that majority of the people in the state have been left more downtrodden instead of having their lives turned around for good.
According to the Chairman of the party, Comrade Alfred Adegoke “the Aregbesola government and coterie of his sycophants, supporters and town criers, will want to paint a rosy picture of a popular and progressive government, but the reality on ground has shown that the Aregbesola government, in spite of ample opportunities available, is a grand failure. Yes, some projects were carried out, but a cursory look at the summary of the activities of the Aregbesola government for the eight years clearly reflects a profligate government that not only wasted public resources but also launched attacks on the working people and youths in the state.
“The result of the 2018 Governorship Election is a clear verdict on the Aregbesola government and the APC. While the APC candidate, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, was eventually declared winner of the election 254,345 (less than 32 percent of the 815, 798 who participated in the election), it is glaring even to the blind supporters that the ‘victory’ was procured through the back door.
” In spite of the billions spent by the government and the APC on thousands of billboards, advertisements, bribery and direct inducement of voters, coupled with direct rigging of the elections, the government still lost in the first round of the election to the equally corrupt and anti-poor PDP, which got 254, 698 votes.
“The rerun election held on September 27, 2018 has variously been described as a sham, as it was mere exercise in violence, voters’ intimidation and direct rigging by the APC in connivance with the security operatives and the INEC. The various verdicts by the media, civil society groups and the local and foreign observers have shown that the rerun election was a sham.
” Aregbesola government and its town criers have gone to town to paint a picture of a successful government through mindless propaganda. One of such is the reported statement credited to the governor during his last popular programme, ‘Ogbeni Till Daybreak’, that he did not collect salaries in the past eight years.
“This was meant to show a governor that is frugal and prudent in financial management. It was also meant to justify why workers and the poor will have to live with the anti-poor policies of the government that have made them poorer or worse off. But the governor can only fool his sycophants. In fact, majority of the Nigerian populace rightly rejected such fake propaganda, especially on social media.
“It is apposite to state that while Aregbesola wants to claim that he is not selfish or greedy, the governor refused to state what happened to the N500 million he budgeted monthly for Security Vote, an amount that was not subject to parliamentary oversight. We challenge the governor to publish the use of N500 million budgeted monthly for security vote and allow the public and anti-graft agencies to verify his claims. Moreover, while the governor claimed that he did not collect salaries, it is vital to state that the overhead spent to maintain the governor, his family and aides through their ostentatious lifestyles may already make nonsense of any money saved through non-collection of salaries, if this governor’s story is taken to be true.
” For instance, wife of the governor has a pet project that is funded directly and indirectly from public resources.
We should also mention the billions consumed by the unproductive appointees. In just one instance, just 330 unelected members of Caretaker Committees of Local Governments got over N4 billion within the first four years of Aregbesola government.
“These are mostly unproductive appointees who did practically nothing in the activities of the local governments, as the functions of the local governments have been taken over, albeit undemocratically, by the state government. Should we also mention several billions spent on several special assistants, senior special assistants and advisers, many of whom are only used to get money out”.
Social Crusader, Civil Society Group React
Speaking on the performance of the governor in the last eight years, a social crusader and public commentator in Osogbo, the Osun State capital , Dr Durotola Fabiyi, said Aregbesola will go down in history as the most creative and innovative chief executive of the state, arguing that Osun State has attained an enviable height within the federating units.
He said the huge infrastructure facility in the education sector, coupled with purchase of security equipment to ensure safety for people’s lives and property and environmental policy that keeps the environment free of hazard stand the administration out among it’s predecessors.
“On the scale of objectivity, every discerning individual will agree with me that the outgoing administration has performed creditably well in the area of infrastructure and development of human capital through home grown education policy that is in tandem with the reality of our societal configuration.
“The security architecture of the state is well coordinated and monitored, look at the unprecedented proactiveness on the part of government, with the political will to purchase 25 Armoured Personnel Carriers, which is obviously yielding positive results in terms of relative peace the state is enjoying.
“This feat has helped to foil two armed robbery attacks in the state, despite the pronounced cases of such cases in the neighbouring states. I believe the outgoing governor deserves accolades.
“Look at the unprecedented developmental drive of the government in our schools, the pitiable condition of our schools, which was formerly an eyesore has been made more attractive with modern edifice of international standard”.
The Executive Director of Development Advocacy Group, Comrade Saka Lawal in his remarks, said the ideological background of Aregbesola has equipped him to redefine tenets of governance and be responsive in his style of leadership.
He explained that the acute shortfall in the monthly allocations to states few years back, due to glut in the world oil market would have ordinarily caused irredeemable economic chaos in Osun State but for the creative nature of the governor to come up with temporary solution that doused the economic tension.
He also mentioned programmes like Oclean, OAmbulance and the rest, which according to him had positively impacted on the people and changed the state’s socioeconomic narratives for good.
Without mincing words, the people of Osun are anxiously waiting to witness a change in guard in the political landscape, and different sailor to steer the ship of the state in the years to come, with avalanche of expectations and aspirations, mostly in the area of workers’ welfare, reliable and sustainable infrastructural development and manageable debt.
The governor-elect, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, who many, including governor Aregbesola have consistently described as cool, calm, and collected must compulsorily live above that attributes of gentleman and take up the mantle of leadership with courage and determination.
He must also bring his experience in financial management to bear for the purpose of salvaging the state from purported huge debt and create a path of self reliance and sustainability.
Also, Oyetola, with absence of ideological acumen to tackle labour and students issues must delegate competent hands to handle these segments of the social structure without blemish.