I once got into a conversation with a friend about what it really means to miss someone else. It’s common to casually tell friends and family we have not seen in a while that we miss them, sometimes as a perfunctory response to their own declaration. We get busy with chasing our dreams and making ends meet that we rarely feel any vacuum created by people’s absence but when eventually meet and we say we miss them, what do we really miss: their voice, touch, mannerisms, actions or what exactly? Continue reading
As Osun state goes to the polls again on August 9, 2014, in what seems to be a two-horse race between the incumbent Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and the People’s Democratic Party candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore, the election will again test a few principles in our perception of the parameters of governance. The limitation in choices is not official but is due to sundry factors that may not be unconnected with the relative nascence of our democratic experience as well as the huge costs of elections. It certainly takes a lot to build a political structure that will make any meaningful impact in any election that involves millions of potential voters.
Osun state is not Arkansas or Manchester; the level of enlightenment differs and reasonably, the quality of candidacy will only get better over the years as the state and the nation evolves. Of the top two candidates however, I am better persuaded by the promises the candidacy of the incumbent Governor holds for our collective dreams of an industrialized nation. His policies while in government have shown evidence of some thought, the presence of a plan and a cohesion that should gradually drive the state into general flourishing if sustained. His opposing candidate has been low on formulating a stronger governance template as I expected, or even testing current policies with empirical efforts to assert the necessity of a change but has rather relied on ethnic sentiments and simplistic promises of taking the state to the centre – whatever that means.
With recently recurring questions about the place of idealism in the Nigerian democratic experience and the place of the individual quest for daily survival in making electoral decisions, Osun becomes a veritable laboratory. Under Aregbesola, there seems to exist a balanced idealistic pursuit of development without losing touch with the people. Starting with his decision to be addressed as “Ogbeni” rather than “Your Excellency”, a gesture that welded a closer affinity to the deeply cultural population of the state, he took on a more daring step in rebranding the state along the ethos of the Yoruba-cherished “Omoluabi”. While his preference for the American-styled renaming of the state as “State of Osun” raised more than a few eyebrows, his deft handling of the matter to bring his people to agree with him equally earned him a lot of admiration.
Branding in a culturally deep setting like Osun is one thing that Ogbeni Aregbesola deserves some credit for. The blend of mass appeal and the exotic in the governance efforts of the administration indicate a conscious reckoning with the necessity of attention to all details as the policies implemented and branded similarly stand in good light. The Osun Youth Employment Scheme (O’YES) which has assimilated 40, 000 people thus far, initially seemed like just another vague attempt at keeping thousands of youths busy doing nothing really. The programme has however evolved into both a vocational training scheme and a launching pad for the thousands of graduates who have volunteered to go through it. His efforts in the area of education are equally dynamic though they came with excess media hype. The 150, 000 e-learning tablets with the catchy culture-nominal reference “Opon-Imo” distributed to secondary school students in the state is a first-of-its-kind initiative that reflects the intention to shelve the laidback attitude initially attached to education in the state, matched with befitting school infrastructures being put in place. I can recall at least three occasions when I passed by some of the schools and co-passengers were so awed by their aesthetic delivery they mistook them for private schools for the rich, one person even arguing for a few minutes until we stopped to examine the signboard together before she could be convinced. The O-MEALS programme under which 254, 000 school children are being fed daily to enhance proper nutrition, is also a commendable effort.
Aregbesola’s tenure began with a radical fervor, making immediate impact in such areas as environmental sanitation, security and health. Beyond filthy surroundings, the Ife-Ilesha axis used to be the hotbed of armed robbery where we lived in fears and prayed before entering bank premises but the state-powered Operation SAS under Aregbesola immediately nipped the vice in the bud. The 125 patrol vans, 5 armoured carriers and helicopter purchased by the administration is evidence of seriousness about securing lives and property. Similarly, many lives have been saved as a result of the efficiency of the O’Ambulance, the ambulance patrol service introduced by the Aregbesola administration.
Perhaps building on his experience as a Commissioner for Works in Lagos in time past, Aregbesola took the internally generated revenue of the state from N300million to N1.5billion by addressing the laxity in the tax system previously in place. It is not unusual for those paying to complain but they can also see the benefits in the projects implemented. The administration has embarked on an Urban Renewal Plan tagged O-Renewal with manifest deliberateness at putting in place better road networks and modern amenities in the nine zonal headquarters of the state, even down to lush greenery at the state’s land borders. The equipping of over 1,800 farmers with varying farm inputs under the Osun Rural Enterprise & Agriculture Programme (O-REAP) has also resulted in the cultivation of about 10, 698 acres of farmland. The dredging of 123 kilometers of arteries and waterways equally helped address flooding that used to be a major occurrence during rainy seasons, with a very catastrophic incidence on July 10, 2010 still in mind.
To a great extent, Aregbesola has maintained the balance in a state with such religious complexity as Osun and arguments about a supposed islamization agenda have ultimately turned out unfounded and puerile. His cabinet-makeup is evidence of absence of the fundamentalism alleged and his introduction of a public holiday for traditional worshippers reflects an understanding of the complexity of the religious setting in the state, same as his administration’s sponsorship of rail transportation for residents travelling in and out of the state during festive seasons.
Questions should of course be necessarily asked about the cost of the projects implemented by the administration but such matters are not resolved by mere speculations but resort to proper costing and surveys by appropriate personnel. The aesthetic quality, durability and practical utility of the projects so far implemented will however speak volumes, no doubt. In the absence of a more formidable development plan by those seeking to check the Ogbeni out of the government lodge in Osogbo, I am of the opinion that the state will be better served by the continuity of Aregbesola’s current framework.
A SEEMING SAINT: MEETING HON. FAROUK ALIYU ADAMU
Hon. Farouk Aliyu Adamu is a former member of the House of Representatives from Birnin-Kudu in Jigawa State. He was one of the speakers at the African Students for Liberty conference held recently at the Trenchard Hall of University of Ibadan, Ibadan in Oyo State.
At the point of his arrival to the hall, I was making acquaintances with a few people on the aisle and nearly collided with him, an unruffled smile planted on his face as he adjusted the heavy sleeves of his white agbada. I did not know who he was but became intrigued the moment he was introduced as a former member of the National Assembly.
When Hon. Farouk Aliyu declared he would be speaking on the rule of law, I adjusted myself on my seat to pay maximum attention, hoping to pick some lessons from his talk. He however decided to summarize his talk since the paper would be distributed afterwards and proceeded to give what turned out to be perhaps the most interactive session of the conference as he danced around controversial issues on the political scene, adopting concerning himself a nearly unprecedented sanctimonious stance.
Hon. Aliyu began with a reference to the wind of impeachments that blew across the nation during the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, sweeping away those who allegedly opposed his much-touted third term ambition. According to Hon. Aliyu, Obasanjo arranged for Ladoja’s impeachment which the Oyo State House of Assembly carried out seating in a hotel, an act against the rules of the House that demanded that the business of the House must be concluded within the Assembly premises. He cited a few instances of what transpired in Ekiti and Anambra states as well. He thereafter, in judgment of the lawlessness of civilian administrations superseding that of their military predecessors, declared “Before the civilians came into power, we always blamed the military but when we the civilians came, we are not doing any better in following the rule of law.”
The Honourable seems to be a good story teller too and succeeded in getting the entire hall into a frenzy. Here is a paraphrased version of the four stories he told to illustrate his points:
1. A friend of mine runs a chain of supermarkets and made a policy that anyone caught stealing will be handed over to the police. On a certain day, a particular customer came in and stole a bottle of lotion. He was apprehended and handed over to the Police who charged him to court. Regrettably, the Magistrate dismissed the case because he felt it was a petty matter and lambasted my friend for wasting the time of the court over a bottle of lotion.
2. A man got drunk and knocked a lady down who died on the spot. He was arrested and while in detention, he was advised by his friends to get his lawyer to go with a Pastor to beg the family of the deceased. The Pastor went to meet with the family, telling them the loss of their daughter was the will of God and managed to get them to withdraw the matter. A murderer was set free hiding under the umbrella of the supposed will of God.
3. A woman selling lace at the popular Balogun market in Lagos, doing business of over a million dollars that started as hundred thousand dollars, granted an interview in the papers and narrated how her business thrived at a time importation of lace was banned because she was bribing custom officials and policemen. Till today, she was never arrested or questioned despite the open claims. This shows that it is not the Government alone that is being lawless, the citizens are lawless too.
4. A singer, Brymo was accused by his record label of being involved in drugs in court, the judge playfully countered that ‘the plaintiff (record label) cannot have a problem with a singer promoting hard drugs because that is what they all do. We are all fans of Fela and Bob Marley, and they promoted these things.’
Having narrated his stories, Hon. Aliyu walked a controversial path, discussing Nigeria’s security challenges particularly terrorism. Concerning the label of terrorism-financiers that is fast sticking on his party, the All Progressives Congress, he said, “Some members of the PDP call us Boko Haram simply because we are in the opposition.” He then pointed in a direction, ‘Those of us in the north believe, know and think to a very large extent that a former Borno state governor has links with Boko Haram but he has never been invited by the Police or the SSS because he is friends with President Jonathan. Until such people as are associated with terrorists are made to face the law, this lawlessness will continue.’
Hon. Aliyu thereafter admits that the political elite in the North failed the region by playing down he importance of education and that became a major window for Boko Haram to grow. He claims, “I am one of the luckiest few who have been to school in Jigawa. The Governor of Jigawa invested N16billion to build an airport in Dutse yet ignored education. Until all the Governors in the north commit to education, no amount of guns may be able to stop terrorism.” He further added, “If our Governors in the north had invested in education, we won’t have hundreds of our people running to Abia to become sugarcane sellers and then they are arrested and tagged Boko Haram.”
Things became more interesting when he chose to comment on the recent wave of impeachments that has claimed its first victim in former Adamawa state governor, Murtala Nyako who also happens to belong to his political party. I will paraphrase him:
The Governor of Adamawa was a bloody thief, but without justifying him, it was his cross-carpeting from the PDP to APC that was the cause of his impeachment and his sin, not his stealing. He is as much a thief as the Governors of Lagos and Oyo. If the Governor of Oyo state which is controlled by the APC crosses over to the PDP, he may face the same fate.
Expectedly, the buzz in the hall went a notch higher and took a while to calm but the Honorable was enjoying it all. He then proferred a solution to lawlessness in Nigeria: strong institutions. “We have not tested the constitution enough. The solution to our problems is not constitutional amendment, big people just resort to that argument when it’s convenient. We need institutions to effectively address our problems. The reason why some companies dont deliver on services is because some people in the Nigerian regulating agencies are conniving with service companies. We need effective checks and balances that can only be made possible through effective institutions. ”
At this point, a member of the audience took him to task about his time in office and I must confess I have not seen any other Nigerian politician defend his integrity with much openness and energy. He listed all he was able to do for his constituency and contributions to bills on the floor of the House between 2003 and 2007. He stated the huge sums he was paid as a legislator, claiming he refused all other unlawful payments and how he was nearly recalled for refusing to support the third-term agenda of then President Olusegun Obasanjo. “I was the only legislator in the history of the National Assembly since 1999 to be subjected to a referendum in my constituency to recall me because I opposed third term for Obasanjo but I won because the people knew I stood for the truth. I have no house or houses in Abuja because I always stood against corruption and I cannot afford it.” Hon. Aliyu also stated his businesses and locations for the purposes of verification.
When asked again if the sums paid legislators were not too much, he replied “We were handsomely paid as legislators and legislators are still handsomely paid. However, if the legislators will serve the nation honestly, those sums will actually be considered peanuts.”
On the issue of unity, he made a statement that at first impressed me in the beginning but ultimately left me disappointed in the end. He said “We are the same as Nigerians but we are different people by backgrounds. We must however recognize and protect the need to live together as one. I am first a Fulani man, then a Muslim and then a Nigerian”. I personally do not think it is best for someone of his calibre or anyone for that matter to place his ethnic interest above national interest, moreso considering how vigorous and emphatic he was about it. It is no wonder the national conference will likely end up a waste of resources because many of them hold similar sentiments.
All the same, it was a great time spent listening to Hon. Farouk Aliyu Adamu.
I am @tobisammyjay on Twitter