The tenure of Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola will end tomorrow. It will be eight years that Aregbesola came into power after the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, sacked his predecessor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Undaunted by two previous court judgements that were not in his favor, Aregbesola pursued petitions before the election tribunal, challenging the declaration of Oyinlola as the winner of the 2007 poll.
When he assumed the reins, Aregbesola behaved as if no time could be enough for him to fix the state. The Aregbesola administration met a deficit in infrastructure in many sectors of the economy, including education, health, tourism and roads, on assumption of office. He renegotiated the N18.3 billion loan of his predecessor, and secured liberal terms in repayment. Though he was criticised for hypocrisy in seeking new and bigger loans, bonds and an Islamic Sukuk loan, Aregbesola said how the funds were expended was what that mattered and the development it will bring into the state.
As many hailed his achievements in infrastructural development and road construction, some described some of the projects as misplaced priorities and without direct economic impact on the people. According to critics, the construction of mega schools, bridges and flyovers was unnecessary. But what cannot be ignored about his achievements is how he had opened up the state in terms of huge construction, particularly in Osogbo, the state capital. Real estate benefited so much from polices of government as value of properties went up by more than 200 percent.
His greatest achievement is the re-establishing the Omoluabi ethos and rebranding Osun as a state of the virtuous. He once spoke to a huge crowd at a public function on the importance of character in the progressive journey of man, saying he felt fulfilled for reconnecting the people to the values of yore, which had promoted hard work, honesty, peace and good neighborliness.
Like in the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo whose vision and sense of mission made the Western Region to be ahead of other regions in education, agriculture, health, civil service administration among others, Aregbesola has been able to lay a foundation for a sustainable development. In education, he significantly improved school infrastructure by building world class mega schools with modern facilities that can support learning. The new schools replaced many dilapidated school buildings. He merged many unviable schools and reclassified the school system to make it functional. Also, he devised a tablet of knowledge, otherwise known as”Opon Imo” in which all subjects, including history and Odu Ifa, were installed. The Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) of his administration provided jobs for teeming unemployed youths. He inculcated the values of hard work, dignity of labour service. His administration also provided support for small and medium enterprises through various economic and financial programmes. This, to a large extent, engaged the people, particularly the youths and by implication, reduced crime rate in the state. In health, many policies and programmes of government like the provision for emergency service for accident victims known as O’Ambulance were innovative and life-saving. In agriculture, Aregbesola has many intervention programmes that will inspire development. During his tenure, the reforms in the civil service was silent, but had far reaching effects.
The incoming governor, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, is expected to hit the ground running because he was a major participants in the Aregbesola administration for eight years as Chief of Staff. In the last edition of Ogbeni Till Day Break, an interactive programme to query the activities of government and to know the mind of governor on issues as they affect politics and governance, Aregbesola revealed that no single file got to his table without first passing through his Chief of Staff. He therefore, expressed confidence in Oyetola’s ability to perform. “There was no file I treated that must not first pass through him (Oyetola) before getting to me. He is a major contributor to the success of this administration. He is not going to be told what to do. He knows where the work stops and where to start. I have no doubt that the future of OSUN is secured. He will continue our good work and even open up new frontiers,” Aregbesola said.
However, people are saying the incoming governor will face some challenges. He is believed to be up to the tasks because he had demonstrated his ability while serving the outgoing administration. People say Oyetola’s strength is in calmness, his integrity, peaceful disposition and character. He was never linked to any fraud. He has a rich experience in the private sector for over 30 years and public service in the last eight years. A major challenge expected to be faced by his administration is finance. Osun is not among the states receiving huge federal allocation and its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile could not be compared with that of Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Kano among others. Though the Aregbesola administration raised the state IGR from about
N250/400million to a little over N1 billion monthly, this is not enough to support the federal allocation to meet some of the obligations. Also, the state is paying some loans, part of which some will be liquidated in 2019 and 2020. Clearing arrears of workers’ salaries and pensioners’ allowances after an agreement of modulated salary scale between the government and the labour unions, may initially reduce the capacity of the Oyetola administration since the workers want the matter to be urgently attended to. However, people are looking up to the incoming governor to use his expertise in public finance and leverage on the goodwill and contacts locally and internationally, particularly in the private sector, to drive his polices and programmes.
Another is the issue of combining governance with politics, which Aregbesola was able to master effectively. The incoming governor must be prepared to apply political skills to overcome many of the antics of the opposition and at the same time not allow himself to be distracted from governance. The incoming administration may also face a dilemma of either submitting the state resources to the political class or utilise it for public good. The expectations of many politicians as the slogan goes is “Kajo se, Kajo je” meaning “Let’s work together to build and benefit.” So, this could be a challenge for Oyetola to master balancing sectional personal interests with over all interests.
Also, he may face challenges in appointing some of the cabinet members to work with him as political class is in the habit of sponsoring candidates on political patronage, not on merit and capability to fill key offices. Oyetola must be prepared to search for best professionals hands to work with him to deliver on his promises to the people of the state.
As Oyetola and his deputy, Benedict Alabi, step into office, the people of Osun are hoping his tenure will be a blessing to them.