By Remi Oyeyemi
Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, the governor of the State of Osun, is an imperfect man in so many ways. Those who loathe him have never let go a chance to call our attention to these imperfections of his with the hope of turning the majority of the citizens against him.
The restless governor has been accused of adopting “an activist approach” to governance. Ogbeni Aregbesola has been chided for being too boisterous. “He does not conduct himself like a governor,” they complained and would add “He sings and dances at the slightest opportunity.” They blame him for being outspoken and frank. They blackmailed him that he introduced cowry shells into the logo of the State and that he is trying to bring back the worshipping of Orishas, as if that is a crime and not what we should be doing. The complaints are legion.
It is true that Ogbeni is boisterous and enthusiastic about what he is doing. He should be. His excitement, exhilaration and animation are contagious. They ought to be. His passion for the progress and welfare of his people is deep, consuming and overwhelming. It has to be. His determination to develop the State of Osun is intense, sincere and forceful. It has to be. Aregbesola is an open book – childlike, uncomplicated, pure, simple and ingenuous. He has to be. For this is the only way his people has been able to read and understand him.
Where his detractors see negativity in introducing cowry shells into the logo of the state, the people see this as a symbolic connection to our roots. They see it as a means of recognizing who we are and a reminder of our cultural and economic evolution. It is an acceptance of another force of existence that is unique to the Yoruba nation and an expression of authentic cultural worldview. The idea is not to antagonize the Judaic religious views that are present in our milieu, but to recognize an essential exceptionality in Yoruba cosmos.
Where the hecklers deride his outspokenness, accusing him of lack of tact, the people see sincerity, candour and honesty. They see no deception and acknowledge his integrity. In the book of the majority, they would rather deal with someone who would be frank with them and let them know where they stand. The people are tired of deceit, lies and charlatanism in their politicians. That Aregbesola has gored as many undesirable persons’ horses as possible is soothing to the people.
Where the cynics see “an activist approach”, the people see a governor that is involved and enmeshed at the grassroots. They see an Aregbesola who is one of them, feels their pains, and shares their aspirations. They see a man who is a community organizer, who does not pretend and have no iota of personal aggrandizement in his bones. They appreciate his passion and commitment. Rather than loathe the said “activism”, the people love it because it is result-oriented, with them as the centerpiece.
Where the enemies see lack of comportment, the market women, commercial drivers, okada riders, artisans of all genres, and professionals of all tinges see a governor that is at home with his people. They take delight in his songs. They are dazzled by his dances, galvanized by his gesticulations and mesmerized by his dramatics. They sing with him at the slightest opportunity and dance their hearts out to express their bliss. They are ecstatic in their gladness and revel in the sense of belonging and communality this engenders. And guess what? They love it.
Where the disbelievers dismiss the Opon Imo concept, ridicule its actualization and delivery while already condemning its tomorrow that is yet to come, the people see this differently. The people are excited at the opportunities it avails and are enthralled at the empowerment it engenders. They feel their self confidence buoyed; their esteem reinforced. They are palpable about their pride, a pride buttressed and bolstered as they glow in the light that extends their horizon. To them, the sky is no longer the limit; they are already inspired to penetrate the heavens.
While the hecklers see destruction of houses in the development of infrastructures, the people see improved and increased road networks. Already, the people can envision the concomitant beauty that the new roads would bring about. There are roads people never thought any government would touch in the next 50 years. There are networks people never even considered relevant and useful that are now viewed differently. For the people, the experience is an entwinement of bewilderment and excitement. They are awed and fascinated by it. They are talking about it. And they are celebrating it.
The enemies grumble about the new schools’ structures, bemoaning the uniform system and the student feeding policy. But the people are very happy that for once, they are getting schools that really look like schools. They are happy that their children would have breakfast and would be able to concentrate in the class. As a Yoruba son, Aregbesola is very much familiar with the dictum “Ti ebi ba ti kuro ninu ise, ise bu se.” Literally this could mean “When suffering is devoid of hunger, the rest is easier.”
The cynics condemn the uniform policy simply because they feel the parents ought not be made to pay for such. But parents in the State of Osun view this differently. The tuition is free. Feeding is also free. They believe that contributing by clothing their own children is not too much a sacrifice to be made in support of Ogbeni’s efforts.
Aregbesola represents a definitive vision. He is a dreamer and a dealer in HOPE. If you do not dream, you are not likely to have a vision. And if you do not have any vision as a leader, you could never be a dealer in hope. Ogbeni has been able to make believers of his people. He has shown and is still showing that DREAMS can come true, that HOPE is not lost and that his VISION for the State and its people are germane to their aspirations.
It has been a long time since the people have seen a government that really cares. It is like two thousand years ago since Obafemi Awolowo was once here. It is like a thousand years when Bola Ige checked in. Bisi Akande’s era seems about five hundred years from hence. Aregbesola is bringing back the good old days of "Life more abundant." In every town and village, the people are reinvigorated by the possibilities as they wonder what would have been, if the locusts had not been here. They are energized by the new realities, steeped in new dreams, infused with new hopes as they aim at the new horizons.
Evidence based assessment is what the people of the State of Osun are doing on daily basis. The mantra now is “Seeing is believing.” They could see where the money is going, though at times they wonder where the money is coming from going by the hitherto reported debt load of the State. With all the imperfections of Ogbeni Adesoji Aregbesola, and barring the demons of the antagonists of one-man-one-vote, it is certain that the good people of the State of Osun would give him the second chance to continue his excellent “activist approach” to governance. And Ogbeni surely deserves it.