Aregbesola: Footprints of a Visionary, by Tola Adeniyi
Prior to his administration, virtually all the roads across the state were in deplorable conditions. Governor Aregbesola constructed over 2000 kilometers of roads which traversed the nooks and crannies of the state. Among them are: 74km boundary highway connecting Osun directly to Lagos through Gbongan via Orile-Owu and Ijebu-Igbo; 17.5km dual-carriage road Osogbo East/West Bypass; 47km highway connecting Osogbo to Kwara State boundary; and 30km Gbongan-Akoda Road and the Adebisi Akande Trumpet Interchange Bridge. Others are 81 Township roads covering 138km; inter-city roads covering 588km and 426 kilometers of roads constructed through the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) among others.
In boosting agriculture and food security Aregbesola allocated 4,000 hectares of land under the Land Bank scheme while support to large scale farmers shot Osun into the second position in the production of poultry. IITA was brought to Osun for agricultural demonstration purposes on cassava, maize, cowpea and most of the arable crops. Of course, some tree crops were not excluded.
In the education sector, 22 state-of-the-art Elementary Schools, 15 Middle schools and 11 High Schools [that look like universities] were constructed and completed across the nooks and crannies of the state to revamp the sector and make education attractive to every child.
The Yearly Examinations Grants per student was increased while periodic training and retraining of over 5,000 teachers running grants were raised from N7.4million to over N427million per year and 30 percent reduction in tuition fees for state tertiary institutions while 98 medical students of Osun State University (UNIOSUN) were sponsored to Ukraine to complete their medical studies.
Other areas of interventions of the Aregbesola-led government in the education sector included: school reclassification into Elementary, Middle and High School System to aid easy teaching and learning; and introduction of Education Marshalls to maintain discipline. School administration and management was decentralized through the creation of three education districts, with each district headed by a Tutor-General.
Calisthenics display is another legacy for which this administration will be remembered. Calisthenics incorporates a lot of virtues like team spirit, unity, resilience, cooperation, tenacity, which an average individual needs to survive and succeed in life. The display has since been introduced into all the schools in the state to create a complete ‘Omoluabi’ in the student.
As at 2016, Osun’s performance level in WAEC rose to 46.7% which is quite a huge jump in the number of students with credit passes in English and Mathematics. Similarly, the state has, since 2013, been featuring prominently between the 1st and 3rd positions in the JAMB ‘matriculatable’ students in Nigeria.
On Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O’MEAL) alone, the state government provides free meals for over 250,000 pupils in primary 1-4 every school day. Through the programme, malnutrition in pupils has been reduced; school enrolment and promotion of healthy living among public school pupils have been improved. Also, about 4000 caterers were empowered as food vendors serving nutritious delicacies to all the pupils in Elementary schools across the state every school day while over 50 school buses (Omoluabi Scholar Buses) were procured by Aregbesola’s administration to enhance easy transportation of students in the state.
Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O’YES) is an innovative idea conceptualized to find meaningful solution to youth unemployment. Within the first 100days in office, 20,000 O’YES cadets were trained and engaged for productive ventures. Grouped into units like Public Works Brigade, Green Gang, Osun Sherriff Corps, Traffic Marshalls, Osun Paramedics, Sanitation Czars and Teachers Corps, over-40,000 youth have so far been empowered though the scheme. The last batch of 20,000 for this administration, which is expected to be passed on to the next administration, is already being prepared.
6000 of these youths were subsequently recruited as permanent teachers. However, 1,600 youths were trained in modern agricultural practices under Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (O’REAP) while 40 of them were sponsored by the state government to Germany to acquire knowledge on advanced farming techniques.
The beauty of this scheme is the fact that N200million allowances being paid to OYES Cadets monthly is injected into the local economy of the state as all the materials and tools used for the success of the scheme were sourced locally. This scheme was recommended to Federal Government by the World Bank as a panacea to youth unemployment and restiveness in the country as the scheme made Osun to experience a drastic drop in her unemployment rate from 12.4% to 2%, thereby making Osun the state with lowest unemployment rate.
Aregbesola’s administration was the first in the country to replace books with computer tablets called ‘Tablet of Knowledge’ aka ‘Opon Imo’[acknowledged by UNESCO as unique] to further stimulate the interest of students to learning as well as completely turn learning into play in schools.Altogether, 17 subjects that students offer during West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) were included as learning experiences in form of lesson notes, textbooks, mostly provided by Evans Publishers and Master Teacher’s inputs. Computer Education and Entrepreneurship Education are also included in the device. ‘Opon Imo’ also contains ten years past questions and answers provided by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) as well as West African Examinations Council (WAEC). It also needs to be noted that Aregbesola’s government increased bursary allocations to all Osun indigenes in tertiary institutions.
In the health sector, 90 new primary health centres were built and equipped; 35 existing primary health centres were upgraded, just as 50 state-of-the-art ambulances were procured as 400 paramedics were employed. In the same vein, 20 ultra-modern dug warehouses were constructed as well as the construction of Comprehensive Health Centres at Ogbaagba, Erin-Ijesa and Erin-Oke. Aregbesola’s administration is reputed to have doled out over 20,000 free-eye medical glasses to visually impaired persons, just as free treatment was given to farmers to rescue them from the debilitating disease of Ochocerciasis while tuberculosis and leprosy patients were treated free of charge in all the state hospitals.
Effective daily routine immunization was put in place at all health facilities in the state while over 4 million insecticide treated mosquito nets were distributed to households just as free medical check-up was organized for civil servants. The state also established Tuberculosis Control Laboratory in Ilesa while 9 Primary Healthcare facilities were refurbished and supplied with essential drugs to increase safe delivery by skilled-birth attendants.
The Aregbesola-led administration deserves commendation for spearheading a process that has consistently led to a year-on-year improvement in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and tax remittances to the state, the latest being the N11.9 billion generated as actual full year IGR for 2017, representing more than 30% increase over the previous year’s N8,884,756,040.35. Osun is said to be Nigeria’s 2nd richest state and it is 2nd on the Human Capital Index and has maintained the 2nd position in four years in a row in the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). In Agriculture and Food Security, the state is now 2nd only to Oyo State in broiler production and its forestry sub-sector ranks 5th in the country. The sate is now Nigeria’s 5th largest economy with its GDP growing at 7.3% per annum.
Osun is one of the few states in Nigeria that have undertaken insurance premium schemes for its workers, a situation that has gone a long way in demonstrating Aregbesola’s love for the welfare of workers.
Nelson Mandela Freedom Park is also a sight to behold due to the recreation facilities that now dot the entire space. Aregbesola’s intervention in the hospitality sector has also not gone unnoticed. Osun now has more than 400 hotels, out of which more than 15 are in ‘Category A’ (equivalent to a ‘3-star’ hotel). Before his administration came on board, the state could only boast of less than half of this figure. Added to these are more than 80 Tourist Attractions in the state.
Other interventions like Osun Microcredit Scheme, the Quick Impact Intervention Programme (QIIP), O-REHAB (established to rehabilitate and reintegrate persons with mental disabilities); Osun Ambulance Services (O’AMBULANCE), Elderly Persons Welfare Scheme, (Agba Osun) and O’WIDOW are also part of this administration’s efforts to boost productivity and promote income diversification and ameliorate the effects of income poverty as well as economic and health-related shocks.
Aregbesola created 31 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), 3 Area Councils and two Administrative Offices for the overall purpose of bringing government closer to the people. And his government is reputed to be the first in the country to have led a new understanding in parliamentary Local Government administration in Nigeria, a situation that has in no small way led to expanding the potentials for accountability, transparency and societal capacity building.
The new lease of life given to the hitherto moribund Cocoa Products Industry in Ede can be viewed as being in line with his election promise of creating employment opportunities as well as attracting investors to the state.
The presentation of N1.8bn retirement bond certificates to 266 pensioners in the state was a demonstration of the depth of his love for the state’s civil servants.
The approval nod given to the state by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) for the construction of a power transmission substation to be located at Dagbolu in Osun State is a worthy step by the administration to strategically reposition the state as the commercial hub of the South-west.
Osun is today a pacesetter in the security sector as the state is currently next to Lagos in investment on security. The procurement of 25 sophisticated Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), 125 Patrol Vehicles, fully equipped with modern gadgets for 24-hour security patrol, building of the multi-force, security control centre in Osogbo, building of state-of-the-art police stations, procurement of helicopter for security surveillance and emergency response as well as setting-up of a dedicated Crime Response Team, (Swift Action Squad, SAS) are some of the steps taken to not only make life interesting, abundant, comfortable, enjoyable and stimulating but have also earned Osun as Nigeria’s most peaceful state.
In assessing Aregbesola’s legacies in his 8-year leadership of Osun, notice should be given to Ambassador Ignatius Olisemeka’s empirical statement on what distinguishes a great leader and I quote:
A leader must have a strong, solid, moral and disciplined background, the inspirational ability to galvanize his people to higher, lofty and common purpose. These are not ordinary attributes available to every man. They are uncommon gifts and talents dispensed and bestowed only to a few. This makes the difference between one man and the other; one woman and the other. It is not often we have a Ghandi or a Mandela; an Ataturk, or a Winston Churchill, a Charles de Gaulle, or a Margaret Thatcher, or even our own often quoted Obama. Nearer home, with all their imperfections, considering that a prophet is without honour in his own country, we must reckon with Azikiwe, the Sardauna, Awolowo, Aminu Kano and J.S. Tarka, the real and genuine ‘founding fathers’ of our nation.
Without the bitterness of sentiments in partisan politics, this is where Aregbesola belongs as a great visionary and a workaholic.
This is not to say that Aregbesola did not make mistakes. He had a great vision and planned big and in the process of actualisation the state’s metaphorical appetite for champagne could not be matched with its coca-cola income. The near-collapse of the Federal Government finances in 2016 dealt a devastating blow to nearly all the states of the federation most especially to Osun with its massive investments in education, construction and infrastructure.
However it is Aregbesola’s leadership style, his commitment to his declared goals, his accessibility and humility, his transparency and accountability and his incorruptibility that have combined to distinguish him among his peers. The state of Osun remains the safest and most peaceful state in the country with the toga of the country’s ‘happiest people’.
Written by Chief Tola Adeniyi with additional materials by Abiodun Komolafe.