The race to succeed Governor Rauf Aregbesola in Osun State is now getting to the wire with barely a week to the all-important election.
The September 22 poll is important in more ways than one. Coming after the Ekiti July 14 election, the Osun poll is one of those elections that would herald the 2019 general election. As one of the forerunners of the 2019 election, it would serve as an indicator, giving us an idea of what to expect at the general election, particularly in terms of the preparedness and actual performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission and security agencies and the likely voter turnout given the seeming voter apathy in the land. It was just the same way the 2014 elections in Ekiti and Osun, with its varied electoral tales in the two states, foretold then of what was to come in 2015, leaving a sour taste in the mouth. In that ensuing 2015 election, however, the then newly-cobbled rainbow coalition that is the All Progressives Congress eventually uprooted a sitting incumbent at the centre for the first time in Nigeria’s political history.
Specifically for us in Osun, next Saturday’s election is significant for what it portends for the future of the state in the next four years. It will determine who takes over from Governor Aregbesola who in eight years laid a solid infrastructural and socio-economic foundation for the state to move to the next level, which is economic development and industrialisation level. It is a big electoral decision we have to make and a mistake may prove too costly as it may set the state back irretrievably.
Created in 1991, Osun has indeed recorded giant strides under Aregbesola. With the good network of roads particularly in the capital Osogbo and the various educational infrastructure put in place across the entire state, the governor has done more than his predecessor in the state. According to official statistics, the Aregbesola government delivered over 1000 kilometres of urban roads across the states, particularly in the capital Osogbo that has been beautifully transformed, reconstructed up to 27 intercity roads, covering 381.89 km and upgraded 81 township roads, covering over 255.17 km.
The administration improved the economic and financial management of the state, shoring up Internally Generated Revenue from N300 million to an average of N1.3 billion per month. Among other laudable things, the government also established multi-billion Osun Micro-Credit Agency for cooperative groups and societies in a bid to indirectly power small scale businesses.
Critics of the administration may draw attention, as they often do, to the occasional delay in payment of salaries and pensions, but truth is given the parlous state of the finances of the state, it is a miracle that the governor could keep its salary and other financial obligations and yet able to embark on the laudable projects it has delivered thus far.
Indeed, it is partly a measure of the enviable height Osun has attained under Aregbesola that it has witnessed the kind of intense interest the governorship race is generating. More than anything else, however, it is this matter of the governor’s fine performance, the credentials and competences or otherwise of those aspiring to take over from him and the challenges confronting the state that should dominate debate at present.
However, sadly but not unexpectedly, the race has been low on issues and high on destructive campaigns. We must not allow ourselves to be hoodwinked or be distracted. What is at stake is too serious and too important. It’s about the future of our state. We must pay attention and interrogate the competences of those that have come forward for the exalted job for the sake of our people and generations yet unborn in the state.
The race parades the contenders and pretenders, those who know they lack what it takes to lead us in Osun and yet continue to grandstand as potential governors of the state. On one extreme is one candidate, the All Progressives Congress candidate, Alhaji Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola alias Ileri-Oluwa, in a class of his own, imbued with solid education, private sector experience spanning over 30 years and excellent record of performance as Chief of Staff in the outgoing administration. At the other end is another candidate, bereft of education and ideas, his main qualification and experience being credit in dancing. In between is a mixed grill of the good and the bad. The tolerable and intolerable and even the distasteful.
It’s perhaps owing to their widely-known inadequacies that some in the race have elected to indulge in the reprehensible. They concoct lies, spread fake reports and launch disruptive campaigns. Rather than canvass ideas and articulate issues that will help uplift the people they want to govern, they trade in barbs and campaigns of calumny, indeed confirming the correctness of those immortal words of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, that only the deep can reach out to the deep. You cannot give what you don’t have.
Knowing full well Oyetola is the man for the job and the one to beat, they move to delimit and de-market him. They claim he is in the race to engage in wanton wealth accumulation. But not a few know Oyetola has achieved financial success in his private life before coming into politics and has a reputation for honesty and integrity. Such a person is not one that can be said to be running for governor to accumulate wealth. He is not an opportunist who is out to get rich with Osun’s funds.
The opposition also attempted to twist the APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s remarks at the palace of Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, to give the impression he disparaged the traditional ruler and Osogbo people. This writer was at the courtesy visit. Asiwaju was received with pomp and ceremony by a traditional ruler who said the visit was an opportunity for him to show gratitude to the APC leader for his tremendous support when he had challenges over the throne. Asiwaju neither disparaged the traditional ruler nor demeaned the people of Osogbo.
Given his background and record over the years, is Asiwaju the type of person or politician who will disparage anybody or group of people on account of whether they are rich or poor?
Asiwaju has always stressed the fact that he was born into poverty and had to achieve success in life through much suffering, perseverance and industry. This is also true of many of our great leaders including heroes like Chief Obafemi Awolowo and MKO Abiola. Like these icons, Asiwaju’s goal in politics is to utilise all he has to help empower people and lift them out of poverty. His message at the Ataoja’s palace was that this is also the mission of Oyetola in politics and not to accumulate wealth.
*Rahman, former Editor Thisday on Saturday and Sunday Newspapers, hails from Iwo in Osun State. He is Media Adviser to Asiwaju Tinubu.