By Ikechukwu Eze
My attention has been drawn to a news item in which Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, was quoted to have blamed his underperformance in office on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State addressing participants at “Ogbeni Till Day Break 2018,” held at WOCDIF Center, Osogbo, on Friday
In the story published in some newspapers last Sunday, Aregbesola was said to have blamed his failure as a Governor merely on the fact that his administration coincided with that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Government at the centre, between the year 2010 and 2015, which according to him “was the most traumatised era in the history of Nigeria.”
I see this as the Governor’s attempt to rewrite history by disingenuously seeking an accomplice for his dreadful failure in office. This should be prevented from entering public records, as he wished.
Ordinarily, it is considered a courageous act in governance to admit utter failure, as the Governor attempted doing. Unfortunately, in this instance, Governor Aregbesola’s confession bordered on treachery, since he was neither sincere nor commonsensical. Rather than be the hero he sought to be, Aregbosola ended up as an anti-hero whose admittance of failure became mired in cowardice and deception, once he ventured lamely to seek an accomplice or a fall guy in the past PDP administration. His attempt to pass the buck failed woefully, as the public has seen it for what it is: a spineless act of dishonesty and contrived rectitude wearing a mask of false alibi and specious altruism.
In the first place, Aregbesola’s premise was wrong. Didn’t he realize that as semi-autonomous sub-national entities that control own revenues, States cannot reasonably yoke their fortunes with that of the Federal Government? Aregbesola should ask himself why his performance is far below the standards set by his counterparts in such states as Gombe, Ekiti, Ebonyi and Enugu. Like Aregbesola’s Osun, they are neither oil-producing nor high revenue earning States.
It would have been more honourable, and perhaps worthy of exculpation, if the Governor had been man enough to take absolute responsibility for his monumental failure, without the futile effort to clutch at straws.
That Aregbesola failed as a Governor is a fact known to not only the good people of Osun State but in indeed, all Nigerians. That he is also the architect of his disappointing performance is also incontrovertible.
In the first place, an elected Governor who waited for over two years before appointing commissioners or aides courted nothing but failure. Rather than apply discretion in policy choices, Aregbesola choose to lavish the State’s resources on grandiose white elephant projects that at best served as avenue for personal aggrandizement, to the detriment of workers’ welfare and the good of the people.
One of such extravagant project was the Opon-Imo, an e-learning ‘tablet of knowledge’ meant to ‘solve all’ secondary education needs of the state, which sadly became one of the biggest scams in the history of the state, with many close to him allegedly complicit in a contract scandal worth billions of Naira. It is instructive that while he was fiddling with his tacky Opon-Imo project, the state which used to lead others in learning slipped into 29th position out of 36 on the scale of educational performance in Nigeria.
Another was the ill-advised school uniform policy which generated the kind of crisis that almost crippled the education system in the State. If Aregbesola had not been clueless and bereft of productive ideas, he would have taken a cue from the Governors of other states with a similar mix in the religions of their population. Those hard working Governors knew better than waste state time and resources in enforcing a controversial dressing code for school kids.
Nobody was then surprised when Aregbesola failed to pay the salaries of all civil servants and public sector workers for upwards of 12 months, a development that sparked unprecedented labour protests, and strident calls for his resignation. His failure in this regard was so glaring, that the predicament of Osun workers continues to elicit empathy and concern from across the country. Their situation was so desperate that philanthropists from outside the state were sending donations to the workers. One of such was from Ben Murray-Bruce, the Senator representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District, who offered, out of pity, to donate his N506, 600 wardrobe allowance to Osun workers.
To be fair to him, Aregbesola once confessed that the state of affairs in Osun was beyond him, especially when it became obvious that he had practically brought the state on its knees, a situation that earned him the unattractive label as “Nigeria’s worst performing Governor since 1999”, according to a recent survey conducted by Daily Post news medium.
It is instructive that various stakeholders, prominent individuals and organizations, have continued to call for his resignation, since 2015.
One of such bodies, the Civil Societies Coalition for the Emancipation of Osun state (CSCEOS), had last year advised the state governor, to resign from office with immediate effect following his incompetence and the poor performance of students of the state public schools arising from his bad policies.
The group said: “We however seized this opportunity to advise Mr Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola to honourably tender his resignation from office as governor of Osun state because the present administration has become a disaster to the good people of Osun state in all human endavours which has seriously retarded the educational sector of the State.
“This development has shown the world that Aregbesola lacks capability to run the state again and he should be relieved of his position in order to help the state to record the undiluted development and growth in all ramifications across the length and breadth of the State.”
It is this sordid state of affairs that pushed Justice Olamide Folahanmi Oloyede then of the Osun State Judiciary to take unusual step, by moving against the Governor. Apparently unable to bear the Governor’s missteps and unending blunder any longer, Justice Oloyede had in 2015 petitioned the State House of Assembly over what she termed Aregbesola’s financial recklessness.
It is therefore worrying that a man with this kind of odious public record would seek to compare himself with the administration of Goodluck Jonathan famed for its feat in reinvigorating education, reviving agriculture, strengthening democracy, and growing the economy to become not only Africa’s biggest, but the number one destination for foreign direct investment on the continent.
It is shocking that leaders like Aregbesola are allowed to blow their trumpet as probable messiahs in this dispensation. Little wonder then that the administration in which he is a key player, inherited a robust economy that was rated as one of the world’s best performing in 2015, but within a year brought it to a state where it now serves as a reference point for poor performance.
Ikechukwu Eze is Media Adviser to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President Federal Republic of Nigeria (2010-2015)