Nigeria’s game of politics is too nauseating to percuss; and its government business environment too nasty to peregrinate. For many years, I had switched off Nigeria in my head; the choice to stay back in the United States basking in its refreshing winter and kicking back in its sweet summer has always been a safe one. Last year, however, the intense buzz and bustle around the Governor of my home state Of Osun drew me back home and into a bit of its politicking.
The name Rauf Aregbesola didn’t sound familiar to many of us who’d been out of Nigeria for a while. From different sources, my ears were filled with both sweet and sour stories flying around town about the Governor. I then went verifying the tales before riding alongside others on the vilifying- train throttled by those I didn’t even know.
What I saw in Oshogbo and surrounding towns in the spiraling asphalted roads, in the big bridges, the torn-down and towered-back-up High school buildings that stood in classic comparison with those in many US cities, made my heart throb in joy. Friends, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the only man many of us in Yorubaland grew up to acknowledge as THE LEADER, died a great and accomplished man who stood on the side of his people. Rauf Aregbesola as Governor of Osun may not be the Awolowo of this time, but his deeds qualify as fair-game comparisons to the late sage.
Men with a populist ideology suffer long. Sometimes they become as namby-pambies in the hands of wealthy lowbrows who contend with them for position and power. When I left Oshogbo, I knew opposition against this man will be fierce and destructive. That’s the price populists pay. Men who stand by the people always get bludgeoned by those who have a preference for the continuation of status quo idiocy and depravity.
The initial noise around Rauf was actuated by non-payment of workers’ salaries. Osun owed 6 months, 22 other states including the administration of Goodluck Jonathan owed between 9 and 12. Town-criers of persecution continued to berate only Osun and Rauf. Those who were not citizens of the state also enlisted in the army of pillory. The Presidential election had just ended so we knew why many of them cried more than the bereaved. It was not about Osun workers’ welfare, it was about their king who had just forever auctioned off his crown.
Rauf is tough, strong, energetic and vibrant. He is a custodian of brain and brawn, and his opponents who wanted him out of power understood the tall order in the State’s last gubernatorial election. Former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, admitted that the task of uprooting Governor Rauf Aregbesola and the All Progressives Congress from Osun State would be difficult. He told party ambassador Iyiola Omisore who concurred publicly that “The task to uproot APC from Osun State is daunting…”
That informed why on Election Day August 9th, a legion of attack-dogs came barking into the State accompanied by 90,000 errand-boys of lawlessness in masks and with ammunitions looking to hunt down Rauf. Many major Osun cities were full of security operatives wielding and brandishing guns and shooting into the air. I was on ground and I saw it all. But Rauf triumphed in a shellacking! The Governor will always let whoever cares to listen understand that he has done his best for his people. Many people and Governments in and out of Nigeria agree with him; but the despising minority will not want you to know the truths.
In his creativity and from paltry fund coming into the State’s treasury, Rauf has managed to achieve some milestones. The milestone is in the N5.8bn in Omoluabi Conservation Fund; a wealth fund at a sub sovereign level geared toward promoting the Yoruba culture of leaving wealth for the future generation and planning for a rainy day. The fund can be used as relief in harsh times only when the state income is almost ‘zero’. Primarily, it is set aside as Future Generation Fund. The milestone is also in the State Shares and Equity worth N10bn that has not been accessed till today; and the milestone is in the Blue chip shares that were recovered from moribund investment managers and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). It was worth N3.2bn as at December 31st, 2013, but the value dropped to N2.7bn because of the present dismal state of the Global Capital Market.
Rauf’s milestone is etched in the State and local government investment in Federation Sovereign Wealth totaling 1.1m US dollars, which is 2.2b Naira; and also state and local government investments in the National Integrated Power Plants worth 2.2b Naira today. The State also has other investments in landed properties. What about Security vote? Reportedly, nothing like that exists in the State of Osun. What the State has is a statutory provision by the House of Assembly. It is only a figure on paper that can translate to money in case of emergency and only if funds are available. In a state that is numbered 34 out of 36 in money-bags states; show me the money?
Osun earned only N204bn in 4 years, and more than N20bn of Osun N87bn loan was gulped by workers as salaries. RAUF inherited the sum of N4.6bn pension debt when he was sworn in as Governor 2010. He has so far paid N1.6bn out of a debt he did not incur. He increased the IGR from 700 million Naira a year in the preceding administration to almost 10billion Naira in a year today. Rauf is the only Governor in the country who gave a 13th month salary to his workers before the cash crunch hit in 2013.
Why is this man not making enough noise about all of these milestones? Populists don’t usually make noise about what they have accomplished; their good deeds speak louder than words. Royal fathers even from domains that weren’t fond of Rauf in the last election have all come out swinging in support of this man’s achievements since he became Governor.
Rauf stands on the side of the people, and a Labor Activist, Owei Lakemfa accurately captured it in his article titled “AREGBESOLA: THE IDEALIST AS POLITICIAN” published in a Nigerian Daily this week: “Aregbesola tends to be programmatic like Obafemi Awolowo, a populist similar to ‘Penkelemesi’ Adelabu Adegoke, an orator in the mold of Samuel Ladoke Akintola, with a Talakawa spirit like Aminu Kano. But in a polity controlled by APC and PDP where all birds congregate; it is difficult to differentiate doves and pigeons from hawks and vultures”; Lakemfa wrote. The hawks and vultures are mad as hell right now because Muhammadu Buhari is President, and Rauf was a verbose and loquacious facilitator of the sweet victory.
Anyone can petition the EFCC alleging corruption about anybody in Nigeria; that is the easiest part. But not everybody can stand to defend and prove their allegations as true. Why did those who accused Rauf’s administration of profligacy and corruption take to their heels when the time came to defend their allegations? I don’t know. But what we know is that Rauf has done his best for Osun. The testaments from his first term as Governor are now in the archives of history. Were there some inadvertent missteps, and are there some lessons learnt from them? Rauf will be the first to tell you that he has learnt a lot in the last five years. As for his foes; they will continue to tell you only what they want you to hear.