- Ogbeni RAUF AREGBESOLA Tells City People
- Reviews His 6 Years In Office
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a man of great ideas. He is also a problem solver. Once he encounters any big challenge obstructing the delivery of the dividends of democracy, in any area, he will sit down with his aides and fashion out a lasting solution. So he is constantly busy finding solutions to the problems facing the state.
That is why if you sit down to talk with Osun Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola you will be amazed at his deep knowledge of very many areas of governance. If he begins to talk to you about Agriculture, he could go on for 2 hours. If he picks Education, he will off the cuff, tell you the challenges therein. Same thing with Health, Sports, Roads, Housing. He is spot on. He has taken his time to prepare for the job. And he is quite knowledgeable about a whole lot of things.
A few weeks back, the governor of the state of Osun shared with City People his major challenges and how he has been able to work around it to enable him deliver his promises to the people.
Also for 2 hours, Ogbeni Aregbesola self-critiqued himself at a lecture he delivered in honour of City People @ 20. His judgment: “We have delivered on all our promises”, he said matter of factly.
City People Magazine had asked him to deliver its 20th Special Anniversary Lecture on the topic My Experience As Osun Governor In The Past 6 Years at the Aurora Conference & Event Centre, in Osogbo.
In what has been described as his major policy speech to date, Gov. Aregbesola said he had a clear picture of his mission when he set out in 2010 to govern Osun.
“My unmistakeable historical mission in Osun has always been to liberate the masses from the clutches and stranglehold of the few, by empowering them through Education, Health minimum resources needed for survival, and enhance their viability. I am not a starry eyed communist, but I believe in social justice. My mission has been to free those who are bound by the shackle of poverty and to liberate them, free them and make them to run on their way. This way the talent and creativity of both the strong and the weak will be let loose there will be life more abundant for all. On this, I stand on the shoulders of giants. My Nigerian models and heroes are, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Bola Ige for our own believes. Internationally we look at Commander Fidel Castro of Cuba. Those were the people that inspired us. These are the earlier apostles of our doctrines. I was privileged to have honed my political and administrative skills, beginning with my student unionism days at The Polytechnic Ibadan culminating in my service for 8 years as Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Lagos under my accentor and leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in a progressive, visionary and people oriented administration that ushered in unprecedented dexterity and laid the foundation metastasising of Lagos into the 5th largest economy in Africa. (Breaks into a song to praise Tinubu).
“How did I do it here? I was lucky in my 1st term to have worked with competent professionals. Some were politicians while some were not. But they were all very loyal and hardworking. They were largely responsible for our success in the first term.
Some of them have been around unofficially, as helpers, without charging us a dime. And we must thank them for their labour of love and loyalty. The people of Osun are very wonderful. They are fiercely loyal, enthustic and courageous people. When you earn their love they stand with you without fail.
I have been privileged to have served this state by raising the standard of living. You may not see this because when you are leading a historic epoc because you are within it, you will really understand the dynamics and motions of the moment. But a trip outside Osun will show you clearly that we are different from all the states in our region.
This is the only state where you don’t see miscreants gathering together to either oppress people or exploit them. It is the only state in the Western region of Nigeria. It could be taken for granted but please don’t. That attitude came with a price and an effort by our administration. Those are fall outs of those programmes we introduced, to make like more abundant and guarantee freedom for everybody.
All our programmes, policies and activities since we came into office, have been with the intention to eradicate poverty, and create wealth for all our people. That is the difference between us and most other governments. We have specifically targeted policies, all programmes, all projects to improving the lives of ordinary people. Our 6 point Action Plan is to banish hunger, poverty, unemployment, restoring healthy living, promoting cultural education and enhancing common practice and progress to lift the condition of our people from poverty stricken to wealth creation.
You will recall that in less than 100 days we did the impossible. This is something that had never happened anywhere in Africa. We must not be immodest. We are so sure that on the African Continent, it was not dome anywhere before we did it here.
We told them before we even came to office, after we won, that upon assumption of office, we are going to create 20,000 jobs in 100 days. Nobody believed us. Not even our most loyal supporters believed us.
We surprised ourselves when we delivered on our promise of creation 20,000 jobs within 100 days. To the glory of God it has become history now. We didn’t stop there. We again recruited people. The debilitating economic crisis that our nation faces will not allow us to repeat it after the end of the 2nd phase. But to the glory of God we would do so next year.
Today, we have engaged 40,000 youth and the immediate social effect, the immediate social impact of that programme, is that in Osun, we don’t have disoriented youths harassing innocent people either at parties or anywhere. I give God the glory. We gave the 1st batch safe landing. We got them involved in various agricultural schemes like fishing and ICT for this reason, Osun now has one of the least unemployment figures in Nigeria while the state is also among the states with the lowest crime rates. The 200 million monthly allowance paid to the cadets reflated the economy of Osun and shot it up to the 7th largest GDP in Nigeria according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics.
As small as the quality of money we take from the Federation Account is, Osun has the 7th largest GDP in Nigeria. We got there through these meticulous management or, administration of small to get a huge benefit. Agriculture has been of serious importance to us. We are able to quickly resolve that Agriculture is a serious National Security Matter.
Before I leave the OYES issue lets talk about how they did it I don’t know. 40 of those who participated in OYES a year and a half ago now live in their own houses.
How did I know? Individually, they kept sending photographs of themselves standing in front of their personal houses to me, through my e-mail account. And at the last count, I had counted 40 of them. So regardless of whatever anybody tells you about OYES let me tell you that it has impacted so positively on the individual participant and society at large. Agriculture has been of serious importance to us.
We were able to quickly resolve that Agriculture is a national security matter. No nation is considered able that cannot feed its people. Our intervention in Agriculture has been massive. We set up a scheme through which we have been able to execute many other programmes that are rural development, land clearing and access and youth training in Agriculture.
We have made available to farmers more than 2 billion zero interest loans. The first of its kind in Nigeria. In addition to yearly provision of farming imputs.
Please be nothing what I am saying and struggle to find out if there is any iota of falsehood is in them. I repeat, Osun State is the only state in Nigeria where loans are given at no cost and no interest is paid. We have also sent 2 sets of youths – 20 in each batch, or each set to Germany for training in modern farming techniques.
Our greatest impact is in Education. Our first task when we came to government was to hold an Education Summit which was chaired by Professor Wole Soyinka. From that summit emerged a blue print, we are implementing on Education. We immediately classified our schools into Elementary, Middle and High. The Elementary and Middle School Cover Primary and Junior.
The high school is the Senior Secondary School. Our programme was to build 170 new schools. These are 100 elementary and 50 middle and 20 high schools.
Out of this we have built, by ourselves, 20 elementary, 22 middle, and 11 high schools. Beyond new buildings, we are also rehabilitating the old schools.
We have carried out renovations on 40 other schools which give us 1,394 standard classrooms in the existing Elementary, Middle and High School. We provide accommodation for nearly 90,000 pupils. We have provided for them more than 100,000 desks and chairs, toilets and boreholes.
Something interesting happened when we gave out the contracts to construct desks and chairs. To our chagrin, we found out that Nigeria does not have enough wood to build those chairs. Strangely we confirmed when we gave out the contracts that Nigeria does not have enough hardwood to construct the chairs and benches. We have provided 60,000 electronic learning tablets, which we call Opon Imo. 3 sets have benefitted from that already.
We have also recruited more than 10,000 teachers to boost manpower in the school system. We are also motivating teachers. We have put in place a policy, which makes teachers in Elementary and Middle School to rise to level 16. This was not the case before we came.
We have in addition appointed 3 Tutors Generals which is the equivalent of permanent secretaries in the 3 senatorial districts in the state. We have concluded arrangements to appoint 9 headmaster generals, who again will share the same status as permanent secretaries for effective Coordination, Management and Administration of elementary and middle schools, in each of the 9 federal constituencies in the state. This will be about the 1st time, this will be done anywhere in Nigeria.
We have established the Osun Education Quality Assurance & Moralty Enforcement Agency high moral standards in our schools. When I was young there was this popular saying that Education Without Character Is Like Tea Without Sugar.
So, we are reviving that attitude and policy. Our overall vision is to develop the new man intellectually, socially and morally. This new person (because it can be a man or woman) is placed at the centre of society and he or she must view, his or her own development as part of the larger development of the society.
That is the new man we want to develop throughout educational efforts. A man who will not see himself alone. A man will want for himself what he wants for others and society at large. That is the person we want to build with our educational programmes and policy.
We also distributed free of charge, uniforms to pupils in public schools. No government in Nigeria has ever done that before counselors used to do it. For a state governor on its own to provide uniform free, for 75,000 pupils in public schools, was not only historic, it was unheard off. The programme gave birth to a garment manufacturing company, Omoluabi Garment Company Limited, which can employ 3,000 workers at full capacity.
A private investor, Sam & Sarah brought its investment and government invested shareholders loan, as an interest in the venture, backed by performance guarantee.
We contributed shareholders loan of about N900 million naira to the venture which led to the delivery of about 150,000 uniforms out of which 40,000 were distributed freely to Osun pupils and the rest were solid in subsequent years.
Joyfully, that company is growing and I am happy to tell you that this company has just won the contract to produce uniforms for Nigerian Army. (Applause). The job was given to the company on the condition that it should establish a factory in Osun. In doing so, the land on which the factory was built was provided by government and the Interest of the principal shareholder loan was converted to 25% equity in the company, with the company now valued at over N3 billion that investment is worth over N750 billion naira.
You must have heard all sorts of lies about this project that, oh, Madam Aregbesola owns Omoluabi Garment. It’s a lie. The truth is my wife does not even own any company at all. I have no bank account anywhere in the world and I dare anybody to prove me wrong.
Luckily, in Nigeria today, such things cannot easily be made up by anybody again because you must have BVN. I have no BVN, I hold no BVN of any bank whether in Nigeria or anywhere in the world. You must be shocked that how do you live? I live by tithe.
Yes. It may shock you. You must be shocked. It may shock you. But those who know me will tell you that I have never ever given anybody a cheque book. If you come to me I share with you from what people give me and when it finishes I will tell you it is finished. But luckily God has been so kind to me. As I finish one, others are coming (Laughs), I have no account anywhere in the world. I dare anybody to prove me wrong if I do.
Afterall, it is no longer a secret in Nigeria. An account holder in Nigeria must have a BVN. The account that you can attribute to me is the account I had years back when I was the Commissioner for Works in Lagos. Since they introduced BVN I have even refused to go to the account because I don’t know what is ever there. So because I have no BVN, I therefore have no account anywhere in Nigeria.
We are also one of the states that pioneered Free Feeding Programme. In the programme, healthy and nutritious meals were being served to 252,000 Elementary 1 pupils in all public schools, in the state every school days, as indigent as we are, as challenged as we are.
Up until recently all pupils in our public schools, at 12 noon ate free meals. The meals are not just ordinary meals. They are meals that children of the rich eat anywhere in the world. Our pupils eat eggs, they eat chicken. They eat fish. They eat beef. No government in Nigeria can boast of this. I dare any government to say they have done anything close to this. That is what we have been doing since 2012. And yet we are indigent. This feeding programme cost state of state N3.6 billion every year. And we find it difficult to cope since 2012. This has been integrated into the Agriculture and Economic Empowerment Programme of the state. Under it, 3,007 food vendors, nutritions and hygenic food for the pupils. To be able to feed this pupils 15,000 whole chicken, 254,000 eggs, 35 herds of cattle, 40 tons of catfish are weekly bought off farmers and other producers in the state for these kids O’Meal was so successful, that it attracted the attention of a partnership development programme at Imperial College, London and the World Bank both of whom have purportedly recommended it to other states and countries as part of the new Millennium Development Goal. I have also been invited twice by the British Parliament to speak on the programme. Osun has also become the template for a National Rollout.
Earlier this year, Osun has hosted and trained other states preparing to launch it this programme in their respective states. We pray that the federal government has the enablement to do as it has promised.
We are looking forward to Federal Government repeating or replicating the O’Meal model round the states of Nigeria.