After the two weeks celebration of the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the executive governor of the state of Osun, The commissioner for information and strategy,
Honourable Sunday Akinrogun Akere told Afolabi Idowu in his office at Abere Osogbo how the executive led by the Aregbesola has devoted its energy and focus an activities that have direct improvements on several facets in the lives of the good people of Osun state.
How will you describe the first two years of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola as Governor?
The last 24months of Rauf Aregbesola is one that we can say the people of the state of Osun craved for, prayed for, requested God to give them and God answered our prayers. For the first time in the history of the state we discovered that we have a governor that was really prepared for the position, unlike several of the governors that were not prepared and were either out to contest for the senatorial or other positions but had the governorship position thrust on them , Aregbesola as commissioner for works and infrastructure for Lagos state as far back as 2005 started the preparation for the governor in the state of Osun and that is why we can say contesting the election in 2007 with what we call pact with the people of Osun state which we call the green book in which he highlighted the six point integral international plan which were to banish hunger, banish unemployment, banish poverty, restore healthy living, provide free and functional education and enhance communal peace and progress and to the glory of God the first 24months in the service is one of prayers answered he made promises and kept them. So we want to thank God for his first 24months in his exalted position.
From my own perspective and from several quarters too, the governor is seen as being controversial, what is your reaction to that?
I will give you an analogy, about 12days ago, environmentalists from the 36 states came to Oshogbo for a conference and the governor had the privilege to declare the conference open for them, after the declaring the conference open and we left the venue, the entire delegates from the 36states said they will not do anything in the afternoon session rather than discuss Rauf. Rauf is a plain pragmatic and open person, he will say it as it is, he will never hide under his fingers to tell the people what is not the truth. I’ll give you an example, in January this year when the FG increased the pump price of fuel, it was only Governor Rauf Aregbesola in the whole federation that stood up and said what the FG did was wrong. You know what they said about him, they said it is controversial because Aregbesola believes in the unusual way of running government; he believes that if things have been done in the past in the wrong way, whether you accept it or not, he will advocate that it should be made and done correctly, an example is the way we call our state, when we introduced the idea of the State of Osun, the entire people castigated him and rose against him that he wanted to secede, but we made people realize that how will we make Osun state want to secede, assuming we are state that is positioned around the boundary of the Nigerian nation , we can say probably we want to secede but look at Osun, Osun today looks like an enclosure, we are surrounded by five other states, but because we believe that things must be done correctly, people are saying we are seceding, we said it clearly when you are looking at the people of the state of Osun for example, section 6 of the constitution says there shall be 36states of the federation and they were so listed but because they have been doing some things wrong in the past, it becomes the right thing, we said it should be done correctly, why are we not saying government of the federal republic of Nigeria, we say FG of Nigeria then why did they want us to say state government of Osun and people are saying it is not right. Look at it, states of the federation like Malaysia, India Germany, Brazil, and USA and someone comes and says what we’ve been doing wrong should be corrected and you say he is controversial, that person is blunt, he is someone that has the interest of the commoners.
People are saying the government is taking more than it can chew a lot of projects and we have just 2years left…
One thing is clear about this, when you have the mandate of the people to serve, you only have four years and in the four years, you have just 3months to do whatever you want to do the remaining 12months of the year is for campaign for another election, we are 24months into the first term of this administration and we have a lot to do, we want them done now, there is no local government you will get to in the state of Osun and you will not see the hand work of the state goverment. We are constructing roads in all the 30local governments, we are building schools we are developing hospitals, and other infrastructures, we opening up farm settlements and agricultural centers, that is to tell you that we have a determination, we know that the only period we have to deliver is the next 12months and we are hell bent on delivering. People are saying he is biting more than he can chew and we have borrowed too much money, I tell them no, that we have not borrowed money the people we are dealing with have implicit trust in us. Majority of the contracts we are doing are works that we are exhibiting through what we call contractors finance agreement. What do I mean? The government in the state of Osun has a policy, if we want to do a contract of 10million, we will tell the contractor we have 15percent to mobilize and we must finish our job, after we might have finished our job in the next 36months, we will spread the balanced of the 85percent and to the glory of God the contractors we have been working with, they have been accepting this from us. We are not going to abandon any project that we have initiated.
Will you say the 8years of his activities in Lagos has not impacted anything in Osun state?
This is not an issue of flattering, the man is God sent, when you look at his pedigree and upbringing, governor Aregbesola will tell you that he started his advocacy for the right of the people from primary three, how many of us had that privilege. When he was at the polytechnic at Ibadan, he was the speaker for the students assembly and every Saturday, he would join the waste disposal agency in Ibadan voluntarily to clean up the environment, God gave him the in-built talent. This is a governor that will not because he wants to seek for a favor from you and will not tell you the truth. That is something we are all picking up from him. Aregbesola is for the state of Osun. About the educational sector, we believed here in osun that whatever policy we are going to adopt because when you look at the federal allocation table, osun is 34 out of 36, that is to tell you that poverty exists in the lower rank and that is the policy here in osun, that whatever step we must take as a government, must have the milk of human kindness. Aregbesola believes in standard and we will mot say because we have reduced the tuition fee, we will reduce the standard of our school. In Osun here, even the tertiary institutions that they reduced there tuition fee, the government looked at it and said, how much was the institution making as their internal generated revenue before the reduction of the fee then they look at whatever they have lost and augment it every month to them so that the standard will not be affected.
The governor said that this is first time a governor will inherit a head of service and still retain it unlike some people. What is your take on the rumors about governor Aregbesola is upturning some of the good things that his predecessors did in the area f appointments and all?
There are no two things about this, when you are in the struggle for 7 hard years, majority of us went through what we can call early time, if you are not taken to prisons several times, your house will be vandalized or burnt and even at a time, the government itself declared personal non grata in Osun, after contesting election and won. The election result was delayed for 3 and a half years, when he took mover the reign of governance on the 27th of November 2012 which was on Saturday. The first in the office which was Monday that was on the 29th, he addressed the press conference, and said today he has become governor of all members 3 political parties not his political party alone and people that were fighting all over the state, seeking to take vengeance from members of the opposition party that delayed them for 3 and half years, the government said nobody sent them to do that that vengeance belongs to God.
He is the first governor that will inherit a head of service and will keep in till his time run out as head of service. He served Oyinlola for 7 and half years as head of service and we retained him till his tenure expired, he retired, he reached the retirement age , he left not that he was frustrated. We inherited 21 permanent secretaries from Oyinlola and all of them ran out their time before we now asked that the process of selection of permanent secretaries should be democratized. We said officers from level 15 should apply for the post of permanent secretary which was against the norm that the governor will just choose those that he likes. Officers from level 15 and above all sat for a written test, those that passed the test were called for oral interview before we selected the 28 permanent secretaries we have. Another innovation after selecting the 28 permanent secretaries was that we said the selection of the next head of service must be democratized, we now asked the 28 of them to sit with all officers on levels 14 and above in the service and vote for who they want as their head of service because we believe that as head of service you are supposed to represent the interest of the entire civil servants and if you want to represent the interest of the people, you must have their confidence that was how for the first time in the history of Osun. Osun is the only state were you have a democratically elected head of service. For those of us that are younger in the cabinet and went through the period of torture for 7 and half years, we believe within us that if we want to take vengeance and we do one third of what they did in 7 and half years, we won’t be saying what we are saying but governor Aregbesola believes that vengeance is for God and we have never upturned anything instead, we would rather improve. When the former governor brigadier Oyinlola was there, some of the people that served in the cabinet of Akande, the former attorney general barrister Niyi Owolade was a commissioner under Bisi Akande’s regime when Akande left office in 2003, Oyinlola for 7 and half years did not pay his commissioners their severance entitlements, it was when Aregbesola came now that he paid all their entitlements. All the people that served Oyinlola including the governor, Aregbesola does not owe them any kobo. We have an open spirit and believe that it is only God that puts one in position.
What impact has O-yes made in the life of an average youth in the State of Osun in the last two years and what do you want to achieve with O-meal?
The O-yes thing. When we were campaigning in 2007, the governor said that if God give him the opportunity to get to the position, that he will use is first 100days in the office, he will create 20,000 jobs. Some people were thinking he will sack those that were there before bringing in the new ones. This government is not one that sacks people or takes jobs, we create jobs. When Aregbesola took over, within 100 days, he created the Osun youth empowerment skills, we advertised and we printed forms free of charge, we asked them to go and fill forms in the internet for the 20,000 vacancies .at the end of 2weeks, 253,000 people filled forms for the20,000 available vacancies and we picked 20,000 purely on merit. There were hues and cries even within our own party, that majority of people that were picked were people belonging to the opposition party. In his own wisdom, we never interferred. O-yes has assisted in creating jobs for the unemployed that is one of our cardinal programme, to banish unemployment, it assisted in providing money in their pocket that is another one which is banishing poverty, it has assisted in putting food on their table which is banishing hunger. Each of them takes 10,000 per month when you multiply 10,000 by 20,000 that is 200 Million going into the economy on monthly basis. It has really assisted us and for the first time during the April 2011 general elctions, it was a violent free election because majority of this people were what other parties then were using as political thugs, they were employed, they know the value of life, they know that they are not supposed to be political miscreants to anybody, and there is no one to give them 5,000 to go and carry cutlass that is to tell you that it has not only impacted economically in the lives of the people here, it has also impacted socially.
What is the quality of food you are giving out to the people?
On the O-meal we are doing now, 9 states started the pilot project of feeding pupils in primary 1 and 2 with the assistant of the government and the UNDP along the line the two partners were not meeting up with their financial commitment and the state had to drop the idea and today in Nigeria, it is only Osun state that is providing free feeding to pupils in primaries 1 to 3. We are even moving further by next year we want to extend it to primary 1 to 4 and while we are doing this, we believe that if we truly see that this kids are the leaders of tomorrow, as a government, we must show commitment in assisting them to build their tomorrow in the state of having good health, having balanced mental orientation, having a sense of belonging with the government. An example is the Hausa community students in Sabo, when we started this O-meal program, in the morning the classes 1-3 will be filled up with small kids and by the time it is break and they are through with their food, all of them will go home, that is to tell you that majority of them are coming mainly for the food the Government is providing, so we changed their orientation by telling the people in charge of the meal to hold on till the pupils are about to close for the day at school so that they will know that they are at school to study and not to eat alone. We are investing in the future of these kids and if you look at the past history of the western region, Obafemi Awolowo was premier in western region between 1952 and 1959 up till today all of us are still speaking about him, if he didn’t invest in the future of the youths then, the youths that he invested in their future then are the leaders today. That is to tell you that we are building a future for the state of Osun.