Aregbesola’s American visit
AS someone who very well knows that exaggeration diminishes credibility, I give it a wide berth in claiming that the vocal governor of the State of Osun in South West Nigeria, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is doubtlessly a focused, clear-headed, and innovative political leader.
It is doubtful whether I could so describe him prior to my encounter with him at Cambridge when he visited a few weeks back. To be sure, before that day I had heard and read many things about him, particularly the avalanche of controversies which defined his person and administration since he became governor.
When on Tuesday February 19, I heard that he was in Cambridge, close by Boston where I am resident, to attend the town hall meeting with Harvard African Caucus made up of Black students, I did not hang fire – actually more out of curiosity – in getting myself there.
The taste of the pudding is in the eating. And there he was in his charming unassuming disposition, beaming with the trademark smile I am accustomed to through still pictures. The centrepiece of his address to the august audience was the innovations he has brought to governance since he came into office as governor.
He spoke eloquently about the unprecedented reforms that his state’s educational, agricultural, and health sectors had successfully undergone under his watch. He zestfully primed his audience of how his administration through its carefully designed policies – he actually said Six-Points-Integral-Action Plan – has made a huge dent on the monster of youth unemployment, cured the state of its financial ailment, and impacted the lives of the citizens who are mostly farmers.
All of these and more he said, exuding affecting confidence, coruscating brilliance, and unpretentious calmness. But his most impactful presentation was the computer tablet he called Opon Imo, which indeed is an innovation. According to him, the tablet which will be distributed to all the senior students in the state’s public secondary schools, contains all recommended textbooks, past questions on certificate and matriculation examinations and moral instructions.
This, I am sure, is going to help parents who cannot afford to buy books for their wards and also help the students to focus on reading. More importantly, it will introduce them to computer at an early age. I must admit that even in the United States, this is a novel thinking. This idea has never occurred to anyone to the best of my knowledge.
I was really impressed by his clinical deployment of non-convoluted details. By creditably giving a good report of himself in his smooth delivery, this springy politician unequivocally made it manifest that he is a political leader of uncommon dedication, discipline and character.
Deservedly, the attentive audience expressed their appreciation of his memorable delivery through thunderous ovation lasting for a while. Of course, I needed no prodding to attend the lecture he delivered the next day at the WeatherheadCenter. He whetted my appetite for his depth and insights.
As I listened to his lecture, it dawned on me that, as the Americans would say, I ain’t seen nothing yet. Governor Aregbesola’s lecture at the monthly seminar of the Weatherhead Centre for International Studies, HarvardUniversity, centred on the multifarious and overwhelming development challenges assailing Nigeria.
Though the challenges are ubiquitous and form the subject of public discourse, both at national and international forums, the Governor’s analysis was thorough and seminal. I must admit that his analytical exposition added depth to my perspective on the socio-economic and political setbacks the most populous Black nation is inured in.
Nigeria’s development calamities are of Byzantine complexity, he enlightened. For him, blinding ethnicity, defective federalism, rapine military system, adulterated religious practices, clueless leadership, among many other horrifying human-inspired debacles, are the foxes pitilessly destroying the rich vineyard of the Nigerian state.
A courageous leader, he warmed the cockles of my heart when he flintily noted that it would amount to weak reasoning to carp that “outsiders” are responsible for the present condition of the country.
The wisdom in this is that when the nation continues to bellyache that the foundation of its underdevelopment can be located in its colonial experience, it will lose the sense to think of the way out of the woods.
Yet, colonialism is not exclusive to Nigeria. Other peoples who were even more ruthlessly colonised have since pulled off the burden and are today havens of unexampled human and material developments. The right leadership that can champion this cause and make things happen, he reasoned knowledgeably, is what the country must inexorably find.
Governor Aregbesola’s report on the achievements of his administration revealed to me a leader who knows what is amiss and works squarely to fix it. The kind of leadership he longs to see his country possess is exactly what he selflessly provides in Osun.
Within two years, he has achieved notable reforms in the educational and agricultural sectors of his state. Government is closer, more than ever before, to the people. Youth employment is aggressively pursued and public infrastructure is springing up – all in a state that could barely breathe owing to the suffocating debt it was burdened with by past selfish administration. With the zeal of an empathic leader, he is effectively rescuing majority of the citizens who had been hitherto suspended on the scaffold of penury, hunger, joblessness and insecurity.
Indeed, the “elephant” of Aregbesola merits more description than “I catch a glimpse of something”. When we see a performing and responsible political leader, we must be honest enough to admit that we have seen Governor Abdulrauf Adesoji Aregbesola! Much more, with that revealing lecture, Aregbesola has demonstrated the fact that, warts and all, the story of Nigeria is not all about a jinxed country, nay, a land held in the throes of avoidable misfortunes. It is a relief to know that Nigeria has some thinking and responsible political leaders. I encourage the Governor and those in his circle to hold the fort; they must not give up until a Nigeria of our desire is founded.
Mr. ADEWALE MORGAN, wrote from Boston, Massachusetts, USA.