BY KUNLE OYATOMI
THE announcement last week by Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the State of Osun that plans are afoot to create 27 more local councils in the state adds some more momentum to the revolutionary strides we are already witnessing under this administration. The state will then have 57 local governments across its 3,572 square miles with its 4,137, 627 (2005 estimates) citizens enjoying what 21st political economists call real-time (or first-hand) development and governance.
I’m not here suggesting that the existing 30 councils and Area Office have not been savouring the magic of Ogbeni Aregbesola since he secured the people’s mandate in 2010. No, God forbid! What I’m saying is that 27 more councils will bring the dividends of democracy closer to our people at the grassroots scene. It is simply deepening the essence of the universally acceptable concept of modern democracy as aptly captured by Abraham Lincoln: government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Aregbesola was unequivocal about this strong consideration of the interest of the people in influencing the decision the government has taken. He declared: “The basis for the exercise (creation of new LGs) was the genuine desire and consent of the people of Osun.” The Governor invoked the constitutionality of his administration’s action and asserted the supremacy of the will of those who put him in power when he declared: “We are simply not ready to confront anybody or the Federal Government but we are working on a constitution to grant the wishes of our people. Osun will be the first to constitutionally create local governments …. The difference between what we are seeking to do from others is that we have not in any way influenced this. It is the genuine desire of the people for self-government or expression of having control of their own affairs.”
And taking a cue from the Supreme Court ruling on the matter of council creation in Lagos State years back, Osun is setting up development areas and not local government councils. This is a radical stroke in line with the apex court’s verdict that such development areas “have come into legal existence once a bill to such effect is passed by the State’s House of Assembly and assented to by the Governor.” With the fulfillment of two key conditions for the new councils to come into being, the stage is set for a more rapid transformation of the state of Osun. Indeed getting government and its goodies closer to the people is the main objective of the devolution of the paraphernalia of administration.
If all the world hailed the APC administration of Aregbesola for his massive achievements in 30 local councils, it is certain that the decibel of applause will reach more thunderous levels where such achievements touch citizens of 57 local governments.
I’m referring to such sterling performance as the unprecedented O’YES scheme. Through it, Aregbesola employed 20,000 youths at a go during his first 100 days in office, thus enabling the Osun economy to receive hundreds of millions of naira every month through the stipends he gives to the young boys and girls. This bold initiative takes the youths from the streets and reduces crime while also taming hunger and creating wealth and work. The number is now 40,000 youths with the second batch on.
How about the Ogbeni’s Midas’s touch in education? In the preceding regime of PDP, school enrolment was depressingly low, portending a bleak future of illiterate citizens of Osun. Aregbesola has reversed the situation so significantly that today the National Bureau of Statistics (a Federal agency) rates Osun as the leader in Primary School enrolment for pupils. How did it happen? A condusive atmosphere for learning is in phase, modern structures, grants, free daily nutritious meals, and revolutionary learning methods such as the free provision of Opon Imo (tablet of knowledge), culturalisation of school uniforms (adire) etc. etc. The school system killed by PDP in Osun is back from the grave, thanks to Aregbesola’s APC.
How about infrastructure? Dualised highways and roads have been expanded and modernised in each of the 30 council areas of Osun to improve the transportation of goods and services for the emerging development envisaged by the government with an unprecedented rail project at Dagbolu. Similarly, hospitals, agricultural markets, water works and cottage industries are dotting the landscape of Osun to givethe state the reputable tag of one “huge construction site”, as one keen observer puts it. In pushing for 27 more local governments therefore Ogbeni Aregbesola is championing the pristine cause of democracy, namely taking government and all its good deliveries his administration is offering good health, sound education, empowerment, employment, welfare, security, in a word, the good life, to the doorstep of the grassroots.
In addition, 0sun’s LG system will run a parliamentary mechanism,never before operated in Nigeria. It will reduce the cost of governance by 25 percent. These are the issues that should influence the citizens, the electorate and observers as the 2014 gubernatorial ballot draws close. The discerning public should not be hoodwinked by deceit and propaganda of the enemies of Osun that the creation of more local councils is to make way for jobs-for-the-boys syndrome as it was with the previous regime.