PRESIDENT John F. Kennedy did not live to witness the final fulfilment of the most ambitious of his goals: the landing of man on the moon by the United States as he predicted.
The Soviet Union had had a head start many times over, starting with the Sputnik in 1957, and the United States saw it as a competition between “tyranny” (Moscow) and “freedom” (Washington).
Since the Soviets had not landed man on the moon, Kennedy saw such a feat as being the achievement to settle the matter once and for all. So, on May 25, 1961, the American leader went to the Congress and threw the challenge that had since changed the face of space exploration.
He told the lawmakers: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before the decade (the ’60s) is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important for the long range exploration of space and none could be so difficult or expensive to accomplish… I believe we should go to the moon.”
That historic goal was fulfilled on July 20, 1969 before the decade was out. But alas, Kennedy who broached the vision had been assassinated on November 22, 1963. He was gone: but he had worked for history. He had seen beyond his day and prepared for the future and history he had peeped into.
That is how most observers view the pace of developments in the state of Osun under Governor Rauf Aregbesola. His policies suggest that he has one foot in today and the other in tomorrow. The criticism levelled against him has to do not only with a gross misunderstanding and ignorance of his long sightedness and mission; but more importantly also with the critics’ refusal to look past the present. We are too burdened with anxieties of the day; we do not want to brace for an encounter with history and the future. That is not the way of Aregbesola.
We seem to be thinking that the future generation would take care of their own headache when the time comes. Really? No! Not so! The leader is only a good leader if while addressing today’s challenges, he is able also to do today what the future would benefit from, without compromising today and the future. That is the stuff of great men.
Ghana is a stable polity today on account of the institutional philosophy of governance and probity its founding leader Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah worked out in the ’50s and ’60s while he was at the helm. The South West is still a leader in a number of spheres in Nigeria today because of the developments pioneered by its first premier, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Ditto for the role played by the United States’ founding presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson among others together with the civil war hero President Abraham Lincoln.
None of these rooted themselves in the present. They all spent precious time looking into history. They asked what they could do to make a difference in leadership, in governance and in the lives of the people. And history and society have always honoured them.
In my candid opinion, that is exactly what Governor Rauf Aregbesola is doing in the state of Osun. His deep thrust of intervention in education will have irreversible impact on the citizen who will emerge as the leader of tomorrow by virtue of the fact that he is getting exposed to the technology and skills that would make him fit into the future.
His uncanny policy of employing 20,000 youths at a go in his first 100 days in office in 2010 has succored a depressed economy to push the young ones for a say in the affairs of history. The figure has gone up to 40,000 now. How about agriculture? Aregbesola has introduced a strategy to capture part of the thriving multi billion naira market in Lagos for the farmers of Osun.
Not only that,the Osun farmers have already been empowered. Many were given loans for poultry and fish farming. And they are doing very well. He has established a meeting point at Dagbolu on the outskirts of Osogbo where the farmers can get their crops transported by rail to the old federal capital for sale, for prosperous business.
In tourism, the Aregbesola administration is targeting N15 billion as revenue in 2015. He met an Internally Generated Revenue of about N300m and today, the government is raking in N1.6 billion monthly without subjecting anyone to extra taxation. In the strategic health sector, the government is undertaking radical changes in the primary, secondary and tertiary stages of health delivery.
Like John Kennedy, it is obvious that Rauf Aregbesola is thinking beyond today. That is the key to solving society’s fundamental problems. The serious problem with leadership in Nigeria is that our helmsmen are too stuck in today. Let us have an eye on history. Let us do what the present and tomorrow will hail us for.
KUNLE OYATOMI is the Director of Publicity, Research & Strategy of the APC in Osun State.