STATE of Osun Governor Rauf Aregbesola has continued to confound and surprise Nigerians generally and his critics in particular with his policies since he mounted the saddle nearly two years ago.
Early in his tenure, he appeared to have served notice that his era was going to be a contrast to the beaten path of governance.
For instance his approach to dealing with the question of public apathy to government programmes has proved different from what was the norm before he came to the scene. Whereas it was the tendency for our leaders to keep a distance from the citizens, Aregbesola had decided that these so-called common folk would be his partners.
It’s been an unusual style that has, admittedly, stressed him and state institutions. For instance, it has seen the Ogbeni jettison protocol to the embarrassment of the security apparatus. Yet it has offered infinitely greater advantages to both government and the governed. In the case of the government, it can easily “sell” its programmes to the people without fear of apathy, while with the people, government programmes are no longer to be viewed with from skeptics’ point of view.
In the past the people suspected every move of the authorities since government and its agencies had been known to use so-called public projects as swindling schemes. It was a cat-and-mouse game between the two. Each sought to outwit each other! How would meaningful development take place under such negative mutually suspicious circumstances? No wonder the State of Osun slipped into such abysmal depths!
But not for too long!
Storming the scene after a temporary denial of his well-deserved mandate, Aregbesola correctly saw the solution to the barrenness of Osun. Institute programmes that leave transparency and accountability as their hallmark.
Let your personal lifestyle reflect openness so you don’t raise any doubt on the part of the people about your sincerity. Thereafter you can go to sleep, as it were and let the citizens do much of the work.
The strategy is working in Aregbesola’s era in Osun. And because it’s recording a high degree of success, the Governor is entrenching it by embarking on the second edition of the upgraded form of what he calls “Ogbeni Till Daybreak!” It’s an opportunity to interact with the chief executive on governance.
Held on Monday July 9, 2012, the live programme ran concurrently on radio and TV from the studio-like setting at the Center for Black Culture and International Understanding, Osogbo, the capital of the State of Osun.
It ran a marathon 10pm-5am with viewers and listeners offered uncensored questions on any topic under the sun. It was a multimedia affair as you employ your phone devices and computer to reach the Ogbeni through Nigeria’s major three networks.
Along with what Aregbesola is putting on the ground to develop Osun, I aver that his decision to put up this periodic live appearance on radio and TV represents the most daring of his personal adventures meant to deepen his drive and passion for accountability.
He is establishing a worthy benchmark. And the question should not be about surpassing it by those who come after him in the years ahead. Rather we must look at how we can exploit its infinite benefits the way the developed democracies of the world have utilized it to enthrone accountability in their societies.
Of course, I’ve heard some agencies declare that the interactive programme appears to be the ultimate in naivety and that it amounts to political suicide!
How? The skeptics agree that because callers are ungagged (unscreened, uncensored), some hired cranks could crash into the session and embarrass the Governor with outlandish questions!
Now this happens routinely where public-spirited leaders elect to open themselves up to the people. Where this happens, I insist that it is a worthy price to pay for democracy.
The leader who isn’t ready to be insulted isn’t worthy of public service. At the first sign of impatience with the people’s anger or questioning, the leader, whether president, governor or minister or commissioner or special adviser, should be thrown out! If he can’t bear with the people’s interrogation of his policies, then it is obvious he won’t be able to be trusted as the custodian of their wealth! Simpliciter!
So what Aregbesola appears to be saying is this: I am a democrat in word and in deed. As you’ve trusted me with your vote (and in some respects with your blood) I’m also opening myself to you.
With this, the Governor is declaring that he is establishing a podium, a speaker’s corner that enables him to subject himself to the ruthless scrutiny of the people over his policies and style of governance.
Lest his claims on some specific achievements should be ridiculed as sheer propaganda Governor Aregbesola steps into the studio in blood and flesh in the full “glare” of his people to prove that what he and his team in the government are doing isn’t phantom.
So here comes the Governor with a solution to end the raging argument on the pages of the newspapers. He says: You may ignore what my aides are saying. You may view them as the Governor’s mouthpiece. You may suspect them of adding or subtracting to what I say.
That amounts to exaggerating. Now I am the organ. You are hearing directly from the Governor, not the mouthpiece. Armed with facts and figures he presents the true picture of the state of affairs. If you are the objective truth seeker, you would, of course, be swayed by the logic he offers in defence.
Mr. VICTOR ALABA, a social commentator , wrote from Ogun State.