DR Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, has a knack for cutting superfluous controversies.
Though highly self-opinionated, her coruscating brilliance is not in doubt. She speaks candidly on any aspect of economics that catches her fancy.
One may have deep reservations about her soaring prognosis on the Nigerian dodgy economy and even dislike the somersaulting policies of the government she is a part of; certainly one can’t deny that the former World Bank technocrat often ardently means whatever she gives voice to.
It is in this context that I view her recent remarkable appraisal of governance in the State of Osun. This should remind us of the useful lesson evident in the idiomatic expression that it can be counter-productive to throw out the baby together with the bath water. The Minister’s considered utterances sometimes embody unassailable facts.
I commend Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for adding her notable voice to those of many others who have conscientiously spoken about the unprecedented improvement evident in the socio-economic condition of the State of Osun since the advent of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s administration.
Media reports quoted the Finance Minister as saying that Governor Aregbesola is a model for good governance, having demonstrated clearly that good governance in Nigeria is feasible. She made the remarks in the address she read at a two-day workshop organised by the World Bank last June at Iloko-Ijesa for volunteers in the Federal Government’s Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation, YESSO.
It must be remembered that the unimaginable success of the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme, OYES, necessitated the existence of YESSO. About a year after the introduction of the scheme in Osun, the World Bank reportedly began to study the programme and later submitted that OYES provided a practical platform for mass employment. It recommended the idea to both the Federal Government and states in Nigeria.
In the said address read by her representative, the National Coordinator of YESSO, Mr. Peter Papka, Okonjo-Iweala rightly observed that the initiatives of the ACN government in Osun gave comforting assurance that it is very possible to level the perilously imposing mountains of youth unemployment across the country.
Hear her: “You [Aregbesola] have demonstrated that good governance is possible with your programmes. You have demonstrated that youth development is possible. Your programmes so far have demonstrated that you are a good example of government and governance”. These are no patronising sound bites, for when the Minister says “programmes” she guilelessly speaks of the numerous sustainable ‘O’initiatives of the state government, which continue to undeniably redefine the social and economic conditions of the people of Osun.
That the State of Osun comes first as the State with the least unemployment woes in Nigeria is a reality that can no longer be ignored by those who incessantly carpet its government. Before Aregbesola became our governor, those of us who live and make our living in Osun know that the state was a kitchen midden of youth unemployment, infrastructural decay and economic stasis. Poverty stalked and menaced the people. But that is no longer the case.
The transition that has been witnessed in our state for the past two years now has soothing evidence of concrete transformation. Youths whose lives were steadily wasting away have been rescued, given training in useful skills and empowered to start small businesses.
Farmers have their own happy stories to tell. Under the aegis of the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme, agro-allied businesses have received a massive boost. With the computer tablet, free school uniforms, free daily feeding for pupils in Elementary Class 1-4, building of ultra-modern schools across the state, and increase in funding, the education system of Osun as we used to know it has changed significantly. Infrastructural development enjoys adequate attention now. Old roads are being rehabilitated and newer ones are springing up.
A few weeks ago I read in the papers that all the nine state hospitals are already being renovated. That is in addition to the marked changes in healthcare services. Indeed, great things are taking place in Osun. Those who can’t hear, see them; those who can’t see, hear them; and hardly is there a single household in the Land of the Virtuous that doesn’t benefit from the policies of the present government.
One other way to test for the genuineness and effectiveness of the policies of the Aregbesola administration is to invoke the methodology prescribed by the seasoned British economist, Dudley Seers. According to him, to understand whether a state or country is developing or not, three main questions need to be asked: First, “what has been happening to poverty?” Second, “what has been happening to unemployment?” Third, “what has been happening to inequality?”
He contends that if we notice tangible declines in all of these key areas, doubtlessly the entity – state or country – can be said to be in an era of development. However, he cautions that if one or two of those core issues have an organic tale of misfortune, or if the three are becoming more unbearable, it would amount to sheer lunacy to describe that misery of biblical proportion as development.
Surely, Okonjo-Iweala had issues of unemployment, poverty, and inequality in mind when she lauded Governor Aregbesola as an exemplar of good governance.
The capacity of the Osun people to live dignified and meaningful life has been (and is still being) made possible through a consistent and focused implementation of programmes that squarely address poverty, unemployment, and social injustice.
This is a fact that a high-ranking PDP apologist has affirmed dispassionately. And I see this as another clinical deconstruction of the two-for-one-penny fable of secession and islamisation that some calcified minds who could not stand the vision of Aregbesola wickedly spawned against him but to no avail.
Mr. SUNDAY AWOPEGBA, a commmentator on national issues, wrote from Iloko-Ijesa, Osun State.