* Critics are wrong; his good works will speak for him APC
BY WALE AKINOLA
The day started on a queer note. Bomb scare at the state secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC). This happened at a time stalwarts had gathered at the secretariat preparatory to the Obokun-Oriade federal constituency mega rally at Ibokun, the headquarters of Obokun local government area, some 30 kilometres away.
Some people were alleged to have thrown some substances believed to be explosives from behind the fence. Those who reportedly saw them alerted the party chieftains. Panic ensued. The police were called in. The entire premises combed. No explosive substances found. Two suspects were arrested. The police took them away in their pick up van.
Many of the APC stalwarts concluded that law enforcement by the police in the August 8 gubernatorial election that has raised so much tension in Osun State would make a lot of difference if the promptness with which the police responded to distress call on this particular occasion is sustained. They added that law enforcement in the poll in which the state government, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is the APC candidate and a leading contender, must also be seen to be carried out in an important manner.
The tensed atmosphere in the wake of the bomb scare at the APC secretariat and arrest of suspects soon gave way to relief. In less than one hour later, the party train took off for Ibokun. The APC stalwarts, comprising of men and women, old and young, wielding brooms of different colours, were resplendent in purple uniform. They were met at different points from some 10 kilometres to the rally ground by groups of party supporters, singing, dancing, wielding their brooms, and shouting APC slogans.
The atmosphere at the rally group L.A. Primary School, Ibokun was a different ballgame altogether. Billboards announcing Aregbesola’s second term ambition and his achievements of the last three and a half years stood at strategic points. The crowd was impressive. There were all categories of people, many of them dressed in the APC’s purple uniform while others were Aregbesola’s supporters group’s T-shirt, bearing the portrait of the governor. School children, wearing their school uniforms, were not left out of the occasion.
The Osun APC Director of Publicity, Barrister Kunle Oyatomi, described the crowd thus: Some critics said we have been renting crowds to attend Governor Aregbesola’s rally. I am sure you will agree with me that you cannot rend this kind of crowd. The crowd, as you can see, is representative of all categories of people in this constituency (Obokun-Oriade), and the fact that they have come to see the governor campaign at their ally shows that they appreciate his good works of the past three and a half years. I make bold to say that the Ogbeni’s good works will speak for him at the August 9 election. We are sure to win the election.
Indeed, the tumultuous crowd at the rally could have been a question of what Aregbesola’s loyalists see as his ‘sterling performance’ since his tenure started in 2010 which, according to them, has endeared him to the Osun people, and for which he should be re-elected. The loyalists readily point to the Aregbesola’s education policy which they believe has transformed the state and is on the way to putting Osun on a pedestal to compete with other states across the country.
”The school children in this locality have no reason not to be here & if not to appreciate Ogbeni Aregbesola for all he has done to ensure that learning in schools is carried out without tears”, the interim chairman of the Osun APC, Elder Adelowo Adebiyi, told Sunday Vanguard at the rally ground. Under the Osun education policy, one of the six-point integral action plan of the Aregbesola administration, entitled, ‘Promotion of functional education’, decayed infrastructure is being replaced and there is quality control.
Other legs of the action plan are banishment of hunger/unemployment, enhanced security/welfare, restoration of healthy living and promotion of communal peace. Under the education policy school children up to primary four are being fed in school. One of the key points of the policy is re-classification into elementary school (5 years), middle school (4 years) and high school (3 years), as against the national education policy of 6-3-3. The Osun education system gives the pupil more time at the middle school which the initiators believe he needs to prepare him for maturity into high school.
The education policy with its attendant mega schools to accommodate many small schools brought children from different religious backgrounds under the same room to learn soon sparked controversy. Critics interpreted it to mean the erasure of religious lines especially in schools with bias for religion. The policy was resisted in at least one school before the fire was doused. Oyatomi, the Osun APC image maker, said the crisis was politically motivated.
His words: The policy was fashioned out by a team of educationists led by Professor Wole Soyinka to revive the education sector which was practically dead before Governor Aregbesola came into office. Unfortunately, some people tried to politicise it by saying it is anti-Christianity. Nothing could be far from the truth. We have only brought together children of diverse backgrounds to learn under the same roof and conducive atmosphere unlike the former situation where schools were more of pig sties. This administration built no fewer than 25 mega schools for this purpose.
Oyatomi spoke further: School children up to primary four also eat one nutritious meal at school every school day to help their brains develop properly and build a better state in future. According to him, the feeding programme has multiplier effects in Osun as it empowers farmers who supply the schools with the food items. The APC spokesman also spoke on the Opon Imo, tablet of knowledge, distributed to pupils across Osun. The tablet, with 56 e-books, visual training and 10 years past questions, in addition to the Bible, the Quran and traditional religion content, also saves the government huge sums that could have been spent buying books under the free education programme, year in, year out.
On the alleged involvement of Aregbesola’s son in the Opon Imo project, the APC spokesman said the son, being a software expert, merely introduced it to government, challenging anybody who has the facts that he (Aregbesola’s son) benefitted financially to make them public.
Oyatomi also described as nonsense the allegation that the state government brought to Osun a school uniform making project for which a huge sum was paid, and, in the process, denying local tailors business. According to him, government facilitated the project to relocate to Osun on the condition that it will employ local hands, thereby creating job opportunities for the people.
Parents are also beneficiaries of the new dispensation on Osun education as they now spend less to educate their children. Even if the parents did not come to the Aregbesola rally for this reason, they possibly had many others bordering on the governor’s achievements in many other sectors.
The sectors include agriculture where farmers have access to soft loans and good roads to transport their produce to the market; health where new hospitals are being built and old ones renovated in addition to free health treatment for a section of the people; aggressive infrastructural development which has seen roads rehabilitated and new ones built; youth empowerment which takes care of unemployed youths; the empowerment of security agencies to ensure peace and stop criminality; and ‘robust management’ of the state economy.
Oyatomi was particular about the Osun governor’s achievements in the road sector where, according to him, Aregbesola is bringing to bear his ingenuity as an engineer. Durable roads, the APC spokesman stated, are being built all over Osun. The novel aspect of road construction in the state is that roads are delivered before contractors are paid. This ensures that jobs are done to specifications and are not abandoned. Oyatomi dismissed critics claim that the Osun governor is a religious bigot fighting Christians.
To justify his position, the APC spokesman explained: Although the governor is a devout Muslim, and he does not hide it, his cabinet is dominated by Christians. Of the 34 members in the cabinet, 22 are Christians and 12 Muslims. And of the 32 permanent secretaries in the state, 20 are Christians. In the House of Assembly, made up of 26 members, only nine are Muslims. All these are apart from his policies devoid of religious sentiments.
So, how do you sustain the unfair tag that the governor is a religious bigot? On the state’s economy, Oyatomi said the state administration has managed it from the point of near bankruptcy when it assumed office to the point that it is now sustainable.
Our greatest challenge now is that government allocation from the federation account has dropped from about N5 billion every month to about N2.5 billion. This is augmented with about N1.6 billion monthly IGR which government upped from N300 million when it came in. But the downsize of it is that we have workers salary / pension of N3.6 billion monthly to pay. It is a dicey situation, but the statement government has made over time is that we have the capacity to manage the Osun economy.
The spokesman pointed out that sourced for N10 billion Sukuk bond that was over subscribed to N11 billion, and another N60 billion bond, out of which N30 billion had been drawn. The over-subscription of the Sukuk bond, according to Oyatomi, told the story of the investors confidence in the Osun economy under Aregbesola.
All considered, the Aregbesola administration has a testimonial that justifies re-election, Oyatomi added.
The Osun governor arrived the Obokun-Oriade constituency mega rally to a tumultuous welcome. Defying the rain that had threatened before he came, he immediately mounted the rostrum to address the crowd which had waited patiently since 10 am.
Aregbesola burst into song: Let the rain fall to drench us. After all we own our clothes. He warned the opposition in the August 9 poll against dividing the Osun people along religious lines as it would have grave consequences. The governor said he had done so much to improve the lives of the Osun people and expressed optimism that he would be re-elected for the goodies to continue.