We are running an unusual government and there is nothing conventional in what we are doing because we want to turn Osun to a hub of Nigeria. — Governor Rauf Aregbesola
By Tunde Adewale
The governor of the imaginary and illegal State of Osun, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, is arguably Nigeria s most controversial governor since the return to civil rule in 1999. To date, he remains the only governor whose religious inclinations no one can be sure about.
Is he, for instance, a Muslim? Those who are familiar with his proclivity for Orunmila — his eji ogbe flags, cowries and calabashes—would never agree that he is. Some of his critics say he cannot even recite suratul fatiha. Yet Aregbesola is the only governor who has declared hijrah holiday, sparking furious rebukes even from notable Muslim figures in the polity.
Aregbesola s creative blending of Islam with Ifa may yet turn out to be his most notable legacy in governance, but the point is that he pretends to be running a revolutionary government, and even occasionally mouths Marxist jargon in the face of his robust material fortunes contrasted with the agony of the vastly tormented Osun populace. He is certainly an invaluable material for academic study, particularly when you are dealing with serious contradictions and political confusion.
When he is not being tarred with a Janjaweed brush, Aregbesola (or Aregbe for short) is being accused of disrespect for constituted authority. He once said: I mean no disrespect for the person of the vice president but I do not recognize his office, because, as he alleged, the police had prevented some of his supporters from going to Abuja to express solidarity with Mr Bola Tinubu during his case with the Code of Conduct Bureau. How do you disparage the office of the vice president without disrespecting his person? And if the police were solely an agency of the Federal Government, why not refuse police protection, then? Aregbesola basks in the illusion of being the Hugo Chavez of Osun.
As a matter of fact, Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Ekiti State governor, in an interview with newsmen last year, pleaded with the media to overlook Aregbesola s tantrums, saying that he meant well for Osun. The problem, however, is that it is impossible to navigate Aregbesola out of the deluge of controversies that he willfully creates for himself in his bid to run a government unusual entirely devoid of positive vision and moral content.
For starters, Aregbesola came to government, as admitted by his own party, completely unprepared for governance. For 10 solid months after being sworn in, Mr Aregbesola had no cabinet. Incredibly, the ACN said he was using the period to plan. Yet he approved mind-blowing sums for bogus projects, in clear contravention of the law. Asked why he had not yet constituted a cabinet 10 months into his administration, Aregbesola’s gave an incredible reply: What we have not done is choosing our commissioners and we have no apology for that. There is no law that stipulates that you should choose your commissioners within a particular time. It is a function of how you assess the administration. I am taking my time.
Does Mr Aregbe possess a copy of the Nigerian Constitution? Is this guy real? However, given that he was installed as governor only a few days before he was due to appear in court for alleged forgery, his predilection for brazen illegality, including creating a ragtag army of State Boys, can be understood.
Being economic with the truth is also part of Aregbe’s ‘governance unusual.’ Speaking as a participant at the 19th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja on Growing Agriculture at the State Level, Aregbesola claimed that the Federal Government’s fertilizer distribution policy had failed woefully, since not one single farmer in Osun got fertilizer through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture! And so, he claimed, he had to cough out a whopping N1 billion to procure fertilizer for farmers in the state.
But reacting, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adeshina, dismissed the governors claim, pointing out that at the recent National Council of Agriculture meeting, he himself commended the Federal Government for its innovation fertilizer distribution in the country. The minister then hit on the problem with Osun: You can clear the whole land in your state for farming but if there are no incentives, the whole efforts will come to nothing.
Certainly, only a governor like Aregbesola can make such a blatantly false claim. Criticized heavily for his mindless demolition exercise in Osogbo, Aregbe declared contemptuously: I know very well that majority of the people of the state are with me, so let sympathisers pocket their sympathy. It is going to be monumental. Nothing of such thing has happened in Nigeria, not even in Lagos. But Osun is not looking anything like Lagos yet.
Now, it is interesting that Mr Aregbe wishes “to turn Osun to a hub of Nigeria,” yet he has sold Osun land to Lagos. Mr Aregbe might indeed navigate his way out of the logjam by claiming that what he sold was State of Osun land but puerile semantics is not going to rescue a civil service state like Osun, which can certainly not be developed by negative commercialism. He is on his way out of Government House.
Adewale, an Osun indigene, lives in Lagos