By Mohammed Adamu
My three days with Osun State’s now out-going Governor, Ogbeni, Rauf Aregbesola still brings fond memories. They bring reminiscences of a state eight years in the hands of an uncommon, atypical state administrator -the ‘un-typical Governor’ I had described him. Or the ‘unusual’ one –especially in a country where, ironically, what is ‘usual’ because it has become the norm, is what is woefully aberrant, while what is pleasantly uncanny is what seems ‘un-usual’ because it is now the road less frequently travelled. Or maybe having come from such serially misgoverned state like Niger, Aregbesola’s achievements have a tendency, like the roaring tides, to rise up to the welkins in my numbing, awe-inspiring gaze.
Who knows? Since bad governance has become the norm, good governance, no matter how modestly so, now becomes the uncommon phenomenon to be wondered at as rarefied and heavenly. And so in a two-part series titled ‘Three Days With The Oranmiyan’, I had gone almost berserk, which is short of saying I went almost poetic, singing the ‘uncommon’ Platonic governance height of this man Aregbesola. ‘Platonic’ in the sense of a tending towards the Greek philosopher, Plato, -not ‘platonic’ in the sense of being ‘perfect’ but ‘un-real’. By the way, the outgoing Governor may not have been perfect –since none after all can be altogether faultless; nevertheless Aregbesola’s claim to being congenially different in relation to many others like him, is far from being un-real.
In retrospect, I wrote about Aregbesola’s “austere, even if inelegantly-puritanical signature code of (uncommon) trado-dressing” which I said was “a world apart from the extravagant fad of governors who step out in gaudy styles enough to provoke the envy of fashionistas even in proud Italy”. I wrote about his uncommon modesty which radiated even in his preference for the uncommon, non-superlative prefix ‘Ogbeni’ or ‘Mister’, when elsewhere his fad-bearing, mock-heroic Governor-colleagues were proudly either lapping up ‘His Excellency’ or hypocritically donning the hallow of ‘Servant-leadership’ or the more mock-heroic ‘Chief-servanthood’. I wrote about the Ogbeni’s ‘uncommon’ approach to governance, which was quite uncommonly begun with a Six-Point Integral Action Plan as a self-falsification theory by which this surefooted governor would ask those he was about to govern, to weigh and to judge him by. I wrote about an uncommon development initiative that had almost turned an entire State into a massive construction site of sort, comprising scores and scores of uncommon projects that Aregbesola has unleashed on the State of the Living Spring which he has uncommonly, again, re-eke named Omoluabi.
Yet, quite uncommonly too, Aregbesola would be the only political governor that I know who would achieve so much, relative to the abysmal performance of most of his colleagues, but who would not care a hoot about publicity the way we know others to. In fact, all my three days in Oshogbo, up to the late hours of the last night when I had the privilege of interviewing him, there was not the presence of a single press officer at any point. Aregbesola seemed to be his own media adviser. Thus, you might say again, that such uncommon self-neglecting attitude to the little things that add colour to good governance, is also found only in this uncommon governor of the State of Osun. ‘Self love’ Shakespeare said ‘is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting’. Aregbesola provides a fitting antithesis to Chinua Achebe’s proverbial lizard that falls from the iroko: if no one will praise me, the Ogbeni seems to say, even I will not praise myself.
The Uncommon Legatee
And it is this uncommon Caesarian attitude which, amidst all conflicting demands for action, always insist “what touches us ourselves shall be last treated”, that I also saw, recently in the persona of Gboyega Oyetola, the man presumably propped up by the out-going governor, to succeed him. Such uncommon political legatee, Gboyega Oyetola: meek to a fault, political without partisan scurrility, self-effacing and unassumingly media-shy. I met Oyetola like I did the Ogbeni, on invitation. Yet, it took almost eternity as between he and I, to settle for a formal interview, as I insisted rather than an informal parapo (interaction) as he would have preferred –with a questioner and a recorder. He seemed to me to be painstakingly un-politician-like. He insisted on knowing the depth of every portion of the pool, before he would take a dive. In fact, you would place a finger in the mouth of this hunt-dog and you may almost have to importune the gods forever to make him bite. Yet, when he did, and had to speak, he cleared your doubt: that the taciturnity of this man is not as much for want of what to say, as it is from a surfeit of caution as to which is appropriate to be said.
And quite unlike your everyday politician, this was the first I had met who would speak directly from the heart -of a human- and not from the twisted mind, of Nikita Khrushchev’s proverbial politician, who, at his best, is usually only a man of his most recent word. In fact, after meeting Oyetola I am almost tempted not to believe H.L. Mencken who said “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar”. Little wonder perhaps, that his Principal, the Ogbeni, having known Oyetola for eight engaging years as Chief of Staff, can afford to fiddle fully with state matters, while his novitiate anointed ‘successor’ is left alone to navigate the troubled political waters of Osun. Nothing more personifies absolute confidence in the proposed new dog of hunt! The way that an Obasanjo had held the gong and town-cried for a sick Yaradua, or more recently, the way that Fayose had shouldered about his anointed Deputy like a yoyo, that we do not see as between the Ogbeni and Oyetola. And who knows? –maybe the Ogbeni is trying to prove, as the English would say, that ‘a good wine needs no bush’.
Sixty-three years old, Iragbiji-born, of Boripe Local Government, Oyetola parades a Bachelor of Science Degree in Insurance and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), all from the University of Lagos. He is an Associate of the Chattered Insurance Institute (London and Nigeria), and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management. Plus Oyetola has put in eight solid years as the Ogbeni’s Chief of Staff, thus having a hand in virtually every pie of the Aregbesola legacy. It should be asked in the words of Shakespeare’s King Henry “is not this an honourable spoil? A gallant prize? …for a prince to boast of”? But no. Not this anointed prince, Oyetola! Like his Principal, he is not a man of prickly boasts. I tried in vain to draw him into partisan mud slings, with his opponents: PDP’s Johnny-come-lately and dancing maestro Senator Ademola Adeleke, SDP’s serial contestant, Iyiola Omisore, the apostate, ADP’s disgruntled APC-defectee, Moshood Adeoti and Alhaji Akinbade. All the vaunting puff that Oyetola could muster throughout our interview was “I have a background that most of them do not have. I have a 30 year experience in private sector before I became the Chief of Staff. Again I have good knowledge of finance. I am the right person for the job”.
Aregbesola is not only an uncommon, atypical Governor; it seems he also has a sharp eye for the uncommon, atypical successor. A friend I had given the privilege of a sneak preview, wondered how balanced and fair my piece would be if I did not also interview especially Oyetola’s main rival, the dancing-dervish, PDP’s Adeleke. And I wondered what more interview anyone can educe from Adeleke! I thought that all the interview I would need from an all-rounded -d Adeleke he has already been granting to us all almost on a daily basis: dancing! I think the choice for the voters in Osun is simple. It is between a shrewd insurer and a generous dancer. Between the chivalrous one in moments of adversity and the cavalier one who makes fun of every grave situation. It is, as my late Principal the Chief Justice Dahiru Musdapher would say, between ‘plata’ and ‘plomo’ –‘Gold’ and ’lead’!