THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored” – Aldous Huxley.
They call him the ‘unusual governor’. Or as the ‘The News’ Magazine’s Special Edition of 26, June 2012 would say, the “untypical Governor”. Because –ironically- he seems more like the ‘aberration’ here than the ‘norm’. And they call his Government too, the ‘unusual government’. But essentially, he is the reason his Government is ‘unusual’. He is the strange ‘character’ that is strangely changing the character of political governance at the states where people are almost irretrievably accustomed to ‘bad governance’. And so it is only to the ‘apolitical’ who may appreciate truth of a political kind, that Ogbeni is a pleasant ‘rarity’, a welcomed ‘freak’.
Not to desperate, un-altruistic partisans to whom he is merely an unpleasant off-key note jarring the hymn of ‘business as usual’ rather than upping the ante of political governance in an ‘unusual’ way. To these he is a political ‘gadfly’ posing the most irritation to a status quo of bad governance.
But just how ‘unusual’ is this ‘unusual governor’ of the State of Osun? First is his austere deportment exuding the self-effacing aura of ‘ascetics’, more concerned about the ‘ethereal’ than about the ‘terrestrial’; or rather of ‘mystics’, more in touch with the ‘spiritual’ than with the ‘physical’; or maybe of ‘prophets’ –who tend more to the ‘soul’ than they do to the ‘body’.
But just as his mien is un-grudgingly revealing of his ascetic or mystic nature, so is his apparel loudly telling of his acute sense of the genuinely frugal from the profligately frolic. Aregbesola’s Spartan, some may even say inelegantly-puritanical, signature code of trado-dressing, is a world apart from the extravagant fad of his colleagues who often step out in as gaudy a style as should provoke the envy of fashionistas even in proud Italy. Yet it is the Ogbeni we accuse of profaning public morality because we insist that his skimpy ‘kembe’ trousers, rather than promote the Yoruba culture, are ‘divisively Islamic’ projecting a ‘mullah’ in command of the secular affairs of men.
But even in his rejection of what ‘The News’ Magazine had described as “the culture of big titles and superlative prefixes”, Aregbesola should strike you as the quintessential ‘untypical’ governor. Whereas he would not regale the public with the hypocritical fad by a few, of bearing ‘Servant Leader’ or ‘Chief Servant’, yet he would not delight in wearing “big titles and superlative prefixes”. Reason he chose to adopt the simplistic title ‘Ogbeni’ or ‘Mister’ which harmonizes with the very simplicity that he has brought to governance. And so as his colleagues strenuously act to mystify that which is simple, namely ‘the art of governance’, Aregbesola alone has conducted himself in a manner that simplifies the mystic around ‘governance’. He would even defy security advice, they say, to have his modest convoy wait on traffic.
But again in his radical approach to the rebranding of his State, symbolically re-christening it ‘The State of Osun’; and in the rejuvenation of the cultural ethos of his people; and the adoption of patriotic songs and new anthems of allegiance; and in the recreation of inspirational emblems, totems, crests and motivational cultural motifs -to reawaken the state pride necessary to create a renascent future for Osun- Aregbesola stands, among the groove of State governors, an ‘unusual’ plant with the most ‘untypical’ foliage.
But maybe far more ‘unusual’ than all these ‘unusuals’ was the Governor’s almost oracular ‘Six Point Integral Action Plan’, an omnibus, 22-page pre-election ‘Green Book’ consecrating a pact –or covenant if you will- with the people even as it itemizes, with uncanny detail, virtually everything that Aregbesola had intended to do if he came to office. The document states not just the ‘whats’, the ‘hows’ and the ‘whens’ of his vision and mission in office, but it also answers virtually all the ‘whys’ and the ‘wherefores’ of achieving the objectives as enumerated in the Green Book, namely:
1, Banishing Poverty by revitalizing commerce through market-friendly policies; 2, Banishing hunger by repositioning agriculture in the State away from subsistence to commercial venture; 3, Banishing unemployment by imparting of life-long skills in both youths and adults; 4, Promoting functional education by making it especially employment-generating rather than employment-scouting, 5,Restoring healthy living by providing effective and available healthcare for all and 6, Enhancing communal peace and progress by restoring the bond of trust between those who govern and those who are governed.
In fact Aregbesola has often proudly said himself: “I had prepared what would be my program… Everything we are doing today is in strict compliance with the provision of that agenda”. In political climes like ours where it is the norm and not the exception for elected politicians to come into office first before figuring out what to do with it, Aregbesola’s ‘Six Point Integral Action Plan’ was as novel as it was innovative. But even more so novel and innovative was his pledge of fidelity to rise or to fall only by the extent to which he stays focused in achieving those goals -and not by his ability to end the struggle to attain them. And since ‘the proof of the pudding’ as they say, ‘is in the eating’, nothing proves a proposition altruistic more than if the one propounding it also attaches a ‘falsification test’, by which his proposition may be proved or disproved. It is called ‘putting your money where your mouth is’. Which is not usually popular with our kinds of un-achieving politicians.
But it is even in the practical implementation of the ‘Six Point Integral Action Plan’, that Aregbesola’s reputation of ‘unusualness’ assumes its most lurid effects. I was privileged to be in the State of Osun last week for three days on the invitation of the Governor; and as we say whenever we want to be both bombastic and waggishly tongue-twisting, I was, to say the least, ‘flabber-whelmed and over-gasted’ –by what I saw.
I saw virtually an entire State turned into a massive construction site, comprising scores and scores of completed or on-going projects, -from as mega-sized as overhead bridges and networks of drainage systems to as promising as an International Cargo Airport currently under construction; from massive roads construction, dualization projects and building of pedestrian bridges, to an aggressive re-construction and rehabilitation of rundown or dilapidated public utilities, including once-derelict schools, stadia and rail transport systems; from the building of brand new, world-class, state of the art elementary, middle and high schools all over the State, to the building of numerous health centers, public parks, modern markets, garment factories massive waterworks projects and others too numerous to mention.
The ‘facts’ I saw in the State of Osun resonated stubbornly with the American novelist J.D. Salinger’s “facts at hand” which he said not only “speak for themselves, but a trifle more vulgarly… than facts usually do”. And you know what the British philosopher John Stuart Mill said about what we see ourselves from what we hear of, that “The only proof capable of being given that an object is visible is that people actually see it.”
By the way for such an indigent State, famed often for forming the bottom list of receipts from the Federation account, you are astounded as to how the Governor could bite and chew so much -all at the once without having to see the dentist. And in fact you get even all the more astounded when the Governor tells you that he came to office meeting an insolvent State owing a “suffocating” N18.3 when its monthly income was a measly N1.5 billion. Or when he tells you that not long after he came into office, a new minimum wage had increased salaries from N900 million to N1.8 billion monthly –N300 million more than the State’s monthly receipts.
To be continued