Politics in the State of Osun is attaining a feverish point as the state’s governorship election slated for August 9 approaches. The developing state of affairs calls for cautious interrogation as facts and realities are trampled upon to levitate fictions and fallacies – albeit disingenuously – as the ultimate truth.
However, the redeeming grace for the polity, the people of the state and Governor Rauf Aregbesola himself has been his purposeful approach to people friendly governance, his stern commitment to the avowed six-point integral action programme to rescue the state from imminent collapse and the impeccable way with which he has piloted the affairs of the state to the admiration of majority of the electorate.
Regrettably, those who had hoped otherwise and fervently worked towards scuttling the Governor’s well-thought policy thrust of revitalising the state’s economy from being a redundant civil servant’s state to a self-sufficient and revenue-generating state have other antics in their sleeves. They have perfected the art of calling white black and black white and expected Osun electorate to swallow their falsehood intact, without thoroughly interrogating the issues of educational development, infrastructural revamp, human welfare schemes and the other imponderables of governance.
In their tactics, Ogbeni’s traducers are either accusing him repeatedly without facts to back up their claims of his government being tilted towards Islamisation of the state or he is being alleged to secede the state from the other part of the country. Both claims fall flat on their faces. It shows how dumbed and unremitting critics of the governor can be. How can any detractor delude himself with the allegation of Islamisation of a state with less than 4 million population with roughly equal numbers of the three dominant religion fervently professing their faiths? How feasible is it for an inland state without a standing army seceding from the other larger whole when the entire Eastern Nigeria failed in its bid between 1967 and 1970 for the same purpose?
Unfortunately, the State Security Service, SSS, that raked up such frivolous and partisan reports to ingratiate itself to the power-besotting PDP with the infantile allegation knew where the sky was darkened. The North East has remained a tottering bedlam before and after the infamous Osun State Security Reports of secession or Islamisation, where Boko Haram drains innocent people’s blood daily without respite. Now, the PDP sees Aregbesola as a potent threat to their dreams to wreck almost everything in the South-West and Nigeria, altogether. The thinking is that if Osun state is the only South-West state that President Goodluck Jonathan lost in 2011 presidential election, Aregbesola must this time around be reined in to distort history.
So, the plot of alleged secession and religious manipulation, even when these are founded on baseless grounds, provoke an insurrection and employ tactics to levy security takeover of Osun State. This stems from a primitive and raw concept of power, as the PDP has found so attractive, employing these past thirteen years in power. The feeling is writ large in the diarrheic power laboratory of the PDP that once the recalcitrant Aregbesola is taken out of the way, it would be easy to take on other more restrained ACN governors in the South-West and other part of the country.
The Osun electorate are not deceived by the PDP’s gimmicks of taking the state back to its better forgotten hot spot. Religion is ringing even resonantly as the ultimate decider of an all important August 9 governorship election at the expense of basic development strides of Governor Aregbesola in the last three years in office. Even at that, there is no Christian Governor across the federation that promoted or supported the Christian faith more faithfully than Ogbeni.
They have suddenly forgotten that Governor Aregbesola, whom they called an Islamic fundamentalist, donated millions of naira to Baptist Conference during its 2013 convention in the State of Osun; gave N10 million to Osun CAN and provided N35 million for the burial rites of late Prophet Abraham Obadare, the former General Overseer of WOSEM. It’s unlikely that the Baptist Convention would realise that the money was taken from the taxes of the hardworking people of the state.
Without mincing words, all recruitments and appointments made so far by Ogbeni were made strictly on merit without consideration for any primordial sentiments. From the 40,000 youth who are beneficiaries of the OYES, 250,000 beneficiaries of O’MEALS, 3100 food vendors, 10,507 newly recruited teachers, 3 tutor-generals/ permanent secretaries, 36 permanent secretaries, board members and chairmen, 48 executive council members. Although interestingly, there are more Christians in the various elite groups mentioned above one therefore wonders where or what basis is the hogwash of Islamisation coming from? Could it be a case of misdirected aggression or reversed bigotry?
The gains of education reform in the state public schools which the detractors choose to misunderstand and falsify are glaring.The reforms have had tremendous impacts on the Osun educational competitiveness. To start with, Osun, from a 34th placing among Nigeria’s 36 states in 2010, moved to 18th position in 2011 and 8th position in 2012, in performance rankings in the West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE). Pupils from the state have also chalked up improved performances in internal, national and international examinations, according to compilations by the Osun Ministry of Education. Also, the reforms have earned a partnership with UNESCO to build a regional teacher training institute in the state, and a fresh programme in the area of adult education.
The school feeding scheme, branded O’Meal and currently being implemented in the Elementary School, has been applauded globally. A few weeks ago, Ogbeni addressed the British joint Parliament on the success of the school feeding scheme, which is founded on the principle of good nutrition as incentive for learning readiness. As we speak, over 254,000 school children enjoy highly nutritious daily lunch under a scheme that has been lauded home and abroad. This scheme has also greatly boosted enrolment in elementary schools by not less than 25 per cent.
But an added economic advantage is the boon to farmers and women as the scheme greatly aids poultry, food crops and animal husbandry, by working with farmers and women caterers. O’Meal is conceived as backward integration for a renewed Osun agricultural programme, to partly serve as ready market for farmers’ produce and boost their income. The school feeding initiative greatly impressed the British Parliament and the UNESCO representatives who are at the forefront of driving the cause of returning the over 10.8 million Nigerian children back to school as the sole solution to curbing and alleviating excruciating poverty in the nearest future worldwide.
Under the Osun Schools Reclassification Programme, there are ongoing plans to build 100 elementary schools, 50 middle schools and 26 high model schools. But the building is not haphazard. Since many of the old schools are aged and dilapidated and the state does not have the funding to replace each and every of the run-down school buildings, the reclassification policy is structured on maximising resources.
This means in the new school models, communities would have to share school facilities in consolidated schools, against the old practice of each community insisting on its own schools, even if the pupil population is sparse and there are hardly enough teachers to go round. This therefore explains the merger of schools which some critics may have clearly misunderstood, and in most cases dubbed Islamisation. The motive is not to inconvenience communities or missions. It is rather to maximise Osun education resources, in such a way, as Jeremy Bentham said, “to ensure the greatest happiness of the greatest number”. This has been achieved tremendously through the new school reforms system. To be sure however, the scheme did not indiscriminately combine schools without adequate consideration to sensitive factors such as faith, communal sensibilities and location. It is a lie from the pit of hell that Muslim named schools were merged with Christian named schools or that Muslim students were merged with Christian students. Where would the wholly Muslims or Christians students have been sourced for the imaginary mixing, when both public and private schools in Nigeria are never religiously segregated.
Aregbesola has demonstrated in governance that he is absolutely prepared for 21st century leadership where information technology holds the ace. Without ICT, it would have been difficult for the state to provide all the text books needed by over 150, 000 students in high schools. To provide just three text books, which are not enough for the students to perform well in their final WAEC and NECO examinations. That would have cost the state government a whopping N4.5 billion annually. But with the introduction of Opon Imo (Tablet of Knowledge), it costs N250 million only for the government to provide virtual text books for all the books needed by the students to write (WAEC, NECO and JAMB) for the 150,000 students in the high schools.
Opon Imo has garnered several awards for the governor’s bold initiative and the state.The tablet is preloaded with seventeen (17) subjects offered by students in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). The subjects in Opon Imo have been designed in forms of lesson notes, textbooks, mostly provided by publishers and master teachers’ inputs. Content verifiers, who happened to be some of the local teachers, were also made to verify lesson notes on each subject. Besides, seven extra-curricular subjects, such as Sexuality Education, Civic Education, Yoruba History, Ifa Traditional Religion, Computer Education and Entrepreneurship Education, and Twelve Thousand Yoruba Proverbs were also included.
Test platform for students’ self assessment to monitor their own comprehension and mastery of the subject, including 10 years past questions and answers provided by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), as well as questions and answers in 17 (Seventeen) ordinary level subjects. The subject are English Language, Mathematics, Agricultural Science, Economics, Principles of Accounts, Literature in English, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Yoruba, Commerce, Further Mathematics, History, Geography, Government, IRK and CRK. Audio tutorials were also embedded in the Opon-Imo to further aid students through virtual study plan.
The state would save a total of N8.4 billion by not buying textbooks. It rather spent just N200 million for the purchase of the 56 e-books on Opon-Imo with 150,000 user licenses from a major educational publishing company in the country. As it is structured, Opon Imo ensures that each student has an e-textbook, not only in all the subjects he is offering, but also on every subject offered at secondary school level. This in itself is legendary and revolutionary!
Some critics queried the introduction of “Ifa Corpus into Opon Imo as idolatry in the 21 century”. What a contradiction, when one considers the basic nuance of knowing that Opon Imo is a product of the laws of binary features, from which computers are made? How many educated PDP hirelings know that computer is made from Ifa Corpus?
It is interesting to note that the reforms have led to a radical increase in grants and subventions for the administration of public primary and secondary schools. It is disgusting to hear the PDP crying wolf where non exists. For seven and half years, the PDP-led government total grants to 1378 primary schools in the state was a paltry of N125.1 million. But under 3 years, the APC-led government quadruples the same school grants, raising it to N426.7 million annually. The PDP-led government grants for secondary schools for seven and half years was a miserable N656.6 million while the APC administration, for barely 3 years, has given N897.9 million to the schools, a quantum leap by any account.
The state has committed N14.4 billion on new school buildings, while recurrent annual expenditure consumes N21 billion on elementary schools, and N13.46 billion secondary schools. This amounts to per capital spending of N84,000 per elementary school pupil, and N30,000 per secondary school pupil. The total capital expenditure on schools in the last three years, outside the building of new schools, is N31.31 billion. Under the APC administration, WAEC fees have also shot up from N38 million to N400 million per annum. The administration also has spent to date a total of N1. 2 billion on the production of the pace-setting e-learning tablet, Opon Imo. Besides building new schools, Ogbeni Aregbesola’s administration is renovating and upgrading some of the existing ones. On this alone, the sate has spent N1.6 billion.
For instance, the state has added 10,407 new teachers to the list of public schools teaching staff in Osun. Thus, the state now has 12,715 teachers in primary schools and 7,848 teachers in secondary school. This translates to a 54.8 per cent increase in the number of teachers in public schools the administration inherited. The same applies to non-teaching staff whose number has also increased by 56.4 per cent. As a result, the salaries and pensions of primary and secondary school teachers now cost the state government N16.8billion and N10.3billion respectively on an annual basis, which amounts to a total of N27.1billion per annum.On the free school uniforms, the state has expended N900million, while the elementary school feeding programme costs N3.6 billion every year. On the supply of furniture to schools, the state has spent N2.5 billion, while N503 million is expended on instructional materials which were not part of public school education before Ogbeni assumed office.
Aregbesola’s administration is so encompassing such that both his traducers and allies are awed by his spectacular achievements. Only last year, his government spent about N162 million to bail out 87 medical students who are now continuing their programme in Karachi University. A couple of years from now the state and parents alike will be celebrating their graduation as trained medical doctors.
These and more are what Aregbesola’s traducers wish to obliterate through fictions and fallacies.
Erasmus Ikhide wrote in from Lagos Nigeria.