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OSUN STATE AT 15: THE STRIDES, THE STRAYS AND THE SAVIOUR


Being the text of a speech by Olatunbosunmomi Oyintiloye, the General Coordinator of the Movement of Democratic Educators and Learners (MODEL) at a dinner organised to mark the 15th year anniversary of Osun state in Accra, Ghana, recently.

INTRODUCTION

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I am highly humbled by the privilege given to me to address this august gathering as a speaker in the month of August. I bring you greetings from Nigeria and from the good people of Osun State. For your information, our state of the Living Spring is still relishing the success that attended its recent celebration of the annual Osun Festival, which drew eminent personalities and organizations within and outside Nigeria. Our failures as a state notwithstanding, I make bold to say that Osun State is one of the few states in Nigeria whose culture and heritage are celebrated all over the world. The fact that there is a surge of international scholars carrying out research works on various aspects of our social and cultural heritage testifies of the special position that our state occupies on the world map.

I would like to recall that the last Osun state anniversary celebration I attended was five years ago in Osogbo, Nigeria, when the state turned ten. I am encouraged by this initiative by the indigenes of Osun state in Ghana. I want to believe that you people are more than this. There would be need to extend the awareness to other indigenes outside Acccra. I want to assure you that MODEL will always make available to you its published works and, especially, the results of its research and findings on Osun State. I was enthused when, in introducing me, the chairman referred to me as the ‘Lagbaja’ of Osun State politics’, suggesting that, like that great musician called Lagbaja in Nigeria, our faces are not usually seen, yet we are very visible through our works. I must say that this is deliberate because we strongly desire that our truth, coming from our various research efforts, speak for us not only in our state of origin, but in Nigeria as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I proceed in this address, I want to commend specially the few Ghanaians I have sighted in this gathering tonight. I want to believe that they are your trusted friends who believe that you and your state have something to offer this generation. I want to assure all you who have honoured the invitation to be here today that your trust in us will not be dashed. We may not be there yet, but back home, we are doing everything possible to fly the state. If we have to identify with groups or people of like passions or step on some toes or to achieve this, so be it.. We would need your moral support and encouragement in this drive to the Promised Land. Thank you for coming and God bless.


 MY TASK, MY TROUBLES

Ladies and gentlemen, on the surface, my task this evening is very easy: to address this gathering on the occasion of Osun State’s 15th Anniversary. But the more I reflect on this assignment, the more I see the need to set the stage for a turning point in the state. Indeed, the more I see it as an opportunity to, if you like, wash our dirty linen in the open so that the state could move forward. Since I received your letter of invitation, I have had sleepless nights battling with some ‘Whys’ and ‘How’s’ on my mind. For instance,’ Why are we going a step forward and four steps backward in fifteen years?’, ‘Why should Osun State attract the whole world to an internationally acclaimed (Osun) festival annually with no attractive state capital to show for it? ‘Why should the state remain a civil service /agrarian state forever, in spite of a mine of untapped resources, which could turn it to a leading industrial giant?’ Then, ‘How may we enthrone true democracy in the state?’ ‘How may the force of treachery and deceit be terminated?’ How may tyranny be unseated?’ ‘How may we move forward?’ You will agree with me that in between this litany of ‘Whys’ and ‘How’s is the question, ‘Where?’: ‘Where did we miss it?’

As I approach this task with the greatest sense of responsibility tonight, I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I am using this platform to throw up issues that could set us thinking and searching for solutions. It is in this light, therefore, that I would plead with you all not to see my position in this essay as that of a judge, or a politician, or a fanatic or a blind ‘mobilizer’, but as a realist and a burdened stakeholder in Osun State who is dead sure that the future of the state is bleak except there is a U- turn. The next question that naturally comes to mind now is, ‘Why are we here, if the existing scenario is not cheering?’ In other words, ‘What are we celebrating?’ My short answer to that is that we are celebrating the continuous existence of the state and, perhaps, some strides of the past, to which nothing new has been added, except cosmetics.

If you sounded me out before you sent your letter, I would have requested that you give me a definite topic to speak on. By leaving the topic to my discretion, you inadvertently put me in fear, and that is the fear of stepping on some toes, of even my beloved ones. But I have no apologies for this as long as doing so will contribute to similar efforts by all progressives to move the state out of the woods.

Against the background of my aforementioned thoughts, therefore, I have come up with the topic, ‘Osun State in 15 years: the Strides, the Strays and the Saviour’ ‘The Strides’ chronicles noticeable achievements in the state against the background of the dreams behind its formation. ‘The Strays’ paints a painful, but realistic picture of how we have veered off the noble path of progress and landed in this blind alley. And ‘The Saviour’ elucidates on the imperativeness of a saviour for the state and the need for a collective effort to realise this.


STATE CREATION IN THE NIGERIAN CONTEXT

Ladies and gentlemen, I have considered it necessary to draw your attention to the fact that Osun State is an integral part of Nigeria, which means that it is not immune from the various cancers plaguing the nation, one of which is the usual aborted gains of state creation. (But again, this is a lame excuse for a state like Osun that has all it takes to make a difference, a state that is destined to be the Living Spring for others to drink from, a state that promised to be a flag bearer fifteen years ago).

If creating states were all that we needed to become a developed country, we would have been one by now. The unflagging clamour for states has been historically unquenchable. It grew the number of states from three in 1960 to four in 1963, 12 in 1967, 19 in 1976, 21 in 1987, and 30 in 1987 when Osun State was created. The Abacha regime later added six more, bringing the total number of states in Nigeria to 36.

Under normal circumstances, this development was supposed to be a plus for Nigeria if we had the right people and the right spirit in place. The essence of state creation was perfectly captured by the Irikefe Panel for State Creation in 1975 when it stated that the creation of states “would ensure rapid economic development among all ethnic groups, increase participatory democracy as an insurance against political instability, promote and institutionalise a balanced and stable federation and, lastly, remove the fears of the domination of the minorities, which tends to slow down economic and political development of the country.’’

This was buttressed by the Bureau on States Creation in 1987 when it quoted proponents of state creation as saying that creation of more states would:

  1. Enhance greater stability of the country;
  2. Strengthen the federal structure of government;
  3. Remove a major source of tension from the national body politics;
  4. Remove present disharmonies and imbalance within the federal system;
  5. Right the wrongs against groups whose interest have tended to be sacrificed within the present status
    quo; and
  6. Serve as a means of strengthening the institutional bases for the proper development of the country by 
    establishing more development centres within easy reach of the major population concentrations in the country.

It follows, therefore, that constituent states are ultimately meant to fast track the development of the country by reason of their own rapid economic and political growth. It is hard to see how states created in Nigeria in the last three decades have met this lofty aim.

Their scorecard is nothing near the reasons for their formation. Apart from endless intra ethnic wars that have generated heated tension in many of the states, sometimes threatening the very existence of the country; the states have been veritable instruments for looting and impoverishing the populace. It is unfortunate to observe that the rapid increase in the number of states in Nigeria has translated into rapid deterioration in the provision of infrastructures and social services, rapid haemorrhage of the economy and exponential increase of domestic and external debt stock. In the final analysis, Nigeria is worse off than when there were fewer states. A friend of mine in the Senate jocularly said one time that we would probably have been better off if we had not gotten independence from Britain. Though I disagree with this thought, the prostrate state of our nation is a cause for great concern.

Findings have shown that in the Nigeria context, behind many of the agitations for micro states are ulterior motives that bother on selfish intention to draw federal allocation to line private pockets. Little wonder that in most states today, there is nothing tangible to prove that democracy yields dividends.

Worth mentioning though is the difference being made by a few states, especially Lagos State under the leadership of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. I have never met this man in person, but I have met him through his deliverables. In spite of the fact that Lagos state, of all states, was deliberately starved of funds by the Federal Government, Lagos, under Tinubu, has performed better than many banana states that draw almost N20 billion monthly from the federation account. I have often wondered how Tinubu does it: consider the road networks, schools rehabilitation, enhanced health care delivery, the waste disposal mechanism etc. This man is making impact not because he has resources more than others, but because he has the will, the political will, and the rugged determination to make a difference. He had the opportunity of hiding under various excuses to underperform, including the excuse of how the state has been stifled of funds, but he chose not to. He may have his own weaknesses as a human being, but there is an avalanche of evidences to show that he has delivered in Lagos state. How would Nigeria look like if we could, at least, duplicate many administrators like him in other states?

Another governor that I doff my hat for is the Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Makarfi who has elevated the state to an enviable status from political, religious and physical ruins. I was in Kaduna two weeks ago; I was startled by what I saw. You need to compare the Kaduna state of today with the Kaduna state of 1999/2000 for you to appreciate what I am saying. I am not saying this to praise, support or spite anybody, but to show that there are still a few political administrators in Nigeria who are making some difference, in spite of all odds, and irrespective of their party affiliations.

OSUN STATE IN THE BEGINNING

How may we do justice to the theme of this lecture without delving into the genesis of Osun State? Historians tell us that the best way to reconstruct a defective present and guarantee a better future is to dig into the past. Since our aim in this gathering is not to wine and dine alone, but also to dialogue on how we may reinvent our resourceful, but cocked state, permit me to rehash some historical foundations upon which we could build some postulations.

Osun State was officially carved out of the former Oyo State on August 27, 1991 by the Babangida administration. It was named among the nine new states announced by General Ibrahim Babangida in a nationwide broadcast after a heated debate on state creation. Its contemporaries are Abia, Anambra, Delta, Kogi, Taraba, Kebbi, Jigawa and Yobe States. Many remote and immediate factors coalesced to work for the emergence of Osun State. The very first was that the agitation for a separate entity had been an issue between Ibadan and the people of Osun extraction about forty years before the crystallisation of the state. Secondly, the need to create additional states for a ‘more balanced and stable Federation’ was increasingly becoming irresistible on account of widespread complaints about the lopsidedness between the Northern and Southern part of the country. Thirdly, at the time Osun state came out of Oyo State, it (Oyo) was obviously very large and unwieldy. For instance, it had 42 Local Government Areas, making it the second largest in the country after Kano State. Besides, its capital city, Ibadan, was reputed to be the largest indigenous city in Africa, South of Sahara. So, if only for the purpose of ensuring a ‘more even spread of major development centres throughout the country’-as advanced by protagonists of states creation- the then Oyo State was ripe for a split.

But more important than all these was the tenacity with which the birth of the state was pursued by its crusaders. In fact, all traditional rulers, leading business and educated elites and civil servants travailed day and night to ensure that the state became a reality. One cannot forget easily the tireless effort of the present Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Oyewole Matanmi and the weight of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade who had to take advantage of his relationship with the Emir of Kano to facilitate the cause. Among other prominent personalities whose name would remain indelible for their input in the birth of Osun state are Oba Williams Ayeni of blessed memory, Chief Obelawo, a major financier of the cause, Alhaji Ayo Bello, Chief Odetoyinbo, Mr Diran Fagbongbe, and Chief Ijiwoye Adeyemo. Other eminent figures include Oba Oladele Olashore, Dr. Wale Baalakin, Chief Benjamin Adigun, Professor Samuel Ayodele and a host of others.

One can, indeed, go on and on reeling out names, giving honour to whom it is due. But I reckon that these founding fathers, most of whom are still alive, would be better honoured if their dreams and aspirations have been (or are being) actualised today. What interest me most today is to identity the reasons why they invested so much in the birth of Osun State. What were they hopping to achieve when they pursued this cause assiduously, as if their lives depended on it? Were they just looking for a state capital in their narrow individual domains or they were looking for a captain that will turn the entire state to capital cities? Were they looking for ex-governors that would eclipse their dreams and extinct the state from the log book of progressive state? Did they envisage or hope for a state that would still be toddling at 15, with wet diapers, weeping for attention? Of course, not.


THE STRIDES

At the root of the dreams of the founding fathers of Osun State was the resolve to sever their people from the long year’s of servitude from the imperial Ibadan. Though it was evident that Osun State indigenes within the confines of the old Oyo State were in the forefront of resource contribution and service, their immense contribution was hardly appreciated. The dimension of ‘Omo wa ni, e ji o se’ that brazenly robbed the UPN of political victory in 1983 testified of a people who were not only bent on replacing merit with mediocrity, but also prepared to go to any extent to supplant people’s wish for selfish ‘Son of the Soil’ gains. So, it was apparent that a clinical separation was imminent. That this was achieved was a plus for Osun state.

It is also a no mean achievement for the state that since inception, there has been increase in business activities, as local organisations extend their branch network to major cities in the state. Of course, the attendant influx of more people into the state has brought with it the usual sharp increase in house rents, goods and services. Presently, the existing infrastructures have been stretched beyond limit, with no visible planning for 10-20 years to come.

Again, the fathers of Osun State were convinced of an Osun state that will change the landscape of the region, promote the lots of the people and bring development down to the grassroots. It was envisaged that going by its abundant resources, Osun State will evolve a leading industrial ‘Mecca’ for Nigeria. Indeed, the father dreamt of a state where poverty, misery and gross unemployment are tackled through articulate programme that are systematically implemented from one administration to the other.

But what do we see today? We have on our hands a state that is pauperised with weak economy that is dancing in circles. Essentially, the state is still an undeveloped agrarian one with a mass of its literate class looking unto government for monthly pay. It is as though there is a deliberate policy to make people dependent and not independent. Apart from superficial strides like the installation of Radio and TV stations, the state secretariat and a few government houses, development in the state is lackluster. This is evident in all sectors. Schools are bereft of standard structure and equipments, hospitals are glorified dispensaries with frustrated doctors threatening strikes from time to time etc.

It is important to admit this in a very frank and sincere manner so that we can collectively chart a way forward. A situation where the present Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola chose to use tax payers money to launder his image in paid adverts, showcasing cosmetic tinkering with state development, is unfortunate. We belief it is more honourable to present a total picture of the state to people than to give them the false impression that you are fulfilling dreams. In what way? Have people not judged rightly by what is on ground?

Of all the governors of the nine states that were created at the same time Osun state came into being, the Anambra State Governor was more honourable in that he was honest, frank and sincere with his people and the nation when he said, on the occasion of the 15th anniversary, that: “We do not deserve to celebrate. I say this because I am one person who believe that only achievements should be celebrated and not failure. Anambra State can be likened to a failed state. At 15, Anambra is still like infant. We are politically backward, economically lame and spiritually atrophied”

Nothing best describes Osun State if we should stand on the pillar of truth. But we have consistently seen that many of our leaders are afraid of this pillar, hence the resort to playing upon people’s intelligence and the use of violence against opposition when confronted with the truth.

THE STRAYS

What all this communicates to me is a poignant fact that in Osun State, we have strayed. The earlier we found our ways back to the original path, the better for us. History bears witness to the fact that the South West people are progressives. They are people of high integrity and very discerning. They are a people that would stop at nothing following visionary leaders who match words with actions. Thanks to Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory. It is also a truism that each time people stray to the side of lies, they enter into deep waters. Remember the first republic crisis in the West, the spurious victory of Chief Omololu Olunloyo in Oyo State in 1983, and the hijacking of power by the PDP in AD controlled states in the South West in 2003. The only state that still has strong testimony today amongst the South West states is Lagos, and this is because it is still on track.

It was obvious that something went wrong when in 2003, people who do not have any political pedigree and whose antecedents in governance are riddled with errors succeeded in convincing the people of Osun State to abandon Adebisi Akande. But today, the people know better. They know quite well that they erred. They strayed. My first reaction when Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was gored into running for Governorship in 2003 was to ask my politician friends in PDP that ‘When do we start toying with the destiny of Osun State?’ None could give me any credible or logical answer. They were just fumbling. I immediately saw in them a people who had strayed, having yielded to pressures from a cabal that has lost integrity on account of their unabashed betrayal of trusts. For God’s sake, if somebody, knowing his own ability, capability and stuff he is made of, felt he would do better as a senator at a time, why do we have to dash him a governorship ticket because of Omisore’s slim chances? Today, even those who conspired to put on him the toga he did not ask for are regretting, as their gentleman agreement has been bungled by the incumbent.

It wouldn’t have really bothered me much if it was only his benefactors that were biting their fingers, but to see the innocent people on whom he was cleverly imposed crying for help is, to say the least, mind boggling. Who shall save these helpless people from the loss of four years of golden opportunities to turn the state around?

To post impressive achievements in this dispensation should really have been a work-over given:

  1. The state’s enormous resources;
  2. Its regular federal allocations (including the staggering share of extra petrol dollars);
  3. Improved locally generated revenue on account of the sharp increase in the influx of people and organisations that are extending their branches to Osogbo and other major cities in the state;
  4. The readiness of the rich indigenes of the state inside and outside Nigeria to support government development programmes;
  5. The more friendly international image of Nigeria, which some states have tapped into to attract foreign investment; and, of course,
  6. The advantage of having the ruling party, PDP, at the federal level, which should have been leveraged upon to attract significant Federal Government presence to the state.

The incumbent left all this undone, picked up guns and started chasing political rivals. This is saddening. It doesn’t show that he is busy; neither does it show that he knows why he was put there. If anything, it clearly shows that the incumbent has no solid agenda or direction. This is not surprising because he did not intend to be a governor in the first place, and his party, painfully, failed to put a selling manifesto in place. So, what do we see after four years of inadequacies? We see a governor who has strayed- strayed from his initial political interest and target, strayed from offering deliverables to chasing opponents. I think the people of the state deserve an apology from him for lost opportunities, not his second term. Having strayed, he should gracefully offer to be benched and learn while watching others applying political dexterity and ingenuity in turning opportunities to great dividends.

You may probably not appreciate the extent to which we have strayed in Osun State until you consider the fact that some of the leading figures in the state, whom people used to look up to as men of vision and direction, like the Ebino Topsy of this world, suddenly went blind and veered off the course pursuing reactionary and retrogressive cause. Many of them having lost their integrity and popularity for a temporal pot of porridge, have come together to champion treachery under the aegis of Ijesha Elders Caucus, and other miniature caucuses that the people of the state should treat with caution. But the situation is not hopeless because according to the first military governor of Osun State, Col. Leo Aborishade, the people of the state cannot be deceived for long.

IN SEARCH OF A SAVIOUR

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that what the state needs today is a saviour. It is in need of a strong and visionary leader that knows where to go and how to get there. As important as political party is in a democratic setting, the problem of the state is not that of a party, but that of a committed leader that would not undermine the people’s mandate or fritter the state’s resources on frivolities. Going by the mood of our people today, a party that is incapable of producing such a candidate is defeated even before the election takes off.

It is in this light that we should x-ray the present party in power and their governorship candidates. To start with, it is common knowledge that the credibility of the party is at its lowest ebb. It seems as though many members of the party have undergone special training in the arts of eliminating political rivals. The gory news of their escapades in this field is too frequent and too disturbing to make their aspirants worthy of power. That they unleash this terror on themselves within PDP makes a non-party opponent an automatic victim. But like the United States would say, ‘In God we trust’ In Osun State, in God we trust that they will not succeed in eliminating all the beautiful ones before the people vote the odd ones out in 2007.

There is this talk about the jinx of political office holders in Osun state not being able to succeed in their second term attempts. Perhaps, the incumbent believe in this, hence his desperate move to either silence or eliminate rivals within and outside his party. I, personally, do not read this historical trend as a jinx, but as a clear manifestation of a politically active people who are not ready to tolerate anti-people stance or accept mere activities as results. The beauty of democracy and the advantage it presents are fully being tapped by the people of the state and the trend is not going to change as we look forward to a change in the government house in 2007.

Osun state is particularly fortunate in their search this time around for two reasons. One is that the incumbent has demonstrated clearly his skill in delivering dividends in paid adverts and on the pages of newspapers, as there is nothing tangible on ground to show that his four years in government has moved the state forward. So, there is no difficulty doing away with him. Secondly, of all other able aspirants on ground, there is one whose credentials stand tall, who has been recognised by many for his ability to right the wrongs if voted into power in 2007. This person is Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, the present Commissioner Works and Infrastructure in Lagos state. His depth and experience in good governance and developmental issues- as demonstrated by his monumental achievements in a state like Lagos- remain incontestable. An Osun state that is blessed with many illustrious and industrious sons like this has no reason going about in circles as it has been doing for years. It is no secret today that the ‘battle’ for the state house in 2007 is between Prince Oyinlola (who has refused to allow his benefactors to take their turn) and Engr. Aregbesola (whose life is being threatened by the day). If this is the present scenario in the state, then it is clear where sane people should pitch their tents. It makes the choice easier.

YOUR ROLE

You may ask, “What role can I play in all these?” I belief the first role is to be bold. The state is in dire need of bold people who are not afraid of being vilified for standing on the truth. Another role you can play is to come home with your families to vote for change during the elections next year. It is interesting to announce to you that the people back home already know the truth, but you need to complement their efforts to use their voting power to effect a change.

May I seize this opportunity to appeal to our traditional rulers and opinion leaders not to let down the state, but rather join the emerging coalition aimed at saving the state from stagnancy.

Perhaps, the last but not the least, of the role you could play in actualising the dreams of our founding fathers is to support the vision and activities of MODEL not only in Osun state, but in Nigeria as a whole. MODELS, an acronym for Movement of Democratic Educators and Learners is an association of scholars, tested professionals in various disciplines and students from tertiary institutions who share the vision of installing true and full fledge democracy in our farther land. We are persuaded that without political education of our gullible populace, there cannot be true democracy. Yet we still believe that we do not know it all, neither do we have all the answers to the deluge of questions we receive daily. Thus, necessity is laid upon us to continue to learn for ‘he that stops learning starts dying’

We have strong confidence in Nigeria, just as we are optimistic of a bright future for Osun State. We have preached this on a number of occasions in and out of Nigeria. We are open to more ideas and partnership with people or organisations of like minds. Presently, we are carefully studying five offers for partnership in Nigeria and three from outside the country. We would take a decision on two of these offers before the end of September.

Ladies and gentlemen, our meeting tonight is a partnership of some sorts. Because we seem to have agreed that our state needs to chart a better way forward, and to realise this, all things must be new, including the government, the governance and the governor. As we collaborate more to redefine our future, Osun State will be better for it.

CONCLUSION

I would like to conclude this speech by sensitizing your mind to a big picture of Osun State of tomorrow. What type of Osun State would you like to see in the next 10-15 years? I believe we should envisage an Osun State where the provision of electricity, water, good roads, housing, health facilities, etc. would not be a campaign issue, as all these would have been addressed. We should look forward to a giant Osun State that is driving industrialisation in Nigeria, contributing eminently to the nation’s GDP. We should plan to have a state that lives up to its Living Spring appellation by parading a robust economy that is flowing with milk and honey not only for its citizens, but also for people of other states.

To realise these and more is possible, but all hands must be on deck. We have to start NOW. Our destiny is really in our hands. For long, our strides are being subsumed by our strays. This ought no to be. The time to change the equation is now. Let us do it together.

Thank you for the attention given to me.

Olatunbosunmomi Oyintiloye (Model2004life@yahoo.com)


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