• Gov reels off achievements in education, roads, others
By TOPE ADEBOBOYE
Later this month, the government and people of Osun State will be rolling out the drums. Osogbo, the capital will be attired in a vivacious garb, and the streets of its towns and villages festooned in assorted colours. From Ile-Ife to Ila-Orangun, from Ikirun to Ikire, the entire state will be in a party mood as the present administration marks its second anniversary in office. The governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola assumed office on Saturday, November 27, 2010.
But are there enough reasons for the government to give itself a pat on the back two years after mounting the saddle? To the Director, Bureau of Communications, Semiu Okanlawon, the answer is in the affirmative. He insists that since coming to power, Aregbesola has changed the fortunes of the hitherto sleeping state.
“In two years, Governor Aregbesola has achieved so much for the people of the state, and they are quite happy with him,” he tells the reporter. “In virtually all areas, Mr. Governor has exhibited his commitment and passion for the development of the state. To say that he was not happy with the state of the state and its people when he came to power is an understatement. And since then, he has committed his all into elevating the state and bringing the people out of their hopeless state.”
The reporter is told that Aregbesola’s immediate preoccupation in office was rebranding the state. Why that, you wonder.
“This is laying a solid foundation through re-orientation of the citizenry towards the acceptable values that would make all other social re-engineering to be enduring,” Okanlawon explains. “It is on this foundation that the values of hard-work, perseverance, tolerance, recognition and appreciation of the citizens’ role in societal building and reconstruction are built. It is already paying off with the glaring adoption of the values without which no other developmental moves of the government could be enduring.”
The governor agrees in an interview with this reporter. “Our first three, four months was to powerfully reposition our state in the eyes of the world and in the minds of our people. We went about a vigorous rebranding programme that sought to give us the image and character that we feel is our own. We told the world that we are a virtuous people, epitome of character, valour, pride and history. We put up a meaningful flag. We have our emblems and we have our anthem.
“A group visited me recently and told the story of a lady who proudly spoke of her experience in Ede. She parked casually somewhere, and one of our O’YES cadets who was deployed for traffic management accosted her. She said she sought to compromise the cadet, and the cadet told her that, look, we are a virtuous people here, we don’t take bribe. That tells you that our goal of acculturating the state is yielding fruits.”
In education, the reporter learns that the administration has not done badly. Soon after its inauguration, the government convoked an education summit where various experts proffered suggestions on how to tackle the crisis in that sector. The administration, you are told, is vigorously adhering to the recommendations.
The state government is currently constructing scores of new schools across the state, including 100 elementary schools, 50 middle schools and 21 high schools. Pupils in primary one to four are being fed daily, while the tablets of knowledge, tagged opon-imo, would soon be made available for final year high schools students.
The administration also initiated a schools uniform project. The governor explains that several thousands of new jobs would be created, and about N3bn would go into the pockets of the ordinary citizens.
The state also initiated a calisthenics programme. Okanlawon explains that the programme is aimed at instilling in the youths, the values of teamwork, cooperation, dedication and collaboration, among others. “The launch of this project has brought a renewed interest in those initiatives that will positively engage our youths and divert their attentions and energies away from crime and other evil ventures,” he adds.
The government gives itself a thumbs-up for reducing schools fees and making education more affordable in the state. Okanlawon says the bursary paid to students of Osun origin has also been increased. According to him, students in colleges of education were paid N2, 000 each while those in the polytechnics and universities got N3, 000 before Aregbesola came on board. Each now receives N10, 000, he says. Medical and law students also get paid N20, 000 each while those in the Law School get N100,000 each. Government has also increased its subventions to the schools, he says.
Another area where the government claims it has done a yeoman’s job is in the agriculture sector. Already, 30 hectares of land have been acquired for farming purposes while huge amounts have been committed to farmers’ loans. Many young men, you are told, have embraced the programme and are now back to the farms, working and making money.
Aregbesola explains further: “Before I assumed office, we had used our opportunities in Lagos to verify what the financial value of the commodity food exchange market in Lagos is. And realising that there is N3.5 billion on a daily basis, we realise that whoever wants to make any gain in agriculture, particularly food commodity, must target Lagos. For that reason, we put in place a mechanism, in conjunction with the Nigeria Railway Corporation, to move food commodity free of charge from Osogbo to Lagos.
“We also have the O’REAP – Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme. We give land to whoever wants to farm, we prepare the land partly, we open up the land, we clear all stumps and trees and other things that might require any capital expenditure.
“We also have the O’Beef where we are bringing in experts with the best practices to help the local livestock farmers to develop fast-growing, heavy-yielding livestock and bring prosperity to such farmers, and good supply to the Lagos markets. We are equally into fishing. We have established an enviable record of mobilisation of local farmers, support for cooperatives of farmers and individual big commercial farmers. We use our own resources and we equally guarantee such farmers easy access to the agricultural support scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
Under the O-Beef project, the state government is establishing cattle ranches in a number of towns across the state.
For weeks now, flood has ravaged many parts of the country, but Osun has remained immune from the calamities. Aregbesola says it’s no happenstance. He explains that there was massive flooding in the state in the year preceding his inauguration. “So, as soon as I assumed office, what I did was to engage all waterways, canals in massive dredging. As a matter of fact, no government has ever attempted to do such. We cleaned up all arteries, all waterways, all canals, all possible outlets for storm water control. By the time the rain came last year, people just saw water flowing without disturbing anybody.”
He says his government is also engaged in urban renewal, greening of the environment and other environmental activities.
Another area that Aregbesola and his lieutenants insist is being massively revolutionised is the road network across the state.
“We are embarking on massive road construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation and maintenance. It has never been done in the history of the state. There is no town, no community in which not one road work or the other is not ongoing right now. And more will still come,” the governor tells the reporter.
Some of the major road projects include the Osogbo-Ikirun Ila-Odo/Kwara boundary road and the Osogbo, Gbongan, Orile-Owu to Ogun State road.
The government has commenced a number of projects that would enhance the commercial activities of the state. Okanlawon listed some of them as the construction of the Aje International Market and Ayegbaju Shopping Mall, the upgrading of the Railway station, Osogbo, and the free train service during festivals.
The government still beats its chest over its employment strategies, one of which is the O’YES scheme that saw 20, 000 youths taken off the labour market within Aregbesola’s first 100 days in office.
“In tourism, this administration has re-designed and redeveloped the Osun Osogbo Grove, among others. A gigantic project to be called the New Ife will also be put in place where all tourist attractions pertaining to Yoruba history, tradition etc will be on display. This will no doubt boost international focus on Osun as a tourist site,” Okanlawon informs.
He says also that the government has made crime unattractive in the state. “The administration has established the Swift Action Squad, a special anti-crime outfit with five APCs, 25 patrol vans, and other security gadgets that make it possible for security operatives to be at the scenes of crimes within five minutes of any distress calls,” says the governor’s spokesman.
“We are not there yet, but we are well on the way,” he continues. “Generally, the administration has created an enabling environment for development initiatives, both governmental and private, to grow. It is an administration that is creating awareness and changing orientations in various aspects of national life. With many of the practices being introduced, the administration is also contributing to deepening democratic tenets. All these are part of the strategies to ensure that from the small corner of Osun, commendable initiatives that can change Nigeria for better emerge.”
• Gov reels off achievements in education, roads, others