It is to him who masters our minds by the force of truth, not to those who enslave men by violence; it is to him who understands the universe, not to those who disfigure it, that we owe our reverence- Voltaire (1694-1778).
And so one after the other in the year of our Lord 2013, the awards saluting the remarkable achievements of State of Osun Governor, Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, rolled in.
Hundreds of kilometers away in Ghana, the respected Integrity International magazine had noticed what the Governor was doing to redefine governance in a continent that had for ages suffered at the hand of its leaders. It gave Aregbesola its Integrity Award declaring that the man had offered what it called “outstanding quality and integrity” in political administration. The journal lamented that much of the post-independence era had given Africa leadership without integrity; it concluded that things had however been different with the advent of the Ogbeni in Osun.
Another accolade later came in. Aregbesola bagged the Odua Person of the Year 2013 award on account of the serious effort he has injected into the project of restoring the Yoruba nation its pace-setter role it clinched under the illustrious age of Papa Obafemi Awolowo.
There has been a sudden renaissance in interest in the culture, arts, history, politics etc of the Yoruba, thanks to a focus on the Omoluabi spirit championed by Aregbesola.
Business Day newspaper also awarded the Osun governor two honors: Best Governor in Urban and Rural Infrastructural Development and Youth and Sports Development.
According to the paper, Aregbesola had made what, by extrapolation, would turn out to be a permanent impact on the polity in the state of Osun. You can’t fault that decision because any meaningful push you exert on society through the solid blocks of infrastructural development, the youth and sports, would invariably touch the soul of society in the future. In other words you can’t develop and progress without addressing challenges in those critical areas.
Then as the year 2014 broke, Daily Independent newspaper unveiled its Man of the Year in keeping with its tradition of more than a decade. Its board of editors picked Rauf Aregbesola from a tough crowd of achievers that included accomplished private sector players, performing governors, ministers, politicians and legislators from the ranks of the opposition and ruling party.
In an engaging and dispassionate discourse, Daily Independent argued that Aregbesola deserves the honor because no other public officer has applied as much distinctive initiative to re-engineer society as Aregbesola has done. He has changed the concept of governance, the paper’s editors argued.
I need to quote them at length for us to grab the depth of their appreciation of what the Governor has bestowed on Osun and Nigeria
This is what the editors said: “Aregbesola’s belief in the sanctity of the rule of law is exemplary. Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, on the platform of the then Action Congress (AC) contested for the Governorship of Osun State in the April 2007 elections, and won.
To be so declared, however, took close to four years of what must go down as one of the most titanic mandate recovery legal battles of all time, and a moment for the manifestation of the omnipotence of the Almighty God and his steadfastness in support of those who rely on Him.
“Having gone through the tribunal of first instance, an appeal and a retrial tribunal, the second appeal court, delivering judgment on October 26, 2010, declared Aregbesola governor and ordered he be sworn in the next day.
“Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, since assuming office as Governor of the State of Osun on October 27, 2010, has redefined the meaning of governance in the public sector, not just with symbolic posturing, but real and sustainable interventions that will presently enhance the quality of life of everyone that lives or works in the State of Osun.
Rebranding of the state as the Ipinle Omoluabi (State of the Virtuous) started from himself, adopting the title Ogbeni, simply Mister, in deference to the singular Excellency of the Almighty God.
In just over a year, the chronicle of his achievements is astounding, and may be summarised as a chain of “O-Models”, the most astonishing being the engagement of 20,000 youth in the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme within his first 100 days in office; an accomplishment without precedence that has become the model for others to follow.
“Rauf is a born strategist. Throughout his life, whether as a pupil, student or career man; political appointee or Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola has applied the art and science of strategy to ensure success in all endeavours in which he is engaged. He strategised and was outstanding as a student. He strategised and was efficient and effective as a career man.
He strategised and was accomplished as a grassroots politician. He strategised and was excellent as a commissioner in Lagos State. He strategised to reclaim his mandate when he was rigged out in the race to offer selfless service to the good people of Osun. He strategised to lay a sound foundation for a regenerated Osun State knowing that sustainable development does not happen with ‘quick fix’ methods, tools, and techniques.
He is strategising to position Osun and the good people of the state appropriately in the geo-economic milieu of Nigeria. He is a fervent believer in the dictum that strategists do not fail and so will not fail the people of Osun.
“Committed to a better, egalitarian society, Aregbesola, though fully anxious to build a society with massive physical infrastructures that promote better living, believes in first pursuit of those human values that can pave the way for the emergence of that total man, who is socially responsible.
Hence his dogged pursuit of programmes extra-curricular schemes, such as the Calisthenics, Omoluabi Boys and Girls Club, and other schemes aimed at re-orientating the youths to channel their energies towards a society where the promotion of the common, collective goods will dominate the crazy pursuit of the good of the self.”
Honours that are heaped on men and women of ideas are welcome when they come from individuals and groups who have set themselves the task of guiding society through constructive criticism and encouragement. That was the point the famous French writer was making in the quote at the beginning of this essay.
What then is the ultimate honour for a public officer upon whom so much laurel has been heaped? I believe the logical step is for the citizens to reelect him and allow a consolidation of the achievements that have attracted uncommon universal acclaim.
Barrister Oyatomi is the Director of Publicity, Research & Strategy, All Progressives Congress (APC), State of Osun.