How Not To Handle Aregbesola By Banji Ojewale

An observer returned from the People’s Republic of China some years after the Great Revolution of Mao Tse-Tung in 1949. He told the incredible story of the social and economic transformation of the century. He said the Chinese society appeared to be peopled by a different type of humanity altogether after the revolution.

According to him, the period the Chinese leader used to isolate the country from the rest of the world after the overthrow of the old system had been applied to instill discipline in the citizens as well as to construct massive infrastructure that could lead the Communist nation far into the future. How prescient was his observation! For, nearly 70years after Chairman Mao Tse-Tung’s revolution the enormous substructure the man erected has remained the solid platform successive generations of Chinese leaders and citizens have built on to forge China into a superpower today.

Western analysts have predicted that China will overtake the United States as the world’s economic giant before 2050.But the observer we referred to above added that China’s experience under Mao wasn’t a painless one. He took the country through a furnace to arrive at the product that has today become the envy of all the globe.

There were travails and birth pangs. There were upheavals and wars. There was post-revolution betrayal and infighting.These hard realities of the evolution of modern China came to my mind as I reflected on the current hardships of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of the State of Osun. He has not been able to pay salaries and allowances of civil servants for some eight months. It’s the same with the aged retirees.

Such is the situation that there is a fatuous call for the impeachment of Aregbesola if he would not go on his own.Serving civil servants and senior superannuated citizens are protesting, carrying placards through the streets of Osogbo the capital asking the House of Assembly to sack the governor.

In the meantime, there has been an oddity: a top judicial officer in the payroll of the government Justice Oloyede Folahanmi has fired a petition to the lawmakers asking them to hang Aregbesola for “mismanaging” the resources of Osun such that he doesn’t have enough money to pay the workers and pensioners.The opposition People’s Democratic Party has unsheathed its sword(did it ever sheathe it?), ready for a kill. What the party didn’t get at the poll it is seeking to clinch taking advantage of the wage crisis.

It is in league with so-called civil society groups to bring down Aregbesola.But these protesters and critics miss the point. Yes we must not fail to sympathize with the workers and senior citizens who can’t get paid because the government claims it has no money. They are not just owed one month or two of their salaries but several months, nearly ten. Yes we cannot but be angry, the same way a child would be angry with a father who would not give him food when he is hungry. Still, the way out isn’t to abrogate the father-son relationship.

The status as the elders in Yorubaland say BIBE ORI KO NI OGUN EFORI (you don’t chop off the head to cure your headache). Cutting off the head is what the protesters and critics suggest. But it is hardly the lasting escape route.We must give Aregbesola a benevolent hearing. He has put up a heroically celebrated performance, posting achievements that in the judgement of many constitute the cauldron from which the new Osun would emerge. You would pay some sacrificial price to leave an unproductive past behind.

The governor has been able to put a commanding stamp on almost every facet of life in Osun. He brought far-reaching changes to strategic sectors: education, arts and culture, the citizen’s way of life, transportation, civil service, the economy, agriculture and religion where he has become the only governor offering constructive and disinterested balance on the question of interfaith arbitration. I also disagree with the charge that Aregbesola should have worked with less speed and with fewer funds on infrastructure so he could save money for worker’s wages.

By this the critics say the governor has functioned at fatal breakneck pace and consumed every available money on his pet ideas in education, roads, airports, agriculture etc. But his giant strides in those sectors have enabled Osun to stand out from the crowd.

They have earned the state accolades, attracting attention, honours and investments from home and abroad. An international telecoms group has just opened shop in Osun with the prospects of producing devices and employing hundreds of citizens.

Would we rather that the outlay on these projects be spent on wages solely? That would be catering only for the present, without an eye to the future.Would we rather that we didn’t have Opon Imo O’meals, O’uniforms, O’yes? Mind you these schemes have a spiral effect on Osun society.

For instance O’uniforms has led to a garment factory empowering tailors and allied artisans to earn a living and to feed families numbering hundreds. O’meals has raised thousands of food vendors and poultry and cattle dealers who supply the students with daily intake of food under the government’s radical policy of nourishing Osun children.

Government’s ultimate relevance is when it is forward-looking, when it creatively exploits the resources of today to prepare grounds for the challenges of tomorrow’s society. This necessarily entails much painful experience. If all a government does is to wait for payday, without bothering about life after payday, it must consider itself a prodigal administration.

It must see itself as a waster of the future, an enemy of the future.I believe the people of Osun would understand Aregbesola, even if the present is painting painful pictures with relief finally coming from the central government. The future would prove the governor right as it did for Mao Tse-Tung.

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