August 9, 2014 was, in the State of Osun, a day of recompense. It was a day the Lord of Host arose in judgment on the side of the weak against the mighty arms of Federal might. My boss, Governor Rauf Aregbesola contested against President Goodluck Jonathan and won a decisive victory.
It was a victory made possible by the doughty people of our dear state who stood up against tyranny of power and made a choice that clearly spoke their disapproval of the trenchant aggression against their rights as free citizens.
The 2014 Osun governorship election was a modern day version of Jalumi War that witnessed the decisive defeat of an army of occupation and liberating the land of an occupied people locked down, repressed, intimidated and harassed by those who were paid from their taxes to protect them.
In my adult life and professional career, I have witnessed a number of governorship duels and I have participated in at least two to date. None had been as scary and confounding as the August 9, 2014 when the walls of Nigerian security virtually came down on all of us like a deluge.
About two weeks to the election, hooded operatives of the Department of State Security Service (DSS) streamed into Osun like bees with deafening sounds of their blaring sirens and gun shots. They created a staccato effect that forced my boss to openly condemn the attitude in a state reputed for peace and lowest crime rates in Nigeria.
Shortly after, soldiers, mobile policemen and men of the Counter Terrorism Squad were hauled into Osun in several Armoured Personnel Carriers. As at the election day, a source revealed that more than 80,000 security agents including soldiers were drafted to Osun.
In consequence, all roads leading to Osun were closed to vehicular and human traffic at 4.00 p.m. on Friday. The entire state was locked down by gun-wielding and stern looking operatives who left no one in doubt that they were ready for action to obey the orders of President Goodluck Jonathan when he came to seek support for the candidate of his party, Senator Iyiola Omisore.
As night fell on Friday August 8, 2014, operatives of DSS moved into the homes of chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) where they broke doors and shattered windows to arrest leaders of the state ruling party. The operatives were led into the homes of APC leaders by civilians who were suspected to be chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Across the 30 local governments, gunmen swooped on APC leaders and clamped them into detention. A clear and incontrovertible assassination attempt was made on Senator Bayo Salami when the operatives shattered the Government Reservation Area (GRA) home gate to forcefully gain entrance. With unpalatable ferocity, the armed men shot sporadically and held the entire Salami household panic-stricken. Salami, unknown to the gunmen, got wind of the plan to harm him and left his home for a safe hideout within the city hours before the gunmen arrived.
To ensure that his movement was not tracked, Salami switched off all his phones. Right in front of Salami’s house, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Media Aide to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and former Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Sunday Dare and one other person were not so lucky as they were arrested, assaulted and driven to the SSS state headquarters in Osogbo.
On arriving at the SSS headquarters, Lai Mohammed found dozens of APC chieftains who had earlier been arrested from their homes for no just cause and clamped into detention cells. Octogenarian legal practitioner, Barrister J. O. Fakayode was whisked from his Oke-Ila, Ifedayo Local Government home and brought to Osogbo in a palpable state of fear.
The APC leader was still mourning the loss of his child just about two weeks before the election when the gunmen stormed his country home.
All these did not deter the people of Osun who watched the ugly scenario played out and listened patiently to the boastful opposition PDP and their almost certain claim of victory over Governor Rauf Aregbesola and the APC.
They saw the entire drama of the absurd with distasteful silence and determined to punish their modern day traducers with their votes.
These are the same people whose children are in the public schools that Governor Aregbesola’s administration reclassified for efficient management, supervision and funding.
They are the self same parents whose wards numbering over 250,000 at the Elementary School level eat delicious and balanced meals every school day under the universally acclaimed O’Meals programme.
These same people have seen how their children who are in High Schools that Governor Aregbesola re-classified were given Opon-Imo (Tablet of Knowledge) that contained books on almost 60 subjects. Unable to fathom it, the opposition decried the innovative learning devise while the most voluble of our opponents who could hardly understand a computer operation called booting gave a warped verdict that it was an error.
The people know better and they saw their children bringing home the learning devise that made interactions with every topic with students a real time experience in a virtual classroom situation.
Observers and victims of security clampdown are also the people whose relations involved in emergency and/or auto-accident situation have been conveyed to government hospitals by the O’Ambulance personnel within a record time and at whatever location in the State of Osun.
Osun people who voted did not come from the moon. They heard Governor Aregbesola promise to create 20,000 jobs in 100 days and witnessed how he fulfilled this salient and near impossible promise being implemented with uncommon efficiency and finesse. Many families whose political affiliation was for PDP were surprised that their known relations enlisted into the Osun Youth Empowerment volunteer scheme without political consideration at a time that some leaders and chieftains of the ruling party unsuccessfully urged the Governor that the exercise should be made partisan to compensate for party loyalty.
A Governor whose policies and programmes are available and accessible to all without exceptions deserves nothing but appreciation and undiluted loyalty of the people whose mandate took him to office in the first place.
This, the Osun people gave in quantum on election day with courage and perseverance, diligence and obedience. They exercised their right of franchise in deciding who their leader is as opposed to the ravaging pranks of invaders.
Governor Aregbesola once declared that he came from the streets and the commoners who are on the streets day and night stood by him whether it was sunshine or rainfall. The Osun Governor is one man who has unrivalled ability to receive feedbacks from ordinary people.
Aregbesola is a Governor whose direct telephone numbers are found in virtually every street, town, village and household. He calls the ordinary people directly to learn from them the goings on in their neighbourhood. He has shocked members of his cabinet with information from their constituencies that they were not abreast of.
When a leader is closely knitted with the people he is leading, no wedge can be successfully drawn by his opponents between him and his electorate. This was not surprising as Aregbesola never forgot to let his friends and comrades know that his father was a carpenter while his Octogenarian mother is a popular kola nut seller in Atakunmosa market, Ilesa.
In his private life, I bear full and honest testimony to the fact that Governor Aregbesola is an austere person who disliked gluttonous consumption. He lives clean both in person and communication.
The highest ideals for which Governor Aregbesola is known are humility and Godliness.
The Osun helmsman is humble in his public and private lives. Apart from this, Governor Rauf Aregbesola is Godly, God-fearing and law abiding in his use of power and execution of policies. Those of us who are Christians can testify to his even handed disposition to people of all faiths. He does not disturb non-Muslims from practising the faith they believe in neither does he compel anyone to accept his world view.
In any intellectual discuss, Governor Aregbesola defers to the superior argument, fact and reasoning. If and when you disagree with him and your position is superior, Governor Aregbesola not only accepts your view, he adopts same as his and goes to town with it. He is good at building consensus and he consults widely with a broad spectrum of the society.
It was for these reasons that his programmes and policies were easily understood and appreciated by ordinary members of the public so much that when acidic critics came with half-truths and outright falsehood couched in the capsule of disinformation, the people were neither swayed nor changed from supporting their Governor in the hard battle for his re-election.
Attacks on Aregbesola became attacks on the people. When their support was most needed, they willingly gave it to him whatever the consequences. They dared the much dreaded federal might and its weapons of intimidation, harassment and flagrant violation of the 1999 Constitution.
How could people have forgotten that their children who were attending state-owned tertiary institutions have remained in school because Governor Aregbesola reduced the fees payable by more than 50 per cent? In no wise would Osun people forget that the successful execution of 10-kilometer road per Local Government delivered close to 300 kilometres of standard roads in nearly all neighbourhoods across the state.
Even the blind cannot deny the fact that Osogbo, Ilesa, Ile-Ife, Ikirun, Ede, Ikire, Ila-Orangun and other major towns are wearing new looks. Residents of Osogbo cannot forget July 10, 2010 in a hurry when massive flood virtually submerged Osogbo and swept many people away. Parts of the state capital were cut off for several hours by the angry flood.
Upon taking his oath of office, Governor Aregbesola deployed swamp bogeys to carry out de-flooding exercise while also declaring an environment emergency period during which residents cleaned their surroundings and refuse vans provided by the government helped people to dispose it off. Since then, flood had not occurred in Osogbo and other major towns.
Residents of houses located close to water plane who had lived under the apprehension of flooding and its attendant disaster now sleep with their eyes closed.
Osun people saw how Governor Aregbesola had stunned them with the volume of development projects going on that have made the state a major construction yard. With Gbongan Junction/Abere Dual Carriageway, Osogbo East Bye Pass and the Orita Olaiya-Oke-Fia Isiaka Adeleke Boulevard in advanced stages of completion, the people simply allied with a performer and shunned the impostors who sought their support.
So, when the Abuja storm troopers came in their choppers hoping to pick Osun like a hawk will pick a chicken, Osun people merely watched and calmly resolved to teach the impostors a lesson of their lives. The people sang their Dagunro Song thus: “Dagunro ko se je, ije ti e je tete, e ma je dagunro, dagunro ko see je” meaning the thorny vegetable is not edible like other vegetables. You dare not eat the thorny vegetable like you eat other vegetables. Ordinarily, Dagunro in Yoruba parlance literarily means “Stop the war”. There is a particular plant so named that is surrounded by thorns which causes severe pains when one runs in the bush against it.
Hunters and bush farers avoid Dagunro like plague. Past cooks that mistakenly cooked Dagunro as meal had lived to regret it. The song of caution to the errant invader in Yoruba land thus became the Dagunro song. Once when the song is drummed into a scene, all actors caution each other and adjust their acts to comply with the ominous warning contained in the song.
On August 9, 2014, history repeated itself when federal troopers attempted to cross River Osun as it happened during the historically famous Jalumi war when invaders licked their wounds and never attempted another such act again. It is not surprising that Benjamin Disraeli said “Those who fail to learn from history relieve it”. Osun people have again taught their invaders another lesson of history. Hopefully, they will never repeat their folly.
Gbenga Fayemiwo is a Senior Special Assistant (Press), Office of the Governor, Osogbo, State of Osun.