In this chat with SEFIU AYANBIMPE, the Osun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Olumo Sunday Akere, speaks on the activities of the present administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola in the state. He dismisses the criticisms of the opposition, saying they are only making incoherent noises.
What changes would you say Osun State has witnessed within two years of the Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola's administration?
When we came on board, things were not working in all sectors of governance in the state. In the education sector, tuition was so high that it was difficult for children of ordinary citizen to send their children to school; food was not on the table of the people - every was in disarray, but when Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola took over the mantle of leadership, gradually things started changing positively. You will discover that for the first time, this is a government that took over and inherited all the machineries of the immediate past government and decided that they would not be sacked, including the Head of Service that had been there for seven and half years of the ousted administration. All the permanent secretaries that we inherited were allowed to continue their job until they retire. We can all see now that things are now moving very well in Osun; at least, we have been able to stabilize the economy, improve on the lives of the people, restore peace which was not there during the ousted administration when there was a reign of terror and political thugs took over the situation everywhere. We thank God now that people can now sleep with their two eyes closed. Apart from the developmental projects that you see everywhere, the peace that now reigns in Osun is even enough for us to say that there are a lot of changes.
Two years after, the opposition is still contesting the judgement that enthroned this administration, saying that the presiding judges were compromised; what is your reaction to this allegation?
It is very unfortunate that we are in a country where some people believe that they are above the law. There was a joke on the social network few days ago, where somebody said that 'the ACN has entered into a merger with the CPC, thank God things would work well in 2015 and they will be able to wrestle power', and the other man said, 'I don't think they can wrestle power, because the PDP is already merged with INEC'. That is the situation we found ourselves in Nigeria. Let us look at it from the angle of 2007 election. From simple reasoning, everybody knows that it is the result of elections in the urban centres that determines what happen in the rural area, because urban centres are where the children of those in rural areas live and they can enlighten their parents in the rural area on where they should vote to. Apart from that, the urban centre is where we have larger populations. In every major urban centre in Osun, our party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) won in that election, but it was in the rural areas that they used gun to harass, kill people and hijack ballot boxes that some of them claimed they won. We know that, at whatever level, they will complain because they know that they had failed the people and somebody is now here, and within two years there has been transformation in the state.
It is their funny way of deceiving the people, but unfortunately for them, people of Osun are now wiser; we have known their tricks and it can't work again. Even when they were there, we challenged them to work in the streets if they would not be stoned, but they could not do it, because they know they are a failure. They knew they never won any election and we have seen courageous judges, who are just and believe in the course of justice, that vindicated us and the people of the state. We know and they too know that they never believed in the course of justice and that is why every structure they put in place is being rejected by the court of law. Recently, a Court of Appeal in Akure also ruled that Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSSIEC) they claimed to put in place was illegal. They knew that they sat on an illegal government; the people know that everything about them is illegal and so their trick cannot work again. When the judgement that enthroned this administration was delivered on November 26, 2010 in Ibadan, the mammoth crowd of voters that trooped out to rejoice on that day was a clear indication that the judgement had just confirmed the wishes of the people. They knew they were living a borrowed time and our victory was well-deserved and it was based on the support we have from God and the people.
The opposition has been blaming Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the brain behind the series of court judgements in the South West that have not been in its favour; how do you see Tinubu in Yoruba politics?
Asiwaju Tinubu is a person I would described as a God-sent personality, because if not for him and the wisdom God gave him, by now, we would have been led astray. In 1999, when he came to contest for governorship election in Lagos State, some people felt they would not be able to control him and they tried everything to stop him, but they failed. That time, our party then, which was AD, won five states in the South West and subsequently, some people were trying to cajole us that we should support the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, being a Yoruba man. Because of his experience, he knew the antecedent of Obasanjo and he was careful in relating with the ex-president. In the subsequently election in 2003, because he was careful, he was only AD governor that won. Since then, he took over the re-organization repositioning of the party, which had tranformed to ACN. However, if you look at Nigeria politics generally, you will discovers that between 1999 and 2003, the main opposition party then was APP before it became ANPP, but the PDP used their influence and power to ensure that they whittle down the influence of the ANPP. During the 2007 election, it became our responsibility as a party to see how we can take over, to effect the desired change that people have been clamouring for. To the glory of God, we were able to get additional states including Edo, Ekiti, and Osun; and when the 2011 election came, God gave us Oyo and Ogun and now we have six states, and that gives us the position of the main opposition party. So, they will talk about Tinubu because they know that he cannot be influenced either with money, position and connection - for the fact that he has all of these. Whatever anybody can say, we know that he is God-sent and we know that he is going higher because he has fought tooth and nail to ensure that Yorubas are not totally enslaved.
The opposition recently came out to say that the Aregbesola government has done nothing and the performance of the ousted administration can only be beaten by an angel; how can you see that?
What do you expect; they are no longer relevant but they still want to be relevant and that is why they are talking. For the seven and half years they spent, they should come out and point at what they left behind as a legacy in terms of performance. Apart from the dualisation of Akoda/Old garage road, which was badly done, there is no other major achievement they can point to. It is because they are not shameful; they are not supposed to be talking. In Osun today, even a blind know that Aregbesola is working. Is it in the area of road construction, healthcare delivery, commerce, education, agriculture and infrastructural development generally? The present administration is working hard to transform Osun because that is our pact with the people. Talking about security, when we came, Osun could not boast of any Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and, to us, the ousted government deliberately refused to equip the police to fight crime so that the reign of terror can persist, but today Aregbesola's government has purchased five APCs and 30 patrol vehicles for the joint security force consisting of police and soldiers, which we have now in the Swift Action Squad (SAS). With what we have now, the security of lives and ,properties is now guaranteed and if anybody commits a crime in Osun, such person would be apprehended within a short time.
The efforts this government has been making to transform the education system is unrivalled. We have increased the grants to schools, we are rebuilding the schools, we are giving free new uniforms to students, we are giving teachers encouragement including giving them the opportunity to rise to the position of permanent secretary, just as we are giving them training. We have also reduced the schools fees in all the state-owned tertiary institutions among other things that we are doing on education.
Talking about road construction, presently, the government of Aregbesola is undergoing the rehabilitation and construction of 688 kilometres of road across all the local government areas in the state. There is no local government where this government is not constructing roads. In all the local government, we will have additional 310 kilometres of road that we will start working on as from January 2013 through our local government areas. We have revived the rail service in Nigeria and for your information, this service is free, which no government in Nigeria has been able to do in Nigeria. Apart from that, our elderly persons are now being given N10,000 every month and free health services. When our traducers were there, all our roads were death traps and none of the programmes I just highlighted was important to them then, but they just felt they should talk to keep themselves busy. Whatever they say, we remain committed to the development of Osun and we will never be distracted.
The opposition argue that the Yoruba are not in the mainstream politics and that being in mainstream is what can help the region; what do you say to this?
When we were in the mainstream for seven and half years, and Olusegun Obasanjo who we believe was our own was there, what was the benefit to Yoruba people? Mainstream noise is nothing other than fraud and the so-called mainstreamers know it, but they only use the mainstreaming noise to cajole us to get sufficient money that they will put into their own pockets. When Yoruba were not in the mainstream during the time of late Obafemi Awolowo, we were the leading light in the country and our region was the best in term of management, development, economy and every other thing you might think of. So, the so-called mainstreamers should stop shouting; we are okay with what we are doing; we want the region to be the best again. We are even believing God that ACN as a party will rule at the centre in the next political dispensation, and when it is time, we will show them how to rule this nation. The bane of this country is leadership and corruption and our party is the party than can change the situation.
Some believe that Aregbesola's government is giving the opposition alot of space to the extent that members of your party are joining them; don't you think that this development can affect your party and the present government?
Aregbesola is a genuine democrat who believes that everybody has the right to belong to any party they want, and we don't have to gag anybody. The noise they are making that our party members are joining them is nothing other than a ruse. It is a public knowledge that few weeks back, over 8,000 of the PDP members joined our party, ACN, from about 21 local governments in the state. We believe that with the development that the people in Osun are witnessing through the present administration, there is nothing the PDP is going to offer. Because they are in power at the Federal level, they will want to make so much noise so that their godfathers in Abuja will continue to pump money to them, but they know that they are not on ground and they can never be on ground.
Are you saying that the ACN is still popular as it was in 2011 when general elections were held?
Even more popular than when the general elections were held in 2011! The noise people were making was that we were spending close to six months and there was nothing on ground, but now, what they are saying is that the projects we are doing are too many, how are we going to be able to finish it? That tells you the efforts of this government in transforming the state. We are getting feedback from people which confirmed the popularity of our party.