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Aregbesola: Crying Wolf About Phantom Religious Divides

THE LOVE MOB - Governor Aregbesola mobbed by ecstatic crowd of students at Iwo Baptist High School

By Toriola Oyekusibe

For the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, the uniform controversy at the Baptist High School, Iwo, was a sore point in recent time that he would probably want to leave quickly behind. Ogbeni, as the easy going governor is popularly called, shares a lot in common Governor, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State– both great performers, progressive minded, courageous, dogged and not afraid to step on any ones toes in the course of their many reforms.

As a regular visitor to Osun since 2008, this commentator as an appreciative and concerned observer has seen enough on the ground and so thinks the governor does not deserve the furore generated by the uniform saga. Verifiable evidence abounds of the impressive work of transformation and modernisation the governor has done all over the State.

It is unfortunate that the country has continued to allow itself held down by the dogmas of religion and ethnicity. Certain acts of our leaders as good intentioned or as vile as they can be are often seen through these narrow minded eyes while the army of followers has no qualms drumming up unsolicited support for their brother or sister in faith or for a kinsman no matter the dimension such dubious acts of public officials work against the collective goals and aspirations of the vast majority. The country would be a better place for all to live in if the actions, conduct and policies of public officials are not weighted by these sentiments. After all, poverty, which is a major offshoot of the corrupt practices of these officials, spares no one irrespective of their creed or ethnic background.

Being a Christian by faith – I would rather have an honest, dynamic astute Muslim leader who knows his onions and serves his people well than a fellow Christian leader who is incompetent and playing the religious and ethnic card to hold on to his office.

These sentiments will not put food on the table nor will it bring regular power supply – the country’s major albatross, it will not ensure good health-care for the teeming population, it will not bring good roads and effective transportation nor generally the good things of life that ensure high standard of living. By voting massively behind two Muslim candidates in the 1993 presidential elections, Nigerians showed in the past that it was not all about religion but about alleviation from poverty and they identified with those they believed could perform and transform their lot.

The country is getting increasingly divided along religious and ethnic lines with religious leaders and tribal chieftains who are supposed to know better fanning members of divisiveness. It’s a shame. The North is searching for a Nigeria’s president who is of the North because the region feels cut short in the present dispensation. Similar searches are going on all over the country to “appease” local government, sensational districts, religious persuasions which have not produced the governor or the Senator. Some religious leaders to produce a Christian governor for example have mandated Lagos.

But for the preponderance of thieving, divisive, selfish leaders, religion and ethnicity would not have too much relevance in the matters of governance. The sing song all over the land is “it is our turn” (to steal from the public till)? How unfortunate. The country requires leaders who are builders that can bring all the people together through good governance, dynamic selfless leadership, and transparency with accountability to the people. A true good leader would not need to play any mischievous religious or ethnic card because as a rallying point, everyone would see him or her as “our governor, our president”, before any other consideration.

We speak so much that our presidential system is modeled on the American system. It has been a perfect case of name-dropping because we are far from the ideals of the American system in which the right candidates are identified before issues of state and religion are remembered. Only a system such as this could produce a Barrack Obama, an offspring of ex-slaves. It’s all over Africa because even in Kenya, Obama would probably have been known for his oration and big-big grammar as a legislator or an activist!! Only a system that allows equal opportunities to all can gain from the greatest leadership potentials.

In Osun State, political forces wearing the togas of religious bigots are working hard to undermine the impressive achievements of one of the best performing governors in the country. It is not how a governor or president dresses that makes him a good or bad leader. Some public commentators in recent write-ups even detest even the governor’s mode of dressing and labeled him as a Taliban. The governor’s humility and simplicity are ready qualities that announce his amiable personality and his mode of dressing is just one way to express it for the same reason, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State would always want to be identified of his pedigree as a labour leader and dress in the famous Khaki attire as a comrade. In any case, the writer would have performing governor dressed the way he is rather than in silk Italian suits or flowing Agbada and is not performing. Conversely, that a public officer wears cassock does not mean the public till is safe with him.

The Aregbesola administration has been able to bring about pragmatic transformation in the various sectors of governance and compared with previous administrations in the state, there has been much impact and improvement. For example, some of the initiative for transforming the state’s education sectors has been yielding steady improvements in pupils/students’ performance at primary and secondary school levels in both internal and external examinations. Whilst the state came 35th and 32nd in 2009 and 2010 respectively under the previous administration in the National performance in WAEC/NECO Examinations, it improved to 18th in 2011. Osun State representatives have performed very well in several National and Regional competitions in the primary, junior and secondary school mathematics, physics and other competitions. The government has continued to meet the needs of indigent students though reduction of tuition fees in tertiary institutions, feeding school pupils through the school feeding programme, provisions of uniforms for public school students, increase of bursary and for indigene students, the introduction of E-learning tablets in the state and reconstruction of public schools are among several other laudable achievements in education.

The government has also been able to reduce youth unemployment in the state through the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYEMS). It has introduced several other reforms such as e-governance to ensure openness in governance, public trust, public participation and collaboration.

Perhaps, the most endearing aspects of the Ogbeni reforms in the state are the social orientation and the egalitarianism thrust. The poor are well provided for and given a sense of belonging, which is absent in most other governments throughout the country.
A pertinent question to ask: is Aregbesola really a zealot or fundamentalist? Is he out to Islamize Osun State? A fundamentalist definitely has no tolerance for other religions and would not respect other religious viewpoints or associate with adherents of other faiths. Boko Haram offers a good example.

The deputy governor and several aides in his administration are also Christians. Some time ago, he hosted a PAN – Yoruba Conference aimed at forging Yoruba integration across the globe. He is also presently involved in the building of 200,000 Christian Ecumenical Centre in Ilesha, which commenced in December 2010 long before the crisis snowballed. He had enlisted for the project the support of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye. Recently, he went on pilgrimage to Oke Maria to pray alongside some of his most vicious political opponents.

To be surrounded by people of other faiths and to have taken part in various exercises of other religions shows that he is tolerant in his personal religious affairs. These are not qualities of a religious zealot. The governor has been grossly misunderstood because of his faithful adherence to his faith and his critics are making a capital of it in an election year. There is no doubt that he fervently loves and practices his Islam faith on account of which some commentators have called him an Imam. But he does not hate the other religions and would not stop anyone from practicing their own faith when his has not stopped his close aides.

It is understandable that Christians of whom the writer is one especially the Baptist Convention do not want ancient landmarks removed from the Baptist High School. But beyond this posturing, many Christian leaders in Nigeria today can be likened to the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus Christ labeled as hypocrites in the Bible. They don’t see anything wrong in acts of injustice, maladministration, corruption, and wasteful government spending as long as they are benefitting from them.

They are hobnobbing with political leaders to enrich themselves. President Goodluck Jonathan has been junketing from Church to Church and not one of those pastors has been bold enough to tell him (amongst others) of his wasteful spending of Nigeria’s resources with the eleventh plane about to be added to his presidential fleet. These leaders have lost the right to be the moral conscience of the society. Unless these church leaders are implementing the script of the opposition, the writer expected them to support and encourage the governor on his good work in the state in a country where good performing governments are like oases in the desert. Even then, Christendom has been sharply divided against itself in so many ways.

Aregbesola is certainly not a Saint as any other mortals and political leaders. His greatest weak point is allowing his controversial nature speak louder than his true good intentions and acts and having been unable to assuage the fears of Christian leaders in the state, accommodate them and letting them know that he means well for them and all Osun people.

The response of the government machinery to the barrage of orchestrated phantom attacks was (strangely) operationally inept and strategically pedestrian. As the controversy brewed, the state government should have come out decisively before now to stop the practice though the governor in a recent address stated that the government did not approve the use of hijab in any School at any time. To ensure discipline and good conduct, all the students ought to wear uniform. As a leader, Ogbeni has to give and take.

The governor as leader and father of the state should also try to carry the Christian faithful along and continually reassure them that the government protection of their rights of worship. The state government could also review the policy of reclassification and mergers of schools to allow harmony. As done successfully in Lagos, Mission schools could be handed over to their owners to manage themselves, spend their own money on them and dictate their terms.

Sometimes, some of the best programmes of the greatest leaders are not appreciated at first until the passage of time. The “Jakande” houses in Lagos were much derided but today are lauded and relevant. Besides, it is inevitable not to step on big toes in order to have a lasting legacies established in any system.

–– Oyekusibe, a journalist, writes from Osogbo.

Short URL: http://www.osundefender.org/?p=153603

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on Mar 8 2014. Filed under AFRICA, FEATURE, FOR THE RECORDS, Letter To The Editor, MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS, News Across Nigeria, Osun News, POLITICS.
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