OSÙN: THIS OYETOLA IS DIFFERENT
By Ismail Omipidan
For close to two decades, I have been involved in the business of gathering, processing and disseminating information to the public. Although I still did the same thing for the three years plus that I served in Osun as the Chief Press Secretary to the immediate past Governor of the State, Adegboyega Oyetola , it was primarily to promote and propagate the activities and leadership philosophies of Oyetola.
Oyetola is one of the disciples of Chief Bisi Akande’s politics of prudent management of scarce resources to deliver positive results that people hardly expect from such a challenged situation. I see Osun’s current situation as a lesson to all and sundry. Oyetola remains an open book for any public official desirous of selfless service to the people.
He became governor at a time when some public affairs analysts proposed the merger of Osun with any bouyant State in the region to rescue it from insolvency. But Oyetola within four years changed the Osun narrative positively, building the IGR from N10 billion to N20 billion.
Yes, he is calm. A state like Osun needs a calm and calculated leader because if you have a leader that is unnecessarily excited, you run into problems.
Governing Osun requires a cool, calm and calculated human being that will think outside the box to be able to ensure the state is kept afloat. He paid salaries and pensions as and when due. He did that for four years without borrowing a dime from any bank. Yet, he built infrastructure and revolutionised the Health sector in the State. He got his priorities right and did not bite more than the resource of the state could carry. It is on record that he paid N97 billion from the debts he inherited from his predecessor. Just imagine the additional wonders he would have performed were he to have access to huge funds.
He introduced the monthly feeding of 30, 000 vulnerable persons. Just imagine if the scheme was sustained. It would have fit in perfectly in this time of palliatives to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor and his team had noted the need to diversify the economy of the state because he was desirous of changing the narrative of Osun from a civil service state, to one bubbling with commerce and industries.
With the reform the government carried out in the mining sector, if and when it is sustained and built upon, Osun will no longer rely on Federal Government allocation in the nearest future.
Also, as part of efforts to help industrialise the state, the government under Oyetola partnered with the Nigeria Air Force to fix our airport. This comes with a lot of efforts. The Air Force is building an Aviation City in Osun, the first of its kind in Nigeria and Africa; and you know what this means. He did that again without spending a dime from the State coffers. I say this with all sense of modesty: since he became governor in 2018 and until he left in 2022, he did not spend 10 kobo on the Osun Airport project but work is ongoing there and in no distant future, we will no longer travel to Ibadan, Akure, or Ilorin to fly to destinations of our choice in the country.
It will be very difficult to get someone as prudent as Oyetola. There was a time we had an emergency to travel to Abuja and because it was an emergency, we couldn’t get a commercial flight that would accommodate us all at once, and they came up with the option of a chartered flight and the least they got was N10 million. The governor shouted, “Ha, this is too much, ten million naira just to take us to Abuja?” For me, it was strange. We eventually broke into three groups; some went through Ibadan, some through Akure and some through Ilorin. I’m not sure there are too many governors who will sacrifice their own personal comfort because they want the state to grow — very few.
Until I met him for the first time in my entire life in July 2019, I never had any close contact with any governor or governorship candidate of Osun since 1999.
Before I met him in July 2019, I had spoken to him on the phone once to crosscheck some information about a story I was doing at the time. It was about two weeks to the primary election that produced him as candidate in 2018. I was humbled by the fact that he picked the call at first dial from a total stranger, a rarity with most big men of his status.
And he ended the conversation by saying: “Endeavour to be coming home regularly so you can contribute your own quota to the growth and development of the State.”
As fate would have it, he became the facilitator of my being in Osun to serve. Alhamdullah!
Considering my long years in the North where I had stayed for 42 unbroken years, I had thought that if I would ever have any opportunity to serve in the public service, it would either be in Abuja, which I had tasted in any case as a Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to a Deputy President of the Senate, or any of the States in the North where I have strong links. Osun had therefore never been on the radar for me.
But my appointment rekindled my hope in Nigeria that one truly does not need to know anyone in the corridors of power to be given an opportunity to serve. It also validates Oyetola’s disposition as a leader who not only believes in merit, but is also passionate about Osun’s growth and development.
If your definition of a politician is someone who believes in violence, lies and propaganda, then I tell you that Oyetola is not your kind of politician. With my association with him in the last three years plus now, I have come to realise that you can be a politician and still be true to your conscience. You can be a politician and still govern with the fear of God. That is what has happened as far as governance is concerned under Oyetola. He doesn’t believe in desperation, and all these came to play not only in his governance of the state but also in the 2022 governorship election.
I’m sure a lot of people would have expected him to militarise the state because of his second term ambition and unleash violence on the state; but he is not that kind of a politician. With Oyetola, there is hope and place for decent men and women who want to play politics in Nigeria.
Omipidan, a journalist and Public Affairs Analyst writes from Ile Olorisa Compound, Eyindi, Ila Orangun