DIVINE providence, coupled with a very selfless urge to serve the people, primarily informed my incursion, as they would say, into “the murky water” of politics. But at the same time, I must emphasise that politics in itself flows in my family. My paternal grandmother, Madam Adeboyin, was one of the outstanding Iyalodes that Edeland has ever produced. Vibrant and effervescent! She gave birth to my father, late Balogun of Edeland and a senator in the Second Republic, Papa Raji Ayoola Adeleke of blessed memory. I believe in part that the commitment to serve the people was reinforced by the past activities of my illustrious lineage.
As of 1989, I saw the need to join the foray to participate actively in the politics of old Oyo State, out of which Osun State was later carved out. My university days in the United States witnessed students union activities, which has become part and parcel of me. I took the plunge and was determined to prove my mettle, though I was the youngest of all the contestants, where we had the likes of late Chiefs Kolapo Isola, Haruna Elewi, Chief Oderinu, Honourable ‘Dosu Ladipo, among others.
I travelled the length and breadth of old Oyo State, making overtures to the electorate as to my intention to serve them. Thank God, that even as of today I have friends in far-flung areas like Ago Are, Ago-Amodu, Tede, Saki, Okeho, Eruwa, Iganna. When, eventually, Osun State was created, the job became a lot easier, as I had fewer places to touch in campaigning for the governorship race. Osun is a well knit state, with clusters of towns. Hence, campaigning was a bit easier. The primaries took place under the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and by God’s grace, I won the general election and became the first elected executive governor of Osun State on January 2, 1992 at a memorable occasion held at Osogbo township stadium.
As for my blueprint when I resumed office as governor in 1992, the priority was to get the staff deployed from old Oyo State to settle down to work, because the bedrock of any administration is its human resources. Hence, we were determined to make the new state grow in leaps and bounds. We made efforts to give the civil servants all the encouragement necessary, though accommodation posed a lot of problems. But we succeeded in laying a solid foundation. And Osun today could boast of one of the best civil service in the country.
One important lesson which our government learnt from the past development plans in Nigeria is the inadequate coordination and integration between physical plan and economic development plans. We discovered early enough in the life of our administration that Osun is highly urbanised and the conglomeration of the satellite towns was used to an advantage. The government I led went ahead and built a state capital that was functional and beautiful. A Capital Territory Development Authority was established for the planning and development of the 40,000 hectares of land designated as the Osun State Capital Territory.
A master plan was worked out by our administration, through which areas were marked out for development into residential, industrial, agricultural and forestry purposes. In pursuit of the urban renewal programme of our administration between 1992 and 1993, the first thing we did was to build a ring road (that is today called Oba Adesoji Aderemi Road) to remove the flow of traffic from the inner city to ease passage of commuters coming from Ikirun, Iwo, Ilobu, Halleluyah and Dada Estate and going to Ile-Ife and beyond.
We also built the Isiaka Adeleke Freeway to ease traffic flow for people going from Oke-fia axis to Ilesa road, through Odi-Olowo, Asubiaro, Isale –Osun. To achieve this goal, I went to the World Bank in Washington and obtained a loan with which we started the Ring Road.
Through the same World Bank loan, our administration was also able to open up the Ojo-Ara-Ejigbo road, Apomu-Orile Owu among others. I am happy that the roads under reference were completed by succeeding administrations, thus opening up the areas to faster economic progress.
I was totally poised for a new era in the state, but the abrupt termination of our government by the late Sani Abacha junta, brought an end to the realisation of some of these goals.
But I thank God that succeeding administrations also contributed immensely to the urbanisation of towns in Osun State particularly the urban renewal programmes being embarked upon by Mr Rauf Aregbesola’s government. It is my prayer that he will see all his laudable projects to fruition for the benefits of the people at the grassroots.
As for the agitation for the creation of Osun State, I must commend the laudable roles of the founding fathers of which my own father – Papa Raji Ayoola Adeleke, was one. Together with late Chief Kola Balogun of Otan Ayegbaju, they co-chaired meetings which were always held at my father’s house in Ede with Chief Tunji Abolade as secretary and Chief Diran Fagbougbe as publicity secretary, among other foremost traditional rulers and other eminent citizens. They fought tooth and nail to see that Osun State was created by the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. It was a Herculean task, as so many innuendoes came up, among which was where the capital would be sited. But at the end of the day, sanity prevailed and Osogbo was chosen.The founding fathers of Osun State should not be relegated to the background. They should be given due recognition and honour befitting their efforts. For without them, perhaps there would not be anything called Osun State today.
Scarcity of funds was among the major challenges that my administration faced at inception. My maiden budget, christened Foundation Budget, was N964,102,850.00, amd was meant for provision of free and functional education for our children; eradication of diseases through provision of free basic health services; agriculture, among other. These lofty ideas were threatened with the reduction of the share of state governments in the federation account from 30 per cent to 25 per cent.
We tapped into other internally generated revenues, without hardship on the people. I should also recall that our government was able to turn the satellite campuses of Ibadan Polytechnics at Iree and Esa-Oke to full-fledged polytechnic and colleges of technology, while not losing sight of the upgrading of colleges of education at Ilesa and Ila.
Another challenge we faced as a government was the absorption of school teachers and non-teaching staff of Osun origin who were forced to return home, thereby bringing additional financial burden. Cabinet formation in my time was a seamless exercise. Men and women of integrity were brought on board, presented to the state Hose of Assembly for screening and they performed optimally. Round pegs were in most cases, put in round holes and where there were lapses, I did not hesitate to apply the big stick no matter whose ox was gored.
Osun State, in my profound judgment, has not done badly since its creation. The military administrators did their best, while I commend successive civilian administrators. Chief Adebisi Akande was able to put up one of the best secretariats in Nigeria today. It is in fact second to none. Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was pragmatic and courageous in establishing a state university, with satellite campuses in different zones of the state. He tried his best under the prevailing circumstances that he found himself. Government is a continuum.
Mr Aregbesola, I should say, is giving his best to the service of Osun State. He has put forth giant strides that will only be appreciated after his departure from office. Leaders with conviction often shape the outcomes in that arena. Politics is flooded with moments of joy, excitement and anxiety, hence the Abacha coup that ‘swept’ me from office was an act of God. The almighty puts into position of authority, whoever He wills and removes from office, whomsoever He wills. To God alone belongs the sovereignty of the heaven and the earth. So, I have no regrets leaving office via the Abacha coup. After all, I am alive to tell the story.
As for my message to Osun at 25, I call on all citizens at home and in the diaspora to continue to contribute their quotas to the accelerated development of the state. Concerted efforts should be put in place by every well-meaning Osun indigene to transform the state positively for the benefits of the underprivileged and the voiceless, who are in the majority. Let us rally round our leaders, who should in turn, show compassion and love to the governed.
In Osun, we still have many hurdles to cross. We should re-discover ourselves and know that self-help is the best help. We should stop buck passing, grab the bull by the horns and move Osun many steps ahead of its peers. At 25, Osun should be a giant, a shining star; a reference point in everything progressive and developmental. Let us learn to love ourselves and continue to sharpen our destinies and those of generation yet unborn, so that in the next few years, our dear state would be Dubai of Africa. Yes, we can! We should. Happy celebration.
- Senator Adeleke, the first executive governor of Osun State, is chairman, Senate Committee on Capital Market.