A former spokesperson of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Osun State, Taiwo Akeju, is currently the Commissioner for Political Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations. He speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI on why Governor Gboyega Oyetola reversed the education policy he inherited, what the return of former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and others to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) means in the state, among others.
You have been Commissioner for a couple of months, holding a critical portfolio in the Osun State government. How has it been so far?
To the glory of God, it has been so nice and eventful. The government is going on smoothly and we are doing our very best to make sure the state remains peaceful. The political atmosphere in the state is excellent and very cordial. We are meeting with all stakeholders and we are reiterating the need for the atmosphere of peace in the state to continue. Most of the political parties in the state, particularly the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) executives, are in touch with me.
Of course, Governor Gboyega Oyetola, has shown good leadership that is well commended by everybody. He carries people along in the running of the state. He maintains an open door policy and is very transparent. If you want to see him, you book an appointment and in 24 hours, you will see him, if there are no emergency things to attend to. He is a darling of the people of the state. It is reassuring that Osun will be better and the governor is giving hope to the hopeless.
The governor reversed some of the policies of his predecessor, particularly in the area of education, reverting to 6-3-3-4 education system, abolishing the single uniform thing and others. This development has been interpreted to mean a gulf between Governor Oyetola and Mr Rauf Aregbesola.
To be best of my knowledge, there is no crisis between Governor Oyetola and Mr Rauf Aregbesola. The governor is at peace with everybody, including Aregbesola who is an outstanding leader. What really happened was that during the campaign and the countdown to the 2018 governorship election in the state, a lot of people, particularly those in the opposition, made the educational policy in the state under Aregbesola a campaign issue. And of course, the governor, then candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election, had to defend it because he was part and parcel of the previous government as the Chief of Staff. After the election, the governor was on a thank-you tour of the nine federal constituencies in the state. The government asked the people what they wanted government to do for them. We believe the era of a governor sitting down and forcing projects down the people is over in the state. People’s views are always factored in the decision making process of the current government in the state. In unison, all the federal constituencies urged the government to have another look at the education policy of the state and see how the state can be in tune with the federal arrangement on education. That was the consensus of opinion gathered during the tour. A very credible international organisaiton with high integrity, DFID, after the tour, also told us that did their research and discovered that for the future of the students, we must do have a second look at the policies. In line with the yearning of the people, the State Executive Council discussed the matter and referred the matter to experts led by Professor Olu Aina, a renowed educationist, Professor Ibidapo Obe, General Alani Akinrinade, Pat Obayan, an erudite educationist with UNESCO.
They were tasked to look at the education policy to see what can be done to improve it. They came up with the recommendations they felt would improve the fortunes of the state in the area of education. The recommendations were also brought to the State Executive Council and we critically looked at them. Some of the recommendations were consequently adopted in the best interest of the people of the state. Before now, Osun was using the 4-5-3-4 system with the issue of middle school. This structure was put aside and we embraced the 6-3-3-4 system which is in conformity with what obtains in all the states of the federation. Again, since we returned to 6-3-3-4, there have been a lot of commendations. UNESCO wrote a very powerful congratulating the government for the decision. Some donor agencies are also in support of the decision because we have missed a lot of things. For example, the state has not been able to access its fair share of UBEC funds. The reversal has opened up a lot of things for the state in the area of education and people are happy. The reforms being done by the Oyetola administration have attracted praise even form unusual quarters. For people to know we were out to erase Aregbesola’s legacy, we retained the Opon Imo initiative with a resolve to strengthen it. That is the way to go now. All public examinations are now computer-based. So, the knowledge tablet is something the current government has sustained and will surely improve upon. We commended Aregbesola for doing it. The government house has been like a Mecca, as people have been coming to shower praises on the governor for doing a good job. It shows the reversal is something the people of Osun have been yearning for. Go to town and feel the mood of the people of the state.
Aregbesola did a lot of things for the state as governor. For example, the state anthem and the coat of arms he created for the state. Almost all the states have adopted this initiative now. We are not changing these things. What Oyetola did was in the best interest of Osun people. Even Aregbesola himself said if Oyetola felt some of the polices he put in place were not in consonance with his belief, he was at liberty to change them.
So, there is no crisis anywhere. The two leaders talk every day and they are best of friends. Aregbesola is very happy with Governor Oyetola. There is no political undertone.
Is the current government going to continue with other projects initiated by Aregbesola like the airport project and others?
Some of the lofty projects of Aregbesola we are going to continue. Look at the roads in Osun. We are concentrating on the roads now. The Minister of Works was in the state recently and he commended the good roads in the state, particularly the Gbogan-Ife interchange. It was Aregbesola’s idea. Oyetola’s government is an offshoot of Aregbesola’s. So, we will continue with some of the lofty things he started. Aregbesola built massive road infrastructure in Osun. His place in the history of the state is well assured.
The return of former governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and former Secretary to the State Government, Chief Fatai Akinbade and their loyalists to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should send jitters down the spine of those of you in the APC government in the state.
No reason whatsoever for us to be afraid. The people you mentioned have always been together with their people in PDP. During the last elections, they were together and they were roundly beaten during the National Assembly election. We had two Senators, they had one and for the House of Representatives, we had six, they had three. During the state assembly election, out of 26 seats, we had 23, they had just three. During the presidential election, we beat them silly. We are not losing any sleep over their coming together. They can’t be trusted by the people again. They are not going to impart anything on the people. The trust of the people of the state is with Governor Oyetola. Their coming together will come to zero.
But PDP gave the APC a run for its money in the governorship election in the state in 2018, it took an alliance with former deputy governor, Senator Iyiola Omisore, to survive PDP’s onslaught. The opposition party looks stronger now to challenge the APC in the state.
We are in a democracy and so opposition must thrive for democracy to be said to have lived out its credo. The opposition must have their say and we are happy they are doing that. Let them gather and consolidate. We know one another in Osun politics. How many politicians vote at elections? What is the number of politicians compared to the people of the state generally? Their coming together can’t change the minds of the people of the state. People will vote based on our records and achievements. We have a governor who is steering the ship of state aright and people can go to bed and sleep. Governor Oyetola is transparent and there is a new hope in Osun now. I am waiting to see what PDP will use as campaign strategy in the state. In Osun now, salaries are being paid fully and as an when due, between 25 and 27 of every month. Pensioners are receiving their pension the same date as serving civil servants. Go to the town and see the road revolution going on. The healthcare system is excellent.We built between two and three healthcare facilities in each ward. Security is topnotch. The people said they wanted Amotekun and we have given them. At any rate, heavy weights don’t win elections. We have performed and we are grass-rooted. I can assure you that with the reforms going on in the state, Governor Oyetola will have more than 78 per cent of the votes when the chips are down. We don’t any distraction because the governor is performing and is working day and night to deliver on his promises to the people who elected him.
How viable is Osun State now? I recall the state was finding it difficult to pick so many bills in the last government and a lot of money was being deducted from the state’s federal allocations as a consequence of too much borrowing.
The last government invested heavily on building road and education infrastructure. The state is very viable, I can assure you. We all know there is paucity of funds everywhere, not in Osun alone. But the governor is husbanding the little resources available judiciously and he is putting smiles on the faces of the people of the state. Investors are coming in, in droves. Go and see what is happening in our mining sector. Just last week, some American investors came in to dialogue with us. The Canadians too and other international investors are coming in because they see that Governor Oyetola is driving the state very well with prudence and there is efficiency in the economy. There is security as well s fiscal discipline. There is no corruption and the ease of doing business in the state is superb. Under three of four days, all documentation to do legitimate business will be concluded. We are investing massively in agriculture. We are not solely waiting for the monthly dole out from Abuja. We are looking inward.