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#Nigeria States should not depend on handouts from FG — Aregbesola

Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola

Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, in an interview with journalists in Osogbo bares his mind on the style of his administration and other sundry issues.TUNDE ODESOLA was there

What is your reaction to people, who believe that you are arrogant?

Am I really an arrogant person? You can say I am unusual. I am not your conventional governor. I don’t have the attitude of people you traditionally find in this position. If you say I do not behave like a classical public functionary I will say yes. Since 2004, I had prepared what would be my programme in government. I developed a six-point integral action plan. Everything we are doing today is in strict compliance with the provision of that agenda. Three of them are basically agricultural. We say we would banish hunger, poverty, unemployment. All those are based on agriculture. If there is serious food production, hunger will be history, unemployment and poverty will reduce.

Some think that you don’t give the Osun State University the deserved attention?

Education has lost its focus. People are just going to school, especially at the basic level. What is the total population of Uniosun? At best, it will be 5,000. In the basic education phase, we have at least 750,000 pupils without any future who are certainly doomed in terms of the school that they go and the quality of education. I put together an education summit with clear a guideline on how to make education functional and beneficial to the society. We realised that virtually all the public schools in the state were constructed by the late Pa Obafemi Awolowo. The schools were built with mud.

Mud in this part of the world has a lot of iron which gets oxidised and leads to big cracks. The buildings are already collapsing. We have no choice but to clear the debris and weak structures to build functional infrastructure for education. I intend to build within the next 24 months, 20 high schools with each having capacity for 3,000 pupils and 50 middle schools with capacity for 900 pupils each. I will also build elementary schools (100) with 1,000 capacity at urban centres and as low as 50 in the very rural communities.

It is not just infrastructure alone, we also want to assess out teachers and prepare them in terms of giving the students the best guide. We are re-orientating and motivating our teachers. But I have no problem with the university teachers. But, I do not come to terms easily with the philosophy that fund should only be pumped to the university or that school fees be increased. If you have basic education that is in doldrums and you have no provision to improve it while you focus on tertiary education, who will attend the university? The second is the high fee regime.

There was no one living and working in Osun State that could afford to send their wards to that university because of the high fee. If the highest paid worker and business men could not afford to sponsor their wards to the state university whose interest is the university serving? Our university is well supported. But my commitment is on strengthening the basic education though I will not abandon the tertiary education.

You were reported to have promised to capture 80 per cent of Lagos food market in your agricultural programme. What steps have you taken in the last one year to achieve this?

There was never a time we targeted capturing 80 per cent of Lagos food market. One would be extremely selfish and uncaring to take 80 per cent of the entire food exchange value in Lagos. I believe that if states in the South-West states take 10 per cent each, and they are five, outside Lagos itself, that is 50 per cent. The remaining can be left to other states to have their own share. Why must we have such desire? In terms of location, the states are the closest to Lagos. As such, we should take a maximum advantage of that. That was my projection.

Before I set out for the governorship seat, I made it a primary objective to develop the agricultural potential of Osun to capture just 10 per cent of the food market value in Lagos. Immediately we assumed office, we declared to the world that it would be totally wrong for any entity — be it human or geographical — to claim independent existence and still be dependent on others. When a territory depends absolutely on others, it is no longer independent but a possession of that authority that gives it life.

What exists at present is that most of the states are in this sort of derogatory relationship whereby without the handout of another government — whether federal or central — they cannot survive. Our goal is first of all to ensure that we reverse that ugly trend. We want to be like Lagos, which in the worst scenario can still survive on its own. We have looked around and there is no other way we can have independent survival outside agriculture. After all, the majority of our people, aged though, are into subsistence agriculture. Our primary objective is to help subsistence farmers multiply their production through expansion of their farming capacity, improvement on the techniques of farming and assistance to move their goods to railway terminal for upward movement to Lagos free of charge.

Toward this end, we went to the Nigeria Railway Corporation to finalise agreement to ensure free freight of agricultural produce from Osogbo to Lagos. This is not limited to produce of Osun alone. If yours is from Sokoto and it gets here, for as long as it is agricultural produce, we will transport it for you free. Essentially, this is to motivate our farmers. We are clearing land for potential farmers who could come from any part of the world. We produce improved seedling for high yield free of charge and give fertiliser at subsidised rate. As I am talking to you, we have over 300 metric tons of fertiliser in our store.

Agriculture is the primary focus of our administration. We invest most in agriculture and commit more of our time and energy to it. We have cleared 3,000 hectares of land for agriculture, including land for rice cultivation. If you know, it costs a lot of money to clear 1,000 hectares of land. We are equally opening access roads to farms and providing electricity and water. We are being supported by France and World Bank in the rural accessibility programme where we are targeting a total of 500 kilometres of rural roads to service farmers in various locations.

What it means is that we may not tar all the roads but we shall ensure that all the water crossings are with bridges and gutters so that there will be no reason for farmers not to be able to move their goods from the farm to the nearest centre. But farmers have yet to take advantage of the free freight because they are still held down by the old method of transportation. There will be no discrimination on sources of produce. If produce gets to Dagbolu, which is the centre, the Osun State Government will move it free of charge to Lagos.

The railway is not functioning well, how will you ensure transportation of produce when farmers eventually subscribe fully to your programme?

I have moved people free of charge from Lagos to Osun on a daily basis. I want to tell you that I am improving on the Memorandum of Understanding between our government and the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

The railway has its own challenges and the corporation won’t move beyond its challenges. I don’t worry myself with the problem of the corporation; I only use the railway. I need wagon and locomotive engine and operate at will. If I have enough commodities to move, I can move every hour. You worry about how I do it; that is the creativity. That is why I am different. But the truth is that as of today, my facilities are not fully ready. I have not completed Dagbolu (the food hub) to the level I want and I am still working on Osogbo station.

My Lagos depots are not fully ready. I am looking at having 57 Osun markets in each of the 57 local governments and development centres so that this products on getting to Lagos will be transported straight to the food marts and whoever is interested will get them at Osun prices. The goal is to make farm produce available at farm gate prices in Lagos. What determines the frequency of my rail is the availability of produce.

Source- The Punch

Beyond Aregbesola’s Treason Trial

Femi-Falana(1).jpg - Femi-Falana(1).jpg

 

Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), was elected the governor of Osun State in 2007. But since it was a “do or die” election for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),  its candidate, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, was falsely returned by the Independent National Electoral Commission. The illegal declaration was fought in a protracted legal battle. Eventually, the Court of Appeal restored Aregbesola’s mandate after three and a half years.

Two months later, the appeal filed by the 30 chairmen elected on the platform of the PDP against the verdict of the Court of Appeal, which had ordered their removal from office, was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Having handled the case for the Osun State chapters of the Action Congress, National Conscience Party and All Nigeria Peoples Party from the High Court to the apex court, Aregbesola asked for my interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Osun State & Ors v Action Congress & 2 Ors (2011) 10. Notwithstanding the pressure mounted on the governor by his party leaders to dissolve the council chairmen and councilors on the basis of the judgment he refused. He directed that they be allowed to remain in office since they had only one month left to complete their tenure.
The governor’s handling of two other issues confirmed his political maturity. The ACN members had vehemently opposed the appointment of a top lawyer in the ministry of justice in the state on the ground that she was used by the ousted regime to prosecute its political opponents including the governor. He made the appointment on the ground that the prosecutor was discharging her duty at the material time. In the same vein, he dismissed the objection of his party leaders on the appointment of a significant number of children and wards of PDP members in the state employment scheme. He made it clear that he is the governor the state and not the chairman of the ACN.

THE TREASON CHARGES
As far as the PDP leaders were concerned the stat Aregbesola of recruited 20,000 thugs under the pretext of job creation. It was also alleged that his decision to rebrand the state of Osun and design a flag, anthem and coat of arms were treasonable. It was, however, intriguing that the Director-General of the State Security Service, Mr. Ita Ekpeyong, who had discharged his duty without fear or favour, decided to team up with the ruling party in justifying the monstrous allegation that the governor had concluded arrangements to dismember the Federal Republic of Nigeria by excising Osun State there from. In a tendentious report  Aregbesola was alleged to be associating with a Muslim group, which is linked with the Boko Haram sect.
Although no one has referred to the specific provisions of any law violated by the governor, it is pertinent to examine the legal implications of the rebranding of Osun state in the context of the relevant laws. It is unfortunate to note that those who compiled the security report on  Aregbesola are not familiar with the constitutional history of Nigeria. Otherwise they would have found that in the First Republic, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria existed side by side with regional constitutions and that there were regional police forces.

Apart from the embassies of the Federal Government the federating units had consulates and properties in some foreign countries.  Even under the defunct military dictatorship when to keep Nigeria one was a task that required absolute loyalty every state had their own coat of arms. At a time that there were 12 states in Nigeria it was only the western state, which established a regional Court of Appeal, which served as an intermediary court between the State High Court and the Supreme Court. But in line with the tenets of federalism the remaining 11 states did not establish any Court of Appeal. Under the current political dispensation the Olagunsoye Oyinlola Administration in Osun State set up the Customary Court of Appeal in 2010. No other state in the south-west has set up such an appellate court even though it is provided for in the Constitution.
Another ridiculous allegation is that   Aregbesola dispatched some Osun State indigenes for training in Cuba. In spite of her economic difficulties aggravated by the economic blockage imposed by the United States over 50 years ago,  Cuba is acknowledged to have excelled in the areas of education, medicine and peace keeping operations. Because of his implicit confidence in the Cuban educational system  Aregbesola sent his first son, Abdul,  to Havana for his first degree in informatics before proceeding to the United Kingdom for post -graduate studies. For over a decade, the Cuban government has awarded scholarships to scores of Nigerian youths to study in Cuba. The federal ministry of education, which administers the scholarship scheme, has always appreciated the generosity and solidarity of the Cuban government. It is curious that the SSS has not accused the Federal Government of engaging in treason by allowing Nigerian youths to acquire education in Cuba!

IN DEFENCE OF AREGBESOLA
A few weeks ago, I attended the convocation ceremony of the Ekiti state university (ESU) at Ado, Ekiti state. Unlike most universities in the country which have commercialised their honorary degrees the ESU conferred doctorate degrees honoris causas on three distinguished Africans  namely Mr. John Dramani Mahama, Vice President of Ghana, Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, Director General of UNIDO and Professor Tekena Tamuno, former vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan.

On that occasion the anthems of Ghana, Nigeria and Ekiti State were played to mark the commencement and conclusion of the ceremony. The state governor, and  the Visitor to the university, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, was present at the occasion.  Last week,  Fayemi presented the staff of office to the Oba of my home town, the Alawe of Ilawe Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi. The anthems of Nigeria, Ekiti and Ilawe were played to the delight of the audience. My wife asked me if the SSS would not accuse  Fayemi of treason for leading the audience to sing the Ekiti anthem. I reminded her that no one has ever been charged with any crime for singing the famous Egba anthem, which was composed by Fela Anikulapo’s grand father several years before Nigeria was born.
In a country where religious bodies, schools, trade unions, political parties, clubs and other friendly societies have their constitutions, anthems, mottos and emblems it is bunkum to accuse a governor of committing treason for causing a state to have a flag, coat of arms and an anthem. Indubitably, section 1(2) of the Constitution prohibits any person or a group from taking over the government of Nigeria or any part of it. Having contested and won the governorship election of Osun State  Aregbesola cannot be said to have taken government by force.

It is also submitted that the 68 items in the exclusive legislative list in the Constitution on which only the National Assembly can legislate does not include flag, coat of arms and anthem. To that extent,  Aregbesola cannot be said to have usurped the legislative powers of the federal government. Neither has his decision to call the state the “State of Osun” violated Section 3 (2) of the Constitution, which states that there shall be ” a Federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory”. In the United States of America from where Nigeria copied her Constitution most of the states have their courts of appeal, supreme courts, flags, coat of arms, police forces etc. Even counties (local governments) and corporate bodies including universities have their own police or quasi military institutions without being accused of courting treason.
The attempt by the SSS to link Aregbesola with the Boko Haram sect is dangerous. It should not be taken lightly as it was deliberately designed to promote religious crisis in a peaceful environment. No doubt, Aregbesola is a devout Muslim  but certainly not a fanatic. On the day of his inauguration he led the huge crowd at Osogbo to sing many Christian songs while thanking God for restoring his mandate. Last year, I attended a public function at Osogbo presided over by the governor. Before the commencement of the event he invited a pastor, an imam and an Ifa priest to pray for Osun state and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To the embarrassment of the Christian and Muslim members in the hall there was a prolonged ovation when the Ifa priest said prayers in undiluted Yoruba language. At the end of the programme a born again Christian friend walked up to the governor and questioned his blasphemous policy of promoting idolatry. To which Aregbesola replied “you saw the reaction of the audience. The people were not clapping for the Ifa priest. They were applauding our decision to recognise and promoting traditional religion. That is in line with section 10 of the Constitution which states that the State shall not adopt any particular religion”.
It is germane to draw the attention of security forces to section 37 of the Criminal Code Act which defines treason as the act of levying war  against the State, in order to intimidate or overawe the President or the Governor of a State, and any person involved in the offence is liable to the punishment of death. In Dokubo-Asari v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2007) 30 WRN 1 at 75 the Supreme Court held that “a charge of treasonable felony is a very serious offence and is prejudicial to national security”. The late jurist, Dr. Akinola Aguda was of the view that a person accused of treason  “must be shown to have had the intention to intimidate or overawe the President or any state governor by any physical or unlawful means”. On intimidating or overawing the President the learned author opined that it “involves creating a situation where the government feels compelled to choose between yielding to force or exposing its members or the public to a very serious danger”.
From the foregoing a charge of treason or treasonable felony cannot be sustained against Aregbesola for having a state flag, coat of arms and anthem. So far no scintilla of evidence has been adduced to show that the governor has planned to levy war against the State with a view to intimidating or overawing the President. Instead of demonising the governor he should be commended for embarking on massive job creation in a country where mass unemployment has led to unprecedented wave of armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and other violent crimes.

However, it is ironical that while the state security service was reading treason into the Osun State Aregbesola of treason the World Bank led officials of the federal government and 15 states to Osogbo to understand the employment generation programme of his administration.

•Falana is a lawyer and member of THISDAY Editorial Board.

-Thisday

However, it is ironical that while the state security service was reading treason into the  activities of  Aregbesola of Osun State, the World Bank led officials of the federal government and 15 states to Osogbo to understand the employment generation programme of his administration. -Femi Falana

Prove your denial, cousin tells Omisore

Omisore

A former Executive Secretary of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State and a cousin to the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Iyiola Omisore, Mr Abayomi Omisore, has the former seantor  to apologise to the people of Osun State over his purpoted threat to attack the convoy of Governor Rauf Aregbesola.

The former senator has denied the report.

Addressing reporters at the weekend at the secretariat of the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Iwo Road, Osogbo, the state capital, the former council scribe advised his cousin to respect the office of the governor.

Abayomi, who insisted that the former senator’s denial was not enough, urged him to show proofs that he never  vowed to attack the governor’s convoy.

According to him, the ideal thing for senator to do is to prove the denial beyond doubt in the interest of the Omisore family.

He said: “I cannot deny the fact that we are cousins, but I am distancing myself from that reckless statement. The Omisore family is noble, peaceful and dependable. So, the reckless utterance cannot be seen as the voice of our family. Our father was a great educationist, who built the Oranmiyan Grammar School in Ile-Ife in 1958 and another great school in Jos in 1967. I am sure if he does prove his denial now the Omisore family will soon come out with a position on the matter.”

The former council secretary said Aregbesola made himself a mentor to many young politicians in and outside Lagos, because of his visionary leadership and selfless service.

Abayomi said the governor’s safety is important because of his contributions to the polity.

 

by Adesoji Adeniyi- The Nation

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