Last month, Osun State was rocked by a security report which alleged that Governor Rauf Aregbesola was planning to islamise the state and had discarded conventional security agents of the State Security Service and Nigeria Police Force for a private security arrangement. In this interview with Demola Abimboye, principal associate editor, the governor speaks on the issues. Excerpts:
Newswatch: The issue of the security report which leaked on April 15, has become a matter of concern to everybody. Before your emergence, we had Isiaka Adeleke and Bisi Akande, both Muslims. Nobody talked of Islamisation. Why now?
Aregbesola: I don’t want to talk too much about it. My comment could be a tonic for the effect of that report to be kept alive. I don’t want to give it more promotion. Let’s concentrate on development. Issues like this are normal in public affairs. Each of the personalities has its own issues to deal with. I will rather focus on development.
Newswatch: While focusing on development, one area of focus is South-West integration. While some people have said that the allegation of Osun seceding is laughable, analysts think it has a wider connotation, much larger than Osun. Don’t you think the accusation could stick because you are the brain box, the arrow head of the regional integration by the Action Congress of Nigeria governors?
Aregbesola: What I will say is that the attack is ill-conceived. There is nothing in my zeal for integration that could be interpreted as secessionist. I want the development of my region as an integral part within the Nigerian nation. And every politics is local. Whatever zeal you have for Nigeria can only be interpreted in concentration of development in your sphere of influence. Nigeria is not amorphous; it is a territory with different components. There can only be agglomeration of the developments in the various sections, regions and units. It is to that extent that one is quite passionate about regional, combined efforts at maximising your resources to the highest advantage and benefit of the people. It is about combining in all spheres – social, political, educational, economic, even civil service - in a way that we will have a lot of surplus resources to pursue physical development and economic growth. That is it, in its general form. It is the love for Nigeria that drives the zeal to ensure that our own part of the country phenomenally rises to its historical potentials.
Newswatch: What of the cry over changes to the name and crest of the state as well as adoption of an anthem?
Aregbesola: We are unapologetic if we cut an image for ourselves that projects us within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But it is appalling that there is semantic misunderstanding of the difference between Osun State and State of Osun which we have adopted. Our crest is a reflection of our history and proud heritage. All the states had their separate crest until 1975 when the military embarked on a more unitary state policy. Even now, other states have their emblems, crests, flags and slogans. But I assure you that there is no cause for alarm.
Newswatch: You have petitioned the police on this issue of security report. What has been their reaction?
Aregbesola: I did not petition the police. I didn’t petition anybody. I only wrote the president of the country long before it became a public thing. Long before it was reported, we had been in possession of the so-called security report. I told the president of my observations and my concern about the threat to the stability of my state and the security of my person.
Newswatch: What has been the reaction of the President?
Aregbesola: I want to believe it is receiving the right attention. From all indications, I am quite conscious of the efforts being made to ensure that issues are not allowed to degenerate to the level of constituting a threat to my personal security, security of my state and the stability of the nation.
Newswatch: There is this fear that the report could be aimed at taking you out and taking the wind off the sail of regional integration and development. What do you say to this?
Aregbesola: If you give fillip to fear, you are already succumbing to the machination of the enemies. What we should emphasise now is our total disregard of the fear they want us to recognise. And once I do not recognise it, I will rather concentrate on things that will even make the fear of the threat irrelevant. What are such things? We are pursuing an education programme that is world class, we are pursuing infrastructure development programme of the same status. We are executing an agriculture programme that is humongous. We are equally pushing for the construction of an environment that will be the hub of commerce, tourism, culture in this region. When you put all of these together, I want to believe that they dwarf any threat from any quarters. To that extent, I will rather concentrate on meeting my goals in the development of the state.
Newswatch: One of the areas you have been passionate about is agriculture. You once said that the food items consumed in Lagos is worth N3.5 billion daily. In the last one and a half years in power, how well have you performed in agriculture?
Aregbesola: We’ve done very well. We’ve opened up and distributed land for farming, distributed seedlings and inputs to boost extension services, distributed tractors, organised farmers into cooperative societies. We’ve impacted tremendously on farming techniques. We’ve gone very far in our drive to improve the productivity of the farmers and consequently, the return on their labour and their resources.
Newswatch: There is this hue and cry by critics that your administration has got N250 billion since assuming power. How true?
Aregbesola: That is not true. Some misinformed people attempted to extrapolate what we could have received for us to claim that we have N35 billion for development. What we have received to date from the federation account is N76 billion. And the records are there for anybody to verify. But we have used the tutelage we received from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, particularly on financial engineering to conserve considerable part of that receipt for pure development. Instead of listening to the vituperations of scaly, wags people should look into what I’ve said that we have something almost extra-ordinary in terms of the resources available to the state for development which we got through classical financial sagacity or engineering. It is not a reflection of our receipt from federation account. What is important is that our state is on a firm course of development based on sound financial management.
Newswatch: Having talked of receipts from the federation account, what of internally generated revenue, IGR?
Aregbesola: We met a poor IGR capacity of about N200 million monthly. We have gone up to N700 million. We are targeting billions. It’s not something to beat our chest about yet and that’s why we are not making noise about it. We believe it is still paltry. We are aiming at N3 billion to N3.5 billion.
Newswatch: In this your passion to develop Osun, how have events in the last three weeks affected you?
Aregbesola: It has further inspired me. When you see extra-ordinary efforts at distracting you, there must be a reason. It could be that you are getting something right which you must concentrate on. Who bothers about laggards, nincompoops, never-do-wells?
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