Aregbesola’s Media Tirade
In 1787, Edmund Burke in a parliamentary debate in the British House of Commons described the press as the fourth estate of the realm and that phrase has stuck till date. The press, the world over has stuck its neck out in the fight for justice, equity and fair play in base societies. Nigeria is no exception as the struggle for the enthronement of democracy and its sustainability had and has a great input from the press despite its challenges.
Former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi did the unthinkable by taking the then Governor Chris Ngige to court and fought the demons of tyranny for three years before justice was given him in 2006. The media gave this epic battle favourable coverage and this opened the floodgates for subsequent upturning of electoral fraud and other malfeasances.
One such beneficiary of this was the current Osun State Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola whose three year struggle against Olagunsoye Oyinola ended in victory when he was sworn in on November 2010. His qualifications seemed intimidating. He had an antecedent of student unionism while at the Polytechnic Ibadan as he was Speaker of the Student’s Union Parliament. He had direct tutelage from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a commissioner for works while the latter held sway as Governor. His populist leaning with his perceived common touch was thought by the populace to be akin to the coming of Daniel to judgement.
His first act of rebranding the state was not only ludicrous but totally wasteful. Osun was changed from Osun State to The State of Osun with a flag, anthem and coat of arms with millions of naira going down the drain. What economic impact did that have in the lives of the masses who had borne the brunt of visionless leadership?
Osun which is among the five lowest states in terms of federal allocation from the centre embarked on a plethora of programmes in a bid to be seen as a modern day prototype of those of Chief Obafemi Awolowo while he held sway as Premier of the Western Region. The Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme employed twenty thousand youths as road sweepers on a monthly stipend of ten thousand naira for just a year. What was the impact in their lives? Why didn’t he create a program that would make these youths financially independent rather than hand over a mere pittance? The program didn’t even stand the test of time when the state became mired in needless financial crisis. The Opon Imo tablet was estimated at about 8 billion naira and it crashed the book market in the largely agrarian state. It was a monumental failure as it did not lead to the improvement of the state in the West African Examinations Council Examinations. He collapsed the school system by dividing them into elementary, middle and high schools. The individual schools were scrapped for the merger to exist with their uniforms scrapped for a single uniform. Not only was the local uniform market killed, the students reverted back to their old uniforms when the new ones started getting badly torn. The o meal programme couldn’t stand the test of time. He then did the unthinkable by building an airport – who goes to Osun State and his massive road construction in the urban areas left the state a huge dump site of uncompleted projects. The massive borrowing embarked upon by his administration has mortgaged the future of the state for generations to come with pensioners and workers suffering ad infinitum. 238 retirees are reported to have died due to the non payment of their gratuities.
Aregbesola launched an invective against the media at a ceremony held in the premises of Adenle Middle School in Osogbo for giving his government bad press. He singled out the Punch and Tribune newspapers when he said ‘The Punch and Tribune Newspapers have declared war on the state and we shall not spare them. We shall not spare them, its war.’
Was he expecting the media to tell lies to the people when his wobbled economic policies turned them into hapless mendicants with The Winners Chapel Church sending them trailer loads of rice to keep them from joining their ancestors? Did he think the Nigerian media would be fooled into believing his sinister propaganda of the drop in the federal allocation being responsible for his no payment of salaries when he purchased a helicopter of no economic value to the state? Did he think they would buy into his preposterous stance in governing without a cabinet and no plans of constituting one in the nearest future?
The Punch Newspapers, among the others is the strictest among its journalists on the issue of collecting brown envelopes which is now a norm among the men of the press. For this reason it is safe to say that its news is highly trustworthy. What is the wisdom in launching an attack on this great paper which has morphed into an institution? The Tribune was founded by his ‘mentor’ Awolowo and is also known for his independence and progressive stance. That the paper has ceased to support its founder’s protégé is an indictment on his leadership. The solution is not to issue infantile threats; it is to admit his monumental errors and if possible tender his resignation letter as he openly admitted to be at a loss on what to do on the gargantuan challenges which his ill-conceived policies caused. The Heavens won’t fall if he throws in the towel!
The media should be Aregbesola’s partner in progress. If not for the hubris of pride, he should have felt the pulse of public opinion through the media and tailored his policies to meet the needs of the people rather than mere grandstanding and the need to constantly be in the public fore in a manner similar to the Emperor who didn’t wear clothes because a courtier made him believe that it was the latest trend in the town to go unclad.
Aregbesola should retract his statement and tender a public apology if he wants peace to truly reign. If anything funny should happen to the workers of these media houses especially the correspondents in Osun, he should have a big question to answer. Enough of impunity and the immunity of Governors especially when misused should not be tolerated.