‘Progressives’ Impunity in Osun: You May Spare Me This Change
Osun has never been lucky with good leadership since her establishment in 1992. Forget about the regrettable military era (92-99), fast forward to May 1999 and there you find Chief Bisi Akande whose major idea of governance was retrenchment of civil servants and using the saved funds to build a gigantic state house which until 2010, when I was there last, was still largely unoccupied. Click on 2003 and you see Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (of the People's Democratic Party- PDP), a man people thought would be a change. At first, the Okuku prince seemed serious but the brazen corruption, unprecedented mismanagement and executive lawlessness that characterized the later part of President Obasanjo's tenure did not spare Osun. Little surprise that in 2007 the electorate once again voted for the so called progressives now led by Bisi Akande, but Maurice Iwu's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deemed it fit to hand the mandate to the runner up, incumbent Oyinlola. This illegal second term of Oyinlola (07-10) was the longest and worst period of the state. By the time the Appellate Court handed Mr Rauf Aregbesola (of the Action Congress of Nigeria- ACN) his rightful mandate, majority of Osun people were already groaning under the oppression of the government and were also rightfully afraid of the impending governorship election of 2011 which was being fiercely contested between Fatai Akinbade and Iyiola Omisore, the accused murderer of Chief Bola Ige, both of the PDP. Had the appellate court not ruled against PDP only God knows how many people would have died in the do-or-die PDP Primaries and the gubernatorial election that would have taken place.
The inauguration of Mr Rauf Aregbesola was greeted with great enthusiasm that could rival that of the ascendancy of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States. Unfortunately for the people of my dear state, Governor Aregbesola has so far not fared better than his predecessors. Actually, he has been dabbling in things that have little or no bearing on the standard of living of the people he is supposedly serving. Things that had they been done by a PDP led government; the mainstream media and political analysts would have gone crazy.
First, he thoughtlessly employed 20,000 youths on a salary of less than #10,000 per month for works that already had agencies for them. He impulsively changed the name of the state from 'Osun State' to the State of Osun as if we should be grateful our governor could rephrase names. An anthem and pledge were composed for the state and a new coat of arms no one understands its significance was designed. The motto of the state was changed from the popular and culturally significant 'state of the living spring' to the meaningless and clichéd Ipinle Omoluabi. All these and more were the cosmetic changes the Aregbesola's administration implemented with scarce resources and celebrated with elaborate fanfare. Changes that will most likely die with the present regime.
For sure, Oyinlola was largely an incompetent governor and he surrounded himself with thieves and criminals but the erstwhile governor also had some not so bad idea while in power. But just like every other new governor (and despite the fact that ACN and Aregbesola promised they would be different), Aregbesola has made the rubbishing of the projects left by his predecessor his number one agenda. He stopped the six stadia being built across the state; this came as no surprise to one as Aregbe's role model, Governor Akande sacked all the Physical Education teachers and cancelled all the sport programmes in the state and Osun till now is yet to recover from that unfortunate decision. The newly established, fastly growing but prohibitively expensive Osun State University would have become history but for the protest of people of good will. A small but important example of the lack of vision of this administration is the demolition of school buildings before new ones are built. Pupil of some schools in Osun might not have classrooms to resume to next session. We might need to write a book to document the failures, inaction and mis-action, mismanagement, lack of vision of this clueless regime. So let's talk about the most bizarre of the happenings in the State of Osun.
As I have mentioned earlier, Osun people are already accustomed to living under bad governance even if they were promised something else. They've got some twenty years' experience and they were adequately equipped to handle another four years of ineptitude leadership. But what no one should never ask of us is life under some kind of martial law; some sort of sanctioned jungle justice. What am I talking about? Just a second.
It was my friend an Osogbo based blogger who first told me of the latest impunity going on in Osun. I didn't really pay attention to him until I traveled home for the Eid Fitr; during this period I lost my granddad, a staunch supporter of ACN, and I have to spend two weeks in Osun. These two weeks have been one of the most enlightening and shocking periods of my life. Let me ask you, what's the punishment for indecent dressing? You don't know? Well you are in good company as I didn't know too. My lawyer friend insists there is a seldom implemented law on general indecency. But in Osun under the watch of Ogbeni Aregbe, the punishment for indecent dressing is severe beating and public humiliation. Of course, you heard me right. The government of Osun has retained the services of some soldiers and police officers organized into a special force unit called Swift Action Squad (SAS) whose major job is to secure the lives and properties of the people of Osun but are now more concerned with harassing the people. They specialize in jungle justice; making the Aregbe regime look impatient for the legal process that helped the governor reclaim his mandate. Today in Osun you get punished for your 'crimes' immediately and on the spot by these soldiers. These soldiers are the accuser, the prosecutor, the jury, the judge and the punisher all rolled into one. Once you are charged you are guilty and once you are guilty you are summarily punished. No appeal, no protest.
The main victims of this new kangaroo court are young girls who commit the error of wearing clothes that make them look too sexy for these Aregbe's buffoons and probably turn them on too. These idiots seize young girls from the streets and sometimes drag them off speeding Motor cycles and beat them to a pulp. Exuberant young men are also not exempted from this jungle court. Nursing mothers who do not carry their children according to the unknown laws of the almighty SAS can be tried and punished. Other things that no one knows until someone fall victim are also criminal under this new regime. The punishments for crimes according to these imbeciles depend on their perpetually foul mood.
One incident that shocked me beyond word is that of a young lady 'arrested' on Saturday 25th August, 2012 in Iwo. She was accused of wearing a top revealing her breast and the soldiers forced her to remove her top so as to totally reveal the breast she was 'trying to flaunt'. Then a passing innocent Okada rider, who had no idea what was happening, was also stopped and asked by the soldiers to fondle the exposed breast of this young woman. The Okada man tried to turn down this offer and that's a decision he would be regretting for a long time. He was mercilessly beaten and at the end he had to do as asked. What kind of punishment is this? Just like most people who witnessed or learnt of this case, I was enraged. This is no fiction. This was even briefly mentioned on a breakfast show the following morning on the state owned Orisun FM with the presenter justifying and making light of the incident. I consider myself a morally conscious and a religious person but I do not see any sense in this kind of arrangement as it is most vulnerable to injurious abuse as we have seen in this case. Even under Sharia, which I must add the governor is not at all implementing, there are procedures, very strict procedure for issues like this.
As a believer in democracy, I hate arbitrariness and disregard for rule of law and rights of citizens. These people that are summarily punished like primary school children have their right to a fair trial which I'm pretty sure these soldiers have little idea what it entails. Even under the harshest judicial system in the world, people still have right to a trial unless we are back in the military era. For someone who benefitted from the painstaking judicial system of this country, this SAS of a thing constitutes an all-time low for Governor Aregbesola. How can a system that successfully retrieved a stolen mandate from an incumbent and a member of the ruling party not be able to deal with misdemeanor like indecency? As it is now, citizens especially youth are living under constant fear that they may unwittingly commit an unknown crime and get punished. I personally saw a young girl ran like Usain Bolt when she heard the seriously irritating siren of SAS. What this girl wore could easily pass for a cheer leader dress in Lagos or Port Harcourt. I fail to see how punishing that young girl is going to lead to the provision of job for my friends that graduated couple of years ago, or refurbishment of class rooms in our schools or promotion of civil servants. Have you ever thought of indecency and thought of Osun at the same time? Your answer just like mine would probably be a NO. And that's because indecency has never been a problem in Osun until our governor of little things successfully made issue out of nonsense. I understand something of this nature might have happened in ACN led Lagos state few years back and may still be happening in ACN led Oyo state.
Why would the primary assignment of a government of a state with high poverty and dropout rates, poor infrastructure, almost zero industrial presence, and high unemployment concern itself with the issue of young girls who wear short skirts? Or young men with Obama style hair cut? Unless the intended consequence (as against unintended consequence) is to instill fear in the minds of the citizens and distract attention from the inadequacies of the government. Perhaps the governor is using this gimmick to appeal to the skewed religious awareness of the citizens and portray himself as the enforcer of God's rules. Whatever it is, Osun people certainly did not sign up for this. A friend of mine asked me why these things are not reported in the mainstream media; while I cannot presume to know all the answers, I can fairly say that in Nigeria, victims of abuse and oppression rarely talk or report them. The tendency of our people to blame the victims perhaps discourages victims from seeking redress. Another reason may be the fact that ACN controls the majority of the media in the South West. An equally important reason to consider is the laziness or lack of initiatives or drive on the part of our journalists and writers and the cliché reporting of only already reported news. People rarely break news in this clime. I hope this piece will provoke a thorough investigation of the activities of this vigilante outfit. We cannot allow this kind of things in a democracy.
When you are outside of the state and you hear about the progress Aregbesola is making in Osun, you naturally want to feel good as an indigene of the state. Like one time in 2011 when someone told me that secondary schools students were being gifted a palm top computer. I was overjoyed at this commendable initiative until my sister told me that it was all news to her. No computer was being given. Today, students across the state are still waiting for the fulfillment of this year old promise. Just another successful media propaganda, of which ACN are now grandmaster. I'm officially now tired of the so called progressives' effectiveness and efficiency and their messiac importance and of how they will change Nigeria for the better if they take over from PDP as they have done in the South West. If what is obtainable in Osun is what is on offer for the rest of the country, then I say please spare us this choking change. Spare us this useless, distorted and abysmally failing 'progressive' politics. And for my Governor, do away with the inconsequential and cosmetics and face true governance; your time is running out.
Sodiq Alabi, a poet and political analyst, sent in this piece from Iwo, Osun state. He could be contacted through [email protected]