It was indeed a beautiful evening with the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, who is the first Governor in Nigeria to declare a public holiday on Hijra in Nigeria. In a gathering with journalists during the month of Ramadhan, the Governor explained how he had faced several attacks for attempting to be an ‘upright’ Muslim.
iWitness correspondent, Mu’Sodiq Adekunle, brings excerpt from the wonderful evening with the governor:
Why do you always recite Quran before speaking at every function; are you fundamentalist?
It took me time to be religious. I fought with faith since when I had contact with Maxism. Fortunately for me, I met a lady that succeeded in convincing me to be faithful and have belief in God. Since then, I resolve to be passionate and very committed. Part of my agreement with God is that, as I develop in life and faith, I will not shy away from serving and adoring him by reciting Quran. It doesn’t have to do with extremism, fundamentalism of fanaticism. I hardly encourage anybody to pray with me so as not to infringe in anyway, the right of others.
Why do you always love to sing at campaign and public event?
If I had not gone to school, I would have been a Fuji Musician. What we did in this state is like taking a live cow from outside through the window into the house.
How true is it that the harmonization of public school uniforms in the state is religiously motivated?
No religious intention is attached to the same uniform our school children wear. In Benin Republic, Brazil, Cuba, they wear the same uniform in their primary and secondary schools and this has not generated any noise. Why are people now read meanings to it in Osun? Nobody can deny that the industrial sowing of the uniform made is beautiful, cheaper and decent. We decided not to put badge on our school children’s uniform because it’s no longer in vogue. If the Identity card projects for schools had succeeded, you would not talk of badge. Badge is analogue and we are in a digital world. The I.D card we have designed for our students will contain their blood group, genotype and every other information about the bearer and we will launch that before the end of this year.
Your administration has not hidden its disagreement with some sections of the media over alleged attacks on your policies…
(Cuts in) My joy tonight is that our state continues to survive inspite of the mischievous, desperate and malicious contents in some sections of the media against our government. Unfortunately, the media, in recent times, have portrayed our government as one of the worst in the country, whereas the reverse is the case. Sunday Times in those days sold 500,000 copies per edition in this country up until 1975 and Sunday Times was so popular that whoever was literate in Nigeria would want to read it, either by borrowing, buying or going to the library to get it.
The circulation figure of all Nigerian newspapers today is less than 300,000. So, it should, therefore, interest us how a nation with increased population generally, with almost ten times the number of graduates that we had in 1975, now has the circulation figures we now have. It is therefore important for us to interrogate the decline in readership.
If you ask me, closely watching the economy, the decline is as a result of credibility gap in our media publications. I want to appeal to our media people to support the course of disseminating reliable, accurate, informative and entertaining news.
Reports in newspapers have erroneously portrayed us as a famished state. About this time last year, it was as if heaven will fall. It was as if the entire world was collapsing on our state. What churches do normally became an opportunity to portray us as a famine-stricken state. One person even went to the extent of donating his wardrobe allowance. Everything was made to look as if people were dying on the streets here. Recently, I still read in our papers that we are owing salaries, while the reverse is actually the case. I have decided to ignore such tantrums.
Available records have shown that there is no iota of doubt in the fact that some media practitioners have demonstrated their hatred for us through their adamant disposition to falsehood, baseless and unfounded claims against or noble political voyage. I wonder why they found it difficult to display high sense of commitment to journalistic ethics and media professional code of conduct, despite the conspicuous realities.
The pertinent question is that whether or not the media assess itself, facts must always be disseminated and reported, and it is on the basis of this that we have always advised media experts to support the dissemination of reliable, accurate, objective, authentic, impersonal and factual news.
No amount of propaganda and condemnation would dissuade us from attaining economic prosperity, just as we are determined to complete all the ongoing projects before the end of our tenure here. I am not quarreling with any paper. I only plead for accurate reporting of events. To those of you who are critical but factual, it is your hard stance that has kept us on our toes. I want to appeal to the media to be factual in their reports.
Why have you not constituted your cabinet almost two years after you were elected for a second term in office?
I have not constituted my cabinet because I don’t have the means. I always say it but you people do not believe it. The state provided accommodation for me; the state fuels my vehicle, takes care of the security for me but I have not taken salary from the day I became the governor and I don’t intend to take it. Having executive council members is a major burden that the state cannot bear now. I would rather spend my resources on the construction of projects and revamping the state’s economy. If the situation improves and I have enough resources, I will constitute my cabinet, but as to the particular time, let us leave that to God. The monthly salaries of 26 lawmakers and the state executive members alone cost N100million and I can’t afford it for now.
How have you been able to source for funds to mobilise contractors back to the sites of the various ongoing projects in the state?
I will tell Nigerians how I got money to mobilise contractors to site and how I was able to solve some financial problems in the state when I would be marking the second anniversary of my second tenure in November 27, 2016. Some insinuated that I used local government allocations. The truth is that there is no tier or arm of government that is getting anything that could pay salaries.
You and the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose are known to be close. What’s your relationship with him?
Fayose has been my friend since 2009 during the election that produced Fayemi. Although we are not in the same political, he remains my friend.
Your administration plans to construct an airport in the state. How do you hope to do this with the parlous state of the economy?
The airport is part of the projects that will be completed before my tenure expires. We are negotiating with the people who want to fund it. By the grace of God, we look forward to completing if before our tenure ends.