In his robust and characteristically rigorous and highly readable defence of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the governor of Osun State, against an absolutely gratuitous attack by Punch in its editorial of November 20 last year over his declaration of an holiday for the Islamic New Year on Muharram 1, 1434 which fell on November 15, Adamu Adamu, the Friday must-read columnist of the Daily Trust, described the governor as “one of the best, most humble and most upright governors in the country.” (Trust, January 11, 2012).
Anyone familiar with the man and the way he has governed his state since more than two years ago couldn’t agree more. Far from disagreeing, one can even argue that Adamu’s list of the governor’s virtues fell short by at least one, namely the man’s courage of his convictions.
Punch had described Aregbesola’s declaration as “strange” and a manipulation of religion in a region “where harmony among the various ethnic and sub-ethnic groups is legendary.”
How the declaration by the governor of an holiday to celebrate a new Islamic year is “strange” in a state where more than half the population are Muslims and where such an holiday detracts nothing from non-Muslims, Punch did not demonstrate convincingly. But this is a matter for possibly another day.
For now it’s hard, if not impossible, to deny that the man has shown in the last three years or so that he has never been afraid to act on his convictions, in so far as they reflected the popular will and the greatest good for the greatest number of people of his state.
Convinced, for example, that in a federation – even one like Nigeria’s where power flowed from the centre instead of from its component units – there was something inspiring with a state having its own flag, slogan and state anthem, he initiated these symbols of statehood for his state.
Predictably, this attracted a virulent attack from the Peoples Democratic Party, the country’s ruling party, whose dubious victory in the state’s governorship polls in 2007 was overturned by the courts after nearly three years, thus ushering in the rival Action Congress into power in the state. Aregbesola’s action, the PDP said, was seditious, to say the least. Yet when Bayelsa State, where President Goodluck Jonathan comes from and where the party is in power, did a similar thing – even worse, some would say – the party, which prides itself as being the biggest in Africa, fell into a deafening silence.
Today, several states in the South-West have their flags and anthems but that has not seriously detracted from their loyalty to the federation. Certainly it has not detracted from the governor’s well known faith in the potential of the country to lead Africa – and the black race – into being reckoned with and respected internationally, if only the country and the continent could get leaders that are competent, compassionate, selfless, humble and honest.
The man’s courage in charting new ways of doing things apparently led him to be the first, and so far the only governor, in the country to ask senior bureaucrats to choose a head of service through ballot papers with a list of criteria that focussed on peer review of each other’s performance and personal integrity rather than on the usual one of longevity and seniority. The jury on this innovation is still out but its potential for making civil servants more transparent and accountable in executing policies and programmes of government is hardly in doubt.
When the man took over power from the PDP several years ago the state routinely took loans from banks to pay the wages of its civil servants. He not only stopped that. He went on to restructure the state’s lean finances to make sure it stopped living beyond its means.
To be sure, the man took loans through, for example, issuances of bonds like many of his colleagues. But unlike several I know that have gone on a borrowing binge to build luxury hotels and similar non essentials, the Osun governor has borrowed essentially to invest in infrastructures like roads, drainage, water supply and schools. This much is pretty obvious for anyone who has been to the state since the man came to power. Certainly his sensible – and prudent – investment in infrastructure explains in part why, in spite of its many rivers and undulating topography, the state did not suffer from the floods that devastated many other states last year.
Obviously, the man’s achievements have not only been in intangibles, as the record of his successful massive youths employment programme in the state has shown. Youth unemployment everywhere has since become perhaps the biggest source of the violent criminality that has led to so much insecurity in the country. Few governors in the country have done as much as the Osun State governor to contain this scourge of youth unemployment.
For me, however, the man’s greatest achievement lies in the future. This will result from the highest priority he has given primary and secondary school education in his state. Virtually all over the country these levels of education have suffered devastating neglect resulting in the massive failure in, for example, the West African School Certificate examinations in recent times. In Osun state the government has massively invested not only in building schools at this level. It has also done so in information technology that will enable pupils to learn as much at home or anywhere else as they do in schools.
It’s early days to be definitive about the man’s record. But if only he continues with his current level of performance he’ll certainly deserve another turn in next year’s governorship election for the good turn he has done his state. He deserves another turn because, unlike your typical Nigerian politician, the man is humble, honest, transparent and competent – and has the courage of his convictions.
On my frequent usage of the word “penultimate”
Please Mohammed, check the real meaning & use of ‘penultimate’. Rather unsettling for a columnist of yr stature to keep falling into the common Nigerian error! Merry XMAS!
FEMI OSOFISAN. +2348033048383
I checked for the meaning of the word as Osofisan, one of the country’s literary giants, suggested and got even more confused because the meanings they gave suggested my usage was right. To clear my confusion, I emailed his text to the in-house linguist of sorts of Trust, Farooq Perogi, who teaches journalism in America.
Among my “offending” usages, in Osofisan’s eyes, were my columns of Wednesday December 26, 2012, and before then, probably that of May 2, as reproduced below:
General Muhammadu Buhari at 70.
“Penultimate Monday, i.e. December 17, General Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state and perennial presidential contender since 2003, turned 70.”
Beyond Azazi’s controversial intervention at BRACED Summit
“Penultimate Monday, a (presumably) regular reader of this column sent me an sms from 08025720606, in apparent anticipation of today’s piece.”
Perogi replied my enquiry thus: Your use of “penultimate” in the sentences you quoted above is perfectly legitimate. I am mystified by Professor Osofisan’s charge that your usage falls “into the common Nigerian error!” Penultimate is just a grander, less familiar term for “second to (the) last,” or “last but one.” Contrary to Osofisan’s claim, it is in fact native English speakers, not Nigerian English speakers, who tend to misuse “penultimate.” Grammar enthusiasts here always rail against the tendency in native-speaker English, especially of the American variety, to use “penultimate” as if it meant “greater than the ultimate,” which is senseless because “ultimate,” like “unique,” “absolute,” etc are already superlative adjectives.
The only sense I can make of Osofisan’s criticism is that he is probably cautioning against the use of “penultimate” in contexts where the endpoint isn’t apparent. If the endpoint isn’t clear, it would be hard to isolate the second or next to it. He would probably prefer an expression like “the penultimate Monday in December” since December helps us easily locate the Mondays being referenced. But that argument neither makes grammatical nor logical sense since the newspapers in which your columns appeared have datelines that help the reader determine the days of the week you referred to.
At any rate, many prestigious English-language newspapers habitually use “penultimate” exactly the way you used it. See the following examples:
“At Mr Obama’s penultimate rally at a nearby arena earlier the same day, the crowd, although bigger, had been more muted.–Economist Nov 8, 2012.
“A few minutes later, Woods walked into the clubhouse in fourth place, already assigned to the penultimate pairing Sunday.”–New York Times Jul 21, 2012
“I am really excited to compete,” she said after completing her penultimate training session before the first day of competition on Friday.–Reuters Jun 27, 2012
“Squeezed by a royal wedding and bank holidays, parties are making the most of the penultimate day of assembly election campaigning.”–BBC May 3, 2011
Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Journalism & Citizen Media
Department of Communication
Kennesaw State University
1000 Chastain Road, MD 2207
Kennesaw, Georgia, USA 30144