BY SEMIU OKANLAWON
Trust Nigerians, hardly had he rounded off his first visit to the Ministry of Interiors than cartoonists, graphic artists went to work. In a jiffy, the tweeting facebooking and instagramming generation had gone to work to serve us different interpretations of what the new Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said shortly after his oath taking.
“Interior Ministry for Beginners, Hard Copy, Soft Copy, Digital Editions Available” was one of those satirical pieces that got me laughing. And as usual too, the Nigerian media went out with different headlines: Buhari Has put me in a strange ministry-Aregbesola (Daily Post); “I don’t know Much About Interior Ministry” (PUNCH), “Except for Newspapers, I Have No Knowledge of my New Ministry” (Vanguard).
If you are one of those who had followed Aregbesola and his trajectory, you would have no qualms taking in these variants of interpretations of just one statement. For me, I laughed my head off. Don’t blame me! If I survived Aregbesola with all the possible darts he had received in his capacity as Governor of Osun, I doubt it any such blitz ( no matter how negative) could get my feet off grounds again.
Just an example will do. Do you recall the former Governor after his famous interview at the Presidential Villa where he said the salary challenge in Osun was beyond him? Oh! Hell knew no worst media fury ever since. A harmless opinion, genuine and critical to getting over the bad weather the national economy had run into was twisted to a campaign that Aregbesola must immediately vacate office because, according to the interpretations his critics would want to settle for, he had simply given up and had lost control of how to navigate out of the stormy financial weather in the state. Such is the way, especially these days of gatekeeper-less media, any word, no matter how harmless, could easily become your greatest undoing by the time it passes through the crucibles of antagonistic wordsmiths.
After eight good years, one should know better than being perturbed by the whimsical inclinations of ‘public affairs analysts’ bloggers, and writers who think first of traffic rather than truth. And the truth is that Aregbesola spoke the truth. But the question here should be: How has Osun prepared Aregbesola for the tasks involved in internal security and other matters so interior to Nigeria?
By the time the National Bureau of Statistics rated Osun as the safest state in Nigeria, it was obvious that certain government policies had impacted greatly on the state prompting others to look in the direction of the strategic approaches to solving societal problems.
For security challenges, we are all more inclined to think that in guns and deployment of armed personnel to the field lie the solutions to national instability. The experiment in Osun has proved that some more strategic policy frameworks are needed to create the atmosphere of peace and security required for smooth development to take place across the land.
The pre-2010 Osun was fraught with insecurity, youths idleness and above all, despondency. The ability to identify which segment of the society needed to be taken care of as a matter of priority became critical. Being able to achieve that, it then showed that creating opportunities for such segments such as the youths, the women and children and then the elderly would go far in eliminating elements that induce tension within the society.
A scheme that took off 60,000 youths for some community engagements in three batches did more than reduce the lure into crimes in Osun. The overall effects of re-orientations, value regenerations, skills acquisitions, realization of self-worth and potential were far more than token in effect on the psyche of the people.
In addition to this were those specific programmes that engaged women such as the school-feeding programme for which women food vendors spread across the local governments were taken away from idleness.
A number of Nigeria’s internal security challenges stem from vanishing values and good orientations. Specifically, leadership programmes of the yore, which formed and baked future leaders from teen stages of their lives were practically lost. Characters became less important in dealings, culminating in criminal activities such as robberies, murders, suicides, rapes, advanced fee frauds, rituals, smugglings, bunkering, arsons and their ilk.
And with those listed above, the challenges increase for the authorities to provide for internal security, which is threatened to the detriment of the law-abiding citizenry.
The society itself needs some review of its past with a view to bringing back some of the value-adding practices of old. A look at how leadership training strategies of the decades before now prepared citizens to be of good behaviours should give Nigeria the initiative that it is not only when security personnel are armed to their teeth that the people can sleep with their eyes full closed.
Osun knew peace. Younger generation of the citizens in the state came under some new forms of re-orientations helping to produce the new man.
Apart from producing job opportunities, the Osun youths empowerment scheme reawakened the need for social responsibility. And in the same way, programmes such as calisthenics for younger minds willy-nilly, taught younger generation of Osun residents the beauty of collaboration, focus, concentration, commitment and dedication. Were all these not to be missing in Nigeria’s national life, the issues that challenge us all today over internal security as listed above would have been halted at their manageable proportions.
To sum it up, value re-orientation is pivotal to a new society where there is order and less criminality. Agencies such as the one for National Orientation, Ministry of Youths and Sports Development stand in very critical and good steads to help the Ministry of the Interiors step up engaging and positive youths activities to lure them away from crimes and other anti-social behaviours.
Even to be sure that no soul lived in Osun without being captured in the data base of the state, Aregbesola’s introduction of the Kaadi Omoluabi, a mode of identification for all in Osun with specific features went a long way to add to the overall task of securing the state.
Those saddled with leadership responsibilities must spot where the strengths lie in human capital resources. Of course, failure to do this has always in the past resulted in poor service delivery to the people. But where this is done, the people are always at the benefitting end.
Aregbesola no doubt, left the workers in Osun with a lasting impression that a political office holder came and demonstrated an unrivaled penchant for spotting the best within the bureaucracy; motivating them to bring out the potential in them.
Even before Osun, it is on record that while Engr. Ganiyu Johnson served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure in Lagos State, it took Aregbesola’s eagle eye to spot Johnson’s competence, prompting him to ensure that rather than quit after his civil service years, he was headhunted to become a Special Adviser in the same ministry. Johnson later served as the Commissioner for Works in the state.
The current Senator representing Osun West district, Adelere Oriolowo, was Permanent Secretary, Rural Development before his retirement. Convinced of his vast experience in engineering and project management, Aregbesola did not hesitate to pull him back to serve as Project Coordinator for the Osun Rural Accessibility Mobility Programme (RAMP) a World Bank-funded development programme. In the same vein, at least, two permanent secretaries who had attained the peaks of their civil service careers – Fatai Kolawole and Lawrence Oyediran in the Ministry of Education were not allowed to go. While Kolawole was pulled back to head the State’s Universal Basic Education Board, Oyediran was pulled back to work at the State’s Education Quality Assurances Agency, an office created by his government specifically to monitor quality teachings and learning in the state’s public schools.
Whatever made Osun’s statistics to be such enviable in spite of the enormous financial challenges that administration faced must provide guides towards solving some of the national questions.
Nigeria must rework her education policies such that the products are people who become assets, and not burdens to the society.
It is only when peace is guaranteed internally through the combined strategies of the right value orientation, addition and focused social protection schemes that the economic potential of the country could be harnessed for the good of all.
Semiu Okanlawon, Communication and Strategy Consultant writes via [email protected]