As a member of a civil society organization concerned with projecting, the welfare and wellbeing of the vulnerable segments of society, I and my colleagues have sometimes paid courtesy visits to politicians, political activists, labour leaders and even corporate moguls in the course of our work and quite a number of times, we have left such visits with the impression that some of those personalities we met do not actually practice what they preach in that their public utterances do not match their private actions as they do not really empathize with the common man as they profess.
For instance when it actually comes to taking decisive action that would ameliorate the plight of the poor and indigent, those personalities would prefer to prevaricate or defer their decisions thus leaving the oppressed in the lurch or at a crossroads.
Therefore I and my colleagues have taken with a pinch of salt what we hear in the print or social media concerning the statements or actions of those that have been hailed as champions of the down trodden or marginalized section of society. We really put our ears to the ground and dig deeply before we can come to a definitive conclusion about the sincerity of those acclaimed vanguards of the poor and vulnerable.
Therefore when we paid a courtesy visit to the office of the Honourable Minister of the Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, former Executive Governor of Osun State, we were armed with all manner of questions and inquiries aimed at truly deciphering the disposition of the much garlanded Man of the People whom we had heard a lot about particularly during his tenure as Osun State Governor and Commissioner for Works under the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu administration in Lagos State.
We had read a lot about the rescue mission of the action-oriented former chief executive in Osun State, where he had braved the unrelenting opposition of the wealthy and privileged elite who had been milking the state’s treasury dry during the past PDP regimes, in order to engender fast track socio-economic progress and infrastructural development on a scale rather unprecedented in recent times.
We had also been availed of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s pace setting record as Commissioner for Works in Lagos State where he laid and actually raised the foundation for its emergence as a mega metropolis of gargantuan proportions rivaling Johannesburg, Cairo, Istanbul, Beijing and other mega cities. Indeed we were positively enthralled with what we heard about the epoch making political, administrative and developmental landmarks of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola particularly as it entailed catering for the welfare of the common man, how he ensured the sitting of strategic projects in low income areas, how he built markets, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges etc. in high density populated areas and tens of thousands of housing units at relatively affordable rates that the people could access rather than exorbitant prices that only the rich could afford.
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s love and empathy for the youths, the women, the poor, the indigent, the physically challenged and the infirm of society is legendary and his enviable reputation had even crossed the shores of the country to faraway lands in the Caribbean, Asia and Latin America. In Cuba, Ogbeni Aregbe is a household name particularly among the African-Creole community and he has even visited there several times in order to explore areas of cultural, economic and technological cooperation between Osun State and the socialist ruled island state.
The common strand that runs through Ogbeni Aregebesola’s record shattering political, professional and public service career is his unrelenting and unwavering exertions to better the lot of the people in any way he can with public funds and even his meager personal resources if need be. Rather than engage in spiritual exhortation that may have no immediate impact on the fortunes of needy persons, Ogbeni Rauf would immediately take prompt action that would have positive effect on the lives of those concerned.
Having heard of the well-worn reputation of the Honourable Minister, we were ready to find out if indeed what we heard was in fact a reality and so we were ready to meet with the famed Ogbeni Aregbe himself get first hand impression of his famed personality disposition.
What we noticed as we were waiting for the Honourable Minister was the cheerful and convivial air serenading the offices and hallways of the Ministry, as junior and senior staff went about their duties with confidence, composure and spontaneity.
They seemed to convey a can-do, optimistic spirit that is unfortunately absent in some MDA offices that we visited in the recent past. In those offices, many of the staff seemed to operate under a cloud of apprehension and foreboding as if they were afraid of an approaching calamity or punitive sanction from above. Could this sprite, ebullient atmosphere in the Interior Ministry be as a result of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s well known penchant for talking care of his staff?, the prompt payment of salaries, allowances and other emoluments?, the Minister’s acclaimed adherence to probity, transparency, accountability, due process and the rule of law and his avowed distaste for cronyism, nepotism, godfatherism and all other negative isms?, because thorough investigation had revealed that the process of contract awards, tenders, prequalification and procurements had been thoroughly overhauled by the proficient Minister to the extent that only competent and qualified contractors were shortlisted for contract awards while those that had nothing to offer were politely but firmly advised to try their fortunes elsewhere.
Thus when we were ushered in to see the Honourable Minister, we ourselves were in a remarkably upbeat mood which chimed with his pleasant, friendly and good natured demeanor, for Ogbeni Rau asked us to introduce ourselves and then started relating to us on a first name basis. Frankly I was pleasantly taken aback when the amiable Minister called me by my first name Joseph! for this has never occurred before. In most meetings with the high and mighty, discussions were very formal and starchy, with lighthearted banter reduced to a bare minimum.
However the amiable Ogbeni Rauf was cordial, open minded and quite refreshing, he outlined his vision and mission in the Interior Ministry which included taking its administrative, operational and organizational activities to the next level in the crucial scheme of things as well as ensuring that the paramilitary agencies under his supervision attain a high level of readiness & preparedness to checkmate any looming or actual security threats before they can adversely impact on the lives and properties of the innocent citizenry.
After a lively session of questions, answers, inquiries and good natured banter, we left the Interior Ministry in high spirits sufficiently convinced that Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was the real deal, he had the right stuff, as the Americans would say to take the Ministry of Interior to the promised land of El-Dorado, come rain, come shine. To God be the Glory.
MALLAM MUSA MUKTHAR, A CIVIL SOCIETY RESOURCE PERSON SENT IN THIS PIECE FROM BAUCHI, BAUCHI STATE.