Osun at 30: Looking back, periscopy of the future

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“The questions we need to ask and answer include, among others, where are we today in Osun State compared to where we took off? What objectives were set by the elders in 1991? Have these goals / expectations been met 30 years later? “

– Dr Segun Aina, President, O’dua Investment Company, speaking at the Osun State Anniversary Symposium. Thursday September 9, 2021.

The epigram, All Politics is Local, credited to a former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is well known. Less well-known but equally important is the amendment made by a former United Nations secretary-general that not only is all politics local, but all development is local. This suggests that the center of gravity of human development is made up of small political units, a truism captured in the saying “small is beautiful”. Unfortunately, however, too much attention has been paid in Nigeria to the central government to the detriment of both state and local governments. While, as some authors have observed, Nigerians are very expressive and talkative, much of the discourse is about what is happening within the federal government rather than at the level of subnational governments.

Against this background, there is a lot to be said about the ongoing celebration of the 30th anniversary of Osun State and all the other states created by a former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, in 1991. It is also noteworthy that, in accordance with the intellectual perspective of the current leaders of the state, an anniversary colloquium was held last week with a parade of nearly a dozen public intellectuals invited to reflect on the road traveled, the lessons learned, the ” identification of areas for improvement as well as a compass for the future. Chaired and moderated by Professor Niyi Akinnaso, a researcher in linguistics and anthropology who recently retired from Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, the colloquium which used physical and virtual vehicles had presenters such as the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III; Chief Bisi Akande, former state governor and keynote speaker, Ambassador Yemi Faroumbi; Dr Segun Aina, Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, Dr Reuben Abati, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju and Steve Nwosu, among others. Although the event took place in difficult times nationwide, it turned out to be an intellectual feast and a political planning feast producing a harvest of ideas on how to revive development in the state. , despite declining federal allocations and amid controversial value debates. Tax added, federal-state relations and, indeed, the restructuring of Nigeria.

In 30 years, the state has had nine leaders including four military administrators and five civilian governors. There is a sense in which development, strictly speaking, began with the advent of democratically elected governments in Osun State, debunking the authoritarian myth that argues that an undemocratic coercive model is needed to transform communities. societies and economies. Because we hardly remember the names of some military administrators, some of whom served less than two years, given the logic of frequent personnel changes. On the other hand, the names of the elected civil governors are retained for at least certain achievements in matters of governance; Akande for integrity and visionary administration; Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola for the construction of Osun State University; Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola for the renovation of education and infrastructure development, and the incumbent, Gboyega Oyetola, for reinventing primary health care and attracting investors to the state’s mining sector. So just as Lagos State has become, in development studies theory, proof that democracy with all its flaws can coexist with rapid growth and developmental spinoffs, Osun, though poorer, quickly becomes a emerging poster to show that democratic governance can go hand in hand with a state of development. It is important to stress this point at a time when the democratic regime has suffered setbacks through regressive coups d’état in the West African sub-region, and amid national pessimism about whether our type of democracy is a brutally corrupt brand, increasingly in debt and with few dividends to show for its existence.

One of the noteworthy interventions is Akande’s article, devoted to reengineering governance in the form of the OPTICOM model and placing more emphasis on human development, the adoption of bottom-up development as well as refocusing on education. Acronym for “Optimal Community”, the OPTICOM paradigm envisions community-centered growth, social development in which primary and secondary schools are essential for self-help. Akande, who started his political career as a city councilor and who has learned valuable lessons from the development gains made by the Western region under the government of Obafemi Awolowo, is well placed to champion the OPTICOM model. which, according to Faroumbi, has been practiced with exemplary success. under Awolowo.

In the case of Osun, OPTICOM, if fully adopted, will usher in a participatory development that is already practiced in some respects, where the needs and aspirations of citizens will become the backbone of the development and implementation of policies. policies. However, as Professor Akin Mabogunje, theorist and practitioner of OPTICOM has consistently argued, there is a contradiction between participatory modes of governance and the current structure of local government which only replicates the vertical structure of power, and is far from being sufficiently community-based. center. The challenge is therefore to know how to democratize and humanize our local governments, many of which have been arbitrarily established by central authorities without sufficiently taking into account natural affinities and nativities.

During the colloquium, a group of presenters spoke a lot about the need for Osun to enter fully into the digital age by ensuring widespread digital literacy, as Opon Imo partially attempted under the administration of Aregbesola. In this regard, some of Aina’s interventions in the field of digital expansion should be considered as starting points for greater diversification and a mesh of the articulation between knowledge and information technologies. As Ademola-Olateju argued, “How can Osun plan to harness education for quick returns? This can be done by creating a basket of hubs ”. He then defined hubs as “effective knowledge centers for ideas, products and services”. What this requires in practice is a knowledge economy, using as a basis the multiplier learning centers of the State, in particular in the Osogbo-Ede axis which is home to a procession of public universities and private. In other words, we must insist, as Dr. Charles Akinola, the governor’s chief of staff, did for a deeper insertion into a technology-driven knowledge economy that reap the dividends of small businesses and computer-generated services begins to play an increasingly important role in the new Osun projected by its current leaders.

Going back to the questions raised in the opening paragraph, there is no doubt that Osun, despite the shortfall setbacks of previous years, has seen itself relatively well; it also identified itself as a state willing to use knowledge and evidence-based planning as tools for development.

At the end of 2019, the World Bank, in its annual update, mentioned that “positive news is emerging from some states”. There is reason to believe that Osun, Anambra, Rivers, Lagos and Kebbi constitute development outliers in some respects. The challenge for the future is how to optimize the harvest of ideas from the anniversary symposium to elevate the state to a self-propelled platform.

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