Of all the governors elected via the platform Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Osun state governor, Rauf Aregbesola has some positive peculiarities that should never go unnoticed when analyzing his utterances and deeds. He is the only governor that went into office with a clear and pure political background as a political activist, coherent and consistent AC then ACN member, with an experience of governance as an executive member of government: He was an important commissioner (for works and infrastructure) in Lagos state before going to contest in Osun. As many will remember, his long difficult battle into office went beyond just elections and was shared by many including Wole Soyinka.
Even I argued some years ago in London before an international audience that Rauf Aregbesola will definitely make some important and positive impact on the dynamics of Nigerian politics because of his personal character and political exposure. I listed him amongst nine other Nigerian public figures that will make strategic contributions to the trajectory of the country in the next ten years; that was five years ago.
To whom much is given, much is expected. The latest declaration by Governor Aregbesola, in which he called for the creation of a ministry of northern affairs is a lot below such expectations and that is to put it mildly. By the way, we are referring to him as Governor Aregbesola here, let us hope he doesn’t take offence because they tell me he is generally addressed as Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, with his consent, even when the speaker then proceeds to speak in English. “Ogbeni” means “Mr.” in Yoruba language; don’t ask me why.
Aregbesola made the call for the establishment of a northern ministry whilst delivering a speech at a symposium on ‘Islam and Peaceful Co-existence in Contemporary Multi-Religious State’ in Abuja. In the governor’s intention, such ministry will have the task of dealing with the problems of unemployment, poverty and women affairs in the north. Let us assume that he made such call out of his concerns for what is going in the northern parts of Nigerian and that he had good intentions for them. In that case we have to remind him that his suggestion seems patronizing and condescending of northerners, it lacks consideration for other parts of Nigerian and it shows that the governor is not fully aware of the federalist deficit we have in governance in Nigeria.
The federal government of Nigeria already has ministries in charge of almost everything one can think of in this world, these ministries are there to plan, execute and monitor activities that will bring development and generate employment in every part of the country including the north. The questions to be asked are what are these ministries doing and where are they doing them. Is there a case of conspiracy against the north? If so, by whom and for what? If the federal government has neglected the north to the point of needing a ministry of northern affairs, why should the same federal government be called upon to rescue the north? This is like calling an arsonist to out put fire.
From the day they were formed, each state in Nigeria, including those in the north has its own ministries for everything Governor Aregbesola is asking for. It has local governments areas and they have leaders and public office holders there too. The questions to be asked are what are they doing and what have they been doing to the point of them needing a ministry of northern affairs? What has happened to all the money allocated and generated for development over the years? Who are those that have managed them both at state or federal levels?
Let us be clear, these questions are applicable to not only those in charge of affairs at the federal level or in the northern states of the country, it is to be directed also to those at other levels and other parts of the country. Nowhere in Nigeria, Lagos and Abuja included is at the level of full employment and with no problem of poverty etc. should we establish ministries of the eastern and western affairs too?
The idea of establishing special bodies for structural problems is one of the many bad ideas that Nigerians have inherited from years of military rule and it is time we free ourselves from it. In democratic countries, the quest is for normality, good governance and transparency and it is brought about by everyone doing their own work judiciously. They do it because they care about their people and they do it because they know they have to give account to the press, the judiciary and to voters. The few instances, (like in case of special funds for southern Italy) where structural problems have been treated with extraordinary remedies have generated corruption, mismanagement and disappointment.
If Governor Rauf Aregbesola really wants to help the North and indeed any part of Nigeria for that matter, let him advocate for accountability, good governance and transparency, but better still, let him not advocate for anything. Let him like other governors just mind their business in their own states. Let them all focus on fixing roads, schools, hospitals and keeping their states clean and secure. Their deeds in office will then be used as example to inspire other states.