AREGBESOLA AND THE EMERGING NEW ‘STATE’ OF OSUN

Osun State, known formerly as the state of the living spring, now state of the virtuous, was primarily a civil service community where there were few industries with most of the working population being mostly civil servants and business people. But, all that is due to change soon, if the recent developmental adjustments ongoing around various parts of the state are to be taken into consideration.

Osun State had been known majorly as the home to the Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ile-Ife), the Osun Grove, Erin Ijesa waterfalls, the Esa-Oke Polytechnic, Micom Golf resorts and a few others. There wasn’t much more to it as side attractions and it was primarily a transit town between the South West and the North Central States. Also, according to Temitope Adesiyan, a public servant, previous administrations had tried to uplift the status of the town over the years, but not much had changed its status.

However, an emerging transformed state is gradually becoming visible with the massive reconstruction now ongoing around the state. When the Nigerian Tribune went round the state last weekend, it was observed that the current administration had embarked on various projects, in its bid, according to one of the government’s officials, to boost the general perception about its sublime or poor status.

According to the Nigerian Tribune’s investigations, the biggest ongoing construction project is the proposed Osun cargo airport, which is currently being jointly built by the Nigerian Air force engineers and the Nigerian Army, Ede.

The site of the cargo airport in Osogbo, was not without history as according to the Commissioner for Finance and Strategic planning, Wale Bolorunduro. The airstrip, built in 1939, by British engineers, was the first in West Africa to be used to airlift soldiers back then.

He said that the land where the airstrip was sited and which is to be used for the proposed cargo airport, which was claimed would be completed this year, had only recently been returned to the state by the Federal Government by the last administration. He stressed that the airport, when completed, would contain hangars to be maintained by the Nigerian Air force, while other commercial hangars would be built and rented out to private aeroplane owners.

The Finance Commissioner said that the airport, when completed, would also help open up the state making it easy for finished goods to be airlifted to the state and raw materials from the state, especially agricultural produce from the state to Lagos and environs.

The airport was not the major project under construction, as there are also a series of urban renewal projects going on around the state. There are road rehabilitation works all around the capital and in various parts of the state, thereby ensuring ease of movement while the proposed Eastern-Western by-pass, which would run round the capital was nearing completion.

The various road constructions had also jacked up the prices of land and rent of houses in most areas affected and land or home owners are smiling to the banks.

Joseph Tiamiyu, a landlord around the Godo Ifon road which was recently reconstructed, in a chat with the Nigerian Tribune, expressed delight with the wave of ongoing projects around the state. He hinted that the houses in most parts of the cities were now easily accessible by cars and so houses could attract better and richer residents. He also said that the influx of new settlers to the state in search of jobs afforded them an appreciable number of home-seekers.

Another project, which according to Salimat Adedeji, a teacher in Osun State, is laudable, was the O Schools initiative, were all schools in the state were being upgraded to international status. Such was the case of the model Salvation Army school which is 90 percent completed. The school, upon completion, would take over 900 students. She said that the reputation of schools in the state had risen dramatically in the last year, adding that the idea of giving free meals to primary school children was indeed the right move.

While speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, the state finance commissioner had added that the schools rehabilitation programme, started by Governor Rauf Aregbesola, though first resisted by some privately owned schools, had gradually and positively boosted the learning environment in the state noticeable through the over 60 per-cent increase in enrolment in the last year.

He stressed that the initiative had also given rise to an increase in local employment rates across the state especially with the O Meals for primary schools, where meals are provided every day, free of charge. The gesture of the state government had resulted in the employment of over 3,000 food vendors across the state. He stated that the vendors were employed based on their capabilities alone, adding that most of them were also given soft loans to help purchase the required utensils and equipment for service provision.

Speaking further, Bolorunduro said the O Meals Initiative had also created a ripple effect on the economy of the state by providing more jobs for state residents irrespective of origin. According to statistics provided by him, over 36 cows and 16,000 crates over eggs were fed to students every week, thus creating jobs for farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs in the state.

Moreso, as uniforms were also provided free by the state government and guided by the Osun State content policy where 65 per cent of workers on any project would be Osun residents, thousands of tailors were being hired and supervised by an outsourced garment agent, to sew school and work uniforms to be used by school children and the Osun State Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) volunteers.

In the same vein, it was said that the Omoluabi Garment Factory would be officially opened soon through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) where the state had acquired a 20 per cent ownership.

Two markets are also being built in Oshogbo; the Ayegbaju and Aje markets, which when completed, would help reduce illegal roadside selling as shops in the markets are to be sold directly to desiring owners. This is just as there were available spaces for free traders to sell their wares, for a token amount.

The Ayegbaju market, according to sources, would be inaugurated in August while the Aje market was to be commissioned later in the year.

The government of Osun State also seems to be taking hospitality and tourism seriously, as new hotels, such as the Ideal Nest hotel in Osogbo, were been built. In a chat with the Nigerian Tribune, the Chairman of the hotel, Engineer Kunle Olaleye, said that he was motivated to build a 4-star hotel in Osun State because of the conducive business environment provided by the state government to lure investors. An Osun indigene himself, he stressed that any state which was as receptive as present day Osun would enjoy patronage from investors.

Also, a visit to the Osun grove revealed that there is an ongoing rehabilitation projects around the area to further lure tourists top the site. There were also indications that there were plans to construct a cable car around Erin Ijesa waterfalls to allow tourists bask in the serenity of its natural environment.

When asked how most of these projects were being financed, Bolorunduro said money had been raised through Public Private Partnerships with contractors, from the capital markets, and through direct investment in state projects. He stressed that the revenue base of the state had been gradually increasing as most residents, especially artisans were presently gainfully employed in many of the state projects and so could contribute directly via tax payments or direct labour.

According to many of the residents of Osun State, these developments are a pointer to the fact that their government is working, and that in no distant future, Osun State would become the pride of the South-West where indeed, virtuosity encourages positive growth.

Culled from the NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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