One would have thought that newspaper editorials, which should sum a paper’s policy thoughts on any issue, should be made of sterner stuff devoid of malice, mischief and prejudices. One would think that in writing an editorial, a paper should not be seen to be openly displaying vested interests and subjective analysis of issues under review. With the way and manner The Punch had elected to attack and disparage the government of Ogbeni on sundry issues, it is obvious one might be wrong in assigning a higher pedestal to newspaper editorials, especially when it concerns the Aregbesola government in the State of Osun.

One is definitely pained when the apparent misnomer is from a cherished organ that one holds in the highest esteem. For the avoidance of doubts, Punch had done some couple of editorials on the State of Osun since after Aregbesola became the Governor of the State. I may not be committing the sin of hasty conclusion if I say that all the editorials Punch had done on the Aregbesola’s Administration had been in bad taste. I pray to be proved wrong. I need to ask if The Punch had not seen anything good in Osun since Aregbesola became governor to warrant a positive editorial.

Our concern presently is Punch’s latest editorial, “Aregbesola’s Misguided Church Project”,  in the The Punch of Tuesday January 21, 2014. It was vintage Punch on Aregbesola. Speculative, outlandish and rash! It follows what is becoming a standard Punch tradition on the Aregbesola’s administration which I am not about to change through this reaction. However, I will not fail in my to correct the ridiculous insinuations and accusations which Punch conveyed in its recent editorial.

Punch’s latest grouse was the Ecumenical Center of Worship, which Ogbeni is building for Christians in Osun. Punch sees everything wrong with this idea which itself, was in fulfillment to a campaign promise Ogbeni made to Osun people when he was campaigning to be Governor in the 2007 elections! Perhaps, the faux pas Punch leveraged in disparaging this worthy project was that it is just being conceived. It pretends not to know that it was a campaign promise Ogbeni made as a run-up to the 2007 gubernatorial election. What if Osun people voted for Ogbeni based on that promise? Will Punch not be condemning him  for failure to fulfill the promise? Would Punch have been happy if Ogbeni fails Osun people and provoke another charge of anti-Christianity, which I am sure some unknown elements within Punch would have latched onto to indulge in their pet project of disparaging Ogbeni?

Aregbesola did not purchase nor acquire any piece of land to build any church. The said land was the free gift of Ijesa people who wanted to exploit the prominence of their sons in the nation’s religious sphere for economic, developmental and religious advantage.  We wonder where Punch sourced its information if not from the statement of well-known mischievous opposition figure. We hold it that Punch should be beyond that frailty.

Aregbesola by offering to build an ecumenical center where all Christians would be free to worship was merely tapping on the peculiar advantage Osun and particularly Ilesa has as the spring from which a preponderance of well-known leaders of new generation Christian churches hail from. Majority of Christians leading lights are either from Osun or have a reasonable stay within the precinct of Ijeshaland . These include but not limited to- Pastor Adeboye –Redeem Christian Church of God; Pastor Kumuyi – Deeper Life; Prophet Ayo Babalola – Founder CAC; Prophet Abiara – CAC; Prophet Obadare – CAC; Prophet Fakeye C&S  Church Movement; Prophet  Abiodun Bada – CCC; Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo – Kingsway Bible Church; Lady Evangelist Bola Are ; Evangelist Ojo Ade etc.

Aregbesola was practically seeing the enormous economic advantage Osun stands to tap from the hosting of the many Christian religious programs these Churches host outside Osun State and a measure of such economic advantage could be gleaned from what the state of Osun will benefit from just one night hosting of the Holy Ghost Service by the Redeemed Christian Church of God, for instance. Punch should feel challenged to do an economic analysis of what mere sachet water sellers can make from such programme and how far it can go to consolidate the fortunes of many families in Osun. However, the predilection for anti-Aregbesola sentiments would make it rather difficult for opposition to see the economic benefits of religious pilgrimages to Osun but it is there for the Aregbesola government to see and tap into.

Countries thrive on religious tourism. Saudi Arabia and Israel benefit heavily on religious tourism. Osun would also benefit economically and spiritually from its investment in the celebration of its own unique natural endowment.

Aregbesola is committed to harnessing all potentials of Osun, this is a very viable potential of Osun which will not only increase the IGR of the state but its blessing from almighty Jehovah God.

The promise to create a large Christian worship centre to seat 200,000 was part of Aregbesola campaign. Please recall that the same Aregbesola was the person that built Christian worship Centre in Lagos Government House, the first since the creation of Lagos state, before Aregbesola’s intervention Lagos House only has a mosque. The 200,000 seater Christian Centre attracted jeer from opponents then just as the promise to employ 20,000 youth within hundred days.

On 4th December, 2010 at the launching of  N50m endowment fund for Ilesha Grammar school, which was exactly 7 days after his swearing-in, Aregbesola openly appealed for the support (patronage) of Pastor Adeboye for the establishment of the 200,000 worshipers’ Christian Convention Centre.  At the event that day were also other old students of Ilesha Grammar School who Nigerians could confirm from such as Prof. Wale Omole (former V.C –OAU-Ife), Prof. Ibidapo Obe (former V.C –Unlag), Oba Dr. Adakunle Aromalaran (Owa-Obokun of Ijeha) etc.

The land for Open Heavens is not forcefully acquired as Punch must have assumed but voluntarily donated by Odo-Iju community in Atakunmosa-West LGA through a properly written letter to the state government by Loja Adekekan. This was spurred by the open declaration by the governor at the 50th anniversary event of 4th Dec. 2010.  The monarch duly consulted with   his community and voluntarily donated land for the project. The compensation paid was simply in conformity with existing tradition of patronizing the locals.

The donated land is not a farmland but a deciduous forest with scattered economic trees. Compensation was paid simply as a custom to assuage the people.

It is rather alarming that Punch can openly accuse the government of bribing the Christians, one wonders what constitutes a bribe in this and what Christians stand to lose by the creation of a Christian Convention Centre. It is a warped logic and a wicked opinion. A Greek Gift? Where is the threat in a land where religious harmony is a culture and custom? A tradition  of tolerance and harmony which has endured for close to one million years. Should The Punch openly incite a section of society to rebellion against the State in this cheap manner? By sanctimoniously maintaining that it is not the business of governments to build Churches, we wonder the take of Punch on the existence of the national Mosque, the national Ecumenical Center, among other government built places of worship in Nigeria? What had Punch said or done about these?

Aregbesola’s administration never favours any religion against the other, but opposition would always wish there is no peace in Osun. First they shout Islamization, now it’s Christianization; we are waiting for the shout of Orisalization.

The whole newspaper in Nigeria reported “Cele for Ogbeni” where 5,000 Christians led by the immediate past Osun CAN chairman gathered to support Aregbesola with prayers, yet only Punch Newspaper refused to report it. Punch on the second day after “Cele for Ogbeni” reported a two man complaint about a CAC land upon which a public school is being built, funny enough the same story was repeated the third day.  What has Aregbesola done to deserve this open assault?

Punch did not complain when Akwa-Ibom Openly spent hundreds of million on Christmas carol on economic or moral grounds yet did a full editorial on Osun spending N51 million for a much more spiritually and economically beneficial Christian Convention Centre.

The Punch cannot pretend not to know what is happening in the agricultural sector in Osun State presently and we wish it well. However we appeal to Punch to do a great service to its readers to analyze the feats the Aregbesola government has wrought in Osun since November 2010 and compare it to those of previous administrations in Osun which have sought to expand farmlands and encourage farmers’ as it copiously posited in its editorial. We hold this as a challenge to the editorial objectivity of The Punch to do this to its readers as a way of enlightenment, rather than be guilty of striving diligently in fanning the embers of religious discord in Osun to the fancy of some vested political interest.

In the penultimate paragraph of its editorial, Punch maintained, “Our country is facing serious developmental problems and, definitely, building a worship centre is not one of them.  The people of Osun State want to be free from hunger and have access to medical care and safe shelter; expect their daily lives, their residences and their workplaces to be safe; demand a creative and diverse education that enhances human life, spirit and physical well-being. They are looking forward to a robust physical infrastructure and public utilities that allow safe and efficient travel, deliver electricity and water for personal comfort and safety, at reasonable rates and in sufficient supply for residential, public, commercial and industrial purposes”. We want to state that the first two lines of this paragraph are impeccable as they flow from what a government should do for the people it governs. However, we are surprised that Punch is insinuating that it is not aware that the Aregbesola government in Osun has done more than any other government in the state and as good as any other government in the country at present on its charge of freeing people from hunger, giving people access to medical care and safer shelter and of course mitigating the vicissitudes people face presently from the harsh economic realities.

Would we be surprised if Punch does not know of the massive employment that had happened in Osun since November 2011; that it is not aware of the massive recreation of Osun public schools to decent standards obtainable anywhere in the world? We would be surprised if Punch claims not to be aware of the massive investment in agriculture, roads hospitals and education. I just wonder if Punch did not see or notice or even read of the massive lift of the state of physical facilities, public infrastructure, safer and healthier environment, which we boast, are happening at a level never seen in the history of Osun. One however takes solace in the fact that rather than merely waxing lyrical on the imperatives of good governance even where it exists, the good people of the State of Osun are aware and are fully tapping these from the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.

We would rather tee off with letting Punch aware of a reaction to its hatchet editorial from a certain social media activist, Afeez Odidere, who resides outside Nigeria;

“I think this project is misconstrued for lack of exposure. The Punch Editorial Board should travel more out of Nigeria, to places like Richmond, Virginia. States build “Conventional centers” all the time to attract tourism; rented out spaces to accommodate religious sects The governor of Osun, in this instance, is trying to attract Christian worshippers to Osun, who travel as far as Lagos to hold their mini-prayers. When they travel, they spend MONEY, just as going to Mecca. 

There are many big time Evangelists in Osun and surrounding states. A smart Governor will think ahead and find ways to “LURE” them away from Lagos. You give them incentives such as an “interdenominational center “, where could carry out what they go to Lagos to do. A smart Governor will provide good roads in and around Osogbo, give incentives to hoteliers and other companies in such business.

I don’t see anything wrong in that. You spend fund to attract people who are going to spend.  It is not about supporting a religion, it is business!”

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