‘Our Urban Renewal Tied To Improve Quality Of Life’
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Governor Aregbesola spoke to Tunde Akingbade on various issues relating to development, transformation of ageing cities, climate change and the role of his government. It was a rare encounter in Osogbo.
What is the current position in the facelift that you are trying to give some ancient cities and urban areas in the state?
I think your question is centered on the urban renewal project. Well, we are at the preparation stage. We put together a team of professionals from planners, engineers, architects, quantity surveyors, land surveyors and sociologists to check the strict rules of engagement.
We want to upgrade and renew one-kilometre radius to the city centre in the nine towns, namely, Osogbo, Ede, Iwo, Ikire, Ejigbo, Ile-Ife, Ila Orangun, Ilesa and Ikirun.
It’s quite ambitious, but they have made the first presentation to me, and a collection of the Executive Council members, some three weeks ago. We made our comments as to our expectations, which they have gone to amend or adjust for a final presentation to the Exco. When invariantly we get their report, we will look at the implementation of their recommendations.
Naturally, urban upgrade and renewal will lead to improvement of existing infrastructure, from road to electricity, water supply and sewage, which will definitely affect the present structure.
There would be need to resettle displaced people. There is no way I can talk of a particular approach until the complete report is submitted and experts will help in review again and recommend the best direction to achieve our aim of renewing our urban centres and upgrading the condition of living of both the residents, visitors and the people that would have contacts with the environment, particularly the renewed areas. That is my response.
About 18 years ago, Professor Onibokun and others, carried out a study on Osogbo, Zaria and Owerri, with a recommendation for the upgrade of these towns and also tackle urban poverty, as you are embarking on now. So, for 18 years, nobody touched this aspect in governance in Osun State. What do you think happened?
I am not in the best position to opine on why previous administrations did not consider it necessary the need for upgrade and renewal. All I know is that we all have different motivations and inspirations. There is no way my adventure in power would have been meaningful if the things I am doing now are not taken seriously. There is just no way.
It would have been the greatest misadventure for me if I assumed this office and I did not give serious consideration of issues of quality of life, upgraded environment, sanitation, water supply, improved infrastructure; education, food security and even security in general and social form, besides food.
So, it’s a question of one’s perspective of authority and relevance of it. To me, it’s just simply the minimum that the office must give as a mark of being outside that. I don’t see the need for governance if you could not positively impact on the populace and the society. To me, that is the simple, irreducible — that’s the word to choose — it’s just simply the irreducible minimum of governance in any polity.
Could this be borne out of your experiences all over the world, like what you saw in Bogota, Columbia, as you mentioned at the climate change summit?
Really, you are influenced by your exposures. It could be intellectual exposure, physical exposure, etc. There is no way you can pretend to be isolated from such experiences.
But the truth is this. I want to underline the fact that individuals have their callings, individuals have their preferences, and individuals have their visions. The combination of all of these — yes, could have been a product of your network, contacts, travels and observations or exposure to learning.
But we have seen people, who had more than enough of all the things that I have mentioned, and yet, they were not in any way influenced. A time was in Nigeria when the military was the most favoured institution in terms of learning, in terms of traveling, and in terms of encounters. The years of military rule gave military officers limitless opportunity to transverse the entire globe. Did it translate into meaningful environmental changes? Of course, the answer is no! So, it boils down to the individual.
You may have opportunity to move round the whole world. If your movement is about fun and personal aggrandizement, there is no way the beauty or otherwise of your tours would impact on your environment.
But if you have been imbued with the desire to see how you can use the benefit of your knowledge and learning, then whatever you see, even when and where it is not absolutely and easily adaptable to your own environment, you will want to see how you can still use that knowledge to impact your immediate environment.
What I am saying is that it’s a subjective factor. There is no general rule. In my own case, what I had read in books, what I had seen, what I had felt from discussions had contributed to my material consciousness. The experience I have had is sharpening my focus and style of administration. I will not dispute that.
Osun State is known for its tourism potentials. We were here a few weeks ago and as we approached the state, we saw people cutting grass on the median on the Ibadan-Ile Ife road and planting flowers. Is that part of your plan?
Whoever is serious in this clime will know that we are behind; our environment is dreary, squalid and uninviting.
If we must take our people out of the druggy and dreary that life is now, then there is the need to demonstrate, practically, a livable effort, as you can see.
There seems to be a link between Osogbo and Zaria in the heart of northern Nigeria in terms of trade and commerce. There are many people of Osun extraction who have permanently settled in Zaria. What makes the Osun people to be so involved like this?
You know Osun is the heartland of the Yoruba. Whatever you talk about the Osun is the general trait of the Yoruba. The Yoruba people are adventurous; they are chivalrous, and they are self-motivated. They are irrepressible on whatever they believe will be an advantage to them. So, they are found all over the place.
They are in Burkina Faso; they are in Congo. They are everywhere. Their history made that almost natural. I don’t know how much Yoruba history you know; we are a people that can hardly be tide to a location. We are the most diverse, yet homogenous.
There is no Yoruba man anywhere that is singularly tied to that area where he is. Our Oriki, what is called phylogenic, is such that an Ijesa man would have a link with Ofa in Kwara State as well as Ijebu and Egba in Ogun State. Ditto for an Egba man.
That brings to mind this totally ridiculous claim of some people that only indigenes or residents of a place are qualified to be part of development process in that state. Yoruba’s are never limited to their nativity. No. We are multi-linked; so, that is my own understanding of the Yoruba essence and characteristics.
We are a multidimensional, multilinked, highly fluid, mobile and connected people, who worked hard and enjoy life to the fullest. The Yoruba would want to enjoy life as well as he wants to work. We do not naturally accept indolence as a trait; we value work as much as we value entertainment.
We do not accept immortality of character, immortality of attitude and immortality in its general form. We are a people that celebrate value — human value and character.