21st June, 2012
Aregbesola, governor of The State of Osun is the opposite of Nigeria’s regular governor
Favourite music? Fuji. Favourite song? A Saheed Osupa number, according to those close to him. Does he dance? Very nimbly, and often, too. That’s Rauf Aregbesola, the studious-looking governor of the State of Osun.
For a governor, Aregbesola is offbeat.
The difference between him and the regular high office holder does not exactly lie in his musical taste.
What sets him apart? His understated style, an uncommon element in a society that grants its leaders licence to live like Hollywood stars while the followers barely exist.
His dressing is Spartan. Unremarkable kaftans and caps are the grandest things he wears. He is an exercise freak. His sinewy frame is some sort of testament to this.
But there are other traits that confound. He rejects the culture of big titles and superlative prefixes. Shortly after he became governor, he announced at a press conference that the prefix, “His Excellency”, was not for him. His preference, he said, is Mr. Governor or Ogbeni (Mr. in Yoruba).
Governors’ convoys are not known to stop when traffic lights turn red. Aregbesola’s has a standing instruction to do so. His security details have fought this, arguing that it could predipose him to harm. They have failed to get him to change his mind.
When he turned 54 last year, he warned ministries, parastatals and political appointees against using government money for the sycophantic tradition of congratulatory newspaper adverts.
Many did not like it, but could not risk the consequence of veering off the newly introduced directive against unnecessary spending. The established tradition dictates that ministries, government agencies, political appointees and even tertiary educational institutions are duty-bound to buy media space for slavering advertisements on the birthday of the governor or his wife.
For more than half of the about two years he has spent in office, Aregbesola used his personal car, a Mercedes Benz G Wagon, as his official vehicle. The typical governor is not averse to changing his car every year. Aregbesola’s personal car has, since March, gone on a deserved vacation.
Islam, Aregbesola’s religion, is frequently used by opponents as a weapon against him. He has been severally accused of harbouring a plot to Islamise the state and linked him, without proof, to fundamentalist organisations. The adoption of the hijab as uniform for Muslim students in the state was misconstrued as part of the Islamisation plot.
Aregbesola, with his cleric goatee and skull caps, does not hide his link with Islam. But his own wife does not wear a hijab. That was conveniently ignored by his accusers. So is the fact that he is the first governor of the state to direct that prayers at state functions must be offered in the Christian and Muslim ways as well as in the way of traditional religions.
First published by THENEWS magazine