By Olaitan Afolabi
As measured and validated by the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI), Five Practices define exemplary leaders. At their personal best, astute leaders: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and lastly but certainly not least, encourage the heart. This model has proven its effectiveness as a clear, evidence-based path to achieving the extraordinary—for individuals, teams, organisations, and communities.
Despite his flaws, highhandedness and alarming lowering of human development for infrastructural advancement towards the end of his administration, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, the outgoing governor of Osun State turns the abstract concept of leadership into easy-to-grasp practices and behaviours that can be observed and learned by anyone willing to step up and accept the challenge to lead.
Sentiments apart, I would be an ungrateful person to let this moment slide without biding Aregbesola farewell and thanking him for the lives he had touched and the souls he had saved. Generally speaking, Aregbesola has modelled Osun towards unprecedented infrastructural development, inspired shared vision of virtues, challenged the process both positively and negatively and, enabled others to act. He used to encourage the heart of the people through his sugar-coated oratory power and ideology.
I don’t like the man called Aregbesola. I love him, for two things. First, when I finished secondary school in 2005 at 16 and made my 0’level results in 2006, I thought I was in for a smooth transition to the university and beyond. I trivialised the journey which turned out to be tougher than I thought. Fund, apart from proximity was a major factor. I lost my jewel of inestimable value in 2007 and the entire journey became completely complicated.
Against all odds and grounded attempts to expressly secure admission, I got it right in 2010 and had field days as a Mass Communication student of the Osun State Polytechnic, OSPOLY, Iree. In the polytechnic, we had dramatic history of struggle. We were always at war with Aregbesola. From calls for reinstatement of our Union to fee reduction and protest against protracted closure of our school gate over government – workers’ face-off, comrade-governor Aregbesola forced doggedness and vibrancy into us. I am one of the comrades that usually grounded Osogbo then and turned the popular Olaiya junction to main bow before moving to Abeere to lock down the governor’s office.
In 2011 or thereabout, my brother on whose shoulder I was standing had given me #46,000, being my school fees before he was promoted and headed to Jos for a promotion course. I paid the money and became stranded with nothing to buy handouts. Your survival in the polytechnic is 50/50 if you don’t buy handouts. Even if one has alternative material and reading plans, without handout number, one risks “technical failure.”
“My Upper Credit is gone unless miracle happens”, I often silently said to myself whenever we were given test or assignment. Writing the test and/or assignment without having handout number was like entering America without Visa. It’s perilous!
At the peak of the pressure, Aregbesola slashed school fees across the state owned institutions. OSPOLY’s school fees was trimmed from #46,000 to #25,000. He saved my ass! I got a refund of #19,000 and sorted my handouts palaver. Majority of my colleagues on the verge of dropping out paid up their school fees too.
I retained my Upper Credit and proceeded to the Osun State University, UNIOSUN, Osogbo after my Industrial Training. Clearly, a son of nobody like me wouldn’t have ever thought of going to UNIOSUN if Aregbesola did not slash the outrageous fees payable in the university before his “kind gesture”. His then shared vision of education for all and right to protest coupled with some other forces made me a graduate and comrade today.
I can go on and on, name comrades who Aregbesola’s tides have directly or indirectly made. He taught me that leadership is not about personality; it’s about behaviour and that power is responsibility. In Nigeria politics and the business of politics, even the opposition knows and somehow agree that Aregbesola is unusual, very unique in his individual expression, behaviours and actions that made a difference.
He saw inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities, fostered collaboration and built spirited, but not perfect teams. Unlike one “constituted authority”, Aregbesola also understands that mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary efforts; strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity. He strengthen others, making each person feel capable and powerful.
Even though I strongly detest rising paucity in Osun today, my love for Aregbesola in respect of my education and comrade life is huge. I owe him many thanks as he finally bows out as the state governor. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Aregbesola, farewell!
That said, the incoming government, though a subject of litigation, should please be kind, encourage Aregbesola- later-terrified heart of the people of Osun, keep hope and determination alive and revisit the school fees now payable across the state owned institutions so as to allow many more sons and daughters of nobody to share in the rewards of democracy, be fulfilled.
Adieu Aregbesola, kind regards!