Osun: Celebrating the ‘the cradle of Yoruba civilisation’ @ 30, by Zainab Suleiman Okino
Ignore the irony in the title of this article. Osun state is home to Oduduwa, the progenitor of Oranmiyan, the prime heir of Ile-Ife who returned to claim his grandfather’s throne and became king. I’m not about to stir any controversy over Oranmiyan’s place in Yoruba folklore but to state clearly that Osun state is a reservoir of a rich history beyond 30 years, though its creation is now a part of that rich chronicle.
With Osun’s remarkable past, it is no surprise that the state’s founding fathers sought and fought for its creation which came to fruition on August 27, 1991, when ex-military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida created the state.
30 years after, under the leadership of Governor Isiaka Adeboyega Oyetola, the state rolled out the drums not just to celebrate, but to create more history, with series of events to mark the 30th anniversary of the state’s creation. One of such events is a colloquium held on September 8, 2021, and where yours truly served as a panellist.
The colloquium was described by the governor as the “intellectual arm of the 30th anniversary of our state, to interrogate the performance of the state so far, examine possible gaps and project for a sustainable future that all crave for as a people and desire to bequeath.”
The colloquium was moderated by renown scholar, Professor Niyi Akinnaso, who together with the panellists discussed the keynote address presented by a former governor of the state, Chief Bisi Akande whose speech revolved around the dreams of the “founding fathers and past leaders of the state for achieving an optimum community and laying a foundation for the prosperous future of the state,” in a paper titled “Osun @ 30: Celebrating Milestones, Building a Prosperous Future.”
The event was chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, his Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III who said that the state’s decision of a colloquium to celebrate its landmark 30th anniversary “is a significant strategy for linking the past with the present and the future to build a sustainable enterprise.”
And the audience did get a good dose of history and its relevance in charting the course of their future” adding that “it was no surprise that in Osun’s years of statehood, it has produced a galaxy of stars in all sectors and areas of human endeavour” as the state is blessed with both human and natural resources.
As the custodian of the people’s culture, the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi paid glowing tributes to the past and present leaders in the state, while expressing happiness over the progress the state has made in the last 30 years.
He also cautioned politicians not to play politics that could divide the state: “Osun is better today than when it was created…the journey of 30 years began with some people’s efforts and we appreciate the founding fathers, past administrators and incumbent governor, for their contributions to the growth and development of Osun. Osun is greater than every single individual, and it has become necessary to stress this fact for our people to be careful not to allow politics and other interests to disintegrate us.”
Chief Akande described the “the Optimum Community as a definable people’s settlement capable of raising and sustaining a minimum of a standard secondary school…a youth educational secondary institution…in other words, such a secondary institution would accommodate students population of between 420 and 850 youth. In this way, community development architecture should reasonably be designed to target people around every corridor of such standard secondary schools which become the nucleus of an ‘optimum community’ and a major development unit.”
The optimum community concept has ensured the rise and rise of such development units and all-encompassing development of the state especially in the area of education, which has expanded the frontiers of the state to other sections of society’s strata. Osun state boasts of at least 14 higher institutions among them, a federal university, Obafemi Awolowo University, a state university, seven private universities, one federal polytechnic, one state polytechnic, one college of technology, two-state colleges of education and a newly approved federal university of health sciences to make it 15. This exceptional stand in education has put the state in good stead. It is, therefore, no coincidence that the state boasts of the highest number of professors and PhD holders in Nigeria.
Education of the mind presupposes a positive social construct of the people. As a first-time visitor to Oshogbo, the state’s capital, I looked out for anecdotes that piece together to make the people who they are. There is no gainsaying the fact that their education has contributed in no small measure to their exposure and urbane traits. I must say I was impressed by the way the people I met conducted themselves. My initial reluctance to make the trip soon gave way to cautious optimism when the protocol people picked me from Ibadan airport to Oshogbo. Then came the day of the event. Then I saw the overwhelming joy of the people—old and young, who gathered at the state’s event centre for the occasion.
Governor Oyetola demonstrated his commitment to the service of the state in his speech and deed. Compared with some governors who attend only the opening ceremony of such events, the governor sat through an almost four-hour event. he said: “as an administration, we have instituted this colloquium to celebrate our shared values and our collective resolve that have delivered the Osun that we desire and to give vent to our dream to prosecute our development agenda which is our strategy and road map to put our dear state on the part of sustainable development. We are confident that just as the foundation laid by our forefathers 30 years ago has earned us a viable place in the national and international space, our decision to lay bricks of contemporary governance structures will build a prosperous and sustainable future.
“This 30th anniversary is the end of a phase and the beginning of another: the beginning of sustainable governance and development, the beginning of a new era for a generation of Osun citizens that will ride on the wings of knowledge, technology and entrepreneurship to realise their potential, shut the door against unemployment, create wealth and radically transform the economy of the state.” Indeed, with the colloquium and the coming together of sons and daughters of the state, Governor Oyetola has further enriched the history of Osun and the embodiment of Yoruba civilisation.