Dinner with the Governor
Nike and I and her entourage leave the Culture and Tourism Conference and head directly for the Governor's house with a quick stop for my quick change. We arrive and are ushered through security into a pavilion furnished with closely spaced, large, round tables. The stage is inexplicably adorned with Union Jacks. The Ambassadors are seated at the head table; the rest of us are shown to Nike's table in the center of the room. People gradually enter and find their places. Governor Aregbesola and his entourage enter with little fanfare. He moves down the center of the room smiling and shaking hands. Mine is the last hand he takes before turning back to his table. His grasp is firm.
Rauf Aregbesola is the most universally popular politician I have encountered here, there, or anywhere. He won the 2007 election, but it was stolen by his opponent, the corrupt incumbent. Unbeknownst to him, Aregbesola had equipped his supporters at the polls with hidden cameras. They took the case to court and won using incontrovertible evidence obtained by the hidden cameras. In November of 2010, Aregbesola was declared the winner and installed as the Governor of Osun State. There was dancing in the streets of Osogbo on that day.
The Governor set to work immediately. He is an engineer by training and one of his initial projects is the improvement of the educational system I saw new schools being built and existing structures being renovated and upgraded. The road system is also being improved. Major road construction is underway in Osogbo, and this time it is being done right. Pedestrians are not ignored. Attractive wide walkways are being installed along busy roads protected from the sometimes unruly traffic by short concrete pillars.
Nigerian roads are infamously bad. The problem again is corruption. Contractors are paid for a specified depth of asphalt and a properly built roadbed. Instead they put down a fraction of the asphalt specified and pocket the money for the balance. A few months of tropical rains, and cavernous pot holes reveal a thin skin of asphalt over bare earth.
The Governor's road road building program is cutting wide swaths through the city. It is said that he comes in the night to inspect the progress of construction and, if the work does not meet the standard, he destroys it on the spot and sacks the contractor.