Osun – The Lessons of a Retreat

Osun – The Lessons of a Retreat
by Dipo Famakinwa on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 2:17am ·
Osun – The Lessons of a Retreat
Governance is a serious activity. Where it is not taken as such, it leaves in its wake, stagnation, rot and poverty. And the people suffer. It is difficult to make progress in any environment where leadership positions are held by those who are not prepared for the rigour of public administration, and are therefore unfit to hold public office. The result is that common good is compromised on the altar of bumbling performances from individuals with little or no clue for achieving governance impact. As the sector with the biggest capacity for impact, the recruitment process into executive level governance positions must take into consideration the need to get the right people on the bus. Aligned with this, are the supporting institutions that would provide the impetus for effective governance actions. And finally, is the methodology of successful execution.

Indeed, for meaningful progress in any sphere of life, there must be a vision. The vision must be clear enough to provide a rally. The rally must be held by people with strong inclinations, competences and commitment for making things happen. The people and their welfare must be the central object of the vision, while the results that come out of such a setting must be measured on the basis of the people themselves agreeing that their needs have been adequately served. In many instances, this is the crux of governance – the nexus between governance activity and actual impact.
Change becomes possible only when there is a sustained commitment to it. This is more so in an environment whereupon every scorecard for measuring progress flashes abject points. The job becomes even more herculean where the policy making framework and development strategy trajectory had been, at best tepid and uninspiring. It is against this background that a pragmatic setting for a result-oriented development pathway for the State of Osun must be charted.

Recently, Offa, Kwara State, North Central Nigeria, played host to a strong contingent of senior level public officials, comprising political office holders and senior civil servants from the neighbouring State of Osun, for what was initially described as State of Osun Executive Council Retreat, but which was later renamed Osun Executive Arm Retreat, at the instance of the Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, after quite a number of push-backs on the apposite nomenclature.
The first-ever Osun Executive Arm Retreat, under the administration of Ogbeni, which held on the 11th of November, 2011, at the Avalon Hotel, Offa, near the Federal Polytechnic, with the theme: Delivering on the Osun Development Agenda had the following objectives:
Creating a shared vision on the strategic direction of the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola Administration in the State of Osun.
Enhancing the capacity of the Cabinet members and key public servants to think and act strategically around programs and priorities of government.
Understanding the policy environment and the rudiments of governance, and move on to develop and pursue result-oriented actions for impact.
Setting goals for the MDAs and aligning their programs with the shared vision.
Developing a culture of impact measurement and evaluation.
Indeed, the outcome of the Retreat should form part of the celebratory talking points for the 365-days anniversary in office of the Aregbesola-led administration, in view of the grounds covered, the consensus built, the agreements reached, the commitments secured and the optimism engendered. All who had the opportunity of participating at the programme agreed that it was a strategy masterstroke for Ogbeni.  That reality in itself presents its own challenges, one of which is the setting of expectations that the leadership of the State must find the will, the determination, the resources, the people and the institutions to meet.

However, the thrust of this presentation is not to discuss the details of the Retreat, which led to the 2011 Offa Declaration. The Offa Declaration, by the way, is an avowed commitment by all participants to an Agenda for good and result-oriented governance, pure and simple. Rather, this presentation is meant to distill key lessons from the Retreat, from a purely developmental perspective.
The Vision Dimension
A vision is usually cast, while plans and programmes tolerate variableness. The vision must be strong and bold enough to impel equally strong actions. The Six-Point Integral Action Plan of the administration conveys bold promises. Encapsulated in the Osun Development Agenda, the presentation of the administration’s strategic by Ogbeni himself, delivered so compellingly and persuasively, pushed the vision dimension into the realm of feasibility. But this is the easy part. Finding the programmatic vehicles and the delivery methodology is the real work. O-Reap, O-Yes, O-Clean, O-Tour, the Urban Renewal programme and the Education Infrastructure Development vehicles of the administration speak significantly to the desire of the Governor to banish poverty, banish hunger, banish unemployment, restore healthy living, promote functional education and enhance communal peace and progress.

2. The Foundational Premise of Ethics and Values
Development is not happenstances. It is the product of a conscious, determined and sustained effort to arrive at a chosen destination. Development is possible without compromising the contextual essence of the milieu. The determinate fulcrum of development actions in Osun is the Omoluabi tradition. No pretences, no middle ground. The leadership of the State is not promising development outside the cultural and sociological make-up of the people. It therefore proceeded with a re-branding exercise, not because branding is fashionable, but because there is an enduring philosophical message to convey. Indeed, all declared objectives and attainment intentions of the State from economic development to the provision of social infrastructure, tourism development plans and the development of the human capital took off from the acknowledgement of the deep natural inclinations of the people and their obvious choices.

3. Leadership
Leadership is an intense responsibility. Good leadership is a sine-qua-non for progress. Anyone who had had a prior encounter with Ogbeni as the Governor of the State of Osun before the Retreat must have formed certain impressions of him as a leader. The Retreat was a different kettle of fish. On display was an abounding commitment to a charter, almost like a covenant. So scary in the dimension of its expressions, but at the same time so compelling in the arousal of followership alignment! On display was a vision so clear, so sharp, so focused on history, communicated with passion and unbroken optimism, and a sound note of warning – failure is not an option! As the State moves into what promises to be a challenging chapter in its history, there is clearly a demonstration of sufficient leadership character to face up to the difficult issues confronting the State.

4. The Alignment Factor
Leaders lead only because they find a willing tribe. People, who are prepared to commit sincerely to their vision, can follow their strategic direction and are well-aligned to play their own roles in bringing the vision to life. As a matter of fact, successful leaders seek every opportunity to sell their agenda and rally their troop around it. This is the alignment factor. The Osun Executive Arm Retreat provided an ample platform for lining up the critical governance and policy implementation stakeholders in Osun to the Development Agenda. The Chief Marketing Officer was the governor, and in his presentation of the composite Osun Development Agenda, the viewing of the ‘Bogota Documentary’, and the Governor’s final charge to participants, the unmistakable message was that only well-aligned troops eventually win a war.

5. Problems as Opportunities
The State of Osun is a typical ‘Bottom-Billion’ environment. With all the indices of economic gauge pointing downwards, the State under the current dispensation remains undaunted. Osun State proceeds on the new journey with vaunting ambitions, audacious plans, and valiant signposting. Rather than get bogged down with discouraging data, those same statistics provide the fuel for projecting for a future that must erase the unenviable past. The challenges of a skewed federation, limiting financial resources, over-bearing federal government, and so on, are stark realities, but the unbridled optimism and high effervescence for what is possible belie the current status. There is a resolve around a no-limits mentality across board. The talk is that the train is moving and you better get on it fast!

6. Accountable Relationships Matter
Accountability is the stamp of good governance. It is impossible to succeed when the relationship network does not inspire. Leaders must therefore endeavour to build a strong network or community of associates with similar concerns, and who subscribe to shared worldview and developmental orientation. This inexorably becomes a great propeller for progress. It also compels stewardship, and enables leaders to look beyond their shoulders and tailor their actions in a manner that they don’t become a disappointment to the collective. Accountable relationships therefore become a strategic asset. The Osun Retreat championed an irreversible course of action by providing a space to boldly chest out in the presence of current and former colleagues, activists and opinion leaders, in a manner that everyone can make a contribution and also provide an impulsion for positive action and strong result attainments.

7. The Landmines
There are obvious landmines which must be avoided. Some must be wisely handled, some must be astutely managed, but none must be completely ignored. One of these is the issue of religion. Religion is currently well-managed in the State. That situation must be sustained. Another is sycophants. The environment of a strong leader naturally breeds flatterers. But a leader is as strong as the quality of the band around him. In public administration, there is no messiah, only the shepherd of the process. The enemy is not PDP or any such opposition. These are easily emasculated with result-oriented leadership and quality public services delivery. The enemy is usually found within. Osun needs be on guard.

In conclusion, governance in the State of Osun, and I dare say, in the Southwest States of Nigeria, is clearly on the upswing. Leadership is showing that the challenges, though daunting, are not insurmountable. Where the vision is clear, and the leadership, the people, the institutions, and the processes of governance are aligned for demonstrably accountable and high-quality political and economic governance in the interest of the generality of the people, then there is much to hope for. But the pathway for progress will be further enhanced if the States of the Region can successfully find and pursue interconnectedness of strong actions, utilize peer learning platforms and build synergy for development programmes and projects, in line with the Regional Development Agenda. The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Framework put together under the auspices of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) presents a useful roadmap of action along this line.

Oladipo Famakinwa (Mr.)
Managing Director, Development Qualitatives Limited
3, Ade Akinsanya Street, Off To.

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