It takes a revolution to reverse a revolution. When then Governor Rauf Aregbesola revolutionised the education system in Osun State by introducing a 4-5-3-4 education policy not in line with the national education policy based on a 6-3-3-4 structure, it was a revolutionary move by a governor who wanted to project the image of an exceptional progressive.
By Femi Macaulay
Aregbesola introduced single school uniform, reclassified public schools, and abolished single-sex schools in 2013 following an educational summit organised by his administration in 2011. Under his administration, the primary, junior secondary and senior secondary categorisation was changed to elementary, middle school and high school.
It was a controversial restructuring. Less than two years after Aregbesola left office in November 2018, after two four-year terms, his successor, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, set up a panel to review the education policies of the previous administration. Oyetola said that the clamour for change by educationists, school administrators, missionaries and school owners necessitated the review.
The result of the review showed that Aregbesola had carried out an unpopular revolution. In March, the Governor Oyetola administration adopted the report of the review committee and reversed Aregbesola’s revolution.
The reversal affected school mergers, single uniform, name change and the mixture of male and female in single-sex schools. Schools whose names were changed should revert to their old names, and single-sex schools changed to mixed-sex schools should revert to their original status, the government agreed with the committee.
The government cancelled the policy of “merging primary 5 and 6 with a junior secondary school to form middle schools,” saying “it is not in conformity with the national policy on education,” and reverted to the 6-3-3-4 structure as against the 4-5-3-4 arrangement.
It also cancelled the policy of “common uniform for all schools in Osun contrary to the practice of each school having its own unique identity of separate uniforms as we used to have it.”
The Oyetola administration has taken steps towards implementing these changes when schools resume in the state this month after COVID-19-related closure.
It is interesting that the Aregbesola administration was controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Oyetola administration is controlled by the same party. The divergence on education policies reflects a divergence in their approach to governance, and possibly a divergence in their understanding of progressivism.
There was a revolt against Aregbesola’s revolution, but he was unmoved. He could have reviewed the revolution but he didn’t. If it was a popular revolution, the reversal would probably not have happened. Indeed, the reversal calls into question the educational summit that led to the revolution.
It is commendable that the Oyetola administration initiated the review based on popular revolt. It demonstrates the importance of a government that listens.
It is noteworthy that the review committee recommended, and the government accepted, that Opon Imo ”should be reintroduced after improving on its lapses.” There is “a need to have teachers copy,” and involve parents and other stakeholders “to make sure it is not only available but effective,” the government said.
Opon Imo (Tablet of Knowledge) is a revolutionary project, which says a lot about Aregbesola’s revolutionary exertions. Designed in the form of a mini iPad, it is an e-learning device, the first of its kind in Nigeria, introduced by the Aregbesola administration to be distributed free to Senior Secondary School students. It comes with pre-loaded applications for WAEC and JAMB approved textbooks.
By retaining Opon Imo, which received a UN-World Summit Award for innovation and was endorsed by UNESCO and the West African Examinations Council, the Oyetola administration demonstrated that its review of Aregbesola’s education policies was done with a sense of responsibility.
However, there is another matter that the Oyetola administration should look at. Aregbesola’s revolutionary exertions also introduced a construction that has been rubbished by two law courts within three years. ”State of Osun,” an Aregbesola creation, does not mean Osun State, according to the courts, and the constructions should not be used interchangeably.
On June 3, Justice Mathias Agboola of the Osun State High Court, Osogbo, declared that, legally and constitutionally, “State of Osun” did not exist. He also declared that, under the Nigerian constitution, only Osun State could be said to exist.
Justice Agboola, in his judgement in a case brought before the court by a lawyer, Mr Kanmi Ajibola, against the state government over a personal tax of N5.3m that the state Internal Revenue Service had asked him to pay, said it amounted to “artistic colouration” when Osun State is referred to as “State of Osun.”
Ajibola had asked the court to declare the law upon which the tax was based as illegal since it was a law made by “The House of Assembly of State of Osun,” a body unknown to the constitution. “The issue of Osun State and the ‘State of Osun’ is a loud one,” the judge had observed.
Before this, in December 2017, Justice Yinka Afolabi of the Osun State High Court, Ilesha, had taken the same position on the issue. Justice Afolabi’s words: “The executive governor of the state changed the name in 2011. The renaming of a state goes further and deeper for anyone to single-handedly do. To re-order the name of Osun State as ‘State of Osun’ is hereby declared as illegal, null and void.”
The same Ajibola had instituted a case challenging the legality of the “State of Osun Land Use Charge Law.’’ He asked the court to declare that the “State of Osun Land Use Charge Law 2016,” having been enacted by a legislative body that is not known to the constitution and the state not known to the 1999 constitution, was illegal and unconstitutional.
The judge had ruled in his favour. After the verdict, Ajibola had said jubilantly: “The judgement has pronounced ‘State of Osun’ dead and so be it. For now, the judgement subsists except there is any other contrary opinion by the higher court.”
Importantly, the judgement invalidating the construction has not been overturned by a higher court. But officials of the state, according to reports, are still using “State of Osun” in their official engagements and communications. This amounts to disregarding the law. The Oyetola administration should address this matter with seriousness as it addressed Aregbesola’s unpopular education policies.