•Finance Experts Blame Timing •Human Rights Activists Demand Accountability
THE official commissioning of Osogbo Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding on Wednesday has been greeted with mixed reactions from residents of Osun State as the fortune expended on the project and the timing have come under public scrutiny.
It would be recalled that the inauguration of the centre was enmeshed in controversy from its conception, as it was reported that Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola had struck a deal with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to transfer the project to his (Obasanjo’s) controversial library in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
As a matter of fact, the deal so infuriated the fire-brand Nobel Laureate, Emeritus Professor Wole Soyinka, that he took on the duo of Oyinlola and Obasanjo up to international level, before his argument was subsumed with what a pundit described as conspiracy within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Along the line, OSUN DEFENDER investigation unearthed close to a billion naira that had been expended on the project and like lobby, a situation that provoked critics to query the priority accorded the project, when infrastructural facilities, education and health sectors are still begging for attention.
Checks further showed that after a long battle between Soyinka and the embattled state helmsman, the UNESCO body finally granted the inauguration of the centre for Osogbo, with an administrative office at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta.
Some of the artifacts collectors and traditionalists that spoke with OSUN DEFENDER on the development expressed mixed reactions, as some commended the establishment of the centre for the development of art and culture, while others took a swipe at the timing of the project. “I am a traditionalist, an artiste and a cultural activist. So, naturally, I should be happy that this centre is put in place, but I am afraid, it could be another conduit pipe, where our collective resources would be siphoned, because some projects said to have been inaugurated in the past ended up in a waste paper baskets,” said Esuleke.
The cultural activist then demanded to know why Osun Osogbo groove was neglected despite the fact that it has become a world heritage, saying that the last time any art work was put there (groove) was when the aged Susan Wenger, the Austrian, Osun Chief Priest did.
According to Esuleke, “when the same UNESCO adopted the Osun groove in Osogbo a world heritage, we thought something worth of international standard would come to the groove; we thought a five-star hotel facility would be put in place for tourists, we thought the state government would provide a motorable road to the groove; but what we got is a complete neglect and we don’t know the difference between Osun Osogbo and Osun, the world heritage centre.
However, an Osogbo artist, Rasheed Alade had lauded the project as a welcome development, saying that if the opportunity beneath the centre’s ideology is explored to the fullest, a lot of the people and the state would benefit from it.
According to Alade, “the centre is a good omen and an appreciation of art and culture in this part of the country and if the opportunity therein is explored, the state will surely count her blessing”.
In another development, some finance experts who spoke with OSUN DEFENDER on the economic implication of the projects, have questioned the priority of the government, saying that the centre was a right thing at a wrong time.
In a forensic analysis of Dr. Nurudeen Taofeek, a lecturer in one of the business schools, the centre is a plus in a developed economy, while it is a minus in a developing economy; saying that Osun State government has misdirected a good policy.
“In a developed economy, where what to eat, what to wear, jobs for the youths, good roads and infrastructural and social amenities are not the problem, a centre like this is a welcome development; but in Osun State, a glorified hinterland, the project is needless”, submitted the don.
Besides, an Osogbo businesswoman, Mrs. Bukola Adepeju has castigated the government for expending billions of Naira on a centre that could only be patronized by a few tourists who may not even want to sleep in the state, saying that Oyinlola is celebrating a close-ended project.
“The Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding is an exclusive business that is not open to the public, and we cannot see its impact on the needed business boom in Osun. I think the governor is doing it for politics, not for any other reason,” Adepeju reiterated.
However, some human rights activists have demanded for accountability of the project from the early stage hitherto, arguing that taxpayers in the state deserve to know how their resources are being expended.
According to the Coordinator, United Action for Democracy (UAD), Comrade Abiodun Aremu, the funds used in putting the project in place belong to the taxpayers in the state and the details of the expenditure should be given for the sake of accountability and fiscal discipline. “I can see that the whole show is shrouded in secrecy, the people of the state are kept in the dark over the matter as touching the centre and we shall beam our searchlight on the financial statement of the centre if the government refuses to disclose it,” Aremu maintained.
In the same vein, the National Coordinator of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Comrade Debo Adeniran has carpeted the Oyinlola-led administration for being insensitive to the hardship of the masses. “As at the time people are facing hard times when the government at the centre is putting austerity measure in place, the establishment of such a centre with no direct impact on the economy of the state is an insensitivity of the highest order,” said Adeniran.
By OUR REPORTER