Investigation… Aregbesola and the scam called Opon-Imo (2)
In this second part of the serial, Ripples Nigeria presents the concluding part of the findings from an investigative trip to Osun State to ascertain the fate of the Opon-Imo (Tablet of knowledge) introduced by the Rauf Aregbesola administration, as part of efforts to improve education in the state, but which has turned out to be a sham.
The brains behind the scam
Further investigation by Ripples Nigeria showed that Kabiru Aregbesola, the state governor’s first son, may be the brain behind the Opon-Imo project.
“But you cannot see Kabiru, who you’ll see is Bamgbo Bashorun. He is Kabiru’s best friend and a son to Aregbesola’s best friend, Chief Bashorun, whose first name I can’t remember at the moment,” a source alleged.
Bashorun, the project director of Opon-Imo, who is also seen as its Chief Executive Officer, our source alleged, was only a figure head, insisting that Aregbesola and his son Kabiru control Opon-Imo. “They are the ones in charge of it,” the source maintained.
Mr Ajao supporting this claim stated, “At one of the presentations, it took the intervention of a very high ranking chieftain of APC for us to know that the son of our governor was the one in charge of the contract of Opon-Imo. He revealed that Kabiru Aregbesola was the man in charge after he asked him to stand up.”
For PDP, the major opposition party in the state, its reaction was not unexpected. Speaking through its secretary, it noted that, “Opon-Imo is a very sorry story to tell. It’s unfortunate. We will not be speaking majorly as an opposition party. We are first and foremost citizens of Osun State before we were listed into whichever political divide that we find ourselves. So, we have a duty, first and foremost, to our state before we can now begin to talk of primordial sentiments of party division here and there.
“That the government of the state came out to say that the tablet will contain the entire curriculum required for our children to excel in their educational pursuit, especially in the secondary schools, was cheery news regardless of whichever party you find yourself. But most unfortunately, it turned out to be a huge fraud.
“A huge fraud in that if you catalogue the whole thing, first and foremost the thing was launched in faraway America, catting away stupendous sums, very scarce state resources. It was launched in Ilesha and so much money was spent. This same Opon-Imo was launched in Osogbo and so much money was involved. So much media hype, so much expectations and so much hullaballoo of this so called Opon-Imo, only for it to come out to be a big disappointment, to our psyche, to our children and to the educational pursuit of Osun State in general.
“If you go deep into this, because we have done our own studies and investigations on the issue of Opon-Imo, there is quite a great deal of misinformation, inadequacies that cannot allow adequate education for our children.”
A parent in Osogbo said, “Opon-Imo to me is a jamboree.”
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Another parent also from Osogbo told Ripples Nigeria that the project was nothing but a mere scam and sham.
One teacher who refused to be mentioned, or his school named, described it as “wastage of resources”. He continued, “As it is now we are not waiting for anyone again, both the students and the teachers see it as wastage. Since the tablets cannot be distributed to all SS1-3 students it is wastage,” he said.
When Ripples Nigeria contacted the APC publicity secretary, Mr Kunle Oyatomi, to respond on the issues, he referred our reporter to the governor’s spokesman, Mr Okanlawon.
After several attempts, our reporter was able to reach Okanlawon on his GSM number: 08030482098. First, he requested that a Correspondent in the state working with a Lagos-based newspaper, who was helping our Reporter to facilitate a meeting with him, should call him to ascertain the authenticity of our reporter.
After two different Correspondents working in the state spoke with him and vouched for our reporter, he asked our Reporter to reach him on phone for a meeting by 5pm. At 5pm when our Reporter tried reaching him, his number was unavailable.
Continued efforts to reach him the next day went through around 4:21pm at which point, he again promised to get back to our reporter in about an hour and 30 minutes. Two hours later our Reporter tried again to reach him but failed.
Our Correspondent thereafter sent him a text message which read thus: “18/10/2016, 7:42:33 AM: Ebere Ndukwu: Good day, Mr Semiu Okanlawan. After several failed attempts to reach you to react on several allegations levelled against your principal on the Opon-Imo project and other issues while I was in Osogbo, I’ve returned to Lagos.
“More attempts to reach you on phone have been abortive, hence this long text. We are still interested in your side of the story before going to the press anytime soon”.
He replied about 24 hours later, and stated that he really wanted to meet and answer questions from our Reporter during the visit to Osun, but unfortunately could not. He, however, asked to know what the allegations were, which our Correspondent highlighted in another text message to him thus:
- There’re allegations that less than 40,000 Opon-Imo tablets were distributed. What is the actual number distributed by government?
- That there is no factory where it’s produced in Osun as promised by government.
- That it has only been given to SS3 students, and not all of them got it
- That no school or student at present has Opon-Imo.
- That the last time it was distributed was only in one school in Ede.
- That Kabiru, the Gov’s son, is the brain behind it.
- That it cost the state N8.6billion.
- That it’s out-dated.
Mr Okanlawon called back later in the day, and in a 21minute-15-seconds conversation, neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, arguing that most of the issues raised have been responded to by government and that such reactions are in the public domain. He promised that he may only respond to the number of Opon-Imo in circulation.
He particularly dwelt on the issue of the governor’s son being the brain behind Opon-Imo and the gadget costing N8.6billion, insisting that Osun government has clarified those issues long ago, advising our Reporter to go seek them out.
Asked if he could provide links where such rebuttals or government clarification on the amount invested in Opon-Imo could be found, he questioned our research abilities and at some point cut the phone conversation.
He never clarified, nor provided the information on the aspects he said he would, as at the time of going to press.
Ripples Nigeria, true to maintaining highest standard of professionalism, is following up on the Opon-Imo project and welcomes additional information from all stakeholders.
By Ebere Ndukwu …