#OsunAt25: We Are In For The Long Haul – Rauf Aregbesola



I am greatly pleased to be with this beautiful gathering this beautiful morning to celebrate the silver jubilee of the creation of our state. We are being treated here to beautiful and breath-taking callisthenics display by Osun school pupils. Today’s display involves 4,000 pupils between the ages of nine and 14, drawn from 17 Middle Schools in Osogbo and Olorunda Local Governments.


We began this programme in 2012 with the assistance of Cuban duo, Francis Rodriguez and Raiza Guerra, who trained the first set that performed during the 21st anniversary of the creation of Osun, four years ago. They also trained the trainers as well. We are happy that our people trained by the Cubans are the ones coaching the next generation and are responsible for today’s feat.


In 2012, a total of 8,000 athletes drawn from 24 schools and 60 coaches were trained in the nine federal constituencies in the state. The callisthenics programme has been well received in our schools and communities by the students, teachers and parents.


The Osun School Calisthenics is not a frivolous brainwave that will be swept away by the tide of time. Rather, it is a well-conceived programme as part of the overall redesign and reorganisation of the education system in Osun. Our administration views physical education with all seriousness, and we regard formal education as incomplete without its physical development component. Accordingly, we give it the required priority in the restructuring of education.


As we have emphasized, the calisthenics programme is not only an out-of-school sports activity but a lifestyle-change project for building a new generation of students who are physically fit, mentally sound and socially well-adjusted. And we are not alone in this view. We have history to draw upon, and this is also supported by practices in other lands and climes. Even the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regards physical education programmes as part of its crucial brief.


The importance of physical education in the development of healthy and wholesome human personality has been realized as far back as ancient Greece where, for instance, the human body was regarded as a temple that provided a sacred abode for the human mind and soul. The Greeks of old therefore believed that gymnastics and calisthenics were necessary to keep this temple-abode healthy and functional. This tradition eventually gave birth to organised sporting activities.


As the Encarta put it, these ‘Games that foster competition and stimulate play behavior are often used as a means of enabling students to understand and practice specific physical skills so that a high level of fitness can be maintained.’
This perhaps also explains why, in the advanced countries of the world, like the United States, physical education is generally taught to school pupils right from kindergarten and up to the tertiary level. It covers a whole range of organised physical activities including sports, calisthenics, gymnastics, dance and so on.


The importance of physical exercise to the development of a healthy human person cannot be over-emphasised.  Calisthenics, for example, has been known to have the substance of unity, harmony, balance and team work and thus presents one of the best engagements for teaching young pupils the cooperative spirit in a simple, delightful and interesting way. In other words, virtues such as team work, esprit de corps, which are highly desirable in society and social interactions are also derived from and fostered by calisthenics. This is in addition to its healthful benefits for the body such as flexibility, physical strength, agility and the capacity for endurance. Indeed, modern researches into health and diseases have established the incontrovertible fact that physical exercises accrue health benefits to, and keep many a harmful disease away from, the body.


An added advantage of this programme, especially in our own peculiar situation, is that, by providing a platform for fraternisation and positive integration and engagement in a worthwhile endeavour, it makes the students unavailable for potentially destructive out-of-school activities, such as political brigandage and other criminal activities. This is further underscored by the fact that sporting, besides other things, has become a big industry in the modern world. it is not only advantageous for the individual sports-person in terms of earning a living, it is also important for the sporting nation in regard to its status in the comity of nations and its performance in international sporting competitions.


Therefore, countries around the world where there is a well-organised and deliberate sporting programme of catching them young always excel in global competitive sporting events. The sterling performances of countries like the United States, Great Britain and China in the recently concluded Olympic Games in London attest to this fact. It also contrasts with our country’s showing in the Games.


When Chief Bola Ige, as governor of the old Oyo State, introduced callisthenics in the Second Republic, it was to the delight of all and was well applauded all over the country. Regrettably, it was discontinued as a result of military incursion into government. By reintroducing it, we are just continuing the worthy legacy of this colossus.


When we started callisthenics in 2012, the then opposition in Osun, dazed by this uncommon phenomenon, rushed to town to make the ludicrous allegation that we were training the youths as armed militias with the aim of using them to secede from Nigeria. How could children holding flags and bending their bodies function as armed militias or be used to secede from Nigeria?


Nevertheless, callisthenics is, in a microcosm, the philosophy of education we have introduced in Osun. We have been inculcating the values of unity, harmony, discipline, teamwork, hard work and creativity into the school children. It can be seen from callisthenics for instance that the whole is the sum of the parts. You must do well your part for the team to succeed and your own success is only meaningful in light of the success of others. If one athlete should be out of sync with the team, the formation fails.

We have been raising the new man. We are providing education as the infrastructure of the mind that develops our youths to become models of good character, innovation and competence; the true Omoluabi. This Omoluabi personae is honest, courageous and rational; one who excels in character, innovation and competence. The educated person is well connected to his or her Yoruba culture and heritage. Everything he or she does with others, the society, family and friends is driven by the desire to live and demonstrate good deeds.


This is also a foretaste of the future of the products of our education system. As a developing nation, a disproportionate percentage of our population falls below 25 years and a greater number of that segment still are within the schooling age. At the golden jubilee of Osun in the next 25 years by the grace of God, therefore, the beneficiaries of our education system and the legacy we are leaving behind would constitute the majority of the population.


We picture these children in the next 25 years, having imbibed these traits and having formed their character with them.In addition to the learning they have acquired, they are going to take the world by storm. They would have been equipped with the learning and character needed to function and excel in an increasingly digitised and competitive world. They would be winners and leaders in this state, our country and the world at large. We are long distance runners, not sprinters. We are for the long haul.


Let me thank the brains behind this callisthenics programme and all the people that made today’s event a huge success.I will like to thank all the members of the 25th anniversary committee, under the leadership of Dr Charles Akinola and supervision of my Chief of Staff, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola.


Mr Adebayo Ojo, Director, Department of Social and Grassroots Mobilisation and Guidance in the Office of the Governor, leads the callisthenics team, while Barrister Gbenga Akano is responsible for Administrative Coordination. Ojo is assisted by eight officers in his Department. These are Wale Balogun, Temilade Olokungboye, Sadeeq Olajide, Gbenga Adedeji, Prince Fatai Tadese, Popola Alaba, Seun Abosede and Yaya Ademola. The coaching crew consists of the Chief Coach, Prince Adedeji, and two Assistant Chief Coaches, LS Ajayi and Alhaji Ilesanmi, three Principal Coaches, S.S. Egbeyemi, B.M. Amiola and A.R. Oyekanmi and 38 other Assistant Coaches.


I acknowledge the assistance and support of corporate bodies and organisations, particular Wema Bank, Zenith Bank, Sterling Bank and First Bank.


I thank also the parents whose children have treated us to breath-taking display this morning. Your investment of hope in them will come to fruition in due season. Last but not the least, I thank the 4,000 athletes who have kept us spellbound with their extraordinary performance. Your future will be as bright and fulfilling as this display you have treated us to.


I congratulate us all on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the creation of our state. I thank you all for coming and for your kind attention. Osun a dara!

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