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How Osun State Became “the State of Osun”

Only five years after he burst onto the Nigerian political scene as the senator who could outdance P Square in public, Ademola Jackson Adeleke is now the governor of Osun State. The former senator assumed office on November 27, 2022, and immediately showed everyone he’s not just a dancer but also a fighter.

Right from his inauguration speech, Adeleke started handing out orders on issues he considered so pressing he couldn’t wait to check out his new office first. He froze appointments his predecessor, Gboyega Oyetola, made since the July 2022 election, sacked 12k workers and suspended state electoral officials.

But a major decision the new governor has made that’s getting some pushback is to change the state’s official name from “the State of Osun” to “Osun State”, as it was formerly known. State lawmakers have told him it’s not something he can do with a mere executive order, and it seems a battle line has been drawn. 

But what’s the difference between “Osun State” and “the State of Osun”, and why’s it such a contentious issue? Prepare yourself for a bumpy story that leaves logic standing on its head and reason crying in a corner.

A trip to 2011

Before Adeleke and Oyetola, Rauf Aregbesola was Osun State’s governor.

How Osun State Became the State of Osun

This guy is Nigeria’s current Minister of Interior

It’s difficult to track exactly when it happened, but sometime in 2011, only one year into his administration, Aregbesola woke up and realised he needed to make some noticeable changes to the state. Any Nigerian governor worth his salt would create a white elephant project, commission a few useless boreholes, and maybe, owe workers six months’ salary or even get a face tattoo. But Aregbesola was no ordinary governor, so he did none of those ordinary things.

How Osun State Became the State of Osun

The former governor didn’t like the sound of OVO “Osun State”, so he directed that it would henceforth be known as “the State of Osun”. And that was the beginning of a controversy still plaguing the state 11 years later.

Why did he do it, man?

Naturally, not many people were fans of Aregbesola turning the state’s official name into his plaything, and they made their feelings known. You’d be forgiven for assuming he ordered the name change while tripping on glue he accidentally sniffed, but he really had well-thought-out reasons for his decision.

When backed into a corner to explain during an interview in April 2012, Aregbesola listed a few reasons we’ll quickly run through.

The Nigerian constitution doesn’t care

Aregbesola said he could do whatever he wanted because the 1999 constitution only lists the 36 states without any guideline on if the “state” should come before or after the name. We checked the constitution, and he’s… correct.

“Logic of syntax”

Aregbesola isn’t a professor of English, but he thinks “the State of Osun” is more logical syntactically than “Osun State”. 

In his words, “If the Federal Government is the Federal Government of Nigeria in the constitution, the only reasonable way to call the state is the State Government of Osun. There’s no other correct way.”

“See your mates”

If you’re still not convinced he’s the smart one in this story, Aregbesola said all the nations of the world who have states “as the basis of administrative governance” use the “State of” format. He said he simply followed international conventions, implying everyone else in Nigeria was acting like local league.

How Osun State Became the State of Osun

He’s a man of culture

If you thought this has gone for far too long, then you don’t know Aregbesola, because he has more ground to cover. He said “the State of Osun” is a better fit for a Yoruba translation of the name, which is “Ipinle Osun”, as against “Osun State” which would make the direct translation “Osun Ipinle”. We’re convinced he doesn’t know how translations work, but he said it’s only natural for him to change the state’s name simply due to “cultural basis”.

How Osun State Became the State of Osun

Remember that this man is our current Minister of Interior

What does the law say about all this?

In 2017, an Osun State High Court ruled Aregbesola’s change of name to be “illegal, null and void”. Using three words to say basically the same thing is the best way to make sure the point sinks in, but you’ve never met Aregbesola. 

Until he left office in 2018, Aregbesola maintained the State of Osun name change, while his government appealed the judgement. In November 2018, he handed over the baton to Oyetola, his chief of staff, who had little reason to reverse the name change. And even though Oyetola eventually had beef with Aregbesola and undid many of his other head-scratching policies, the name change remained during his four years in office. 

But there’s a new sherriff in town, and Michael Jackson Adeleke wants a return to the old ways.

When will the State of Osun become Osun State again?

Alongside the name issue, Adeleke also used his executive order to undo Aregbesola’s creation of a state anthem, crest, flag and change of the state’s motto. But the State House of Assembly has made it clear none of those changes will happen via executive order because they were created by laws of parliament.

If Adeleke wants to win this battle, he’d have to toast opposition lawmakers to reverse the law. But if that fails, he could always challenge them to a dance battle.

ALSO READ: Adeleke Has Done These Things In Two Days As Osun Governor

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