The opposition, in connivance with their allies in some media organisations, have perfected the art of serial attacks, laced with outright lies, half-truth and malice just to rubbish every progressive innovative policy, programme and delivery by Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola of his electoral promises to Osun people as captured in his Green Book, ‘’My Pact With the People of Osun State’’.
Although these attacks are not new, the latest ones deserve a response especially for Osun indigenes in diaspora who may take the lies serious. It may not be necessary to chronicle the unprecedented reign of corruption and impunity in the hand of a divisive, inept, clueless, self-serving immediate past government that directly or unwittingly supervised theft of incredible volume of crude oil that culminated into flight of fund from the Federation Account with associated gross cut by 60% in allocation to States in Nigeria.
It is, however, important to acknowledge that crude oil sales accounts for about 70% of Government revenue and 95% of foreign exchange. With continuous oil theft, missing oil money and consequent crash in the crude oil price at international market, virtually all States found it practically impossible to pay workers’ salaries, building and maintaining infrastructures and providing social amenities for the people. In fact, at a stage, the Federal Government had to be obtaining loans to pay Federal Civil Servants salaries. This was 2014 under Jonathan Presidency.
By June 2015, 23 states, including Osun, were owing at least 6 months workers’ salaries. It was the President Muhammadu Buhari APC led Administration that had to bailout the situation via N713billion, being $2.1 billion (N413billion) from Liquefied Natural Gas proceeds shared by the Federal and States, and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention funds between N250 and N300 billion as soft loans to enable States pay outstanding salaries with Debt Management Office (DMO) helping States restructure their commercial loans with banks, which was put at N660billion, so as to reschedule and extend their loans life span.
Until November 2014 when the financial incapacitation made it impossible to pay workers’ salaries anymore, Aregbesola had earlier borrowed N25 billion to augment salaries and pension with the hope that situation would improve as time went by. However, the financial crisis endured. In their diabolical characteristic manner, these same serial liars went to press to single out Osun as being in financial quagmire when actually, it was a national calamity.
Prior to the crisis, salaries and pensions had always been paid before 25th of every month. In fact, without being prompted, Governor Aregbesola had always paid 13th month salary to workers. This 13th month was a bonus based on basic salary. He paid 10% in 2010, 25% in 2011, 50% in 2012 and 100% in 2013 before the financial holocaust’s visit. He increased beneficiaries of car loan from 2,189 to 10,000 and also increased by 100% government monthly subvention to this loan from N10 million to N20 million. In addition, he increased the rate available to workers on grade level 1-3 from N100,000 to N170,000; workers on grade level 9-10 increased from N250,000 to N400,000; and grade level 16-17 increased from N500,000 to N750,000. Ditto to housing loan increase by 100%. Leave bonus alert was structured to the month of worker birthday and were paid promptly while the working environment was beautified. The pensioners were not left out. Osun has 11,000 pensioners and their bill per month is N600 million, the highest in South West except Lagos. In 2015, despite financial difficulties, Governor Aregbesola committed N5,426,720,195 to payment of pension. In 2016, N3,981,312 was also committed. From N11.744billion Paris Club Funds, N14.2 billion was used to pay 4 months workers arrears in the last 2weeks of December 2016, out of which N1,539,227 was committed to pension.
As a matter of fact, the total accrual to Osun from Federal Allocation in 2016 was N12 billion whereas, N20.4billion was committed to pay workers’ salaries and pension for the same year. With the IGR slightly above N600 million monthly, the question to ask is how was this done? Where did Aregbesola get the balance despite the fact that the State has become a permanent construction site for roads, schools and other social amenities? When all avenues of borrowing to augment salaries and pension have closed, where does he manufacture the money? Instead, the opposition, via their front – Civil Societies Coalition for Emancipation of Osun State (CSCEOS) (which is under EFCC investigation) and their media organ displayed about 20 persons, under a single canopy as retired workers Internally Displaced Pensioners (IDP) when actually, retirees and workers in service have collected payment till December 2016. The same opposition and their platform used a sitting Judge to call for impeachment of Governor Aregbesola and his Deputy over alleged mismanagement of Osun resources in 2015 during the period when workers’ salaries became impossible to pay. Interestingly again, same judge, now compulsorily retired, as she was found guilty by National Judicial Commission NJC), was at the so-called IDP camp addressing the ‘’retirees’’ that are purportedly “suffering from hunger and starvation”.
For the avoidance of doubt, the least paid retiree got N100,000 for September, October, November, and December 2016. My father, Mr. Yaya Kasali Adebayo, is a retiree of over a decade. He is one of the beneficiaries of this pay. Only Osun, of all States in Nigeria, has implemented 142% pension increment approved by Abacha military junta.
Between 2015 and 2016 alone, Aregbesola Administration has paid N9.5 billion to pensioners. Under a circumstance where an employer of labour could no longer pay based on sharp decline in his/her income, there are two options: It is either he/she rationalises by retrenching or pay what is available. For his pro-labour orientation, Aregbesola chose the latter. He didn’t do it unilaterally. It was done with full agreement with labour and other stakeholders. In October 2015, he set up a 17- man Committee of Government and Labour headed by a veteran Labour leader, Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, ( former President, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and also a former Secretary General of the Organisation of African Trade Unions Unity (OATUU)) to oversee and apportion Federal Allocation and Internally Generated Revenue to the State for prompt payment of salaries, pension and other critical expenditure of the Government. Chairmen of Osun NLC, NUT, JNC among others, are part of the committee. This informs the industrial peace and harmony enjoyed in the State despite the recession and distress, as Government and Labour have not reneged on the letter and spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of 100% pay for vulnerable grade level 1-7, modulated pay of 75% of total salary to grade levels 8-10 and 50% to grade levels 12 and above. Before the national financial tsunami, Governor Aregbesola had redefined the meaning of governance in terms of real and sustainable intervention that had elevated the social wellbeing of Osun people. Despite the financial incapacitation, public works have continued. Perhaps, at this juncture, it is instructive to outline a few of his various achievements.
At the very inception of Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola administration in Osun on 27th November, 2010, the roads to and within the State Capital – Osogbo- had hiccups, bottlenecks and lock jam causing unnecessary delays and pains to both motorists and commuters. The very slim roads were haphazardly surrounded by rickety stalls and shops with many residential buildings along the roads waiting to collapse as a result of dilapidation and perennial flood. If the State Capital roads were in these conditions, the state of roads in the Local Government Areas, especially rural areas, is better imagined.
In addition, the regime inherited a strangulating financial situation where the State had to be borrowing N1billion every month so as to fulfil its statutory duties as a result of the suffocating loan of N18.34 billion obtained by the previous PDP government to build 6 or so Stadia.
At this same period, the national minimum wage for workers was N7,500 but rose to N18,000 the following year – 2011. At this period, the highest Monthly Federal Allocation to Osun was N4.6 billion. To be able to fulfil his electoral promises to his people, Aregbesola had to design some financial engineering to buy back the loan and lift out the State from financial mess. Within 100 days in office, Aregbesola Administration, in consonance with his promise to his people, engaged 20,000 youth tagged Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES). This feat has no precedence in Nigeria. OYES is designed to train the youth as cadets to be useful to themselves and their society for duration of two years. The N10,000 stipend each Cadet receives every month translates to N200 million monthly and N2.4billion annually, directly injected to Osun economy. They are specially trained in productive services such as Public Works Brigade, Green Gang, Sheriff Corps, Traffic Marshalls, Paramedics Czars and Teachers Corps and mostly work a few hours a day. The scheme is designed to create bridge to employment by equipping the youth with positive work ethics, self-sustenance, resourcefulness that will ultimately infuse in them honour and dignity, good character and confidence and a hope of a better future rather than hopelessness, mischief and brigandage. Because of these qualities, most employers of labour eventually prefer engaging OYES Cadets. Although, the scheme was designed to engage 80,000 at 20,000 per two years, the financial meltdown only allowed 40,000 to be engaged. The World Bank has adopted the scheme which has earned Nigeria $300million grant to support the Federal Government to replicate same across the country. The scheme is being understudied to be implemented nationally.
For his believe that investment in today’s children and youth would yield the best returns in not too distance future and that governance should be a tool to developing society through human being in the very same society, Governor Aregbesola declared state of emergency on education. Barely 3 months into his Administration, he convoked an Education Summit chaired by Prof. Wole Soyinka. The communique of the summit eventually became the pivot of Ogbeni Education Policy Direction. Almost 100 out of targeted 170 magnificent and functional model schools with all facilities that promise conducive environment for teaching, learning and culture have been built and commissioned across the State while the remaining are awaiting completion. Over 253,000 elementary school pupil are fed nutritional meals – chicken, fish, beef, eggs and fruits- at every school day. The school meal has been a strategic tool to enhance primary school enrolment from 155,318 to 252,793 – about 62%. This “O-Meal” initiative, again, has won international accolades and has been borrowed by the Federal Government. Already, office of the Vice President of Nigeria has approved the release of N400 million to 5 States, Osun inclusive, for continuation of the School Feeding Programme. 750,000 School Uniform at 2 pairs per student of Elementary, Middle and High Schools were distributed free. Omoluabi Scholars Buses are provided for easy transportation at N20 per trip. The school children are taught the act of Callisthenics – an exercise display at building new generation of students who are physically robust, mentally sound and socially well adjusted. SSS3 students are given Opon Imo, Tablet of Knowledge, which makes learning simplistic and interesting. The devise contains all books required for the SSS3 Syllabus with the last 10 years’ past questions of WAEC, NECO and JAMB. History has it that Aregbesola is the first Nigerian to implement UNESCO recommendation on digital education in Nigeria which is being understudied by 30 States in Nigeria. Aregbesola Administration pays for external examination fee of every SSS3 student who justifies the need to spend tax payers money on him/her by having credits in four subjects including Mathematics and English Language in a mock examination organised before the real examination.
As teachers are the souls of quality education, Aregbesola administration decentralised Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM) into three senatorial districts headed by a Tutor-General – an equivalent of Permanent Secretary in the State Civil Service – so as to ease implementation of welfare policies of teaching and non-teaching staff. Teachers Establishment and Pension Office (TEPO) was established for training and retraining, promotion and taking care of teachers’ pension after retirement.
The tertiary institutions are not left out. About 100 Uniosun students are under state sponsorship in Ukraine. Tuition fee in the State Polytechnics and Colleges was reduced by 30%. Bursary Award to Osun indigenes in recognised tertiary institutions in Nigeria was increased from N2,000 paid to final year Students to N10,000 while final year Law and Medical Students bursary increased from N3,000 to N20,000. Just like the workers, this was done without being prompted until when it has to be suspended for the special period of economy challenge.
Before the emergence of Aregbesola administration and even one year into the administration, bank robbery was very prevalent. It was so terrible that the banks were closing during working hours at times for days as a result of the so-called tip-off of possible armed robbers attack. Ditto to car snatching at gun point, car theft and other associated crimes. Ogbeni solved the problem first by setting up a dedicated Crime Response Team tagged Swift Action Squad (SAS) with fighting equipment like 100 patrol vehicles for 24 hours security cover for the State inclusive 25 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) (perhaps the largest in one single State in Nigeria aside Lagos) for surveillance and a helicopter connected with emergency call centre and the patrol on ground.
It is instructive to note that various Ogbeni pro-people policies have synergy with SAS operation. For instance, OYES alone mopped out 40,000 idle youth. Their stipends go directly into Osun economy with a consequent multiplier effects. Osun Tailor Unions produced their uniforms while Osun Footwear and Leather Workers’ Union produced their booths. All these are automatic opening up of factories and employment for Osun people. Ditto for O’School and O’Meal. Over 3000 caterers were engaged while several Carpenters, Bricklayers, Furniture Makers, Tillers, etc are engaged in schools and road constructions. N1.5 billion spent on the meal is an incentive for farmers to produce more as the market is guaranteed. O’Uniform created over 3,000 job for Osun people at Omoluabi Garment Factory. Drivers were engaged for Omuluabi Scholars Buses. Etc. Consequently, Osun is adjudged recently by the Inspector General of Police as the least crime prone State in Nigeria.
To be sure, Aregbesola first and foremost completed 115 km roads inherited from his predecessor. 588 km road covering 40 intercity. Upgrading of 138 km roads covering 81 township. 74 km roads covering Osun boundary directly to Lagos via Gbogan, Orile-Owu and Ijebu Igbo and 10 km road for each of the Local Government Areas in the State. These are not just roads. They are built to endure for a very long time with 50mm asphalt on stone base, marked lines and concrete drainages where required and sidewalks within the city. He did not stop there. A 43km highway connecting Osogbo to Kwara State; Osogbo east bypass named after the first Governor of Western Region; Sir Adesoji Aderemi, that connects Iwo Road, Ilesa Road, Ibokun Road and the Osogbo City Stadium to Gbogan Osogbo Road and Adebisi Akande Trumpet Interchange Bridge on the Ife-Ibadan expressway are being completed.
Olaiya junction to Itaolokan is about 90% complete. Rapid works are ongoing in all these sites despite paucity of fund. He didn’t limit the works to the towns and cities, over 100km roads have been built in the rural communities with about 130 km access roads upgraded in the rural areas especially around production cluster areas. As at today, apart from Lagos, Osun is a permanent construction site.
State hospitals in Osogbo, Ikire, Iwo, Ilesa, Ile-Ife, Ikirun, Ila, Ipetu-Ijesa and Ede have been renovated with modern medical equipment like 100 hand-held Ultrasound Diagnostic Scanners to meet the health challenges of the people. Ditto to construction, renovation and supply of modern medical equipment to Primary Health Centres in all the Local Government Areas. For Civil Servants, medical check-up is free. For farmers, treatment of Onchocerciasis, Leprosy and Tuberculosis is free. Water works at Ede and Ilesa are consistently been rehabilitated and reconstructed and portable water now run in taps that had been dry for decades.
In between these, Ogbeni has been resolute on Social Protection Programmes. He has catered for the physically and mentally challenged people. For the physically challenged, in 2012, 2013 and 2014, he sponsored their State Congresses, sponsored their annual convention in Abuja and donated N2.5 million to their joint Association’s Annual grant respectively. He gave 6 persons with disability appointments in various cadres in the State Civil Service. In 2013, 2014 and 2015, to demonstrate his belief in ‘’ability in disability’’, he sponsored Osun para-soccer team at annual para-soccer competitions. 93 person with disability were given vocational training with take-off grants to start their businesses after the training across all Local Government Areas in the State. He has handed down a clear directive to Ministry of Women, Children and Social Affairs with logistic despite paucity of fund to organise regular training and retraining programmes for them.
For the mentally challenged, between 2011 and now, 67 have been evacuated around the State for treatment at Yaba Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Lagos; Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife; Ladoke Akintola University Hospital, Osogbo; and the State Hospital, Asubiaro, Osogbo. After treating them, they were taken to Omoluabi Rehabilitation Centre, Ilobu, for vocational training in various areas of endeavour and thereafter re-unioned with their family members.
The Safety Net Programme did not elude the vulnerable elderly persons. One thousand, six hundred and two (1,602) were selected via population survey in all the Local Government Areas between 27th February and 15th March 2012 and given N10,000 monthly Relieve Allowance with free eye test, glasses and surgery for those who required it.
Osun Job Centre was also created to connect job seekers to private employers as most job seekers are unemployable.
The Centre helps them to enhance their employability via skill training to generate good CV for job search, prepare them for interview skills and how to answer question and manners of dressing and conduct during interviews among others.
Free interest Loans were provided for small and medium Traders via Microcredit Agencies as empowerment. Bola Ige Mechatronic Institute was established in Esa-Oke to equip auto-engineers with latest modern techniques in the ever developing digital world.
Pro-active measures were taken to forestall flood by dredging of over 200 km waterways and streams across the State with adequate drainages and installation of Early Warning System in some strategic locations for alert of any danger. One can go on and on.
For a Governor that has achieved all these among many feats that may not be mentioned for space sake, with meagre resources in 6 years, if he cannot be commended, he does not deserve denigration and condemnation. Perhaps, Ogbeni’s offense is that he is too much in a hurry to uplift Osun from its backwardness.
Collective amnesia typical of today’s Nigerians especially, the attitude of not valuing our prophets and visioners until their exit, and the vile politics of opposition and their bought-over media platforms – all will not take away the facts and records as they tangibly stand and will endure for future generations to appreciate. It is legacy and history that matter, and Governor Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola will definitely be placed on the good side of history.
Yaya Ademola writes from Alekuwodo, Osogbo. 08037127929.