EDITORIAL: A Forward Thrust In A New Year

We commend the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola for the payment of full salaries for the month of December. This forward thrust has resulted in a positive change of mood in the state. The multiplier effect as people have started receiving text alerts from the state treasury has been pronounced.

The government is also to be commended for standing by the various agreements reached with the Unions.

This is a fundamental testimony of the efficacy of the social contract which fundamentally binds the government with the populace and civil society.

In view of Nigeria’s lopsided quasi-federalism, the state government of Osun has had to carry out a delicate balancing act. The contractual obligations to its workforce has to be acknowledged, but at the same time the physical and social infrastructures have to be built to protect and enhance sustainability in development.

In this way, the government is protecting the future of another generation. It is a delicate balancing act. The figures are revealing. Out of total expenditures between 2010 and 2017, N60 billion representing 23% went on infrastructure and N200 billion representing 77% went on salaries and pensions.
Ogbeni Aregbesola must be commended for his ingenuity in balancing competing needs. He has very sensibly acted not as a politician with an eye on the next election, but as a statesman in the interests of generations yet unborn.

The verdict of history on his tenure will be very positive.

As the administration winds down with elections slated for September 22, 2018 we should be of good cheer. The decisive gains in infrastructure must be protected. The state of Osun is at ease with itself and is one of the most peaceful in the country.

The state is also the second highest in terms of the human development index. Starting from an excruciatingly low base, Aregbesola has incontrovertibly declared a dividend of democracy in a very difficult economic climate.

History therefore beckons on Aregbesola to use his acknowledged political skills and managerial sagacity in order to ensure continuity. The government to be elected on the 22nd of September must be committed to carrying the progressive agenda to the next level.

The people of Osun deserve this and every single individual must assist in order to ensure that there is no backsliding to a discredited old ways.

EDITORIAL: PDP In Osun After The Convention Debacle

Are the Yoruba in the PDP just discovering that they have no place in that
party? From the moment Obasanjo left office in 1999, the Yoruba elements in the party were consigned to the dustbin With eggs splattered all over their faces, the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] players in the Southwest now have to find a new line in order to shore up whatever is left of their tattered credibility.

Incredibly, the new face-saving propaganda is that, “The vice presidency is going to be zoned to the Southwest”. Anyone who believes this fantasy is liable to believe just about anything including the proposition that pigs can fly.

It should by now be very obvious that the PDP has nothing to offer the Southwest. Niyi Akintola SAN, a Yoruba progressive, seminally observed few days ago in the aftermath of the Abuja debacle that, “Are the Yoruba in the PDP just discovering that they have no place in that party? From the moment Obasanjo left office in 1999, the Yoruba elements in the party were consigned to the dustbin… The stand of Governor Wike and his co-travelers that the Yoruba matters not in PDP is nothing new. It is simply a continuation of the segregation of the Yoruba from the mainstream of the PDP and its activities.’’

At best, the Southwest is just there to make up the numbers, much like the substitutes bench in a football match. Occasionally, they could have their usefulness, but that is just about it, very much like extras in another person’s movie.

There are valuable lessons to be learnt here, particularly in the State of Osun which has a governorship election coming up on the 22nd of September, 2018. It’s just round the corner, and it will be pivotal. The [divided] Osun State wing of the PDP with less than a year to go cannot be described as a government-in-waiting.

First of all, the party, organisationally is in disarray. They cannot even agree on a delegate list. If they cannot work out a give and take formula to harmonise a list of delegates to their own national convention, how on earth can they handle the increasingly complex mechanism of the government of the State of Osun?

The PDP clearly has nothing to offer the Yoruba at the center and is ill-prepared for governance in the state of Osun. The election is pivotal because Osun needs continuity.

There is a need to build upon the sterling progress made by seven years of dedicated work by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and his team. It will be tragic to throw it all away by handing over the State to a fractitious, disheveled team with no clout at the center and no programme worth talking about to continue the rejuvenation and reconstruction of the state.

The debacle last Saturday has clearly put the State of Osun on notice. The PDP has nothing to offer the Yoruba nationality and its Osun wing is completely out of sync with the tremendous pro-people elevating progress made in the last seven years. The advance in every sphere is real, if you seek to know what Aregbesola has achieved, do come to the State of Osun and look around you.

The PDP which is clearly unfit to govern will reverse the gains and Osun will be back to square one. There is clearly no alternative now than to consolidate the gains through continuity. This model has worked admirably in Lagos and is vitally needed in Osun. You have been forewarned!

Seven Years of Aregbesola’s Everlasting Legacies In Osun

Hurray!!! The Government of the State of Osun under Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola is Seven.  In many parts, it is worth celebrating. Seven years of Hard work, Seven Years of Progressive Leadership, Seven Years of Growth and Indeed, Seven Years of Building Legacies that are Indelible and Strategic for the Next Generation.

Perhaps, why will Aregbesola celebrate in a state that owes salaries, indebted to pensioners and has a huge debt profile? Despite these red flags, it is still worthy of mention that the dynamic transformation Osun has witnessed in the last seven years has put it on a pedestal of expected greatness in years to come.

For those who knew about the intrigues of the three and a half years legal battle that eventually returned him back to office and the tremendous achievements recorded so far, it is no clear understatement that the present government has done a lot in taking Osun far beyond where it was in November 2010 when it took over.

During the electioneering in 2007, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola had his developmental agenda which he enveloped in a small book titled “MY PACT WITH THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OSUN” where he discussed thoroughly his six point integral action plan namely; Banish Hunger, Banish Poverty, Banish Unemployment, Promote Functional Education, Restore Healthy Living, Enhance Communal Peace and Progress.

Since he assumed office, he has pursued his programmes vigorously with doggedness, commitment and vision to achieve more. And with 90 days in office, Aregbesola did the unusual, he employed 20,000 unemployed indigenes of the state who hitherto have no job with #10,000 as their monthly pay. The effortless commitment to the people did not stop there, the Governor continued to roll out programmes which are of immense benefits to the state.

With his O-symbol, several policies and people oriented have been rolled out and are still rolling daily as if his 8-year mandate will not end one day. In the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme O’YES, various interventions to gainfully engage the Youths after their 2-year period were instituted in collaboration with other government programmes like O’REAP, OYESTECH, O’HUB and so on.

In Education, Aregbesola re-jigged the sector by introducing a world class education reform programme, a baby of the Education Summit convoked by his government about 6 months into office that has resorted into mega schools, the award winning Tablet of Knowledge, OPON-IMO, O’Calisthenics, O’Uniform, O’MEAL that has fed over 350,000 elementary school pupils for the past seven years which the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has also adopted into its own Social Investment programme and many more that is earning the state accolades nationwide and internationally.

The government through its passion for excellence in all fields and ramifications ensured that 65 medical students of the Osun State University who were hampered to continue with their clinical studies in the university due to accreditation issues completed their medical education in Ukraine with thorough and adequate intervention,

In the Health Sector, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola upgraded the nine state hospitals in the state with the state hospital, Asubiaro in Osogbo refined to the status of a specialist hospital. Numerous interventions have been done in the realm of Free Eye Surgeries, Provision of Basic Drugs in health facilities, giving health grants, containing the break out of epidemics and the rest despite the daunting finances.

One of the areas where the present administration has received so much accolades is in Road Construction, one which has earned the Governor the name, ONA BABA ONA meaning the Extraordinaire Architect of Road Construction. In the last seven years, major roads have been built with the government rehabilitating, reconstructing and putting in place new ones. The efforts on Road Construction has been felt so much more with over 300 kilometers of township roads cutting across all the 30 local governments, 33 local council development areas, 2 area councils and 2 administrative offices.

Still on roads, 222km of rural roads have been done with support from World Bank and the French Government under Rural Access and Mobility Project RAMP that now connects the state together. Major roads also like the Gbongan-Osogbo road under construction with the Chief Bisi Akande trumpet interchange bridge, November 27 Interchange connecting two divisions of the Oba Adesoji Aderemi East Bye Pass, the dualisation of Osogbo/Ikirun/Ila-Odo, Kwara State boundary road and the very strategic, Ola-Iya/Asubiaro/Ita-Olokan Road that has just been completed.

Another beautiful thing is that not just that roads are constructed, the roads are of immense quality with thick bridges that can stand the test of time for years. In the history of the State of Osun, it is the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola administration that will construct a road that has in it 7 big bridges within 7 years. That is unprecedented you”ll say.

Moving to Agriculture, the government through Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme, O’REAP has empowered many, created opportunities for farmers as well as establishing opportunities for agriculture to thrive. In the sector, some members of the OYES who were enlisted to the O’REAP Youth Academy were sent to Germany on the bill of the State Government for thorough training on modern best practices in agriculture. Aside this, farmers were given lands with opportunities abound in O’BEEF, O’BOPS, O’CATTLE, O’HUB, O’PIG and others that have impacted positively on the citizenry and those involved.

About 20,000 Youths were given jobs in the first phase of O’YES. After 2 years, they were replaced with another set of 20,000 after the volunteers in the first phase were trained in several skills that helped shaped focus for the next challenges they were to face. A good example is OYESTECH which provided participants the opportunity to be trained in useful computer technology and mobile phone assemblage with repairs coming up. Selected Youths were sent to Ghana for training to come back and impact on others that has continued to yield positive results till today. A brainy intervention is the institutionalization of RLG Adulawo Technology City in Ilesa where mobile phones are assembled and other technological driven apparatus are done; all with efforts from the dynamic Rauf Aregbesola.

In commerce, Market Men and Women are incorporated into government’s programmes and policies. About 33,000 residents of the state have been empowered through the Osun Micro-Credit Agency, an agency of government that provides soft loans for small scale business owners in the state. Aside this, modern international markets like the Ayegbaju, Aje and Dagbolu International Market(s) which is still in focus have in a great deal transformed the state’s commercial sector. The Dagbolu Infrastructure Market which is still in focus is to be one of the foremost warehouses in the country. The newly introduced Standardized Weigh and Measures to promote efficiency, prudency and restore Trust into Trade activities is also a plus.

The Osun Free Train Ride that has conveyed over 350,000 passengers from Lagos to Osogbo during Christmas, Easter, Eid-El-Fitr and Eid-el-Kabir festivals has contributed in no small quantity to the economic situation of the state during festivities. Aside the free train, the just-concessioned Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola International Airport, Ido-Osun when completed will be another blessing to the state’s economy. Apart from the numerous commercial benefits, it would also be helpful to local trade, employment opportunities, hospitality and many more.

On Security, Osun is the 13th safest in the federation with much more focus on ridding the state of crime. There is also the relative peaceful disposition between farmers and herdsmen that has plunged several parts of the North to serious danger with the committee put in place by the present administration. Businesses especially in the hospitality realm are springing up, The cocoa industry in Ede is being revived. The GDP has improved tremendously with Small and Medium Scale Enterprises given the opportunity to rise.

The State of Osun especially Osogbo, the state capital has been reformed physically. With the beautification efforts put in place by the current government, the state now looks cleaner, neater and beautiful. One of such is the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park, Osogbo, a former den of rascals that has turned to a beautiful amusement park that becomes a destination for birthdays, picnics and relaxation.

This write-up would not be complete without the support of the Civil Servants who have shown unequalled commitment to the course of the state. They have in hard times shown their doggedness to the course of developing Osun and making our State great. Despite not receiving full pay, they are avowed, diligent to duty. The State will never forget this sacrifice made when the nation’s economy nosedived which did not hinder the development vision of the visioner per excellence, Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola.

The government also appreciates the section of Pensioners who believe in this dream of rebranding our state while calling on those who keep condemning government every time to see reasons why Aregbesola has taken time with much more efforts to transform our state. Government is indeed committed to fulfilling all financial obligations when the state’s economy improves.

What Aregbesola has done in the last seven years is worthy of note and indelible as Osun in the next three to four decades will continue to savour what this man has been able to do. His successor will not have to reconstruct the roads, schools, bridges and other infrastructural projects he has done, they will have no other option than to build on the Existing Legacies and Mirror In the Future.

Special Thanks To Royal Fathers, Community Leaders, Market Men and Women, Artisans, Members of the Progressive Party, the APC and the Entire Citizens of Osun who believed in his re-election that has now culminated in the development witnessed and the legacies developed for the future.

Happy 7th Year Anniversary to the Progressive Leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola!!!!!
Osun To Tin Dara, Ko Ni Ba Je Oooooo!

 

EDITORIAL: As FG Presents The 2018 Budget

If there is anything to be said of Tuesday’s laying of the estimates of next year’s budget at the National Assembly table, it is that the exercise may have finally responded to the imperative of the moment in terms of early preparation by the executive branch. As against last year when it was presented on December 14, 2016, barely 10 days to Christmas after which the lawmakers broke for their yuletide vacation, the expectations this time are of its early passage.

 

Just like last year’s, there is a lot of good things that can be said of the overall thrust of the budget. First is the size. Although, a far cry from what is required to match the yawning infrastructure deficit , the total figure – N8.612 trillion –a 16 per cent increase above the 2017 figure of N7.441 trillion– largely mirrors the expectations of Nigerians for a big pie to jumpstart the economy and now beginning to crawl out of a recession.

 

The second is its clear-headed realism.

 

As against last year’s benchmark price of $44.50 of crude oil per barrel, the federal government quite sensibly, put the reference price at $45. The same could be said of oil production with a modest increase of 100,000 barrels per day increase over the 2017 target of 2.2 million. In a topsy-turvy political economy of crude oil, it is the least the federal government can do to tamp down on expectations.

 

Third – and we consider this just as important – is the bold push to get big ticket projects ongoing. We refer to the Mambilla Hydro Power project, the power transmission projects, the railways and other critical projects designed to put the economy on a sustainable path of growth. All of these are, no doubt, important to give the economy the much needed fillip. How far the federal government can deliver on these as well as bring to completion, on-going projects, particularly those to be rolled over from previous years will go a long way to determine its overall efficacy as a governance instrument.

 

Of course, we must in equal measure admit to some of the flaws that have since become a recurring feature of the budgetary process. One of these is the disproportionate allocation to recurrent expenditures particularly the huge wage bill and the other costs of running the government on one hand and the humongous cost of debt servicing on the other. Although, a vast improvement from what obtained in the past, that the federal government would spend two-thirds of the entire budget on running the bureaucracy and the government continues to be a measure of how skewed the exercise is. Were things to be normal, it should be the other way round.

 

As it is, the ball is now in the court of the National Assembly. In other words, the real job has only just begun. A good way to start is to inquire how the 2017 budget went. What is the state of implementation? What are the challenges? Were the revenue targets met, if not why not? Admittedly, the President alluded to the shortfall during his presentation. Nigerians of course deserve to know the specifics – which ministries, departments and agencies were involved and what is being done about it. This process must go with the understanding that the era when agencies earned the revenue and spent as they liked is gone forever.

 

And what do Nigerians want from the budget?

 

Most certainly – it is nothing of the arcane world of esoteric figures that the budget has come to represent and which have come to mean nothing in practical terms to the man on the street. For the ordinary citizen, they want to see the living proof of the budget in the visible improvements to their lives and living conditions: in good roads, in vastly improved security environment, in cheap and efficient public transportation system, and steady electricity supply to their homes and businesses. To the extent that an early passage of the budget can only be a good step towards delivering on those objectives, the National Assembly has a bounden duty to make it happen. And urgently too.

 

EDITORIAL: Enough Of Destructive Politics!

A properly functioning democracy runs on the framework of a democratic agreement amongst the contending factions of political society. This means that there are critical issues that have to be taking out of the rough and tumble of partisan politics.

In this way, there is a consensus on those things which lay the basis for sustainable development.

For this reason, the destructive attitude of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the construction of the Moshood Olawale Abiola International Airport located in Ido-Osun is unacceptable. The use of the word-destructive is deliberate and carefully chosen in describing the obstructionist attitude of the PDP in the state of Osun on this matter.

The completion of the airport is vital for the sustainable development of the state. This is why every right-thinking person should give kudos to the state government which last week entered into an agreement with Awol International Limited for the completion of the MKO International Airport located in Ido-Osun.

The agreement is well thought out and brilliantly innovative. The agreement in principle is to build the airport, operate and transfer it back to the state government, 30 years after.

The signing of the concession agreement on the completion of the airport will hasten the take-off of its operation within the next eight months.

Chairman of AWOL International Limited, Ambassador Nurudeen James Ogunlade, said the company will shoulder 100 per cent funding of the project.

He disclosed that the project will commence on 9th November 2017 while the first phase will be completed within eight months and put into use, adding that the entire project will be totally completed by 2019.

He said the airport when completed will serve local and international passengers as well as cargo services, saying this will complement the legacies of the present administration.

He said: “We are entering into an agreement with the State Government of Osun to fast-track the completion of the MKO Abiola International Airport having realized the zeal and effort being put into it by Governor Rauf Aregbesola-led administration.

What is far-sighted here is that we are seeing a commitment by the state’s helmsman Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to turn Osun to an African Commercial hub. The company was chosen clearly has the sufficient level of experience to deliver the goods and its tie-up with the Turkish Exim Bank and Birary Group of Companies from Turkey will facilitate this.

Playing politics with a project of this magnitude is irresponsible. With the agreement in place, Aregbesola is sensibly playing the statesman.

As India’s first post-independence prime minister Jawarlah Pandit Nehru memorably observed, “a politician thinks about the next election, a statesman, about the next seven generations”, Ogbeni Aregbesola is thinking here about sustainable development to empower future generations yet unborn.

The Osun State PDP should do the same. Playing pranks with fundamental economic development initiatives may look good for the immediate electoral calculus; it, however, reveals an inadequacy of preparation for office.

We urge the government of the state of Osun to remain focused in the implementation of this laudable and fundamental economic initiative which is for the good of all. As for the PDP, being nay Sayers to every sensible initiative will only expose their inadequacies to an electorate already skeptical of their lack of preparation to govern a renewed, invigorated state of Osun.

The Legitimacy Of Taxation

The late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo during his outstanding tenure as the Premier of the Western Region of Nigeria in the 1950s attempted unsuccessfully to take the issue of Taxation out of partisan politics. Sadly, he did not achieve this objective in persuading a recalcitrant opposition fixated on the need to win the next election.

It is to the credit of Chief Awolowo that in spite of this debilitation, he stuck to the sensible position of using taxes as the principal instrument to finance development.

This came at a cost. For the electoral base of the party in government, The Action Group was constantly eroded. Nevertheless, the verdict of the history of what he achieved will always be resoundingly positive. We must learn from this. For this is how a statesman, as opposed to a rabble-rousing political agitator, behaves.

Such was the eventual public acceptance of the need to collect taxes in order to finance development, that rioting broke out in the Western Region when in 1961, the regional government attempted to cut taxes as an electoral calculus.

This backfired big time, for the populace had become sophisticated enough to see the intrinsic link between the payment of taxes and access to health and education facilities as well as the development of the physical and social infrastructure.

The administration headed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu inaugurated in Lagos State in 1999 sensibly followed this framework by asking the widespread acceptance applause.

There is frankly no alternative to this position. The irresponsibility of the military in eroding the tax base must be condemned. The military has seized power illegitimately used devices much as this to gain legitimacy.

The country has paid a harsh price for this in terms of sustainable development. It has also led to rising and alarming levels of poverty.

In the State of Osun for example, a daily contribution of about N120 for every taxable adult will translate into roughly about N5 billion a month.

The economic benefits of this are mouthwatering. It will translate into better pay for teachers, greater access to health facilities and the development of a self-sustaining commercial base.

This is why every sensible adult must support the payment of taxes as a way of elevating living standards as well as achieving sustainable development.

The State Of Osun: The Thick And The Thin Of An Unusual Regime

The political leadership in the state of Osun could be considered as an unusual government. Inspite of what appears a clearly orchestrated campaign against the state by the opposition, a conscientious visit to the state cannot deny the obvious economic realities.  In understanding the dynamics, it is important not to forget the history of how the current government came in. It is now seven tough years since the government of Ogbeni Adesoji Rauf Aregbesola took over the state, after a tough but revolutionary campaign that brought him into power. His coming to the state was strange. The regime of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) which he fought, was powerful, repressive and merciless. Politics itself is an extension of war by other means, at least to the feeble minds of yesteryears.

The state verdict was that he ‘lost’ the 2007 election to a tested war General who never thought he could lose any battle, either military or political, not to talk of losing to a ‘common.’  But through an irony of fate, he took the battle to court. That was not enough. He took the battle to the people. From one village to the other, street corner by street corner, like a scarlet fever, Osun was soon caught in a fire that every draconian force on earth failed to extinguish. Before the Court of Appeal Judgment which gave him the trophy, the people already made up their mind who their authentic governor was.

Storming the State House like a petrel, Aregbesola began with unusual programs in a society tailored on a rigid, parochial pedagogue. He introduced a national anthem in Yoruba, revived and adopted the old Western Region logo and launched a ‘walk on the street’ world-shattering initiative. He dropped the ‘Excellency” nomenclature and adopted ‘Ogbeni’, a cliché for the ordinary man in Yoruba culture. He occasionally sat in the front of his official car while his aide de camp would sit at the back.  He started delivering public lectures in Yoruba language, adopted public holidays for Muslims and traditional religion adherents their events he also began to attend. He refused to earn any monthly salary while his monthly security votes were handed over to the security institutions in the state to manage. He employed 20,000 young men and women, more than what the entire Federal Government civil service had employed in half a decade. He signed the Public Procurement Law and created the Public Procurement Agency, bringing the state before public mirror.

The sociological impact on the ordinary man was electrifying. But for the tiny foes and their collaborators in the state, the unusual phenomenon must be stopped, by all means. In a clearly marked out million dollar strategy, which continues till date, involving paid coteries, leeches, vampires and bugs, amongst who were media practitioners,  they launched a campaign first that the governor has ill health and had been attacked by cancer. When that failed, they evoked faith, labeling him a fundamentalist. For the small but brutally vocal ring of musketeers bent on getting his head, the 2014 election was the perfect game. For this purpose, the then FG chose the Minister for Police Affairs from Osun. A dirty fighter, with a rich antecedent and credential in violence and key suspect in the murder of Chief Bola Ige, was picked to race against him.  The 2014 Osun election has been rated as one of the most viciously fought, dirty and agonising in the history of Nigeria.  Armed soldiers were sent to his bedroom on allegations that ballots were being stuffed. Armed gangs in military uniforms, in thousands were brought from the Niger-Delta and, like hyena, unleashed. About 40,000 armed personnel took part in the operation aimed at bringing down Aregbesola and all he stood for.  But in the most decisive and pivotal battle, Aregbesola brought down their Goliath.

Today, seven hard-hitting years on the journey, Irohinoodua recognizes the enduring milestones achieved in one of the most hostile environments any leader can operate. The IGR has gone up from 300million to 1.5billion per month. A total of 1.5b has been offered as support for farmers. The impact is seen in the stable food market in the South West and Lagos where most of the products are sold. In the area of roads, over 500 rural roads have been provided in the local communities. In the realm of education, 150,000 pupils got laptops, the highest average in any African country, offering 17 core subjects and five extra-curricular subjects. Funding of schools have increased from a meager 7.4million to 424 million in one year. State expenditure on each student rose from N300 naira to 357,533, the highest in the country. Apart, 8,000 pupils were trained in Calisthenics. Osun has built several mega schools in rural and urban areas that meet European standards, leading to sharp increase in school enrolment. In the month the school feeding program began for instance, the state recorded 28,000 fresh pupils, mostly from poor homes. The impact is largely for the future.

Like majority of the 36 states, Osun is affected by the national economic meltdown. But his response was revolutionary. In practical economics, the faithful solution was to borrow. The Sukku Islamic zero interest was a practical panacea. All political office holders had their salary halfed. Levels 7 downwards are paid monthly. Levels 8 upwards earn 50 percent of their salary while the senior staffs get 50 percent. That appears to be the most compassionate and realistic solution any responsible government can offer. What remains a mystery is how the state has survived the lean allocation and still manages to march on, like a resilience horse. It is no surprise that both the United Nations, UNICEF and international agencies have continued to applaud the lofty stars across a once cloudy horizon.

In spite of the consistently oiled campaigns against Osun largely by skunks, nothing can sum up the  feeling of the people when the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi and the Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland, Oba Gabriel Aromolaran spoke during the commissioning of the rebuilt historic Ilesa Grammar School: “No matter how disdainful anyone is to this administration, if such a person sees what is dedicated on these structures, such a person will doff his or her cap for the tenets and dedication employed on Osun educational system.”

Source: Irohinoodua Editorial

EDITORIAL: Perishing For Lack Of Knowledge

The Bible never fails to illuminate. A famous forewarning points out the folly of perishing for lack of knowledge. Those who, through the centuries have sensibly heeded to this injunction have kept out of harm’s way and thereby had more purposeful lives.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have regrettably not heeded this sensible admonition with their ill-thought out allegation that the floating of the Sukuk Islamic bond by the federal government is meant to Islamise the country through the back door.

CAN, in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja by its General Secretary, Rev Musa Asake, demanded the abrogation of the laws and framework behind the bond and threatened to seek legal redress if that was not done.

This ludicrous position must be repudiated by both Christians and Moslems, as it is aimed at stultifying the sustainable development of the economy. For a start, Islamic finance products have grown by leaps and bounds in the past few decades across the world. This is because it has met a need and closed a gap in the market. A few years ago, the Bank of England, the Central Bank of United Kingdom set up a dedicated Islamic finance desk which has grown in geometrical proportions, way ahead of expectations. Revered international institutions such as Goldman Sachs and so forth also have fast growing dedicated Islamic finance desks. At home in Nigeria, over 73% of the customers of Jaiz bank, an Islamic institution are Igbo traders who are virtually all Christians.

This also confirms the foresight of the Governor of the State of Osun Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. We may care to recall that Osun, under Aregbesola had in 2013 floated a N11.4bN Sukuk bond to fund government’s massive education infrastructure provision projects.

Modern international banking itself arose out of the Crusades and the attempts to capture Jerusalem in the middle ages. The knights Chevaliers, a Roman Catholic holy order benedicted by the Pope, created such things as letters of Credits, Bankers Acceptances and so forth as they swept across ill-defined, not yet national borders. Do we now call investment banking Roman Catholic banking which should not be used by other Christian denominations as well as Moslems, Hindus and other religious groups?

Nigeria inherited the present Anglo-Saxon banking model from British colonialism and it has largely failed to deliver the development goods. Even in the Anglo-Saxon heartlands, it has long been seen as a problem.

For example, in 1945, a left-wing socialist government in the United Kingdom, created the World’s first Venture Capital Company – Investors In Industry, as a response to the perceived weakness of the British banking industry to bring in the necessary impetus to rebuild Brittan’s post second world war economy.

Furthermore, in a famous series of articles in the British Sunday Times in 1978, a former Financial Secretary to the British government, Harold Lever, effectively accused the British banking system of acting as a brake on the development of the prospects of British industry. In contradistinction, he pointed out, the ‘Lander’ banking system in British industry’s great competitor, Germany, by emphasising close long-term relationships and low interest rates was taking British industry to the cleaners. The New Deal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the more recent Obama fiscal stimulus both represented an attempt to navigate around the inadequacies of the short-termism of the Anglo-Saxon banking model.

Faced with the need to rebuild the economy, Nigeria must adapt to innovation, new ideas and try to adopt new models. Demagoguery does not help. If the indecorous position of CAN is to be taking seriously, Christian schools must henceforth stop teaching Algebra. As every school boy is aware, Algebra came about from the work of Islamic judges as they tried to navigate their way around the intricacies involved in solving problems arising from implementing the Islamic law of inheritance.

The times call for fresh ideas and innovation, thinking outside of the box and not childish or self-serving.

EDITORIAL: Closing On A High

The Ogbeni governor Rauf Aregbesola hit the ground running and started on a firm footing after a tortuous, long day’s journey into office. The gains of his preparation have borne fruit. Not least a widely acclaimed and initiated social intervention thrust which is directed at attacking the roots of poverty. Like any sensible manager, with just about a year of his administration left, he must do careful, succession planning.

A succession planning must include handing over a revamped administrative mechanism to a successor in the spirit of the continuity of the programmes he initiated which has made a positive impact. This thoughtful process has commenced with this week’s appointment of Dr Festus Olowogboyega Oyebade as the Head of Service in the State of Osun. A key appointment is what is becoming a process of transition; it has been very well received.

The multi-dimensional Dr Oyebade certainly fits the bill of the modern technocrat and public servant.  Dr Oyebade is well read. He graduated with BSc. Education at Obafemi Awolowo University of Ile-Ife with specialisation in Geography. He later obtained higher degrees of Masters in Educational Management and Peace and Conflict Studies as well as a Doctorate (PhD) in Educational Management, all from the University of Ibadan. He also bagged LLB and LLM degrees in Law from Obafemi Awolowo University and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2005. The conventional wisdom within and outside of the state is in convergence, that he will put in a memorable tenure in office.

Characteristically, the Ogbeni governor did not just put the right person for the job, he has worked out a clear road map to follow. In line with the principles of modern management, Ogbeni Aregbesola has correctly pointed out that the era of partitioning of departments in civil service is gone and should be replaced with organic network and fluid movement from one office to the other, from one department to the other, from one ministry to the other.

This is a reflection of the complexity of, as well as the need for dexterity in navigating the course of modern governance. The bureaucracy in the state has to be more flexible and nimble footed because the machinery of the government now has to be retooled to cope with a more diversified and complex economic structure. The appointment of Dr Oyebade and the brief he has been mandated to carry out is a reflection of this.

The summation of the raison d’être for the new appointment and what is envisioned for the future is very succinctly  spelt out by the Ogbeni Governor – “Nevertheless, the ultimate goal is to be productive, the objectives of governance must be realised and the government must generate the resources needed to run it.” The imperative for a scamless transition of a re-invigorated Osun state to a new administration has begun. Having as it were refreshed the bureaucracy, it is now imperative that a rancour free process is put in place to produce a worthy successor to continue and consolidate the progressive thrust in Osun State.

EDITORIAL: Still On The Debt Issue

Much as the crisis of confidence over the growing debt would seem a natural corollary to the severe strain in the nation’s public finance system in general, we hasten to warn about the terrible cynicism that seeks to severely constrict the options available to the governments across the federation to deal with crisis even when tough choices become inevitable.

We refer to concerns being expressed of late, not just about the hunger for debts but its sustainability. The clamour, across the board is that governments – federal and states – should not be allowed to pile up more debts. The argument here is that the debts have reached the level of sustainability. Although, Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio currently standing at 19 per cent is said to compare with its peers across the globe, commentators readily point to the revenue-to-debt servicing-cost ratio, hovering around the 80 per cent mark, as rendering the prospects of additional loans quite problematic. We recall the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) representative in Nigeria, Abdallah Mohammed Kiliaki specifically putting the country’s revenue-to-debt servicing-cost of between 75 to 80 per cent to underscore why the country should be wary of new loans. A more telling illustration of the crisis is the N1.663 trillion allocated to debt service in the 2017 budget, representing a whopping 32.73 per cent of the total outlay.

We agree that the federal and the states have a lot of lessons to learn from the terrible mismanagement of past loans. Again, what we do not accept is that the situation should needlessly tie the hands of the managers of the economy from such options that are not only pragmatic but reasonable in the circumstances that the country has found itself.

The terrible reality of course, is that the country’s revenue is down. Today, the very infrastructures needed to get the economy up and running are in shambles. Our roads – whether inter-state or rural sorely needed to convey agricultural products to the market are virtually non-existent. Our electricity situation, currently precarious is in no position to fire the economy on all cylinders. Many of our industries are either dead or dying. School infrastructure, a veritable tool for creating the economy of the future require the fresh touch that only a serious government can bring to bear. The situation, to put it mildly, is grim.

What do we do? Do we simply foreclose the debt option simply because the country has had some nasty experience in the past? Should the federal and state governments fold their hands and hence do nothing, hoping against hope that revenue will somehow improve? What is so alarming or even esoteric about the so-called issue of revenue-to-debt servicing-cost that cannot be brought down by deliberate efforts in the medium term to grow the tax revenue? The real challenge is to ensure that debts are kept within responsible limits and are well deployed in such ways and manners to deliver value to the people. That way, it can pay its way.

Worth recalling in this regard is the needlessly acrimonious debate over whether or not the State of Osun should take the Sukuk Bond to upgrade its school infrastructure. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, the debate, given the massive upgrade in the public school system, has become, quite frankly, superfluous. Few years after the Rauf Aregbesola-led administration chose to plod on to the consternation of its critics, citizens currently shudder at what could have been, had the government not taken that bold and sensible option.  

We agree that the debate on the debt is legitimate. Only that it should not be closed – or its aversion, a fetish.

EDITORIAL: Time To Pay Up

Death and Taxes are the two unavoidables in the span of the human existence. In addition, the bedrock of a democratic setting is that it must be based on a community of tax payers who through the process of meeting up with their tax obligations become stakeholders. Not for nothing, did the revolutionaries in the United States use the slogan, “No taxation, without representation” as the justification for their opposition to British colonial imposition. This explains it all, and it has become the locus on which the modern democratic state exists.

The State of Osun Internal Revenue Service (OIRS) would have been derelict in its duties if it had not sealed off the premises of four leading commercial banks during the week. The agency was spurred into action due to the non-remittance of the withholding tax due to the state government to the tune of N72,932,717.72 between the period of 2012 and 2014.

We support the position taken. The State government of Osun is operating in a tight fiscal climate. The quasi-federalism operated at the moment has not given it the leeway to operate properly as a federating unit should in a federation. Therefore, all revenue sources due to it, must be tapped. The government of the State of Osun has gone-out of its way to create a business-friendly atmosphere in order to attract and retain investments. The government also has an obligation to invest in infrastructures to support and enhance such investments. We are faced here, with the issue of rights and obligations. The fulfillments of tax obligations are very critical in the government’s efforts to meet its commitments to providing the requisite business-friendly environment. Sadly, a lot of other sectors are also in default.

The OIRS has been doing its best. As the Acting Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Osun Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Bicci Ali has pointed out: “The OIRS has intensified efforts on advocacy, publicity and enlightenment programmes on the statutory obligations of the citizenry to voluntarily comply, by paying their taxes, levies and other charges promptly as prescribed in the constitution of the country and the applicable tax legislations”.

He said, in spite of the efforts, many corporate organisations and individuals still engage in violations of the tax law, saying “under the Tax Act, a taxable person is statutorily required to file a return of income for the preceding year at the expiration of 90 days from the commencement of every year of assessment, a taxable person or corporate organisations who have not filed their tax returns with OIRS by the stipulated date is in breach of the provisions of the law, which is an offence that is punishable under the tax laws”

There can of course be no traders without a market. And a market can only be enhanced as well as deepened by government investments in the necessary social and physical infrastructures. The funds involved are hardly humongous, but they are vitally needed. We therefore urge the affected organisations to speedily pay up and we also urge all citizens to meet up with their tax obligations in order to assist the government in these very difficult times.