WILLIAM Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, dramatist and Nobel Laureate, in his timeless poem, “The Second Coming”, depicted the despair and confusion in human existence in these lines:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold …”
Happenings in the Osun State House of Assembly paint this picture of confusion.
A recent approval of the appointment of 750 executive assistants into the local government councils of the state by the 26-member Assembly buttresses the ageless theme of Yeats’ poem. A few weeks ago, the Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, sent an official request to the House, seeking the appointments of 750 executive assistants in the 30 local government areas of the state. In his letter to the House, cogent reasons were not adduced by the governor for the request which tersely sought “appointments of between four and 25 executive assistants at a monthly salary of N50,000 each per local government.”
Investigations by our correspondent showed that the House did not dissent to the letter which never had the duties of the executive assistants spelt out. To many, this underscored the insinuation that the legislature had become a subservient appendage of the executive arm, thereby jettisoning the check and balance functions among arms of government.
In line with the tone of the letter, the Speaker, Adejare Bello, directed the Assembly’s three-member Committee on Local Government Matters, which is headed by a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Diran Ayanbeku, to look into the governor’s proposal. The two other members of the committee include two AC members – the Minority Leader, Mr. Timothy Owoeye, and Mr. Najeem Salam. The committee promptly considered the amendments and recommended that each local government could appoint a minimum of four executive assistants and a maximum of 25.
Consequently, the House, on September 23, 2008, during a plenary session, moved two· motions – one: “That the recommendations spelt out in the report of the committee on local governments as amended be adopted and approved for implementation,” and two, “That the new amendments are hereby incorporated to form part of the guidelines on administrative procedures at the local government level in Osun.”
The first motion was moved by Mr. Adekunle Omolola (PDP) and seconded by Mr. Mukaila Oyekunle (PDP) while the second motion was moved by Ms. Idiat Babalola (PDP) and seconded by Owoeye (AC).
Describing the approval of the governor’s letter as an insult to the collective integrity of Osun people, the Action Congress, in a statement, on Wednesday, condemned the approval by the House and termed the governor’s request as mediocre, lacking direction, anti-social and retrogressive. Signed by the party’s Media Director, Mr. Gbenga Fayemiwo, the statement said, “This is a colossal waste of public funds. The PDP government should create jobs for the generality of the populace instead of selecting a few party supporters. The move will promote indolence and encourage hooliganism. The government should use the N50,000 per month salary to be paid to each of the 750 executive assistants to create jobs for the generality of the populace. This is the creation of another conduit pipe to siphon public funds by the government.”
But the state Secretary of PDP, Chief Yinka Adeojo, said, “The AC is a failed party, crying wolf where there is none. The House comprises AC and PDP members and they all approved the demand by the government. So, what are they saying? They are being insincere.”
Joining the fray, the state government, in a statement by the Special Adviser and Chief Press Secretary to Oyinlola, Mr. Lasisi Olagunju, described the position of the AC as shameful, hypocritical and condemnable. The statement wondered why the AC should take such a position after 11 of its members in the 26-member Assembly endorsed the decision of the House.
“The AC cannot play the ostrich in this matter which was endorsed unanimously by all the 26 members of the House. It is high time the Action Congress (AC) in Osun State came to terms with the reality that any resolution, motion or law passed by the House of Assembly is the decision of the entire people of Osun State, including AC members who have 11 representatives there,” the statement said.
The governorship candidate of the AC in the 2007 election, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, said the request by the governor showed that the administration lacked genuine ideas that could develop the state, stressing that it was unwise of the government to give temporary jobs to a minute fraction of the populace when “government could plough the resources it would use in paying the salaries of the 750 appointees to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the masses.”
He said, “By the request, the Oyinlola-led government has shown itself to the people that it lacked all semblances of hope, sincerity and leadership. This warped idea, I guess, was conceived in hell. The AC, as a political party, is bigger than its honourable members in the House. The reverse is the case in the PDP, where Oyinlola is bigger than the party. Our honourable members made a mistake by their action and we, as a party, are ready to correct them. This is why we kicked against the action of the House. Power lies with the people and not the elected party members. Nobody is infallible but for God’s sake, when you make a mistake and you find someone to correct you, you should take corrections. The government and House of Assembly, should admit their mistake and correct it. Osun will implode when this administration leaves the stage and there is no money to pay the executive assistants. This will lead to armed robbery, hooliganism and violence because the EAs will seek other illegal ways of maintaining their lifestyles when Oyinlola leaves office.
“ For a government that cannot think of raising the state’s revenue to a level that the state could be self-sustaining on internally generated revenue to commit a whopping N37.5m monthly; N450m annually and N1.2bn in the next two and a half years to payment on salaries of councils’ executive assistants – is totally reprehensible and pervasive.”
Findings showed that salaries, allowances and emoluments of political appointees monthly take the lion share in federal government’s allocation to the state, leaving the state with barely enough to embark on real infrastructural development. There is no public primary school in the state with a functional water closet and 90 per cent of public schools in the state have no fence, security and electricity. Staff of the five state-owned tertiary institutions recently went on strike to protest non-payment of salaries and welfare packages just as accreditation of many courses in the schools has not been achieved. Students of the schools are currently protesting hike in tuition-fees by the government. A student group, Education Rights Campaign, has issued an ultimatum to the government to rescind the decision to increase school fees. Also, schools of the handicapped in the state lack basic infrastructures such as potable water, classrooms, vehicles and teachers. Patients, who require surgery at the Osun State General Hospital, Asubiaro, Osogbo, are compelled to pay for diesel to run the generators of the hospital during such surgeries just as health centres across the state lack personnel and infrastructure. For four years, the state government has neither completed the much flaunted drug manufacturing plant in the state capital, which has gulped several millions of naira, nor have the efforts of the state government towards completing the state’s hotel yielded any result.
Due to inadequate maintenance, the sun scorched to death the fledgling trees planted along medians in the state. But all these did not stop the purchase of brand new, choice cars running into millions of naira by the state government for members of the traditional council in the state while hundreds of members of the public daily throng Old Garage area of Osogbo, begging to do menial jobs.
For a state whose budget is barely N37bn, a recent increase of over 300 per cent in the salaries of political appointees such as governor, deputy governor, special advisers, special assistants, council chairmen, councillors, supervisory councillors and wives of council chairmen and others have left a big hole in the pocket of the state. Of the three-point agenda of the Oyinlola administration in his second term – establishment of a free trade zone, establishment of a university and an airport, only the establishment of the university is on course.
There has been nothing to show for the export free made zone and the airport projects, which the administration had touted since its first term. This crippling paucity or funds for developmental projects has left a telling effect on the state of infrastructure in housing, education health, commerce sectors of the economy. In the history of the 15-year-old state, no administration has received the monetary allocation that has accrued to the state in the past five and a half years. But developments on the ground have not been commensurate with the funds and burgeoning political appointees’ wage bill is believed to be a major contributory factor to this situation.
The achievements of the Chief Bisi Akande administration are still being used as benchmarks of government’s success, more than five years after it served four-year tenure characterised by little resources.
In a way, many would conclude that such appointment such as the Oyinlola administration is making negates the true means of gainful engagement of the citizenry. What the 750 executives assistants will bring back to the economy of the state remains to be seen despite the huge resources which many think is capable are capable of impacting on the state’s economy.