The State Government of Osun under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has been urged to give equal priority to both infrastructural development and workers’ welfare.
Three prominent Nigerians including the head of Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University, Mr Tunji Ogunyemi, the director of Ola Oni Center for Social Research, Comrade Wale Adebisi and the secretary of Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Rufus Adeyemi, made this assertion during a roundtable discussion on Monday.
The discussion was organised by the College of Management and Social Sciences, Fountain University with the theme, “Development Quest and Workers’ Welfare In a Receding Economy; State of Osun in Focus”.
In his welcome address, the chairman of the college editorial board, Mr Olusegun Laidi, said the roundtable was geared towards examining the dilemma of which to prioritize between developmental projects and the workers’ welfare especially in a receding state like Osun.
After locking horns on the topic, the discussants agreed that as the state belongs to everybody, the State government should embark on projects which the ordinary citizens would also benefit from aside from paying workers’ salaries.
“Nigeria is fundamentally poor and Osun doesn’t not exist in isolation, it’s exist as a unit in Nigeria which has problem. Salute leadership for seeing a tarred road at all in Osun because its allocation from the Federal Government is nothing to write home about.
“If Osun were to pay full salary, the Government will not embark on any other infrastructural development and Government belongs to everybody, not just the civil servants.
“Everybody should be given equal right in terms of dividend of democracy, Government is not about paying salaries alone, that would be an injustice to other citizens.
“We can only urge the Government of Osun to give equal priority to both infrastructural development and workers’ welfare. The Governor should work on both sides.”
As reactions trailed the speech recently delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari the Director, Ola-Oni Centre for Social and Research, Osogbo, Comrade Wale Adebisi has posited that the speech showed the military man in the President.
Some Nigerians have earlier criticized the speech, describing it as one that lack substances capable of reassuring the hope of the people of the country.
Comrade Adebisi while joining the set of people that carpeted Mr President over the speech said the President’s speech is an indication of a living military tendency in a democratically elected President.
According to him, “The fact still remains on the speech of Mr President, General Muhammadu Buhari that there is no way you can wash off the spot in the skin of a leper.
“Now, the man, the fact still remains, is a military man and that speech he delivered on Monday showed the military man in him and also quantify the fact that the military in a democracy is an aberration.
“He was talking about crushing terrorism, crushing Boko Haram, already you are in negotiation and you have to respect the rules of negotiation for the remaining numbers of Chibok girls that are still in bondage.
“When you are talking of negotiation, you cannot be talking of crushing and if at all they have another strategy to combat the terrorists, they should have conceived the military tactics, not exposing it or talking it off but then that still underscore the fact that we are inheriting military that are not well accommodated by the democracy because one, the military we have in Nigeria is an inherited military from the colonialists, it is a military of imperialism.” He added.
We would like to begin this press release by quoting from Shakespeare: “There is something rotten in the State of Denmark”. It is generally believed that, like in this quotation, “there is something rotten in the Nigerian State”. In fact, there are so many things rotten in Nigeria as a nation. We all know that when the head of a person, institution or nation is rotten, the entire body is, and this is why if a part of the body is in pain, the whole body is, and this is also why a disease is one part of the human body can kill the whole body. In this case, if Nigeria, represented by the Federal Government as the head of the nation is rotten, the whole of Nigeria is rotten, and if a part of Nigeria, say a State in the federation, is in pain, the entire country would feel the pain, and unless this pain is removed, we cannot say the country is well i.e., in good health.
Aregbesola, the Executive Governor of the State of Osun, like many other Governors in the federation, is in pain. And so is the Federal Government itself. This is a general pain induced by the unprecedented profligacy of the President Jonathan’s administration under the Peoples Democratic Party (of Nigeria). By this profligacy of monumental proportion, unequalled in the history of Nigeria from independence till 2015 when the Almighty God terminated the PDP’s administration in order to save Nigeria from untold calamity that was waiting to happen, the Federal Government under President Buhari is in pain, the State Governments are in pain and the Nigerian citizens are equally in pain.
From the revelations going on in the country, so much money had been looted from the government treasury that the looted monies in both local and foreign currencies are enough to take care of the 36 States band their citizens for many years to come. And the Federal and State Governments now wallow in unprecedented misery and poverty. Hence we cannot, and should not, blame the Federal and State Governments for the present general condition of Nigerians, salaries and non salaries earners alike. The cry of “ilu le” (things are hard in the country) is rampant everywhere – workers, citizens, market women, students and even beggars. It is under these unpleasant scenarios that we place Ogbeni Aregbesola and his detractors. But from our interactions with some different categories of people in Osun, especially in Osogbo and part of Ilesa, Ile-Ife and Modakeke, we were surprised that people still see “some things of goodness” in things evil“ in Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s administration.
What we were expecting was a thorough condemnation of Aregbe’s government based on the issue of overflogged salaries that has been beaten to death! While there was an expected general consensus on the issue of overflogged salaries which has led to grievances amongst workers and even market women who complained about shortfall in sales, owing to low patronages from salary earners, we were pleasantly surprised at the level of general awareness of some people about the harsh economic situation in the country, like drastic drop in the price of crude oil, unprecedented high rate of the value of the Dollar to the Naira but, most importantly, the PDP’s looting of the treasury which they have been bombarded with through the social media on a daily basis. Some of them said they sympathized with Aregbesola and other State Governors as well as the Federal Government on the sorry mess into Jonathan’s administration has led them, but that, in spite of this, no Government, whether State or Federal, should allow its citizen to suffer as it is now the case in all the States of the federation, but with special interest in their own State of Osun.
If we take away the issue of salaries which is the main source of people’s anger and which they want to redressed with assistance from the money recovered from the loots as daily reported in the newspapers, there seem to be praises and appreciation about the activities of government in Osun. Thus, while there is general condemnation and anger about the irregular and delayed payment of salaries, some people still appreciate what the Government of Osun has done in other areas, especially in road infrastructure and developments in primary and secondary schools. Some were honest enough to say that they are happy their children now have good schools to attend. Some held a good opinion about O’Meal programme in the primary schools which is now being replicated at the Federal level by President Buhari’s administration of the All Progressive Congress (APC). By the same token, they showed their appreciation for the O’Reap programme of Aregbesola’s administration.
Of particular interest is a group of people, including a mechanic (name withheld) that we interacted with. When asked of his opinion about Aregbe’s government, the mechanic said that, other than the well advertised issue of salaries, “the man is doing well; he is my man any day”. One of the mechanics pointed to something Aregbe did in the area of road infrastructure. He named a particular area where people had suffered for so long until Aregbe came to their aid. He praised the government “for tarring the road and putting up bridges on the road, from Owode Grammar School to Osu”. Therefore, he would vote for Aregbe and the APC anytime, as “there is no substitute party on ground”. He advised that government must take care of workers “from whom we make our own living”.
When asked about the issue of payment of tax, they all agreed that people must pay their tax, more so that “there is no more allocation from the Centre”. We corrected them that there is still allocation from the Centre, only that it has been substantially reduced. It is interesting to hear one of them say that apart from cocoa, Chief Obafemi Awolowo developed the Old Western Region with proceeds from tax which people who lived at that time told him about in connection with the exploits of the sage. On the issue of ghost workers, one of them said, with anger, that “it is cheating”, and “criminal” for people to earn salaries without being an authentic worker in the system, believing that there is no way ghosts could earn salaries. He asked us whether anybody could identify an “invisible ghost”. He said he as a person felt cheated that while he is struggling to make ends meet, some people behind the ghost phenomenon simply draw salaries without working. He sees this as one of the problems in Aregbe’s administration, and a source of the drain in the governments coffers. He said all the “ghost” workers and “their possible sponsors” should be sent to jail with hard labour. But said the problem of “ghost” workers should not affect the real workers who should be paid their salaries, while the people behind the ghosts should be sent to jail “or have their hands cut off”.
The conclusion of our findings is that while there is a general agreement about the plight of workers who are “injured” by nonpayment of salaries (which they also believed is not restricted to Osun alone), they believe that the truth must also be told that Aregbe’s administration has done well in the development of infrastructure, especially roads and building of schools. They also said there is no substitute for APC and President Buhari’s government for now, especially in his fight against corruption of the previous administration that has led the State of Osun, like many other States and even the Federal Government, to the present sorry mess we are all in now. They asked Aregbe to be full of prayers not for his State alone, but for other States and the Federal Government believing that with time, things would be better.
For our past, we say before Aregbesola or indeed any other Governor is crucified, let us crucify the PDP and President Jonathan and his administration for creating the sorry atmosphere Aregbesola, other Governors and indeed the Federal Government now find themselves.
Professor Moses Akinola Makinde, FNAL
DG/CEO, Awolowo Centre for Philosophy, Ideology and Good Governance, Osogbo.
Comrade Wale Adebisi
DG, Comrade Ola-Oni Centre for Social Research, Osogbo.