Aregbesola Preaches Proper Maintenance Of Public Infrastructure, Says It’s The Only Way Public Utilities Could Last Longer

Lack of follow-up maintenance has been identified as the factor militating against the constant functioning of public infrastructural facilities in the country.

Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola stated this in Iwo at the opening of a Seminar/Training for Rural Roads Maintenance Personnel drawn from rural areas where roads had been constructed by the Osun Rural Access and Mobility Projects (O’RAMP) in collaboration with the World Bank and French Development Agency (AFD) for proper maintenance for sustainability.

Representing the Governor at the flag off ceremony, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Water Resources, Rural Development and Community Affairs, Hon Babatunde Ibirogba said that, it is high time to imbibe good maintenance culture as the projects belongs to the benefiting communities.

Governor Aregbesola said it was the decision of the present administration to put in place a Maintenance Team for all its facilities with a view to reducing the cost of governance.

He commended Osun RAMP management for doing an excellent job at the rural areas of the State as well as EZ37, the organizer of the Training Programs on Rural Roads Maintenance.

Earlier in his speech, the Project Coordinator of Osun RAMP, Engr Adelere Oriolowo explained that, the RAMP Maintenance Teams in various zones are to ensure durability of its facilities.

He said that, the Seminar was put in place to educate the participants on basic road maintenance since they were not professionals.

The team members, according to Engineer Oriolowo, will inform the RAMP office if they encounter any problem beyond their scope adding that, similar seminars will be organized for RAMP Road Maintenance in other zones subsequently.

People’s Determination To Sustain Aregbesola’s Development Strides Unstoppable – APC 

By Toba Adedeji

The All Progressives Congress, APC in the State of Osun has said that the economic and human development strides, which the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola-led government has made in the last seven years, will be unstoppable with the people’s determination to sustain it.

This position was contained in a statement signed by the Party’s Directorate of Publicity, Research and Strategy Barr. Kunle Oyatomi.

Oyatomi noted that ”To understand the magnitude of what has happened in Osun under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the people have to take a serious look at what this state was some eight years ago, to appreciate what it is now.

Oyatomi also recalled that, “Osun was one of the poorest and struggling communities compared to many others in the country. Infrastructure was totally run-down; life was difficult, the human development index of the State was at best stagnant while economic activities were sluggish and unattractive to investors.

“Environmental sanitation was horrible – so horrible that when the rains came, cities flooded, lives were lost and properties were destroyed. There was lamentation everywhere”.

“When Aregbesola emerged the governor, the state declared an environmental emergency.  The drains were cleared, city centers got a new look as garbage heaps were removed and a beautification process accelerated. People got to work. Youths were taken off the streets, crime rate plummeted, the security situation improved and peace was restored, he explained.

The State of Osun, he said, “Aregbesola has come a long way in engineering change from a poverty stricken and backward community to a significantly developing society of hard-working and progressive-minded people, doing everything that they can, to better their lives.

However, the Party advised that ‘the citizens of the state must not allow those who are backward-looking and selfish – especially political vultures, negatively disposed to progress – to mislead them into being careless about keeping pace with the developments and progress thus far achieved in Osun’.

Oyatomi emphasized that ”no matter the antics of the opposition, the rise of Osun is unstoppable.

”The people now have a glorious responsibility to ensure that those who seek to bring down Osun in 2018 are checkmated as it was in 2014′, the party concluded.

Aregbesola Charges Communication Officers to Improve Delivery

Governor, State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has charged Communication Officers of donor-funded projects and support operation in the State to be more effective in keeping the citizenry abreast of developmental strides in the State.

During an interactive session with the Image makers facilitated by the Senior Technical Adviser to the Governor of Osun on Development Partners and International Relations, Dr. Michael Olugbile, the Governor said adequate reportage of their activities through the print, electronic and the new media was necessary to keep citizens abreast of the monumental strides his administration has achieved through the projects and support operation in the state.

Ogbeni Aregbesola ,who assured the media practitioners of his unalloyed support, enjoined them not to rest on their oars in giving the activities of their beats the deserving maximum publicity in the interest of their productivity and the present administration under his leadership that has not left any stone unturned in ensuring that poverty becomes a thing of the past through his several social safety net initiatives and programmes, which he opined are not only second to none but have also repeatedly earned his administration plethora of accolades nationally and internationally from the World Bank, UNICEF, etc.

In their separate responses at the program Oluwamayowa Fagbohungbe of Osun YESSO, Femi Anwo of FADAMA, Gbenga Oni of SLOGOR, Adedoja Adedokun of Osun RAMP, Olusola Adepoju of Osun RUWESA and Mrs. Aduke Obelawo of Osun CSDP assured Governor Aregbesola of improved services.

Nigerian Universities In The Development Equation By Alex Otti

Introduction: In his book, the ‘Origin of Species,’ Charles Darwin wrote: “One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.” In other words, in the natural order of things, the weak tribe, the shallow ethnic group, the intellectually limited race and the socially inferior being or nation becomes predisposed to an unfortunate but certain end, death; which yields room to the more accomplished, the intellectually superior, the technologically advanced and the culturally sophisticated.

Life leaves little room for weakness. Life is a continuous evolution of superior minds and societies attaining greater levels of growth and development. Indeed, life is about change and adaptability. Perhaps at no other time in human history have change and adaptability become so significant than now. Computing power is several times greater than it was as recently as twenty years ago when there was no Business to Customer (B2C) online shopping platform like Alibaba.com. Amazon was just a fledgling online book retailer, as distinct from the retail behemoth it is today. Think about it: just ten years ago there was no Jumia, and no Konga. Elsewhere, Tesla has shown that cars can actually be driven on batteries rather than fossil fuel. Solar energy solutions are becoming increasingly cheaper and more diffuse. Waste to energy (WTE) solutions are converting shredded used tires to low Sulphur Diesel fuel and medium capacity electricity. In other words, high grade thinking is redefining the human workspace, home space and indeed play-space.

Putting it in even more epigrammatic light, one of the greatest minds of the last century Albert Einstein noted, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ If Nigeria is to correct the errors of the past and chart a course that assures her of an enviable place in global history, she must start with a new mental paradigm.

THE DEMOGRAPHICS

To provide perspective, we should take a brief overview of the nation’s socioeconomic context. Nigeria is a giant with gigantic problems. With over180 million people and an annual population growth rate of 3%, if we apply ‘the rule of 70’, Nigeria’s population would double over the next 20 years.

Also of critical importance here is the fact that Nigeria’s population is one of the youngest in the world. Over 70 percent of the country’s population is less than 35 years of age resulting in what you could term a “pot-bellied youth bulge”. This is not necessarily bad, but if this growing army of young talented Nigerians is not put to productive use, the intense social unrest that could be precipitated could lead to one of the most disturbing socio-political upheavals ever experienced on the African continent, making the Arab Spring of the last decade, a child’s play.

Officially, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is considered to be about 18% today. At best this is a politically convenient figure, but even this number is 100% higher than the 9% unemployment rate recorded in 2015, a mere two years ago. The clearly worsening unemployment situation in the country at a time the nation graduates roughly 350,000 students yearly, leaves little to the imagination about the dire consequences of not growing the nation’s economy by at least 10% per annum over the next 10 years.

UNEMPLOYMENT SUBTERFUGE

At the beginning of 2016, the unemployment rate was at 10.4%, by mid-year, the rate had increased to 12.1% with a year-end forecast of 18%. We are almost at ‘the tipping point’ when the unemployed may begin to push back against society and escalate open social dissension.

So far, we seem to be blissfully ignorant about the implications of our demographics and surprisingly treat the issue of population and its nuances as if it were some minor inconvenience, like a mosquito humming in our ears. To be sure, Nigeria’s burgeoning population and its attendant repercussions are far more complex and exceedingly more dangerous than a bite from a female anopheles mosquito.

Again, lemonade comes from lemons not oranges; if a nation aspires to the greatness it must groom great people, it cannot thrive with people unaccustomed to advanced thinking, intellectual rigour and social flexibility. If Nigeria is to progress, we must improve our productivity and the challenge starts with our schools, especially our universities.

EDUCATION AND ITS RESPONSIBILITIES

At the heart of a nation’s progress are not its mineral resources, its ethnic or tribal affiliations nor necessarily its geographic location but the quality of its people. The difference between rich and poor nations is a contrast between the types of people that live within their different geographic boundaries. Nigeria has remained a struggling country, largely because it has incrementally betrayed its responsibility to the education of its youth. Nigeria is one of the lowest spenders on education on the African continent.

Rich nations have better-educated people and tend to attract such people to reinforce already exceptional talent. We can debate whether Harvard is an exceptional University, but what is not in contention is that Harvard attracts exceptional students, just like Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Gifted students are attracted to Harvard and become gifted lecturers who in turn attract gifted students. Which University in Nigeria today can lay claim to attracting the finest of Nigeria’s brains deliberately and consciously to build a school tradition of excellence that will attract independent funding? Most Nigerian universities, private ones inclusive, are funded in ways that cannot guarantee the excellence that the nation requires to forge ahead in an increasingly digital world, with technology proceeding at a pace Microsoft’s Bill Gates once said was ‘faster than the speed of thought’. The world of Tesla’s Elon Musk is certainly not the world the Nigerian educational system is preparing our youths for. We are talking of the world of advanced robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), neuroplasticity, driverless cars, digital urban roadways, automated route switching metro lines and smart cities! The emerging world order is driven by intellect and creativity and no longer the dumb mining and trading of natural resources.

As a people we have become comfortable with a lazy view of life. We have come to expect that we should do well because we have a dubious wealth from oil. This is one of the most blatant falsehoods we have created. Wealth is not a ‘thing’ it is a ‘process’. The problem we face today is that our education is not designed to create wealth. It is structured and nurtured to produce at best bureaucrats, and at worst plutocrats. Men and women who expect to become wealthy through all kinds of means other than the rigorous application of their intellect, and creativity. These are people that bury money in septic tanks; stash loot in obscure buildings and flaunt everything but intellect.

If this country must progress, schools must be dedicated to producing students equipped to think creatively, deeply and unconventionally. Albert Einstein did not become great by memorizing the theories of his lecturers, but by diligently challenging their concepts unless they could irrefutably prove their correctness. He persistently asked the question, ‘why’ and if that would not be sufficient he would then ask, ‘why not’ an alternative! It is this critical tradition that has now culminated in a composite worldview where in the western world today, universities do not generally teach students ‘what’ to think but ‘how’ to think!

This is at the very basis of the failure of Nigeria to translate academic knowledge into solutions. This has inhibited our ability to solve even the most basic of problems in the areas of science, technology, and engineering. The lack of intellectual flexibility and creativity, the willful laziness of our campuses have resulted in a nation that is dependent on everything that is imported, no matter how inappropriate to our unique environment. Nigeria produces oil but the sector is not ‘internalized,’ and its major participants are foreigners serving external interests while dropping crumbs on the table for the locals to keep them from being restive. We have not defeated slavery; we have merely made it more subtle and perhaps more permissible. Our universities, with due respect, have so far failed us.

Nigerian universities have remained in the lower rungs of rankings in the World and Africa. In the latest edition of Times Higher Education Ranking, 2016, no Nigerian University made it to the top 981 universities in the world, quite unlike in 2015 when we featured at No. 600. That explains how fast the rest of the world is moving and or how fast Nigeria is moving in the wrong direction. In this same report for Africa, University of Ibadan which placed 11th in 2015 had dropped to the 14th position. Out of the best 15 universities in Africa, South African Universities took the first 6 positions, except the 4th position that went to Makerere University, Uganda. In another report, the 2017 African University Ranking, which largely agreed with the Times ranking, only 4 Nigerian universities made it to the top 50 in Africa.

Most curricula are a poor imitation of the study packs of western universities. Our universities lack the creative muse, the authentic homegrown feel that makes study instantly relevant to the local environment. Our graduates are simply not being prepared for the real world. They lack an interface with their likely future work environment and falter from the very start of their careers because of poor preparation.

Furthermore, our universities are not tailored towards solving evolving challenges. If power has become an albatross to us, what solutions have our egg heads proffered? Why have our universities not designed, marketed and implemented alternative energy solutions? Why must we wait for Bill and Melinda Gates to fight malaria? With over 150 universities in the country today we should feel extremely scandalized by the ‘entitlement’ and ‘dependency’ culture we have encouraged. We should feel terribly pained by the fact that we have to look abroad for solutions to local problems. Nobody can love us more than ourselves. Nobody can understand us better than ourselves. As far as foreigners are concerned we are a great source of demand for their intellectual products. We are the consumption haven waiting for their production paradise.

A CALL FOR ACTION

If we must take our place in an intellectual world, we must rethink education now. I believe the following actions must be taken amongst others:

We must have the will to spend at least 25% of the country’s annual budget on education and create special education fund to support R&D in priority areas.

The government should grant special education support for students in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) while company investments in R&D should be tax deductible.

Universities should run their schools much more efficiently and effectively. They should market their schools the way companies market their products. They should sell research, provide feasibility studies, and run joint ventures. They should get off their butts and work!

Universities must ensure that their curricula are not only relevant to our peculiar circumstances but up to date with realities. The study of pinhole cameras in a digital world can only pass as a history topic.

Universities need to use their alumni networks to attract endowments and bequests. They should produce saleable journals. They must see the possibilities of the commercial viability of their own indigenous products and processes. Handouts are no longer fashionable. These days the smartest dog gets the fattest bone while the patient dog eats no bones.

Our universities need to engage government. They need to analyze government’s policies, produce papers, host seminars and create a buzz that makes them noticed. The comfortable and serene indolence we seem to be witnessing today helps nobody. Elsewhere, universities take positions; challenge orthodoxy; keep people and governments on their toes. They do not have to be ‘nice’ but professional.

We need a national agenda on education. Where are we? Where do we want to go? And how do we get there?

CONCLUSION

If our universities would be relevant in the development journey, they must make drastic changes. We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results.

Ladies and gentlemen, as the young minds here today go into the world to express the gospel of education for development, I wish to admonish that they will find no free lunches, they will find no helpful handlebars to prop themselves up. What they will find is a world prepared to accept them for what they can offer. They will succeed to the extent of the value that they are prepared to add to society. This, therefore, is the primary task of our gowns, to provide top class minds to drive the development of our towns. While Einstein insists that “education is what remains when one has forgotten what one has learned in school’, I shall modify it to “education is what is of value when we put what we learned at school to use”.

Someone out there may like to draw my attention to a failed educated person and a successful person with little or no education. My response is, for everyone educated person that failed, I will show you ninety-nine successful educated people and for everyone uneducated successful person, I will show you ninety-nine failed uneducated persons. I will also like to add that if the successful school drop-out was able to complete his education, only God knows how successful he would have been.

Email: [email protected]

Penultimate Wednesday, I was privileged to deliver the 2017 Convocation lecture of the Babcock University.

I Will Complete All Ongoing Projects- Aregbesola

Governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has stressed his commitment to complete all the ongoing project embark by his administration before the expiration of his tenure in November 2018.

Speaking at a forum “A discourse on Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in the polity of the state of Osun tagged “Enroute Rauf”, Aregbesola noted that the debt profile released by Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, was exaggerated.
According to him, the 165.9 billion debt as released by NEITI was nothing, compared with the development Osun has witnessed in the last six years of his administration.

Speaking at the event, the Secretary to the government of Osun, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, assured the people of the state that the ruling All Progressives Congress would not allow anybody that can not continue the six-point Integral Action Plan of Aregbesola to succeed him.
Adeoti who flayed critics of Aregbesola, insisted that the governor has fulfilled his promise to the people of the State of Osun.

His words: “They should say whatever they like. Whoever wants to succeed Aregbesola must be ready to continue his six-point integral action plan.
“The policy laid down by Asiwaju Tinubu was sustained by Fashola and Ambode is building on it. That is why Lagos state is progressing.
“We are satisfied with the six-point integral action plan of Aregbesola and we would not allow anybody that is not ready to maintain and sustain the success achieved by the governor.

The Chairman, All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, Prince Gboyega Famoodun, said there is need to reply critics and clear some issues raised against Governor Aregbesola.

Tracing the history of how Aregbesola became governor in Osun state, Famoodun flayed those that are claiming to be behind the coming of Aregbesola to Osun.

Poor Budgeting, Implementation, Identified as Bane of Development

By

Sola Jacobs

Poor budgeting culture and absence of the best practices in budget preparation, as well as implementation have been identified as the bane of development in Nigeria.

This was the conclusion at the two-day Training and Capacity Building for Local Government officials on Participatory Governance and Citizen engagement, organized by a non-governmental organization, Community Life Project (CLP) also known as Reclaim Naija at Ijebu-Ijesa on Monday.

The leading resource person, Mrs Ngozi Iwere said, poor oversight of the legislature to fulfill its constitutional obligation on the budget and non-inclusion of citizens in budget preparation were some of the indices of poor budgeting and non-implementation in Nigeria.

Delving on the topic, “International Principles in Budgetary Governance, she stated that lack of synergy in budget formulation between governments and their departments, as well as gross imbalance between capital and recurrent expenditure, in favour of recurrent expenditure was a major problem.

Iwere then recommended that budget should be managed within clear, credible and predictable limits for fiscal policy.

She also stated that budget should closely aligned with the medium term strategic priorities of the government, and must promote alignment with multi-year planning and goal setting function of the government.

On accessibility and transparency, the Civil Liberty Organization executive said, the budget documents and data should not only be made available, but it must be clear and factual to state key stages of policy formulation, consideration as well as its debate on implementation and review.

Some of the participants at the workshop agreed that the Nigeria budgetary culture was poor and appropriate mechanism must be adopted to change the trend.

One of the participants, Mr Ojetayo Benson from Ifedayo Local Government commended the effort of Osun State government for engaging  the citizen in participatory government by involving civil servants at  the newly-created Local Council Development Area and Local governments to formulate policies for incoming local government executives.

 

Also Mrs Akinade Motuntayo from Ede North Local Government said, the workshop has sensitized the Community Development officials in the local government in both budget matters and participatory governance.

She added that the workshop had impacted the government officials to put the citizens first in their dealings and considerations.
Another participant, Mr Gideon Odesanmi said, there is need for a change of mindset in the entire polity, for the people to participate in governance, by asking questions from their leaders on how their resource is utilized.

Canada At 150: Lessons For Nigerian Youth By Chido Onumah

On July 1, 1867, the British North American Act came into being. It led to the fusion of the colonies of Canada (later Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to form the semi-autonomous federal dominion of Canada. With time, other British colonies and territories joined with or were ceded to the new nation. From four provinces in 1867, Canada today has ten provinces and three territories. It wasn’t until 1982 that the country became a fully sovereign state. It was that year that Canada eliminated the last vestiges of legal control the British Parliament had in the amendment of the country’s constitution.

It is not for nothing that the country has been described as the best place on earth. According to a 2015 study by the Reputation Institute, “Canada is the top country in the world for studying, visiting, working, and living.” It was ranked first for “best quality of life” by U.S. News Best Countries Ranking (2016) and named the “world’s most welcoming country” by the 2015 Global Nation Brands Index. Beyond its picturesque countryside, tundra, prairies and beautiful snow-capped mountains that stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, Canada provides a breathtaking kaleidoscope of multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion and freedom that other countries can take a cue from.

Of course, Canada is not a perfect nation. No nation is perfect. Nation-building is not a tea party but a work in progress, no matter how old a country is. One of the most decentralized federations as well as one of the most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations in the world, Canada, a country of 35 million people, (2016 census) has continued to push the boundaries of what it means to be a modern nation-state.

Last week, as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration, the country’s High Commissioner in Nigeria, H.E. Christopher Thornley, held a reception in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, for Canadians and friends of Canada in Nigeria. Ambassador Thornley spoke about Canada’s “strong and enduring relationship with Nigeria, and commitment to continuing our friendly and productive relations for many years to come.” He also spoke about Canada’s “diversity and inclusiveness, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, youth, and the environment.”

There are plenty of lessons Nigeria can draw from Canada. Like Canada, Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth, an organization of countries that were colonized by Britain. Of course, there is a difference in how both countries emerged—while Canada’s three original British colonies agreed to come together to form a semi-autonomous confederacy in 1867, the Northern and Southern Protectorates in Nigeria were amalgamated by the British in 1914 to create Nigeria. From two protectorates to one country in 1914, Nigeria grew to three regions in 1946, four regions in 1963, 12 states in 1967 and today has 36 states. While Canada’s expansion was through accretion and concession, that of Nigeria was through forced division. This difference notwithstanding, both countries have in common diversity in terms of region, language, religion and ethnicity.

According to Ambassador Thornley, Canada is strong because of its differences, not in spite of them, and is strengthened in many ways because of her shared experiences and diversity. Nigeria can look to its diversity, differences and shared experiences as sources of strength. Unfortunately, thanks to poor leadership, the country has managed to exacerbate its fault lines so much so that today it sits on the brink, racked by political instability, and ethnic and religious strife propelled by a greedy and bankrupt elite for whom enlightened self-interest means absolutely nothing.

“Inclusion is a choice,” noted Ambassador Thornley. “This choice is guided by the many benefits that diversity can bring: higher rates of economic growth, better social cohesion and tremendous cultural and civic benefits. It has taken years of hard work for Canada to get to where it is today. Inclusion does not happen by accident, it happens because of choices. Decades ago, Canada chose to embrace a policy of multiculturalism and official bilingualism. The Government of Canada chose to welcome more refugees. Prime Minister Trudeau chose to have gender parity in Cabinet (because it’s 2015).”

These are the ideals Nigeria should aspire to if we are to build a modern nation. We must make conscious efforts to build an inclusive nation; a society of equal opportunities and civic benefits, because the alternatives are not pleasant. We must redefine citizenship rights in Nigeria. We must build a nation, like Canada, where every Nigerian can call every part of the country home. That conversation must begin now. Nigeria does not have the luxury of time!

In 2015, Canadians elected Justin Trudeau, a dynamic and progressive young politician as prime minister. Ambassador Thornley spoke eloquently about the role young people in both Nigeria and Canada can play in shaping their countries: “As we celebrate one hundred and fifty years of Canada, we remind ourselves that it is today’s young people that will shape both the Canada and the Nigeria of the next fifty years. Canada understands the importance of engaging youth not only on issues that affect them directly, but on all issues of national and global importance. In fact, our Prime Minister, quite deliberately, chose to personally take on the role of Minister of Youth to emphasize the priority his government attaches to it. Young people represent a generation of true global citizens. This has been helped by a world that is networked and connected like never before, namely through the use of new technologies and social media. The importance of youth is particularly pronounced in Nigeria, which has such a sizable population of young people. I have been impressed in the early months of my tour in Nigeria with the ideas, energy, and vitality of young Nigerians. The desire to build a better world is evident and inspiring.”

Nigerian youth have ideas and energy. They are creative. But they must do more; they must be involved in reclaiming and re-inventing the country; they must realize that the power to bring about real change in Nigeria lies in their hands. Many of those who shaped Nigeria at independence were in their 20s and 30s with a few in their 40s. They were the same people who plunged Nigeria into an avoidable and internecine civil war, mismanaged the post-war reconciliation, robbed the country of its resource, impoverished the majority of Nigerians and brought us to the sorry state we are in today as a nation.

Nigerians can’t continue to run the country with the same people and ideas that have failed in the last 56 years. Nigerian youth must rise to the challenge of their generation. Nobody will provide employment or quality education for you unless you create a system of equal opportunities and civic benefits. It is your country, your world and your time! I am, therefore, encouraged by the efforts of some young Nigerians like the economist and writer, Tope Fasua, who is rallying other young Nigerians for real progressive change under the banner of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) as the country heads into another general election cycle in 2019. There is Bashir Abdullahi II, the building engineer and social activist who sought me out a few weeks ago to share creative ideas for the social and political reconstruction of Nigeria as an inclusive and egalitarian society.

These are the kinds of new attitudes and approaches that Nigeria needs for her to survive. We must break from the past. We can’t continue to run Nigeria in the same old ways and expect different results. Dear Nigerian youth, let no one tell you that you are not old enough to lead or that you don’t have experience. Make your mistakes if you have to, but lead you must. Your glorious battle cry must be: dare to struggle; dare to win!

Nigeria must rethink its federalism. Like Canada, Nigeria must seek reconciliation with various groups within the country. Everybody matters! We must also elevate the debate around gender equality and empowerment of women. It is only the youth that can achieve this by collectively destroying the ingrained mistrust and prejudices of the past. Successive rulers—with jaundiced and parochial thinking—have failed the country. There is no reason for the current generation of Nigerians to toe the same line. There is no explanation why Nigerians born after the end of the civil war in January 1970 should see themselves as anything other than Nigerians first. That must be the attitude going forward; it is the only way we can get out of the current morass.

Last week, I was on Aljazeera’s Inside Story to talk about corruption and famine in three African countries (Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan) and Yemen where, collectively, 20 million people are at risk of starvation. In Somalia, “a national disaster has been declared because of drought and about half of the country’s population faces severe food shortages.” In South Sudan, “famine has been declared in parts of the country and up to a million people there will soon run out of food.” And in the giant of Africa, the UN says, “400,000 Nigerian children face malnutrition. Close to 80,000 of them might not survive the next few months.”

It was tragic as it was painful for me to find Nigeria in the same league as these other countries that have a long history of natural disasters and civil wars. Nigeria’s problems are purely self-inflicted. There is no reason any child in Nigeria should go to bed hungry much less being malnourished. There is no reason for millions of Nigerians to be refugees in their country. It is this retrogressive paradigm of governance that has defined Nigeria since independence that our youth must interrogate.

The challenge before Nigerian youth, therefore, and the lesson they can learn from a country like Canada is how to build an inclusive nation, home to millions of people from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, living together in harmony and bound by social justice, equity, the rule of law and a common national ethos.

It is the bounden duty of this generation of Nigerian youth to rescue Nigeria from the tragic hamster wheel the country has become.

Chido Onumah is the author of We Are All Biafrans. You can contact him at [email protected]

Sustaining Development In A Recession – The Case Of Osun

At a period when most narratives point to ‘The Recession’ as an excuse for the crippling growth/performance across various governments, the story of the State of Osun presents a refreshing perspective as to how, against all odds, concise people-centered development is possible.

While it may be easy to heap the blame of this economic downturn on the present leadership in the country, but like all sunsets, Nigeria arrived at this sorry pass, thanks to the mismanagement of our national economy by the immediate past federal administration. Lest we forget, the irredeemably corrupt administration ran Nigeria to the ground. Our national treasury was plundered by cronies, friends and lackeys of government and the ruling party functionaries. Coupled with the massive pillaging of our foreign reserve, one needs no soothsayer to predict our present economic predicament as a nation.

While on the topic of mismanaged economies, it goes without saying that critical infrastructure in Osun before the inauguration of the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in November 27, 2010, was largely in a comatose. Economic activities had largely slowed down with considerable capital flight and migration of citizens in search of a better life.

wages-vs-development

A cross-section of road projects completed by the current Osun administration
A cross-section of road projects completed by the current Osun administration

Without any gainsaying, building roads, bridges, schools and hospitals among other physical infrastructure, creates jobs, enriches the local economy and gives access to market for farmers (many of whom dwell in the rural areas). If you ever wonder why more outsiders were crying than the ‘bereaved’ when the salary conundrum lasted, it was because majority of Osun people understood why the government aggressively pursued development of critical infrastructure across the state as it did. However, this came at a cost!

Why debt financing for critical infrastructure?

For such a small state in a country with high inflationary environment, high cement prices, currency exchange risks and non-existent steel industry (major components of construction), developing Osun into a 21st Century state became a major challenge, one which the Aregbesola administration tackled very well for posterity’s sake.

To wait for the time when the cost of building a school or of constructing a road to double would have been unforgiveable, not now that a dollar exchanges for N450, compared to then at N150. What option really existed before Ogbeni in 2010 other than to raise funds from the capital market at seven per cent lower than commercial bank interest rate?

Osun opted for a mix of financing options to reduce risks and meet its primary statutory commitment. She followed a responsible borrowing regime by only committing 30 per cent of its revenues to debt servicing, leaving free cash-flow for critical and mandatory expenditure, such as salaries. With this, Osun began an aggressive infrastructure roll out in 2012 before the three-headed tragedy of: (1) Blanket salary increment negotiated by the Federal Government of behalf of states in 2012; (2) 40 per cent crash in statutory allocation due to alleged theft of 400,000 barrel of oil per day in 2013; and (3) 50 per cent crash in the global price of crude oil and subsequent impact on statutory allocation.  But for these, the State of Osun would have been just fine.

three-headed-tragedy

Osogbo Government High School commissioned by President Muhammudu Buhari on September 1st, 2016
Osogbo Government High School commissioned by President Muhammudu Buhari on September 1st, 2016

As we speak, three super highways are under construction. These super highways consist of five bridges with each bridge at 90 per cent completion. Despite this biting recession, construction is ongoing because Osun secured an innovative promissory note purchase facility.

A cross section of road projects in Osogbo, Osun State capital
A cross section of road projects in Osogbo, Osun State capital

Osun’s financial model worked perfectly by creating a pool of funds for infrastructure roll out that can only be utilized strictly for such purpose; due to market regulations of such funding by 2014. Using this financial mix, the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregebsola rehabilitated and completed 230 states roads spanning 368km. His administration partnered local governments to deliver 226 council roads across the 30 local governments and the development area with a combined length of 216km.

A cross section of the 300km council roads built across all Local Governments Areas in the state of Osun
A cross section of the 300km council roads built across all Local Governments Areas in the state of Osun

Osun in partnership with the World Bank, RAMP 2 programme, also delivered 250 km of rural roads to open up farms in rural areas. The state is on course to deliver the next set of 250 km. It is noteworthy that Osun is one of just six states selected to partake in this programme. In all, the government has so far delivered road infrastructure to the tune of more than 1000 km, opening up our rural enterprises and areas, connecting urban centres and positioning the state as a trade and production hub.

Other construction projects delivered include 20 Elementary Schools and 22 Middle Schools all completed and in use. Many more are still under construction.

 Baptist Elementary School, Ilare, Ile-Ife
Baptist Elementary School, Ilare, Ile-Ife

list-of-schools-in-osun

Human Capital Development In Osun

Brand news Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), Hilux Trucks and Ambulances acquired by the Osun state government
Brand news Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), Hilux Trucks and Ambulances acquired by the Osun state government

Despite its limited resources, the State of Osun has continued to champion delivery of an integral human development agenda. Osun in the last six years has made unprecedented investments in security towards the greater welfare of the people. Twenty five high capacity Armoured Personnel Carriers were deployed, being the largest contribution to the Nigerian Police by a state government at the time of deployment. The state today enjoys a functional 24-hour emergency ambulance services with a fleet of 50 brand new vehicles across the 31 local government areas. This state-wide ambulance service is powered by 408 well-trained and kitted paramedics, who have attended to more than 8,000 cases since inception. This quality of service in concept and implementation is unprecedented in the annals of the state.

Osun has also invested concisely in the empowerment of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), given the trickle-up impact these make to socio-economic development. The government has so far deployed over N7 billion to 50,000 beneficiaries spread across 4,500 cooperatives and/or businesses targeted at market women, small scale farmers, artisans and physically-challenged individuals.  Through its welfare programme for critically poor citizens, the government has supported 16,250 widows and disadvantaged persons.

Through the State’s partnership with the World Bank, The Osun Agency for Community and Social Development Project (OSUN CSDP), has reached 1,073,129 beneficiaries in rural communities by committing at least N2 billion to several social developmental projects. The partnership is delivering 356 inclusive, gender sensitive and multi-sectoral micro projects, covering Education, Rural Electrification, Primary Health Care, Transportation, Potable Water provision in 263 communities across the state.

Some of the 253,000 elementary school pupils enjoying their nutritious meal on a school day in the state of Osun
Some of the 253,000 elementary school pupils enjoying their nutritious meal on a school day in the state of Osun

The government’s strategic investment in the critical basic education level has delivered training and re-training for over 21,017 teachers, giving the importance of these to the learning experience. So far, 277 model schools with 1,811 modern classrooms have been built or rehabilitated.  The schools are being furnished with 26,922 sets of chair and table. Every school day in Osun, 253,000 elementary school children receive nutritious meals produced largely by local farmers, to boost health and cognitive capability at their formative stage, as well as boost local food production. The Osun School feeding programme is the longest running of its kind in the country.

In six years, Osun has through its basic education agency, invested over N8.5 billion to build capacity, both in human and physical infrastructure. This investment in education is driven by the resolve of the administration to equip the future generation of Osun with the best possible resources regardless of their background, so they can seek a better and prosperous future for themselves and consequently for the State.

How Osun continues to thrive

As many states became fiscally unstable and shortfall in federally collected revenues continued to challenge salaries payment, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari heeded Osun’s push for interventions by helping her and other states restructure commercial loans into FGN bond with reduced financial cost and freeing of cash-flow in August 2015. The FG also granted a concessionary loan to Osun and many other states to clear backlogs of salaries and to restore treasury and fiscal stability of these states.

Table 1: The State of Osun Bailout Loan (as at June 30th, 2015)

DESCRIPTION AMOUNT REQUESTED AMOUNT RELEASED
Salary – Outstanding @ 30th June 2015 24.87B 25.8B
Pension 6.96B
Gratuity 8.40B
SUBTOTAL 40.32B 25.8B
Salary paid previously from state treasury Position (Salary Overdraft) 24.00B
TOTAL 64.32B 25.8B

 

Table 2: Osun Local Governments Bailout Loan

DESCRIPTION AMOUNT REQUESTED AMOUNT RELEASED
Salary-Outstanding @ 30th June, 2015 9.12B 9.1B
Pension 1.35B
Gratuity 12.46B
SUBTOTAL 22.93B 9.1B
Salary paid previously from treasury position (Salary Overdraft) 0.96B
TOTAL 23.89B 9.1B

 

The state government and the labour unions recognized that the current national challenge, resulting from dwindling revenues will continue to affect the payments of critical expenditure of government, which include salaries, wages and pension, after the exhaustion of the bailout funds. The labour unions agreed to accommodate the state government during this economic headwind, while the state government agreed to be transparent and carry the labour unions along.

The state government and the labour unions also agreed that whatever is available as net revenues accruing from Federation Accounts and Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) will be apportioned in such a way that will take care of critical expenditure, wages, pension, salaries and other expenditure required to run government. This milestone agreement gave birth to the apportionment of revenue, called modulated salary.

From August 2015 till now, the prudent management of concessionary loan (bailout) and its subsequent revenues by the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has ensured salaries are paid and workers keep their jobs, rather than embark on mass retrenchment; an alternate idea other state governments have toyed with.

Table 3. Ranking of State Salary Arrears.

State Months Owed No. of Months Owed by Salary Indebted States in the South West Estimated Monthly Wage Bill Estimated Salary Owed
Ondo May – October (2016) 6 3,900,000,000.00 23,400,000,000.00
Ekiti June – October (2016) 5 2,600,000,000.00 13,000,000,000.00
Oyo June – October (2016) 5 5,200,000,000.00 26,000,000,000.00
Osun August – October (2016) 3 2,000,000,000.00 6,000,000,000.00
Lagos Nil 0
Ogun Nil 0

Source: Budgit, Govt Sources

The salary regime ensures full salaries are paid to junior cadre in levels 1-7, while their senior counterparts are paid nothing less than 50 per cent or greater, depending on the level of income per month.

Omoluabi Garment Factory, Abere
Omoluabi Garment Factory, Abere

The government’s infrastructure development efforts has already started yielding results as investments and production has been on the rise in Osun: In 2009, the famous International Breweries, Ilesa, known for Trophy brand which serves the South West and beyond, doubled its production capacity to cater for the boost in local economy.  Tuns Farms, an indigenous poultry company, in partnership with small holder farmers, ramped up broiler production to position the state as the second largest broiler producer in the country.   Omoluabi Garment Factory, a Public-Private-Partnership between Sam and Sara Garments and the State Government of Osun emerged as the largest Garment Factory in West Africa.  An indigenous computer assembly plant, RLG Adulawo also set shop in Osun as a result of the favourable infrastructure in the State. These and more are the direct and indirect investment results of the administration’s bet for a prosperous future and these efforts are paying off.

Man of the people! Governor of the state of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is loved by the masses.
Man of the people! Governor of the state of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is loved by the masses.

Consequently, Osun developmental programmes have also impacted on the socio-economic profile of the state as reported by reputable institutions. In 2015, The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) rated Osun 2nd Highest in Human Development Index among the 36 states in the Country. In 2014, Renaissance Capital (RENCAP) in its 36 shades of Nigeria economic review of states ranked Osun as the 7th largest economy in Nigeria, while in 2013 the NBS rated Osun as the state with the lowest poverty rate in Nigeria.

In conclusion, was there a dearth in critical physical infrastructure in Osun before 2010? The answer is yes. Was there an urgent need to build these infrastructures? The answer is a resounding yes. Was the decision to debt finance the construction of these infrastructures a rational one amongst other options available? Yes! Has the state government properly managed the resultant downside risks involved in taking these steps? Yes! Nobody argues with results. The impact of the decisions taken by the present administration in the state continues to yield positive results from all available indices.