Since 2010 when the current administration was enthroned in the State of Osun, it has been a mix of commendations and condemnations, particularly on the social protection programmes of the administration. It is condemnations for those who have made up their minds to play politics with impactful initiatives of the government and commendations for the majority who appreciate the goods that the policy has brought. KEHINDE AYANTUNJI writes on the global attentions that have been shifted to the state due to its Social Protection Model
Since the return of democracy in 1999, Social Protection Programmes have attracted less attention on the part of the federal government and the 36 states of the federation, despite the clarity of the chapter 2 of the 1999 constitution, that it shall be the fundamental obligation of the government. Perhaps, there are more reasons the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) of the constitution introduced unenforceable clauses to those provisions. It has been held severally by the competent courts of jurisdiction that Section 13 to 24 that specified very essence of government in Nigeria constitution is not enforceable.
The implication is that government at all levels in the country are at liberty to choose which part of the sections of the chapter to comply to or even has capacity to implement; such contradictions will definitely compel someone to question the wisdom of the drafting committee that if a particular section that imposed economy and social prosperity burden of Nigeria on government at all levels are not enforceable, then, what is the basis of that law that has failed to tie power with responsibility.
Funny enough, since 1999, the said chapter occupies the centre stage in the manifesto of political aspirants with promises to initiate social protection programmes that will alleviate poverty and bring economic prosperities to the people at all levels. Two major aspect that aspirants and their parties periodically dwell so much on are wealth and job creation which they identified as main challenges to an average Nigerian, but after attaining power, there would be little or no commitment to those promises of theirs.
Social protection, as defined by the United Nations Research Institute For Social Development, is concerned with preventing, managing, and overcoming situations that adversely affect people’s wellbeing. It consists of policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability and old age.
Global good governance and social protection index rating in order of prominence are; youth employment, poverty and malnutrition, and old age protection. These three categories of developmental index are major challenges in Nigeria and it appears governments at all levels are not paying much attention to them. Apart from unemployment that some states in Nigeria are minimally addressing through skill acquisitions and agricultural development, less attention have been given to malnutrition and old age protection.
Analysts believed that the psychology of governments at all levels in Nigeria is that investments in the area of malnutrition and old age protection is expensive and not so visible for political consideration, therefore it is of less priority to many states. Averagely, state governments in Nigeria believe to build bridge where there is no river for people to see for political consideration and commendations than investing on elderly people who are vulnerable and incapacitated by nature to earn for their living. The unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 14.2 per cent in the last quarter of 2016 from 10.4 per cent in 2015 while malnutrition contributes to the deaths of about a half-million Nigerian children each year.
But despite the good, bad and the ugly, global attention is shifting to Osun state western part of Nigeria. It appeared that the state is fast becoming the standard of social protection services in Nigeria with its 6 years sustainable social protection policies. In the history of the state or any other state in Nigeria, such quantum of resources has never been concentrated on social protection services which include youth employments, children nutrition and old age welfarism protection. Since 2010 up till date, the state has committed N200million on Youths Empowerment Scheme (OYES) and about N240million on School Feeding, popularly called O’MEAL. The youths that were considered for the OYES were trained and gainfully engaged in community services, neighbourhood security, paramedics, traffic marshals and environmental monitors amongst others. A huge sum of money is also being committed to the payment of monthly stipend to selected vulnerable elderly citizens, under the Agba Osun (Osun Elders) programme.
Besides, the state government has been committing resources to the treatment of destitute, particularly the mentally challenged citizens and rehabilitating them through its O’REHAB programme before integrating them back to the society and with their family.
As at December, 2016, the state government has served 200,000,000 plates of food for the school children in elementary school between primary 1- 4, the Governor, Rauf Aregbesola has revealed at a programme recently. At the heat of economic recession since 2014 which badly hit the state to the extent of resulting to payment of modulated salary structures to workers, the government never considered scrapping the school feeding programme for over 250,000 children daily and employment scheme that was gulping N200million monthly despite glaring overwhelming cash crunch.
Such courage is scarce according to Dr Ida Ibraheem, who was part of the United Nation International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) study tour to the state recently. He said social protection policies generally denotes the full range of organised activities of voluntary and governmental agencies that seek to prevent, alleviate, or contribute to the solution of recognised social problems, or to improve the wellbeing of individuals, groups, or communities.
He said the economic interconnectivity of such social protection policies could not be quantified in any way with revolving cash involved. “That is one of the courage Governor Rauf Aregbesola has demonstrated in governance, for not sacrificing such key indices to economic survival; the cash and other resources involved are revolving within the economy and that is the secret of economic stability of the state despite recession. If other states in Nigeria are investing as huge as that in the economy, Nigeria may not substantially feel the impact of the economic recession.
According to Ibraheem, a social worker “in many ways, measures which benefit individuals are important for society: societies are, after all, made up of people. But there is an aim which also can be seen as more of a benefit to the whole society than for any person within it. The social protection policies can, for example, reinforce economic policy, they can be seen as a way to achieve equality or social justice, and they may be an instrument of social change, they can also, conversely, be a means of maintaining social order.”
Apart from the fact that the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government at the national level in 2016 modeled its youths empowerment scheme called N-POWER, and school feeding initiatives using Osun’s templates. In 2013, Osun recorded least unemployment rate and least poverty index in Nigeria, despite its meagre resources. The report was published in 2013 by the National Bureau of Statistics. Five states in the lowest unemployment rate in Nigeria as at then was Abia 11 per cent, Oyo Nine per cent, Lagos Eight per cent, Kwara Seven per cent and Osun Three per cent.
On the poverty index, Osun was rated second only to Niger State in 2013 and marrying the state performance on unemployment with its connections on poverty index, the cpnclusion that Osun has become a model in linking social protection with alleviation of poverty and economic prosperity and has fought poverty passionately through its interventions is not far-fetched.
The state giant strides was also acknowledged and commended recently by the United State Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington who described the social protection programmes of Governor Aregbesola as a clear testimony of democracy and good governance in operation. The American envoy lauded the state government for running an impactful people-oriented social protection programmes in spite of the economic challenges facing Nigeria.
Symington who applauded the infrastructural development in the state said, amongst the best of the administration were various social intervention programmes, especially job and wealth creation, saying, that was the more reason envoys and development partners are always interested in coming to the state to learn.
He said, “The state is on a steady growth, I so much appreciate good roads. This state is investing so much in roads infrastructure and it’s very good for the future and overall development, but beyond this, among the very best of this administration are your various social intervention programmes; you are helping in creating jobs and wealth, no wonder people always come to your state to learn”.
Also, the succeeding social protection programme of the governor also recently attracted the convergence of leadership of United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) and 15 states across Nigeria on social protection study tour on issues bothering on the survival of the ordinary man, particularly the rising wave of unemployment and the widening gap between the rich and the poor to further shape the development interventions in Nigeria.
At a dinner marking the end of the tour which held in Osogbo, the state capital, UNICEF described Governor Aregbesola, as a symbol of service to the course of human development with his commitment to human and infrastructure development since he assumed office in 2010.
Field Services Chief of UNICEF Nigeria, Dr. Annefrida Kisessa said Osun is an example of good governance with its social protection programmes adjudged to be the best in the country and has been assessed to be one of the most impactful, beneficial and rewarding.
According to her, “I have visited about 15 to 20 states in Nigeria and since I have been visiting, I have not seen a leader like Aregbesola with rare passion for people’s welfare. I have seen your passion to banish poverty, banish hunger, restore healthy living, promote functional and quality education for your people among others. I have seen your passion to develop your people and your state. I am really proud of your achievements because I have seen your indelible legacies in all sectors.
Stressing further, “With what I have seen, it is clear that Osun has shown that education is the key to development. Your programmes are no doubt centred on the people, as your social protection projects are designed to better the lives of your people, especially the less privileged, vulnerable and downtrodden.
“The reflections of your initiatives like O’MEAL, O’YES, O’HUB, O’REAP, O’AMBULANCE, among others have direct impact on the lives of the people as we can all attested to during the course of this visit. I am also happy because all the achievements of this state are properly and accurately documented. I have seen that Osun has genuine statistics and data base for all its programmes.
“Osun is a place I will like to be. I am very impressed with the quality of Osun Social Protection Programme. This shows the quality of Aregbesola’s leadership. It shows that Aregbesola is a very good leader and a symbol of service to humanity. I have come, I have seen and I have many memories to talk about.”
Director General, Office of Economic Development and Partnership, Dr. Charles Diji Akinola, said the social protection programmes of Osun has indeed helped to ameliorate poverty and improved the wellbeing of the citizenry since Aregbesola became governor.
He said the state had been further encouraged by the supports from agencies locally and internationally, saying the contribution of UNICEF in consolidating and solidifying the initiatives of Osun government on its life-long human and capital development projects remains commendable.
“About two years ago, Osun Government had collaborated with the UNICEF on the need to strengthen the state’s social protection programme. Today, the visit of the leadership of the UNICEF to Osun is a demonstration of the robust relationship, between the organisation and the state.
“The idea behind this partnership is to consolidate on the Osun’s social protection programmes, which has been the central concern of this administration. 13 of these projects would be discussed and shared with the visiting team. We have been encouraged with what UNICEF had done in ensuring a mutually-beneficial partnership,” he said.
Zamfara State Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Moukhtar Luga said that Aregbesola is one of the successful Nigerian politicians that have made the country proud. He noted that the governor has changed the face of governance in such a way that old beliefs and practices have been remodeled.
Sokoto State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sheu Balarabe, said he was elated to see the achievements of the state in all sectors. He described as heart-warming all he saw on his tour of some of the facilities, saying all the governor’s intervention programmes are highly conscious of the people.
The Lagos State Director of Economic Partnership, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Adejola Bankole, noted that with what he has seen in Osun, it is clear that all negative reporting in the newspapers are being concocted by some people to discredit Aregbesola’s administration.
He said that all he had seen contradicted adverse things that people have been reading on the pages of the newspapers.