By Kanmi Ademiluyi
The very long incursion of the military interregnum in the political space in Nigeria has made a muddle of the notion of a social contract binding government in an interlocking relationship with those they govern. Indeed a whole generation, perhaps two, confuse “ruling” with governing.
Time is now long overdue to jettison the hangover from military rule and embrace the central ethos of democratic governance lexused on a social contract: this is that the raison d’etre of government must be for the benefit of the overwhelming majority and their dependents and not just a privileged few as it was in an earlier era.
An excellent review in Nigeria ‘s leading business newspaper Business Day, in its issue of May 8, very sensibly looked at Political Economy and Society through this prism, which mercifully after some 20 unbroken years of democratic governance, is slowly becoming the conventional wisdom. Business Day using figures recently released by the independent National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that Osun State is now the State with the lowest unemployment rate in Nigeria. The state leads with the unemployment rate of 10.1% followed by Oyo State with 10.3%. At this stage it is sensible to press the pause button and locate the figures in a sensible context. It is quite a feat because Osun is landlocked, a disadvantage in many ways, and does not benefit from the accrued derivatives which comes with the status of an “oil producing” state.
The figures confirm that the South Western Region of Nigeria has the lowest unemployment rate regionally with 14% while the South – South has the highest with 32%. The latest figures collaborate figures realised earlier by the NBS, UNDP statistics on miserable index and the Financial Derivatives Company findings, all of which put Osun top in financial sustainability, investment in its people and less poverty-ridden in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
In the opinion of Business Day, “The latest report shows the result of the long-term investment drive of the state government under the immediate past administration of Rauf Aregbesola and the incumbent of Governor Gboyega Oyetola in Youth employment, women empowerment, massive infrastructural development and other developmental strides that has meaningfully impacted on the fortunes of the state “.
We must examine the foundational base which has led to the acknowledgement, nay endorsement by an independent body. The tremendous thrust made against the run of play in Osun reflects the often stated position that history is made under pre-existing conditions and not under conditions which the actors involved would have preferred. Invariably having only “a limited amount of time to impart their own agencies “ requires a delicate balancing act in a democracy with an enlightened civil society.
The route taken by Aregbesola with his then Chief of Staff Oyetola in tandem, was to interpret the attainment of fiscal, macroeconomic stability as the most enduring way of achieving sustainable social justice. This required a politically delicate and sensitive rationalisation of the costs and the structure of the machinery of the government in order to eliminate wastes, duplication and as much as humanly possible graft. There could not have been an alternative route within the context of the bugbears of a constraining quasi-federalism, further hobbled by the dependence, to a considerable extent, on a single resource.
Although with a political cost, this was achieved; and it provided the basis for a tremendous advance in societal well-being and sustainable development. A critical issue in the development paradigm had to be resolved by the duo of Aregbesola and Oyetola. This is how to balance the allocation of scarce resources between the physical and social infrastructure.
Daunting as it was, a delicate balance was achieved. In the built environment, the game-changing Adebisi Akande Gbongan Trumpet Inter-change bridge, co-joining Ife/Gbongan/Osogbo dual carriage, was executed; as well as other major initiatives such as the November 27 Interchange bridge, Old Garage-Ikirun to Kwara State boundary road, as well as ten kilometres of road per local government.
In a brilliant thrust of fiscal balancing, the advance in the physical infrastructure so vital for sustainable development did not prevent the advent of the widely admired and copied O’Meals program which provided nutritious meals for 256, 000 pupils a day which led to an exponential increase in enrolment, created employment for 3000 caterers and reflated the rural economy by bringing in thousands of farmers as suppliers. Schools infrastructure were refurbished accross the local governments, the O’Yes youth empowerment scheme was carried out and social uplifting initiatives such as the O’Ambulance were carried out.
These initiatives make one to recall the words on the monument to Christopher Wren the architect of London, “if you seek to know what he did, just look around you “. Well the best testimonial of the work carried out by a remarkable team in the last eight years is to come to Osun State and look around you.
Ademiluyi writes from Osogbo, Osun State.