Politicians Behind Osun Education Crisis — Akere

AkereThe people of Osun State are expected to go the polls to elect their governor in August. In this interview, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Sunday Akere talks about the controversial reclassification exercise of schools.

The government is almost four years in office, how would you describe the performance of the government vis a vis its promises to the electorate
With the glory of God, the government is three years plus now and with time it is going to be four years in terms of assessing how we have delivered on our promises to the electorate. To God be the glory, we have delivered on all the promises.

We have even done more than those things that we promised when we were campaigning, when you go round the people will tell you that. The average Osun people living at home can attest to this fact.

You painted a very rosy picture of positive things, haven’t there been challenges along the way since then
There have been challenges on the part of delivering on our promises and the greatest challenge that we have faced is that of fund. When we were campaigning in 2007, we promised a six-point agenda. We promised that we would banish poverty, we would banish unemployment and we promise that we are going to have free and functional education and we are going enhance communal peace, we need money to carry such through. We have tried within the limit of the resources available to us.

In as much as the governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola would have loved to do more for the people, he is being hampered by paucity of funds; for example, when we look at what is available for running government it is a far cry from what we need to implement the schools.

We get averagely N4.2billion per month from the Federation Account before but with the dwindling allocation, it is now N2.7billion per month. In July last year we are averaging between 2.8 and 2.9 billion per month when the wage bill is about 3.6 billion.

Does the state only rely solely on allocation from the Federal Government  
We are not relying on what comes from the Federal Government alone; we get funds from internally generated revenue. When we came, the IGR hovered between 200 and 300 million Naira. Today, without increasing taxes and levies, we have been able to increase it to over N1 billion per month. For the first time we have a governor that is able to block all the leakages in government.

We also have this saving scheme that we call Omoluabi Saving Scheme. What we do is that a percentage of what come to the purse is reserved for critical periods like these.
In spite of all these achievements that you have listed the opposition still believes that the government has not done much

That is their own side, what we should ask them is that in the seven and half years of PDP maladministration they should point to a single achievement of their government. There is no local government you will get to in Osun today that you will not see that Aregbesola is working.

Rightfully, Aregbesola has succeeded in turning the whole of Osun into what we call the construction side. It is in their imagination that government is not working but we are not bordered, our commitment is to deliver on what we promised not to the opposition but to the people of Osun who appreciate what they are seeing.
For example, we make the old garage, the railway pack at Osogbo. We met it like a shanty we have transformed it now and it is now what we call Nelson Mandela Freedom Park in Osogbo, we have not finished the actual transformation because we are working on the second phase now.

To some people the governor seems very controversial; working with him are some of the allegations against him true 
Why some people think the governor is controversial is that this he is a governor who believes the state must run well. In Osun, we are running an unusual administration in an unusual manner and we are achieving unusual results.

For instance, I will give you an example; when we started initially, we told the world that we were going to engage 20, 000 youths within 100 days, many people never believed us. When we did it, the World Bank came to tell us that they’ve never seen a government that has carried out such feat before. The Federal Government even came to understudy what we are doing in that direction. This is what they are using as the template for their SURE-P now.

Yet, some people somewhere will say that the governor and the government are very controversial. When we started the O’ Meal initiative, it wasn’t only Osun State that started the programme, it is only here in Osun that the programme has been sustained in the country today.

You are doing it without Federal Government assistance
Yes! We are not only feeding pupils in primary schools in classes one to four and that is why Osun State has continued to record the highest figures in enrollment in its primary schools in Nigeria today. When we listened to the agitation of the Muslim community which has been on for over 35 years that they wanted a Hijra holiday, people read other meanings to it to say that (Governor) Aregbesola has given a controversial holiday.

This out gone year, about five other states took a cue from us. Even the Federal Government did the same. This is to tell you that in Osun, we believe in doing what is right not minding whose ox is gored. We have been achieving results. If they say that our approach is riddled with controversies, we know that we are out to achieve results and we will not allow anybody to distract us in any way.

Can you tell us more about this schools reclassification exercise that is currently generating tension and controversies
The policy has nothing to do with the religious divide in the state; it is a policy of the government which we fashioned out because we want to change sorry state of education that we met on ground when we came in.
When we came on board over three years ago, what we met was that in every hundred students that we put forward for external exams, only three passed English and Mathematics. As a responsible government, we put in place an education summit and the outcome is what is being implemented today. The summit itself brought together people in the academia, the business world and other relevant stakeholders. In Osun, we now have model schools, the elementary, middle and the high.

Can you break that down sir
The high is for those in SSS One to Three, the elementary is for those in primary one to four  and the middle is for those in primary five to SSS Three. The issue of pitching Christians and Muslims together does not in any way arise at all. It is only people that want the exercise to succeed that are saying yes, that it was aimed at pitching the Muslims against the Christians.

Let me tell you, the facts are clear, over 38 years ago, government took over all schools. What the government only did was retaining the names of the schools. The former owners have been having misconception that probably that they founded the schools, that they (the schools) still belong to them. The issue is that since over 38 years ago, the government took over the schools; the successive administrations have been responsible for the maintenance and other matters in the affected schools.

Under this reclassification exercise, we have promised the former owners that we are not going to change the names, that we will not change the character of the schools. What we are only trying to do is to aggregate the resources.