I am a bonafide indigene of Osun State. So, it is my right to partake of whatever becomes its lot, including sharing in the painful and regrettable experience by its civil servants arising from government’s inability to pay their salaries in the last couple of months. It is in view of this that I join other well-meaning indigenes and residents of the ‘Land of Virtue’ in sympathizing with the government and the workers even as I commend efforts by the Rauf Aregbesola-led administration at permanently laying this issue to rest. After all, tough times never last!
Having said these, I’ve in recent times been equally pained by the stigmatization of Osun as if it is the only state in Nigeria currently owing its workers months in arrears of salaries and pensions. The belief in some quarters that the state is the ‘sole culprit’ in this rather unfortunate salary default is not only wicked, it is also a malicious attempt by some enemies of the state to paint the administration in bad light and portray the government as grossly incompetent, obtusely inconsiderate and acutely lacking in compassion for its people.
A report, ‘Unpaid salaries: Strike imminent in 18 states’ (The Punch, May 22, 2015); Abimbola Adelakun’s article, titled, ‘Ogbeni Aregbesola, pay your workers’ (The Punch, June 11, 2015); and Aregbesola’s speech, ‘We Shall Overcome’, which he delivered at the inauguration of the 6th Osun State House of Assembly on June 2, 2015 refer.
That almost all available spaces in our print and electronic media are daily awash with one news item or the other of Osun State’s ‘insensitivity to the plight of its workers’ is no longer news. Though unfortunate, I am constrained to ask: is it only in Osun that workers are being owed salaries and pensions? What of other states like Abia, Cross River, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom and Ekiti? Even, a state like Kogi is not only owing its workers, it has also contemplated slashing each worker’s monthly take-home pay by 40%. Again, what of the Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government which, at the twilight of its tenure, confessed to having been borrowing since 2010 to “argument” the salaries of its workers? It was therefore amusing that some funny Nigerians could call on Governor Ayo Fayose, who also owes Ekiti State workers, to ‘come and govern Osun State, at least, for a year.’
This leads me to some other questions: why is media attention focused only on Osun State while other debtor-states like Plateau and Ondo are not even getting common media mention? Admitted! Osun State has by its success story of socio-economic development placed itself on the world map with Aregbesola as the symbol of this uncommon transformation. Not only that, he fought and won a governorship election which, in pursuit of a sinister interest, former President Jonathan, had committed very huge financial and material resources. Therefore, that there is a global focus on us during this passing phase should not be any surprise. But aren’t we sensing some unseen hands, somewhere, paying heavily to kill stories of other states’ salary default before such get to the public? This is a crisis situation which demands collective prayers and efforts to resolve. No doubt about that! But, what do we do in a situation whereby some satanically unscrupulous individuals and unrepentantly palatial politicians attempt to instigate employees against their employers by feasting on a national quagmire?
The practical reality is that these agents of misinformation and their sponsors know what they are doing and they know why they’re doing it! It is a complex conspiracy orchestrated by those who remain uncomfortable with Aregbesola’s victory at the polls and the success story of his government. Without being unnecessarily immodest, these campaigns are targeted at the governor by some evilly-disposed Pharisees and Sadducees who delight in hyper-galloping hypocrisy and unvarnished sycophancy. Yes! They (may) know what we don’t know and (may) see what we don’t see but, regrettably, they certainly don’t feel what we feel. These elements are not unaware of Aregbesola’s place and space in the history of our state in particular and Nigeria in general. So, it is an attempt to discredit his government, taint the image of his political party as well as stain the reputation he’s over the years earned as an unusual governor. What more? It is aimed at 2019!
‘Before the land swallows the wicked, many valuable things may have been lost’, so goes the adage. This is the more reason why those who mean well for Osun State must rise up with a view to treating Nigerians to the reality on ground: that the current challenge is a national crisis that demands the prayers and input of all; that it is a ‘transformation dividend’ from the immediate past government at the centre; that what Osun State is currently passing through is one of the many consequences of the misgovernance, waste and corruption that characterized the immediate past administration; and that, apart from mismanaging the country’s resources, the Jonathan government failed in its fundamental responsibility of providing an enabling environment for states to thrive. Above all, this is the right time to assure Nigerians that this is a passing phase which the Aregbesola-led administration is working hard at quickly putting behind us.
The governor has in the speech, mentioned above, given a detailed explanation of where he met the state and where it is at the moment. No thanks to former President Jonathan who made good his promise of making Osun State “suffer” for not voting for his preferred choice! Be that as it may, available records show that when Aregbesola came into office in 2010, Osun State’s Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, stood at N300m per month. Now, he has grown it to more than N1.3billion. Compare Osun State’s IGR of N1.3 billion to Ogun State’s N4.6 billion; or Lagos State’s N28billion and we need not look any further for a reason behind my state’s being so ‘blest’.
Pity the workers who’ve had to pass through untold pains because of this unfortunate situation. But, is their cry for help at a time like this justified or is it a case of inability to show understanding or impatience on the part of the workers? Yes! Osun State must have ‘borrowed blind’ from banks and other financial institutions and repayment has had some harrowing effects on its already-lean purse. But, for a fact, all eyes can see and all hands can feel how Aregbesola has, within a very short period of time, transformed the state. And, on the school of thought that the governor might have bitten more than he could chew in terms of development projects, I doubt if those with such childish thoughts remember that those projects were sited in the state and that, if and when completed, would be for the benefit of all.
One other line of argument is the competence or otherwise of a debtor-governor and herein lies the essence of truth: if a governor is adjudged incompetent by his inability to meet his financial obligations to his workers, we can then safely say that no fewer than eighteen governors in Nigeria are incompetent. Impliedly, former President Jonathan whose government took loans, between 2010 and 2015, to pay Federal Civil Servants was also incompetent. Curiously, those who said that Muhammadu Buhari was a spent force and as such was too old to vie for the highest office in the land never provided Nigerians with a ‘more’ credible alternative other than the glaringly-spent Otuoke politician.
From the feeding of Christians to the lions in the Coliseum, to the burning of Rome; from the persecution of Jews during the Middle Ages, to the religio-ethnic cleansing that once pervaded Bosnia Herzegovina; even to the suicidal bombings of Bali, Indonesia and, now Nigeria, deciphering the difference between the slave business of the ancient times where fellow human beings were sold as slaves to fellow human beings and the modern acquisitive absurdity of mortgaging Nigerians to ‘Made-in-Nigeria’ poverty under some spurious reasons has been a tricky task. This is the more reason why calls, especially, by the leadership of Osun State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, on some wealthy individuals to donate foodstuffs to the striking workers should be seen as more of ulterior than altruistic motives. For God’s sake, have we forgotten the complexions and complexities of the religious hatred introduced into Osun politics by some religious leaders during the last governorship election?
By definition, a ‘governor’ is one charged with ‘charting the course or control of a town, a state or a region’ while a ‘paymaster’ only specializes in ‘paying people and controlling their actions.’ There’s no doubt that, under Aregbesola, the story of Osun has been one of tremendous, huge, success. And I doubt if any sane mortal has ever accused him of corruptly enriching himself at the expense of those he was elected to govern. Unlike some men of lower natural instincts and inclinations, Aregbesola is a man of characteristic courage, dedication and self-sacrifice who has been using Osun State’s money to develop Osun State. To the best of my knowledge, Aregbesola has only one personal building in Lagos and it is on the Egbeda axis of the state. I doubt if he has a building in Osogbo, the seat of government; or Ilesa, his hometown.
So, blame Aregbesola for being a governor, not a paymaster. But what no one came blame him for is non-performance!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace in Osun State!
*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (email@example.com)
PO Box 153,
Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.