Members of Osun Progressive Left organized a rally to show support for the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. Comrade Wale Adebisi, the convener, in this interview, speaks on contentious issues in the state and why the governor remains credible.
As a matter of fact, our own rally is to show support for a government constituted by a popular mandate through victory in the election that has been said to be free and fair in all the tribunals up to the supreme court.The rally that is to show that the man is transparent , still credible and has the interest of the labour at heart. At no point as he ever been anti-labour in his policies. Going by the happenings in Osun State, especially the call for the impeachment of the governor, why did you organization organize a rally in support of Governor Rauf Aregbesola?
He has been always ensuring that the interest of labour is uppermost in his government. For instance, since he came into power in 2010 ,for the first time in the history of the state, he gave the workers 10 percent bonus on the basic salary. In the second year,he gave 25 percent and third year he gave 50 percent. Then last year December immediately after the election, he gave 100 percent. This has never happened in the history of the state.
Don’t forget that the governor is a product of popular struggle, labour struggle and he has worked with trade unions, there is no way he would be anti-labour. I want to state that Governor Aregbesola is not being fought by the labour, the anti-Aregbesola rally was sponsored by the opposition led by some hoodlums who claimed to be pensioners.
The governor has increased the pensioners’ money since 2010 so the people can’t say he is anti-labour. The genuine pensioners have never agitated; they want to hide under the issue of non-payment of salary to cause anarchy in the state. We know those who are behind them.
The state of Osun is not the only state that owes salaries, 24 other states owe. Non-payment of salaries is a national calamity as a result of the past administration mismanagement of the nation’s resources. Why Osun state is single out is because of the vibrancy of the governor and the fact that the state is the political heartbeat of the south west. With kind of politics governor Aregbesola is playing the PDP is going into extinction in the state and that is why the opposition is hiding under non-payment of salaries to foment trouble. The Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice under the platform in which they organized the rally is not in existence in Osun State. We have the list of the registered coalition group in the state. They don’t even have a secretariat.
The workers in the state have a very good working relationship with the government. If it is not because of the drop in the allocation which has adverse affect on the state. Let me give you the rundown of the allocation as at today. In January 2015 N 1.25b was released. The original allocation for the state was N4.6b now it has dropped since 2013 because of the ingenuity of the governor he warehouse the excess crude oil accrued to him that was why the issue was not exposed last year. But in one of his public discourse he had mentioned and raised an alarm that the federal government might be able to sustain the state because there is crisis in the oil market in the world. In February it was N1.12b, in March it was N624m,in April N466m,in May N2.2m.
If we want to look at the payment of salaries, the payment of salaries is supposed to base on the allocation; you cannot pay outside the allocation. What the state owes the workers is six months by allocation. One has been paid last week, remaining five. By allocation it is months by calendar are 7months. Same thing pensioners by allocation it is seven five months, by calendar it is eight months. Local government by allocation is four months by calendar it is five months and you cannot pay beyond your allocation. The shortage in the world oil market, for instance Nigeria by OPEC’s quota suppose to be producing 2.6m barrel per day. But on record it 2.1 and former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told us about the theft of 400,000 oil barrel per day. The whole issue is now unfolding in NNPC; several monies did not enter into NNPC accounts. All the 36 states are affected except Lagos because of her IGR base.
Talking about IGR,many have argued that Governor Aregbesola should have alternative ways of generating revenue instead of depending on the allocation from the federal government. What would say on this?
We are talking about statutory allocation to the state. People should not look at it as if the states are begging. What is federal government doing, how many local government are they taking care of. All the states of the federation owns the money. The only thing we should talk about is the management and the lopsidedness in the sharing. There is no true federalism in Nigeria and that is 56.68 percent goes to the federal government and 22.62 to the state and the rest to 774 local govt. What goes to the federal government is too much. People should not say the state should depend on IGR. The federal government does not have the right to hold money and gives at it pleases. The sharing is not regular. The states are even forced to embark on capital projects because of the negligence on the part of the federal government in the states.
The state of Osun is being owed N34b by the federal government; it is enough to pay the workers if the money is released. On the IGR, when Aregbesola came to power in 2010, the IGR he met was N3.6b per year. But it is now N10b apart from the money in Omoluabi savings and loans which he cannot touch because it is for the generations yet unborn in the state. He is also taking care of the Agba osun with N10,000 permonth,O-meal 252,000 students are being fed and food vendors are hired and they were giving soft loans for empowerment. That is why we have peace in the state because the youths are engaged.
The inauguration of Aregbesola as governor of Osun State signaled a break from the past characterized by gross inefficiency, unfulfilled promises, culture of blackmail, failure of state and circumspect sincerity as he brought on board catalytic ideas that quickly got the state working. Despite the complexity and the technical nature of many of the problems confronting the state, the governor rose above the clouds by taking competent decisions that effectively rescued it from becoming “a war-ravaged territory”. Notably, he grew the state’s Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) without any increase in tax payable by citizens. Tuition Fees in state-owned tertiary institutions were slashed by close to 30% as well as training and empowerment of over 5,000 youths in Information Technology through the Osun Youth Empowerment Technology (OYESTECH) scheme.
But there is argument in some quarters that the governor should put his helicopter for sale to augment salary payment, what is your view on this?
How much is the helicopter we are talking about? People are just frivolous. And this is just pure politics. Individuals owed private jet in Nigeria. The reason for the chopper is because of the economic situation in the state. When he came into power no banks open in the state between 2008 and 2009. The armed robbery operation in the state was guerrilla like.
Armed robbers operate in broad daylight with explosives and grenades. The chopper can monitor from the area view. Osun is the only state in Nigeria that has 25 armoured tanks. The governor has been saying it at every forum that the helicopter was bought for surveillance. Since he came into power the state has known peace. Governor Aregbesola is a product of popular struggle, we the comrades in the Osun Progressive Left believes that nobody should usurp power through the back door as the opposition is doing. They will be charged for treason because they want to take power by office.
We therefore advised that the police should be on the lookout for those promoting anarchy in the state. They are vilifying the governor because of his political sagacity and ingenuity in governance.
Governor Aregbesola remains a credible and transparent man who is also a lover of his people. Nigerians should also bear in mind that, at the inception of his administration, Aregbesola’s ‘Freedom for all; Life more abundant’ Integral Policy thrust was clear: banishment of hunger, poverty and unemployment. Others were promotion of functional education, healthy living, communal peace and harmony. So far, his word has been his bond.
There has also been argument that the governor is reckless in his spending?
If Aregbesola was “reckless” by increasing primary school funding grants from N7.4million to N424m a year while Secondary School Basic funding grants rose from N171m to N427m a year, then, he was ‘reckless’ indeed. If the governor was reckless by giving free school uniforms to no fewer than 750,000 pupils and students, with over 3000 tailors trained and empowered to sow school uniforms, then recklessness had better be redefined! If the construction of 74 Primary Health Centres and rehabilitation of 9 hospitals and 12 Comprehensive Health Centres is termed “recklessness”, then, Aregbesola had better continue to be ‘reckless’.