What is your take on the allegation of mismanagement of public funds against the Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola?
The state we found ourselves in Osun is quite unfortunate. It is unfortunate because it is the best of intension, the best planning and forward looking mechanism the governor has put in place to serve the people. But, was misrepresented. We found ourselves not being in control of those parameters that determines whether we are a growing concern or not. That is not peculiar to Osun anyway, it happens across the federation. I dare say that despite the fact that the whole nation is going through some challenges till now, Osun is pronounced because certain political gladiators that wanted to use unconstitutional and illegitimate means to get what Osun State did not want to give them. That is why Osun has been highlighted, that is where we have found ourselves once again.
The government was accused of buying an aircraft. Yet, workers are being owed salaries…
I will take that issue in isolation and I am sure in the course of this interview, I will address it in holistic manner. How much does a helicopter cost? It will not pay one month salary in Osun. Is that mismanagement? The issue of helicopter was bought for security reason. It was not bought for the movement of the government officials, which is a fact. The Federal Government of the previous administration stifled that initiative. The government of Osun applied for the equipment because we need a code from the National Communication Commission (NCC) to effectively perform the kind of serve the helicopter is needed for. Good initiative, but unfortunately politics reared its head. The equipment came, but getting the code, the channel from the NCC to be able to operate the equipment became impossible. The so-called order from above tried to stall it, therefore, Osun State government had two alternatives, either to resell the aircraft or make it available for other purposes that could bridge the gap, while we are sorted out the issue with the NCC. The equipment was actually being run commercially pending when the NCC will give us our code to be able to operate the equipment. How is that mismanagement? That equipment could actually be useful across the regions.
What would you say about the debt profile of the state?
In terms of debt profile, Osun is legitimately within the acceptable debt limit. My concern is the federal government, as it is run today, does not empower states, to go their own capacity to generate revenue. Those areas where you can expand the scope of economy are controlled by legislations of the Federal Government. Therefore, it is difficult to separate the sub-state’s economy from the federal economy. So, a huge your percentages of revenue from the state will always go back to the Federal Government. Lagos State economy is probably the only economy today that is striving to set out itself from the federal economy. And we can begin to have Lagos as an independent economy. Lagos has begun to build the sub-economy, but other states unfortunately cannot because they do not have that latitude in term of resources. The debt profile of Osun is not on the negative side, safe for the debt profile that is coming from the Federal Government structures as it were.
Osun State Government has been accused of embarking on projects that are not viable. What is your reaction?
I will not agree that Osun State embarked on projects that are not directly relevant to the welfare and wellbeing of the people. If you know the person of Ogbeni Aregbesola, the governor of the state of Osun, you will know that he is irrevocably committed to the welfare of the people. That is what he lives for, that is what he preaches. The OYES scheme has become a model not only for Nigeria, but for the whole of the world. Several governments in Nigeria have copied the project. In an economy like Osun, it is a civil service state; we have over 35,000 civil servants in the state, probably second to Lagos has much on its shoulder. What are we doing to the 35,000 civil servants in the state like Osun with struggling resources? That is where we found ourselves. As an elected government, trying to do something about that, the chances are that you may not survive it. But as a government, something has to be done about it. We inherited so much from the western region and Oyo State government before the creation of Osun. At a time we have Osun State indigenes who were in the service of Oyo. Fortunately and unfortunately, they were like the 80 percent of the Oyo State civil service, within that period we had a governor in Oyo State, who was from Osun, the late Bola Ige, his deputy Afolabi and Chief Bisis Akande the Secreatry to the government, all from the government of Oyo. When Osun State was created, the Oyo government cut off the civil service structure by indigene-ship, so people from Osun State were force to relocate. So, whether you had 100 directors and 80 percent of them were from Osun, they had to go. Whether Osun had the structure to accommodate them or not was immaterial. The OYES scheme is meant to keep some money in the economy of Osun. We found that the people who were making money from Osun have their business outside Osun. Aregbesola saw this and tried to create a way of circulating fund within Osun, in the hands of the people. That is how the idea of OYES came. This was also part of his campaign promises, that within his 100 days in office, he would employ so many numbers of youth. He created the OYES scheme that puts N200 million every months in the hands of people who would have to spend it on the economy of Osun. We had so many graduates who were jobless and we tried to mop them up. How the OYES scheme has been a waste, I don’t really know. The OYES scheme is like an entrepreneurial development programme, it’s not supposed to be a job. It is supposed to be a way to tell our youth that the only way to survive is not to look for monthly paid jobs. Every economy in the world thrives on small and medium enterprises. The organized private sector provides the job, while public sector employs less than 20 percent.
But, the NLC suggested to the government to stop the school feeding programme…
Remember that schools are built for children; they are built to educate our children. They are not built to create jobs. Yes, the NLC suggested the stopping of the school feeding programme, but stop the school feeding programme will stop the children from schooling. The feeding programme ensured that our pupil enrolment increased. It is the best in the world today by that standard. So, the parents do not have to worry about the feeding of their children at schools. With this, the child would get education; he would be taken off the streets.