OPINION: Osun, After The Salary Demon

GOV-AREGBESOLAAfter a stream of cheery developmental news, the Osun opposition, with both hands, grabbed the demon of unpaid salaries — and hard, it nailed the Osun government.

It thoroughly demonised Governor Rauf Aregbesola and his ambitious social and physical infrastructure programmes, donning the Ogbeni in an unflattering garb — a grand hypocrite in the progressive space, that should be condemned by all!

Which lover of the masses, they ask in triumph, cheeks bathed in subversive tears, would sit pretty and watch his people go hungry, months on end, without salaries?

It was all emotive blackmail, of course.  On the salary issue, the governor was not unfazed any more than he created the failure, though his finances were rather tight, with virtually every kobo over-leveraged, on ambitious — over-ambitious, many insist — capital projects, such that any shock, no matter how slight, was catastrophic.

The real culprit was, however, former President Goodluck Jonathan — his recklessness with the national till. This point Ripples made in “Osun’s politics of the belly” (July 7), when it argued that since the Jonathan Presidency caused the problem, the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency should fix it, instead of the media roasting of victim governors, which solved no problems.  The president did just that.

But the blackmail grandly resonated.  Those unconvinced by its logic were easily swept by its pathos; with not a few succumbing fast to plaintive kith-and-kin, going hungry and clearly angry, for not earning salary, for no less than six months.

Well, all is fair in war — and the Osun government, in the clouds most times, plummeted back to earth!

Now, with a Federal Government-secured loan to clear the salary backlog, is the demonization set to end?  Not a chance!

For one, play on emotions is the exclusive preserve of those who cannot build clinical arguments; or the mischievous, who have nary a case.

For another, the Osun opposition is not about dismantling its egbirin ote — what the Yoruba would call a complex web of intrigues — for in Aregbesola’s failure lies their own salvation!  When, after all, comes from the gods, another potent blackmail weapon, ala unpaid salaries, to torture a clear and present nemesis?

So, enter a fresh controversy: the reported verification, in the build-up to clearing the salary arrears.

The Osun opposition insists it is yet another example of the government’s coldness to the plight of the Osun workers — for why is the verification bobbing up “now”, on the virtual eve of settling what was owed?  Some especially creative minds even posit, swearing by all they hold dear, that the government had “fixed” the salary money to earn some “quick interest”, while workers continued starving!

To be sure, the government has not exactly done itself much favour by the verification’s timing, with its high blackmail value: its opponents’ penchant for eternal spinning; and a jaded workers’ near-zero resistance to emotional manipulation, masquerading as hot sympathy.

Still, the government insists that since Osun would continue re-paying the loan far into the future, it was an excellent time to vet the salary bill, lest the money ends in some ghost pockets.  That makes a lot of sense, though not a few would be too angry to see reason with it.

It could also well be that a few ghosts and their ambassadors are the most trenchant in the protest racket — for the more raucous the racket, the more the confusion; and the more the confusion, the better chances the ghosts continue to get paid!

Whatever is happening, the Ogbeni owes the Osun people clear explanations and full disclosure.  At the end, the government would do what it must do to protect public money and its own integrity.

So, with the opposition always buzzing with mischief, of the most fantastic hue, it may be morning yet on Osun’s day of eternal intrigue!

Still, the Osun government must be gratified it continues to point the way, for the rest of the country, to the welfare state; despite its lean resources.  Two policy news appear to reinforce this point.

Two weeks ago, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced the Federal Government was set to implement the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign promise of a schools feeding programme, which, apart from boosting school attendance, would also boost investment in agriculture, catering and allied lines.

On September 9 in Osogbo, as the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) kicked off its nationwide distribution of plastic chairs to schools, a Federal Government official confirmed Osun’s leadership in this schools welfare programme.

“The home-grown school feeding programme, the O’Meal,” said UBEC’s Dr. Yakubu Gambo, “is one programme that has endeared the governor to us because he is the only governor doing it despite the capital intensive nature of the programme.”

Governor Aregbesola, present at the occasion, weighed in: “We are building state-of-the-art 100 elementary schools, 50 middle schools and 20 high schools.  This is a big project by any standard,” he gushed, “which has injected life into the construction industry; and has provided jobs for artisans and professionals.”

Prince Felix Awofisayo, the Osun SUBEB chief, was not left out of the developmental whoop: “Let me reiterate that the provision of functional education for the citizenry,” he declared, “as the administration is anchored on the implementation of a cohesive and an all-encompassing six-point integral plan.”

So much developmental news in a day — a far cry from rumbling tummies, plotting adversaries and scapegoating media, just as it was at the beginning, before the salary demon!

It is the final triumph, then?  Hardly!

‘Governor Aregbesola needs a cabinet now to finish as strongly as he started, before the salary catastrophe.  If he delays, he risks facing a crisis — an internal crisis — much more lethal than the hell-raising Osun opposition can ever muster’

And the battle next time would not be solely from the Osun opposition, even if its bad-tempered buzz would always vibrate; but more dangerously from inside Aregbesola’s own camp, which may well, not unfairly, declare itself starved of legitimate pork.

Thank God, the salary odyssey is coming to an end.  The Ogbeni should draw a closure as swiftly as he can, and bring smiles back to the cheeks of Osun workers.  He should also seek funds to complete his grand capital projects, among them crucial roads.  It is nice developmental news, from Osun, is hitting the wires again, after the horror tales of the past months.

But the come-back would not be complete without the governor constituting a cabinet. Nearing the end of the first year in a four-year second term, it is time to bring in as many bright and committed minds as possible — for it is a challenging juncture, demanding a brilliant and committed collective.  It could make the difference between success and failure.

Governor Aregbesola needs a cabinet now to finish as strongly as he started, before the interregnum of the salary catastrophe.  If he delays, he risks facing a crisis — an internal crisis — much more lethal than the hell-raising Osun opposition can ever muster.