People who know Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Governor of Osun State say he is a brilliant man. I have never met him despite my close ties with Osun State but have watched him on the soap box a couple of times and I can attest to his oratorical prowess. But there was nothing brilliant or oratorical about him last week when he appeared on TV trying to defend his inability to pay salaries. He looked incoherent and pathetic.
He stammered and almost choked on his words when he talked about how he transformed the sleepy, rural State he met some six years ago. He talked about the various empowerment programmes he embarked upon and the lasting impact they would eventually have on the State and how he should be remembered for those good deeds of the past.
Unfortunately, Osun State is just one of 22 States that are unable to pay salaries and Aregbesola is one of the many Governors that have mismanaged their States’ economy. It is disingenuous to blame the Federal Government for your inability to pay your workers. I am not going to quote the cliché that ‘workers deserve their pay’ here because that is really part of the problem. Many of the workers don’t deserve to be on the pay roll. For years, people had been crying about the unviability of many of our States but our politicians and tribal leaders refused to listen.You now wonder with what has since happened, if the empowerment programmes were mere populist gestures or real transformations. Given his socialist background, what I suspect he did was to collect hand-outs from the Federal purse and simply distributed them to his various welfare programmes. A real transformation should have concentrated on teachinpeople how to fish and be self- reliant. In any case, nothing justifies not paying workers’ salaries.
They load the pay roll with relatives and ego massaging cronies. A P.A has a P.A and a secretary who in turn will have his own P.A. and secretary. Many of these people have nothing to do besides increasing State bureaucracy and slowing down the system. Then there are ‘civil servants’ who just wait for pay day without lifting a finger all month. Having said this, if you are ‘smart’ enough to employ all manner of people, then you should pay them.
Meanwhile, there is no difference between the carriage of a state Governor whose monthly allocation is three billion Naira and another Governor who collects 15 billion Naira monthly.
All, and I mean all, our Governors lead lifestyles that have no correlation with their States’ economy or even the Nation’s economy. Many have taken to private jets to ply the air, luxury boats to ply the waters and bullet proof cars to ply the roads. Many have rebuilt Governor’s lodges and filled them with hangers- on. The more visible and grandiose the project, the better to catch the attention of our governors.
The bubble was bound to burst at some point. Last year, it did and not surprisingly, it caught our leaders both State and Federal, napping. America had been talking about shale oil for quite a while. Saudi Arabia had indicated long ago that it would fight for its market share. Chinese economy had slowed down. More African countries had discovered oil in commercial quantities. All these meant there would be a glut in the short term and prices would drop.
But nobody, including our world renowned economists did anything about it. In any case, we had been talking about diversifying the economy for a while and it had become just that— talk. Any State Government that therefore uses the dwindling revenue from the Federal purse as an alibi for not paying salaries is just as inept as the Federal Government it is accusing because we all saw it coming.
What is wrong with the age-old tradition of trimming expenditure in line with your income? Any good business manager would have trimmed the work force in line with the looming reality a long time ago. Some would say it is not that straight forward in politics especially in a Civil Service State but look at the alternative. A senior Civil Servant in Osun State almost committed suicide two weeks ago because he could no longer meet his financial obligations.
And this, unfortunately, is where it leads to; the suffering of the masses. At the best of times, our workers live from hand to mouth. And these are not the best of times. These are the times when the month end does not bring any financial relief.No honest worker can survive not earning a salary for seven months. Some are being owed almost a year’s salary. For starters, no serious work or productivity can take place in any institution where workers are owed for that long.
But that’s half of the problem. The economy of the State itself, no matter how strong, will begin to slow down and previous gains, if there was any, would be lost.But the real story is what happens in the homes. It starts with house rents not being paid, school fees not being paid, credit being sought for food and other essentials. Then sources of credit dry up because everybody is broke and scarcity of household essentials begins to bite.
The real tragedy is when infant mortality rate begins to rise, malnutrition rate begins to rise and friction at home between spouses begins to rise as well. Then depression sets in; tempers are short, aggression is on the surface. Those who think the Arab Spring cannot happen in Nigeria should rethink. A hungry man is an angry man. A hungry man who has reached the end of his tethers and has lost hope and faith in the system is a very dangerous man indeed.
As for the Governors, I think some of them should be charged for gross mismanagement and criminal neglect that can lead to social unrest. Many of them lack character, lack vision and are entirely without conscience. Even as dire as the situation is, many of the outgoing ones still took money from the empty coffers to pay themselves outrageous severance packages.
Governor Aregbesola is touted to have done a lot for his State. He is also said to be a simple man with a caring heart. It is a pity that his feet of clay have been exposed. He is obviously not a good manager of resources. His transformation is probably on the surface at best. A true, genuine transformation is when you make your State economically viable and independent of both local and international hand-out.
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