One thing most of our governors are adept at is playing god. Once they get elected, they start treating electorates like servants. They become bossy. They easily forget that the people are the ones paying for their upkeep. Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State is on this inglorious list. Many will not forget in a hurry his first term when he went about demolishing homes for road expansions that were in most cases, absolutely unnecessary. The case of hapless Ijebu Igbo town readily comes to mind. While Amosun could not restore public water supply in this rustic town as demanded by the people, he went about demolishing their houses in the name of expanding roads.
The people of Ijebu Igbo wanted public water supply, standard hospitals and good public school buildings. But Amosun forced on them a sham road expansion projects which have since become abandoned projects. This ugly situation is replicated in most parts of the state. Governor Ogun is consistently trying to expand roads in rustic towns. I wonder what the people of Ijebu Igbo wants to do with a dual carriage way. He has simply been forcing on the good people of this state what they don’t want
Amosun showed another ugly side of his last week when he engineered the compulsorily retirement of two senior officials of the state’s Ministry of Education including an acting Permanent Secretary, Mrs Folashade Oresegun and the Ministry’s Director of curriculum, Mr.Ganiu Odunsi, over an English language test he considered offensive. The test used for the third term academic session of the state’s Unified Examination in Public Secondary Schools had a comprehension passage that took a critical look at the negligence of the education sector by governments. Other officials of the ministry that were directly in charge of the examination were thoroughly humiliated for exposing Ogun State students to such a critical comprehension exercise. Adegbenro Joel, the examiner that prepared the ‘offensive” English language question was allegedly ordered dismissed by the governor. Others dismissed allegedly on the orders of the governor were Mr. Majekodunmi Oluwole, a Grade Level 16 officer; Mr. E.O. Asegbe a Grade Level 10 officer and Taylor Damilola, a Grade Level 8 officer. A kangaroo disciplinary panel set up by the state’s Bureau of Establishment and Training, quizzed and found the civil servants guilty of only God knows what. It was clearly the hands of Amosun at play. He has not debunked this. Amosun and some overzealous officials view the comprehension exercise as a veiled reference to what is obtained in the state.
What I find disturbing about this drama in Ogun State is that the Head of Service, Mrs. Modupe Adekunle is celebrating the punishment meted out to the star-crossed civil servants. She said the government followed the due process because the affected officials were given opportunity to defend themselves, adding: “A panel was set up to investigate and based on their recommendations, the state Civil Service Commission has to decide. It is a decision that has been relayed to the affected officers. The normal process was that a panel was set up. The report was forwarded to the Civil Service Commission for the civil servants and the Teaching Service Commission, for the teachers. The decision was in line with the civil service rule. Due process was followed to the latter.” This is clearly the voice of Jacob, but the hands of Esau.
Early this week, I went in search of the “offensive” comprehension exercise. It reads partly: “There is no arguing about the fact that government is merely paying lip service to the development of education. It is true that a lot of money is being spent on the education sector but with little or no impact on the people, except where we want to deceive ourselves. Many schools run by the government, which were formerly known for academic excellence have suddenly lost their prestige and are living on past glories. No wonder, many parents and guardians are left with only one option i.e. to withdraw their wards from these schools to other ones that are better managed. The evidences to show that the government is not doing enough to assist in the development of education are many.”
For me, the content of this comprehension exercise calls for a sober reflection. Amosun and his overzealous Education Ministry officials should bury their heads in shame. It is indeed a genuine reference to the decaying state of education across the nation. Ogun State under Amosun is not an exception. Public schools across the state are in tatters. Just take a drive around the state and you will be shocked. I was trembling when I recently visited LA Primary School, Osun Budepo and Abeku Primary School, both in Ijebu Igbo. The schools are in atrocious state. I was also in Odogbolu recently and was so depressed by the state of Holy Flock Primary School and St Paul Primary School.
Forward-looking Nigerians must stand up against the tyranny of Amosun and rescue the humiliated civil servants. We must ensure that justice is done. The retired and dismissed civil servants must be recalled. It is heartwarming to know that a civil society group, Socio-Economic and Accountability Project has taken up the fight to restore the chastened civil servants. In fact, SERAP has dragged Amosun to United Nations.
SERAP in a letter, urged the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, to ask Amosun, to rescind his decision. It described Amosun’s action as unlawful, unfair and a serious violation of internationally- recognised human right to academic freedom and freedom to hold opinion.
SERAP added: “By dismissing those involved in setting the examination questions, SERAP believes that the government of Ogun State of Nigeria is invariably undermining the ability of the examiners and the students to take decisions; exercise their human rights; challenge or influence public policies; monitor the quality of public spending; and promote accountability. This in turn has seriously undermined established control to prevent abuse of power. The freedom to form an opinion and to develop this by way of reasoning has been violated by the action of the Ogun State Government in this case. The ability to hold an opinion freely is indeed a fundamental element of human dignity. The enjoyment of this right is essential for the enjoyment of other human rights and freedoms and constitutes a fundamental pillar for building a democratic society and strengthening democracy.”
The response of Monday Ubani, a former Chairman of the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association was also encouraging. He described Amosun’s action as an unlawful breach of contract, and called on the governor to recall the workers and apologise to them. Ubani said: “That for me was the height of intolerance on the part of the governor. The governor had no right to terminate their appointment just because they set examination questions that he considered to be critical of his administration. We are not in a military era and in democracy; the constitution guarantees freedom of expression. The Nigerian Union of Teachers has to intervene. They should go to court to challenge the unlawful sack,” Ubani said. I sincerely hope that other human rights activists will join the crusade to reinstate the sacked civil servants.
It is on record that Amosun has a history of terrorising civil servants. For example, it is sickening to learn that the governor has failed to remit the pension deductions and other backlog of arrears of Ogun civil servants for almost five years. Cooperative deductions are also not being remitted by Amosun while thousands of retired civil servants are still waiting for their gratuities, years after retiring. The Ogun State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress confirmed this last month. The state chairman of the NLC, Akeem Ambali said many workers in the state were becoming restless, agitated and despondent because of these infractions by Amosun. It is a shame that Amosun is in this inglorious club of governors pummeling civil servants. It is also repulsive that Governor Ogun who went for lesser hajj last month came back with a sledge hammer. I expect him to amend his ways after his visit to the holy land.
Pestering of Okonjo-Iweala Must Stop
For former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, coming home to serve her dear country has become a crime. All manners of brickbats are being thrown at this hard-working patriot after her service to the nation. First, it was Governor Adams Oshiomhole who went about making all sorts of unsubstantiated claims against a woman who left her posh job at the World Bank to serve this country. Then, suddenly, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Bashar alleged that a substantial part of a $1bn loan obtained from the China-EximBank by the Jonathan administration for a Kano-Lagos rail project was diverted to other projects by the finance ministry during her tenure as minister. Haba, when did the China-EximBank start giving cash to governments? The terms of the China-EximBank deals and the processes would simply not have allowed the said diversion. The practice is that funds for ratified loans remain with the China-EximBank and are released straight to the Chinese firm executing the contract after the presentation of properly certified proof of work by the supervising Ministry. Things like this can easily be cross-checked at the Chinese Embassy or even directly with the China-EximBank by anybody interested in the truth.
The truth is that the Kano-Lagos project was not even among the projects presented for funding by the China Exim Bank for several infrastructural projects across the country. The facts are there in black and white. This blackmail must stop. We are giving this woman who has given her all to this country unnecessary headache. To move this country forward, we need to consistently say the truth. Names of people who have served this country meritoriously should not be dragged in the mud; otherwise, decent people will be discouraged from serving Nigeria. We must stop calling people thieves without facts. For Okonjo-Iweala, my message is very simply: Any weapon fashioned against you will not prosper.
Governor Lalong and the Burden of Jang’s Debt
Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State is still struggling to recover from the huge shock of the debt his predecessor, Jonah Jang left for him. At a point, he thought it was about N100 billion. The new Plateau governor has since realized that it is about N222 billion after weeks of forensic auditing. The repayment of the loans is choking Lalong. Most of the loans were allegedly stolen. The truth be told, there is nothing on ground in Plateau State to justify the huge loans. Public schools, hospitals and roads are in tatters. Jang’s tenure brought misery to the people of the state. By the time he was leaving civil, servants were being owed between five and eight months unpaid salaries. His reign was a nightmare.
A confused Lalong has now given Jang and his cronies two weeks to return funds taken illegally from the state treasury. Over 100 Plateau State Government vehicles are also missing. Lalong must be a joker to think that such loot would be voluntarily returned. He should put his facts and figures together and send to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The New Twist to Our President’s Assets Declaration
Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, recently added a frightening twist to President Muhammadu Buhari asset declaration predicament when he said Buhari never promised to make his assets public. Adesina added that the issue of assets publishing could not be credited to Buhari but the ruling All Progressives Congress. Haba! This is not true.
Prior to his election, Buhari wrote a letter to Nigerians titled, “My Covenant with Nigeria” in which he pledged to publicly declare his assets and liabilities and to also encourage his political appointees to also publicly declare their assets and liabilities. “This is a pledge to you all when I become your President,” declared Buhari in the letter dated March 16. Adesina’s additional statement that “Buhari has declared his assets in compliance with the law and may decide to make them public when verification is concluded by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB),” is unacceptable. He was speaking in an interview with Kayode Ogundamisi, a social commentator. The issue of verification before public declaration was never part of Buhari’s “Covenant with Nigeria.” Buhari should do the needful.