Let’s say it the way it is: no matter how the Osun State governor and his supporters spin it, the state is in a mess. A big mess for that matter, with something close to apocalypse going on in my home state unless we don’t want to speak truth to the government.
Last September after Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s victory at the polls, this column, in an open letter congratulated him for a hard-fought electoral battle where he dug in and defeated the Peoples Democratic Party blitzkrieg. Unfortunately, he has not displayed the same energy in facing the poverty monster ravaging the state. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in Aregbesola’s government failure in paying civil servants’ salaries in the state.
At the moment, the All Progressives Congress-led government owes seven months salary arrears with civil servants on strike and the machinery of the state in coma only being sustained by a life support machine. Three different incidents show the level of degradation ongoing in Osun.
First was a suicide attempt by a local government staff last month that could not keep up with the demands of life as a husband and father. Fortunately, he was stopped before he could carry out his intention but this did not stop a spokesperson of the governor from saying that there was no nexus between the suicide attempt and non-payment of salaries. The second one was an encounter I had with an octogenarian in Abuja few weeks back. He told me of how he and a friend went to visit their old senior in secondary school in Osogbo, the state capital, and they met his private schools under lock. Shocked by this, they asked why he decided to close the schools to which he responded that students could not afford to pay fees because their parents have not been paid just as it was getting difficult for him too to keep up with financial obligations. The third was that of a pastor requesting that members of his congregation should bring food items and money for those who have not been paid their salaries. Apart from the personal encounter, the other two were well reported in the media. But what happened to the lofty ideas and dreams of our dear governor? What happened to the dream of turning Osun into a food basket for the western part of Nigeria? What about the Dagbolu international market?
By now, the governor must have discovered that governance is more than sloganeering and singing solidarity song across the length and breadth of the state. As commendable as infrastructural development is and Aregbesola’s government tried along this line, nothing sums up his government more than the expression: good intention gone awry. Wonder who or what pushed him to build a cargo airport in the state? It is clear that he has not been served well by his cabinet, especially the former finance commissioner. As at January this year, the governor presented a budget of N197billion to the House of Assembly, which adjusted it upward to N201.74billion to cover for the non-inclusion of salaries of the middle school teachers. Did the government not want to pay these teachers when it re-classified schools?
Students sat for WASCE and NECO examinations without having the benefit of teachers preparing them for those examinations. An analysis of the 2015 budget also revealed that N18.6 billion was budgeted for the Governor’s office with N6.925billion for recurrent expenditure and N11.7billion for capital expenditure. Interestingly, N2billion is meant to pay salaries of the governor, deputy governor, judges and the state independent electoral commission that has not conducted any election since its inception. There’s also a provision of N1.159billion for salaries, allowances, remuneration of career officers and political office holders in the governor’s office while N3.775billion is for general administration of bureaus and agencies in the governor’s office. While inaugurating the House of Assembly last week, Aregbesola said that he was the first to raise the alarm about dwindling allocation to the states in 2013, yet his government went ahead to propose a budget of N197billion for 2015.
How did he hope to finance it without a corresponding increase in the revenue of the state? The Nation newspaper of January 27 reported an official of the state saying that the budget will be implemented. “Government of the State of Osun has said despite the dwindling resources of the state, its 2015 budget is implementable, as all the machinery have been put in place to ensure its implementation. The Permanent Secretary, Budget and Economic Planning, Mr Segun Olorunsogo stated this on Tuesday while giving an overview of the 2015 budget estimates before the joint House of Assembly Committee on Finance and Appropriation and Public Accounts.” By the way, what about the helicopter purchased for security surveillance in the state? What better security than the welfare of citizens, especially the workers who are being denied their due? Follow us on twitter @thecableng
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