Kolawole Salami writes from Ede, In Osun State
Like many hopefuls, I was convinced of Mr Adegboyega Oyetola’s aptness and determination long before his emergence as Governor. His records in private practice and public service corroborates this beyond doubt. Despite this awareness, the creative and methodical implementation of policies leaves one in no doubt that Mr Governor’s true potential has not yet been fully comprehended.
In 2018, His Excellency declared: “The sanctity of your trust propels us to not only deliver but to also ensure a future you and I and indeed the generation next can be proud of. Together, united, we surmount the heights.”; like many supporters, I knew it was only a matter of time for the fortune of our state to be boosted.
Aware of the current realities, Governor Oyetola rolled up his sleeves and got to work.
Rebuilding trust between workers and the government, an essential ingredient of sustainable development commenced in earnest. In addition to prioritising payment of salary and pension as and when due; shortly on assumption of office, Governor Oyetola facilitated a town hall meeting between the NLC leadership and the government; and ensured subsequent regular and mutually constructive interaction. Further, in a bid to rebuild and improve relations between the government and local communities, he embarked on a tour of all nine federal constituencies, taking stock of requests and priorities across cities and townships of the state. The aftermath of this amongst many other things is the completed rehabilitation of roads across the state; ongoing construction of more than 200 kilometres road across all 30 local governments of the state; overhaul of the relationship between royal fathers and the state government; reclassification of the public school system and repeal of single-sex schools across the state.
Good welfare of pensioners who have meritoriously served their State cannot be overemphasised. Despite great effort, a number of our senior citizens have sadly, continued to endure untold hardship. The truth is that even those in active service, with regular income often struggle to make ends meet. For many of us, the plight of these pensioners; our parents, our neighbours, our former teachers, our mosque/church members, our friends’ parents and so on is real and personal. The strength of Governor Oyetola’s commitment was reiterated when Hon. Bamidele Salam, a PDP Chieftain and Vice Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Pensions’ commended the government on the payment of 1.2billion bonds to pensioners in February 2020. According to the Honourable, “Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s action in making this part payment to our pensioners who are already living under agonizing conditions, gives us hope that his government will do right by these aged citizens who have given their active years to the service of their State.”.
The drive to clear the backlog of outstanding pensions and gratuity commenced immediately after assumption of office and has remained a key part of Governor Oyetola’s commitment. I urge the government to ensure that the welfare of senior citizens remain priority, notwithstanding the looming economic challenges in the wake of CO-VID19 pandemic.
To the deprivation of political aides, and many supporters keen to play a role in the Ileri-Oluwa movement; the Governor’s adoption of nuclear approach towards financial prudence leaves zero room for frivolous spending. In fact, some expenditures widely perceived by many with good sense of accountability, too suffered from stringent expenditure threshold. Further however, and more importantly, the Governor’s widely acknowledged mastery of financial management was laid bare as the state IGR recorded 88% increase from N7.5 billion in 2018 to N14.15 billion in 2019. Amongst other things, these actions created a much needed respite from the challenges posed by paucity of funds.
Unlike the general norm of incessant foreign trips under the guise of seeking foreign direct investment, the policy direction was rooted in first unlocking local opportunities for development. To this end, Governor Oyetola started with a visit to the Abuja headquarters of the federal ministry of power, works and housing to meet the Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who is also a former Governor of Lagos State. The success of the meeting which was widely reported to have centred essentially on the state’s infrastructural development can be seen today in various ongoing projects in the state including: the N75b reconstruction of Ibadan – Ife – Ilesa expressway; the N5.1b Illa Orangun – Kwara boundary road; the N4b Efon Alaye – Iwaraja – Ilesa; Iwo – Osogbo, Osogbo – Ilobu and so on
In 2019, the painstaking effort to revolutionise the state economy was bolstered with the Economic and Investment Summit which attracted captains of industry. It offered the state the opportunity to draw from experiences and interests of top-rated investors and policy makers across the globe. Synergy with private investors was identified amongst others as an essential ingredient for sustainable development in infrastructure and capital – intensive projects.
By December 2019, the United States of America had caught wind of the state’s openness to business. Through the US Embassy Commercial Service Department mission led by Ms Christine Kelly, the US offered a hand of economic partnership with our dear state. By March 2020, a Canada-based mineral exploration company had commenced construction of Nigeria’s only large-scale commercial gold mine in the State of Osun. Osun had succeeded in securing Nigeria’s pioneer project in the mining sector. When completed in 2021, the gold mine would process 650,000 tonnes of ore, with a target production of approximately 80,000 ounces per year.
Another masterstroke was the Governor’s visit to the ministry of health under the leadership of Prof Isaac Adewole at the time, another dignified indigene of Osun. This was swiftly followed with the inauguration of the Health Improvement committee chaired by the Governor himself. Through the Save – One – Million – Lives Initiative, Osun won $20 million which subsequently facilitated the construction and rehabilitation of state of the art healthcare infrastructures across all 334 wards in the state; construction of 120-bed wards and 30-flat doctors’ quarters at the state specialist hospital in Asubiaro, Osogbo; in addition to the ongoing reconstruction of hospitals across the state including Ejigbo and Ifetedo.
To combat incessant kidnapping cases across the state, the Governor embarked on a mission to galvanise existing security architecture in the land. Alongside other Governors in the Western region, the IGP and other key institutions in the country, the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Operation Amotekun was established in January 2020.
Her Excellency on the other hand, in complimenting the efforts of the government embarked on numerous campaigns, empowerment and humanitarian activities. The campaign to stop open defaecation is one of the most remarkable non-governmental campaigns in the land with visible improvements across the state. Many indigenes of the state, both local and across the world have benefited from Mrs Kafayat Oyetola’s Ilerioluwa Development Initiative.
The achievements of the current administration in just one and half years is exceptional by every standard; but when evaluated against the backdrop of the state of affairs in 2018, and also, the subsequent court litigation that lasted almost a year, then one would appreciate even more, the ingenuity of the administration. A year after taking oath of office, in his stewardship to the people of Osun, the Governor proclaimed: “with steady hands, we have built bridges and rallied our people to arise and labour for a more prosperous State.
We have comported ourselves decently as responsible leader and have also inspired same among our people, constantly emphasising our proud heritage as privileged citizens of the Land of Virtue and inheritors of the cherished Yoruba legacy.”
The unexpected occurrence of COVID-19 places leaders across the world under unprecedented pressure. Countries with huge financial and human resources are fizzling under the pressure of the pandemic. At some point, Osun ranked third across the country with 20 cases of COVID-19; but to the credit of the Governor and his team, their continued proactiveness and agility has kept CO-VID19 cases in the state manageable, with a lot of work still ongoing to keep it under control.
However, being free of CO-VID19 cases does not insulate the state from the attendant economic challenges to come, not even for a government that has exhibited extraordinary fiscal discipline. Following the abrupt stop in global economic activity, from 100 to zero in just a few weeks, a contraction of as much as 6% is expected in 2020; with global travel restriction expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
To therefore say the realities and outlook of a post COVID-19 world is gloomy is stating the obvious. The global economic challenges anticipated by economists across the world is unprecedented, even for the most powerful economies. With crude oil price dropping below $0, deep into the negative territory of -$30; Africa would require local solutions, its own bespoke means of recovery.
As a people, there can not be a better time to look inward – we are left with no choice. For instance, the era when African countries trade more with the rest of the world than with each other may no longer be sustainable. Far-reaching economic development plans that leverage our competitive advantage must be implemented. No single world leader can be said to be prepared for this.
The creativity and inventiveness of leaders will make the most difference; and for this, the people of Osun must count themselves blessed; but harnessing the blessing of such leadership requires a deep sense of shared responsibility as a people in support of the government. All hands must be on deck, reconditioning our thinking for greater focus and attention to the things that matter – hard work and productivity.
This will not be easy, but for the State of Osun, and our Governor, a soft spoken man of unrivalled integrity and uncommon determination; amidst the global chaos of CO-VID19 and its attendant economic consequences; we pray that “the latter glory of this ‘state’ shall be greater than the former.”