Aregbesola: By 2014, Osun’ll Be a Model State

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Oct 19, 2011 No Comments ›› ACN (ji)

 

Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, recently spoke with journalists in the state. He dwelt on the achievements of his administration since November 2010 when he assumed office. Osun State Correspondent ADESOJI ADENIYI was there.

Apart from the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) project, what are other achievements of your administration?

When I read in the newspapers what the opposition says about us, I chuckle.  The truth of the matter is that we are not comparable with our predecessor. But most of us did not recognise most of the things we have done because they are intangible. It will be in the interest of all Nigerians to recognise the intangibles because we cannot make any serious headway if we just look at the society from the area of brick and mortar alone.

We assumed the governance of Osun on November 27, 2010 and in terms of vacuum, the state was vacuous. The only thing that was there is Oyin ni o, a mere slogan. That, in  itself did not  inspire anybody.  Luckily, before we did anything at all, you were the first set of people we met as fourth estate of the realm. I remember that we met you very late at night. I realize that I am a night worker because I have discovered that between 7 am and 12 midnight, I will be looking as if I will collapse but when it is 12 midnight strangely, I will just develop the capacity that I could not even imagine. I will just become charged.

Second week after my inauguration, we began the process of OYES. The idea had been there, but I expected that from you, there would be efforts to discuss how  it was possible for any government to recruit 20,000 youths, train them and exhibit them  within two weeks. The truth is that there is no facility in the whole Nigeria to train more than 5,000 people at a time. How did we get to train 20,000 people, gave them leadership and made them to do the job they are doing? The greatest challenge to the scheme was preparing them for what they are ultimately doing.

Soon after that we gave the state an identity that the state did not have before we came on board. We gave the state a crest, a flag and these are not just symbols, they are symbols that have meanings. Before you can do anything, you must get the people to understand who they are, because if they don’t, nothing can work, just as nothing had worked before we came. From what I see and what I heard, people now want to be called Omoluabi. People now understand the reason for being the citizen of this state.

After that, we held an education summit at which we were able to develop a strategy for education in the state. It has not manifested physically, but it will soon manifest. Though premature, if we must tell you, we have restructured education such that we will have neighbourhood schools that will cater for Primary one to three; the junior schools, which might not be neighbourhood will be for pupils in primary four to JJS 3 that would be called Grade 4 to Grade 9, while the high school will be for SS1 to SS3, that is, Grade 10 to 13 where the students can go to any institution of their choice. That is a clear fall out of the summit and not many states have  been able to do this as simple as it is, even those that were here for the last eight years.

The opposition keeps saying you have fallen short of hte people’s expectation…

When I read their tantrums about what we have done, I laugh because as at the time we took over, this state was carrying a burden of N18.3 billion debt. The debt was not just an ordinary debt, it was a debt that was painful and suffocating. It was so bad that for the state to meet its recurrent expenditure, it had to borrow N1 billion every month. As at that time, the total revenue of the state was N2.1 billion (IGR was N300 million and allocation was N1.8 billion) out of which, right from Abuja, N615 million would be deducted, leaving N1.5 billion. The salary as at that time was N850 million, leaving us with N650 million. Subventions to tertiary institutions in the state was N850 million, leaving us minus N150 million; and we had to  pay pensions of N250 million. I wouldn’t know how much specifically, but as at that time, gratuity was already outstanding and it could not be less than N1.5 billion. I only knew that by June this year, the outstanding on gratuity was N2.4 billion. What was allocated in December was N30 million and that was what I met. But in that month, I raised it to N50 million and by April this year, I raised it to N150 million. If I want to be very meticulous and factual, let us say we must pay gratuity of N50 million and if you subtract it, you will have minus N500 million. Aside that, you must run government with money. So, a billion naira loan had  to be taken from bank to augment every month and by the following month, you pay it off and continue. That was the situation I met.

By March, noticing the almost impossibility of running any government at all and having realized  that there was no hope for the state should that regime continue, we realised that our only saving grace was to restructure the loan and we desperately sought for a financial institution that could support us by refinancing and I got one finally in the First Bank. We were able to broker a deal that allowed us to refinance the loan, such that today, as I am talking to you, the maximum we get on that suffocating loan is less than N100 million. We have removed the burden of the loan and we have spread it such that the state would not even know that it is paying anything.

Are you suggesting that the state government can now move faster?

If you subtract N100 million from N615 million, we have N515 million and for ease of multiplication, let us say N500 million. They took the loan in June 2010 and we concluded the arrangement of refinancing in March. June to March is 10 months. The loan by their own arrangement was to last for 36 months and if you take 10 month, out of 36, we are left with 26 months. If you now multiply 26 by the N500 million we have saved, it means that we have saved this state N13 billion by our action.

No matter how cynical, careless one wants to be, it is a plus to me and my administration. So, whenever you see me, remember that this tiny man has succeeded in holding back N13 billion for  Osun development. Apart from that, we have not taken a kobo from the N25 billion refinance deal we made with the First Bank. The facility was negotiated purely to refinance the suffocating loan already taken.

On agriculture, since Awolowo, as little as it is, by our own estimate, nobody has done anything close to what we have done. As I am talking to you, we have cleared 3,000 hectare of land beside the fact that we have equally given access to loan to farmers. We succeeded in ensuring that we gave support to farmers from money, to seedling, to chemical which get to the directly. Today, our support for farmers is extension talking of financial, chemical, improved seedlings and others.

But the people appear to be impatient. They want to see roads and other physical infrastructure…

I am not in any way disturbed by conventional expectations of some people. Some people believe that all that is meant for the government is road, whether well done or badly done, but they have forgotten that the man that the divine had granted the opportunity to be the administrator of Osun now was the man used by God to transform Lagos, when you are talking of road,  and I am around.  In Nigeria today, I am still the most productive road builder in Nigeria at the level which I operated. Before my ascension to the post of Commissioner in Lagos State, nobody ever thought that road would be done on credit. I was the first person to develop the capacity of engagement that will ensure that contractors will work on promising note. So, if I do not respond to road by your expectations, the question is why? The truth is that, if you do anything on road during the rain, you are simply wasting money because it will not stay. So, I will rather stay with inconvenience of bad road during the rains. If you want to use the road to judge me, you are mistaken, I am simply strategic. Just wait till the season is dry and you will see the amazing wonders on our roads.

And education?

We have planned a brand new  programme in education and you must have  seen the schools springing up. Prototypes are going to be built first. We are building the junior schools in Osogbo, around Alekuwodo, the primary school would be built in Ife and the high school would be built in Ejigbo. When you see the prototypes, you will judge whether our intervention has meaning, but I know that the total cost of  intervention on education alone will not be less than N18 billion.

Don’t forget that this state that was N18.38 billion indebted by November when I took over has today, N21 billion to spend on development of Osun. In the history of this state, nothing like that has ever happened. Apart from that, local governments have in their accounts N4 billion for development and If you add it, it means we have N25 billion and if you add it to  N4.5 billion that we would have paid out this year on the loan, it means we have N29.5 billion.

What efforts are you making to ensure that you put up a feedback mechanism that would give you the opportunity to  gauge the people’s pulse about your government?

Though we are yet to release the feedback mechanism to the public,  we have an office that will be called Bureau of Social Service (BOSS). The office will be reporting to my office and the sole responsibility is to police the activities of government everywhere in terms of policies, programmes and projects. It is our own creation to ensure effective monitoring, supervision and control of all activities of government. The office will not be in Abere, it will be in town. It’s duty is to follow up projects, programme on policies and report back to me. It will be superior to any officer in government, except me and my office as governor. Even in Works and Transport ministry of which I am the  commissioner, the body will still report to tell whether I have done the work there or not. We are emphasising this for you to know that we have put in place feedback mechanism. Apart from that, in a democracy, the party too is an instrument for gauging  the mood of the people. We are everywhere by virtue of the fact that we are a party. There is no compound in which we have no representative and through that structure, we equally get feedback from our members. We equally engage social researchers periodically to assess the import of programmes on  the people.

There was this  rumour sometime when you were onn lesser hajj that you had cancer. How did you feel then and what is your reaction to it?

When I was in Umrah and my media aide, Semiu Okanlawon, called me that I should take a picture and send it now, I wondered why and I didn’t take him serious until I opened my facebook and saw a message sent to me by somebody that “don’t worry, I have a traditional medicine for your predicament.” As at that time, I was in the dark of the false publication that I had cancer. I replied that person that “Mr. Man, I don’t know what you are talking about and I have no problem that will require traditional attention.” Throughout the day, I did not get the import of my aide and all I did was just to send some photographs that we took in Medina. On the following day, while I was browsing, I stumbled on the publication and I was shocked that  somebody could say this about  any human being. I asked that on what basis could this thing be reported about me, but I dismissed it and I went my own way. That tells you how inhuman people could get. Even if they don’t respect me, they should respect my children. You can’t just tell rubbish. That was the height of it. It began some months back in May. I left the office 3 am, I came to pick my bag  and I left for Dubai for the graduation of my daughter. Before I came back, the rumour was that I fell in my bathroom and I was rushed out with a broken leg. As if that was not enough, when I went to  China , they went about town with speculation that  I went for medical check-up. So, it was all rubbish and I took it as such.

Your predecessor awarded some contracts running into billions of naira, which were not executed. What are you doing to bring the failed contractors to book?

On the fake contractors, we have stripped them off their covers by publishing their names in the newspapers. What has not happened is the expected media follow-up. As far as government is concerned, we have taken the first step and we are believing that the agency set up to investigate and sanction economic offenders will be courageous enough to do the investigation, sanction them and carry out the retrieval of our funds when we are ready to give it to them. We are using several strategies, one of which is to engage the state House of Assembly to use its  authority and power to invite them to come and tell the people of the state why they would take our money and not deliver the services required. Within the government, we will further scrutinise the report of the committee to be sure that nobody is carelessly included in that list and once we confirm that, we will contact all the appropriate authorities to further investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book.

On  your promise to establish a regional market here where goods will be sold at the same price obtainable in Lagos . When would this be? At the same time when would the rail project between Osun and other states in the South-West take off?

On the issue of our promises on the creation of a regional market, we have reached a stage where our efforts in that regard will  be made known. We have not been resting, but we want to get to a particular stage before we make it known to the public. We have also concluded arrangement with the Nigerian Railway Cooperation for the use of their facilities  to move agricultural produce free of charge from Osun to Lagos. We are yet to get a logistic centre in Lagos , but we are working on it. The logistic centres will be where the agricultural produce will be dropped and the franchise outlets would be put there to sell, so as to facilitate sales. In reverse order, manufactured produce would be brought from Lagos to Osun free of charge and be sold at  Lagos price. We have moved the terminus to Dagbolu between Osogbo and Ikirun and the Nigerian Railway had concluded its job on the terminus. A mid-regional market will be there and we are working on other supportive infrastructure. We will develop access to the area and make it conducive. And we will have warehouses there. It is not yet time for me to talk to you on the acquisition of our own locomotive stocks, not because we have not gone very far, but we are processing the concession of our own to run facilities on the railway. We are actively working on giving our promises on that aspect. I am believing God that it will be realised. As for the regional railway, it is nothing a state government can do, it is a regional affair and we are still working with other states to ensure that it  is done.

The health workers and the teachers in the tertiary institutions are on strike and even the workers that have just returned to work are still threatening to go back on strike. What are you doing to address these issues?

I came into political consciousness through activism and I don’t even believe that any society that is sane must be without agitation. So, those who had issues with the people administering them must always protest one thing or the other. It is the maturity of the protesters that actually qualifies their protests. As long as it is not violent, I don’t think  strike is anything we should be worried about. As a matter of fact, we must encourage our people to protest what they do not accept. However, as an administrator, we are doing our best to ensure that the striking workers  return  to work. We are negotiating with them and I am quite sure that we will reach consensus in no distant time. We will resolve the crisis between us very soon.

You said that you have N29.5 billion for development of Osun, but if you calculate the money you need eventually, it is more than  you have. How will you generate more money to carry out your programme?

The truth of the matter is that the money that can take us out of the situation we are now cannot be less than N300 billion. Through financial re-engineering we are raising it, but what we have raised is grossly inadequate, and we will look for other methods to raise money for development, details of which I will not supply now. Just note that when it comes to the time when this money is required we will get it. By my own commitment, I want to leave here by far better and comparable to any human society anywhere in the world and I want you to join me to achieve this.

 

The Nation


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