Special Adviser to Governor Ajimobi on Media and Strategy, Mr Yomi Layinka, speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI on the state of the state, council elections and other matters. Excerpts:
Opposition figures have said that the lot of the people under Governor Ajimobi in his second term has been pain and misery, instead of the change promised.
To make a generalised statement like that sometimes is not worthy of comment, particularly from an obviously frustrated political opposition figures who lost an election and were unable to do what they wanted to do, and particularly without any indices to support that wild claim. Unless and until such a commentary is supported by verifiable facts, I think it can at best be left to the imagination of whoever is making the claim, someone whose party has lost an election will try to seek relevance by making unsubstantiated claim.
Some people have said the state is in a dire strait because of mismanagement of the resources that accrued to government in the first term, the huge loans and bond whose repayment is also draining government’s lean funds.
What bond did the state government receive? This is a government that, to all intent and purposes, never borrowed any money, unlike several other governments across the country which have had to go to the Stock Exchange and banks to run their projects. Which loan was taken at time and from what source, that can then be said to have been mismanaged? That is another supposition that does not even merit any answer.
Workers have said the two months salaries promised by the government and as a result of which they suspended their strike have been coming in trickles and that their pain and misery have not subsided…
What we promised was not to pay two months salaries in a day. The agreement government and the labour leaders signed was that we were going to pay the first month and that the second month would be paid immediately the next federal allocation comes in and that has not happened. So, we have not reneged on any agreement with labour and the labour union, I think, is more concerned about its interest than any supposition from any quarters. If there are issues of abdication of our commitment, I am sure the labour union will be the first to raise the alarm.
The government has expressed its plan to diversify the state’s economy. But does government have any business being in agric business?
The government has not set up an agric company. What the government has done is to bring about a policy that makes agriculture more favourable investment sites, especially for young people who can become agricultural entrepreneurs. As you implied, the business of government is to create an enabling environment and what the Oyo State Agriculture Initiative seeks to do is to mobilise all resources, whether they belong to the public of private investors, to agriculture sector to make it an investment site, particularly to the young ones who can participate at whatever level of the value chain. That is ongoing and that is why the engagement is multi-sectoral and involves financial institutions, the agric research institutions, commodity companies, investors and others. There will be some waiting time for the project to start yielding benefits and we expect the benefits to start manifesting in the coming months.
When Governor Ajimobi said recently that workers should brace up for restructuring and there is verification of workers ongoing, was the governor trying to hint about possible sack of workers?
I can confirm to you that a screening and verification of all workers is ongoing. But the idea of sack has been completely rejected and explained by the governor. The most recent platform for that was in Abuja where he explained very clearly that his government as well as the Federal Government of the APC cannot be interested in the retrenchment of workers. But every government, especially in these times, must brace up to the reality that it must match man to task.
The restructuring exercise is primarily aimed at bringing about optimal efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. To start with, the government has got to know exactly how many people work for it, what kind of work they do and whether or not the kind of work they do is relevant today, and whether we need to restructure and move people. As you probably know, at the beginning of the second term of this government, there was a restructuring of the ministries, departments and agencies to ensure alignment between government policy direction and its service delivery capability.
So, that is what we mean by restructuring. The ongoing verification exercise is aimed at ensuring that the number of people on our payroll is exactly the number of people that are actually at the workplaces. Two, we also intend to assess the capacity and capability of the individuals to deliver on their assignment, including claims to certification. If a worker claims to won a certificate in Engineering, we want to be sure that indeed that worker has a certificate in Engineering. We are having cases where people have falsified their certificates and that needs to be checked. We need to ensure that the number of people we have in the system is commensurate with the number of people we need. We also need to align people’s skills with targeted results.
What happens if, at the end of the verification exercise, it is found out that quite a number of the workers don’t have the capacity and skills to do the targeted task you just mentioned?
There are a number of options usually open to an employer. You either move people from the line of duty where they don’t seem to have the capacity for to another. If we find out that there are gaps in the manpower requirement in a particularly area and there is surplus in another area, we will move people from area of surplus to where they can add value. Those who don’t have the capacity for a particular task may have the capacity for another task.
So, we will do realignment, which is normal in personnel distribution. If, however, it is found out that some workers don’t have the necessary skills and there is no alternative place for them within the civil service structure, obviously, such workers will have to go. Such workers will have early retirement option or what have you. And if they engage in criminal acts such as falsification of certificates and fraudulent behaviour, such people will have to go too and even face criminal charge.
Why does the government have to subject the workers to another round of biometric verification when it conducted one during the first term and after which it said it was saving N400 million monthly from ghost workers and account duplication?
Why do you revalidate your driver’s licence? Why do you revalidate your medical certificate? It is an ongoing process because what worked then may not work again. We may have heard some other leakages, a need for realignment and so on. Management does not terminate with just one examination. So, you conduct a particular audit at a particular point in time and them you do something else. As I speak with you, even the labour union, which was part of the agreement reached, the supposition in labour quarters is that even the number of civil servants seems to be bloated. The exercise has the representatives of labour involved in it to ensure it is all-encompassing and it is not that government is just claiming, so that if there are ghost workers, they will be weeded out. There is no sin having it again.
Will there be local government election in Oyo State?
Have you not heard that the timetable is out? You can check that out with OYSIEC.
Since the inauguration of OYSIEC, there has been a state of inactivity in the commission. It is plagued by logistical challenge, which is being attributed to lean resources and which is the fear being expressed among even aspirants.
That fear is as real as our economic state of affairs and other issues that concern every Nigerian, whether public or private. The truth of the matter is that somehow we have to wade through it. First of all, we know the people are all anxious that local government elections be held. So, government cannot continue to delay on account of lack of resources.
The truth of the matter is that we are all in it together-those who want to contest elections, the government and the general public. Together, we can shape and determine how we move forward. The logistical challenges are not going to go away because there is no magic that is going to bring that about. We must be realistic about our expectation because it will cost the government close to if not over N1 billion conservatively to conduct the elections. This is not an authoritative figure from OYSIEC. They will tell you better.
Therefore, we must together determine where that money is going to come from. And if it doesn’t come as early as we wish, what do we do about it? The people of Oyo State must understand that they can’t have their cake and eat it. We want to have an election and we must fund it and the money will have to come from the public purse.
Some have said the government has become a big shame to the APC as a result of the state of affairs in the state at the moment.
Those who say that have deficit in personal integrity. Has the APC dissociated itself from its government and governor? Governor Ajimobi was appointed chairman of the APC governorship screening in Ondo State. If he was a pariah and embarrassment to his party, will the party choose in to act in such capacity? The claim is outlandish.