A former Secretary to the Oyo State Government, Chief Ayodele Adigun, who retired as a permanent secretary in the state, speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI on local and national politics, among others. Excerpts:
As somebody who has been in government after retiring as a top civil servant, would you say that there is something that this current government needs to do that it has not done on the economy?
I will blame Nigerians. When they said they wanted change, they did not specify the kind of change they wanted, whether positive or negative change. Now, the realities are on ground. I joined the Oyo State civil service in 1978 and I retired in 2001. All through, no civil servant went through the pangs and pains of not receiving salaries, at least on or before the 10th of the succeeding month. For about seven months now, the civil servants in Oyo State are yet to be paid their salaries. I wonder how they are sustaining themselves. It is traumatic for the workers and the pensioners. I recollect that way back in 2013 and 2014, I advised the present state government against going into any form of bond or loan from bank. I had a premonition that the crude oil price would crash and as a mono-product economy, I knew there would be problems. The chicken has come home to roost and that is what we are experiencing now. I pity the governor. No doubt, the loan repayment, deductions from the federal allocation coupled with the poor IGR will make it difficult for the state to pick its bills.
What is obvious is that there has been mismanagement in the affairs of the states in the southern part of Nigeria that have been unable to pay their workers. It is pathetic in the sense that some of the workers are dropping dead, having been hit by hunger and poverty. It is ridiculous. Ajimobi and other southern governors have bitten more than they can chew.
So, what would you advise the governor should do?
I guess it is too late in the day to offer any form of advice because when we offered a piece of advice in 2013 and 2014, we were called names. There was a vicious attack on my person when I was getting too loud for them. I lost one of my night guards. I told them they would encounter stormy weather with the way they were running the state. We have experienced arrogance of power. There is no need mounting any high horse. If the governor allows labour to go on strike, whether for one or two years, the government will still come back to pay the salaries.
To wriggle out of the economic quagmire, the state government has organised a series of workshops as part of efforts to return to agriculture…
Any direct involvement of the government in agriculture is deceitful. Government should just limit itself to providing the enabling environment for the practice of agriculture, which is, subsidising input, providing land and so on. But going into direct production is not something that can be done overnight. I am a farmer. I have been into agriculture for over 20 years and I have never experienced government assistance, even fertilizer I can’t get. No input from government or incentives. So, government has no business in business, including agric business. They just provide enabling environment for people to participate. It is not just something you wake up overnight and say you have acquired land. It requires a lot of planning and incentives for farmers to till the land. The governor has not cleared the burden of salaries. I think he should just think of ways of shedding its excess luggage. You see in the past, it was cutting your coat according to your size. Now, it is cutting your coat according to your cloth.
Governor Ajimobi did promise that the council election would be conducted. But now, the tenure of caretaker chairmen has been renewed.
There is a saying about APC that the meaning of its acronym is All Promises Cancelled (APC). But the point is that if he promised some time ago that within 90 days that the local government elections would be conducted, I wonder where he is going to get the money to conduct such election this time around.
But the governor has inaugurated the members of OYSIEC…
Inaugurating them is not the same as conducting elections. We need a lot of money to conduct elections and with the state of the economy and the problem on ground, will it be advisable to conduct any election now? There could be social uprising. So, he has to be very cautious. I think we should just allow him to settle the immediate problem now before talking about elections. When he was saying it, I was very skeptical.
But for him to have said it, he knew quite well that election would cost money and perhaps the money was already available somewhere before he said it.
That is a fundamental error. Politicians will talk without considering the realities on ground. He must have made that type of statement in the heat of passion without deeply considering the intricacies involved. I don’t see local government election coming up very soon. But if he conducts any form of election now, I don’t think APC will make any head way.
People say Accord as the biggest opposition party has been silent lately, that you are not giving the state government the kind of proposition that is expected. What do you think of this?
No doubt, Accord during the 2015 elections made some fundamental errors, which I am sure will be corrected in the future. But do we need any form of opposition now? The facts on the ground are too obvious. Do we need to be campaigning to the civil servants who have not been paid for over six months? Or to the teachers who have not been paid for over six months now? Or to those who have lost their kith and kin due to poverty and hopelessness? Do we need to campaign to them? You can say it is already done; everything is obvious. You see government, in a developing economy, is the biggest spender. For example, in Oyo is more or less a civil service state. When you pay salaries, it is not that the civil servants will pocket the money and go home. They will go to Bodija market to buy foodstuff; they will consult their mechanics to fix their broken down cars. If they have excess, they will call the bricklayers to put one block on the other. So, that is what we call the multiplier effect of that type of money. But if the source of that type of income dries up, it will affect the whole gamut of the society from traders, artisans and so on.
If you meet President Buhari today, what would you tell him as a piece of advice?
The economy is no longer growing; it is rather shrinking. In the first and second quarters of 2016, the country’s growth figures were negative. It is good that the Buhari administration is running after those who stole money. But that alone is not enough. He must address the economic problems in the country. It is not only anti-corruption fight that will sustain the country. The inflation rate has risen to 16.5 per cent, the highest since 2005. There is food insecurity as a result of which people now steal their neighbours’ food, rather than being their brothers’ keepers. We have had enough of running after those who stole money. Let him do something to the economy.
Oyo in 2019 and the state of opposition parties
We are looking up to God to spare our lives till that time. Only God knows those who will be alive by then. The present APC administration in the state is a big shame. The governor has not only disappointed the people, he has also done a grave injury to the party. They say ‘koseleri’ (that is, something unprecedented). Yes, it is unprecedented that workers will go on empty stomachs for six months without salaries and the governor will be comfortable and be travelling out of the country under the guise of scouting for investors. What kind of stupid investors will come and invest his money in a place where there is no electricity, where all the factors of production except land are absent.
You said these and more in the build-up to the last elections, but they did not factor because the people of the state went ahead to vote for Ajimobi.
It is unfortunate that the voters did what they did. We sensitised them on the dangers of having Ajimobi for a second term. But because of the love of N500 or N1000 and cheap propaganda, they were lured into voting for him. The result is what we are witnessing in the state today. So, the people are stewing in their juice. I pity them, but they have also seen that they made a grievous mistake in voting for APC and Ajimobi. If you are in a system, there is no way it will not always come back to you. Now, I am always afraid to attend social functions because when you get there, an army of people pounce on you, asking for common N500 to feed. It is unfortunate.
Will the opposition parties coalesce in 2019?
An average politician is selfish, greedy and idiotic. What happened in 2015 was very unfortunate. Some of the top politicians believed they could do it alone and so refused to come together or step down for those who could win. They knew they were not on ground, but stuck to their gun because of their avarice. Some people are also sworn enemies who believed that their enemy must not get to the seat, even though they knew the person they tagged their enemy would administer the state in a way that would benefit the society. That is the result of what we are having now. It is the greed of the politicians. They dream of winning without considering the realities on the ground. I doubt if they will be able to have a rethink in 2019 and that is why the black man will continue to have problems because they won’t be realistic with their aspirations.