In an interaction with correspondents, Ayo Akinola, Senior Special Assistant to the governor, State of Osun, Rauf Aregbesola, speaks on the successes and challenges of the state government in the last six years. Excerpts:
In few days, the government of Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola will be six years in office. How has the journey been?
I can tell you in truth that the journey has been very rough for government, financially, most especially in the last three years. I always like to tell people that the present government of Osun and even that of the Federal are like surgeons. Nobody wants to come under the artery forcep, literarily referred to as the operation knife. But for the surgeon to help remove the tumour, he or she has to carry out the operation, which in all cases, are very painful, because if this is not done, worse things or even death could occur. The surgeon is the person who has been entrusted with the life of his patient. So, whether we like it or not, he has a job to do. But really, he has to carry his patient and his family along. The situation we find ourselves in, nobody envisaged it. Who could have predicted that the oil price will go this low? The government is like the father in the home setting: he wants the children to go to the best schools for the sake of not only today but also the future, good health services, good home, beautiful car all for the present and future. So, his projection is based on available resources and projected incoming incomes. That is what we call long term planning. If any parent does not plan for the future of the children, then he does not worth to be so called. But if unfortunately the father’s source of income starts to dwindle based on unforeseen situation like retrenchment and his company’s dwindling financial fortunes, and so couldn’t fulfill most of his projection, do you blame him? It is easy to blame government for ambitious projects when salaries are not paid as at when due but many fail to take into cognizance the chronically dwindling resources accruing to states and even the federal government. And financing institutions will always take their dues because they are in business, not charity.
We all talk of internally revenue sources, but because our people are not used to strict compliance to tax regimes, it is quite difficult to expect much in voluntary payment. Not much is coming in true internally generated revenue.
You talk so passionately of developmental stride in the last six years. Could you be specific?
A leader must have plans as to what he intends to do for his people. This is contained in Governor Aregbesola’s six-point Integral Action Plan. Plan derives from the cardinal development action points defined by his administration to realise the development agenda for the state. These are banishing hunger, banishing poverty, banishing unemployment, promoting healthy living, promoting functional education and to promote communal peace and progress. If we want to be honest to ourselves, this government has done exceptionally well in all these areas. The government has even gone further to do more. Wherever you turn to in Osun, you will not fail to notice his presence. He’s like the octopus, whose hands are everywhere.
Have you ever heard of an Ona Baba Ona from anywhere apart from Osun? Have you not seen the schools? Visit any university structure in the country and see if our secondary school structures will not surpass them in functionality. Statesmen all over the country have come to Osun to marvel at our developmental strides despite paucity of funds. The primary school feeding system has become a source of good copy from all over the country, and the Federal Government is also beginning to implement it. Opon Imo tablet is a technological innovation to help students learn better. Tell me: which state can rival all this?
The good thing is that these strides are spread all over the State. And as we are speaking, infrastructural deployment is ongoing.
If Osun government is achieving all these, why is his criticism so fierce?
A few years back, I was also wondering just like you. And that exactly explains why somebody like me took interest in this administration. If a government is trying day and night to secure the present and future of citizens, the least expected of all and sundry is support. Why one is not too surprised is because of the high tempo of opposition in Osun because no matter how much we try, the opposition will always berate us. So , we have ignored them and concentrate on good governance. Even the holy books say we should look diligently, to find out the truth in every situation, if we are truly educated and enlightened. Some members of our constituency, the press is equally guilty of inaction. If you’re in Lagos or Abuja, the way the government of Osun is portrayed, you will almost think nothing is happening in this state. But if you do on the spot assessment, even without any reference to government, you will be dazzled with development strides going on in Osun. When President, Muhammadu Buhari came here, he was pleasantly surprised such that he had to ask the governor where he got all the money used for the development from. He could’nt believe his eyes. To him, it was miracle in this time of paucity of funds. So, if we say that the governor is a financial innovator, we can’t fault it.
So, to answer your question, everything in this country is now enmeshed in politics, Osun inclusive. It is so bad that honest assessment is rare nowadays. Scoring a government good or bad now depends on which political party you belong to. And it is unfortunate. Good is good and bad is bad irrespective of who is concerned. But really, everything is colourised in politics.
Secondly, and most unfortunately, is the involvement of our elite in untruth as far as Osun development is concerned. Our media need to do more in unraveling developments and give kudos to where it belongs. Most of us in the media are armchair practitioners. We sit at the comfort of our editors’ suit and theorerise. We need to move out of this comfort zone and do on-the-spot. This will help in removing doubts.
What should we expect in the next two years?
I can tell you this: government is deeply committed to development despite serious paucity of resources. I can also tell you that our people haven’t seen nothing yet. Day in, day out, the government is not resting. All we ask for is cooperation from our people. They should assist government in its drive to take the state to greater heights. We all know that resources are very scarce. All countries of the world rely on taxes to deploy development. We should pay our taxes as at when due; we should support government in protecting vital infrastructures like roads and our schools from damages. These are what we call responsible citizenship.
Everyone needs to take up vocations and be productively engaged in something. This is what can grow our economy. We are lucky to have a high level of youth population, capable of turning things around. Together, we can turn the state around.