Thursday, February 22, 2024

My achievements in one year shocked opposition, critics – Governor Adeleke

Today, Monday, November 27, makes it exactly a year since Ademola Adeleke was inaugurated as the Governor of Osun State. In this interview with journalists before embarking on a working vacation to Europe and Asia where he said he is scheduled to meet investors and development partners, Governor Adeleke bares his mind on his achievements in office among other issues affecting the state. TIMOTHY AGBOR brings excerpts:

You were elected in an historical election where you beat an incumbent a year ago. How is governance in Osun State in the last one year?

It is quite challenging. It has been lots of hard work and several challenges to address.

I inherited a run-down system, a state where virtually nothing is working. The rot we saw outside was worse than what we saw inside.

When I said nothing is working, I mean it. Schools, health centers, infrastructures, sports, civil service, name it.

The white house, the office of the governor, was like a black house. The Government House was like a shit house despite reported rehabilitation before our assumption of office.

The government quarters were looted and vandalized. Huge and paralyzing debts were on the ground. Workers were owed salaries and pensions. The public service was turned upside down into a zone of confusion. So, I largely started all over like from the scratch a year ago. So, the last one year has been a period of reconstruction across all facets of Osun society.

“I inherited a run-down system, a state where virtually nothing is working. The rot we saw outside was worse than what we saw inside”

Are you overwhelmed by the inherited challenges?

Not at all. I am so well prepared for the difficult task ahead. You need to remember that my governorship has a history.

After the persecution, rigging and the maltreatment of 2018, my self-exile prepared me for the job at hand. Unlike many political opponents, the four years between 2018 and 2022 was an era of agenda setting and capacity building. That is why we are daily surprising our detractors with our performance.

The opposition said you have nothing to show. What have you achieved in specific terms in the last one year?

The opposition APC is still nursing the wound of their electoral defeat. So, the party is ashamed to see the positive changes we are recording in the state. Our achievements are there for all to see.

I will provide a brief across the sectors to showcase my records in office. In the road sector, we reconstructed a total of 90 kilometers of roads with another 45 kilometers ongoing. We completed key intercity roads like the Ikirun-Osogbo road while Iwo-Osogbo is ongoing.

We completely rehabilitated 31 schools with another 31 in the pipelines. We built 332 water projects while major water works at Iwo, Ede, Osogbo, Eko Ende are under rehabilitation. We focused on the health sector through Imole medical outreach which provides immediate surgeries with over 50,000 beneficiaries so far.

We address welfare needs of doctors and we have slated 345 health centers in the state for rehabilitation.

In science and tech, we introduced a digital economy agenda with new ICT and tech innovations policies. We developed a bill to domesticate the Nigeria Startup Act and launched programmes to deepen internet penetration of the state through broadband fiber optic projects.

I reformed the public service by ensuring professionalism. I launched a phased payment of inherited pension and half salary debt. I just enrolled all pensioners in the health insurance scheme. We have done a lot in just under one year.

What of other critical sectors?

I am repositioning the tourism sector into a tourism and cultural industry. A lot of work is ongoing into raising the sector as a major revenue source for Osun State. In my advocacy for positive change, I have emphasized the power of entertainment.

Our administration is actively creating an environment for the thriving of creativity.

We have revitalized key festivals, positioning them as global entertainment opportunities—from the Osun Osogbo Festival to the Sango Festival and the introduction of the Adire Festival.

Moreover, Osun State is gearing up to host significant entertainment events, including the Broadcasting Organization Awards in December and The West African University Games (WAUG) at the Obafemi Awolowo University, also in December. These initiatives reflect our commitment to making Osun a hub for entertainment.

The sport sector is undergoing major reforms. We are setting up a sports commission and expanding into other games beyond football.

In agriculture, we are working on the establishment of agric processing zones as well as further support for mechanization of farming in the state. And of course, we have restored the local government system with elections to hold a year or so.

Grassroots government is now ongoing.

For the mining sector, like I recently stated, we are recording an increase in revenue generation.

Accumulated service charges on our licenses have been cleared. We are at the tail end of upgrading our exploration leases to mining leases. This will bring more investors.

We are now operating an environmentally friendly operation. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) are now a must before mining operation. Cleaning up the polluted environment is also ongoing.

Our mining operation now has zero tolerance for environmental degradation. We have had a long drawn negotiation with mining companies operating in Osun since the beginning of the year.

I repeat, my strategy was to get Osun to genuinely benefit from her natural wealth within the federal set up. We have positive results now. We have secured shareholding with Segilola Resources Operating limited. Further earnings will soon be coming from Segilola. As part of the overall plan, we have also increased our signature bonuses in line with reality. We are indeed starting mining processing from early next year.

But how are you funding all these plans when you said you inherited a debt ridden and run down state?

I have been running a shoestring administration. We have been very prudent. I am not collecting security votes. Such funds are directed to developing the state. I deny myself many things our people call the grace of office.

My team also agreed to tighten the belt. Additionally, I block leakages in the revenue system. We ensure that state earnings are not ending up in private pockets. We also deepen the revenue base.

We look at untapped areas of revenue without imposing new burdens on the populace. We also ensure accountability and transparency in federal refunds and intervention. Federal funds outside state allocation are no longer sources of self-enrichment. We have special accounts for such funds.

But recently, a publication said you were not prudent, that your office spent several billions in three months.

That publication was false. The media confused the Governor’s office with my person as the head of government. There is more to a Governor’s office than my person and my personal office. A governor’s office has several agencies and departments. A Governor’s office also covers several operations of the entire government which is beyond my personal office.

I think the person who interpreted the budget details is either mischievous or purely incompetent. A breakdown of expenditure has been provided. I believe those behind the fake news will by now be ashamed of themselves. It is however sad that somebody like me can be so accused. I am in government to serve the people, not for self-enrichment. My family is a well-known philanthropic one. We add value to the lives of the citizens, not otherwise.

Now that you mention your family, critics said you are not in charge of the state?

(Smiles) Those saying such are ignorant of happenings in my government. I am in charge. I decide and I govern.

Don’t you take advice from your family members?

I am a listening Governor. It is the duty of a Governor to take inputs from all stakeholders. We have succeeded so far because we are not running a one-man show. So I take advice from my cabinet, the assembly, the party, my family and all well-meaning people of Osun State. But the buck stops on my table.

Your government appears to be slow in taking key decisions
(Cuts in) Democracy itself is slow.

Specifically, what is delaying the White Papers on the various committees you set up almost a year ago?

The processes have been completed. The White Papers are now on my table. The State Executive Council will soon sit to approve them for public release. I am a man of due process. Democracy itself is about rule of law and due process. We must abide by the rule.

Your Excellency, what of the case of the Chief Judge of your state?

I have duly reported the matter to the National Judicial Council. That is due process. The matter is purely a legislative issue and I played a very legal part. I forwarded the report of the assembly to the NJC. I can tell you I did nothing illegal as I have deep respect for the NJC and its members.

But why do you want the CJ removed? Is she not from your town?

Your question is wrong. I have no interest in her case. I am not behind her travails. I read the issue has to do with petitions from within the judiciary. So it is wrong to say I want her removed. That is the propaganda of the opposition.

Yes, she is from my town but I cannot shield anybody when it comes to accountability issues. You just ask me an accountability question. So that you are from my town does not mean I have to break the law to protect you.

Can it be about the Adedoyin case or question of party affiliation?

I have no close or remote relationship with the said Adedoyin. He is not a friend of my family and no member of my family or party is involved in his case. When I assumed office, the matter was already decided. The Adedoyin matter was a blackmail weapon of the opposition.

Unfortunately for them, the man in question was heavily defended by APC lawyers all through the trial. My administration still retains Mr. Falana who nailed the said Adedoyin. I am for justice and rule of law. On party affiliation, I don’t think judges belong to political parties. What I know is that due process must prevail in everything we are doing.

Are you distracted?

Never. I am as focused on the goal as anything. I have a target for one year, for two years and so on. I rate myself and my team at one year and I see we surpass the target. In politics, your opponents will want you distracted. You are the one to remain focused on the goal, serving the people.

Is your multi-billion naira infrastructure plan still on course?

Thanks so much for asking this question. The plan is very well on course. I shocked the opposition and since the day I unveiled the infrastructure plan, the opposition has been on edge, throwing all sorts of tantrums.

They are pleasantly surprised that our government has come up with such an ambitious plan. Let me restate the rationale for the plan. I inherited an infrastructure deficit close to 92 percent.

Forget all the false data paraded by the past government. Secondly, Osun needs something like a mini-development plan. And thirdly, we reasoned that we need a firm direction within the overall five-point agenda. Hence, the plan for dualised roads, flyovers, school rehabilitation, health centre upgrade, Imole medical outreach, water projects across the 332 political wards among others. We are reconstructing Osun State from scratch. Work has started in some areas of the infra plan.

Can you tell Osun people how you intend to fund the plan?

I told our people clearly that I am not going to borrow to finance the infrastructure plan. Our funding plan targets savings, expanded revenue drive, reduction in the cost of projects and reduction in the cost of government. We have created a special project account to which funds such as federal refund and related interventions are to be lodged.

One year gone, what should Osun people expect going further?

We will increase our commitment to service delivery. The infrastructure plan is a focus for implementation going forward. We will touch the lives of our people more and more. We tagged budget 2024 a budget of reconstruction and recovery. A new Osun is emerging.

“Those saying such are ignorant of happenings in my government. I am in charge. I decide and I govern”

Tell us your happiest moment in the last one year as a Governor?

I have many happy moments as a Governor. I think almost every month, our people showed me love that made me grow emotional.

The last event was the enrolment of pensioners in the health insurance scheme. Our senior citizens prayed fervently for me.

I walked among them and they felt really back to life. I cried with joy on that day.

Is the challenge facing the state over?

Far from it. The rot is too deep. One year is not enough to salvage the state. We still have many hurdles to cross.

The paucity of funds is a challenge. We can also not over -tax the people. So we are treading a tightrope. We have to pay debt, execute projects, and meet the needs of our people, all within low revenue capacity. But we have a watertight plan to take the state out of the woods.

I plead with our people for continuous support. I personally appreciate their support. We will keep doing a good job.

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