Sunday, April 14, 2024

New era in Osun as Adeleke freezes govt accounts, sacks new appointees on Day One

  • We’re coming back soon – Oyetola

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Having been sworn in as the 6th executive governor of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, who hails from Ede town, has his job cut out for him. He was elected at the July 16 governorship election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party. The 62-year-old Adeleke succeeded Adegboyega Oyetola, who had finished his first and only term as governor of the state.

Adeleke had his first experience as an elected political office holder after his emergence as a Senator representing Osun West in a 2017 by-election after the demise of his brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke. During his about two years stay in the Red Chamber; the governor had argued that his constituents enjoyed various dividends of democracy, adding that his performance as a senator contributed to his victory at the gubernatorial poll.

THE FIVE-POINT AGENDA

During the governorship campaign, Adeleke said he took his time to painstakingly study the needs of the people of the state before he came up with his five-point agenda. He had said that his clear plans could offset the pains of Osun citizens and what he termed as unfavourable conditions in the state which, according to him, were necessitated by “Oyetola’s disastrous performance.”

He promised to give the welfare of workers and pensioners the attention it deserves, noting that he would ensure “first line charge for workers’ welfare, salaries, gratuities, and pensions” upon his assumption of office as governor. Adeleke assured Osun people that he would work on putting the decaying infrastructure in the state back in shape, saying unlike what happened under the All Progressives Congress government; his main interest will be Osun people and not lining the pockets of friends and cronies.

Other points listed in his agenda are, “Boosting state economy by business partnering and support for business class; Osun money serving Osun people through homegrown infrastructure policy; People-focused social policy through skill-based education, affordable health care, state security, and social security support; and agro-based industrialisation for wealth and job creation for youths and women.”

But as Adeleke settles into office, all eyes are already on him with some stakeholders already spelling out their expectations of the new governor. As a matter of fact, Adeleke has an arduous task ahead, especially considering the lean resources of the state, the debilitating debt profile amid other issues that he has inherited from his predecessor.

The Osun Debt Management Office had revealed that former governor Oyetola inherited over N200bn debt from his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola. Speaking recently, Special Adviser to Oyetola on Political Matters, Sunday Akere, argued that the state government under the leadership of Oyetola did not borrow a dime throughout his tenure despite huge achievements in infrastructure and socio-economic development. Akere added that Oyetola’s administration met its debt commitments without affecting the regular payment of salary.

One fact that nobody can shy away from is that governing Osun State seems to be very cumbersome. It is like a metal passing through a furnace. The state has a limited advantage to its credit, with the exception of enormous and abundant human and natural resources including gold and hectares of land that are agriculture-friendly.

Realistically, Osun is not economically and financially buoyant. The business orientation and prowess are low and just springing up. It has little attraction for investors and efforts needed to be made to change this long-standing trend for Adeleke to really deliver.

It’s good that one of his agendas is industrialization. This is long overdue because the state cannot boast of any industry that may gainfully engage hundreds of employable people in the state.

Since its creation on August 27, 1991, from the old Oyo State, Osun has predominantly been a monolithic civil service state. It relies solely on allocations from the federation accounts for survival.

“The new governor must be shrewd in thinking and action in order not to make more enemies and engage in political tantrums at the detriment of good governance and execution of his agenda”

Adeleke must take urgent steps to diversify the economy and make it business-oriented, just like the governor promised in his agenda.

Also, virtually all strata of Osun have axes to grind with the state government. The civil servants, pensioners, farmers, market men and women, youths and others who are aggrieved and are in need of urgent attention. The civil servants have been grumbling over their salary arrears, and a good number of them have also complained of months of unpaid and underpaid promotion arrears deductions and salary arrears. The pensioners have always dotted streets in protest against the government over months of hanging and unpaid pensions and gratuity.

In the last few months, there have been pervasive cases of cultist attacks and counter-attacks, killings and clashes in Osun. The people expect Adeleke to bring his Criminal Justice educational qualifications to bear in tackling the menace. Some farmers have complained of a lack of modern and mechanised equipment to grow their cultivations across the state. Some towns and rural communities are still under the toll of poor road infrastructure, notwithstanding the achievements of the past administrations in the sector. Some of them had also protested the deplorable state of their roads and how they had been cut off from the rest of the state.

The health sector is another major area the new governor should focus on in order to complement the efforts of his predecessor. Some of the medical facilities lack sufficient staff and there is a need to stamp out unethical practices said to have been the order of the day in the sector.

Osun has mega schools built by past administrations that have been underutilized. Some of these schools are deteriorating. The immediate past administration of Oyetola had raised the alarm over the safety of some of the mega school buildings in the state with allegations that the structures were constructed with inferior materials thus constituting a great risk to the students and teachers. Though the past administration said it embarked on integrity tests in the structures, the public did not hear anything about it again. Adeleke should look into the true conditions of these mega schools and make others up to standard.

The political class is also another group Adeleke would have to work hard to pacify in order for it to wholeheartedly work with him to deliver on his manifesto and not truncate the same by needless politicking.

The Osun State House of Assembly is about 98 percent populated by members of the APC while the local government executives are also filled with members of the opposition party. Caution should be applied by the new governor in weathering the storm for common good.

A Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo, Osun State capital, on Friday, nullified the last October 15 local government elections conducted by the Osun State Independent Electoral Commission.

Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel, in his judgment, said the election was held in contravention of Sections 29 & 32 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The PDP had approached the court asking it to stop OSIEC from going ahead with the planned polls.

Other respondents in the matter included INEC, APC and its then chairman, Adegboyega Famoodun.

The court ordered the winners of the voided exercise to vacate offices with immediate effect.

The new governor must be shrewd in thinking and action in order not to make more enemies and engage in political tantrums at the detriment of good governance and the execution of his agenda.

He must also act in a manner that won’t portray him as muzzling the opposition in the build-up to the 2023 general elections even when it was necessary that the ruling party take over the majority of the state house of Assembly and local government offices. All these are tasks that needed serious thinking and tact to subdue.

Politicking is over. As Adeleke settles in office, he now faces the reality that the state owes billions of naira in pension, salaries, arrears and gratuities and that the people are really waiting patiently to see the magic wand that would be deployed to surmount the challenge. Apart from the civil servants and pensioners, other groups like farmers, artisans, traders, students, contractors, traditional rulers, commercial motorcyclists and drivers inclusive also hope for dividends of democracy from the new administration.

CITIZENS’ EXPECTATIONS

Now that the long-awaited new government is in place, people of the state, including those in the rural areas have expressed high expectations and desire for a new dawn of improved standard of living and more democratic dividends in all ramifications and human endeavours.

Promises made by Adeleke no doubt gladden the hearts of many, especially, the workers and pensioners who are being owed salary and pension arrears. Though former governor Oyetola paid civil servants promptly, he has not been able to pay the arrears owed by his predecessor and incumbent Minister for the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.

Osun people also look forward to receiving local and foreign investors in the state which will boost its economy and provide employment opportunities for several unemployed youths which will help reduce the crime rate in the state as more people will be gainfully engaged.

Local government autonomy is another notable agitation in the state that Adeleke has pledged to address and return power to the local governments. In the state, the LGAs have been deprived of independence, thereby crippling their effectiveness as the state government dictates the flow of funds and how it is spent.

Also, some indigenes of some towns in the state that have been enmeshed in chieftaincy crises owing to unfavourable approval of monarchs made by the state government, are hopeful that Adeleke would address their challenges now that he is now in power.

Some indigenes of the state under the aegis of civil The Osun Masterminds, a society group, advised Adeleke to continue policies of the former government that are pro-people and only seek to deliver optimal results with them.

According to the Executive Director of the group, Wasiu Oyedokun-Alli, government is a continuum and thus, policies must be sustained for the greater good.

Oyedokun-Alli said, “Senator Ademola Adeleke has inherited a government that has run on frugality and prudence over the last four years. This has been particularly important because the state needed such austerity measures to ensure its survival and long-term fiscal sustainability. We first expect him to continue this practice of intentional prudence, block all financial leakages and ensure optimal utilization of the state’s resources.

“After ensuring fiscal discipline, the new Governor must also find creative ways to rapidly boost the state’s revenue through the exploitation of the state’s almost limitless agriculture and tourism potential. He must also exploit the state’s strategic geographical location in relation to other states in the South-West, to develop the state’s trade potential.

“We understand that expectations are very high, but the Governor must ensure that he manages expectations with existing realities, to achieve results that are both good for the State’s survival and necessary for the restoration of public trust in government. He must dialogue with people every step of the way and ensure the openness of his government to the people it will serve.

“It also must be stated that the Governor must seek to surround himself with only people who have proven records of professional accomplishments and are willing to truly serve the State. This is not a time to spend the state’s resources on a ‘job for the boys’ as Osun presently requires the touch of seasoned administrators who can take the state from here to the point of bliss it should be.

“It also must be stated that the Governor must not allow bitterness around him such that he will attempt to discontinue the good legacies of his predecessor. He must continue the policies of the outgoing government that are pro-people and only seek to deliver optimal results with them. Government is a continuum and thus, policies must be sustained for the greater good,” he opined.

The citizens advised Adeleke to ensure that he builds a smooth working relationship with the APC-dominated State House of Assembly that he will inherit.

“The events that happen in some states where governors mess with the independence of the state assembly to force through their own leadership must not be allowed in Osun. The incoming Governor must coexist peacefully with the State Assembly to achieve good results,” the group counseled.

Also speaking of his expectation from the new government, a resident of the state, Taiwo Adelana from Ile-Ife, said, “We want to beg the people that will work with the new governor to cooperate with him.”

Adeniji Segun, said, “Osun State is waiting for massive development and better transformation from the incoming government. May God help the new government and see them through.”

Abioye Abiodun, also from Ile-Ife, noted that “the new government is going to bring an end to the imposition of kings in our towns in the state.”

For Dapo Oyegbade, a resident of Osogbo, “Governor Adeleke should fill his cabinet with professionals and technocrats. He should know that if party members who are not knowledgeable about the task they would be given take over crucial offices, that would be the beginning of his failure.”

Abdul Oluwafemi from the Ilobu community, said, “I want to urge the new government to be transparent in its dealings. They should also allow peace.”

Another, Kazeem Afolagboye from Iragbiji, urged Governor Adeleke to focus more on youths and women and then maintain a cordial relationship with the legislative arm.

Another resident of the state from Aagba, Demola Olagunju, said “Governor Adeleke should perform very well because the expectations of us, the people of Osun, are very high and he can’t afford to disappoint us.”

The Chairman of Adeleke’s Transition Committee and a prominent chieftain of the PDP, Bunmi Jenyo, has said that the first thing Governor Adeleke would do in office would be a review of all that they have met on the ground, feed members of the public on their findings and then hit the ground running.

“We know that the people are expecting much and God willing, we will keep to our promises. We won’t disappoint the people on the five-point agenda of Senator Adeleke”

Jenyo promised the people of Osun that their sufferings would be over soon, maintaining that Adeleke’s administration would not let them down.

He said the new administration would adopt the governance of former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola for the good of the masses.

He said, “Osun State is bankrupt economically, socially and it’s God that will revive Osun State through Senator Ademola Adeleke. Osun State is going to be the new Israel from Sunday because suffering will be over.”

On how to fulfill their promises as a political party and government, he said, “the new government will look at cost and effects. The backlog of salaries and others will be reviewed and at every process, we will keep the citizens posted and we will carry all citizens along and give them daily and weekly information about what we met on the ground.

“We know that the people are expecting much and God willing, we will keep to our promises. We won’t disappoint the people on the five- point agenda of Senator Adeleke. We will repeat the good old days of PDP during Oyinlola’s administration. We will plan well and make the people happy.”

Jenyo, a former Zonal Secretary of PDP South-West, urged the APC lawmakers currently occupying the State Assembly, to show loyalty to the state government rather than their political party, stressing that they were voted to represent their constituencies and not political parties.

On how the new government would relate with the State House of Assembly filled with APC members, he said, “you, as an individual, were elected to look after the citizenry and not to look after the party. There is a difference. All the state lawmakers must see themselves as representatives of citizens of their constituencies and representing Osun State and not a political party. They must be loyal to the state and that’s what the constitution requires and that’s what they swore to. So, I don’t expect them to do anything otherwise.

“Remember, when PDP was in government, we had APC in the House of Assembly and we managed the situation. We didn’t throw them into the bin. We managed the government together during Oyinlola and the same thing must happen here. Things are changing, we are not living in the 50s, 60s, 70s again, we are in the 2000 era, so, people should change their orientation. The opposition and ruling parties abroad, sit, wine and dine together, the same thing should happen in Nigeria. We should leave politics of bitterness. I won’t expect anybody from the House of Assembly to work against the state government that they swore to be loyal to. It’s expected that they should be loyal to the state and to their constituencies. So, I don’t foresee any problem because we relate as usual. In fact, they will get more benefits from Ademola Adeleke than before,” he assured.

When asked if he was confident about his party taking over the leadership of the Assembly or taking over the majority of seats in the forthcoming general elections, Jenyo said, “you can see by the election we did on July 16, we have already taken over and that will be repeated and improved on. We won in several local governments. We are not looking at the margin but the spread. We will hit the ground running and the performance will reflect during February and March elections,” he noted.

One thing Adeleke should not negotiate is his fairness to all Osun indigenes and residents regardless of their political and religious beliefs in delivering dividends of democracy to the state.

How pragmatic this would be is difficult to tell as a result of the deep-seated politics of winner takes all that had become a fad in Nigeria.

With an expression of doubts by the APC concerning his ability and capability to perform outstandingly, and the seemingly forlorn hope being displayed by the citizens, Governor Adeleke must walk the talk to convince skeptics that he has what it takes to take Osun out of the doldrums.

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