The New Governor Aregbesola/ACN Government in Osun State: How Far can It Go?
The New Governor Aregbesola/ACN Government in Osun State: How Far can It Go?
Being the Statement of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) issued on February 4, 2011
During the 2007 general elections, the Action Congress (AC) fielded Eng. Rauf Aregbesola as its governorship candidate against the then incumbent PDP governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. And very characteristic of that particular general election, the ruling PDP at the federal level and in Osun State blatantly used all foul, violent and fraudulent means to procure victories for its candidates across the country and especially in Osun State, against the wishes and aspirations of voters. Thus for 3 years and 7 months, the people of Osun State were governed by impostors and electoral robbers. This despicable situation however came to a happy end on November 25, 2010 when the Court of Appeal, sitting at Ibadan, over the legal dispute arising from the 2007 governorship election in Osun State declared Rauf Aregbesola as the duly and lawfully elected governor of Osun State through the exercise under review.
This no doubt was a spectacular legal victory for Aregbesola and the AC who had doggedly waged protracted and expensive legal battles to retrieve the stolen mandate from impostors and electoral robbers. For us in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), however, the ultimate credit goes to the ordinary working masses that voted consciously against the anti-poor and corrupt PDP government headed by Olagunsoye Oyinlola and overwhelmingly for Aregbesola and the AC, in the hope that an AC government would provide better living conditions and good governance. Lest it be forgotten, many ordinary working class elements and those who opposed the PDP actually lost their lives and or were permanently injured through acts of organized violence perpetrated by the PDP and their state-backed thugs. Tens, if not hundreds were unjustly harassed, assaulted, violated, arrested, detained and in some cases, charged to court for their audacity to challenge and or oppose the PDP gangsters against using crooked means to win the election in issue.
In this regard, the eventual proclamation of Aregbesola as the duly elected governor of Osun State through the 2007 general election is a graphic confirmation of an African adage that says that “even if lies travel for 20 years, it will only require one day for truth to catch up with it”.
The fall of the PDP government in Osun State should serve as an important lesson of history in governance for Governor Aregbesola if he hopes to positively learn from the error of the past period.
At the inception of the current civilian dispensation in 1999, the people of Osun State voted for the Alliance for Democracy (AD) now Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN). The Bisi Akande (current National Chairman of ACN) led AD government primarily lost its mass appeal with a vicious implementation of pro-capitalist, neo-liberal policies of mass retrenchment of public workers and privatization of public utilities and the generally pro-contractors disposition of its administration. We need to remind ourselves that this was what primarily provided the objective political background that enabled the right wing, the openly pro-capitalist and the most corrupt sections of the ruling class around the PDP to “capture” Osun State in the 2003 general elections. However, such was the high degree of frustration that the generality of people subsequently encountered under the Oyinlola administration in Osun State, that by 2007, the generality of the Osun masses decided to cast their lots and votes for Aregbesola, the AC governorship candidate in Osun State; who started his political activities as a radical/socialist student in his days at Ibadan Polytechnic and for several years after.
This fact, in no small measure helped to galvanize the generality of voters in Osun State who saw in Aregbesola’s candidature the prospect of ending the barren years of PDP rule. Consequently, millions of ordinary working class people and those that played special roles in voting against PDP at huge, incalculable cost to their lives and freedom, will naturally expect Aregbesola’s government to begin to take practical measures that can bring fundamental socio-economic improvement in their lives. The new governor himself obviously recognizes this fact by his promise to employ 20,000 workers in his first 100 days in power. Even though, prospective applicants for the aforementioned 20,000 jobs were restricted to those between 18 and 30 years old, about 150,000 were reported to have applied for this special scheme. This naturally raises the question of how to fund and find enough resources that government can use to implement necessary and needed socio-economic policies that would impact positively on all the citizens of Osun State.
Aregbesola has stated that his victory means the reincarnation of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) government in Osun State. Before 1979 and 1980, when Margret Thatcher became British Prime Minister and Ronald Regan, the US President, the bourgeois world and capitalist elements generally practiced what in economic parlance is called ‘Keynesianism’ that is, an economic paradigm wherein government and state sectors are expected to play an important role in socio-economic development. For ex-colonies like Nigeria, this strategy was largely inevitable and became the only practical way through which certain degree of economic, infrastructural and social development could be undertaken against the background of years of direct colonial rule which virtually left no worthwhile economic and social development and imperialism’s grip over the world economy. It was reliance on this strategy that Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the UPN used to carry out a wide-range programme of economic and social development like free and compulsory education at primary and secondary levels as well as tertiary institutions controlled by the states under their jurisdiction. It was through this approach that a considerable degree of development of infrastructural development such as roads, expansion of education and health facilities were undertaken. Of course, as socialists always argued, the implementations of this kind of programmes could not be substantially sustained within the framework of capitalism, a society run on the basis of private profit and contracts for individual of capitalist corporations. Thus in the late 1970s mounting strains within the capitalist economies produced a shift in most ruling classes’ policies as they moved towards which is called “neo-liberalism”.
This is why, in sharp contrast to the immediate post-independence years, most contemporary capitalist elements internationally and nationally, including the ACN in Nigeria, no longer believe in the Keynesian, state sector driven, socio-economic development. Today, virtually everything from elementary issues such as education, healthcare, housing, infrastructural development, to key sectors like petroleum and electricity are expected to be handed over to profit merchants, in the name of “public private partnership”. This is even though huge emergency support given by many governments in the US and Europe many banks and big companies to prevent a total collapse after the world economy went into crisis in 2007. But despite this the main trend remains that instead of massive public investments on basic socio-economic issues and infrastructure, all the ruling capitalist parties in Nigeria today, including the ACN, advocate and operate this kind of neo-liberal, pro-rich strategy that falsely expects the so-called private sector to use their own money to build roads, ports and develop and run socially vital sectors like electricity and petroleum resources. Under the guise of government spending too much money on social programmes, all the ruling parties, especially the ACN has handed over elementary tasks such as waste management to private companies who in fact cost the society ten thousand times more than when same was being handled by the government.
However, on a positive note, the new government through OYES has promised to employ 20,000 within 100 days. In the “Nation” edition of January 4, 2011, the Publicity Secretary of the Osun State Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), Olatunbosun Oyintiloye stated thus: “Over 150,000 unemployed youths have shown interests and obtained the OYES forms, as against the 20,000 spaces available. This is a reflection of the extent of deprivation suffered by the dignified and hardworking people of Osun, who desire and deserve gainful employment for their children and themselves.
He said: “Only shortlisted persons will be contacted for training and, hopefully, they will assume duties before the end of the 100 days of this administration in office.”
There are certain pertinent questions that arise on the basis of the above-cited quotation. Will the new government give jobs to 20,000 applicants at the end of the “shortlisting” exercise mentioned above? If in the best of situation that happens, what thereafter will become of those not “shortlisted”, the remainder of the over 150,000 that applied for this scheme? Will the 20,000 promised jobs be well remunerated and stable with full trade union rights for the staff as applicable to all categories of public servants? Or will it be the usual bourgeois schemes that will put more money in hands of profit merchants who would be too eager to pay poverty wages without trade union rights, why the “AGENCIES” cream off all the resources being generated by or through this kind of special schemes?
On another related fronts, Governor Aregbesola has also pledged to tackle the rot in the education sector and water shortage in the major towns within the state. In the Next Newspaper of January 17, 2011, Ogbeni Aregbesola was quoted thus on these subjects: ” ‘Education must be given the first priority. Whatever rot is there today can only be corrected by well-educated, well-grounded people,’ he said. ‘The situation of our school curriculum is very, very poor. We must give sound education to our children, irrespective of who their father is.’
“The governor also assured that his administration will address the issues of poverty, unemployment, and food security. He described as shameful that pepper, which is consumed in every home in Nigeria, ‘is imported from Maradhi in Niger Republic. What a shame that we cannot feed ourselves,’ he said.
“Lamenting the absence of potable water in Ilesa over the last two decades, the governor promised that he will ensure that water flows through the pipes of Ilesa and other major towns of Osun State during his tenure. ‘Ilesa water shortage has become legendary. Ilesa and other major towns in Osun State will have water within the shortest possible time,’ he said.”
Certainly, these are two related social needs which are desperately crying for urgent and concrete actions. Presently, the following various fees are being paid by the students of the Osun State owned tertiary institutions: Osun State Polytechnic Iree – N51, 000 (for OND) – up to N90, 000 (for HND, especially in science related courses), Osun State College of Technology, Esa-Oke – N51, 000 (for OND) -up to N90, 000 (for HND, especially in science related courses), Osun State Colleges of Education in Ilesa and Ila-Orangun – Between N15, 000 and N17, 000, Osun State University (UNIOSUN) – between N200, 000 and N350, 000 (depending on courses).
In the interim, the DSM will urge the working masses and student youths to demand that immediate actions be taken in this respect to cancel and or substantially reduce these fees with a view to ameliorate the excruciating pains being undergone by the working class students and their parents. As we write, the Osun State government has announced the decision to organize a special summit on education within the state. For us in the DSM, this is a welcome proposition. We will however, be urging that if this summit will bring any fundamental improvement within the education sector that will bring practical reliefs to the working masses, it must come up with a well articulated and executed public education program across the state. This is the only realistic way to discourage the present capitalist elements quest to turn education into a commercial commodity which only the rich and their dependants can afford. Osun State is officially described as a state of ‘living spring’, there is therefore no valid and objective reasons why the people of the state should not have access to guarantee pipe-borne water. However, as straightforward as this argument may sound, these two indispensable programmes cannot be substantially implemented and sustained within the prevailing, neo-liberal capitalist agenda that deliberately promote privatization and commercialization of socio services including healthcare, education, water, etc.
If the proposed education summit ends by leaving intact, the present status-quo wherein the public schools are grossly under-funded and their education workers poorly remunerated, then, working class people should expect to continue to carry great burden to educate their children at privately owned schools. To avoid this inevitable counter productive outcome, the DSM advocates that adequate funds be invested on healthcare, education, water, etc. However, it must be noted from the onset that unless these funds and resources are being democratically managed and controlled by the elected representatives of workers and people for whom these programmes are meant to benefit, most of the resources/funds allocated towards these goals will, based on experience, be mismanaged/stolen by their unaccountable managers. Suffice to warn, this will only reinforce the bourgeois propaganda that nothing owned by the public can flourish!
Also on another positive note, the new administration has implemented some other limited pro-working class policies in the short time it has been in power. Last year, contrary to its promise, the defunct Oyinlola PDP government failed to pay the “re-accreditation” fees of Osun State pupils that wrote their ordinary level papers in the examination conducted by National Examinations Council (NECO). In consequence, NECO had refused to release their results, thus making it impossible for the pupils to use their results to process admissions into institutions of higher learning. According to a report published by the “Nation” of January 22, 2011, Governor Aregbesola administration has now paid a sum of N21.6 million for the withheld results to be released by NECO. The above-cited report also stated: “In fulfillment of electoral promises, Osun State government under Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has paid the 13th month salary to workers in the state public service as an end to the year bonus to motivate and appreciate their loyal services. Under this arrangement, workers were paid 10% of their basic salary. The new administration has also approved the payment of N547 million as bonus for public officers in the main civil service, including teachers of secondary schools across the 30 local governments of the state. Equally, the governor has approved the payment of N61 million as leave bonus for local government staff who were also paid the sum of N18 million as end of the year bonus”.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) applaud this reported news and in fact urge the government to implement measures that can positively uplift the living standard of the generality of the Osun State people including the old and the young, workers in both public and private sectors, the poor farmers and the other poor strata working in the informal sector as artisans, drivers, Okada riders, etc.
In fact, it should be noted that the Aregbesola’s government conduct in this regard constitutes a refreshing approach compared with the viciously anti-workers dispensation of the Bisi Akande led AD (now ACN) government in Osun State between 1999 and 2003. However as a revolutionary organisation, that stands for working class democratic socialist running of the society, we advocate that the commanding heights of the nation’s economy and natural resources be publicly owned and run scrupulously on the basis of working class democratic control with the central aim of meeting peoples needs and aspirations and not just profit as under the prevailing dispensation. This in our point of view is the only realistic way to guarantee that whatever pro-masses policies being presently implemented, can be economically and politically sustained.
THE LARGER PICTURE
Right from the beginning, socialists, working class and youth leaders as well as the generality of pro-masses’ change seekers, must avoid the bankrupt, bourgeois dead-end strategy of treating development in Osun State as an isolated affair. In reality, the events in Osun State, just as in any other state, will in many decisive ways reflect the overall development economically and politically within the entire country and in fact, internationally.
With the best of intentions and notwithstanding the fact that Governor Aregbesola started his political evolution as a progressive/socialist activist, it will be impossible to implement a sustained pro-poor policies and at the same time effect a substantial development of key social infrastructures within the framework of the extremely pro-rich anti-poor, neo-liberal capitalist policies currently favoured by capitalist elements and governments world-wide including Nigeria.
Today, every socio-economic sector is in pitiable state of decay and near total collapse. Most inter and intra city roads are in deplorable conditions. Despite all the boast of building Lagos as a modern, mega city, most central roads and streets are always in deplorable condition. Of course, in dry season, especially in an election year, many of the central intra city roads could get substantially patched up to give the impression of a responsive government. Meanwhile 99% of the roads within the communities, including those originally paved about 20 years ago, have largely become bad and without any hope of their ever being paved. This is largely inevitable on the basis of public, private partnership philosophy in vogue among the ruling parties including the PDP, ANPP, ACN, APGA, Labour Party, etc. The central thrust of the argument of this pro-rich ideology is that government as a corporate entity should handover the responsibility for the development of key infrastructures such as electricity, roads, hospitals, schools, jobs creation, etc to private enterprises.
Unlike what obtained during the time when the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), led by Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was in power, during the Second Republic, when the state spearheaded the development of roads, electricity, education, healthcare, housing, etc, the current ACN leaders believe that it is the private sector that must now handle this onerous responsibility. Virtually, all the jobs and works that used to be handled by different ministries and parastatals have now been effectively farmed out to profit merchants under the anti-masses PPP formula. To promote capitalist contractors, most, if not all states, across the country have effectively killed or crippled their works ministries. Of course, the entire society is the loser in this kind of mindless game. Outrageous prices are often quoted for contracts jobs â€“ a factor that abinitio limits the number of such projects/jobs that can be done from time to time. Again, when such roads begin to show signs of wear and tear, no provision were ever made for their maintenance â€“ which from capitalist point of view is another opportunity to quote for big contracts.
Therefore, to be able to effect the necessary massive and widespread development of inter and intra state roads would require an abandonment of the private sector driven growth â€“ a.k.a “profit first” â€“ strategy presently favoured by the ACN together with other ruling parties. However, there must be the understanding from the beginning that mere publicly owned ventures and sectors that are not strictly run and controlled by the elected representatives of the ordinary masses will ultimately succumb to arbitrariness and corruption â€“ the very factor that brought about the current ugly situation.
There has to be an understanding from the beginning that a comprehensive, public and democratic plan to carry out the overall development of the cities and rural areas is the only realistic strategy that can guarantee speedy development of the economy and peoples living standard for all. Towards this goal, all the material and human resources of both the cities and rural areas must of necessity be harnessed to achieve this end. Without this kind of approach, governance would essentially remain an art of deception and repression where, continually, every government in power can always parade it own contrived achievements.
Socialists and working class elements must explain from the beginning that the jumbo salaries and allowances being earned by political office holders across the country, including states controlled by the ACN, represent a constant drain pipe that would never make possible the implementation of pro-masses’ policies on a sustainable basis.
Between themselves, less than 3,000 political office holders across the country are gulping roughly about â…“ of the annual expenditure. Included in this category are local government officers whose most visible contribution to social polity is the distribution of monthly allocations from the federal government or precisely the portion of it given to them by their superiors in the state executives when they are not busy using one bye-Law or another to harass and extort money from helpless citizens.
Suffice to say, for as long as this kind of society exists for that time would it be impossible to effect substantial improvement in the living conditions of the masses. This is because by the time all these officers collect their over-bloated salaries and allowances, there would always be very little left to address the basic needs of the masses and needed social infrastructures. Meanwhile, as a result of the prevailing pro-rich, anti-poor ideology, the most acts of governance usually undertaken by these the overpaid parasites are such that would totally mortgage public resources and wealth to profit motivated ventures that would further enrich themselves, their families and capitalist collaborators.
SELF-SERVING/DO OR DIE POLITICS
Assuming that Governor Aregbesola, based on his radical political origin, has the intention of implementing genuine, pro-masses policies, the preponderant self-serving/do or die characteristics of all Nigeria’s ruling parties including the ACN, CPC, ANPP, APGA, Labour Party, etc means that this idea would not even get off the ground. At the time of preparing this document, these ruling political parties were in the process of organizing primaries to democratically choose candidates that would represent them at all levels in the 2011 elections. Very disappointingly however, all these ruling parties from the PDP to ANPP, ACN, Labour Party including the newly formed Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), etc have all severally and collectively exhibited an uncaning pattern, without exception. All of these cited parties have only organized primaries wherein the highest bidder and those favoured by political leaders emerged as winners with virtual disregard for genuine democratic tenets.
The AC national and state leaderships in several states, unfortunately including Osun State have openly and subsequently been accused by party activists at the receiving end of widespread imposition of candidates and or nepotism in the manner in which candidates of the party for the forthcoming general election were chosen. And very tragically, the National Chairman of the ACN, Chief Bisi Akande totally justifies this undemocratic and reprehensible conducts. Recently, while addressing the media during the celebration of his birthday, the ACN chieftain had unreasonably defended the party leadership conduct being protested in the following words: “The British democracy is the oldest in the world and you cannot see political parties there conducting primary elections before choosing their candidates. They do it by picking competent hands that are trustworthy in the judgment of the party. So, we believe that elections under a democratic setting is when we are contesting with other political party during polls.
“If election within our party is what you are trying to describe as internal democracy, then we reject such idea. Can we impose when we are contesting against PDP? Party knows what people want.
“But we can do something within our party if the leadership of the party feels that that is the best thing. This is because it is the leadership of the party that understands the manifestoes of the party and knows what the people really want.
“This is not a matter of an individual but the party. Nobody should accuse ACN of imposition because that is our style. Anyone that is not comfortable with that should go and contest in another political party. So if you see anyone carrying placard around, he is wasting his time.
We know the efforts we made before the party becomes what it is today and where were they when we were making the efforts. It is when they saw that the party is popular that they were attracted to it and we don’t expect them to come and hijack the party because of their dirty money”.
Truly, anyone that fully understands the kind of elements that control and dominate all the ruling parties including the ACN, could not but sympathise with the dilemma which party leaders have found themselves. Largely due to the jumbo salaries and allowances being paid to political office holders, combined with the “profit first” neo-liberal capitalist ideology which insists that government should hands off all issues of socio-economic development, the strategy that deliberately encourages the sales of public assets and resources to private capitalist individuals and companies, there are now more individuals seeking political posts than used to be the case. For instance, in states where the ACN are in power, numerous individuals put themselves up to be elected as Party candidates.
To a large degree, many of these elements may just be new members and or those wishing to buy their way through political posts. And because these parties themselves lack genuine pro-people ideology, the various party leaders have invariably monetized the process of seeking party candidatures. Huge sums of money were collected from prospective aspirants seeking to become party candidates, without in most cases, conducting any primary elections. While most of the aspirants duped in this regard could not themselves claim to be genuinely motivated by sincere desire to serve the masses, at the same time, this does mean that most of those imposed as candidates can not be expected to genuinely serve the interest of the ordinary people. Ultimately, they should be expected to recoup in a multi-fold, the resources expended by themselves and their god-fathers to acquire their positions.
On the basis of the above enumerated issues and analysis, the new Governor Aregbesola/ACN government in Osun State should not be expected to be radically different from what we know of other state governments across the board especially those controlled by the ACN. Without the institution of a new socio-economic order, which brings to an end the regime of self-seeking profiteers and replace it with an egalitarian, democratic, socio-economic ethos wherein the basic needs of the masses for food, healthcare, housing, education, functional infrastructures, constitutes the central plank of socio-economic development. Without this kind of socio-political revolutionary change, the largest chunk of the country’s wealth and resources will always remain the exclusive preserve of the very rich, capitalist individuals and corporations, nationally and internationally.
Without this kind of socio-economic base, there would never be enough resources at the disposal of government at states and central level to genuinely implement policies that can fundamentally improve the living conditions of the masses on key issues such as food, housing, healthcare, education, jobs, etc. This is why there can be no genuine and accessible free education and quality healthcare for the working people under the prevailing socio-economic dispensation. Yes, this has not prevented the AC government in Lagos for instance and or other states from claiming to be implementing some kind of free education or free healthcare policies in their respective states. In reality however, most, if not all political office holders and the vast majority of the working class elements would not send their own children and dependants to public schools and public hospitals because of their inadequacies and poor facilities due to poor funding by the government at all levels.
For instance, the Lagos State government currently has just about 1,000 doctors in its employment â€“ for an estimated population of 15 million. The average size of classrooms in secondary schools, across the state is about 140 pupils per class, with inadequate and poorly motivated teaching and non-teachings staffs. This, it should be stressed, is responsible for the proliferations of private hospitals and schools across the state wherein working class parents are compelled to go through financial hell just to be able to give basic healthcare and education to their children. If in this kind of setting, a government continues to shout to the roof top that it is implementing free education, it should be very clear for an average conscious working class elements and youth that that claim is nothing but a false bourgeois propaganda.
However, for the DSM, the age-long and unrelenting poverty and suffering of the vast majority of the working people across the country in the midst of an inexhaustible natural and human resources deserve a much more sincere, scientific and coherent socio-political policies and actions and a genuinely pro-masses’ alternatives.
Consequently, our political interactions and relationship with the new Aregbesola/ACN government in Osun State shall be primarily conducted within the framework of the above articulated positions. We shall always be among the first to applaud every specific step or policy taken that can positively impact on the living conditions of sections of the masses. Furthermore, the DSM will always advocate and urge the government to implement more policies that can positively impact on the living standard of the people while simultaneously outlining policies and strategy which can best safeguard the interest of the ordinary masses as against those policies that would only enhance the personal wealth of individual and capitalist corporations. As part of our broad working class orientation, the DSM will always spearhead and agitate that any new national minimum wage stipulated by the National Assembly be paid by all eligible employers including state governments without the usual escapist bourgeois argument that such legislation does not apply at the state levels because of a dubious principle of federalism which political office holders do not practice when collecting their own over-bloated salary and allowances.
But, while the DSM consistently argues that the key to transforming Nigeria is the coming to power of a working and poor people’s government, the basis for this can only be a mighty movement working people, youth and the poor. This is why the DSM undertakes to always initiate and or support the struggles and quest of the ordinary working masses of Osun State, Nigeria and internationally for a truly democratic governance and society wherein the basic needs of all constitutes the central reason for the existence of government.