ONE YEAR OF AREGBESOLA’S ERA
ONE YEAR OF AREGBESOLA’S ERA
How Well Have The People Fared?
By Alfred Adegoke
November 27 marks the first anniversary of the coming to power of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola as Osun State Governor pursuant to the well acclaimed judicial victory ending the tyrannical but illegitimate second term regime of the ousted Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ex-governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola .This victory sent the state into wild celebrations.
One year after, the promises made by the Governor during the 2007 elections are begging for attention, if they are not out rightly perverted and derailed; making the mass of the working and oppressed people of Osun State to wonder whether they have not been short-changed by the new government, vis-Å•-vis the electoral promises and the contemporary challenges. The Democratic Socialist Movement, especially in our first comment on the Aregbesola government when it emerged (February March 2011 issue of Socialist Democracy (SD), has long warned that the mass of the working and oppressed people can only rely on their own strength and not look forward to messiah from pro-capitalist politicians, given the selfish and pro-profit nature of capitalism and the fact that there cannot be half way measures to change.
Many of the promises made by the Governor are yet to be fulfilled or meaningfully addressed. The Osun Youth Employment Scheme (OYES) is one of the most visible examples of the Governor’s electoral promises to provide gainful employment to 20,000 youths. Contrary to claims by the state government, the ACN and their apologists, the OYES scheme has not drastically reduced youth unemployment in the state. Instead it has exposed the real extent of youth unemployment in the state and the urgency for a real programme of massive investment in job creation by the government to absolve the growing army of unemployed. In the first instance, over 250,000 youth applied for the scheme, many of whom are unemployed graduates including Master’s degree holders. Only 20,000 of them were employed. Then the pertinent questions to ask are: What happens to the remaining 230,000 unemployed youth? What happen to the hundreds of thousands of others who did not subscribe to the OYES scheme but still require jobs?
More disheartening is the dehumanizing condition to which the OYES members are subjected. For instance, they are made to sweep the gutters and collect refuse or cut bush with bare hands or armed with antediluvian implements like brooms and cutlasses! Despite the health hazards of their jobs, they are not provided with any safety kits, not even an ordinary hand glove! Given the overall slavish condition with which the OYES scheme is being conducted, the 20,000 youth currently employed under the scheme cannot be said to be gainfully employed.
DSM demands that the Government stop the casualisation of the OYES by paying the participants the minimum wage and integrating them into the civil service with full rights to unionise. We also make a similar demand for the Oyin Corps who suffer a similar fate. As far as we are concerned, the N10,000 slave wage is in outright contravention of the Minimum Wage Act which stipulates the minimum wage of N18,000 for any employer of labour employing more than 50 (fifty) employees.
We also make the point that full and gainful employment is possible only under a completely pro-masses government devoted to using the state resources primarily for the purpose of improving the living standards of the majority. This kind of pro-masses government will be required to launch a radical program of massive investment in job creation by establishing industries, mechanizing agriculture as well as setting up agro-allied industries, expanding health care and educational facilities, empowering the works department to be in complete charge of rehabilitation and construction of roads, housing and bridges etc.
If this kind of program is carried out by the state government under the democratic control of the working people and without succumbing to the fraudulent capitalist illusion in the private sector as the driver of development or the more dubious idea of Public Private Partnership (PPP) and/or awarding contracts to thieving politicians masquerading as contractors, hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created in just a few years. Unfortunately despite Aregbesola’s alleged self-acclaimed righteousness, his government remains encircled by thieving politicians, ten-percenters and profit-hunting contractors whose main interest is to loot the state’s treasury. To that extent and also because Aregbesola himself remain glued to capitalist illusions of the private sector as drivers of economic development, many of his electoral promises, some of which are quite laudable, will continue to fall short of the expectations of the impoverished masses.
Perhaps nowhere highlights the anti-poor character of the supposedly pro-masses government of Aregbesola than his response to the minimum wage struggle and the strike action of academic and non-academic staff of tertiary institutions in the state. The month-long strike of the NLC and TUC in August/September 2011 for the nationally agreed N18,000 minimum wage ended with the payment of a relativity wage which is a far cry from the Minimum Wage Act and indeed fall short of what are being paid in other states e.g. Ogun, Oyo, etc .
While the struggle for the minimum wage is not yet concluded, given the grand conspiracy of the Federal Government and the Governors Forum to frustrate the Act however, the lessons are clear that no matter how high sounding pro-capitalist politicians can appear; they will never be eager to voluntarily grant concession on standard of living indices e.g. minimum wage to the working masses because of their selfish desire to put huge resources aside for their self-serving interests and that of the capitalist class.
In this the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in Osun State is not different. We have always argued that workers must fight for a socialist society where the collective interests of the mass of the working people will be the primary aim of government for good and modern standard of living as an alternative to the greedy and corrupt interest of bourgeois political parties for profit and primitive accumulation of capital.
O’Clean Programme purportedly for environmental sanitation has become another means of oppression through flagrant violation of fundamental right of Nigerians to movement with a compulsory restriction on movements for three hours between 7am and 10 am every Saturday. This dictatorial tendency is reminiscent of inglorious military era of the past when the military Government started labelling Nigerians as undisciplined and need force to comply with environmental sanitation. It is ironical that the civilian ruling extraction has no other alternative than to resort to military brigandage of flagrant violation of people’s right.
The oppression of capitalism is not accidental; it is a major tactic of keeping the people subjugated and backward. If not, how can one explain a situation where for 90 days by the proclamation of the Governor, movement of citizens are restrained ,the markets and companies on Thursday morning were closed with schools observing a similar exercise on Friday mornings while on Saturday grand finale total restrictions of movement for three hours all within a week. At the end of the 90 days so -called emergency, the state is now subjected to twice a month of perpetual restrictions of movement two Saturdays every month between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. This is too oppressive and the people of Osun State must reject such a backward action.
Freedom of movement is sacrosanct and the 1999 Constitution even guarantee this freedom which shall be unfettered except in times of emergency like attempt to bringing a criminal to book. Restriction of movement is like criminalization of otherwise innocent citizens .It must be stopped now. The bare hand and broom method being used by OYES workers to clean the streets is not helping matters; it has turned the streets into filth of refuse dumps. If government means well, it should make refuse collection containers to be emptied from time to time mechanically.
The DSM has condemned the restrictions on this account, given the high loss of manpower vis-Å•-vis the level of poverty and collapse of social infrastructure, apart from the abuse of fundamental human rights. An area to show government’s insensitivity about environmental sanitation is water .Water is the bedrock of environmental sanitation. But for one year, Aregbesola has not been able to do anything meaningful on potable water. Millions of naira was voted for borehole in a few communities, this can only mean jobs for the boys without any impact on the state of water.
If government simply pump and maintain existing traditional water supply facilities which have collapsed since 1999 till date, there will be some form of relief for the mass of working people who are burdened with finding improvised alternatives to the collapse of public infrastructures and services, including potable water supply. But government will not attend to pipe borne water provision but the backward system of borehole where people are expected to walk long distances to fetch water! The dams and pipes are already laid down; all they need is maintenance and expansion.
But this attitude is not limited to water alone, the same attitude goes to road which is in a deplorable condition but government has now contracted it out to private road construction companies. It is amazing that the Governor who prides himself as a works man cannot turn around the Works Department but simply turn himself to agent of private companies whose main interest is profit, hence milking the Osun State resources dry. One could have expected the Governor to swing into action by equipping the works department with functional machinery and motivated labour force for the qualitative expansion of major roads in the state and repairs of others; but his pro-capitalist, pro-big business orientation will never allow this to be! Aregbesola, just like his other pro-capitalist politicians cannot fundamentally improve the conditions of the masses because of their orientation towards primitive accumulation, hence it is only through mass action and pressure can the mass of the working class achieve minimum political and economic concessions from the regime.
On education, the Governor promised to reduce the fees being paid at Osun State University and other tertiary institutions; this the Governor did by around 40% decrease. However, this has left many students at Osun State University paying over N200, 000 per session. This is in a state where the Governor has not implemented the N18, 000 minimum wage scale across board. As we go to press, the workers in the state-owned tertiary institutions are yet to fully call off their 5 month old strike due to government’s failure to accede to the salary increase demands; with the excuse that the government will accede to the demands when the resources of the state improve. This was the same excuse used to end the NLC/TUC strike. Yet, the governor himself has disclosed at one of the functions to mark the first anniversary that the administration has kept about N32bn unspent! It is unthinkable that the state has such huge money while the higher institutions are closed for months and infrastructures are in deplorable state.
This confirms what we have been saying that at disposal of the government are lots of money from oil windfall aside massive material and natural resources, which can be used to transform the state within a short period only if the government will exercise the political will to do so but for their commitment to neo-liberal capitalist programmes which places the profit interest of the rich over the welfare interests of the working and toiling masses. This accounts for the plan of the state to distribute about 150, 000 computer tablets to students from SS1 to SSS 3 in the state. On the surface this appears a laudable programme, but in reality it is a misplacement of priorities and sheer waste of the public funds. Most public schools are housed in dilapidated building and with overcrowded classrooms.
Therefore, the resources for acquisition of the computer tablets would have been better used as a part of funds to make the schools conducive for quality education with building of more classrooms and repairing the dilapidating ones, providing adequate chairs, building functional and well equipped laboratories, libraries, computer study centres as well as toilet facilities and well-motivation of teachers. If the government had conducted needs assessment with involvement of teachers and students in the decision making it would have found out providing computer tablets which students cannot even take home to practice and could be stolen within the school premises is among the least on the priority list of the schools.
FIGHT FOR GENUINE WORKING PEOPLE ALTERNATIVE
The Labour and pro-masses organizations have to form a platform to resist the anti-poor policies and agitate for a better deal for the poor working masses from the government. It is unfortunate that most of the organizations and individuals in the struggle against the anti-poor government of Oyinlola are now dining and wining with Aregbesola administration. We need a new platform of principled fighters of the working masses and not the machineries who could be bought by the government.
We call on workers, artisans, traders youths and students, etc to join DSM and actively participate in the struggle against anti-poor policies and the campaign for building of a political party of the mass of the working class on a socialist programme but at the state and nationally. We need such party that could commit the resources of the society for the benefit of all while in government.
We campaign that such a party while in office will build a working people government that will ensure that political officer holders are placed on average salaries of skilled workers as against the outrageous jumbos pays the top governments pay themselves. The works departments are well-equipped and staffed with democratic management and control of workers and relevant professionals to carry out projects as against contract system which is a drain on public resources. Ultimately, the party should be formidable enough to stop the rot of capitalism and put the commanding heights of the economy under public ownership with democratic management and control of the working people themselves.
None of the existing major political parties in the country can undertake this historical task of liberating the mass of working and oppressed people from the clutches of poverty and misery. If anything, the one year of Ogbeni Aregbesola administration has underlined this fact more than ever.