First Anniversary of Gboyega Oyetola/APC Osun Government: One Year of Ineptitude and Failure
• Workers must put pressure on Labour Leaders to defend Workers, Retirees and the Poor against government’s anti-poor policies
• Only a Workers-led Government on Socialist Programmes can liberate Osun and Nigeria
On 27th November, 2018, Governor GboyegaOyetola assumed office as the governor of Osun State, after a controversial and violence-ridden election in September, 2018. A year after assuming office, the state continues to wallow in underdevelopment and mass misery, no thanks to the ineptitude of the Gboyega Oyetola/APC administration, and the rotten capitalist policies being implemented by Oyetola/APC government in Osun State, and the Buhari/APC federal government. All of these policies have engendered worsening poverty and mass misery for the majority of the citizens, not only in Osun State, but nationally.
We in the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) Osun State make bold to say that the Oyetola/APC government, just like the Aregbesola and Oyinlola governments before it, has been an inept government in the last one year, with little or nothing to show, save for propaganda, grandstanding, underdevelopment and mass pauperization.
The ominous signs that the Oyetola/APC government would bring little to the people of Osun State already existed prior to the swearing-in of the government. In the first instance, Mr. Oyetola, as Chief of Staff, was a cardinal member of the immediate past Aregbesola/APC government, which implemented unmitigated poverty-inducing policies on the people of the state. Therefore, this government is more or less a continuation of this odious past. Indeed, the election campaign of Oyetola was tagged “Continuity”, which simply implied continuation of anti-poor, pro-rich policies of the Aregbesola government.
Furthermore, the election that saw emergence of Oyetola as governor was heavily monetized as billions of naira was deployed to procure votes through various means not the least through heavy propaganda and vote-buying (which was well reported by the Nigerian media). Obviously, the billions of naira used to fund campaign and vote-buying, mostly gotten from politicians and big business people, who had access to the state coffer, will be recouped in manifolds through pro-rich policies that will take money from the pockets of the already impoverished majority to the pockets of the rich few in the corridors of power and big business. Additionally, the governorship election was marred by violence and mass rigging, especially by agents of the ruling party. Given the desperation of the ruling power to hold on to power, even in the face of obvious failure, it is expected that the government will have little or nothing to offer the people of Osun State.
This reality is already clear to every resident in Osun State, as the government seems to be non-existent in most areas of governance, except through extortion of poor residents and workers, and diversion of public resources, through legal and illegal means, to private ends. Virtually, every sector of the economy and the polity is comatose, as it was left by the Aregbesola government.
Education Sector in Shambles
For instance, the public education sector is in shambles, no thanks to deliberate neglect by the Oyetola/APC government. Currently, most public primary and secondary schools are in decrepit state, with little or no facilities. There is a serious personnel crisis in most of these schools today as thousands of retired teachers are not being replaced through new employment of teaching and non-teaching staff. There is chronic shortage of teachers for critical subjects such as English, Mathematics, Biology, etc. in most public secondary schools. Most of the schools now rely on non-conventional and part-time teaching staff such as NPower Volunteers, NYSC Corps members and PTA teachers. Yet, this could not address the chronic understaffing of most schools. Significant number of handful of school construction embarked upon by the past Aregbesola government, ostensibly at over-bloated and corruption-ridden costs, seemed to have been abandoned. There is no attempt to rebuild most of the schools that are in deplorable state. Worse still, pupils and students of public primary and secondary schools are now being extorted through various means by the government, while the old but horrible practice where parents fund the schools through PTA levy has returned. What is the state of Opon Imo – a flagship white elephant project of the Aregbesola era?
The tertiary education is not left out of the rot that has defined governance in Osun State in the last one year. There has been no attempt to revamp facilities and infrastructures in most state-owned tertiary educational institutions. There is serious understaffing in ALL the state owned tertiary institutions, such that many departments have just one standard or regular teaching staff. Rather than employ more staff, the Oyetola government flirted with the idea of transferring teachers from the already under-staffed public secondary schools to tertiary institutions! Meanwhile, thousands of casual staffs, both teaching and non-teaching, who have been helping to mitigate the worst effects of understaffing, have had their meagre wages unpaid for several months, while many of them have been sacked.
The common theme in all the tertiary institutions and indeed the education sector is chronic underfunding. Industrial and funding crises in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) have continued under Oyetola government with government simply grandstanding, rather than funding the institution. LAUTECH Teaching Hospital in Osogbo, a sister institution of the university, is worse off than private university in terms of out-of-pocket funding, no thanks to underfunding by the government and its Oyo State counterpart. To add insult to injury, fees in these public tertiary institutions have been hiked through various guises, while staff and student unions are castrated by the authorities of these institutions, in an attempt to drive in commercialization policies.
Health Sector: No Improvement
In the health sector, the situation is not different, if not worse, as most health institutions, from primary to tertiary, are in deplorable state. While the government grandstand on some minimal reconstruction being carried out on some of the primary health centres funded by foreign donors, the fact that most of the health centres are in serious shortage of staff is covered up. For instance, Osun State, with over 4.2 million people, has less than 300 doctors in the employ of the state government and less than 1,000 health workers in all state health institutions. Moreover, most of the secondary hospitals, the General Hospitals, are in serious state of disrepair with most of them, aside having shortages of drugs and other essentials, are also understaffed. LAUTECH Hospital and State Specialist Hospital, which are supposedly tertiary hospitals, are inaccessible to most of the residents, no thanks to exorbitant charges and poor funding. Rather than embark on aggressive revamping of health institutions, the government wants to extort the residents to pay for its failure in the health sector, through a so-called health insurance scheme.
In terms of public infrastructure, the Oyetola government is a monumental failure. While the Aregbesola government left most of the roads in the state in terrible conditions, the few functional roads in the state have witnessed dilapidation under Oyetola/APC government. There is an attitude of deliberate neglect of roads by the Oyetola government. Virtually all the roads linking major towns and cities in the state are in terrible, impassable and dangerous conditions. The few roads that have received attention of the government are those used by the Aregbesola government to divert public resources to private ends. Money for these roads have been budgeted and collected, yet the roads were uncompleted and/or abandoned. The Oyetola government, being a continuation of the Aregbesola government, is only covering up the fraud and corruption of the Aregbesola government, through some piecemeal work on few roads abandoned by the past government.
Aside from roads, most other infrastructures are in poor state. Public water supply seems to be non-existent. The state water supply agency, Osun State Water Corporation, has become agency for levy collection rather than water supplying agency, no thanks to underfunding by the government. Majority of the residents now rely on private water supply systems that are mostly unhygienic. Mass public housing, a major challenge in the state, has received no attention from the government. Rather than embark on public mass housing programme that will provide not just planned, cheap, affordable but also environment-friendly mass housing, the government, just like its counterpart in other states regardless of political parties, prefers to hand over public lands to shylock estate businesses to profit from citizens’ nightmare.
Self-Inflicted Financial Mess
While the government claimed that the state does not have enough resources to fund many of these sectors, the reality is that this is self-inflicted, as the government is profligate, just like the past Aregbesola and Oyinlola governments. For instance, currently the government has a bloated cabinet comprising thirty-five members with many of the appointments only meant to enrich party members. This is aside countless number of assistants and other political hangers-on. An additional factor is that the state government, just like other states and the federal government, uses the fraudulent contract system to execute public infrastructural projects which leads to enormous siphoning of the state resources by contractors and their politician friends. To add insult to injury, there is secrecy in government financial activities, as most financial transactions of the government are shrouded in secrecy. For example, the details of government budgets are not available to the public, while many of the contract dealings of the governments and review of those contracts are not available for public scrutiny. The details of the 2020 budgets already sent to the state house of assembly are not available for the public.
Worse still, the government is serving as a cover up for the alleged massive corruption and misappropriation carried out under the Aregbesola government. A serious government would have embarked on public probe of the Aregbesola government, and make concerted effort to recoup billions of naira reportedly looted under various projects. But the governor himself was part and parcel of the Aregbesola government and all its dealings. Therefore, it can be safely stated that the current financial situation of the government is self-inflicted.
Currently, the state is insolvent in terms of debt burden as the state currently use more than 50 percent of its federal allocation to service more than N200 billion loans, mostly procured under the Aregbesola government. In fact, the state will have to part with more of its allocations, as the federal government starts deducting various bailout funds to states from their federal allocations. Rather than recoup all looted funds through bogus and corruption-ridden contracts that led to this humongous debt burden, the Oyetola government is only committed to handing over the state resources to big business under the guise of looking for so-called private investors. Interestingly, it was the same ‘investors’ and private big businesses, in concert with politicians that pushed the state to the current parlous state of mass misery, underdevelopment, unprecedented debt burden and financial mess. The recently-held Osun Economic and Investment Summit hosted by the state government was aimed at enriching few people in big businesses by handing control of the state resources to them under guise of attracting investors.
The government is now forcing the working people and the poor to pay for its failure. This is reflected in several extortionate policies being introduced. For instance, the government owes workers and retirees over 30 months arrears of half salaries and half pensions, yet the government is saying nothing on this. Many workers have seen stagnation in their career as there has not been financially-backed promotion in the last five years. Across the civil service now is a culture of repression and intimidation by the government against workers. For instance, dozens of local unionists and union leaders in Osun State University (UNIOSUN) who fought for better working conditions are currently being victimized by the university authorities with open support from the state government.
Also, retirees are suffering endlessly. While retirees on contributory pension, who retired more than three years ago, have not received any pension or gratuity, those on government pension enrolment have not received their gratuities for years. This is aside many anti-worker policies such as the criminal deduction without remittance of contributory pensions, cooperative payments and union dues. Under Oyetola government, payment day for salary and pension is now on the 45th day. In the last two months, local government and primary school retirees have had their pensions tampered with, as the government tried to exploit the current federal government policy on local government allocations, to underpay retirees.
Against this cheerless background, many workers in Osun State cannot even exercise any hope that they would enjoy the new national minimum wage of N30, 000. It is for this reason the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) calls on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) to immediately take steps to begin to negotiate in an open, serious and uncompromising manner with the Osun State government over the implementation of the N30, 000 national minimum wage as well as an agreement on how the backlog of the over 30 months salaries and pension being owed workers and retirees will be paid. While negotiating, the labour leaders have to be prepared to mobilize workers on strikes and protests to ensure the demands are won.
Clearly, the labour movement in Osun State must rise to the occasion of defending the interests of workers and retirees. Workers in the state need to put pressure on labour leaders (many of whom have become pawns of the Oyetola government) to defend workers’ interests or leave the stage. Workers must demand democratic congress to address all issues affecting workers and retirees in the state. Such a congress must be used to take decisive actions on all the issues affecting workers, retirees and other oppressed people.
Public Investment is the Way Out
For us in the SPN, only through mass public investment and spending on social services, infrastructures and economy can genuine economic development that will better the lives of the majority of the residents of the state be achieved. This will mean government committing public resources to rebuilding public infrastructures like roads, mass housing, water supply, etc., and expanding social services through provision of free, quality and expansive education and healthcare (preventive and curative). Moreover, an SPN government will invest in workers’ welfare by ensuring that workers and retirees are not only paid living wages, but also given better working conditions and facilities. In order to fund these programmes, an SPN government in Osun State will abolish all forms of corruption and waste in government and nationally campaign for the nationalization of commanding heights of economy such as oil and gas, banking, etc under democratic management and control by the working people in order to mobilise adequate resource and attendant increase in federal allocation.
For instance, instead of government wasting public resources on fraudulent and wasteful contract system for its infrastructural projects, the government will equip the ministry of works with adequate and modern facilities, equipment and manpower to undertake many of these projects like road construction, mass housing, school and hospital building, water work construction, etc., except in cases where additional expertise is needed. Furthermore, appointed political officers will only earn the salaries of workers, and there shall be no special perks except those that are incidental to official functions.
In addition, SPN government, through democratic public probe, will recoup tens of billions of naira looted by government officials and their private sector collaborators. Government will also invest directly in economic activities including establishing farm plantations, livestock farms, agro-allied industries, etc. Through all these, the government will not only get resources to fund its programmes, but will also provide hundreds of thousands of decent jobs, and have an integrated and planned development of the society.
In order to sustainably implement these programmes, the government will rely on mass support of the working people, youth, progressive middle class and the poor to build a mass movement to defend these radical programmes against reactionary forces that may want to sabotage and truncate them while linking up with the national labour movement and other social forces to fight for a revolutionary transformation of Nigeria under a workers and poor people’s government which can then put the country’s natural resources and wealth under democratic workers control and management.
Definitely, a revolutionary Osun State cannot be an island in the ocean of a backward Nigeria, just as revolutionary Nigeria cannot be isolated from global capitalism. Indeed, the major problems facing Osun State in terms of poverty, mass misery and underdevelopment is a national and in fact international capitalist problem. In order to resolve these problems, we need socialist revolutionary movement that changes the course of history. This will mean ending the rule of capitalism, and enthroning a socialist society where the economic mainstay will be put under democratic public, ownership, control and management and the needs of the people and society, not the profit and greed of a rich few, will form the basis of governance, production and distribution. However, this does not mean that a genuinely progressive government in Osun State cannot undertake radical economic, social and political programmes that can serve as beacon for working people and youth across the country and globally.
SPN Governorship Candidate
SPN State Secretary