OSUN STATE UNDER OYETOLA/APC RULE: HOW WORKING PEOPLE AND POOR ARE BEING SHORTCHANGED AND EXPLOITED
By Alfred Adegoke, Coordinator, DSM Osun State
By 27th November 2020, Governor Gboyega Oyetola/APC led Government in Osun State will be two years in office. No one needs a soothsayer to know that there is nothing significant to show for it in terms of human and physical development of the state, yet the government is eager to score itself high in a grandstanding of propaganda. However, one will not need to look through a crystal ball to decipher that all the grandstanding of government are mere publicity stunts aimed at covering up a regime of pro-rich and anti-people policies as well as the super exploitation and oppression of the working people and poor masses of Osun State.
It is therefore imperative for the mass of the working class, youths, women and activists to understand that the Governor Gboyega Oyetola led/APC Government has actually short-changed the working masses of Osun State. Given the fact that the present regime is a continuation of the previous Aregbesola/APC administration, (Governor Oyetola was Aregbesola’s Chief of staff), the working masses are bound to start to draw necessary conclusions that the ruling class have perpetually failed them. Sooner than later, they will be forced to look for solutions and take actions on what is to be done to end the continuation of their exploitation and oppression.
It will be recalled that all along, the successive governments in Osun state have failed to deliver the goodies. The Bisi Akande/Alliance for Democracy (AD) government was kicked out in 2003 after the first term following a horrendous attack on the working class. The Oyinlola/Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government was also kicked out after first term but it managed to force a three and half years of illegitimate rule on the state amidst stiff resistance. Ogbeni Aregbesola, who came in on a mass movement, lost all the goodwill within a short while. Though narrowly winning a second term, he was unable to symbolize the hope and aspiration of the Osun State masses. After eight years, such was the unpopularity of Aregbesola government that the All Progressive Congress (APC) would need an inconclusive manipulation to parry their man, Oyetola, into power after losing the first round of voting to the PDP candidate. These are the continuous challenges of the failure of the successive sections of the ruling class from time to time that the masses of Osun state have to contend with up till the current moment. Has Oyetola been different? The answer is a capital ‘NO’ and the reasons are not farfetched. Let us take a brief look at what is being touted as achievements of Oyetola/APC government so far as a pedestal of measuring why he cannot deliver on the yearnings and aspirations of Osun state masses.
Though the list is slim, yet Governor Gboyega Oyetola/APC led Government and its media cronies still manage to claim some form of achievements consisting mainly of the following: (1) Purported payment of full salaries, (2) Renovating some roads and (3) Revamping Primary Health Centres. A sober reflection is all that is required to see through this façade that in the real sense the so-called achievements are only a smokescreen to cover up failure of governance of a pro-rich, anti-poor, exploitative and oppressive government.
No Meaningful Achievement on Salary and Pension
How can a regime claim that its achievement is payment of workers’ salaries? This can only happen in a warped system like Nigeria’s neo-colonial capitalist system where for instance in Osun State government did not implement the new N30,000 minimum wage, and where categories of workers and retirees are been owed 30 months’ arrears of half salaries and pensions. Working people in Osun State must reject this backward approach and demand that workers are entitled to their full salaries as and when due as a matter of right and not privilege. Salary is the hard earned labour and legitimate earnings of the workers. To deny workers their salaries and pensioners their pension is only an act of government wickedness. This must be condemned in unequivocal terms.
30-months’ Arrears of Half-salaries/Half-pensions, and Non-implementation of the N30, 000 Minimum Wage
In the real sense the claim by the Oyetola government that it is paying full salaries and pensions is only a half-truth. As earlier stated Government still owes workers and public sector retirees 30 months arrears of half salaries and half-pensions. For more than 30 months, the previous Aregbesola government was paying workers and retirees half of their salaries and pensions. In fact, Mr. Oyetola, who was then the Chief of Staff to Aregbesola was the brain behind this odious policy. Unfortunately, despite opposition by the DSM, workers, and retirees, the labour leaders, treacherously signed into this arrangement. This policy subsequently ruined the finance of many workers and retirees, most of whom could not meet their daily needs. The gory tales are better imagined than experienced. Since then, both the Aregbesola and Oyetola governments had refused to offset arrears of the half-salaries and pensions. Labour leaders, especially in the central labour centres, have also maintained silence.
Furthermore, the government has refused to implement the thirty thousand naira minimum wage approved since mid-2019. The government, in a dubious manner, claimed to have set up a committee last year to review how to implement the new minimum wage. But the government, in connivance with pliant labour leaders, only used this to buy time, and deceive workers. Thus, Osun State workers are some of the least paid workers in Nigeria today.
Aside the issue of non-payment of arrears of half-salaries and half-pensions, and non-implementation of N30, 000 minimum wage is the continuation of illegal, oppressive and exploitative policy of withholding deductions made from workers’ salaries without remitting same to appropriate quarters. These include contributions to cooperative societies, bank loan servicing, trade union dues and contributory pensions’ deduction.
The non-payment of pension and gratuities continue and it now appears to be politicized. Or how can one explain a situation where government designed a disingenuous way of paying some thousands of Naira to people you are owing millions individually? The seed of the wickedness is now been sowed for the future retirees because government is not remitting its counterpart funding to pension managers. This means that when the next layer of workers retires, there will be no money to pay them as the government has eaten up their future by withholding deductions and not remitting their counterpart funding to the pension scheme. The DSM has always demanded that salaries and pensions should not be toyed with being working peoples lifeline but the wicked capitalist regimes appears to have turned a deaf hear.
Another gory tale is the state of recruitment and promotion. The last time any reasonable recruitment was made in the system was since 2008, 12 years ago. Since then, workers have been promoted but the pathetic tale is that the promotions are not backed monetarily. The result is that workers are promoted to a higher scale without earning the money for that salary structure. How can government foist this wicked money-less promotion on its workers? This wicked system was implemented by the Aregbesola regime and now continued by the Oyetola regime just as many anti working people measures that has spelt doom and misery for working class families.
Behind all these attacks is the duplicitous character of the labour leadership in the state, which has made itself an annex of the government, helping government to implement all anti-worker policies. Workers and retirees must rise in unison to demand for practical immediate actions from their unions. It is on record that workers and retirees in the state have a rich history of struggle against oppression, exploitation and bad governance since the military era. They must bring to bear now.
What of roads?
Contrary to the false claim by the Oyetola Regime on road construction, it is no gainsaying that nothing is happening with roads. In Osogbo the state capital, the Eastern –Bye pass Ring-road was one of the projects with which the former Aregbesola government plunged Osun into over several billion naira debt. The road itself was awarded at such a staggering sum of about 500 million naira per kilometre. No one needs a soothsayer to know that it is a means of cornering public money into private pockets. Yet Aregbe did not complete the road after spending 8 years in government. One would have normally expected Oyetola government to probe the non-completion but because Oyetola was the chief of staff and a partaker in the massive mismanagement under Aregbesola government, he merely continued to plunge Osun money by claiming it has mobilized contractors back to work but only to do half lane of the uncompleted ring road leaving the road yet uncompleted after almost 10 years (8 years of Aregbesola and almost 2 years of Oyetola).
The deceit of road construction in the state is laughable. In Osogbo for instance, the only road constructed, among litany of abandoned local roads in the communities is at Akindeko Area of Alekuwodo, one of the ward where the 2018 inconclusive elections was held (as if to compensate for hosing the rerun). That is the only area of road reconstruction in Osogbo and is only a few stretch. In Ede, what Oyetola Government can boast about is only the less than one kilometer Oke Gada Road. How can any responsible government be presenting these as achievement? These type of roads are what a local government should do humbly without beating its chest yet; these are the so-called major achievement of Oyetola/APC state government. This is deceitful and condemnable. We demand that the Oyetola Government embark on the total reconstruction of the community roads in all nook and crannies of the state through public works programme to end the abysmal state of the roads leading to unwarranted accidents and deaths.
Another cheap publicity being touted by government is the renovation of primary health centres across the state. However the truth of the matter is that the project is financed by multilateral agencies. The further truth is that it is only physical renovation that is being done, which only provide quick money for contractors, most of whom are cronies of the government.
Apart from the fact that the regime cannot claim full responsibility for the project, the government is not interested in good health for its citizen otherwise we would ask Oyetola how many doctors, nurses and health workers have been employed to operate these ‘refurbished’ health centres. In all, Osun State public health system can only boast of about 300 doctors and about 1000 health workers. Hence what is going to be the fate of renovated health centres without adequate doctors and health workers? Worse still, medical and health workers under the employ of the state are some of the poorly paid in Nigeria. Government can only foist quackery in the absence of qualified doctors and health practitioners to man health facilities. There must be an end to the rottenness of the system.
Government Handling of the COVID-19
If anybody was in doubt that the Governor Gboyega Oyetola/APC government has something good to offer for the state such illusion must have been eroded by the mishandling of the COVID-19 lockdown and the deceitful politics with palliatives. How can government lock people down without any reasonable provision knowing fully well that the overwhelming majority live from hand to mouth on a daily basis? That was exactly what Governor Oyetola did locking the state down through executive proclamations without any programme for any palliative for needy families.
After hue cry of sufferings the Governor announce some palliative measure like a presenter without formation of any democratic committee from within the community but some riotous distribution of some ridiculous and insulting rice which the needy fought tooth and nail to get one or two cups of rice only to find out that spoilt rice is also distributed.
DSM has called among other things for democratic committees to be set up and composed of elected representatives of the trade unions, working masses and youth from the within the communities; payment of fifty thousand Naira for needy families; payment of one hundred thousand Naira as hazard allowance for workers in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic as well as provision of personal protective equipment. However, the Oyetola regime failed woefully to meet any of our demands. A proactive government could have taken over the Omoluabi Garment Factory (where Aregbesola plunged state’s resources) and placed it under democratic workers control and management to provide personal protective equipment like face masks. The government will not do this because their friends and agents who own factories, hospitals or pharmacies are benefitting from high price of PPE, etc., while public resources that should be used to procure these safety kits are cornered by politicians in power. The masses have to seek alternative means which are often unhygienic and counterproductive. This problem would have been solved if Omoluabi Garment is taken over with massive employment of tailors and provision of materials to enable massive production and availability but the government will not take this steps because it is pro-rich and pro-capitalist.
Before Aregbesola left, school fees have been increased in tertiary institutions beyond the reach of working class families while series of charges were being introduced in public secondary schools. For example some students at the Osun State University pay as much as three hundred thousand naira per year, or more, as school fees just to stay in school without feeding, upkeep and transportation. This is in a state where the N30, 000 minimum wage is not being implemented. All the tertiary institutions are in turmoil with the victimization of their union leaders for example because the Non Academic Staff Union (NASU), UNOSUN chapter protested against the allegations of corruption they levelled against the Prof. Popoola-led management, the leaders of the union are been victimized and even charged to court.
All the tertiary institutions have not witnessed any infrastructural development or proper maintenance during Aregbesola time and now under Oyetola government; just as recruitment has been stagnated since 2008, 12 years ago. Currently, an industrial crisis is brewing in the state owned tertiary institutions as the lecturers’ unions in the state-owned tertiary institutions under the banner of the Council of Academic Staff Unions of Osun State Owned Tertiary Institutions (CASUOSTI) has since 9th June sent a petition to the Governor over payment remittance of deduction; just and fair implementation of 65 years retirement age; payment of 30-month salary arrears; financial effects of national promotions and annual increment; Staffing, contributory pension scheme, among other demands. It is however not expected that government will accede to the appeal given the fact that government knew all along that it is deliberately implementing a wicked agenda.
What is to be done? Only struggle of the working masses can guarantee victory
To expect the Governor Oyetola-led APC led government to accede to an appeal will be a tall dream given its antecedents as the brain behind the Aregbe regime and its claim to continuity of that era. Though the easiest thing is for government to change from its wicked ways and pursue a new leaf thereby saving everybody all the trouble but because of the class interest of the governor and the capitalist elite, they will first protect their own interests instead of that of the downtrodden masses. Oyetola will be expected to cover the deeds of the past regime even as people has been asking about what happened to the two helicopters bought with Osun money or how far with Airport money etc.
It should therefore dawn on all members of the working class, their youth, women and aged that only struggle through mass actions can deliver the goodies through strikes and mass protest on government to do what is right. Unfortunately for the labour movement, the central leadership, particularly of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC) in the state, appears to have turn themselves over as tools for the government and will not take any concrete action in face of this atrocious situation.
It is therefore important for the rank and file members of organized labour and all the unions willing to struggle to mount pressure on their leaders to call a warning strike to press home the demands as part and parcel of efforts to build a united action to achieve the demands. In the same vein, Labour activists will need to work effectively with civil society organizations to give necessary impetus and direction for the struggle ahead. This can take the form of initiatives from below like leafletting, mass meetings and symposium to organise and galvanise workers into actions. This however has to be linked to a longer term programme to rebuild the unions as democratic platforms of struggle with a fighting leadership.
For us at the DSM, we will always be there to give our physical and moral support for the struggle of the working class youth and the communities. We know fully well that no pro-capitalist government can ever deliver for the working masses, given the selfishness and greed of the system whereby the preoccupation of the ruling elites is to siphon of public money to private pockets through juicy contracts and other means. Hence, to win any concession the working class must be prepared to struggle for it.
In the long run, Osun State workers and the poor must understand that there is no hope under the capitalist system and for their emancipation they must start the process of building a mass movement armed with a rounded out socialist perspective . The working people will have to take their own destinies in their own hands as the political elites cannot be allowed for the umpteenth time to continue to deceive them to be patient. It is the future of the working people and the destiny of their children that the ruling class is destroying today. The time to stop the rot is now. The DSM calls on those interested in fighting for a better society to join us in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) to be part of the necessary work to fulfil the above perspectives.