ADELEKE/PDP’S GOVERNMENT IN OSUN STATE: Can it Deliver?
After four years of rudderless leadership, the Oyetola government has been replaced by a new government of Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). This is of course with a caveat: the possibility of the judicial overturning of Adeleke’s victory. Whatever happens however, nothing can change the fact that Oyetola is the first sitting governor in Osun State history to file a petition at the Election Petition Tribunal after his defeat in the 2022 guber polls.
By Alfred Adegoke, Coordinator, DSM, Osun State
Oyetola was so unpopular after his electoral defeat that his government’s organized sham called local government elections was overwhelmingly boycotted with his party, All Progressives Congress (APC), becoming the only contestants in the election. So terrible was the so-called local government election that people, for the first time, were asked to tick a ‘Yes or No’ ballot papers by the state electoral body, OSSIEC. This is the same Oyetola government that refused to conduct local government election for four years. This is aimed at scoring a sadistic point against the then incoming Adeleke/PDP administration, and pretending to his party faithful that power is still within their reach.
Meanwhile Adeleke only promised good governance for the people without any concrete particulars as to what his good governance entails. Though he promised to enter into discussion with the pensioners and also end the era of capital flight from Osun State to Lagos which was reportedly rampant during both Aregbesola and Oyetola administrations. However, as events would soon demonstrate, the challenges facing the working masses is beyond these ephemeral promises.
DEMANDS OF THE WORKING PEOPLE FROM THE NEW GOVERNMENT
As socialists we are convinced beyond any reasonable doubt, that no pro-capitalist government can deliver fundamentally on the needs, hopes and aspirations of the working people because of the selfish nature of the capitalist system which put greed and profits of moneybags first above the well-being of the toiling masses. The Ademola Adeleke government is expected to be a pro-capitalist government where government business will be contracted to private individuals for profits leading to huge public money finding their ways into private pockets of few politicians.
Be that as it may, the working people of Osun State must however be on the alert if they want to get anything out of the Adeleke’s government in spite of the euphoria that greeted his victory. This is not new, when Aregbesola came into power, he was welcomed with almost a victorious movement of workers and the poor. However, Aregbesola, with his capitalist policies, squandered this huge goodwill within a short period while unleashing on the state a plethora of anti-worker and anti-poor policies alongside an enormous debt burden.
RECOVER LOOTED FUNDS
Under Aregbesola and Oyetola governments, all the projects for which money had been substantially paid for were either uncompleted or abandoned. This includes abandoned airport project, uncompleted Osogbo-Gbongan road, uncompleted ring road east bypass, uncompleted Osogbo-Ila Odo road, abandoned International Market at Dagbolu, Opon Imo project, etc. Currently, the whereabouts of the two helicopters purchased with Osun State money is unknown.
If Adeleke will take government business with any seriousness, his first mission is to recover all the looted funds and properties of Osun State back into the public coffers. That is one of the ways he can mobilize resources to deliver on the needs of the working people if his own government too will not re-loot any recovered loot. The money already paid for abandoned projects or looted properties run into tens of billions of naira. The working masses must insist that it must not be business as usual. A democratic probe committee comprising representatives of workers, youth, community groups and relevant professional groups must be set up to help recover the looted funds.
ON SALARY AND PENSION ARREARS
While the new governor promised to enter into discussion with pensioners over unpaid pensions and gratuities, workers must insist that it must go beyond ordinary discussion. He must make concrete proposals on how to settle the horrendous bill of unpaid pensions and gratuities. And he must equally immediately commence the payment of the 30 months half salaries arrears. By ending fraudulent allocations such as humongous N500 million monthly security vote, huge emoluments for political office holders, and wasteful contract system, more money can be mobilized to offset the salary, pension and gratuity arrears.
ROADS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
But that is not all, all the roads in Osun State are in a bad state. We of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) have always maintained that if the money that should accrue to the local governments alone is monitored and spent on local roads and infrastructure, most of the roads in the state would not be in their current bad shape. But instead of implementing a mass works programme which is even possible under the present system of capitalism, the capitalist political elite prefer to siphon public money into their private pockets through inflated and corrupt contracts. This is “stealing by government” (apology to Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti). The working people must insist that this stealing must end.
Aside roads are other infrastructure and social services that are in deplorable conditions. For instance, despite the so-called O’School projects, where some handful schools were rebuilt at criminally inflated cost under Aregbesola government, facilities in most of public schools are in sorry state. Even some facilities in the O’School schools have collapsed. Oyetola government completely abandoned the education sector, with no visible project in any public schools and tertiary institutions. Working people and youth must demand an emergency crash programme for the immediate renewal of facilities in public schools and tertiary institutions.
Working people and youth must also demand immediate reversal of hiked fees in educational institutions, especially at the tertiary level. All fees must be reversed to their pre-2007 level. This must be complemented with adequate funding of these schools. Aside providing infrastructure, government must also employ more staffs in the tertiary institutions. But can Adeleke, whose family owns a private university where hundreds of thousands, if not millions, are paid as fees, do these?
Also, most of the health institutions from primary to tertiary are in terrible condition. This is despite billions of naira purportedly spent by the Oyetola government in the sector. Working people and youth must demand reversal of this sorry state of the health sector.
Added to this is the complete collapse of the public water supply. The state Water Corporation has been turned into mere sadistic revenue collection agency, while no water is actually supplied for majority of the people across the state. People must demand that the moribund water treatment plants must be immediately resuscitated, while supply network project must be initiated to extend supply to homes, public institutions and communities. There must also be expansion of current water treatment capacity with construction of more plants and supply network, while adequate funding should be made for running cost, training and employment of more staff, etc.
One of the horrible features of the APC governments of Aregbesola and Oyetola is their employment policy, which is based on casualization. While Aregbesola’s government employment policy revolved around poorly paid O’Yes volunteers, Oyetola only used quest of people for decent employment to defraud them through the so-called teaching jobs. While N3, 000 was squeezed out of over 35,000 job seekers, the government, after 2 years only employed about 500 teachers, a sixth of the planned 3000. Many of these teachers are placed on terrible working conditions. Yet, public schools in the state reportedly need nothing less than 12,000 teachers to meet the current shortfall.
Working people and youth must demand decent employment for teeming job-seeking youth. By expansion of social services and amenities such as schools, hospitals, water supply, roads, mass housing, tens of thousands of decent government jobs, with decent working conditions, can be created.
But for us in the DSM, this will require government abandoning the fraudulent contract system, and rather equipping the ministry of works with necessary equipment and expertise to undertake most of government infrastructure projects. Aside creating thousands of decent employment, such a step especially if linked with democratic involvement of trade unions, professional bodies and communities, will also save billions of naira being looted through contract system while making corruption difficult in public works projects. But can the pro-capitalist Adeleke/PDP government do this?
UNSUSTAINABLE DEBT BURDEN
With public debt profile of almost 200 billion Naira, the Adeleke government has a choice to challenge all unjustified debts procured under dubious, illegal and illegitimate conditions. But it is doubtful if Ademola Adeleke, whose family have investment in the financial sector can take this road. Through democratic probe of all existing projects and loans, it will be obvious that most of these debts are fictitious and odious.
For us in the DSM, despite possibly initial populist measures at the beginning, the Adeleke/PDP government will not implement any of the above due to its pro-capitalist orientation unless the working people are prepared to force it through mass struggle. We hereby call on the trade union movement and civil society in the state to begin to prepare by drawing up a working people’s charter of demands to be presented to the new government backed by a programme of action involving press campaign, rallies, protests and strikes to, where necessary, force the government to do the will of the people.
We are very confident that if this kind of approach is embraced, working people will be able to win some concessions that can bring some relief in the midst of the worsening economic and political situation in Osun state and Nigeria as a whole.
However, no concession won under capitalism can last. Therefore, in the long run, the working people must look beyond the present crop of pro-capitalist regimes, as they have always failed over the years and cannot deliver a programme that can uplift the toiling masses from the doldrums of poverty, misery, disease and death. In the alternative, working people in Osun state and nationally must come together with a view of building a political movement and a mass working people’s party capable of standing in struggle and solidarity under the banner of genuine ideas of socialism as the only path towards building a more humane and a more equal and just society.
The working people in the state must also rebuild their organizations especially the trade unions as fighting platforms, to champion their demands. Workers must take immediate action to remove all pro-government union leaders, who have compromised the interest of workers, and ensure emergence of radical union leadership. Added to this is the need to ensure that the unions are democratized with involvement of rank and file of workers through congresses.