Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Oyetola, Aregbesola and Osun Underdevelopment

Setting the Record Straight

The recent dirty fight between the supporters of the current Osun State governor, Gboyega Oyetola, and his predecessor cum former boss, Rauf Aregbesola has again brought to the fore, the rotten politics being played by bourgeois politicians. It has shown that Nigerian bourgeois politicians have little or no honour to their name in their quest for power and spoils of office. This has been clearly shown by the fight between Oyetola, who is desperately seeking a second term next year, after fraudulently procuring a first term in 2018, and his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, who has been trying to reassert his control over the party structure since the end of his ruinous tenure that practically destroyed the state economy and finances, and impoverished its citizens.

By Kola Ibrahim

While the fight started as an intra-party squabble, it has now escalated to the issue of governance in the state, with each party pointing accusing fingers at the other on about how the state has gotten to the current parlous conditions. The recent claims and counter-claim over the state odious debt, federal project refund and Osun airport have exposed both Oyetola and Aregbesola, and of course the main bourgeois opposition in the state, PDP, as anti-people and retrogressive. While the Aregbesola government destroyed the state economy, the Oyetola government has only come to build on the ruinous foundation laid by Aregbesola. The PDP, as a former ruling party both at the federal and the state, is also a major contributor to the current parlous state Osun, nay Nigeria, find itself.

Recently, the Aregbesola supporters claimed that the Oyetola government has received about N48 billion from the federal government as refund for the federal road projects undertaken by the state government under Aregbesola government. The Oyetola government refuted this, claiming the government only received N11.9 billion, out of N38 billion the federal government owes the state as project refund. In a counter-attack, the Oyetola town-criers claimed that the contractors for two of the projects: 29km Gbongan-Akoda road and 40km Osogbo-Ikirun-Ila-Odo road were paid N10.2 billion and N9.2 billion by Aregbesola, out of N23 billion and N15 billion respectively. This means the contractors collected 44.3 percent and 61.3 percent of the contract sum, but only completed 3.5km (29 percent) and 19.6km (49 percent).

This revelation again underscores the position of the DSM on the fraud that characterised the Aregbesola government. It clearly confirmed our long held position that the various gargantuan projects under the Aregbesola government were only aimed at enriching those at the corridors of power. Otherwise, how can a government overpay contractors for projects that have not been done, and yet the projects remained abandoned for several months.  Aside this is the fraudulently inflated nature of the project. The Aregbesola government actually awarded the two projects for N46.5 billion; that is at N1 billion per kilometer for Gbongan-Akoda road, and N437.5 million per kilometre for Osogbo-Ilaodo road. In fact, so fraudulent was the project sums, such that even the spendthrift federal government had to review them downward to N38 billion. Even at this, it means the two projects were awarded at the rate of N793 million per kilometer and 375 million per kilometer respectively! What other definition could one find for fraud than this. In fact, World Bank, which is an elitist agent of global big business, put the cost of road construction in West Africa at around N250 million per kilometer.

This clearly corroborates the position of the DSM that the fraudulent contract system being used by the bourgeois political class and their big business collaborators is a major source of looting and corruption under the present capitalist, albeit rotten, system. This is why we stand for a mass public works programme under the democratic control of working people that will ensure that the public work ministry undertake major infrastructural projects by mobilising the enormous human and material resources of the society; except where expertise for such project is beyond the capacity of the public work ministry. With public work ministry handling infrastructural projects, the huge resources being looted officially (through inbuilt profits) and unofficially (through contract sum inflation) can be avoided, while the government can have a coordinated and centralised plan of development as against the current chaotic arrangement where project are contracted out for political and economic favours.

But the response of the Oyetola government clearly showed that it is not different from the Aregbesola government. The Oyetola government, rather than probe the whole fraudulent contract arrangement and prosecute officials of the Aregbesola government and the contractors who swindled the state, gave the contractors more money from the federal refund of N11.9 billion, after the contractors have already collected more money than the work they did. This clearly showed that the Oyetola government is part of this racket. This is not difficult to arrive at, as the governor, Gboyega Oyetola, was the Chief of Staff  under the Aregbesola government. Indeed, the project undertaken by Oyetola government has also been enmeshed in fraud.

A classic example is the Ola-Iya flyover awarded under a fraudulent public-private arrangement where the contractor is allowed to borrow over N2.7 billion (interests not included) from financial institution(s) to construct a flyover of less than 500 meters. In the first instance, this is a misplaced priority project, given the fact that many intra- and inter-township roads with economic importance to the people are begging for attention, yet the government is spending as much as over N3 billion (are factored in) on an Ola-Iya road that was reconstructed less than eight years ago. Moreover, this project, aside the fact that it was inflated, is more of a gift to the contractor and especially the financial creditors, who may collect as much as 20 percent as interests. For a state still enmeshed in intractable debt crisis, with the state owing over N180 billion and using a significant part of its revenue to service debt, this is clearly another terrible drift.

Interestingly, while welfare, entitlements, and lives of workers and retirees were sacrificed by Aregbesola government in the course of perpetrating these gargantuan frauds called infrastructural projects, the Oyetola government refused to use part of the federal refund to offset the 15-month full salary and pension arrears nor pay the backlog of gratuities of retirees who have used their adult lives to serve the state and the country. Rather, the government handed over the money to the same contractors, who alongside the Aregbesola government, defrauded the state. This shows the anti-worker, anti-poor character of both Oyetola and Aregbesola governments.

But this issue is not an isolated one. In almost all the frauds perpetrated by the Aregbesola government, the best the Oyetola government is doing is cover up, while using the state funds to satisfy the contractors and politicians. An instance is the Osun Aerodrome/Airport project over which the Aregbesola government wasted over N3billion, ostensibly to build fences. Rather than probe this fraud and bring those who defrauded the state to book, the best the Oyetola could do was to appeal to federal government to take over the project. Another instance is the Opon Imo (educational computer tablet) project for which the state was defrauded over N5 billion, with nothing to show for the project today, as no computer tablet can be found in any public school. Yet, the Oyetola government kept mum.

Reason for this is because the governor was a major strategist of the Aregbesola government, and of course, he would not want to rock the boat, more so that he has his own skeletons in the cupboard. For instance, the Oyetola government cannot justify N1 billion World Bank grant for building health centres across the states. While the government claimed to have built and refurbished the health centres, most of them are non-functional in terms of staff and facilities. Also, more than a year after the government extorted N3, 000 from each of the over 30,000 teaching job applicants, the state government has refused to employ any of the applicants.

Thus, it is clear the Oyetola government, while claiming to be better than Aregbesola government, is actually a continuation of it. Also, the bourgeois opposition PDP is not different in terms of policies and politics. This explains why the politicians in the two parties (APC and PDP) easily criss-cross from one party to the other. For example, the PDP governorship candidate in the last election, Ademola Adeleke, was a member of the APC, until he was denied the party’s senatorial ticket.

Therefore, their difference is more about fighting for spoils of office, rather than any principled fight for the interests of the mass of workers, youth, peasants and the oppressed. Therefore, the oppressed people in general, especially workers, youths, peasants, artisans, and the poor must refuse to be bamboozled by any of the contending sections of the rotten bourgeois class. Rather, they should commit themselves to building a resistance movement against all anti-poor policies of the government, and organise to have a mass party of workers and the oppressed to defeat the corrupt capitalist political class. This is what the DSM has committed itself to. We enjoin you to join us in this task.