AREGBE SPENDS THREE DAYS A MONTH IN OSUN
For seven and a half years reign of former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola in Osun State, the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), being a leading opposition party in the state, practically constituted itself to a public watchdog, criticizing every action of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government. But as they say, 'what goes around comes around.'
Now, with the present reversal of role, the PDP is not only out to take its own pound of flesh but also doing everything to keep the eight-month-old administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola on his toes. Even without giving it any benefit of the doubt as to its capacity to deliver on its mouth-watering electoral promises, the state Chairman of the PDP, Otunba Ojo Williams, dismissed the new regime as a disaster. Among other things, he accused the administration of pursuing Lagos agenda, leading to steady flight of capital from the state. He also bemoaned Aregbesola for recklessly junketing around the world with fat estacode, all in the name of looking for investors. According to Williams, in less than eight months, Ogbeni Aregbesola has travelled out of the country for more than 21 times without anything to show for it. Excerpts:
A visit to your secretariat gives an impression that your party- the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- is on recess in Osun State. What do you have to say about this?
No, not at all. We have just had our working committee meeting but I asked them to come to this serene environment because of the boisterous nature of the secretariat so that we would not be disturbed by the noise.
How would you assess the government of Governor Rauf Aregbesola in the last eight months of the administration?
From our own point of view, there is nothing on ground to show for the eight months of the administration except the unmitigated disaster we have been witnessing all along. The projects the man met when he came on board, especially the stadia, which would have been commissioned around March, have been abandoned. The stadia projects are now abandoned. He has also refused to release money for the running of the technical education schools which Oyinlola completed before he left the office.
The mid day meal for primary schools and kindergarten which he met on ground when he came has been abolished too. In terms of physical projects, you cannot see anything to point to, not even a grading of one kilometre stretch of road. It's been propaganda all the time. He talked about 20,000 graduate employees under his Osun State Youth Employment Scheme (OYES), which people now call oh, no because it is also a disaster. To start with, he did not recruit more 13,000 people.
And in any case, that is even no employment in the real sense of the word because as a graduate, before you can claim to have been employed you must have an office. Ask them where their office is, you will find out that it is no employment at all. As a graduate, you must have a term of reference; you must have schedule of duties; you must know whether or not your employment is a pensionable one and whether you are entitled to minimum wage. These are some of the questions people should be asking because that is the only way you can find out that the OYES programme is actually a ruse to deceive his followers in Lagos. Nobody is deceived here in Osun State, I can assure you because we know as a matter of fact that he never recruited more than 14,000 of them and he pays them only N8,500 a month.
I wonder which parent will want his graduate child to be doing that kind of work in the name of employment. So, we are not deceived. He also talks about his Agric programme- Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme-and he boasts that he has given loans to about five hundred farmers. But I challenge him to name just one farmer who has benefited from that loan. The fact is that Oyinlola left some money for farmers as loan and he came and saw the money there and he told the innocent farmers that he was going to disburse the money on condition that they go to his appointed banks to open accounts.
Those innocent farmers went to open accounts with as much as N10,000 with administrative charges of about N3,000. But about four weeks ago when it was time for them to go back to farm to plant, they discovered that there was no loan. So, the bank said they should come and collect back their money. The bank paid N10, 000 out of the N13, 000 and claimed the remaining N3, 000 as administrative charges. So, where is the benefit to the farmers in all of this? Aregbesola cannot point to one plot of land under cultivation to his credit. Do you call that an achievement?
He went to the University of Osun (UNIOSUN) the other time and said that people should start removing Oyinlola's commissioning plagues. May be that is an achievement I wouldn't know. As far as we are concerned, we are just praying that God in his infinite mercy will come and deliver Osun State people from this mess in which they have found themselves for which they are entirely to blame. You go and talk to the Obas and find out how they are feeling now. They used to have council of Obas, now it has been abolished as it was the case in the days of Governor Bisi Akande. For the first time, an Oba is facing prosecution cooked up because he doesn't dance to the tune of the governor.
Another Oba is facing expulsion from the palace even though his case is still in the Court of Appeal. To make it worse, this is a governor that doesn't live in Osun State. He hardly works here. In June, he was in India and spent only three days in Osun out of 30 days. In July, he was in China and spent only five days in Osun out of 30 days. I have it on a good authority that he is also going to Umurah and he wouldn't be back until the end of Ramadan. So, where is the governor in Osun?
The consultants who are doing the job for him come from Lagos. And what is the job they do for him other than to make fake contracts, rush to make voucher for payment and go back to Lagos to spend the money. They don't even stay here; they will arrive on Tuesday and leave on Thursday. So, we have a lot of capital flight happening now in Osun State. People come from Lagos and cart away our money. And these are people who never pay taxes in Osun State because they are not resident here. So, the political economy of the state is comatose. I tell you it is a disaster.
After too much noise, Governor Aregbesola has finally sent the list of his commissioners to the state House of Assembly. What is your perception of the list?
It is a disgrace to even the Action Congress members in Osun State. At least, I know about half a dozen of them who would have fit into the list of commissionership but were excluded. Before now, when we saw that he had overspent his time in deciding what to do, we came up with suggestion of people from his own party whom he can appoint. And we were objective about it. Look at Hon Wale Afolabi; he is in the Action Congress of Nigeria and he is a lawyer of repute.
He was the pioneer Speaker in Osun State. No objective critic would close his eye against such an opportunity to name Wale Afolabi as commissioner. We also suggested other credible people like Prince Gboyega Famodun from Igbajo, Sunday Akere, Gbola Oguntoye. Oguntoye had tilled and toiled for the ACN in Osun State. I see no reason why they should go to Lagos or Ibadan to go and scout for people like Oguntoye for replacement. His father was a judge of repute in the old western region.
And now you are bringing in people whose antecedents we don't know. Governance is about interpersonal relationship between the government and the citizens. You need to know the psyche of the people you are coming to govern. He went to Zaria to go and bring one professor to come and be commissioner in Osun State all because he is a friend of his retired police officer friend who helped him to do havoc on the day of election. It is a disgrace and I tell many of the ACN members in Osun State are thoroughly ashamed by that list that he sent to the House.
There is also this widespread insinuation that the state civil service has been polarized. Do you subscribe to this rumour?
In Osun State, we are our brothers' keepers. The political class and the career officers have always worked in tandem to ensure that we get the best for Osun State. When Oyinlola came on board and saw the financial stress in which the state met itself, he opted not to take his salaries for the first four years as a sacrifice. He brought his own driver from Lagos and was paying him from his pocket.
He brought his own vehicles which he was riding for the first four years all to ensure that things stabilize. But what do we get now? You claim that Osun State has no money, yet you increase your security vote to N500 million a month. You have travelled out of the state in the first eight months for more than 21 times with fat estacode and you expect career officers to close their eyes against such things. Even the students are crying and complaining. He could not localize ordinary junior secondary school examination and had to go to Lagos State to bring the syllabus because he wanted to pay his consultant friends in Lagos.
No sane career officer will ever co-operate with that kind of governor as except a few accomplices among them. Believe me, career officers are suffering under this administration. They are oppressed; they cannot speak out as they were doing during Oyinlola's tenure. During the last regime of the PDP, Oyinlola would go on radio and television for one solid hour every last Saturday of the month to give account of his stewardship where people asked all sorts of questions about his governance and his spending. We challenge Aregbsola to disclose how he spent N46 billions in the last eight months or thereabout. He cannot. He has taken N18 billion loan and also negotiating another one with China.
He has directed each local government in Osun State to go and borrow N25 million, all together making N75 million. These are funds that should have been channeled to productive activities and physical projects rather than propaganda like OYES, OCLEAN and all what have you. What is OCLEAN? An average Yoruba woman sweeps her compound every morning. That is what we call home training. We don't need an Aregbesola or Deputy Governor to come and teach us how to sweep the frontage of our houses. We do it everyday. But these are phantom achievements that you find on the pages of newspapers.
There is nothing on ground to show for the eight months regime of his administration. So, you cannot win the respect of career officers that way. Though you can find a corrupt few who are milking the state in conjunction with the administration, but you see many a patriots who are thoroughly horrified by what is going on. So, that is what caused the polarization of the state civil service.
But they are also saying that your criticism of the administration was a way of covering up the poor performance of the last regime of Governor Oyinlola and which accounted for the woeful defeat of your party. How would you react to this?
The Osun State electorate know better. They now know better that elections were rigged. If you want to challenge Oyinlola's achievements, you should be able to place your own side by side with what Oyinlola has done. And that was precisely what I did in my release about four weeks ago. In the release, I put Oyinlola's achievements on one side and Aregbesola's on the other side.
Therein you can count the number of schools which he (Oyinlola) built during his regime, you can count the number of roads which he built at that time, you can count the number of mini water schemes which he had completed and commissioned. You can also talk about maternity centres which Oyinlola built within the first nine months of his assumption of office. Ask Aregbesola to show you one single building he has erected in his eight months in office. He cannot. When Oyinlola came on board, the government House was uncompleted. Within six months, Oyinlola completed and made it habitable and that is where Aregbesola is sleeping today anytime he comes to Osun.
The governor's office was left uncompleted by governor Akande when he was leaving in a hurry. Oyinlola ensured that it was completed within the first three months. Such insinuation is for those who are leaving in Lagos; no sane person in Osun will tell you that Oyinlola did not perform. For goodness sake, the Odiolowo/Abere road became a dual carriageway because Oyinlola came on board. The Oke-fair to Iwo roundabout joining the ring road became dual carriageway because Oyinlola became the governor. That particular one was commissioned by President Obasanjo all within nine months.
Your party is said to have been indicated by the Contract Review Committee set up by the new administration to look into the past projects embarked upon by the last regime. What do you have to say about this?
I challenge them to make the report of that committee public. The truth of the matter is that the committee actually exonerated Oyinlola. Tell him to make his finding public. Oyinlola was a very thorough administrator. He had carefully put in place a due process regime supervised by a chartered accountant of note-Gbenga Abiola. As such, there is no single project that Oyinlola embarked upon which did not go through the due process. So, there was no way anybody could have faulted Oyinlola in the first place. Again, we challenge Aregbesola to make his findings public and subject it to public scrutiny instead of phantom report that he carries about in brief cases to show his Lagos fans. That is not the way to do it.
Your party has equally dismissed the Justice Uwaifo-led Truth Commission set up by Aregbesola to reconcile agreed individuals from all sides of political divides as a hatchet job in view of the composition of the committee members. Why such position?
That is even a mild way of putting it. It was a total charade. We thought it was a hatchet job because of Justice Uwaifo who was among them. But when you look at the composition, you see Femi Falana's wife and you know the disposition of Falana to anything PDP. You also find in the committee names like Ogbara, an Ikorodu man, and bosom friend of Barrister Akano who is Aregbesola's acolyte.
And many people like that. Even a hooligan who was caught protesting on video demolishing Goodluck Jonathan's House (PDP Secretariat) was among them. He went to the complex to go and throw missiles and attempted to set the place on fire. You also find one Agboola there as a member of the committee. So, what do you expect from such a commission? That was a commission in which the PDP filled over 200 petitions and they refused to hear the complaints of those who filed those petitions. Instead, they hurriedly rounded off the commission's job without listening to the PDP.
Two days to the end of their sitting, they shut themselves up somewhere and invited Aregbesola, Oyinlola and myself. Aregbesola had no petition before that tribunal in the first place. So, what is the essence of inviting him if not to make the public believe that he actually believes in reconciliation? So, the party decided that it was a charade and we instructed that our governor-Oyinlola-should not go and that no member of the party should honour the invitation of the commission because it was a charade. We felt sorry for Justice Uwaifo because we told him he was going to be used and he saw that he was actually being used.
How do you see the initiative of the South-west governor trying to forge a common unity towards economic integration of the region?
The Yoruba had always had an integrated economy since the days of Awolowo. So, there is nothing new in what the latter day progressives are doing about economic integration of the South West. But even then, look at the conveners themselves. How serious are they about the initiative? At the time when that economic integration was being pursued in Ekiti, Aregbesola was in far away China enjoying himself.
He probably went to woo investors.
What a laugh! Now, how many investors has he brought to the state for the past nine months that he has been in the saddle? We all know what is going on; he wants to earn his estacode and may be, take time off to look after his health. Besides, he is fed up with what he met on ground in Osun. He was confronted by plethora of projects executed by Oyinlola. Let me tell you, Aregbesola cannot beat my record in Obokun Local Government when I was the Chairman.
He should go and check the number of projects erected to my name in Obokun Local Government. I can count 35 primary schools that I built as Chairman which carry my commissioning plagues. I can show him twelve maternity centres that I constructed as chairman. These are in addition to my rural electrification projects and boreholes. I installed seven kings as Chairman of Obokun Local Government and I never disparage anyone of them. You can compare this with what Aregbesola has done with the Obas within nine months of his office. One of them is facing criminal prosecution and they even refused him bail because he has no Attorney General to approve his bail.
Another one is facing expulsion from the palace even though his appeal is still at the Appeal Court because there is no Attorney General to advise this administration properly. Governor Aregbedola is the commissioner for health, Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Agriculture and Education. He is the only person doing the work alone. Osun State people now know the difference between someone who wants to genuinely advance the course of development of the state and someone who just came from Lagos to harness our resources. Oyinlola resides in Okuku and only goes to Lagos on official assignment. Aregbesola has refused to live with us in Osun State. Instead, he lives in Alimosho in Lagos, comes here on Tuesday and leaves on Thursday. He has no time to stay with the people and understand their problems. The political economy of the state is dead.
How do you see Osun State in the next four years?
By the grace of God, we will win back this state sooner than people expected. The contrived judgment that brought them to power has been exposed for what it is. It was the handiwork of Justice Ayo Salami who was indicted by the National Judicial Council (NJC) some few days ago.
The clean sweep of the polls by the ACN in the last general elections speaks volume about the perceived disaffection of the people with the PDP. Isn't it?
There are two factors to that. One, Professor Attairu Jega over trusted some of his colleagues, particularly Prof Olorode and Dr. Akeju in Osun State here. They masterminded all elections that took place in the South West. And we have the facts now. Olorode recommended that youth corpers should be used for the conduct of the election. So, the bulk of those who conducted the elections were youths from Lagos who were actually not youth corpers but were given corpers' uniform.
One of them who had completed her youth service corps for about two years was caught in Obokun. There were ballot papers all over the place three days to the elections. I know as a matter of fact one man in Ayedade Local Government who was caught with several bails of ballot papers. They were caught and arrested by soldiers when they were thump printing the ballot papers. They were shown on the NTA. But Jega wouldn't listen. He was preoccupied with other things.
As far as Osun State is concerned, that election was a ruse. We decided that unless Dr. Akeju was changed, we can never have a free election is Osun State. One, Dr. Akeju is Tinubu's hatchet man. We said it before the election and we sued both the INEC and Dr Akeju and we got an injunction restraining both respondents from supervising and conducting election in Osun but they defied the order of a Federal High Court.