Amosun's 200 Days of Selfless Leadership
Governor Ibikunle Amosun might soon qualify for a place in the Guinness book of records for his selfless leadership since he assumed office in Ogun state.
On assumption of office on May 29, he realised to his chagrin that the accounts of the state is in deep red and that several prized assets of the state have been out by his predecessor under a concession agreement which is less transparent and is unpatriotic.
But Senator Amosun has soldiered on while contending that it is worthless crying over spilled milk. He rather took the option to re-engineer the finances of the state. In doing this, he refocused the approach to financial management in the state and plugged all avenues through which the resources of the state are haemorrhaging as well. He also opened fresh avenues to raise the Internally Generated Revenue profile of the state. The result was instant.
For example, at the end of October,, while most of the States of the Federation could not pay workers' salaries due to the delay in the release of the federal allocation, Ogun State government paid workers from reserves, without borrowing.
Determined not to create any hardship for his people with new taxes, the chartered accountant who preside in Ogun State moved swiftly to activate the Residency Rule in the tax law. Essentially, the rule states that personal income tax must be paid to the state where one is domicile. In this regard, Ogun State has embarked on massive public enlightenment and also engaged officials of the Lagos State Government in dialogue. Ogun hopes to rake in about N24 billion from the application of the Residency Rule in collection of tax in the next fiscal year.
To give fillip to the campaign, the Amosun administration has consciously set out to rehabilitate the poor network of roads in the border communities as a way of encouraging residents to identify with the revolution unfolding in the state and also spur them to insist on the remittance of their taxes to Ogun State as demanded by the Personal Income Tax Act.
Senator Amosun seems to be making head ways in his financial re-engineering and revenue drive as he recently announced to an appreciative audience while presenting the 2012 budget that his long term plan is to ensure that the state does not depend on allocation from the Federation's Account before paying its bills.
However, the Governor is of the firm conviction that it would be impossible to persuade residents of Mowe, Ibafo, Akute, Alagbole and other border communities to pay taxes to Ogun State if they do not enjoy some basic amenities that will make them feel the presence of government in their areas.
Aside from the rehabilitation work on some roads in these communities, the government has invited bids for the 34 kilometre Sango-Ijoko-Akute-Alagbole-Ojodu-Abiodun road. The six-lane road, when completed, would link Sango-Ota with Ojodu Berger in Lagos and permanently end the nightmare that travelling along that route has become in recent times.
Interestingly, it is not only the border dwellers that enjoyed the robust intervention of the administration in the area of infrastructural development. Beside the commencement of the construction of the six-lane Ibara-Ita-Eko-Sokori-Totoro Road, over 30 other roads across the three senatorial districts were also rehabilitated.
Senator Amosun also gave close attention to the maintenance of existing roads. His administration set sail a regime of zero-tolerance to pot-holes across the state. The exercise saw roads in Ota, Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode,Ilaro and Sagamu wearing new looks as various road repair gangs were commissioned to fix the failed portions of the roads.
The administration also invested heavily in its promised affordable and qualitative education. The ‘Awolowo-type Free Education’ is very dear to the governor's heart because he believes that education holds the key to the future of the state. The governor was also of the opinion that no child should be deprived basic education on account of the inability of his parents to pay tuition fee. You will always hear him say, “Pa Awolowo won’t forgive us if he sees that a child in his own state is out of school because his parents can’t pay tuition fees. We must do what we need to do to keep every child of school age in school”. It was this belief that explains why he retrieved some secondary schools ceded to some churches by the last administration. Had that policy remained, no fewer than 32,000 students would have been deprived secondary education.
Senator Amosun committed state resources into purchase of instructional materials and contracted some reputable publishing firms to supply textbooks for secondary schools. He also renovated over 100 classrooms and strengthened the inspectorate division of the ministry of education.
The infrastructural development in public schools will also be complemented with the construction of 50 new model schools. The government has also earmarked 22 percent of the N187 billion budget of the state for the sector in the 2012 fiscal year.
In line with his election campaign promises, the government also renovated over 50 health centres across the state and equipped them with basic needs to allow staffs function effectively. The administration also sponsored free eye surgical operation and distribution of free eye glasses at the local Government level. It sponsored free malaria treatment in all primary and secondary health facilities in the roll-out malaria programme. It also vigorously prosecuted the war against diabetes.
Public sector workers in Ogun were the first to enjoy the National Minimum Wage (NMW) with a N250 top-up without breaking a sweat. Senator Amosun approved the immediate implementation of the NMW even when the Federal Government that initiated the bill was still prevaricating on implementation.
On security, the Governor had responded gamely to the daunting challenge posed by armed bandits who decided to make the state a safe haven. He ordered for 10 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC’s) and 120 Hilux patrol vans fully kitted with communication gadgets.
Construction of dedicated barracks for the security personnel is about to end. He also raised a joint Military /Police patrol to send the message to hoodlums that his administration would have zero-tolerance for criminality and armed brigandage. Also, a Security Trust Fund has been set up under the leadership of Col. Kayode Are, retried Director General of the State Security Service (SSS). The result of all these efforts was magical as robbers suddenly realised that the yearly ritual of laying siege on Ogun during the EMBER months is about to end.
In the area of food production, the administration has succeeded in getting the Tsonghai Farms based in Republic of Benin to replicate their Agricultural Institute in the state. It has also attracted three major investors in agriculture who desire to invest in over 30,000 hectares of farmland spread across the three senatorial districts in the state. This is part of efforts to use agriculture to fulfil its industrialisation and employment generation programmes.
Indeed, the policy thrust of the administrations Year 2012 budget is focused on five key areas of Education; Infrastructure, Health, Housing; and Agriculture. These four sectors will gulp 65 percent of the budget.
However, the achievements recorded so far have been at a cost to the governor and his aides. For instance, many of his commissioners still drive around in their personal cars. Not that they don’t like to use official cars but the official cars used by the past commissioners have been taken away and the governor is not in the mood to commit scarce resources to such niceties for the benefit of his aides when there are other projects that will benefit the people which require funds.
Even the governor still drives his personal car. Since the last administration had sold off all the commissioners’ quarters, the old Commissioners' Quarters built by the Onabanjo administration in 1979 are now being repaired to accommodate the commissioners. This will solve the problem of top government officials living in personal houses and those without houses in Abeokuta who are either given a room at the Presidential lodge or at the Gateway Hotel Annexe now called ‘Boys Hostel’.
Unlike the standard practice, the commissioners don’t go around with police orderly.
Governor Amosun lives by example. He lives a very modest lifestyle that inspires confidence. He is non-pretentious about it.
The remuneration of his aides will rank among the lowest in the country. It was not like that before, but Governor Amosun slashed the salaries and allowances of political office holders in the state in a patriotic move to free funds for developmental and people oriented projects.
From the body language of the governor, he would rather prefer himself and his aides to suffer personal inconveniences and allow the electorate to enjoy the dividend of the change they voted for. To him, being in public office is not to enjoy the grandeur but it is about selfless-sacrifice and service.
Olusola Balogun is a media aide to Governor Ibikunle Amosun. He can be reached on [email protected]