Semiu Okanlawon is the spokesperson of Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, whose tenure lapses November 27. In this excerpts from an extensive interview with Premium Times’ Bisi Abidoye, Evelyn Okakwu and Kunle Sanni two weeks ago, he spoke about the eight years of the Aregbesola administration, what he expects to determine the governorship election on Saturday and his expectations about the poll.
PT: The governorship election in your state is coming up on (Saturday). What are your expectations?
Okanlawon: All preparation towards the election is going well and we hope that it will be our party that will produce the successor to Governor Rauf Aregbesola because what we have had in the last eight years is a success story.
A success story in the sense that we met a state that was almost in a state of disrepair, a state that was on its knees in terms of infrastructure, education services, in terms of security, in terms of health, in terms of everything that you would consider necessary and critical to comfortable living and survival of our people.
What we met in 2010 when this government came in was nothing to write home about and that was the situation we had to rescue. Now we believe that we have reached a stage that what it still requires is a kind of stability, someone who will continue from the solid foundation that has been laid, and continue with the same development and strategy that we have embarked upon in the last eight years to ensure sustained development for the state.
So to us, the election is about sustainability, continuity, it is about ensuring that what we started eight years ago that has reached an advanced stage continues to the extent that in the next 10 years, our state would have been put on a very solid and sound footing, that nothing would come to the state and destroy the foundation that we had laid.
The governor has been accused of imposing a candidate on your party, APC. How do you see this affecting the chances of the party in the election?
At the first instance, there is nothing like imposition. Different aspirants came out for the position of governorship. The only thing that changed was that from the party’s National Secretariat, they decided that direct primaries would be used and the party has the right to determine how it would run its affairs from time to time. So if you do not have any skeleton in your cupboard and if you do not believe it is only through a particular method that you can emerge, any aspirant must be ready and be sure of victory, direct primary or not.
It is because people have been so used to indirect primaries through which they would now go and get prepared and say: ‘Is it not all about money?’ and then they would now influence the choice of party candidate by money, because it is only a few selected members of the party that would make that decision at the venue of the primaries. Then the party came up with a new dimension; direct primaries. Instead of choosing people who would now go and collect money, let’s go and throw this thing out to all party member. If you are a member of this party, come out at your ward, line up at your voting unit and say this is my own candidate and be counted. So if you had your eyes on only one method for selecting a candidate and such a thing now caught you unaware, that is your own problem. So the issue of imposition does not arise.
But even INEC said political parties in Nigeria don’t yet have verifiable membership registers…
We do, and that was what we used. How would parties not have verifiable membership registers? I have a membership card and it is verified and registered. I was registered and it was not manipulated.
An insider who was secretary to the state government came out to say that he felt cheated, that he was leaving the party. Are you not bothered by such a development?
The person you are talking about, we are from the same town. Yes, he has been a politician and as somebody who has been in the party, I see no reason why he shouldn’t have been so confident enough that for him to say to the whole world that whatever is used in picking the candidate, I would be the choice. I think that would have been the best way to prove his popularity.
Rather than now participate in the election, you left. How do you now accuse anybody of imposition? There are people who also wanted to be governor who participated in the thing. For instance, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly ensured that no other person won anything in his local government, Ejibgbo. He had votes in some other places too, but he made sure that he controlled his local government, that no other person won anything. So assuming the person you are talking about, who is now the candidate of ADP, assuming he was confident to be able to control his own local government and make sure you keep every support …
Almost half of the state party executives have defected to follow him…
That is not true. All those things are just propaganda. If some people felt because of what they think would be their own place as things progress in the party, they felt that this was the opportunity for them to leave, they are coming back to beg, I can tell you that. Some of them are already saying ‘I am only trying my luck, I am in APDC’. That is, they have not left APC. But when they look critically, if you have a capacity for analytic reasoning, they would know that APC is the party to beat.
There was a report that the candidate that also emerged is the cousin of the National Leader of the party?
We must rise above linking one person to another, as if that person does not have a life. The person you are talking about, he is a fulfilled man. Go and mention his name in the insurance sector in Nigeria today and see what people would say about him. Carry out your own investigation that who is Gboyega Oyetola in the insurance sector in Nigeria?
This is a man who has been an investment person for decades. This is a man that came into this government not out of his own personal agenda but they called on him that this state needs you to come and bring your expertise as an administrator, as an investor, to be at the things we are doing here, and the man has served as Chief of Staff and his office played a unique role in formulation and implementation of policies that have given this government the kind of dividend. And such a person now expresses interest in becoming the governor of the state and you are saying he is a cousin to somebody?
Also, it was said just to satisfy him, your party jettisoned the rotation arrangement; that ordinarily, the ticket should have gone to Osun West.
I am from Osun West, it is natural for people to say that this thing should come to our part of the state. We all say since the creation of the state, Osun Central has gotten to rule for about 11 years. That is Chief Bisi Akande is from Central and he spent four years. Oyinlola is from Central and he spent almost 8 years. Put them together. That East, where Rauf Aregbesola comes from, is completing eight years and Osun West only tasted governorship through Isiaka Adeleke who spent about 22 months. Yes, that is the narrative and the reality now. But let me tell you, in as much as nobody has said that nobody can aspire to be governor, I have not seen it anywhere written that so time that nobody should come out. You cannot say that people should not come out from any part from the state.
Of course, that would even amount to holding people’s hands down. Even from Osun East where the current governor comes from, people came out. And I know that he came out to contest. But he came out, nobody said it is something illegal. Another person named Samuel Ibiyemi also came up, he is from Ife. And I think other people too from that same senatorial zone where the governor is from now came out.
The expectation was high that the thing would come from Osun West, so many people came out from Osun West. Now if the circumstances around this time do not favor Osun West in terms of so many things, are you ruling out the possibilities that in future, Osun West can also have its own turn three consecutively times, if the circumstances so favour it at that time? Osun Central is having another shot because of the prevailing circumstances. What if in future another circumstances come and make it possible for Osun West to produce governors three times consecutively? It would also happen. What we are saying at the moment is the sustained development of the state.
Are you saying it was the calibre of Gboyega Oyetola that determined his nomination?
I am not talking of calibre. If it was about calibre, there are so many circumstances, factors that would put together into one that would now form a consideration. This is not about the calibre because it is not as if what you are looking for in Osun Central that you cannot find in Osun West and there is nobody you want to find in Osun West that you cannot find in Osun East.
The governorship could have come from anywhere. What if the governorship had come from Osun East? I am from Osun West and we have made efforts to make sure that we fight for the ticket. If it did not come our way, it does not mean we go to the extent that we destroy the party because it has not favoured West. What does not favour you today may come back and favour you tomorrow. What do you think the other people who are in other districts, what do you want them to say, when it favors you? And it can happen.
Considering the candidate of the PDP, Ademola Adeleke, he recently defeated APC, how does that affect the chances of the APC candidate?
Forget about his defeating APC at that time. One of the questions you should ask is that since he became a senator, what is it that he has done? You as a journalist, what impression does the candidate of the PDP give you?
He is an Adeleke and he is from Ede and we know they always have the pattern of voting their own in Ede. Are you not concerned?
So will the votes of Ede alone make him the governor? We are not concerned. Perhaps if we were going to have any concern, if they had picked another candidate perhaps that would have given us concern. Giving us an Adeleke is not a concern.
But are his legal travails on certificate scandals not an indication of…?
Who is giving him legal travails? Am I the one that said he should not have what he said he had? I want you to look at it very well. PDP as a party, that party appears to be jinxed in producing governorship candidates since after Oyinlola. In 2011 it presented Omisore, in 2014 it presented Omisore. Now Omisore has been booted out of the party and now he is battling for his political life somewhere. Now unfortunately again, at a time when you think that PDP would now look back and say what is it that is causing its misfortune, and they now went ahead and brought up another person as their candidate who has one criminal case hanging around him or not now. Unfortunately, this one I don’t want to talk about.
As a politician, you know he has demonstrated something – the capacity to beat your party in an election.
He has won an election. But what is the issue that is now coming out? Having been given an opportunity as a senator that used almost one year of his slot in the Senate, has he used it to benefit his people? What contribution has he made? Give me one motion or one contribution of this senator to national discourse? When you mention Demola Adeleke, what comes to your mind?
He dances, a dancing senator (Laughter).
Now a state that is talking of sustainable development, of continuing with the streak of development the state has been embarked upon, the foundation that we have laid in the last eight years? You cannot give what you don’t have.
If you find it difficult to appreciate education at a certain stage of your life, to the extent that you could not be hardworking enough to scale through the simplest level, then I don’t see how you are going to be entrusted with that kind of responsibility.
He said in his senatorial election, that his late brother Isiaka Adeleke did 75 percent of the work, that he did not even have to campaign. Don’t you believe he still has that popularity of Adeleke behind him?
Good luck to him if it is the popularity and if he wants to ride on the back of the man that had lived his own life and we knew the kind of life he lived. But we know that Demola Adeleke and Isiaka Adeleke are two different people.
So you are confident in the chances of your candidate?
I have no doubts about it.
I listened to the interview of the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and he was saying no person can say with confidence that this party would win the election…
Because he did not scale through? If the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuff, had been the winner of the party ticket, would he have said that he is not sure who would be the winner?
That means there are elements within your party that can also work against the party.
If they work against us, they would not work against us that we would lose, they would only expose themselves as traitors. But they would be shamed by the convincing victory that this party would have.
There was a statement by the PDP spokesperson that the APC was colluding with INEC to collect unclaimed PVCs…
Since you know Odeyemi in PDP, give me one example of a truthful statement he has made. He is a friend, but since you have known him, give me an example of a truthful statement that he issued and an alarm that he raised that turned out to be true.
Are you saying that it is not true?
I have answered your question. Just give me one statement that he issued that turned out to be true. This was how they sank and killed Omisore. They lied their way into destruction, they were telling lies, creating a false alarm for Omisore until he fell into the ditch. We are happy each time they lie. For us, that is their surest path to self-destruction.
There is a new troubling development in the political process in Nigeria of vote buying. What can you say about it?
To be realistic, Nigeria as a whole should be worried. Don’t forget I talked about the orientation that this government did when we came in. We just did not do it for the fun of it, we did it out of that critical realisation that something is wrong with the fabric of our system. That something is wrong with the foundation of our system.
People have lost values, people have replaced that sense of self-esteem and self-respect with a sense of entitlement. Because I want you to vote for me I must now dip my hands inside my pocket? After I give you N4,000 or N2,000 for my vote for that particular day of election, I buy your conscience. They call it some shameful name, that ”dibo ko se be”. That means vote for me and go and cook a pot of soup. Are you worth just a pot of soup, are you worth just a loaf of bread? In one state on the eve of an election, they were transferring N2,000 to the accounts of some people.
Your party was also accused of doing the same in Ekiti.
As for me, I have not seen any evidence of that. You asked me a general question and I am answering my question in a general way, that whoever is guilty…What I am saying, now coming back to Osun, in Osun, our value reorientation is to make people know that you should be able to hold people in government accountable. If you have sold your conscience, you can’t. So you have to critically look at what you want to do. Is it that you want to make the right decision?
A man that the whole country knows that whenever they call his name we identify him as dancing? The other we identify him as insurance man. That is what comes to your mind. The insurance man even gives you a sense of assurance, that this man is going to perform, that this man knows what he is doing, someone that has worked all his life. Ask the other candidate what has he has done in his life and the man that Nigerians see as a dancer. I don’t know.
The Insurance man, this is a man who has held sensitive positions in top insurance companies in Nigeria, a man that has been involved in critical investment planning over the decades, this is a man that has been involved in every single transaction that has to with Osun in the last eight years. So between that man and the man that is busy dancing everywhere and dances shamefully and the person that does not know where not to dance, regardless of his status, would you have any problem making your choice?
Can you make a pledge that your party will not deploy military might to win this election?
The people are going to vote on the day of the election, and security men would be there to do their jobs normally.
And you would not do what was done against you in 2014?
If we are vindictive and we would do what they did to us, some people would not be able to go out and campaign. Assuming we want to pay back some people what they did to us in 2014, some individuals would not be able to campaign. But we recognise the essence of democracy and we want democracy to grow. If democracy fails we are all in trouble.
You have been in Aregbesola’s government from the beginning. Can you cite some of the pillars of the foundation that the administration has put on ground?
When we assumed the leadership of the state, let’s use the education sector as our benchmark, the performance in public examinations at that time was nothing to write home about. And let me bring it up by using this example: when we came in, we had less than five percent of eligible and matriculable students that could gain admission into higher institutions from our secondary schools.
There was a woeful performance to the extent that less than five percent of student that were leaving secondary schools could pass enough subjects to secure admission to either universities or polytechnics. That is to tell you that the infrastructure and the state of education was abysmally low. The reason is because when you look at the infrastructure for education like the classrooms, there were nothing to write home about when we came. If you heard of demolition of some schools, it was for us to bring up the kind of mega structures that we now see in the state, just to provide conducive learning environment for our students.
A situation where you had classrooms that the roofs were fallen, no windows, no chairs, the morale for both the students and the teachers would be very low and so you could almost predict what the results of what the examinations would be. Students that were taught by teachers that had low morale, you could predict the result of such examinations for students. Teachers that had nothing to boost and encourage them. Students who had no teachers in all the critical subjects that could guarantee their admission. If you had schools where teachers in English, teachers in Mathematics, teachers in the core subjects like Physics, Chemistry and the rest were in short supply.
And the government of that time, they were not really considering the situation as being critical to superlative performance in the education sector. These were areas that we needed to look at. And so, if you remember, the government of Osun under Rauf Aregbesola actually organised what we called an educational summit a few months after assuming power, and what we needed to do with that education summit was to call on all the stakeholders: parents, teachers, even students themselves to a roundtable discussion to really examine what the problem was then with our education, to the extent that people came up with solutions, practical solutions, the best way to go away from such deplorable conditions under which our students learned and which also led to the woeful performance that was recorded in public examinations.
That summit was actually chaired by no other person than Professor Wole Soyinka, an educationist himself and a role model when it comes to education issues. And people came up with solutions and right from that time in 2011 up till today, all those education policies that were formulated, all those things that you are seeing in terms of physical structures that we are building, all those schools, all those training of teachers and the employment of new teachers, and the reclassification of our schools. These were the outcomes of that, because we needed to start a new course and we needed to create a new path for us to achieve the result we wanted to achieve. Because things had gone so bad that teachers did not know what they were teaching, teachers did not know why they were going to schools, students themselves did not know why they were going to schools, so cultism was everywhere and so we had a situation that was everything but impressive, a situation that was everything but encouraging.
So after eight years, of course, we have moved from that deplorable situation to a very impressive situation that everybody can see in the state now. If you look at the structure that we have now, to the best of my knowledge, those secondary schools that we have built, I can count Wole Soyinka High School, Ilesha High School, Ataoja Government High School, Osogbo Government High School, Adventist Government High School in Ede, I can count Oriade Government High School in Ikirun. And many of them as well that have also reached advanced stages of completion, such as the Government High School in Iwo and Oduduwa Government College in Ile-Ife. Schools like these we are building 11 high schools that are almost completed.
We are also building elementary schools that are to take care of children in the elementary stage, because when I talked about classification the other time, what we tried to do was to create a classification to make it possible for us to use our education facilities in the most cost-effective manner. So when we created elementary schools, we categorised those pupils that would be at the elementary stage in such a way that we were able to provide facilities that were commensurate to the needs of pupils at that stage of education. And then we also created the middle schools. Those are the categories.
When we created these facilities, we were mindful of the facilities that each category of schools would need and so would be able to provide those facilities for each of the schools that were been built at that time. So if you go to Osun State now, when you find this kind of structures now that really define the new face for education in Osun, and that is why to the best of my knowledge, I know that from the deplorable less than 15 percent performance rating in public examinations, this government in less than eight years has been able to up the game to about forty five percent in terms of public examinations performance in NECO, WAEC, and everything. In 2010 when this government came in, we inherited 15.68 percent performance in WAEC results but by 2017, we had moved up to 44.59 percent. With the solid infrastructure we have put in place, you can be sure that we are on a journey to higher performances in education.
They have just released the NECO result, and they have not yet handed the rating for Osun, so by the time they compute the recent one, I am sure by now we must be approaching almost 50 percent. So you can see now a kind of progression in terms of the performance as a result of all these interventions on the issues of facilities. Because we realised that when you train and teach your students in classrooms where rain are falling, where sun is beating them and students are open to the elements, where miscreants can just enter schools and create confusion at any time, where cultism reached, there is really nothing you can get out of such a system.
Sociologists also believe that an environment where a child is raised has a lot of impact on the performance of such a child. And when we realised that, we knew that a major project for us in the education sector was to totally overhaul the infrastructure to a level that would compare favourably to what obtains in the international recognition.
If you pick any of our schools in Osun now, and you placed a middle school in London and a middle school in Osun side by side in terms of infrastructure outlook, you would hardly find any difference. And I am sure that this is not about just propaganda, it is something that you can see for yourself. There are pictures of these online, and you can also come and visit yourself to confirm whether what we are talking about is actually real or are just made up.
So how would you describe the legacy of the Aregbesola Administration in Osun?
Well, you see, most of us when we talk about legacy, most people would want to, first of all, think about that physical infrastructure. The big schools, long roads and all that, including buildings, as if all those things are the only thing you can measure achievements with.
For us, we disagree and I will tell you why. It is not as if we are not providing that physical infrastructure that I have mentioned: the roads, the schools the hospitals, the ambulances, the security apparatus that we have put in place. I did not even talk about the issue of security.
This government was the first to provide as many as 20 highly sophisticated patrol vehicles in Nigeria. Even the one in Lagos came after Osun State had installed 20 Armoured Personnel Carriers and they are still functioning. You see them stationed across the state to the extent that the moment there is an alert, that there is a distress call from any part in the state, those are the vehicles that race down there.
Why is it that in Osun, you have not been able to hear cases of bank robbery? Yes, we have seen a few cases. But even in some of those cases, they have been badly confronted and overrun by the police with equipment provided by the state government. An example was when armed robbers stormed IKirun two years ago. The robbers were badly wounded, those that were not killed were captured. What I am trying to say is that there is no time in Osun State when armed robbery wants to take place, the longest time that the police react is like 30 minutes; and within 30 minutes the armed robbers would have not been able to do anything.
What we consider to be the biggest legacy for us, at the height of everything, is the orientation and reorientation of our people. The realisation of making people realise that look, the society cannot function without the right orientation. And that was why in 2011, we came up with what we call the rebranding of the state. When heard all those accusing Governor Rauf Aregbesola of an attempt to secede, those were the issues that led to it. Why? Because we realise that in a federation, a state is part of the constituent units, which has its own identity. The identity of each of the federating units does not have to tally with the identity of the whole. For instance, if you get to the USA, they have 52 states in America and each of the states has its own identity based on its own culture and circumstances. And so Osun, based on its own people, based on its own culture, we decided that we must have our own identity and so we created it.
And that was what brought about the State of Osun that created so much concern. And those who condemned us at that time, who asked questions why should we have our own coat of arm? Why should we have our own colour? Anthem? Osun today has the best anthem in Nigeria. Ogun had its anthem long before now, but did you hear much of it? It was not so much in use. As if people recognise people must have their own anthem. It is as if people are bound to that national anthem.
Is the anthem sung in primary schools and secondary schools?
Yes, it is sung in our schools. It is part of the identity we believe we must create for ourselves as a state with its own unique features as a federation unit. As part of that comprehensive re-branding strategy, we had what we call the rejuvenation of the Yoruba values: the Omoluabi and that was why we called ourselves the State of the Omoluabi.
A Yoruba man sees himself as an Omoluabi, it means that you are perfect in character. It means that they are not likely to find anything ignoble around you. You are not likely to be a thief; you are not likely to be a cheat; you are not likely to be a fraudster; you run away from excessive drinking and drug abuse, you run away from everything that is immoral. That is what defines the Omoluabi ethos. This was what we wanted to elevate and let the whole world know that we are a different people. This is our identity, this is our mission and this is what we have set out to do as a people. I assure you the emblem of Osun, the colour of Osun; there is no part of the world that you would get to now that you are not likely to find one thing or the other; maybe our flag.
In the last eight years, may be an official or an ambassador or a musician from any part of the world that visited Osun that did not go away with a memorabilia like a flag or our anthem. I personally handed over our anthem and our flag to Forbes in New York in 2013 or 2012 as a proud indigene of Osun State and he warmly received and promised me that the thing would be hanged in his office. I am sure if Mr Forbes can accept this thing with all the enthusiasm, it shows that we are going to places and the journey has just started.
One thing you may not be so proud of is the reputation of Osun as not being able to pay workers salary …
You see, when you talk about salaries you must be able to extend it within a particular context. When this government came in, what was the salary and the wage bill of Osun State? What was the wage bill after we came in? You must also ask when this government came in, was it paying salary as at when due or not?
Don’t forget it was this government of Aregbesola that came up with the idea of, as a state that we would not need to wait for the allocation to the state from the federal government. What we tried to do was that the governor gave a standing order that by the 26th of every month, salary of workers must be paid regardless of whether allocation came or not.
Don’t also forget that allocation comes to every state until three or four weeks after a particular month. That means if we are going to wait for allocation, we would need to wait for about three or four weeks into the new month before the salary of a particular month was paid. And these have been practiced until Nigeria itself and the entire world ran into economic windstorm around 2013/2014.
We paid salary as at when due on the 25th or 26th of every month workers were paid their salary they did not ask for the thing to be reversed for this government did it. They did not also ask for the New Year bonus, the 13th-month salary, which means at the end of December, workers were paid there 13th-month salary.
Workers did not have to agitate for an increase in car loan and housing loan. One day, the people bringing the file for housing loan just came to the governor’s office and the governor looked at it and said is it for them to rent a house or build a house? and asked how many bags of cement would a worker be able to buy to build a house?
And the government decided he would not approve it and asked for a meeting to be rescheduled. Workers did not have to protest before this was given to them. So you now have to look at how things have changed.
And don’t forget there was a kind of labor issue. Minimum salary issue in 2012 that now increased the minimum wage to N18, 000 at that time. Of course, at that time for a state at that time that has less than N2 billion wage bill that such a thing now jacked up the wage bill to about N3.6 billion now and with no additional coming in. Don’t forget we met a state that was generating less than N300 million per month as IGR.
If you have a state that has more than 20,000 workers and you are generating IGR of less than N300million or N250 million per month, then the only option for us was to just start just paying salaries to workers and leave every other thing. That means you must have left the schools in the condition we met them, we would have left the roads in the condition we met them and we would have left the hospitals in the condition we also met them, and security the way we met it, including the youths we would not have provided what we called the youth engagement we created, which became the fashion, the template which the federal government also adopted for the YES programme
When the economic situation now got to a bad stage, that was when the issue of outcry over salary being owed and all that. And when we were hit by sudden challenge, of course, it met us unprepared but it only took sometime before we sort our self out
We called on workers and told them this is the reality, there is shortfall in our location coming from the federal government, we gave them two options: that it is either we continued to pay salaries in full and reduce workers or we keep everybody together and we pay as we are paying. We told the union to go and decide on their own.
The leaders of the workers went back and met and decided to take what was available than be retrenched. That was the option that workers from salary levels 1-7 would be paid their full salary 100% and I can tell you that up till today, the last salary that was paid was that of July, no worker from grade level 1-7 is owed any amount. None.
Workers from grade levels 8-10 who are owed only 25 percent of their salary I cannot give you the exact date, we have been paying workers 25 percent of their salaries. Level 12 and above they are the ones on 50 percent of their salaries.
Workers on grade 1-7, they form the bulk of the workforce and they are the ones that their salary is more important because you would find people there who don’t have another form of support, so they are given their salary in full. No one is owing them.
They have been paid 75 percent of their salaries so the government is owing them 25 percent of their salaries every month since we commenced that formula up till today, so we can calculate. Then those are the very highest level, the directors, including political appointees.
Even me I have been on half salary since 2014. Now, if you look at that, those at that level they are the ones whose salaries are at least can take them somewhere and they are also people who occupy positions that make it possible for them to access that forms of resources like you go for training, official travel for which you get allowances and all that with per diem.
We know that one way or the other, you are able to survive with your half salary, believing that when the economy of your state improves it would be better.
Are you not leaving the debt for the upcoming government?
Issue of debt for any incoming government; government comes government goes. Even Osun State is paying debts incurred in the old Oyo State. When people are talking about debts, when people are talking about Rauf Aregbesola would leave debt for the coming government, government is a continual process. Wherever you stop, another takes over. The government of Osun is paying the debt incurred during the old Oyo State.
How has that affected the relationship of the government with the people?
We have reasons to praise the workers in Osun, apart from the political elites, the politicians who believe that they have to look for one thing or the other to play politics. The real workers of Osun, the people that are concerned, they have fewer issues with this Ican tell you categorically and that is why we keep on praising them. That was why the governor dedicated a particular new road called Workers Drive, not really a new road but an old road, well tarred, well made; that is the road that leads to Osun Osogbo down to Ilesha; it is called Workers Drive.
Why did the governor name that road Workers Drive? It is in recognition of the sacrifice that the workers have agreed to make towards developing Osun. What we have done is to make sure that people are ready to make a sacrifice for the future of the state. As a father, you must be ready to endure and make some sacrifices for the survival of your children tomorrow.
If you eat everything today and you don’t make provision for roads, hospitals, investment and all that, if you are paid everything today and because you are paid everything today and you just eat up because you have the money, and you are not enduring anything; you also have to think about the future of your children.
We believe that workers who are really concerned are not the ones making issues out of this, it is the professional politicians; those who want to make advancement and score cheap points that are using the issue of the salary to score cheap political points.
But they have failed. I tell you, don’t forget Osun State has been owing salary before Aregbesola became governor and also before the re-election in 2014 too, yet people said no; you cannot use that one to ruin us because we can see that.
Yes this government made some commitment, borrowing some money, took some bonds to finance all these projects you are seeing. So in Osogbo, the state capital now, you can now see the Fakunle Unity Comprehensive High School standing there so beautiful; you see Osogbo High School, Ataoja High School; you see the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park; you see the road from Deleyefa down to Ikirun road, you see all these things; they did not come free.
So when you are talking about the debt, you have to talk about the context of it like what did you use the money for? Why did you take bonds and loans? Did you use the money to go marry a new wife? We took those loans to put in the infrastructure that would still be there in the next 50 years.
Can you give us the figure of the debt of Osun State now?
I think it is 147 billion, the total debt of Osun that we are talking about. But come to think of it, when you are talking about that debt you also looking at the roads, you look at the schools, also looking at so many infrastructures, looking at the number of youths that are engaged temporary employment out of which some of them have now gotten permanent employment over the years.
When you talking about debt, if America is to talk about debts, then America should not exist. We should be able to ask questions that why is it that the most indebted countries are also the most beautiful countries? People think we cannot support our own debt because they think we are not ready to make our own sacrifices.
The UK that you see today, most of the structures that most of us want to go and see, all those were put together at the most critical time when things were very hard for the people. If you are talking about Osun, what we are also doing is to make sure that we take those sacrifice to a level that the future of the state is guaranteed. So when you are talking about the bonds we took we are servicing those debts.
By next year I think we must have finished the N11.5 billion Sukuk bonds through which we built those schools. When you take a Sukuk bond, you cannot use it for another thing.
Why people became very angry is that they saw they this government is not paying salaries full, yet they are building schools, building roads? They have forgotten that the bonds you took, you cannot divert to any other thing. When you have taken any bond, you must state what you are using it for.