By Bisi Lawrence
The past governments controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, at both the federal and state levels, left a record of shame in governance. They mismanaged the financial resources available to them. The upshot is the painful result of wages, monthly wages, not being paid in many areas. One needs to be involved to appreciate the agony of the people so blatantly denied of their due remunerations.
This is the woeful situation in almost all the states which were formerly governed by the PDP in tandem with the Federal Government, suggestive of a deliberate plan to frustrate the All Progressives Congress administrations which would take over from them. It is a tactic well known in warfare— “scorched earth policy”, it is called—when a losing side in retreat destroys all useful facilities behind them, to prevent the pursuing enemy from gaining any advantage through their usefulness. However, there are some states where a hand-over from one political party, or even administration, did not take place, either because the former party retained control, or there were no elections at this time. None of such states, of course, should have any reason to default on any item of recurrent expenditure, least of all, the payment of wages. One of these is Osun State, but it does.
From all the noisome posturing and ballyhoo, no one would have thought that Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola would have fallen into that class. Here was a state where almost every project was a celebration, a success even before it was tried out. Some of them appeared to be revolutionary indeed, like the “Opon Imo”, which should have won a UNICF award— or did it? But there was also all that dabbling in school uniforms with the religious furore that sprang from it, and not forgetting the free school lunch and the politicking that spiced it. Ogbeni, all along created the image of a man in charge, an executive who was fully in control and knew what he was doing.
However, he was not paying the salaries of his staff members, especially the teachers , some of whom might have had to be making good on the sidelines from the leftovers of the pupils’ lunch. Not for just one month or two, but for over half of a whole year he wasn’t, while he posed around pretending to be the foremost deliverer of the” dividends of democracy” in the entire nation.
But he had a reason. He was receiving a reduced allocation every month but kept on spending the money thinking that the situation would improve. He saw no necessity for managing the resources that came to him, either because he was irresponsible or incapable. He had little thought for how the workers who depended on him for the dispensation of their livelihood, were managing to survive. He has got away with it. This is his last term as a governor. But the people whom he had made to suffer such insufficiency for over a year, including physical hunger, will never forgive him. He has failed as an administrator, as a politician and as a patriot.
Ogbeni Aregbesola would not leave it at that. He has a few words for a man who stretched out a helping hand, a patriotic hand, to lighten his burden.
Senator Ben Murray-Bruce is, without a doubt, first a gentleman before he stepped into the muddy waters of politics. A refined businessman, and son of one of Nigeria’s early entrepreneurs, he took to the age-old art of exchange as duck takes to water. He has been successful in his various undertakings conducted always with fastidious transparency.
His campaigns for the Senate seat was made to swing on the mantra, “I just want to make common sense.” And he has occupied himself, since he was elected into the upper chamber of the National Assembly, about how to really infuse real meaning into his occupancy of the office by looking for various ways to contribute to the improvement of the dismal terrain which now fills Nigeria’s horizon.
And so, while other distinguished gentlemen are displaying the latest deadly moves in Kung-fu , and taekwondo attacks on the floor of the house, he has been compiling a series of proposals that would improve the lot of the Nigerian citizen. From such an exercise emanated the idea of how he could make common sense of the ridiculous “wardrobe allowance” approved for Senators as a part of their allowances. Rather than make whining noises about it, he decided to convert it, and other hand-outs to the benefit of some deprived citizens. The recipients would include some widows in his home-state, Bayelsa, and also those who had not been paid their salaries in the “golden state” of Osun. That made common sense to us and, we dare say, to every right-thinking citizen of this country.
But not so to Ogbeni Aregbesola. This is the man whose sense of fiscal management would make even a housewife gape. The monthly allocation, he said, was dwindling, but apparently without any effect on his spending, or consideration for those whose living depended on his decision. Such a decision might have been taken, for instance, on the helicopter that is supposed to be in use “for surveillance”, but whose status is questionable as to its usefulness to the state.
There is also the issue of an airport which is supposed to have been built in the state but which is loudly questioned in certain quarters. His alleged campaign “spraying” of dollars, and all the above, should not be associated in any way with a man who could not pay his workers.
The reaction of the Osun State governor and his supporters is, to say the least, coarse and leaves no redemption in its expression. Hear one of them, Olusegun Aderemi, who is a self-styled civil rights activist: “Senator Ben Murray-Bruce is playing politics with the plight of Osun State workers. The half of his wardrobe allowance which he promised to give to the people is the people’s money. If he wants to give to the people, let him take the substantial fund from the proceeds of his business…..” Now, honestly, did you ever hear such nonsense? Dr.Olusegun Aderemi simply has no excuse for such drivel, since he is supposed to be a member of the Society for Corporate Governance in Nigeria. Whatever that is…or whichever that is, since there are quite a number of these societies for civil rights, and human rights, and women’s rights, and children’s rights. Except for those who just want to make some common sense out of this muddle.