By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor
GOVERNOR Gboyega Oyetola began his sojourn as the helmsman of Osun State in 2018 on a brain cracking note.
The problems were legion. The funds to address the challenges were paltry. Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, was nothing to write home about. There were unpaid gratuities of pensioners and outstanding half salary arrears of civil servants of over 15 months.
Oyetola’s predecessors left a huge debt overhang for him. At a stage, his immediate predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, borrowed N1billion monthly to pay salaries. When Aregbesola was leaving in 2018, Osun State’s debt was N179 billion.
However, Oyetola, given his boardroom experience and having served as chief of staff to Aregbesola, came prepared for the job. Practically, he hit the ground running on November 27, 2018, when he was sworn in as governor.
Delivering without loans: Deploying prudent management of resources, his administration has kept faith with the people and maintained fidelity with his electoral promises. As of September 30, 2021, the debt of Osun State has gone down to N132.644 billion, according to the Debt Management Office, DMO. From an IGR of less than N4 billion in 2018, Oyetola has taken the state’s internally generated revenue to N17.92 billion with IGR now constituting more than 42 per cent of the budget.
Without borrowing a dime, Oyetola, during his third year anniversary said: “We have built institutions and placed the state on the path of sustainable development. We have instituted creative and innovative financial and good governance initiatives to keep our economy afloat and embarked on projects in the face of the prevailing national economic downturn.
We engaged in transparent governance mechanisms – plugging wastes and blocking loopholes. This has enabled us to pay salaries and pensions and to take care of other welfare issues, among others. We have instituted inclusive governance and placed the people at the centre of all that we do.”
Indeed, Oyetola’s achievements cut across health, infrastructure, agriculture, and human capital development among others for which he is a deserving nominee for Vanguard’s Governor of the Year Award.
Abolishing single uniform, classification of schools policy
Oyetola has shown himself as a listening governor and demonstrated courage by abolishing the single uniform policy and reclassification of schools that pitched critical stakeholders against the previous administration. To get things smooth sailing in the largest civil service state, Oyetola prioritised the payment of pensions. So far, his administration has spent about N40billion on pensions and gratuities, including clearing the backlog of the arrears he inherited at the State and Local Government levels in the last three years. He has abolished half salaries, he pays full as at when due.
He is paying gratuity and pensions regularly and clearing the backlog he inherited because “we believe that our pensioners deserve to receive their dues after labouring so hard to build our state. We shall continue to release funds regularly to take care of the current pensions and gratuities and to clear the backlog which we inherited. This is my pact with our senior citizens,” he said. Osun is one of the few states across the country implementing the minimum wage.
On health, the Oyetola Administration ensured that each of the 332 wards in the state has a Primary Health Care Centre, PHC. He approved 100 per cent revised Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS, and Consolidated Health Salary Structure, CONHES, thereby putting an end to eight years of agitation for salary increment by medical practitioners in the state.
He also constructed a120-bed Ward at the state specialist hospital and 30 units Doctors’ quarters; carried out rehabilitation of three general hospitals, one per senatorial district; ensured massive funding of Osun Health Insurance Scheme, including the establishment of Drug Distribution Centre to supply medicines and consumables to 16 accredited government secondary health facilities across the state; and put an end to a perennial out-of-stock syndrome of medicines in these facilities.
On health insurance, hundreds of enrollees from the informal sector pay about N12, 000 for an individual and N57,000 for a family of six per annum. The indigent and vulnerable population, pupils in orphanages and schools for the handicapped enjoy the services of Osun Health Insurance Scheme, OHIS, for free. Every worker pays 1.5 percent of his or her basic salary per annum while Government adds three per cent of his or her basic salary making 4.5 per cent per annum to access Medicare. The Osun Health Insurance Scheme has been adjudged one of the best runs in the country.
Massive road infrastructure
To meet the needs of the citizenry, Oyetola has prioritised roads that had been abandoned for decades. Some of the roads had not been touched in the last 30 years. For instance, the road linking Origbomeje in Ife North Local Council was last rehabilitated in 1976. Similarly, the Alekuwodo road was last rehabilitated when Osogbo was still under Oyo before the creation of the state. Also, Ada-Igbajo road was last touched 33 years ago. All these have been fixed by the Oyetola administration.
Also, the governor is funding the dualisation of Gbongan-Akoda Dual Carriage Way, as well as Old Garage (Osogbo)-Ikirun-Ila-Odo-Erinle, which are Federal Roads spanning 66.8 km. He is collaborating with the Federal Government to ensure the completion of the Osun airport, and the collaborative efforts, through the state Ministry of Works and Transport and the Nigerian Air Force, is yielding positive results towards developing the Ido-Osun Airport Corridor.
And work has begun for the setting up of Air Force Base that will house a Research Centre, Airforce Barracks and a hangar. Oyetola is serious about changing the Osun narrative from one that is known as a civil service state to one bubbling with economic activities. He is working towards diversifying the economy using Agriculture, Tourism and Mining, ATM, and efforts are yielding positive dividends.