By Ayo Ajiboye
This article is a rejoinder to the falsehood circulated on social media with the title, ‘Ekiti Civil Servants, Teachers Still Remember Sufferings, Anguish Under Segun Oni’. It originated from a character assassin deployed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in its desperate campaign to cling to power in Ekiti State, after failing woefully to fulfil its electoral promises to the people.
The verbal attacks are predictably aimed at SDP’s Chief Segun Oni, widely considered as the candidate to beat in the June governorship election. We shall continue to counter their propaganda to hoodwink voters. The one I am responding to here was particularly bad for standing truth on its head. Contrary to all the lies it contained, Oni blazed many trails in service delivery and people’s welfare during his tenure.
The write-up claimed that “former Governor Segun Oni never added a dime to workers’ salaries even though the new minimum wage of June 2010 had been approved and payment commenced in almost 25 states of the federation”.
Firstly, there was no minimum wage approved in 2010. The only salary increase of the Oni era was in 2007; it was the 25% addition approved by the Obasanjo administration which increased the National Minimum Wage from N7,000 to N9,000. Actually, Oni was one of the first governors to approve the payment. Oni was personally involved in negotiating how the increment would be implemented and this facilitated the approval of N9,500 instead of the recommended National Minimum Wage of N9,000.
The hack writers also claimed falsely that Oni started to delay the payment of salaries after the Ekiti Rerun Election because he was angry that “… majority of the workers openly declared their support for Dr Kayode Fayemi”. The truth is that prior to the rerun election, the Oni administration, despite the global economic meltdown, had built a financial reserve for the state that could pay workers’ salaries even if the state was unable to receive Federal Allocations for any particular month. This initiative not only ensured prompt payment of workers’ salaries but also saved the state a substantial amount of money in bank charges. Hence, pensioners, workers, political appointees, tertiary institutions and parastatals received their pay between the 24th and 29th of every month.
Unfortunately, this arrangement was dismantled during the rerun election as the people in charge over the 70-day re-run interregnum had deployed the strategic reserves for monthly recurrent expenditure elsewhere. This accounted for the subsequent delays in the payment of workers’ salaries. Simply, government had to wait until federal allocations were processed by the banks before it could attend to the payment of the workers. Clearly, the delay was never a vengeful measure against the workers.
The circulated falsehood also alleged that Oni “never added a penny to the subvention of any higher institutions in the state”. What absurdity! This was another area where Oni excelled. His administration increased the monthly subvention of the University of Ado-Ekiti – UNAD (now Ekiti State University – EKSU) three times, raising it from N45 million to N145 million. Oni also almost quadrupled the monthly subvention to the College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti; while monthly subventions were given timeously to the University of Education, Ikere-Ekiti (TUNEDIK) and the University of Technology, Ifaki, (USTI).
Furthermore, the Oni administration brought salaries at UNAD at par with those of the best federal universities, using the University of Lagos as template. The benefits are still being felt as EKSU salaries are higher than those of other universities in the region. Apart from this, Oni regularly released capital grants to Ekiti State-owned tertiary institutions. Unlike now that virtually all structures in EKSU were constructed by ETF and TETFUND, the Oni era witnessed structures put up with capital grants from the state government and UNAD IGR. Such projects included EKSU’s now iconic main gate, Faculty of Engineering Building, three-in-one hall, and Part-Time Programme Building at Irasa.
It was also during the Oni tenure that the UNAD Governing Council, led by the celebrated former FUTA Vice Chancellor, Prof Peter Adeniyi, ensured that almost all the courses in the Faculty of Engineering, Social Sciences, Arts and Management received provisional or full accreditation. It was also Oni that got the UNAD College of Medicine re-established, backed by law and properly funded, with reputable scholars in major fields of medicine appointed into the University Teaching Hospital’s Governing Board. Among these was the internationally-acclaimed specialist in neuro-medicine, Prof Adeloye, the Governing Board Chairman. Members of the Board included Professors Adelusi and Fasubaa.
The main reason given by Oni’s successor for merging the three state-owned universities into EKSU was that the institution would be better funded. Sadly, the Fayemi administration’s monthly subvention to EKSU is only a tiny fraction of what Oni was giving to the three state-owned universities.
The faceless writer also spoke about “the biggest anti-workers protests [sic] in the history of Ekiti State due to his anti worker’s policies and maladministration”. Anti-workers protest; ha! ha! Were the workers protesting against themselves? The illogical and ungrammatical expression is symbolic of the writer’s overall confusion. The truth of that quickly forgotten incident was that about 60 teleguided and misguided workers made noise around for a half-hour and lost steam. Ekiti had a workforce of 47,000; what is the point of dignifying a handful of rabble-rousers with any attention? The question to ask is whether there was any local industrial action by civil servants or teachers during Oni’s administration. There was none.
The phantom mass protest was allegedly triggered by car/vehicle, housing loans. The truth was that within a few months of assuming office in 2007, Oni had almost tripled vehicle and housing loans for the civil servants. Car loan rose from N60,000 for levels 1-6 to N120,000; those of intermediate staff (GL07-10) from N120,000 to N250,000; those of senior staff (GL 12-16) from N150,000 to N500.000; and Permanent Secretaries respectively from N500,000 to N1,000,000. Housing loans to workers were similarly tripled. Those on GL 01-07 had theirs raised from N250,000 to N500,000, those of GL08-14 raised to N750,000, while those of GL15 and 16 were raised to N1,500,000. The Oni government injected over N3billion into the housing and car loans portfolios for workers in both the Civil Service and Local Governments in Ekiti State. All this was done by the Segun Oni’s administration without prompting by the labour unions.
This considerate attitude was extended to retired workers as the Oni administration cleared the pensions/gratuities arrears of teachers, civil servants and local government workers from the mid-80s to the time he left office in 2010. Then the administration introduced a process which ensured that workers who retired from the public service of Ekiti State received their gratuities in full within six months of exiting the service – without having to lobby or beg for it. All this showed that Engineer Oni is a caring leader.
Those who sought to rewrite history also claimed falsely that Segun Oni never commissioned a single project during his tenure. Pray, who executed and commissioned the Oke-Ayedun – Ipao –Oke-Ako – Irele road? The Odo-Oro – Itapaji – Yemero road? The Ijero – Ikoro – Okemesi road? The Isinbode – Iro-Ayeteju – Iro Federal road? The Eda-Oniyo – Obo-Ayegunle road? The Emure – Supare road? The Isan – Ilemeso, Otun – Erinmope road? The Ayede – Gede – Omu-Odo, Imesi – Egbe road? It was Segun Oni that also constructed the virgin roads linking Awo and Iyin; and Erinjiyan and Ilawe. He also completed the Oye – Ire road, the Oye – Are road, Ikole – Ara – Isinbode, Itapa – Ijelu roads abandoned by previous administrations.
The Oni administration also completed the three buildings under Secretariat Phase IV currently being used by the Ministry of Education and its parastatals initiated and taken to roofing stage by Governor Fayose.
Another lie by the scurrilous writer was that former Governor Oni lacked good labour relations. Apart from all the above instances of what his administration did for workers, the labour leaders in his time, notably TUC Olaiya and NLC Arogundade, would be honourable enough to refute this claim. Both were sponsored by Oni to the World Labour Congress in Geneva, Switzerland. The TUC Comrade Olaiya particularly ought to respect Oni for overlooking a couple of incidents that could have got him cashiered, labour leader or not.
If there is ever any good in the antics of hack writers, it is in the opportunity they give for enlightening people about great exploits of the past that might have otherwise been forgotten. In the context of the Ekiti State June 8 gubernatorial election, we are grateful that libellers are giving those of us in the camp of Segun Oni the opportunity to showcase the good deeds of an illustrious Ekiti son who wants to do more for our people.
•Ajiboye is a former Chairman of NUJ in Ekiti State, and a retired Director News at the Broadcasting Service of Ekiti State.