At the last count, 27 of the 36 states in Nigeria are reeling in dire challenges of fulfilling the most basic responsibilities. Indeed, some are close to bankruptcy and it is only a matter of time before the bubble finally bursts. At no other time has states’ creation been laid bare as unnecessary distraction since the exercise went berserk in the 1980s than now. Little wonder pending appeals for fresh states are not only falling on deaf ears, but are also becoming irrelevant.
But hardly will Nigerians be ever beaten to ingenuity.
Take, for an instance, the Osun State (or State of Osun) Governor, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola. His was a hopeless case after he failed to pay workers’ salaries for several months. But that was only until recently, when he declared that he no longer relied on what he called “meager allocation” from the Federal Government which would have been fully spent even before its arrival.
“We are funded monthly by the Federal Government with only N200milion,” Aregbesola revealed to an audience at the state’s Government House in the capital Osogbo a fortnight ago.
“Our government has been sourcing funds from other avenues to finance the many projects that we have embarked upon,” he also told members of the audience who must have wondered how the governor pulled the feat in these uncertain times when cash-squeeze has brought virtually everyone and everything to rubbles.
The governor had reasons to be ingenious, anyway, especially as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had turned him to object of derision on account of his failure to pay the state’s workers their wages while building projects that would not generate revenue for the state. So, the opponents now had their match!
The snag, however, was that Aregbesola curiously declined to disclose sources of the additional revenue, but merely submitting, “When the going gets tough, only the tough gets going.” After all, if a closed door is seen, what stops the opened door from being seen as well?
“I will reveal the revenue sources on the second anniversary of my second term in office on November 27 and I want our people to be patient till that time,” he also said, stressing, perhaps for political expediency: “I will continue on the template of good governance and pro-masses policies.”
Some things can be strange indeed, can’t they? Otherwise there are no pro-masses policies without link to regular and adequate wages for the toiling masses. But this is not the case with the Osun State workers at the moment. Not even Aregbesola can contest this fact! For, politics is politics and reality is reality.
The “pro-masses” Osun State’s helmsman went international at the recent 6th Toyin Falola Annual International Conference (TOFAC), organised by the Redeemer’s University, Ede Osun State.
In his lecture, he dwelled on underdevelopment as the basis for Africa’s arrested development.
“Africa is a continent of contradictions, richly endowed but wallowing in abject poverty,” he reminded his audience to a thunderous applause.
“Africa,” he continued, “presents itself as a mystery to Africans than non-Africans and the continent is hardly conscious of its Africaness, thereby taking its identity for granted.” Another round of applause followed.
He enjoyed the atmosphere which lifted him higher as a quintessential international figure. Hear him again: “Africans only showcase their African identity only outside Africa or in a situation of contact with other races. The continent must, as a necessity, graduate from only source of raw materials to the West for it to be an economic power house among developed nations of the world.”
Aregbesola had highlighted on “why Africa remains underdeveloped” at the annual conference and got vociferous applause in return. Maybe one day he would appreciate the reality that the situation in the Osun State that he superintends is a mere miniature of the African situation he spoke so glowingly about. However, if he doesn’t ever come to this reality, so be it.
There must really be something special about prioritising building of projects above paying workers’ salaries, as depicted by Aregbesola’s counterpart in Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.
Fayose, who has assumed renowned notoriety for his needlessly acidic reactions to issues of national importance, particularly issues around President Muhammadu Buhari and his household, has tied his legacy to building infrastructure ahead of welfare for the state’s workers. Salaries can wait till all physical projects are accomplished, the governor seems to tell those who care to listen.
But the state’s Elders’ Forum, chaired by Professor Joseph Oluwasanmi, was shoved to the wall recently and had a Hobson’s choice of calling the apparently derailed governor to other in the strongest terms.
Oluwasanmi hollered in a daring manner at a press conference in the state capital Ado Ekiti: “Anyone who really moves and lives with the people knows that our people are suffering.”
In case he wasn’t clear enough especially to those for whom the Ekiti debacle, widely reported, was still a distance happening, the Forum leader explained: “The markets are at a standstill. No trade is going on, people are very hungry and a lot of anti-social activities have surfaced.”
Everything is linked to the state’s lack of capacity to pay salaries, Oluwasanmi insisted, lamenting: “It is sad and tragic that we have reached this deplorable situation.”
Nonetheless, the professor proffered a solution that should not be hard for Fayose to embrace, if only he is serious about moving the state out of the doldrums. “Let the governor and his lieutenants reduce to the barest minimum their security allowances which at any rate do not secure anything.”
It does appear Governor Fayose is unmoved, suggesting he has other ideas than the Elders have propounded. As far as he understands in his modest school education qualification, no door has yet been closed and there is no need going in search of an opened door.
Interestingly, President Buhari, from whom the ailing 27 states, aforementioned, expect bailout, has nothing but words of exhortation to offer in bounty.
“Each state should begin to look inward for survival,” Buhari has warned, subtly but pointedly, while implying that one closed door should, by necessity, lead to many opened doors.
As an elder, he has also summed the prevailing situation with uncommon insight: “We refused to save for the rainy day. Now, the rain is beating us!”