|Rt. Hon. Najeem Salaam, Speaker, State of Osun House of Assembly|
As a member of political class, I must appreciate that all stratified classes from politically exposed persons, academia, business moguls, financial experts, policy executors to security operatives, unemployed youth and the vulnerable ones are in state of confusion, because everything in our country appears to be in a perpetual flux, apologies to Heraclitus, the ancient Greek thinker. But one thing seems to be real, our country had been badly looted to an extent that its life blood which connotes economy has been contaminated and corrosive.
So, I must say that President Muhammadu Buhari was apt to have traced the root of our challenges to corruption. No wonder, he says, "if Nigeria fails to kill corruption, corruption would kill Nigeria." For a fact, all Nigerians at face value have agreed that corruption must be defeated before we get the other things in the state of affairs right. Invariably, the breakdown of our health institution that could not support outbreak of epidemics; lack of refineries to refine our crude for domestic consumption; industrial disputes that spare no essential labour force; states that could not pay salaries and adulterated national budget must be traced to corruption.
However, because of the hydra-headed challenges facing the country and different opinions that would trail each indicator pointed out for the cause(s) of the mess we find ourselves today, i have elected to descend from national ladder for the purpose of clarity and indubitable facts. Being a major player in decision-making in the State of Osun, I have chosen to critically examine some salient issues with a view to proffering pragmatic solutions as I see them from my own prism.
In appreciating the peculiar situation of Osun as it obtains in not less than 30 states among the 36 federating units, I need to highlight some of the challenges and the street positions of the critics, before I explain the reality behind them as an insider, and the custodian of shrine of democracy (legislature) with a caveat: that some people may embark on spirited effort to fault my explanation based on speculation or politicking, but I shall stand to be faulted all the same on the point of undisputed fact.
At a glance, our state reeks under a debt profile of not less than N100 billion in aggregate; our state services the debt facility with N2.4 billion monthly; some of the projects like Gbongan to Akoda road, Old Garage to Ese Odo dual carriage way, airport are temporarily abandoned. Besides, workers' pay is subjected to available resources; doctors are on strike and there is a low patronage on daily transactions in our markets. These are the catalogue of accusations and statements of facts used by the opposition to vilify Governor Rauf Aregbesola, and are also used by the government to explain our challenges arising from paucity of funds, depending on which side of the divides one stands to look at the issues.
In the first premise, the executive arm of the government has defended itself on how the debt was incurred, what it used the bank facility obtained for, and it is not my call to start repeating what had been done severally like a broken record, but I know for a fact that nothing was done as touching the funds for projects that did not pass through my gavel. That projects were abandoned? This may not be completely true, for you and I know that it is irresponsible for a father to embark on building construction on existing site, while the households are starving.
Quite painful that we have workers who are compelled to endure rational scale for their pay. As a matter of fact, I consider it our low moment in the history of this government, but I am consoled by the fact that we are not contemplating sacking our workers, and I pray it would not get there, because if a worker is relieved of his duty, he becomes a burden unto himself, and his family will suffer, while dependents would equally suffer.
So, I suggest our workers should continue to show understanding by ignoring the "politrickicians" who are not only jobless, because they have no other means of livelihood except politics of looting but also desperately eager to return to the Government House, because it makes sense to hearken the axiom which says, "half loaf of bread is better than none" at the material time. And I promise to seek remedy for all workers immediately our state of economy improves.
Let me quickly express my view as touching the debt portfolio of my state. I know for a fact that United States of America has population of 350 million with a debt ceiling of $17 trillion, and if we should choose a round figure to divide the portfolio, it suffices to say that an average individual has no less than $45,000 on his or her head as debt burden. Despite this, USA is still the the world superpower, and all nations, except pariah states want to befriend it. In that sense, debt is not problem, but non-judicious use of it for the development of the society is the mega problem.
I think we are in order with the infrastructural drive of Aregbesola's government, because it is obvious that whatever we leverage on infrastructure today would not be of the same quality . Yes, we have to eat, drink and enjoy ourselves, but whoever or a state that desires to rise, must grow through self denial. In our own case, our workers and political class who are enduring staccato pay must be commended for their sacrifice.
As touching the doctors' strike and other issues, I shall explain our take at the state parliament, and effort to break the impasse in another piece.
To be continued...
Salaam is the Speaker, State of Osun House of Assembly