Editor's note: Dickson Onyenekwu, an ex-banker and public reputation analyst, writes on the just concluded Osun governorship election, noting that the near loss of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), should be a wake-up call for the party, especially with regards to the performance and productivity of a sitting governor.
Osun state is one of the states in the South-west region of Nigeria and it was created on August 27, 1991. The name Osun was derived from the River Osun, the venerated natural spring that is the manifestation of the Yoruba goddess of the same name. Yoruba mythology has it that Ile-Ife in the State of Osun is where Olodumare started the creation of the world. Historically, it represents the beginning of life, the birthplace of civilization, the embodiment of all that we see or feel. Osun is regarded as the ancestral home of the Yoruba race.
The gubernatorial elections which will usher in a new governor to take over from Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola - who has been in the saddle as the duly elected governor of Osun state since 14th April, 2010 - is critical especially at this time when the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is under fire due to perceived ‘underwhelming’ performance compared to the myriad of promises which it made while seeking election.
On the timeline of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s many achievements and milestones are the provision of 150, 000 e-learning tablets called “Opon Imo, Tablet of Knowledge,” for senior secondary schools; increase of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from 3.38bn in 2010 to N11.73bn in 2017; provision of effective and efficient public transportation through procurement of buses; creation of a number of incentives to boost agriculture including support to farmer groups and other empowerment initiatives; provision of free daily meals through the Osun elementary school feeding and health programme known as o-meals; increased primary school basic funding grant; and a plethora of other achievements and milestones.
On the face of it, these are all laudable projects that are people-oriented for which His Excellency should be hailed and given accolades. This pales into insignificance when you consider the actual economic situation of the state as described by a recent report from a civic research institution, BudgIT, portraying Osun state as being in a precarious situation, ranking 35 out of the 36 states tested. The report, as published in ThisDay online of September 18, 2018, stated that Osun state’s net allocation from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) stood at N15.79bn from January to June 2018; while the state has a domestic debt of N138.23bn and $96.60m in external borrowing in 2017 as well as a budget size of N176.4bn, while its IGR and Value Added Tax (VAT) is put at N6.48bn and N924.83m respectively. The report also observed that the state alongside others appeared to lack the rigor and foresight to explore the various export opportunities at their behest to boost non-oil receipts. BudgIT operates by applying technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement to facilitate societal change.
When placed side by side with the vaunted achievements of His Excellency, the rank of the state as 35th out of 36 states in the federation, its huge domestic debt of N138.23bn and $96.60m and the fact that Osun state ranks highest amongst states indebted to workers with salary and pension backlogs running into months, further decimates this performance as the good people of Osun state are deeply affected and very bitter at these un-kept promises thus placing the governor’s ‘achievements’ in jeopardy. The perennial non-payment of salaries and pension to workers has the ripple effect of many families not being able to cater for their basic needs which consequently affected the retail economy of the state.
Elections are a time when the people give their verdict through the ballot box by voting for their preferred candidate. Despite the governor’s promises and good start to governance, his inability to deliver on critical dividends of democracy that could have upgraded the lives of the people made it difficult for people to support his party, the APC wholeheartedly. This precarious and unsavory situation led to the APC and the governor’s preferred candidate, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, nearly losing the governorship election to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), whose candidate Senator Ademola Adeleke, not hitherto expected to give any serious opposition, fought fiercely to lead in the first round of polls which dragged into a run-off.
The Osun elections showed that though an incumbent governor has all the arsenal and machinery of state behind him, the support of the people can only truly and sincerely be galvanized by the performance and productivity of the governor.
The significance of an unexpected loss by Ogbeni Aregbesola in the Osun state election would have surely shaken the APC’s strong hold of the South-west region which already controls Lagos state, Oyo state, Ondo state, Ekiti state and Ogun state. It would certainly have affected the South-west leaders’ plan to ensure joint and collaborative growth and development of the States within this region which would be made more fluid by governors with same party affiliation.
At best, the near loss in Osun state has been a lesson to the South-west leaders especially with the unfolding drama in Lagos state, where stakes are even higher. There is a pressing need to ensure performance and productivity is the main kernel for electioneering and deciding who flies the party’s flag in elections. It has become clear that the party must ensure the resolution of all issues internally to have a united front as they go to battle at the polls to forestall the resurgence of the opposition.
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The importance of ensuring that Lagos state is retained cannot be overemphasized. The APC must therefore ensure that its greatest asset in this battle, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, is vigorously supported and returned to office. Fielding a fresh and untested candidate without the leverage of performance and productivity at this level of governance to fly their flag, may be dicey and leave the door open for the opposition to attempt a knock-out. Given the cosmopolitan nature of its people and the diverse strength of their inclinations, the political issues of Lagos state should be handled with great tact and analytical dexterity.
The near annihilation of Ogbeni’s political dynasty and narrow win of the Osun state elections by the APC over the opposition PDP who are constantly breathing down their necks should further reiterate the importance of greater service and performance and the need to use all candidates who are performing as ambassadors for greater victory. It is important that political leadership should sustain its performance to the end and ensure that the engine of its productivity glides smoothly to greater heights while averting the calamitous effect that comes with huffing and puffing to the finish line.
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