Editor's note: In this opinion, Adebayo Adedeji, writes on what the citizen must do to assess the best candidate for Osun state in 2022 governorship election.
According to him, many factors must be considered and the need to start the conversation should start in earnest.
Ceteris paribus, the next governorship election in Osun State holds, according to INEC timetable, July 16, 2022. Party primaries hold February. The incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola, is eligible to seek re-election for he is just serving his first term in office. There are other politicians positioning themselves for the office. Some of the strong contenders are the insurance magnate, Akin Ogunbiyi and Ademola Adeleke, a former senator known for dancing away his sorrow. Both are of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Oyetola seems to be the consensus candidate in the governing All Progressives Congress even though recent political events suggest the former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Najeem Salam, is in the race to slug out the APC ticket with him.
Notwithstanding the permutation and horse trading that may play out before the poll, it is important citizens put the contenders on their toes and assess their readiness for the important office. This is the most plausible strategy citizens can adopt to get the fair deal from the political arrangement.
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Of the issues bedeviling Osun, that of finance ranks first. Osun monthly bill is around N8bn. Her revenue is N4bn. That is monthly deficit of about N4bn. This is how the State has been run since inception. For example in 1991 when Isiaka Adeleke was the executive governor, the state budget was N964m. That was the period the monthly allocation accruing to Osun from the Federal purse was N45m (N540m yearly). That was N420m budget deficit because the State's IGR was almost nil. To shore up the budget, Isiaka Adeleke went for the World Bank loan to construct Ikire-Apomu-Orile-owu, Ara-Ejigbo road, Isiaka Adeleke freeway, etc.
The military administrations after Adeleke were no different. They equally obtained loans to shore up their budget deficits. And all these legacies debts are what have made up the State's debt profile. Currently, Osun is heavily indebted. The State is the third most indebted state in the country. As at 2018 when the current government was inaugurated, Osun's debt was N176bn, this is according to the records available at the Debts Management Office.
This debt, meanwhile, never included another N30bn obligations to road project contractors. But today, the government has managed to repay N67bn of the debt though it has not obtained or added any since inauguration. Unfortunately, the resources daily set aside for debt payment should have gone into capital projects. For every Kobo that comes into Osun's coffers, bulk of it goes to settling inherited financial commitments, pay salary and pension. Little is left for capital projects.
The State's civil service is overbloated and unsustainable. In just 33 months, Oyetola administation has paid as much as N151bn to settle salary and pension alone! The Internally Generated Revenue is not enough to cushion this kind of huge payment even though the IGR has increased significantly: it leaped from N10.4bn --- it met in 2018 --- to N19.7bn that it is at present. Again, the State's debt to Revenue which Fiscal Responsibility Commission reported in 2019 was 650.94% is today 182%. This is possible because of the improved IGR. Nonetheless the improvement in the financial management, there must be genuine discussions on how the State is much better managed for the dividend of democracy to go round.
How can the financial tide be better stemmed?
Substantially increase the IGR? Reduce the personnel on the payroll of the government? Continue to pray that the federal allocation shoot up? Plug leakages?
How can the IGR increase without inflicting pains on the people? What is the political and social implication of rightsizing the personnel on the payroll of the government? What if the federal allocation does not increase to expectation? What happens if there are no leakages to be blocked?
How do the contestants, jossling to become the next governor in Osun, intend to manage her finance? Can they manage it better than the incumbent? Will the incumbent build on the structure and financial working model he has adopted? Is the N36bn IGR drive, the target of his administration, achievable? Who among the contestants is ready to sack the workers to free up some resources to implement other government's activities?
Let the conversation start, please.
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