By Lateef Raji
Osun State is one of the 24 states currently contending with the challenge of unpaid workers’ wages. Obviously, the state’s workers are currently on an indefinite strike action over the issue. Consequently, things are a bit more complicated for the people and government of the state. Dealing with dwindling revenue, unpaid salaries and labour unrest is certainly not what any progressive and people oriented government prays for. Forlornly, the way things currently stand, this is what the Osun State government has to contend with.
It is, however, rather excruciating that while the Osun State government is making constructive and strategic efforts to ensure that all issues relating to the unpaid salaries debacle are addressed (the government has actually begun the process of offsetting part of the unpaid salaries), there seems to be a politically motivated plot and a groundless campaign of calumny against the state government. From the reprehensible activities of some self styled ‘activists’ and emergency ‘friends’ of Osun, one is tempted to conclude that those that were rejected at the polls by the good people of Osun have suddenly seen an opportunity to hide behind the unpaid salary matter to cause confusion in the state. Like a bolt from the blue, some of them had suddenly found their hitherto silenced voices. And they are not just talking; they are actually singing like a Red-eyed Vireo bird which sings more than 20,000 songs a day.
In their hypocrisy and desperate pursuit of political vendetta, together with their co-travelers in the mischievous contrive to ridicule the State Government, these unprincipled elements have continued to shamelessly trade in blatant and unfounded lies against the state government. Their mission is simple: To distract the state government and confuse the good people of the state. But like it is with all dubious individuals who love to play to the gallery, it is not surprising that these men are attempting to bounce to reckoning on the platform of the current Osun workers’ salary issue. How irresponsible!
What is, perhaps, quite absurd is their proclivity for rumour mongering and peddling of falsehood. How on earth could any reasonable person accuse Ogbeni Aregbesola, whose major selling point is his integrity and sincerity of purpose, of fraud? It needs to be stressed that Ogbeni Aregbesola has run, perhaps, the most prudent and transparent government in the country, thus far. In order to save cost and get the much needed funds, which were subsequently committed into judicious use for common good of the state, the governor, for nearly a year, during his first term in office, did not constitute a cabinet. Through this astute imitative, the government was able to make a few savings that were used in uplifting public education, agriculture, job creation, road construction, culture and tourism, environmental sanitation and beautification, flood control, rural development among others.
What this self pseudo ‘activists’ and unfriendly ‘friends’ of Osun did not tell the public is that what is happening in Osun is not peculiar to the state alone. About 23 other states and, indeed, the federal government, are experiencing same harsh economic reality. For the record, Osun State, which received five billion naira as monthly allocation in February 2013, got a mere N466 million in April, 2015! This aptly captures the dire financial strait of the state and the country as a whole. But these peddlers of falsehood won’t tell their audience this. Since their intent is devilish and naughty, Osun must be singled out for constant persecution and needless ridicule.
Ironically, it was the sixteen years’ reign of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that anti-people’s platform which these defective individuals represent, and in particular the six-year reign of former President Goodluck Jonathan that actually plunged our beloved nation into the present mess. It is common knowledge that Dr. Jonathan ran a truly clueless, visionless and most corrupt government in the history of the country. Under his watch, the nation’s foreign reserve was recklessly depleted. Like never before, corruption became the order of the day during Jonathan’s tenure. When the President of a country affirms on national television that ‘stealing is not corruption’, you don’t need to be a prophet to know that such a country is in trouble. The truth, however, is that our economy is actually in trouble courtesy the Jonathan and PDP years of gross misrule.
It must be stressed that prior to the dawn of this present national economic predicament, Osun State had faithfully discharged its responsibilities to its workers. For a period of not less than 30 months, there was no record of rancorous moment with its workers. Indeed, the state, despite its lean purse is one of the few states in the country that paid its workforce a 13th-month salary every December. The government has equally helped to develop the local economy. For instance, the uniforms of pupils and students in all public schools in the state are sourced and produced locally. This has brought about a perceptible boom in the local fabric and fashion industry in the state. Equally, local contractors have been given a great boost as they handle most of the State Government construction works. Artisans, especially at Osogbo, the capital, would readily attest to the fact that things have never been this rosy for them as a result of the unprecedented
patronage they currently enjoy from the State Government. The free meal programme for primary school pupils also offers local entrepreneurs sufficient opportunities to make ends meet.
It has, therefore, become imperative for Osun State workers to call off their strike, team up with the governor to find a lasting solution to the financial crisis bedeviling the state. Their cause is a justified one, and they deserve their wages, but the strike option would only worsen the parlous financial situation of the state. It is simply a counter-productive alternative. Since the State Government did not hide the facts concerning the finances of the state from them, the rational thing to do is to put faith in the already existing line of communication between them and the State Government.
It is important to stress that the workers are part and parcel of governance in the state and as such are in prime position (especially those that work in the state revenue board) to come up with viable strategies that would help shore up the state’s IGR. The state’s civil servants need to rise up in unison by encouraging every eligible resident of the state to fulfill his civic responsibilities of tax payment to the state. Until this is effectively done, the state workers could not be actually absolved of complicity from the current economic woes of the state.
—Raji is former Special Adviser, Information & Strategy, Lagos State.