ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Any government that cannot guarantee the security and welfare of its people, should resign honorably
I am guided in this argument by the contents of Section 14(2)(b) of Nigeria’s constitution, which was the only instrument that Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola swore to uphold, defend and respect, “to the best of my ability” when he took oath to work as governor of Osun State. That section reads: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
Simply, it means that government would have no reason to exist if the security and welfare of people are not guaranteed or protected. After all, government is a social contract between the people and the state in which the people surrender their liberties and powers in exchange for security and welfare from the state.
Without that contract, man will still operate in the Hobbesian state of nature where life is brutish, nasty and short. Therefore, having entered into a social contract with Osun state, it is the duty of the state, represented by its governor to ensure that security and welfare of the people are adequately addressed.
No reason suffices for not addressing these. Failure, however, to ensure these, demands immediate abdication of office for it entails failure to abide by the oath freely taken. Let no one think that the crime of non-payment of wages, which the Holy Books say is deserving of the worker, is a crime exclusive Osun state.
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has tabulated 23 states involved in this dance with the security and welfare of the people. Besides state governments, myriad privately-owned businesses also owe. Scripturally, there is a nexus between denying workers of their right to their wages and business/economic growth. But that’s not the focus here.
Somehow however, Aregbesola comes under serious focus because workers in his state had cried out for help and more than 200 pensioners are said to have died angrily waiting for Ogbeni to re-enact that magic which made him declare, publicly, in November 2011 that he does not wait for allocation from the federation account before paying workers.
Ogbeni had on November 27, 2011 while speaking at a dinner with bankers and financiers as part of activities marking his first year anniversary said “any state waiting for federal allocation to pay its workers is doomed”. For this reason, Ogbeni declared that he pays Osun State workers long before the feed from the Centre hits his accounts. Let me quote him here. “Less than a year in office, I have been able to save N35billion and increased the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) without putting unnecessary tax burden on our poor people but we achieve this through the blockage of leakages in our revenue generation”.
This was in 2011. Fast forward to 2015: Ogbeni seemed to have forgotten his November 2011 dinner. With his inability to pay salaries, Ogbeni made an excuse for himself. He said: “It is a situation absolutely beyond my control. I led an administration in receipt of regular allocation in which I do my budget.
Unfortunately, this allocation started falling in rapid form that totally disorganized my budget and any other arrangement. The development that led to this began precisely in July when we received the June allocation and it was short by 40%. Since then, what we have been receiving from Federation Account is less than the wages, personnel cost. It is far and not mildly less”. Here we are! One thing I have read to understand about telling lies is that the liar must be able to keep good memory. This is because for any lie told, there must be need for a superior lie to cover.
As it is, it is either Ogbeni lied about the situation in 2011 or he lied about the situation in 2015. Either way, he may have pulled wool over some watching Osun eyes. This is against the backdrop of information by Senator Iyiola Omisore that Ogbeni had borrowed some N480 billion. Meaning that allocations from federation account to Osun State had fallen beyond even payment of salaries because banks who in 2011 had told Ogbeni, at that fateful dinner that there was no way he could execute his programme for Osun without partnering with them for financing (another name for borrowing), are now drawing back their loans from source.
Interestingly, all the loud ‘civil society’ voices are silent. For them, there is no brainer investing energy over this. I learnt there are several noisy professors who originate from that state. By his admittance in 2011, Ogbeni said he inherited a debt of N18.3billion from Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Available records indicate that the debt burden of Osun State as at December 2014 stands at $74,053,294.39. This is in spite of Federal Ministry of Finance records showing that Osun earned N61,441,711,451.32 from the excess crude account from 2011 to 2014.
So, what excuses have Ogbeni and other governors for not honouring the constitutional and lawful demand on them to protect security and welfare of their people? Unfortunately, when most people read of security, their mind flash through terrorism, armed robbery and kidnappings or other forms of violent crimes. But, there is also food security, marriage security, child security and many other forms which become insecure on account of refusal to respect obligations. Welfare of citizens is not about building motor parks and gardens. It is also not about sinking borehole which dry out after the first week of commissioning. It is not about street lights that a powered by generators that are withdrawn soon after commissioning.
It is also paying workers so that the unity of the home front can guarantee faith in themselves and the system, making them work happily for the progress and peace of their families and state. However, using the same argument many adopted in the recent past, any government that cannot guarantee the security and welfare of its people, should resign honorably. This weighs more on the progressive governments that promised change.
Like I said earlier, this is not just about Ogbeni as a failure; it extends to the other 22 state governors identified by the NLC to have abdicated their constitutional responsibilities. But Ogbeni’s case is resounding as a classic case of driving a state in the Nigerian federation into bankruptcy. I don’t see him wearing those brown shorts any longer. For now, I hear that food aid is hitting Osun in torrents. Shame! But welcome to reality boulevard. Governance is no street dance. It is no owambe show. It is no road show. It is serious business for the serious minded. Unfortunately, the serious don’t get to become because political leadership is about the street.