The decision of the Oyo State government to interrupt what stakeholders consider the life wire of society, namely education and religion has drawn their ire against the government. According to the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Accord Party, AP in the state, the All Progressives Congress, APC, government is insensitive to the feelings and well-being of its citizens by deciding to suspend its payment of the West African Examination Council fees for the final year students in public secondary schools in the state as well as the sponsorship of people on holy pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia and Israel in view of current economic challenges. Expectedly, the leading opposition party in the state,Accord,has slammed the state government for the decision. While condemning the re-introduction of school fees under Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s new educational policy which requires parents and guardians to pay N3, 000 on each of their wards,the party described the action as retrogressive. In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Dr Nureni Adeniran, over the weekend, the party said Ajimobi had gone down in history as the first governor to abolish the free education policy “faithfully implemented by the Lam Adesina, Rashidi Ladoja and Adebayo Alao-Akala governments.” Dr. Adeniran emphasized that it was obvious that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which claimed to have taken its roots from the progressive ideology of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, had committed an ideological suicide with the “unconscionable policy” and should not claim to run a free education policy. The Accord spokesperson pointed out that nothing but a misplacement of priority was responsible for the financial crisis in Oyo State, saying the governor should not blame his deficient managerial ability on anyone. According to Adeniran,’’The government used consultants who fed fat on the resources of the state for everything it did. Contracts were awarded at cut-throat values. Ajimobi wanted to build six model schools at the cost of N3.6 billion. Many of such schools had been demolished with no replacement in sight. Teachers are being owed months of salary arrears and no running costs were given to schools. There is no conducive environment for learning in the state and now parents are to pay in pain. Yet, debt is piling up. “Chief Awolowo launched the free education policy in Ibadan, the capital of the defunct Western Region in 1955, which automatically made the state the intellectual capital of Nigeria.” The statement urged parents, civil servants and the people of the state in general to continue to endure the hardship being experienced for a little more time, adding that they had sown with tears and would soon reap bountiful harvest in joy’’. Similarly, the state chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has described the decision as an indictment on the Abiola Ajimobi-led administration. Speaking with journalists,the state chairman of the party, Alhaji Yinka Taiwo, said the recent decisions showed how badly Governor Abiola Ajimobi had been running the state in the last four years. Though the state government explained that its decisions was due to the economic situation of the state, the PDP was dissatisfied, noting that the government’s inability to properly plan for the future and its crass dependence on federal allocations brought the state to its present sorry situation. Taiwo said with such decisions that would hurt the people of the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government in the state had proven to the people that it was “deceptive, dishonest and incapable of leading the state successfully.” Taiwo stressed that Ajimobi could be compared to King Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12:11, who, immediately after ascending the throne, promised to add to the people’s yoke, noting that it was curious that the governor, despite not paying salaries as and when due and running an economy that was harsh to the survival of businesses, had decided to pile more woes on the people with such harsh decisions. “It is not only shameful that Ajimobi, who promised free and qualitative education, has cancelled the payment of WAEC fees and reintroduced school fees, it is appalling that under his watch, the educational standard of the state has gone down, with the state coming a distant 34th and failing to meet the national average, which was 31.29 per cent in the 2014 WAEC results’’, Taiwo said. Also,a socio-political group,Change Agent Movement,has added its voice to the criticisms against the government decision. Saying with this,the citizens of the state have been told to prepare for the worst under Governor Abiola Ajimobi as he (governor) would only aggravate their suffering and hardship during his second term in office instead of alleviating it. Stressing that the stoppage of payment of WAEC fees and reintroduction of school fees tagged developmental fee in school was just a tip of the iceberg among the anti people’s policies to be introduced by governor Ajimobi. The group explained that the Ajimobi administration had withdrawn the free transport for workers few weeks after his second term inauguration on the alleged non supportive posture of the civil and public servants to the second term bid of the governor. The organization in a statement jointly signed by its chairman and secretary, Messrs Abolaji Adeosun and Malik Adehun, added that it was a great disservice to the people for someone who had barely been visible in the state in the last three months to be introducing policies that would further add to the existing difficulties in the town. According to the group, “it is rather unfortunate for a government who does not see the urgency in paying workers outstanding salaries despite the federal government’s bail out plans to be introducing anti people policies. Just about two months ago, the governor withdrew the free transport buses given to the workers for no just cause “This same Ajimobi administration has embarked on workers verification exercise while it hasn’t produced the results of the last verification or accounted for the funds used for the last verification exercise. Even the loot recovered for the state by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which was claimed to have been expended on model schools are not visible. “Nobody is saying it is mandatory for government to pay WAEC fees and provide free education for anyone, but we get pained because this same administration who used being a welfarist during electioneering process to seek for people’s votes has suddenly turned around imposing anti people’s policies. “We recall with nostalgia how the Ajimobi administration used deceit to defraud thousands of indigent students on bursary award. The government had advertised in 2013 that indigent students who were qualified for bursary should pay N1000 as registration fee. Thousands of students registered but up till today no bursary award was given. This action caused hardship for the students, many of who were striving to meet their educational financial obligation’’. Reacting to the bashings, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress,APC, through its Director of Publicity and Strategy, Olawale Sadare, described the opposition parties in the state as bad losers and hypocrites who were always united by the urge to promote irrational agenda with a view to setting the people against the person of Gov. Ajimobi and the APC. The party said the decision were part of measures aimed at reducing spending and thus assist the government in coping with the current issues of cash crunch and economic instability recalling that the APC-administration of Sen. Abiola Ajimobi has been footing the bills of WAEC fees for students of public secondary schools writing their final year papers. According to APC, “The governor had stated that the measures were temporary as the palliatives would not only be restored soon but many more are to be added to better the lots of the people. The two painful decisions were taken as the last resort in view of the desire to take the state out the current economic imbroglio as quickly as possible. “In all honesty, Gov. Ajimobi deserves accolades for resisting the temptation to agree with some concerned individuals and groups who had come up with pieces of advice considered inevitable for the state to jerk up its internally generated revenue at all cost but the governor, out of his love for the masses, declined to accept most of the suggestions made as he was of the opinion that such would aggravate the suffering of the common man. “We recall that the state government had earlier taken major measures in that direction and these include; reduction of cost of governance which brought about the pruning of ministries from 23 to 13, stoppage of daily feeding of fasting residents at Government House and distribution of food items to the needy during Ramadan fast, postponement of all political appointments, turning down of sponsorship requests from many partners and non-governmental organizations. Interestingly, all of these had little or no direct negative effect on the common and it was when further measures were needed to be introduced that the governor considered the options of WAEC fees and pilgrimage stuff. “In view of the foregoing, it amounts to sheer hypocrisy and a height of irresponsibility on the part of the opposition elements if they chose taking the advantage of the current situation to display their hatred for the people. The question on the lips of the people is that; what difference did the PDP make in the life of the state in its eight years combined rule? Between 2003 and 2011 that the PDP was in the saddle; values were not only eroded and peace did not only vacate the land, resources of the state were plundered while the economic base of Oyo State was badly depleted’’. As parties in the state have turned the matter to a political issue, using it as an opportunity to throw tirades at one another ,many stakeholders in the sector are of the view that the political parties should not be utterly partisan on every issue but seek overall and overriding interest of the citizenry.
-Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan.