Tuesday 20 February 2024

"Governors not complementing Tinubu’s efforts" ..Omipidan

Ismail Omipidan, a public affairs analyst, served as the Chief Press Secretary to former Osun State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola. He was a guest on a radio programme in Osogbo where he x-rayed the current situation in the country and concluded that the Federal Government alone cannot be blamed for the current state of affairs in the country. In his view, the governors should also be held accountable. Excerpts:

 The APC has alleged that the spark of protests across the country was instigated by the opposition, what evidence does the party has to substantiate this claim? Are you saying Nigerians are not suffering under the harsh economic conditions occasioned by your government’s policies?

Let me start on this premise so that you can understand very well where I am coming from. I am not the spokesperson of the APC at the national level neither I am the spokesperson of the APC at the state level. However, as someone who campaigned vigorously for the emergence of current administration at the centre and someone who also participated actively in the immediate past administration of His Excellency, Adegboyega Oyetola here in Osun, I feel I am eminently qualified to say one or two things about the current happenings.

The truth is that, yes, there is hunger in the land, President Tinubu acknowledged that fact, and he had said severally that they are taking measures to ensure that the issue is taken care of. But as someone who believes strongly in true federalism and as someone who has always advocated that federal government has no land anywhere, it is the state that has land and therefore, resources should be devolved to the states to ensure that the states are able to take care of the citizens, I believe the states should do more with regards to food production. And that will now bring me to ask the question: what exactly are the governors of the various states doing? I am not particular about Osun now; I am saying the governors at their various states, what have they been doing with the humongous amounts  of federal allocation going to their states?

If you check the records very well, as at April and May 2023, the highest the FAAC shared was about 780bilion naira. But by June, they shared 1.1trillion naira and the last one which was December, was also over a trillion naira and from this amount, federal government got 383billion naira, the states got 396billion naira while the local governments got 288billion naira. So, the question should be what have  the states and the local governments done with this humongous amount of money? You will agree with me that if these resources had properly been applied, some of the economic crises we are witnessing now would not have arisen? You are aware that in the history of this country there is no government that had allocated palliatives in terms of rice to lawmakers the way the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu did in December last year. I am sure that you are aware that some of the lawmakers acknowledged this fact.

But let us now narrow down  to Osun, for instance, I am aware that over 14,000 50kg bags of rice were sent to Osun as palliatives and each of the members of the House of Representatives from Osun also got 1,200 50kg bags of rice. So, the question should be, when and where were these bags of rice shared in Osun? I mean, if I don’t know of any other state, I know of Osun. I am also aware that Osun had received 4.5billion naira NG-Cares; 2billion naira palliative grant and 7billion naira subsidy share totalling 13.5billion naira. They should tell us what they have used these monies for. I believe very strongly that if Osun and other states had applied these resources very judiciously, the economic hardship confronting Nigerians wouldn’t have been this tough.

As to whether or not the opposition is fueling the protest against the economic reality, if you go by the politics of attrition that is being played in Nigeria, it is not unlikely because if for instance, when we were in Osun during the End-Sars protest, we knew the role played by the opposition and some of those who were opposed to the administration of former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, so, it is not unlikely that the opposition are the ones fueling the protests.

 As we speak today, a bag of rice is 70,000 naira, a bag of flour is about 42,000 naira, 25 litre of groundnut oil is about 43,000 naira from 22,000 naira, a Kongo of Garri is around 900 naira and naira is at its lowest value – 1,500 naira to a US Dollar. This is the lowest we have gone as a nation and an average Nigerian is agonizing. Is the APC saying people do not have a reason to protest bad governance?

Well, when we talk about bad governance, we must situate it because when Kolapo Alimi was speaking the other time, he said that Buhari left the exchange  rate at 500 naira to a Dollar. But go and check very well, part of the reasons we are in the quagmire that we are in today was because of the refusal of our leaders to be courageous enough to take the right decision at the right time. The Dollar you are talking about which was at 750 naira at official rate, the rate you would get it at the black market was not 750 naira. So, what was obtainable then was for certain persons to use the so called official window to get these dollars and begin to sell them at the black market. And from day-one, when Tinubu was campaigning, he left no one in doubt that he was going to align exchange rate so as to stop some persons who have been hawking dollars to continue in their habit. That is one. Two, it is not an attempt to shift blame, but it is to face reality. Like I said earlier, the federal government has no land anywhere, therefore, if we must improve on our local productions, if we must improve on industrialization, then the sub national must begin to make their own contributions. I tell you today that in Osun, there are fish farmers whose products are being bought over by Nigerians from south-east and south-south areas because the fish they produce is too big and our people in Osun hardly patronize such. I am talking about fish from 10kg, 15kg and the likes and these farmers can be found around Powerline, Awosuru, Owode-Ede. Are you saying that it is the federal government that would come and say let improve these farmers’ capacity and increase their productivity? Go and look at the 2024 budget of Osun, the state budgeted 3.5billion naira for agriculture, whereas in the office of the governor, they allocated close to 13billion naira. The question is, if you want to increase production, how do we do it, production can only be increased by the support from the sub national  and that is why I am saying these monies accruing to the states, we should see them being used, we should know how these monies are being spent because you can’t divorce a state from the national.

Basically, the governors supported the removal of fuel subsidy so that they can have more money to develop their states. You see, the states are getting more monies today because of the fuel subsidy removal and people must see them spending that money to cushion the sufferings of Nigerians at the state level. That is my argument. And talking about things going high and whether workers are not earning more. If you look at what we called Wage Award that led to the motive of giving states some money for same purpose, Osun got 7billion naira and if you recalled very well and you can check the records with you, it was until the APC in Osun insisted that they want to see what the Ademola Adeleke’s government was using the subsidy fund for, that they were compelled to announce they wage award. Mr.  Kolapo Alimi, the state Information Commissioner had issued the statement to say that the state was not going to add a penny to workers’ salaries but when they were pushed by the Osun APC, the governor quickly came up to say that he was going to add 15,000 naira or so, whereas the government had collected this money from the federal government since last year August. They only started adding that money to workers’ salary by December. So, this is part of the insincerity on the part of the leaders at sub national levels, because whatever effort the federal government is making, if sub national are not supporting, there is no way you will see the results. Let’s be realistic with ourselves.

You recall that each of the states when they were seeking support for election, they had their campaign promises, that of Osun was that he was going to improve on agriculture, he also said that he was going to improve on industrialization, and I ask again, since over one year, how many investors have they attracted to Osun? Are you saying we will still blame federal government for that too? You will recall that when our Governor travelled sometimes last year, when APC said that he went somewhere else, the state government issued a statement to say the governor went to meet investors, only for governor himself, on your programme confirmed to you that he went for medicals. Now, let’s even assume that he went for medical and he still had time to interact with some investors, I ask again, where are the results? So, you can not continue to blame the federal government for all the woes in Nigeria without scrutinizing what the sub national governments are doing.

 It is one thing for the federal government to provide a policy framework, it is another thing for the states to see to the actualization of some of those policies. For instance, if the state government decides to set aside two billion naira and decides to get some of these food items and begin to sell to Nigerians at their various states at subsidized rate, do you think we will have this crisis? Because the subsidy was removed simply because we want to save more money and get more money to spend,  and that had happened, so, if we are now getting more money, we should see the results. That is just the argument.

 *You have made a brilliant suggestion, but I am not sure any APC state has done anything different?* 

I am not singling out PDP government for condemnation on this but perhaps because I am from Osun state, I should be more concerned about what is happening in my state than other states. For instance, in Benue state where I was born, since 1999 they have been telling us that they were going to set up a fruit processing factory. You can google or ask anybody, we have the best oranges in Nigeria, but most times these oranges rot away, till date, I am not aware if they have set up that industry in Benue state, so, it is not as if I am singling out Osun but perhaps because Osun is my own primary domain, Osun is where I have lived in the last four years, so, I have better knowledge and better understanding of the happenings in Osun than any other state at the moment.

 *Is APC sensitive to the plight of Nigerians because many Nigerians have been saying that the government at the centre doesn’t show any sign of concern to the present economic situation?* 

I believe it is incorrect to say that the APC government in the centre is insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. The Tinubu’s administration has released different palliatives to lessen the hardship being faced by the people. Mr. President had also introduced a number of measures to reduce cost of governance. Last month, President Tinubu slashed the number of his entourage on foreign and domestic travels by up to 60 percent. This limit also affect vice president, first lady and other top officials. When Mr. president reduced the number of vehicles in his convoy, it was to reduce the cost of governance and he has told us that more measures are still coming.

Again, I ask, to what extent are those at the sub national reducing cost of governance? That is one! Two, the COVID-19 palliatives that  Alimi mentioned, you can google and cross-check whatever I want to say, those palliatives were sent by CACOVID- a conglomerate of private individuals, and they insisted that they would be the ones to share to the public. As a matter of fact, the letter we wrote to them telling them the need to allow us share the food items is still in the public domain and the CACOVID team came back to say that they should be held responsible for the delay in sharing the food items. So, Oyetola’s administration didn’t hoard any palliative. If we wanted to hoard palliative, we wouldn’t have taken it to Ede because we know those who are in Ede. Three, Mr. Alimi just said that he tendered an apology for supporting Buhari in 2015, may Allah Subuhanalahi Watahalah give us long life and prosperity, I believe very strongly that he will still tender another apology for what he is doing today in Osun. The Adeleke government claimed it want to spend 100billion naira on infrastructure, my brother, if half of that amount is invested in agriculture, by now we would see the results. The infrastructure they are even talking about, where are they?  On Monday last week, I went from Akoda up to Ede, apart from digging the ground that they have been doing since July last year, when they announced the award of that project which was approved without due process, they have not done anything else and the question is, when they were campaigning did they at anywhere ever told Osun citizens that they were going to construct five flyovers? I am sure if they had told Osun citizens that, then, we would have asked them of what benefit are those flyovers. So, if they have invested that money in agriculture, I believe very strongly it will tell on the lives of ordinary citizens.

What I will say to every Nigerian out there is that after hardship comes, a relief. I believe very strongly that with some of the measures that have been taken so far, truly, relief will come. We must continue to ask Osun state government what it has been doing with the allocation it has been collecting because till today, they have not told the citizens how much they have received, they have only faulted what is in the public domain which is put at about 150billion naira since they came into office in November 2022.

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