From Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
Lani Baderinwa is the Osun State Commissioner for Information. In this interview, he bares his mind on Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s administration and the socio-political and economic affairs in the state.
Governor Aregbesola has embarked on massive projects in the state, especially road infrastructure. He has completed some, but a lot more are still under construction. Do you think he will be able to complete them before his tenure ends in November this year?
Since he came on board on November 27, 2010, his priority is to run a people-oriented government anchored on infrastructural development and sustainability. He has been doing this to the best of his ability through road, electricity, health and education infrastructures, despite the paucity of funds occasioned by economic recession and poor federal allocations.
If you move round the state, especially Osogbo, the state capital, you would agree with me that he has performed creditably well, especially in road network through construction of new roads and rehabilitation of the old ones. Also, there are massive school building projects that he has completed, which cover new high schools, new middle schools and new elementary schools which are found in every part of the state. The school feeding programme and model school buildings have become models that are now being emulated by other states. If for one reason or the other he cannot complete the ongoing projects before his tenure expires, whoever that would come as his successor should be able to complete them because they are projects meant for the people. Any people-oriented governor should be able to ensure continuity of a good agenda or precedence set by his predecessor.
Recently, students of tertiary institutions in the state trooped out to the streets in Osogbo to protest increment of tuition fees. How would you justify the increment in the light of your claim that Aregbesola’ s administration is passionate about socio- economic wellbeing of the people?
Government has not authorised any increment in tuition fees in all the state-owned tertiary institutions. Only ancillary fees were increased by the institutions’ authorities based on some considerations.
Currently, the tuition fees of Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, and the College of Technology, Esa-Oke, remain N25, 000, while that of Osun State College of Education, Ilesa, and Ila-Orangun is still N20, 000.
Aregbesola’s administration, at inception and without any persuasion in 2011, reduced the tuition fees of all the tertiary institutions from N45, 000 to N25, 000. Since the reduction in 2011, government has not put a penny on the tuition fees.
The managements of the institutions are at liberty to fix extraneous fees and are responsible for the regulations. The bottom line is that government on its own has not increased tuition fees.
Despite poor federal allocation, road and school projects are still going on in different parts of the state. What is the magic behind this?
He is a strategist. He knows how to go about these things. He could decide to source for money to execute capital projects. Nothing is wrong with that. What is wrong is borrowing money for recurrent expenditure. But when you take loan to embark on a capital projects, the result will be there as profitable legacies.
But some people are saying that the governor has succeeded in plunging the state into a colossal debt through excessive bank loans. How true?
The truth about loan is that no bank or financial institution is going to lend you money more than your worth or collateral. There is no financial institution that would give you a loan that they know that you cannot pay. What the state has taken as loan for now is not more than what it can pay. So, there is no question of plunging the state into a colossal debt.
There are insinuations within and outside the state that Aregbesola has neglected workers’ welfare and is only paying them half salary but embarking on massive infrastructural projects. Could you clear the air on this?
It is a figment of imagination of anybody making such an insinuation. Aregbesola is not paying half salary to the generality of its workers as some mischief makers and naysayers are trying to make people believe. The truth is that workers are paid based on modulated salary structure agreed upon by the government and the labour unions in the state.
It is only workers on grade level 13 and above that receive 50 per cent (half) salary based on the agreement. This category of workers constitutes about 20 per cent of the state’s workforce.Workers on levels 8-12 receive 75 percent, while those on levels 7 and below receive full pay.
All workers have received their salaries up to December. As we pay active workers, so we pay pensioners too. The affected people are those who choose not to participate in the Contributory Pension Scheme until they left service in 2011/2012.
The modulated salary was arrived at as the best option the government could take in the interest of the workers due to the economic recession that crippled the state’s finances.
We should thank God that the governor was able to come up with modalities by which no worker would lose his or her job in the wake of the current economic recession which is not peculiar to Osun State. That was how the modulated salary system came up to retain the staff instead of asking some workers to go home or allow others to remain. This would have made some people happy and others sad. So, I think there is sense in the modulated salary structure in Osun State.
Osun 2018 poll is around the corner. What should the people expect from the ruling party?
The reality of politics is that everybody is entitled to contest for position. From what l know, you have to be the candidate of your political party before you can start contesting. The game is beginning to gather momentum. There are competent politicians whom the cap fit. They have started emerging and I am sure when the time comes, we shall know the right person. But the bottom line is that it is the people that have the final say. They know whom they want and would be the one to decide their fate during the election.
But there are insinuations that the governor has his favourite candidate to succeed him. How true?
He is a human being. Anybody would always want somebody to replace him. Somebody he thinks is reliable and likely to continue from wherever he stops. No leader would want an enemy to succeed him. But what l do not seem to appreciate is the fact that people are already pointing fingers at some individuals as the possible persons he is having in mind to replace him. To the best of my knowledge and I think l am close to him to say this that he does not have anybody in mind for now.