The Sole Administrator

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Monday Discourse
It is going to be three years this year since the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, has run the state without a cabinet, leaving him the sole administrator. In this report, THISDAY Politics Desk examines the state of the state and her reckless leadership. Additional reports byYinka Kolawole
It is the first of its kind in the history of the country. A democratically elected governor has suddenly turned around to make himself the sole administrator of his state. For this governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, it is however not the first time he would dare a thing of this nature and get away with it. When he first assumed office in November 27, 2010, he would not constitute his cabinet until almost over a year after he was sworn in. His excuses then were yet a familiar tirade.
He’d sold the idea that his predecessor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was thrown out by a court to pave the way for his governorship had practically run down the state and as such, there was a compelling need to embark on a financial re-engineering of the state. He sold the idea in a most strategic manner. He even went round some major newspaper houses for their buy-in into what he chose to call his unusual approach to governance.
He described his vision in the most hyperbolic language, selling the impression of one with a very sound mind and an avid reader of books, with some Marxist upbringing. He though often sounded pedantic during most of his ‘lectures’; he mostly got away with a lot of this twaddle because of his perceived ideological leaning.
But it didn’t take long before he squandered his goodwill. Soon, the truth about his person and capacity to govern started to manifest. He no longer could sustain a majority of his projects or retain many of his employees across his many O’Yes creations. The finances of the state took a downward slope and everything became stagnant with a frightening debt profile.
At a point, things became so bad in the state that poverty could be seen literally walking the streets. This unpleasant circumstance would later be made worse by the hard biting recession, occasioned by their change administration. Although Aregbesola managed to scale through his re-election in 2014 despite his man-made failings, he has further changed the focus of democratic governance in the state as he now solely runs the state, almost three years since his re-election, thus setting an entirely new record in democratic governance.
In what is best described as none other but autocracy, he now solely conceives ideas and policies, analyses them by himself, opens up bids for contracts, awards them to whoever he pleases, executes them all by himself, without as much anyone engaging him in a debate of constructive alternative views. He is suddenly an omni-administrator with preternatural tendencies to foresee challenges and needs of the state and contain them pronto.
Unfortunately, he’s used to getting away with this administrative anomaly because of assumed media conspiracy to shield those they want to shield and expose those not in their good books. Perhaps, his feeble and deceptive ideological leaning is more important to the media than the actual content of his character, both as a person and governor. And without much ado, he’s failed to live up to billings as far as his governorship is concerned and could leave office more as a disappointment than reveling in the kind of goodwill that ushered him into office by the stroke of judicial intervention.
A civil rights leader in the state, Comrade Adeniyi Alimi Sulaiman
recently condemned the governor for the non-constitution of members of the State Executive Council (SEC) for over two (2) years of his second term in office, urging the State House of Assembly under the leadership of Speaker Najeem Salaam to commence an impeachment process against the governor for breaching the Constitutional provisions and the Oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Sulaiman, who is the Chairman, Civil Societies Coalition for the Emancipation of Osun State (CSCEOS) lambasted Aregbesola for ruling the state like a sole administrator for over two years now, adding that the non-constitution of his cabinet has been seriously affecting the growth, development and progress of the state and advised him not to waste the precious time of the good people of the state in appointing his cabinet members.
He also expressed worry about the kind of persons that people the State House of Assembly, whom he described them as toothless bulldog. He declared his organization’s support to the recent move by the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly in proposing to amend the amended 1999 Constitution to compel the Federal and State Executive arm of government to constitute their cabinet within two months of assuming of office, urging the federal legislators not to drop the idea.
He maintained that the financial crisis excuse of Aregbesola was not tenable in the eyes of morality and constitutional democracy, saying the man-made financial crisis facing the state was as a result of Aregbesola’s poor management of funds accrued to the state from the Federation Account, explaining that the governor has contradicted the provision of the amended 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as enshrined in Section 14 and 192 to 196, where the state should be governed with the principles of democracy, social justice and fairplay.
A member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Kasali Oloyede remarked that Aregbesola’s action should be investigated for running the state as if his personal estate. The PDP man contended that EFCC and ICPC should step into Aregbesola’s running of the state as a sole administrator. He also wondered why Aregesola did not constitute the cabinet as a way of spreading the dividends of Democratic governance.
 
The Transformation of Aregbesola
Aregbesola is the fourth democratically elected governor of Osun State noted for hard work, resilience, humility and sincerity of purpose. A one-time lively and bubbly character, he soon became what he was not before assuming office. Many strange things started happening in the State of the Virtuous. The sobriquet of the state was changed from State of the Living Spring to State of the Virtuous without much ado from the citizenry, because the change did not affect the price of staple food.
Recent changes are indeed mindboggling because they are not only affecting the price of fish; they are also threatening the very essence of social coexistence in the state. The Governor also prefers to go by the name Ogbeni, dropping the title: ‘His Excellency’. He said he was not excellent and has refused to appoint a team of cabinet members to help deliver on his promises, yet he is doing it all alone? He is the only one who deals with problems, formulates policies, disburses funds and also implements them all. But he didn’t also factor into the reality that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This, of course, explains the state of Osun today.
His refusal not to appoint cabinet members is better put in perspective. What are its implications? Some people are saying that the governor’s refusal to appoint cabinet members in his second term is as a result of the poor performance of his cabinet in his first term. Keen watchers of his administration are also of the opinion that the poor performance of his cabinet permeated the state’s local government administration and service delivery in all facets of the system.
Mr. Sunday Oyinloye, who claimed to be a stalwart of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) back then, noted that during Aregbesola’s first term in 2010, it took him almost a year to constitute his cabinet. He claimed he was saving money for the state. During his first two years in office, he failed to start any meaningful project by hiding under the disguise of saving money and that road construction was not a good idea during the rains.
Thus, in arguing that his failure to have a cabinet in time in 2010 as a failure of his last tenure executive cabinet, it is trite to assume that the performance of his cabinet was woeful and a disgrace to the state. But that would not serve enough grounds to sole run the state at collective expense.
Also, a human rights lawyer, Kanmi Ajibola, once sued the governor for refusing to appoint a team, almost two years into his second term. He filed the originating summons at the state High Court pursuant to Section 6(6) (B) and 24 of the 1999 constitution, after the expiration of seven days ultimatum given to him to appoint commissioners had lapsed.
In a 24-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, Ajibola submitted that the refusal of Aregbesola to appoint commissioners was illegal and unconstitutional. He sought an order of the court, directing Aregbesola to appoint commissioners into the available ministries in the state within seven days of the judgment of the court, stating also that Aregbesola has been acting contrary to his oath of office and code of conduct for public officers.
Chief Judge of Osun State, Hon. Justice Adepele Oyebola Ojo, it will be recalled, recently granted an order directing Governor Aregbesola to provide information about the debt profile of the state, as sought by Kanmi Ajibola. The rights lawyer prayed the court to grant all his prayer in the new suit in accordance with Order 3 Rules 5 and 8 of the High court of Osun State Rules 2008.
 
The Bailout Crisis
While the issue of alleged poor performance has refused to subside, a fresh controversy has continued to trail the Osun bailout funds and how the disbursement has put the governor into trouble over his alleged inability to pay the full salaries to both the junior and the senior workers in the state.
Thus, following the Senate’s recent resolution to probe the governor, CSCEOS, a civil society group has insisted that Aregbesola actually diverted over N16 billion of the about N35billion bailout funds. The Senate had directed its committee on state and local governments to investigate how the Aregbesola administration spent the N35 billion bailout funds disbursed to the state for the payment of workers’ salaries and pension due. The committee was slated to arrive in the state on December 7, 2016.
While welcoming all the investigative agencies, including the Senate Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Gumel and his members to the state, the civil society groups urged them to ensure unbiased, credible and thorough investigation into the alleged financial mismanagement of the funds accrued to the state from 2011 to 2016, including alleged diversion of the bailout funds, adding also that the team to should make their findings public for the sanctity of transparency and accountability.
The group and some pensioners under the aegis of Good Governance Support Group (GGSG) of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) in the state had earlier staged a protest in the state capital, Osogbo and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, calling for the investigation of financial impropriety and alleged diversion of the bailout funds by the one-man government.
They alleged that the state under Aregbesola’s watch has been a reference point of bad governance out of the 36 states of the federation since the present administration came on board. They stressed that the governor had put the state into the economic quagmire which has made it unable to perform her social obligation to its workforce and retirees alike.
Alimi-Sulaiman declared that the state government under Aregbesola’s watch has shown poor attitude to the plight of the workers and retirees alike by diverting the bailout funds meant to pay the backlogs of their salaries and pensions. The group also alleged that the recent compulsory three months annual leave handed down on the senior officers of the State civil service from directorship cadre upward was as a result of impeding financial crimes investigations from federal government agencies, saddled with such responsibility to investigate alleged financial improprieties.
 
Reveling in Salary Payment
Despite his palpable shortcoming in practically all the boxes ticked, the governor still found excitement in something. He said the ability of his government to pay salaries from September to December last year was a huge relief. He said it was in September 2014 that he had to call on workers to decide whether they wanted a staff reduction or payment of salaries according to available resources when the impact of the economic hardship in the country began to bite harder.
According to him, in July 2015, the federal government listened to some of the solutions proffered to the national revenue crisis. He said when the state got N34.9bn bailout loan in 2015, there were controversies on how to disburse the funds because some people insisted that the whole funds should be spent all at once. 
“But I knew that with the magnitude of the economic crisis facing Nigeria, it would have been suicidal to expend the whole bailout loan at once without saving a portion of it which eventually bailed us out till around February this year,” Aregbesola said, adding that this was what made necessary, the constitution of the state’s Revenue Apportionment Committee headed by labour veteran comrade, Hassan Sunmonu, making it possible for the state to pay salaries till February of 2016.
He said the arrival of the Paris Club deductions refunds which made N11.7bn available to the state has also brought some relief, noting that the state would still need to intensify its efforts towards self-sustenance. 
 
…As Government Reacts
In its wisdom, the government has described the recent protest and actions of some pensioners in Osogbo as an attempt by their sponsors to gag the truth. The government said those behind the fabrications of lies over bailout loans and other financial matters concerning Osun have also conspired to prevent any avenue for the government to set the records straight.
The Director, Bureau of Communication and Strategy in the Office of the Governor, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, in a statement, said the arranged protest‎ against the non-payment of their entitlement was a cover-up to disrupt the sitting of the State House of Assembly and prevent the government from giving out the figures. He said for accountability and transparency, the state Hous‎e of Assembly has started probing how N34.5bn received from the federal government as bailout was spent.
“The House of Assembly had summoned some government officials to appear before lawmakers on Wednesday 7th December 2016,” the statement read in part.
Those summoned, the statement stated, include: the Accountant-General, Permanent Secretaries Ministry of Finance, Office of Budget Planning, Director-General of Debt Management Office, Officials of Wema Bank, Zenith Bank and First Bank, Osun State Chairmen of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Joint Negotiation Council (JNC), the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employee (NULGE), Heads of Market Women Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)”.
The Bureau queried why the protesters did not allow the House of Assembly to go on with the proceedings that was expected to be aired live on Television so that people can come out with questions that had agitated their minds if the few supposed pensioners were not out to gag the truth.
He said the House of Assembly, which symbolises people’s representation, was about providing a platform to throw lights on how the bailout loan was disbursed to lay to rest, all allegations of financial recklessness levied on government.
 
A Flashback…
Shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, 27 out of the 36 states of the federation including Osun had difficulties in meeting salaries payment obligation to their workers as a result of the nation’s dwindling oil revenue. For this reason, Buhari offered to help concerned state governments with concessionary loan otherwise called bailout, facilitated through the Apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to defray backlog of salary arrears. Requests were made to the CBN by the concerned states.
Osun requested for N64,327,492,947.01 to cover salaries, allowances, pensions and gratuities of State workers while a sum of N23,887,975,810.26 was requested to offset the outstanding arrears of salaries, allowances, pension and gratuities of local governments workers in the state.
Unfortunately, the CBN only approved and released N25,871,920,000 to cover just salaries and allowances of workers, leaving out pension and gratuities while  only N9,117,070,000 was approved and released by the CBN for arrears of salaries and allowances, also leaving out local government pension and gratuities just as it was done for their counterparts in other states.
To further display a high level of transparency in the disbursement of the loan, the state government and the labour unions agreed to supervise the disbursement exercise. And in line with the CBN guidelines, an apportionment committee headed by the first NLC President, Sunmonu, with labour unions and other stakeholders was set up to monitor the fund and the revenue from other sources.
This, no doubt, afforded the labour unions and relevant stakeholders the opportunity to monitor all transactions as attested to by labour unions and bankers involved in the disbursement. But in spite of the fact that pensioners were not captured in the fund released to the state, Aregbesola ensured that both the state and local government pensioners benefited from the fund. It may not be correct, therefore, the assumption that the governor mismanaged the funds. Of all the beneficiary states, none is believed to have transparent and open management system of the fund as Osun.
There are strong indications that the Osun government has demonstrated a high sense of responsibility and transparency in the application of the funds and as at November 30, 2016, the state government had N2.040 million in First Bank and N1.312 million in Wema Bank as balance of the bailout fund for the state with a balance of N173,226,000 domiciled in Zenith Bank  for the Local Government bailout fund 
It is also noteworthy that under the modulated salaries structure, a chunk of the workers still receive full salaries and allowances while only those in the senior cadre get half salaries. Reports also have it that the government has directed an upward review of salaries and allowance under the modulated salary scheme for the end of last year.
 
The Legislative Intervention
In its intervention, a special plenary organised by the State Assembly also revealed the transparent manner by which the state disbursed the bailout funds.
“How best can one show this to the whole world that the state government of Osun used the bailout for the salaries and allowances of workers of this state? We have the figures, we have the data, and we have everything. It is not as if we are just covering the executives unnecessarily, but based on the figures before us, there is nobody that will come to the State of Osun that will not go through the figure before you can know anything. What else do they need to link this, to ascertain the transparency nature of the bailout and the way it is being spent in the State of Osun? We need to thank the teams that are working together with   Governor Aregbesola,” said the Speaker as the assembly adjourned the plenary organised to unveil how the funds were used.
For many months there were insinuations that the governor diverted the funds for another purpose. The opposition wasn’t silent but Aregbesola too remained unperturbed until the assembly decided to call the concerned stakeholders to tell their story.
After the normal opening rituals, the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Kamil Oyedele ‎opened the floor by reading a letter to remind all on what they had done as regards the allegation of fund diversion by Aregbesola. He narrated how the House has been monitoring and keeping records of all the activities of government and how it spent the bailout fund and other loans that were approved by the assembly.
Also, the Accountant-General‎, Mr. Alaba Kolawole, switched on his microphone and threw more light on the confusion. He did not mince words as he went straight to the business of the day. Recounting how he called an emergency meeting on the 6th of July 2015, directing that the arrears of salaries, pensions and allowances not paid to June 2015 be forwarded to CBN.
With the assistance of a projector, he showed the letter written by the government to request the sum of over N64 billion, which was forwarded on 15th July, 2015 to the CBN.
‎ Permanent Secretary, Local Government, Chieftaincy, Rura‎l and Community Affairs, Mr. Muftaudeen Oluwadare also confirmed that the state requested for a bailout loan of the sum of N23,887,975,810.26  from the CBN, “to actually liquidate the indebtedness of the local government on the payment of staff salaries and pension, and gratuity as at June 2015.
Acting branch manager of Wema Bank PLC, Osogbo‎, Musbaudeen Oyeniran while clarifying one of such grey areas said that his bank ‎ ensured that up till the remaining balance in the account now which is N1,312, 000, due diligence was done.
Mr Ola Adedeji of Zenith Bank corroborated the PS of the ‎Ministry of Local Government, confirming that the balance shown was true and accurate, “based on the statement we have, and the transaction that has taken place on that account. Because, when we applied to partake in the bailout funds, specifically for the local government employees of the State of Osun, we were guided by the CBN guidelines concerning the use and applications of those funds as received.”
First Bank’s Mr Adebayo Yakubu, who is the zonal head, Public Sector of Oyo and Osun confirmed what the PS said.
The Deputy Speaker, Hon. Akintunde Adegboye, however urged the state to always publicise how funds are disbursed “so that we won’t have problem like this”.
The chairman of the Osun State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Jacob Adekomi, didn’t say anything contrary‎. He added that “when the bailout came between August and September, precisely 15th September 2015, the labour leaders in Osun met government representatives and we had agreement via an MOU on the disbursement of bailout.
The chairman of the Joint Negotiation Committee, Comrade Adejumo couldn’t but agree with the NLC chairman just like Adeyeye, who chairs Osun chapter of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE).
In the final analysis, it is the belief of many that had the government put a cabinet in place and by implications, run a more transparent administrations, he would not have had as much crisis bordering on sheer administrative incompetence. However, moving forward, it is hoped that the governor would learn from this ugly experience and adjust accordingly.