By Bolu Adeosun
There are quite a number of things that analysts have pinpointed as the laudable steps by the Dapo Abiodun-led administration in Ogun State, but nothing, for me, holds symbolic power and deep significance like the full absorption of workers recruited through the back door by the immediate past administration in the state. According to reports, Governor Abiodun ordered that the appointments of Permanent Secretaries made the in the twilight of the immediate past administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun be regularised, while also directing the mainstreaming and regularisation of the appointment of over 1000 graduates recruited into the state civil service by the same administration. Speaking at the swearing-in of the eight newly appointed permanent secretaries at Obas’ Complex, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Abiodun said that despite the flaws noted in the appointments and recruitments, his government had decided to be magnanimous as a people-centred administration.
The significant portion of his address is, in my view, the following: “Let me state that we very much appreciate the recommendations of the Review Committee, comprising eminent retired public servants, that the appointments and recruitments were fraught with non-adherence to the principles and laid-down traditions of the public service. But in line with our administration’s commitment to equity, fairness, justice and inclusiveness, we will not engage in any action or policy that may be viewed as vendetta. Rather, we will call on all to continue to put in their best for the service delivery to the people of Ogun State.” Nice stuff.
If feelers from the grapevine are any indication, Amosun hurriedly gave employment to 1,000 workers and promoted another 5,000 two weeks to the expiration of his eight-year tenure. While there was nothing essentially wrong with recruiting or promoting workers, the timing and utterances of the then government gave copious fuel to suggestions of motives less than noble. Truth be told, it is customary in this clime for governors that have lost face with the people and been routed at the polls to which they committed criminally humongous sums, to deliberately create burdens for the incoming government. If you are a keen observer of developments in this clime, particularly since the return to civil rule in 1999, you would no doubt have noticed that part of the usual subversive tactics is to award frivolous contracts—usually on road and health projects—and pay as much as 50 per cent mobilization fees. In some cases, the outgoing governors even pay outright, the full contract sum, emptying the treasury in a studied emasculation of the yet-to-be inaugurated government.
Sadly, according to reports, this was the case in Ogun where most of the eleventh hour contracts awarded by the Amosun administration were said to have been paid for in full. This was evidently to make the incoming government lose people’s support once there is no money to execute projects, policies and programmes. And yet another strategy is to recruit people previously ignored into the civil service, so that the new government could be seen as being anti-people if it raises any eyebrows and moves to shovel the inappropriately recruited workers off its payroll. This is where the snag lies: sacking workers is never seen in a positive light by the organised labour and the larger society, no matter the intensity of the affected government’s logic and the rightness of its action. There is of course yet another strategy of giving undeserved promotions to some individuals just to set landmines for the incoming administration. All of these tactics were at play on May 29, 2019 when Governor Abiodun came on board: he discovered that over 1000 people had been recruited hurriedly by the former governor just to set his administration on edge.
But apparently having come into government to bring succour to the people and not to add to their burden, he decided that the 1000 recruits must be retained, even though brought in through the back door. This action is, to say the least, laudable. Like the governor stressed, it is clear that the affected workers are residents and indigenes of Ogun State and that they represent various families and economic blocs. In any case, a lot of them had the necessary qualifications. Furthermore, sending them into the labour market, especially at this critical time, would have worsened the economic conditions in their families.
To say the least, the unemployment situation in the country is grim. In 2017, Nigeria emerged as the country with the third highest unemployment rate in the world, while in 2018, it ranked 157th out of 157 countries, according to the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) index, a global ranking of governments based on what they are doing to address the gap between the rich and the poor. In December 2018, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicated that the total number of people classified as unemployed increased from 17.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 20.9 million in the third quarter of 2018. Currently, more than 20 million Nigerians are unemployed and it would have been quite unconscionable of the Ogun State governor if he had not taken these dismal statistics with serious implications for national security into account in arriving at a decision on the inappropriately recruited workers in the state.
Happily, unlike previous governments that sacked such workers without minding whatever the consequences could be, Governor Abiodun directed that the affected persons be accommodated and integrated into the state civil service system for optimal efficiency. This demonstrates the fact that he is not vindictive, and that he has brought panache and candour to governance in Ogun State. There is no better proof than this good news for workers that Governor Abiodun has brought civility into governance, giving no room for witch-hunting, backbiting and character assassination which had been major characteristics of previous governments. In typical Omoluabi style, he allowed the permanent secretaries he met on ground to continue their service to the state; some governors would have sacked many of them. As a matter of fact, some people were said to have in fact advised him to sack them, but he was said to have refused, insisting that the said civil servants had contributed their quota to the development of the state and deserved honourable, rather than ignominious, exit. This is obviously a paradigm shift in governance that ought to be embraced and celebrated not only in Ogun State but in the country at large.
The message, in very clear terms, is that you need not repay evil with evil; that you can repay evil with good so that good will triumph. This is food for thought for other politicians and office holders, regardless of their affiliations and leanings. For instance, Kwara State is currently experiencing politics of bitterness over failure to separate politics from governance. In Ogun, as many have pointed out already, previously abandoned projects are being executed for the comfort of the people. This, I dare say, is the essence of the Omoluabi paradigm in the Yoruba society. Said one of the absorbed workers: “I’d be lying if I say I had no fear of being relieved of my job. I had been very worried knowing how we tend to play politics with everything in this country, and so were many others. But I felt so relieved when I heard that the governor had directed that we be absorbed! We’re no longer what they call fidihe (temporary occupant) in the civil service. Without doubt, this gesture by Governor Abiodun will remain etched in my memory; it’s something to be proud of. The governor deserves accolades for this noble gesture.”
That clearly captures the point I have strived to make in this piece. Governor Abiodun has made a key statement strategic to national growth. He should be emulated.
*Adeosun contributes this piece from Mowe, Ogun State