As part of the activities embarked on to mark two years in office of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola,
the Osun State governor, a world press conference tagged ‘Ogbeni Till Day Break’ was organised. It was there the former Lagos commissioner for work bared his mind on many issues about the state and how he has been managing the finances of the state. BrandPower was there to bring you the man in his own words. Excerpts:
First year it seems that there were no projects but now in the second year, the are plenty of projects, your excellency what is the gimmick?
Yes, in our first year, people were thinking that nothing was happening, but we were building reserves of money and we announced to the world that rather than spending money on things that would not help us taking off appropriately. We took our time to build reserves with which we could leverage for the projects that we have planned to do, but even at that if you look at it, at the most excruciating time of the state, we did two things that people did not expect we could do. By November when we assumed office, this office had no money to pay salary we must not forget that it was not a joke that salary, which is a statutory obligation of the state, could not be met without borrowing 1billion naira from the banks. It was at that time we started the process of engaging the O’YES members. How did we do it? The month after our inauguration, December, was when we paid a bonus to workers. And by March of the following year, we had already restructured the finances that the state was no longer in any precarious condition, we didn’t have to borrow money to pay salaries on the 25th of every month. Yet we never failed to pay allowances of 200 million.
And by April, we had an election and we defeated all of them, the most interesting of the result of that election was the result of Ife where somebody who was already assuming lordship of the state could only win a polling booth with just 3 votes. Someone too, who was in the office as a governor for 2700 days, lost everywhere except his home town where he maginally won. What that meant classically was that he was only qualified to be a councilor. That was the political interpretation of what happened to him. Gentlemen, when you want to assess us, assess us on sound ground, assess us qualitatively, don’t just assume and we never looked back, we began only then soon after, we started engaging the farmers from that we moved to feeding of students, of pupils. Soon after, we began the construction of roads and started the construction of schools before we even engaged our commissioners. As soon as the commissioners came on board, they started with works. We have been told about the beautification of the state before we even engaged the commissioners.
How do you generate ideas and innovations you are using to move the state forward?
That is already answered: there is nothing new. Before we took up the job at the Government House, we had already prepared a book. There is nothing new, if you have our green book, the book contains how we are going to give the people of the state the dividends of democracy and when. We have been doing them and things that are yet undone, we shall do them by the grace of God.
How do you fund your programme considering the situation of fund here?
Our time in Lagos exposed us to what we call financial engineering and it means using what you have to get what you need, we know that we have limited funds for our huge projects. We saved money, we saved for the state about N9billion of the excess crude oil, for local government, we saved about 10billion of excess crude oil untouched which we put in the account, for the state we have what we call conservation fund which is about 4.6 billion that we put there for only emergency. Then we leveraged on what was saved to get supports of financial institutions to fund our activities, never mind the rubbish that the opposition here keeps repeating, they tell you that one time that we have borrowed 150billion they will come again and tell us the truth that we borrowed 7billion, from the way they talk, you will know they are confused! The truth is that we have not borrowed any money; we are simply using our God-given talent and experience to flexibly finance our projects. The only exposure we are going to have is the bond issues that I went to Lagos to present to the public and that bond is not yet obtained talk less of paying anything on it. They are nothing to bother about; we have sufficient capacity to attract the support of financial institutions in a way that will not mean burden to you. So yes, we are funding our projects in the best way possible for a government to so do it.
Why there are no substantive commissioners for education and works?
One, I will correct some misgivings because some people are so shallow that they don’t even know the implication of some of these things. For their information, let me start with my deputy. My deputy does not collect any extra kobo for doing the work of the commissioner for education. I’ll not receive extra kobo for doing the work of the commissioner for works not at all because some people ignorantly assume that because I am the commissioner for works, I earn the salary for that office, it is simply impossible because she is the substantive commissioner for education that he earns that salary. No, please. You can’t have dual salary in government, it’s against the law. I want people who have that notion to just drop it because it is untrue. Once we have settled that, let us come to this. Many people don’t know this: Osun is the thirty-first state on the allocation table, so Osun is therefore generous in the management of its resources. Before we assumed office, the maximum internal revenue of Osun was N300million. This we have raised without increasing any rate of taxation to N650million now so when you add that to the N3.3billion we collect now since March of this year. Osun collects N3.3billion for federation account add N3.3 to that’s N3.9; let’s say N4billion. Deduct from that the N2.6 salary, pension and gratuity that we must pay statutorily every month, you will ask, why am I saying all these? So there is a limit to which you can burden this system that is why I feel I can effectively manage with the ministry of works and also my deputy will effectively manage the ministry of education. It is in strict consideration of the hard realitiesof our state that we took those burdens on ourselves. Rather than leave it as a weak point, the fact that we are doing this should really attract a commendation, so there is no harm in it, we are coping.