Governor Gboyega Oyetola gave a live interview on Rave 91.7 FM, a renowned radio station in Osogbo, on Friday as part of celebrations commemorating Osun’s 30th anniversary. He discussed a variety of topics. The passages are provided by the Daily Sun.
Osun State celebrated its 30th birthday this week, with several celebrations and commemorations, and this is without a doubt a watershed moment in the state’s history. As the 9th helmsman of the state in the state’s history, how would you define the trip over the last 30 years?
I found the journey to be rather interesting, albeit it was not without its problems. I want to express my gratitude to all the governors and administrators who have served this state since its inception 30 years ago. They’ve all performed admirably. What we’re doing today is expanding on the foundation that we’ve gained from each of them. The path has been difficult because we face many issues as a state in sectors, such as education, infrastructure, health, security, and the economy. However, I must applaud all previous governors, including the immediate past governor, for their contributions to the development of the state.
In the last almost three years of our administration, we’ve made significant progress in the areas of infrastructure, health, education, security, and the economy, compared to what we inherited. As I already stated, the path has been quite difficult. But that is the core of government service. You are faced with obstacles, and you create solutions to those challenges.
Let’s talk about money. Our state, Osun, is neck-deep in the ocean of indebtedness, according to analysis and numbers from government entities. You’ve held the state’s post strings for almost three years, having served as Chief of Staff for eight years and now as Executive Governor. Tell us how far Osun is entangled in this mess and how we got here.
Debt is usually the result of a lack of resources that prevent us from accomplishing our goals. So, debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What matters is that any debt that is incurred is used to fund capital projects that will benefit the people.
Surely, Osun was saddled with its fair share of debts. I will not delve into all of those facts right now. What matters is that you keep. We’re dealing with any debts that have accumulated over time, and we’re making sure that they don’t prevent us from doing what we need to do as a government in terms of infrastructure, health, education, and security. Even America owes a lot of debt. I believe that’s the way to talk about it. They are, in fact, debt-ridden. However, I believe we have successfully managed the State’s debt portfolio. We’ve been repaying the inherited debt, and as a government, we still have a lot of work to do.
It’s something that citizens, the people you govern, are interested in. As a result, several of them have inquired how deep we are in this. To what extent are we enslaved by our debt? How long would it take us to recoup our losses? Could you please provide us an estimate of the state’s total debt?
Well, I believe that is in the public domain. The Debt Management Office (DMO has brought most of the states’ debt profiles, including Osun’s up) at some point. So, according to the most recent DMO publication, it’s around $170 billion, but since we’ve been in government, we’ve actually been able to lower the portfolio reasonably, so it’s still manageable.
Have you borrowed more since you’ve been in office for over three years? Have you taken out any new loans since then? Have you contributed to the state’s debt burden?
No. I have borrowed nothing. But it’s not to say I won’t borrow. Considering the fact that you have to complete some large projects that require time, particularly given the current cost of infrastructure, you may have to really find a method to ensure that you finish whatever you’re doing. But what matters to me is that, if I must borrow, I must do so in a way that does not jeopardize my ability to satisfy my duties to others, such as paying my employees’ salaries and pensions. However, we have not borrowed as of today, August 27, 2021.
Okay, so we had an economist on this show who once described the fact that you pay your wage on time as a miracle. However, some people are quick to dismiss what you’re doing now as a political stunt. They claim you’re doing it to deceive the civil servants into voting for you for a second term.
On average, we spend N3 billion on salaries and pensions each month. So, if we had any money on hand, it would have been depleted by now. Nothing beats a good gimmick. I’ve come to help. So the issue of gimmicks isn’t even raised. It’s not a gift from the Greeks; they are entitled to their wages. As a result, I prioritize salary and pension payments. I need to find money to pay salaries and pensions; everything else could happen, but we must pay salaries and pensions. This isn’t a ruse.
I’m dedicated to the well-being of workers. Even as Chief of Staff, I was in charge of the majority of worker-related matters. I regard it as a responsibility that must be met. I’ve heard people speculate about a second term, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is that worker wellbeing must be prioritized, which is precisely what we are doing.
So you’re suggesting that if you win a second term in office, you won’t change your policy of prioritizing workers?
Yes, sure, it will not alter because it is not a matter of attempting to appease them. It is their legal right to do so. Prior to entering politics, I worked in the private sector and employed people. There was never a moment when I did not pay my employees, and you must do the same. It’s part of what I’m expected to do as the state’s Chief Executive, just as it was when I was running my company. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.
If the state is deeply in debt and you haven’t borrowed a dollar since taking office, and we’re all aware of the state’s financial difficulties. So, tell us how you’ve been paying those salaries on time and doing other things in the meantime.
The word is “creativity.” You must consider where you are now and where you want to be in the future, as well as the gaps between the two, and devise inventive solutions to close those gaps. That, I believe, is the only way to convey what we’re attempting. For example, when it comes to infrastructure, we don’t have the resources to build it, yet I can’t complain. People asked me to fix a lot of their roads when I went on a “thank you” trip following our election, but I can’t fix roads without paying salaries. You must be imaginative enough to come up with the concept of an alternative fund project strategy, which offers me the leverage to fix my infrastructure even if I lack the cash. People with money, contractors with the resources to complete these tasks, do so, and we have an agreement on how they will be compensated overtime.
Is that how you’ve been managing your infrastructure?
Yea! Maybe that’s the secret to a successful alternative fund project. Rather than borrowing, I work with people who have the means, ability, and funding to work with the government to repair the roads. This method is being used to fund the continuing building of the Olaiya Flyover, for example. But what’s crucial is that you show a high level of integrity, that you don’t break any agreements you make with these partners, and thus far, we’ve done a fantastic job of sticking to our word.
Alright. So, the Olaiya project, the bridge you mentioned, seems eerily similar to your own or one of your heritage projects. Depending on who you ask, there are arguments for and against its socioeconomic significance. What is the significance of the Olaiya overhead bridge? Why not finish the Ring Road asphalting project that your predecessor started?
With the way the city is booming, you need to be foresighted enough to make some specialized plans to avoid traffic and accidents, especially on that axis. If you’ve ever driven that route during rush hour, you’ll understand why the flyover is necessary. Several accidents have occurred, and I have personally witnessed one or two of them. So, unless you have that, and even if you’re thinking of a developing city, if we don’t conceive of it now, there will always be a need for it.
Have any of the road projects leftover from your predecessor been abandoned?
We’re still doing the ring road; we haven’t given up on it. But, because I don’t have the funds to build two, three, or four lanes at a time, I decided that the most essential thing for me was to finish one or two lanes so that people can utilize them. It could take another four, five, or seven years if I wait until I have enough money to finish it the way it was meant. So, for example, I’ve made sure that one side of it is taken up to Stadium. As a result, people are plying and using the road as is. When I have the resources, I’ll move to the opposite side and finish the dual carriageway that was intended.
What’s the status of the airport project?
The airport is desirable because we are liberalizing our economy and allowing private investment. Again, there are several tourist attractions and tourism places. If you don’t have things like that, people won’t be able to travel by road or by air, and even if you have all of the world’s tourist attractions, you won’t be able to attract visitors.
We’re not going to the airport by ourselves any longer. We’ve formed an alliance with the federal government. They’ve actually come to examine, and I’m hoping they’ll take over the project and work with us to finish it.
The Oyinlola administration came up with the plan for the airport, which was to be jointly sponsored by the federal government and the state. I believe it was N4 billion at the time. The federal government will contribute N2 billion, while the state will contribute N2 billion. Regrettably, the federal government did not provide its own $2 billion.
I went to see the Minister of Aviation, and they told me that they would take it over and finish it. So I’m hoping that, due to our relationship with the federal government, we’ll be able to finish the project. We’re not borrowing because I know you’re worried we’ll need to borrow to finish that project.
You stated yesterday that you have no problems with your predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. You don’t seem to mind that you’re like brothers.
We are brothers.
You’re brothers, right? Not even in the same league like brothers. Okay. However, many individuals are concerned about political squabbles. What exactly is going on?
As I previously stated, there is no rupture; but, you can say there is disagreement on some issues, and it is not rare to have disagreements on issues such as policy, style, and other such issues. But that isn’t to suggest we don’t have problems. In general, I have no problems with Ogbeni because he is my brother. We’ve come a long way, and we didn’t meet because of politics. I believe the situation is being grossly overblown.
Do you believe it has been exaggerated to an excessive degree, your Excellency?
I’d like to think so.
Before I let you go into politics, I’d like to point out that there are several factions inside the party. The Osun progressives, TOP, are one of them; there’s also Ilerioluwa and others. What is your position as the state leader of the progressive party in Osun; they don’t seem to be a huge fan of yours. In fact, I’ve asked them several times on this program if they will support you for a second term in office, and they haven’t committed. Do they cause you any problems? What is your point of view?
To be honest, I don’t have any concerns; I consider everyone to be a member of the same political family. I don’t believe in factions or groups. If you want to put it that way, you can have a caucus any way; it’s normal. Even in a normal club setting, people tend to agree on some topics, therefore I don’t have any problems with anyone. I don’t have problems with them.
When it comes to the topic of a second term, my attitude is to keep doing what I’m doing. I don’t want to be diverted from my task. It is a form of public service. So be it if the masses believe they want me to keep going. It isn’t a life or death situation.
However, we have not yet reached that point (election). God is the one who bestows power. His appointment cannot be changed. I am the governor now because it is God’s will. As a result, the decision on a second term is left to God and the people of Osun.
Do you believe they will issue you a second-term ticket?
As I already stated, the people and God will decide on the second term. The most essential thing to me for every day of my governorship, at least for the first term, is to give it my all. The people and God will decide on the second term.
You’ve received a slew of endorsements recently, with a number of organizations stating that they support you for a second term. We want the governor to seek re-election. Do you know, or should I say, can you take it to the bank that your predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, will support you for a second term?
So, you’ll have to question him. I’m not in a position to read his thoughts.
You were at the same gathering. It should be assumed that both of you have served as party leaders and have previously collaborated, so it shouldn’t be a problem. It should be a foregone conclusion.
That’s why I’m astonished you’ve come up with this question.
I’m also asking because of what has happened in the past – the TOP, of which he appears to be patron, has not publicly stated that they will back you for a second term, and many people will claim that they are following his orders.
Well, I’m not convinced that the people who have been saying that are speaking to him. I believe he is my brother, and I believe that at any point in time, he wishes for my success, as I fought extremely hard for his own achievement for eight years.
I’m not sure whether (TOP) individuals are telling the story from his own heart if they claim (they won’t support me). He is still my brother. They aren’t expressing their thoughts. As I previously stated, I don’t understand why he wouldn’t back me if the people say they want me.