“The man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.” - Wole Soyinka
I am beginning to be embarrassed by what is going on in my home State of Osun. I am beginning to feel ashamed that this is happening to the common and the poor in the State of the Living Spring. I am beginning to feel compunctious and distressed by the sheer heartlessness that is presently persisting in the state. It is like the State of Osun is being managed by bloodless beings that have no ability to feel and understand the ramifications of owing seven months salaries to workers of varying grades and the pensioners in the state.
I am also being embarrassed as a journalist. Why has it been difficult for this to be headlines in the mainstream media in Nigeria? The primary purpose of government is to cater and guarantee the welfare and security of the governed. The concomitant responsibility of the media is to ensure that the government does not renege in these responsibilities.
I understand that everything is now political in Nigeria and in the Southwest especially where speaking the truth has become a serious challenge. But we have to draw the line where the welfare, security and the survival of a big chunk of our people is concerned. This does not mean that a single life lost would not be tragic, but what is concerned here is not a single life, it is the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of our people that are involved. It is emotionally harrowing for any father that cannot put food on the table for his family. It is psychologically traumatizing for a mother to watch her children go hungry when she has not been a loafer.
It is already an eyesore how someone could be presiding over a government that has refused to pay its workers for seven months and still counting! It is tantamount to wickedness and cruelty of the highest order for Osun State government under Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola to owe workers wages for seven months when he has been receiving the state’s federal allocation up to date excluding the month of May 2015, which is at least a matter of public record.
It would be recalled that before the Osun State Governorship Election of August 9, 2014, Governor Aregbesola owed about three months of wages to the civil servants, teachers and the pensioners. It was not until the defeat of his colleague, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State in June that year that he hurriedly found the money to pay the arrears to alleviate the threat of losing re-election. This is despite the fact that Aregbesola has been collecting the State Allocation up until June of that year.
What this scenario suggests is that Aregbesola had the money to pay but did not want to pay? Why this was the case is very difficult to fathom. Is the same situation now repeating itself on a larger scale? Is this a deliberate policy or what? Does Aregbesola realize he is punishing the entire people of the State? What kind of priority does he have for him to allow the people of the State to go hungry for seven months?
It is not an acceptable excuse that the allocation has dwindled. There is no excuse that would suffice under the sun for letting the workers, the pensioners, the teachers – people who struggle everyday to survive- to go hungry because they are denied the fruits of their sweat. If Aregbesola does not have a milk of human kindness flowing in his vein, then it is possible that he does not know the enormity of the damages he is foisting on the state. If he does have some milk of human kindness in him, then he ought to know that seven harrowing months without wages constitute economic, social and security threats to the state and its peoples.
Yet, here is a man who lays claim to a degree of activism with some bent to socialism from his days in Ibadan Polytechnic. What kind of ideology is this? What kind of “radicalism” is this? And what kind of management is this? Any idea that ridicules the place of man in the economic chain is not worth its salt. Even red hot capitalism knows that without man, capitalism would be doomed. So, what excuses would a “socialist” like Aregbesola have for povertizing the poor people of Osun State?
The Chairman, Finance Commissioners Forum, Mr. Timothy Odah, expressed concern over the low revenue generated for the month of April. He had said “the country is facing serious financial and economic crisis.” He also pointed out that “The Excess Crude Account is depleted already, and you are aware that we had earlier resolved that there should be a stop on the use of ECA to augment what the three tiers of government share monthly. So, the ECA is currently depleted and it has gone beyond the level that we can get anything reasonable from it.” But he also criticized states owing salaries, saying the governors of those states should have made the payment of salaries their top priority after collecting their monthly statutory allocation.
So, one is asking now, what is really going on with the allocations that have been received on behalf of the State? What is Aregbesola doing with the “little” and “reduced” allocations he has been given on behalf of the State of Osun? Where are the monies going? What are the current priorities of Aregbesola? Whatever such priorities are, could there be greater priorities than the welfare of the people? What are the more important urgent needs in the state than the welfare and the survival of the people, many of whom are poor?
It is amazing that social critics like Femi Falana are keeping quiet while this atrocity is going on. Where is Professor Wole Soyinka who is a good friend of the Osun State government? Is he keeping quiet in the face of this tyranny? Where are the Civil Society groups who constantly shout in the press? Are their targets selective? Are they also on the payroll of politicians too? Where are the conscientious people in our society? Where are the national and state leaders of the APC on this matter? Where are the remnants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party in the State? Is everybody already bought to the point that we are so unfeeling, wicked and inconsiderate? Does this mean that we are ready to sacrifice the welfare of our people for political correctness?
What is going on in our media houses? What has become of journalism for the ideal society that we all seek? Is every journalist bought over? Why is the Media not shouting itself hoarse on this issue? Yes, I know that Osun State is not the only one owing salaries in Nigeria. I know there are other states owing varying number of months of salaries across the country. But seven months is a long time for an average man to do without any income.
It is All Progressive Congress (APC) that is magnifying the dangers of corruption in our society and rightly so. It is the platform that they used to convince Nigerians to vote for the party at the national level. If you don’t pay a man for seven months, won’t such a man look for how to survive and preserve his own family by resulting to corrupt practices? Is this the way APC is planning to fight corruption? By turning everyone into a potential thief? What is “Progressive” about forcing the people to go on undeserved hunger strike?
The state is dying gradually. Families are being dislocated. Unemployment is no longer the injurious mantra to sing about. Lack of wages is the new vogue. The security of the state is under serious threat. The economy of the state is at a standstill. There is no purchasing power for the greatest number of our people. Businesses are panting because of lack of patronage. Market women are wallowing in stagnancy occasioned by this circumstance. Transporters are tottering from the pangs of absentee passengers. Artisans are reeling in redundancy. Teachers are no longer teaching. Children are becoming certified vagabonds. The workers are on strike, there is not even any show of empathy through negotiation and discussion. The State of Osun is in comatose. This cannot continue to go on.
This is tyranny on the part of Governor Aregbesola. This is really mean and inconsiderate. It is high time for Aregbesola to redeem himself. It is time to save the poor from agonies and psychological pulverizing. It is time for him to come down from the horse and feel the pains of the poor people of Osun. He should stop spending whatever money accruing to the state on any other thing until further notice. The only priority that is worth pursuing right now is the payment of wages to civil servants, teachers and entitlements to pensioners until things get better. There is urgent need to put an end to this charade and shenanigans.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”
- John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961