By ‘Bayode Gbeleyi
A lot of Nigerians are surprised that news from Osun State in the past two years are cheery. That was not the case with that state eight years before the incumbent came to office.
It was either the state had over-borrowed to finance government’s inanities or the people were hungry and angry because workers were not paid or were paid half of their legitimate pays. All those bad news just disappeared when Adegboyega Oyetola took over as the state’s helmsman almost three years ago. The state is calm and peaceful.
How has he been doing it?
It is strange how narratives change on the lips of politicians. When politics is at play, what is ordinarily a position of strength turns into weakness and weakness is given the power of strength. When politicians argue from their often selfish position, what ordinarily should be a cause for celebration becomes so worthless that the celebrator wonders whether they had anything of worth to flaunt. To them, what is not our own; what did not come from us, does not deserve any commendation at all. In fact, it deserves to be destroyed. If the destruction they seek of things worthy of celebration is within the narrow confines of their political clique, it would not even have mattered. Again, for selfish reasons, politicians try to infect others with their destructive evangelism.
The closest analogy that can be drawn to this Pull Him Down penchant among politicians is what is called the mentality of the impoverished. No, not even the poor. This is because, for a man who is poor, yes he laments his poverty; he still wishes the rich some positives. For the impoverished, however, the reverse is the case. The rich must have engaged in human sacrifice; he must be a fraudster; he couldn’t have amassed his wealth legitimately. Those are the narratives of the impoverished mind, even though the arguments are, most times, fatally flawed and misleading. That is the state of mind I liken selfish politicians’ attitudes to. Once that positive stroke is not from them, their political party or from someone of their kind, then every route must be sought to destroy him.
This is the exact replica of the narratives among some politicians in Osun State. After the immediate past administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola left the saddle, with the advertised huge burden of debts he left behind, even pundits reckoned that whoever took over from that administration was inheriting an empty shell. It became so bad that Osun was advertised as one of the bankrupt states in Nigeria, no thanks to the disingenuous and notorious halving of salaries to workers and government’s oft throwing of its hands in the air in surrender and helplessness on how to fund citizens’ welfare and infrastructure.
Adegboyega Oytetola’s first six months as inheritor of this broken baton must have been spent rolling in daily turmoil. I reckon that those months must have posed the most challenging to the governor. For the people who looked at his government from afar, it also must have been some feeling of déjà vu, an anticipated calamity, if you like. How does he manage to snail past the huge debt burdens he inherited without being stoned by those who invested their votes in his ascendancy into office.
It is at this crossroads that leadership pedigree comes in. It differentiates a leadership weaned from the ashes of lau-lau, bolekaja ephemeral politics from a leadership which got its baptism from the hot furnace of the corporate world. The latter, which must have been tempered by corporate practice, knows that when the leader gets to this challenging point, he needs to think out of the box. He is reminded of that popular American English proverb which says that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. For a politician who ascended into office directly from the streets, lies, subterfuge and window-dressing may be the way to go. For an Oyetola who had spent decades in the charging climate of the boardroom, it was this challenging period that was the test of his leadership. One of the things he did was not to tread the discredited road of the past that only led its patrons to ruins and calamity.
A few years after Oyetola began this financial wizardry, the rank of those who though are excited at his midas touch but, unable to unravel his secret began to divine what the magic might be. Certain confused opposition elements in Osun are in this category. One Ibrahim Sarafa put the perplexing equation in its most basic form recently when he said, “Oyetola is not borrowing, and yet, he is paying back debt; salaries and pensions are being paid as and when due.” One should understand the dilemma of Mr Sarafa. Unlike his predecessor, Aregbesola, Oyetola, whatever abracadabra, financial discipline or wizardry that is responsible for his not borrowing and solely relying on Osun’s widely acknowledged lean purse, without descending into the pit of his predecessor’s huge debt cobweb deserves investigation.
In actual fact, financial analysts have struggled time without number to argue that borrowing is actually not a bad thing to do for governments and even corporations. Borrowed monies are like seeds. If they are well sown, they multiply, pay for the seedlings and bring forth multiple excesses. What is bad is, first borrowers who eat their seeds and those who sow into barren or birds-infested lands. It will be certain, judging by the binge of heists that have been attributed to governments in Nigeria that when these borrowings are done, the borrowers burrow into the seeds and eat a huge proportion of the borrowed funds.
For a corporate wizard like Oyetola, he understands the texture and colour of public debt and thus explores other smart avenues of sourcing credit for the overall development of his state. Public debt is a fantastic route to take for countries and states in need of extra funds to be invested into their economic growth. One of the ways in which leaders who think outside the box go about navigating the issue of state financing and invest in a their entities’ growth is by buying government bonds. In its briefest explanation, bonds are security where their issuer owe the holders a debt and (depending on terms of the bond) and is thus requested to pay back interest or the principal at a date agreed upon which is called the maturity date. Bonds, by their nature, are less risky than investing in, say public companies through the stock market or borrowing directly from banks. They are comparatively safer, tension-free and less corruption-prone as the habit of his predecessor of knocking the doors of commercial banks for credit at every financial provocation. This was what Oyetola did and rather than tie his state down in risky ventures of debt portfolio, he buys bonds to finance the huge infrastructure deficit challenge that Osun State is confronted with.
This is the explanation of the abracadabra econometrics that the Osun Number One man is engaged in to sort the huge deficits he inherited from his predecessor. These bonds came into play in Oyetola’s vow to always put the people first in all his equation in governance. Bonds have played and came to the rescue of the state in this very critical period.
Again, let us talk about infrastructure. To fund the execution of projects which are going on in almost all the nooks and crannies of Osun State, the government has adopted what is called the Alternative Project Funding Approach, APFA. For instance, in February, 2020, Remi Omowaiye, the Commissioner for Works and Transport, announced the construction and rehabilitation of roads in every part of the state. This onerous responsibility of the state was pegged on the ability to fund the projects through the Alternative-Project-Funding-Approach (APFA). Construction of a flyover across the Fakunle-Olaiya, Odiolowo-Olaiya, Akindeko-Olaiya and MDS Olaiya intersection at a projected cost of ₦3 billion is also under the AFPA model. This arrangement was projected to give Osun a win-win equation in the long and short runs.
According to Omowaye, five major roads across the three senatorial districts in the state were also constructed and rehabilitated to give road networking in the state and help to decongest traffic within and outside the state. They are the Ada-Igbajo 13.15km road, fixing of the 2.87km Akindeko-Awosuru Link Road via Adejumo Street and Oremeji, Akinlade, Adewale Street down to WAEC Road. All the roads will total up to 54.3km.
“We picked these roads to bring succour to the people of the State. These are the roads that will add economic value to the people. We have factored in necessary things required to ensure quality and standard roads,” said Commissioner Omowaye said at the beginning of those projects. They’ve all been delivered now to the glory of God.
To ensure that these infrastructure are in all the three Senatorial districts of the state, Osun would be needing a huge sum of ₦5.2 billion. Rather than go knock the doors of banks, engage in demeaning and unholy exchanges, Oyetola preferred to go through the tasking, demanding but open process of bonds for his chosen APFA model. The Commissioner also noted that the project were Contractor-Financing under APFA.
On the whole, the secret of the success of Oyetola is that he has been thinking out of the box in funding Osun State’s projects and programmes without piling huge debts on the shoulders of the state. More importantly, the funding is done in good conscience, not filching the meager resources of the state. In this mode, the people are feeling the texture of good governance. They know they are not under the yoke of debts on generations to come like Oyetola’s predecessor did. The people are happy because the righteous is in charge of their affairs.
● Gbeleyi, Public Affairs Consultant, wrote from Ikire, Osun State