Thirteen days to the governorship election in Osun State, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Bashiru Ajibola in this encounter with KUNLE ODEREMI and DAPO FALADE, gives an insight into the Aregbesola administration, as well as the chances of the ruling All Progressives congress (APC) in the coming election.
Critics claim the Aregbesola administration had mortgage the future of the state by acquiring huge debt?
Of course, I must mention what our traducers are saying. They are talking about our debt overlay. The engine room of development of any society is actually debt. Every society, even businesses that have actually developed would have to leverage and engage in daring loan taking. The question is not about taking loans but it is about what have you used the loans for?; whether you have the capacity for the debt you have incurred and whether there are potentials for you to develop the economy, based on the debt. The US is hugely indebted, yet it is the best sought after country in the whole world. Dubai was built on financing. For us, anybody that was here before November 26, 2010 and has come here now will see the quantum leap and what has been done.
In any event, our programmes in terms of financing by the issue of debt issuance were based on transparency. That was why we approached the capital market and not private commercial concerns. The question I ask myself is that if the opposition believes the state is so indebted, why the acrimonious fight to come and take over the state? Why are you fighting over a state that you claimed had become so insolvent? Who are those people who said they are coming on a rescue mission? You see, when they say they are coming on a rescue mission, you have to look at the profile of these people. Somebody who has a single F9 in his WAEC result; somebody who has not even been engaged and does not have any Curriculum Vitae and the only thing they wrote is business. You have to ask, what kind of business? Which area of business? What is he known for? That is somebody in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We are not even sure if he sat for any examination as the matter is still been contested. Secondly, are we talking about somebody who has been in the government of this state for more than 17 years. I am talking about Alhaji Fatai Akinbade. He was a commissioner. I don’t know if you know, but there is another person in the, who is said to be refunding money to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from the Sambo Dasuki money. So, where is the integrity that we are talking about? So, when you look at the character, the content and antecedent of some of the people who are trying to jostle for power, they are jokers.
What about the element of incorruptibility?
Who among them is not corrupt? A lot of hues and cries have been made against our government, but no single plausible case has been made about our government in terms of corruption or in terms of misappropriation. We published our audited accounts every quarter in the newspapers. Some few days ago, I was at a campaign and I said people have been since 1999, except for the interregnum of Chief Bisi Akande, they did nothing. I was born here; I grew up here. In 1991 when this state was created, I was already in the university. We jubilated and we were happy, full of optimism of development, but our hope was dashed as they did nothing.
You talked about the debt profile of the state. How did you think this administration can lessen the burden for the incoming administration by paying off some of it?
You cannot lessen the burden. In fact, if we have the opportunity, we are still going to take and incur more debts for development. So, it is not a question of lessening the burden. I did my PhD on Asset Securitisation, that is, a means by which corporate bodies utilise even their debts as assets to raise money from the capital market. The engine room of development in the modern world is debt, but people don’t know. Let me give you an example. We took those loans at 14.5 per cent interest rate. The dollar, as at that time, was N175 to a dollar. Today, it is N365. Inflation rate has changed and there is a time value on money. If we had not taken those facilities then, we would not have had this kind of development. A state, when we took over, that was generating N20 million IGR cannot develop without taking a bold step to do so. Leon Trotsky said “where tradition is lacking, a striking example is necessary”. So, we are not apologetic; we have done what ought to be done. We have utilised the resources in the way it should be done and that has shown in terms of the development and capacity of our people. So, it is not a question of lessening debt. It is a question of to, what extent are we developing our people in terms of human capacity, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of giving hope to the vulnerable in the society?
That question arose against the backdrop of the promise reportedly made by Governor Aregbesola that the debt would be offset by 2019.
What I am saying is that there is a debt issuance programme. Every month, some of these debts, based on the ISPO, we are repaying. Some will be fully amortised by next year. But I am telling you that we are still going to take more financing; we are not apologetic about it. We must incur more debts to develop. We are ambitious to develop our people and the only way any ambitious government to do so is by taking loans. Go to Singapore, Malaysia and everywhere, they are taking loans. How can you develop a state, based on a paltry N900 million that we generate in a year? We are talking of infrastructure that will last for 40 to 50 years. I will tell you, we are still repaying back part of the debt that was used for the development of the old Western Region up till now. So, some people think government is just about opening shops and the money coming in; you just spend it on expenditure. You must have a strategic plan as a leader, for at least, 50 years. And that is the vision of our leader, Governor Rauf Aregbesola and that is the vision in seeking to ensuring continuity with our governorship candidate, Gboyega Oyetola.
As the Osun State government is on its last lap, coupled with a fresh election that is almost around the corner, how would you situate the tenure Governor Rauf Aregbesola?
I think taking a stock of the administration of Aregbesola cannot be done in a laconic manner as it is so wide. But I will look at it from the various thematic areas of achievements. First, I will start from the involvement of the government in the area of elevating human welfare and that is underscored by the fact that the perspective of government is that human being should be the focus of administration and that is in line with the Nigerian Constitution which says that the security and welfare of the people should be the primary purpose of government. So, in the area of this human dimension, you see landmark achievements, like the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) for which the third batch of another 20,000 is being taken now. It is surprising that, notwithstanding the shenanigan of the opposition, the programme is well accepted. Not only that; even the last batch is already over-subscribed by not less than 250,000 applications. Yet, some people go around deriding themselves, saying how can the government be paying people less than N10,000. It is not a full employment; it is a volunteer scheme that not only energises the youths but also exposes them to what they need to be able to make a success out of their lives. That is why a large crop of the previous OYES cadets are now doing well in their various facets of life. The World Bank has also adopted the OYES Scheme under YES-O. That is an endorsement by an international organisation that is not politically biased and not myopic like the rudderless opposition that we have in Osun State.
There is also the School Feeding Programme. Yes, we inherited a haphazard and uncoordinated school feeding programme. Under this administration, the school feeding programme has been well-articulated, generating employment for, at least, 3,000 women and also supplying market for farm produce and thereby enhancing agriculture productivity. This has also been adopted at the national level and a lot of states have come to understudy it. Another area of intervention is giving support, interest-free loans to small-scale traders, artisans and the people in the informal sector by which no less than N4.8 Billion has been given out and the success rate, in terms of recovery of the loans is unprecedented; it is as much as between 97 per cent and 98 per cent.
We also dwell more on physical infrastructure because it is part of the plan to re-energise the state and make it a central focus for business and investments. That is why, when you go around the state, you will see massive road constructions all over.
– TRIBUNE NEWSPAPER