By Muyiwa Olayinka
The state of Osun will be going to the polls on September 22nd to elect the next governor for another four years. The current governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola will be completing his second term in office of eight years
The governor has done his bit in terms of infrastructural developments despite misgivings about his tenure in office. The people of Osun should be looking forward to the next four years of what it has in store for them
As a citizen of the state, I’m concerned about the progress of the state just like any other citizen that has equal stake in the state. My concern made me to put this piece together,to articulate areas I will direct my energy to, if given the opportunity to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the state of Osun.
I tag it a 5 point agenda and they are listed below:
1. The Burden of Debt and Labour Related Matters
The two major problems presently facing our state, Osun is the burden of debts accumulated and the settlements of arrears of salaries and pension owed civil servants.This is peculiar to many states of the federation but Osun’s case seems to be more complicated with low internal generated revenue (IGR)
On the issue of debt problem, the most practicable thing to do is to set up a think tank of financial experts to know the true state of indebtedness. This standing committee will be in place, meeting from time to time to guide the government in getting fairer terms to reschedule the debt portfolio with our creditors.
There is going to be another technical committee comprises of experts in Labour matters, the representatives of labour unions, and some credible leaders to sort out the lingering problems of salaries and pension owed.
In solving this dispute, we must be able to face reality, such that the civil service have to be restructured in a way to make them productive and to eliminate redundancy. The civil service needs to be reformed and right sized to meet realistic needs.
This is going to be a tough call that may put the government at logger heads with the labour unions, but we have to take tough decisions to rein the state from these recurring problem. We cannot run away from this. I will need to seek the understanding of the labour unions to reach an amicable solution..
The severance package of workers that will be affected may not necessarily come in monetary terms but could be in such of aid packages and grants through business incubators, to encourage some of them to start and own business of their choices. This will cushion the effect of job losses and make them employers of labour.
2. Human Capital Development
The well being of the people of the state must be paramount to the Chief Executive Officer of the state. It is pertinent that the people of the state must be healthy before they will be educated, self employed and be productive.
Education and health of the citizens contribute to the human capital development index. The asset of a nation, state or community rests on the pivotal role of human capital development.
The health structure of Osun state are basically primary (health centers)and secondary (the general hospitals). The primary health centers are much closer to the people and funded by the local governments while the general hospitals are under the supervision of the state government.
Some of these general hospitals are spread among the three senatorial districts of the state. Some of them are located in Ilesa, Ikirun, Ikire, Ila Orangun Ede Oke Ogbo, Okuku to mention a few. These hospitals need to be upgraded and well equipped with modern day facilities to meet the demands of the teeming populace.
We should be thinking of the practicability of upgrading at least one general hospital from each senatorial district for specialized cases of treatment and management of terminal diseases such as chronic heart diseases, cancer, AIDS, diabetes to mention a few. Furthermore, in partnership with the local governments, the primary health centers need to be more invigorated to bring medical facilities closer to the grass root.
Intervention programs in partnership with international health service providers and Osun indigenes in diaspora must be pursued vigorously for provision of free medical tests, free eye glasses and supplies of drugs and kits to augment what government will provide.
A department will be created in the ministry of health to encourage international health providers to build privately owned world class hospitals for wealthy citizens of the state that can afford it. Lands will be provided and they will enjoy tax holidays to would be investors.
In addition, we should set in motion the possibility of sending a bill to the state house of assembly for provision of compulsory state health insurance scheme that will cover broad segments of the state.
Basic education (primary and secondary) is expected to be the rights of every children of Osun state. Unfortunately, the education policy of the present government has produced mixed results.The policy seems to have created more confusion than the problem it was meant to solve. The performance of the state has been dismal and dipped according to the report released by educational bodies like WAEC (West African Examination Council) and NECO (National Examinations Council). Osun state has been going down the scale maintaining 29th position in the overall and national rating.
This is unfortunate!
There is an urgent need to tinker with the existing policy. A technical committee made up of experts in education sector will be set up to look at areas that will be fine tuned. However the school uniform policy that sets religious institutions against the government will have to be quickly reverted back to their original and respective school uniforms
Rehabilitation of school classrooms, science laboratories and conveniences like toilets need to be revamped as quickly as possible. It could be done in batches as the finances of the state may not be able to accommodate all. In the maintenance of dilapidated structures, we should encourage old student associations and some religious bodies to be partners in progress.
Some notable religious institutions could be encouraged to adopt some schools.
Training and retraining of teachers, reviewing of schools’ curriculum are areas that will be critically re visited.
Osun state is an agrarian state, majority are farmers cultivating cash crops like rice beans, yams, cocoyam, palm products, tobacco leaves, fruits and vegetables. This ought to be a comparative advantage to the state.
Unfortunately most farmer are subsistence with old method of farming.
There is a need to encourage modern day farming, distribution of high yield seedlings, subsidized fertilizers and mechanized farming. This where the farmers need government’s intervention. We must encourage commercial farmers to come and invest in the state so as to teach our local farmers new farming techniques.
Former governor of Kwara state, currently the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki brought some displaced farmers from Zimbabwe to his to teach the local farmers.
We also need to partner with federal government for irrigation projects so that farmers could plant all year round.
The old farm settlement schemes and cooperatives must be reactivated. Improvements in agriculture yields will jumpstart the Agro allied industries
Agro allied industries such as beverage production (tea, coffee,cocoa), starch production (cassava), canned food production (fruits), tobacco production (tobacco leaves) could spring up, thus creating job opportunities.
I remember my secondary school days when Oshogbo, the state capital used to be a hub of commercial activities with the presence of leading foreign companies such as John Holt, and Patterson Zochonis (PZ). They were producers of household items like soaps, creams, detergents fridges. These companies used to have large warehouses where they store their products.
They contributed to the hustle of bustle of trade and commerce. My mother was a major distributor of PZ industry, we used to come from Ilesa to the state capital Oshogbo to take her monthly allocations. We need to do bring back those days One major infrastructure that helps Oshogbo is the functional railway line that passes through the state capital.
We must leverage on this to boost commercial activities and make Oshogbo the headquarter of the south west region in commercial activities apart from Lagos and Ibadan. Ease of transportation encourages commercial activities, we must partner with the Nigerian Railway Corporation to increase traffic to the state capital.
The current government has done a lot on road construction, we must not relent in completing on going projects and embark on new ones, most especially on rural roads to facilitate movements of goods and services to the urban centers.
Tourism is a multi billion dollar investment all over the world. Many nations of the world relies on tourism as major source of revenue. In 2017 alone, France became the highest international tourist arrivals with 86.9m.
In Africa, Morocco had the highest with 10.3 million. South Africa Tunisia, Egypt, followed, unfortunately Nigeria came 7th with a paltry figure of 1.9m.
It will shock you that’Caribbean countries like Macau, Seychelles (in Africa), Anguilla, Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda are islands of less than 10,000 and or not more than 200,000 are raking millions of dollars from tourism.
Osun state can contribute largely to tourism simply because the state is blessed with the Osun Grove in Oshogbo, a UNESCO heritage site since 2014. This is a big plus that can be packaged to be a festival of international standard.
Every year, the Osun Oshogbo is celebrated in the month of August at the grove. It attracts thousands of Osun worshippers, spectators and tourists from all walks of life. A two week long program that can be extended and spiced with musical concerts, shows, films, draws, picnics, that will attract tourists from Cuba, Brazil, USA and Osun adherents all over the world.
This can be done in partnership with big private companies in Nigeria
Nigerians travel to different festivals in the world like Norfolk and Norwich festival in England, Rio Carnival (Samba) in Brazil, Coachella Valley Music in Indio California.
Nigerians can be encouraged to spend their money at home in Osun state
In Nigeria, the Calabar carnival is an annual event every December in Cross River state. This carnival contributed largely to the fortunes of the state. All hotels , air flights motels , guest houses and other recreational facilities are filled to capacity.
It will add value to the economy of the state capital and its environs in the hospitality business, night lives, sellers of Souvenirs, memorabilia, mementos and other gift items will contribute to the economy.
Facilities like roads will be stretched to the limits, thus necessitating government to build more and expand. Other cities like Ilesa, that has Erin waterfalls Ada that has privately built standard golf court, will share from the economic benefits of this festival