Oyetola: A governor to copy on federalism
Let’s borrow from the brilliance of the composers of the song: USA for Africa: ‘We are the World’ as I would like to enjoin some prominent but noisy governors to borrow some brilliance from the artful but quiet Governor of Osun State who is significantly contributing to the ‘Making of Fiscal Federalism’ through a rod is in his hand at the moment.
There comes a time when we as a nation need to heed a certain call when the nation must come together as one. There are people dying through the foolish pride of some unknown gunmen who daily shoot down restructuring because they don’t want federalism, which they know the nation needs to develop its more than 200 million people. Oh, and it’s time to lend a hand to the unwise ones at the centre and its federating units, the needed oxygen. We can’t go on pretending day-by-day that someone, somewhere will soon make a change. We’re all a part of God’s great big family in this convoluted federation that is expected to lead the black race. And the truth, you know, love is all we need – to heal the wound of what poor leadership has triggered. We are the world that Africa and the black race have been waiting for. ..We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving back to the only country we can call our own. The country is bigger than all of us including our leaders and our dealers. There’s a choice we’re making: that there will be a country, after all even after May 29, 2023.
If we are committed to preserving the architecture in our present ruins, we are saving our own lives. It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me. We don’t need the altercations between Akure and Kaduna over open grazing laws. Let there be open love despite the hate speeches of our leaders who keep asking for lost white papers on open grazing routes in the ancient North.
There is a time for everything. It is a time to look into the seeds of time in our country and ask experts which ones will grow and which ones should wither away. It is a time to share experiences (we find as road notes) with governors and leaders who don’t understand what to do about wealth creation and where to stand on VAT collection.
Recently, I was in Osun state to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the creation of the state. I was in the company of some significant colleagues and we all saw some emerging development paradigms, which the Governor of the State, Gboyega Oyetola hasn’t been noisy about. I would not like to talk about road construction and some education policy reforms of his predecessor that he has reversed in public interest. Those are part of the reasons he was elected to run the state.
These are now news worthy. What is news worthy from my road notes is the power of Governor Oyetola’s attitude, which some of his colleagues can borrow from. He has become another quiet operator who would not like to make noise about his ‘giant strides’. It has become difficult for his aides to convince him to replace even the furniture in the modest Government House in Osogbo. He has some traits of Peter Obi who would not like to charter aircraft for any urgent meetings, no matter the owner of the ass that brays even in Abuja. One of the senior insiders confirmed to yours sincerely that on one occasion, the Governor’s attention was needed in Abuja and only a chartered flight from a nearby airport could make him attend the meeting where his attention was desperately needed and the cheapest offer the protocol got for one way ticket was only ten million naira. But it was said that as soon as the governor was told the price, he shouted and said they should forget the meeting. ‘I can’t in good conscience spend government money, a whopping ten million to attend a meeting and another ten million to return. That is not how to spend government money…’
I also gathered that is the same way the reticent governor treats requests from his wife for some quasi-government activities. Accordingly, he often tells his protocol officers to treat requests from his wife as unofficial and so they should not spend government’s money like that. And so on many occasions that state officials had submitted requests from his wife, he had asked them to trash such requests.
During the brief but remarkable interaction, the same Governor from Iragbiji, allowed his commissioners and even his press secretary to answer questions. He even thanked them for answering even sensitive questions, which required his authority. He was curiously calm, cool and collected in his moderate outfit. When asked about the source and history of his taciturnity and calmness in his spirit, that journalists noted throughout the day’s interactions and tours, he merely smiled and said, ‘you should ask Baba God’ who gives such fruit of the spirit.
But there are more to learn from this who is immersed in the power of his silence. He has laid a very solid foundation for ‘fiscal federalism’ that has been a recent bone of contention between Rivers State and the Federal Government. The state has built upon a solid economic foundation laid by a former Governor of the State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
As it has been reported, in 2006, former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola got the very poor Osun State to register a solid minerals exploration and mining company named Livingspring Minerals Promotion Company Limited. With that company, the state bid for, won, paid and got ten solid minerals exploration licences and seven mining licences from the Federal Government. Seven of the exploration licences are for Gold fields in Osun and in two far northern states; two of the licences are for Lead and Zinc exploration in identified fields in Eastern Nigeria and in a north central state. The tenth exploration licence is for Feldspar and Quartz, Marble and Granite Gneiss exploration in a north central state covering an area of 200 square kilometers. Three of the mining licences are for Gold mining in Osun State while the remaining four are for Feldspar and Quartz in the north – all covering 233 square kilometers. That was quite remarkable for Oyinlola who didn’t make noise about these significant feats.
It is on this critical infrastructure that Governor Oyetola is building solid superstructure for fiscal federalism. The administration has grabbed the rod he found in Oyinlola’s room as a means to a good end. He is being blessed in the field and in the city as it is written. So instead of lamenting about the obstacles of the exclusive legislative list that has also kept the bitumen deposits in Ondo South in the dark for instance, Governor Oyetola has reached out for the needed expertise and partnership with people who have means to do serious business.
‘Besides, for the assets to work, the licencee must produce what experts call Geological Exploration Reports (GER) and Geochemical Reports in addition to core drilling of the licence areas. These processes were followed in Osun State and carried out between 2006 and 2010 across all the fields in the five states covered by the licences’ as a living witness has reported.
There was a glimmer of hope in 2006 that Osun state would limp out of the feeding bottle federalism, after all with the multiple licences. But then the unexpected happened and the judicial harassment of democracy began and then the Oyinlola government had to leave office suddenly in November 2010. And so that was how the Oyinlola’s dream for Osun’s economic revival had been left in its pipe that has just been broken by Oyetola.
Eight years after, the Oyetola government, has assembled a revival dream for the Osun Gold mines while most of his colleagues are beating drums of war over federalism. Specifically, the state-owned company, in partnership with an investor, has established what we can rightly tag as Nigeria’s first gold refinery. I was one of those who saw the multi-billion naira gold refinery recently. And the solid minerals sector and other stakeholders including governors most of whom have mineral resources in their states have many reasons to borrow from the brilliance that has emerged in Osun State. The local refinery company has assembled very skilled and educated miners from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Germany. The German team leader has two doctorate degrees in mining relevant disciplines.
One of the living witnesses who was with Oyinlola then wrote last week: ‘Those of us who were part of the original dream in 2006 through 2010 are proud of what is happening and may still happen to the assets. If things are allowed to continue to work well, the poverty of Osun State may soon be shaken off’.
I asked some officials of the state last week what the next plans were. They said the value chain was being worked on, that they had got investors for two of the licences while also working on the other exploration and mining licences across the country.
So, instead of lamenting, the Osun State Governor is determined to change the Osun Narrative through diversification efforts in four key sectors: Agriculture, Culture and Tourism, and Mining (ATM).
The administration set out seven project streams in our Osun Minerals Development Plan. In two years, the results are showing:
Commercialisation of the assets: the administration has executed agreements with Badger Mines & Pan Arabian Mines. Both firms have almost concluded their exploration campaign and will declare the commercial valuation soon.
The Oyetola administration has delivered the first Gold Refinery in Nigeria- to be commissioned soon. It’s to be christened Omoluabi – Badger Commercial Buying and Refining Centre (CBRC), Osu .
Besides, the government has concluded the resource valuation of its assets in Kogi state. This was carried out by the minerals valuation group of South Africa and partners from the UAE will set up a world class mine and quarry for Osun’s asset in Kogi anytime soon. The administration has also set up Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) to regulate mining activities in the state.
For security of the assets, Osun state has set up a JTF to handle the security in the resource-rich areas. It has also set up an RFID enabled database and has captured over 13,000 miners awaiting the finalisation of the partnership with the PAGMI – presidential artisanal gold mining initiative.
Accordingly, this initiative will encourage the local miners and buy off whatever they (local miners) produce locally. This is a sure source of employment. This is how ‘federalism’ can work for the common good. The leader of Nigeria and his hardliners should visit Osun state and learn why The Guardian has written 48 editorials in its weekly serial on ‘Federalism is the answer, after all’.