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How I run Osun State without borrowing for three years, Oyetola

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Governor Adegboyega Oyetola. Photo; TWITTER/STATEOFOSUN

Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola said he has not borrowed since he assumed office in the last three years, despite inheriting about N170billion. In this interview with TIMOTHY AGBOR he disclosed how he has been building infrastructure, paying salaries without adding to the debt profile of the state.

Information from the Debt Management Office (DMO) says Osun is in serious debts. What will you say about this?
Debt, ordinarily is something that happens one way or the other because we don’t have all resources to do what we want to do. So, debt is not a curse. What is important is to ensure that whatever debt incurred is channelled towards capital projects that will impact positively on the people.

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Yes, Osun has own share of debts. I don’t want to go into details. What is important is to move forward. We are coping with whatever debts that have been incurred over time and we are ensuring it does not stop us from doing what we need to do as a government in the area of infrastructure, health, education and security. I think that’s the way to talk about it, even America owes a lot of debt. But I think we have actually been able to manage the state’s debt portfolio, we have been paying back inherited debt and we are still doing a lot that we need to do as a government.

What is the total debt profile of the state at this moment?
I think it is in the public domain and the Debt Management Office (DMO) has brought up, at one time or the other, the debt profile of most of the states, including Osun. So I will reckon that it is in the region of about N170 billion according to the last publication of DMO, but since we have been in government, we have been able to reduce the portfolio reasonably, so it is still at the level of something that could be managed.

How much have you borrowed since you assumed office about three years ago?
I have not borrowed a dime. But that’s not to say that I might not borrow, given the fact that you must do some of the major projects that need time, that is, time bound, particularly given the cost of infrastructure that is going on now, you may have to find a way of ensuring that you complete whatever you are doing. But what is important to me is the fact that even if I must borrow, I must do it in such a way that will not affect meeting my obligations to the people including payment of salaries and pension. However, as of today, we have not borrowed.

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Your government is said to be workers friendly because you pay their salaries as when due, but some people said you are doing that for political reasons, how will you react to this?
On the average, we are spending nothing less than N3billion every month on salaries and pensions. So, if we have even stored money somewhere by now, it would have been exhausted. There is nothing like gimmicks, I’m here to serve, so the question of playing politics with salaries does not even come in. It is not a Greek gift, they deserve their pay and so I give priority to payment of salaries and pension. I must look for money to pay salaries and pension, every other thing could come up but salary and pension must be paid, it’s not a gimmick.

I am committed to welfare of workers, even when I was Chief of Staff, I was in charge of most of the things relating to issues of workers. I see it as an obligation that must be fulfilled; I’ve heard people talk about possibility of second term, that’s not the issue. The issue is that, welfare of workers must be prioritised and that’s exactly what we are doing.

So, if you get into office for second term, workers welfare will still be prioritised?
Yes, absolutely, it won’t change because it is not the matter of looking at it from the angle of trying to satisfy them, it is their legitimate right. Before coming into politics, I’ve been a private sector person, I employed people and there was no time I did not pay my workers. So it is mandatory that you must pay your workers. It is part of what I need to do as Chief Executive of the State, it is normal and there’s nothing to it.

You said you have not borrowed a dime, where are you getting money to pay workers regularly?
Creativity is the word. You need to look at where you are and where you want to be and look at the gap and creatively plan things to take care of those gaps. I think that is the only way one can explain what we are trying to do. For instance, if you talk of infrastructure, we don’t have resources to do infrastructure but I can’t be lamenting. When I went on ‘Thank you’ tour after our election, people were asking me to fix a lot of their roads but I can’t do roads without paying salaries. You have to be creative enough to conceive the idea of alternative fund project approach, which gives me leverage of having my infrastructure fixed even without my resources. People who have money, contractor who can have the means to do these things, they do it and we have understanding as to how they will be paid over time.

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Perhaps that’s the magic, alternative fund project approach. Rather than borrow, I collaborate with people that have the means, ability and funds to partner with government to fix roads. For instance, the ongoing construction of Olaiya Flyover is being financed through this approach. But what is important is that you must display a high level of integrity, you must not renege on the basis of whatever agreement you have with these partners and so far, so good, we have been keeping to our agreements.

With the way the city is growing, you must be proactive enough to have a foresight of making some specific arrangements to avoid congestion, to avoid accidents, particularly on that axis. If you have ever used that road at peak of the day, you will appreciate the need to have flyover. There have been several accidents – I witnessed one or two myself. So, unless you have that and even thinking of a city that is growing and if we don’t think of that now, there’ll always be the need to have it.

What about road projects inherited from your predecessor, have they been abandoned?
We are still doing the Ring Road, we have not abandoned it but what I have done differently is the fact that because I don’t have money for two, three, four lanes at a time, I felt what was important for me is to complete a lane or two lanes, so that people can make use of it. If I wait until I have money to complete it the way it’s been designed, it might take another four, five or seven years. So what I have done is to ensure that one side of it is done up to the Stadium. So people are plying the road now as it is. When I have resources, I will move to the other side and complete the dual carriage the way that it’s been designed to be.

What about the airport project?
The airport is desirable because of the fact that we are opening up our economy to private investment. Again, we have a lot of tourist attractions, if you don’t have things like that, there will be no opportunity for people to move by road, by air, even if we have all the tourist attractions in the world, they won’t attract tourists.

Again, we are not doing the airport on our own any longer because we are partnering with federal government. They have actually come to inspect it, and I want to believe they are going to take it over in collaboration with us to complete the project.

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The airport was conceived by the Oyinlola administration and it was meant to be jointly funded by the Federal Government and state. That time it was N4billion, Federal Government putting N2billion down and the state putting N2billion down. Unfortunately, the Federal government didn’t come with its own N2 billion.

I visited the Minister of Aviation and he assured me that FG would take it over and complete it. So I want to believe that given the partnership we have with the Federal Government we will be able to complete the project. We are not borrowing because I know you’re afraid that we might still want to borrow to complete that project.

How is your relationship with your predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola?
We are brothers.

But many are worried about political cold war between you?
Like I said, there is no rift between us, yes you can say disagreement on some areas and it is not uncommon to disagree on certain areas, perhaps maybe policy, style and things like that. But that’s not to say that we have issues at all. By and large, I have no issue with Ogbeni, he is my brother and we have come a long way, we didn’t meet in politics. I think the whole thing is being unduly exaggerated.

There are different groups within APC in the state, one of them is The Osun Progressives (TOP). There is also Ilerioluwa and there are others. What is your position as the leader of the party in the state regarding TOP, which seems to be antagonising your policies and may not support your second term ambition?
I don’t have issues, to be honest, I see everybody as part of the same political family. I don’t believe in groups or factions, if you want to put it that way, you can have caucus, one way or the other it is natural. Even in normal club arrangement, you have people who align with one another on some things, so I don’t have issues with them.

Talking about issue of second term, my attitude is to deliver on what I am currently doing. I don’t want to be distracted. It is service to the people, if the people believe that they want me to continue, so be it. It is not a desperate situation.

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However, we have not got to that level (election). It is God that gives power. His appointment is not negotiable. It is God’s wish that I am the Governor today, so the issue of second term is left to God and people of Osun to decide.

Do you think that they will give you a second term?
Like I mentioned, second term is left to people and God. What is important to me, for every day of my being a governor, at least for the first term, is to put in my best, second term will be determined by the people and God.
Some prominent politicians and groups in the state have endorsed you for second term, do you think your predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf

Aregbesola will support you for second term?
Well, you’ll need to ask him. I can’t be in the position to read his mind.

You are in the same party and his support ought to be taken for granted?
That’s why I am surprised you’re asking. I believe he is my brother and I believe at any point in time, he wants my success because I worked very hard in eight years for his own success as well.

If people in TOP are saying that they won’t support me, I’m not too sure they are telling the story from his heart. He remains my brother. They are not speaking his mind. Like I said, I don’t see why he would not be willing to support me if people say they want me.

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