I’m for modest, not ostentatious pension for former governors, says Osoba
As a beneficiary of pension package for former governors and their deputies, former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, told SEYE OLUMIDE that he is not averse to ex-governors collecting pensions after leaving office. He, however, wants such entitlements to be modest and never as ostentatious as it has become. He also cautioned against politicians putting their personal burden on state governments.
• State Owing Workers’ Salaries While Their Past Governors Live Flamboyantly Should Be Condemned
As a former state governor, what are your views regarding former governors drawing mouthwatering pensions from their states upon the completion of their tenures?
I can only speak for myself, and not for other former governors because I do not know what exactly they earn as pensions and benefits in their respective states.
As a person, the only thing I collect from Ogun State since I left office is N676, 000 monthly. During the era of Governor Gbenga Daniel, he was not even paying. It took the intervention of highly placed traditional rulers and other prominent people to intervene before he made some payments to me. The governor said he thought he would be paying it annually. But my response then was that does a man eat once a year? The N676, 000 does not even cover the cost of fuelling my car in a month. The tax that I pay to Ogun State yearly is in millions when you look at the balance sheet. I am putting more into the coffer of Ogun State than what I am taking from the state. That is the reason I will only speak for myself. I cannot comment on others unless I have facts and figures indicating what they are collecting with what they are collecting in their various appointive or elective offices now.
For instance, if I am holding any appointive office, I will rather collect all my entitlements because N676, 000 that I am taking from Ogun State cannot sustain me.
But there are states where former governors earn millions in pensions monthly, have their cars changed every three years, when pensioners are dying due to the non-payment of their pensions.
The issue of changing cars every three years is part of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) rules and regulations. You would recall that penultimate week, the Federal Government announced that it was going to monetise the cost of purchasing cars for former heads of state and presidents. I also know that the government built one house per former president in a location of their choices. If the issue of car is covered under the law, it is their right and entitlement. Let us be honest with ourselves, in the 1999 constitution, former presidents and governors are not by law allowed to hold any office with any multinational companies.
We are restricted as to what we can do as former public office holders. I therefore would counsel that we should take cases on individual basis. I will give you an example. There was a case of a former governor from the South East whose property were one day thrown out of a house he rented in Abuja. I also know of a former governor in Kogi/Kwara State who died in penury. I know of former governors who barely could afford modern-day furniture when you get to their homes. I would therefore counsel that we should take each of the cases on its merit. These are receipts of the taxes that I pay to both Lagos and Ogun states (displays his tax cards) because I live in both states. I interchange my stay, therefore I pay taxes to the two states.
I would counsel that we look at the issue from the two sides before jumping to conclusion or outright condemnation of what is accruable to ex-governors and presidents.
Would you condemn any former governor that is holding an elective or appointive office and still collects a mindboggling amount as pension from his state?
I will condemn any of the past governors who is collecting an outrageous amount as pension. It is wrong. It is wrong to hang your burden on the neck of the state.
For example, I had major health challenges last year, which led to my travelling to the United Kingdom for medical treatment. Between May and December, I was in and out of different hospitals but I am happy that I had successful surgeries. I do not use recommended glasses anymore, which has been part of me for over 70 years.
I paid a £20, 000 deposit in one of the hospitals and by January 1st this year, I paid the £10, 000 balance for the treatment. The total cost of my treatment was nearly £100, 000 pounds, but I refused to put the burden on the neck of Ogun State.
As a former governor my health is part of their problem and if I die today, the state will bury me. But I just didn’t bother myself. And since the state government did not ask me about the medical procedure, when they knew what I went through, I didn’t bother them with the details.
I have a philosophy that what I cannot afford in my private life I wouldn’t go for it in any public office I find myself. As a former Managing Director of Daily Times, I was entitled to several benefits including a driver, yet I was driving myself in the evenings. I still do it today.
But some of your colleagues in elective and appointive positions still collect pensions as former governors plus their current salaries. What is your advice to them?
I don’t offer free advice because it is never valuable to the person whom you are offering. If they genuinely seek my opinion, then I can speak to them. Secondly, it is not possible for me to impose my lifestyle on anybody. For example, it is not my ambition to ever want to own an aircraft and it is still not my ambition to live an ostentatious lifestyle. I can always tell people the way I live therefore I won’t give free advice to anybody. What I value most is my peace of mind. I have vowed never to take any appointment that would make me end up going to answer questions before EFCC because a lot of public offices have been criminalised now.
But most state governors that are paying their predecessors in office huge pensions cannot even pay workers’ salaries or pensions to retired civil servants. Is this not deplorable?
Any state that is not paying workers’ salaries, but its past governors are living flamboyantly will earn condemnation. That is not acceptable. For instance, when I became governor in May 1999, civil servants were owed six months salary arrears while local governments staff and teachers were owed nine months. My first year in office was used to settle all the salary arrears that I met on ground, and I can boldly say that most of those that benefited are still alive to bear me witness. Each of the civil servants in Ogun State as at 1999 was collecting double salaries for almost nine months. They were collecting their salary arrears and their salary for the month. I can say that at the rooftop.
If you were in the Senate now, would you still be collecting pension as a former governor?
If I am a minister or a senator, I will collect my entitlements and still collect my N676, 000. When I was governor, I was paying arrears of pensions to pensioners in the state and even to federal government pensioners.
I will give you an example. There was a time that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was attacked on his way and he nearly died. I was one of those who went to meet former President Ibrahim Babangida to complain to him about the plight of a former president. In America their former presidents are fully protected. I collected two cars from the Federal Government and delivered them to Obasanjo. As a former president you need a back-up car and security aides with another car.
Our lives as former governors are endangered because we must have stepped on a lot of toes with the decisions that we took when we were in office. I am therefore not against the regular change of vehicles for ex-governors. It is ostentatious living that I condemn. You can change a car as recommended by the RMAFC, but not a fleet of cars. That is too much. Changing a car once in a while is not too much although I have never benefited from it from Ogun State government.
The only time they changed my car was when I was 70. The Ogun State government since the last 15 years has not given me that privilege. I don’t mind because the way any governor lays his bed today is the way he will sleep on it tomorrow. What they don’t give to me if they leave office and they ask for it, I will raise the alarm. Like my medical treatment. I know how much I have spent but nobody asked me. A lot of prominent Nigerians have asked me to demand it, but I said no. I don’t want anything scandalous.
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