By Ayo Olonode
There came the year on which so much visions, missions and development agenda had been hung. Vision 2020 was a resonating mantra in the years preceding the year. For the State of Osun and for the administration of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, it was meant to be his first full year in office.
This is why!
Oyetola assumed duty as Governor of the State of Osun on 27th November, 2018. Ideally, 2019 should have been his first full year in office, but that was not the case thanks to a distracting back and forth at the tribunal. Before the matter could eventually be laid to rest, his first year anniversary as Governor was a 100-meters dash away. That notwithstanding, Oyetola embarked on a “Thank You Tour” across the State to appreciate the citizens and also listen to them outline their needs in a bid to know how to serve them better.
While in the waiting room, he also embarked on an ambitious revolution targeted at the revitalisation of nine of its General Hospitals and 332 Primary Health Centres – one per ward – across the state. By the time he was commemorating his first year in office, 100 PHCs among the 332 had been completed.
Aside his attention to the health sector, he began to also lay out plans for other sectors of the State’s economy, awaiting execution as soon as the coast was clear.
Oh! One salient point: ever before the coast was clear, Oyetola has not failed to pay full salaries since the inception of his administration. Soon enough, the verdict of the appeal court swung in his favour, and it was time to settle down and work on fulfilling his promises to the people of Osun who trusted him enough to hand him the sacred mandate. He assembled his cabinet comprising intellectuals, industry experts and politically aware persons, and immediately sentenced them to a retreat to discuss the development agenda of the State and the role of each sector in the overall plan. It sure wasn’t a time to hold hands and sing “kumbaya”.
Shortly after, the State floated a three-day Evonomic and Investment Summit, featuring 58 panels and plenaries between November 19 and 21, 2019. It was an opportunity for the State to share its development agenda with the world, showcase the its strengths (listed as including more reliable grid-furnished electricity, perhaps more than in any part of Nigeria), forge new partnerships with the business community, as well as provide occasions for networking and exchange of ideas among businessmen in the state and beyond.
With these plans set in motion, Osun was ready for an impressive take-off in 2020. The year started with series of policy implementation and approvals, among which was the successful biometric registration of about 10,000 artisans miners across the State, as part of measures to regularise the sector. There was also the constitution of Rent Tribunal in the State aimed at enhancing communal peace and dispensation of justice in landlord/tenant related disputes. The launch of the Western Nigeria Security Network (codenamed Amotekun Corps) also featured in the early days of the year.
In less than eight weeks, Oyetola approved the implementation of 100 percent payment of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) for all categories of Health Workers in the State. This period also marked the much celebrated education reform in the State, which saw the State realign with the national approved 6-3-3-4 system as against the 4-5-3-4 system that was in force pre-Oyetola. Approval of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of major roads across the state spanning 54.5km was also one of the appetisers of a year with huge promises. Like a bullet responding to the trigger’s nudge, Osun was up to a flying start in 2020. Then came COVID-19 – the notorious global health emergency. The resultant disruption that trailed the pandemic did not spare the State and its plans for the year.
But thanks to the proactiveness of Oyetola, a state that ideally should be submerged by the torrential scourge swam mysteriously. It even made a crucial interception during the Ejigbo 127 instance, which proved very instrumental in preventing a national disaster. One of the early interventions of Oyetola in the health sector, the revitalised Ejigbo General Hospital, became the facility where these cases and others were managed.
The economic downturn that trailed the lockdown necessitated by the pandemic was also not whisked away by the government. Its economic stimulus and that of the 21-man Food and Relief Committee that it commissioned for this purpose, benefitted not less than 21000 households having an average of four dwellers per household.
The crippling effect of the pandemic lost a vital battle in Osun, the battle against infrastructural development. With or without the pandemic, there was no soft-pedalling on the revitalisation of primary health centres and on the reconstruction of roads. Township roads like the Alekuwodo road network and major roads like the Ejigbo-Ara-Ede road, were undergoing reconstruction at the time. A number of those roads were commissioned in the last quarter of the year. Fast forward to October, when it appeared like the State was recovering from the razzmatazz of Covid-19, some “agbaya” decided to hijack the peaceful protest of agitated youths against the high-handedness of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police.
From an attempt to smite the shepherd to series of looting and wanton destruction of public and private properties across the state, the devastation that followed the hijack was such that shook the State. It was as though an evil spirit was released into the atmosphere, but other people’s deliverance began when Oyetola came out to remind the people of their true status and also gave them an ultimatum to return all they had carted away.
Behold, it worked!
While still trying to recover from the shock that followed the attempt on his life, Oyetola still had the presence of mind to deliver a five-star welfare package to workers in the State. He approved the immediate implementation of Minimum Wage, lifting of ban on Annual Salary Increment and embargo placed on promotions and conversions since 2012. In the same frame of time, he began an aggressive engagement of youths as part of efforts at addressing the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest. He made a big statement by coming up with a youth-centric budget, one that apportioned a mouth-watering 18 percent to education, among other beneficial sectors to the youths. In case anyone is wondering what the big deal is with the figure, it is the highest allocation to education in Osun’s recent history. It is also a figure that puts Osun within UNESCO’s benchmark for educational allocation.
His second year anniversary as Governor was an occasion deserving of a grand celebration, but being a man on a mission to make the State better than he met it, he got himself busy commissioning projects and flagging-off new ones. The going got really tough for the state of Osun in 2020, but Osun got going in spite of the challenges and confrontations, which include paucity of funds. Osun got going despite Covid-19 and the unpleasant aftermath of the #EndSARS protest.
The going got spectacularly tough in 2020, but in the same year, Osun ranked, as one of the States with the lowest poverty and inequality index in the country, according to a report from the Nigerian Living Standard Survey computed by the National Bureau of Statistics. Osun State had a poverty index of 8.52 percent, which was the state’s lowest index since return to democracy, and third in the federation only behind Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub; and Delta, an oil-producing state and one of the highest revenue earners from federal accounts. The going got stupendously tough in 2020, but Osun won the Best Performing State in E-Government Implementation in Nigeria, awarded by the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and the National Council on Communication and Digital Economy.
This followed the state’s noticeable adoption of information communication technology to make government more accessible, effective, and accountable to its citizenry.
The going got really tough in 2020, but the Federal Government adjudged Osun as one of the most outstanding states in the federation in terms of implementation of developmental projects, especially those funded by international donors.
2020 got really tough, but Osun came, saw and conquered on many counts.