By Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Alhaji Ismail Olalekan Alli, Secretary to Oyo State Government speaks on the controversies trailing the video clips that went viral on the social media on the encounter bewtween Governor Abiola Ajimobi with protesting students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), restructuring of civil service in the state, the injunction against conduct of local government election, take-off of the state Technical University in September, and other sundry issues.
A video clip went viral recently on the social media, alleging Governor Abiola Ajimobi of insulting the students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) that staged a protest to the State Secretariat to demand for reopening of the institution. You were there on that day when the governor addressed the students, can you put the records straight on what happened on that day?
A third party opinion would have been more ideal than asking me this question. If a third party narrates what happened, it would be more independent, more neutral and more impartial. I was there and everybody that matters in the state executive council of the state was there.
So, the governor, in his wisdom, had to abate the state executive council meeting, which is the highest decision-making body in the state. If the governor could actually abate that meeting to address the students, you will understand the passion he has for students, children, education and indeed peace in the state, hence he decided to meet with them, listen to them and address them.
The summary of what happened, first is agitation in respect of the closure of the school, reopening of the university, which the students came up with in a form of protest. What happened thereafter is more or less an engagement, which was finally resolved. The protest was based on three things; agitation, they wanted their university reopened, having been closed for upward of eight months.
The institution was closed by the management, not the two owner states of Osun and Oyo. The onus lies with the management of the university. What many people don’t understand is the context of running university in this country. Universities are autonomous institutions and the Governing Council of each institution is the highest decision-making body of such institution.
So, for the management to have shut down the university, the management must have listened to the council, from problems they felt the attention of the two owner states would be required. As such, the students must have come to see the governor, believing that as their father, he should actually be able to resolve the impasse.
On getting there, all the governor did was to address the students as his children. Once there is an agitation, the governor, having left the state executive council meeting, had expected that they would listen. He spoke to them as a father. Those of us that are fathers know how we talk to our children at home. If you have anybody that is seemingly recalcitrant, you know how to tackle him or her. That was what happened.
There was agitation that led to engagement. The three process went from one stage to the other. He engaged the students eventually, he spoke to them and they spoke to him. They apologised at the end of the day and finally it was resolved.
The only solution the governor repeated that day was what he had done in the previous week. In the previous week, the leadership of the students’ union in the South-west had come to meet him, and he had actually told them what the owner states would do, to the extent of assuring them that each of the two owner states would actually part with N200 million to be able to address the issue. It was N200 million initially, and he promised them that he would contact his Osun State counterpart, which he did.
At the end of the day, when the university came to say the value that is required, he moved it to N250million. When the unions in the institution came the following week with the ma management of the institution, they pleaded that additional N42million be added per state, making it N292million each.
The governor, in his wisdom, because of the passion he also has, called his counterpart in Osun, and immediately, the governor of the the State of Osun also agreed to part with another N42million.
So, you can see the trend, the passion and the interest the governor has for the children, the students, the university and sound education. What we must understand is that the culture of South West is the culture of Africa, which actually emphasises character moulding. If you train somebody educationally, and in character you don’t mould him or her well, he or she would have lost a lot.
People went about with mischief, trying to paint the governor black. They did that in their own interest, which they understood. I should ask you (referring to the journalist), whether what transpired at the end of the day was fair enough on both sides or not, to the extent that the students apologised and we departed on a rather amicable note. What else would any society be proud of at the end of the show.
So, people actually went about, brandishing what did not happen. But anybody that has the interest of the students development and progress, definitely will not share the view that the governor was harsh on them. Definitely, he must tell the truth.
They have been going around, talking about constituted authority; you have constituted authority at home. Your parents are the authority at home. They must let you know what to do and what not to do. No matter how exposed you are, you remain a child as long as you have parents. Why do we pray to God? It is because God is our ultimate parents. So, why do we ha e the Bible? Why do we have the Quoran? Would anybody not subscribe to the Bible, the Quoran, even the traditional religion has its own dos and don’ts. Would you not oblige? Why is that we obey policemen outside this country? Go to all these developed countries, you dare not flout their rules. But here, whatever they say we should not do, we flout and we still believe it should be condoned.
We should stop condoning indiscipline, lawlessness, disobedience to what we call constituted authorities. This is a law abiding state, led by a law abiding governor, a law abiding person, who was law abiding in his first term and remains law abiding in his second term. The success story from the first term is what we also oblige ourselves with in this second term. There is no reason for us to be lawless…We cannot achieve perfection, but we can go close to it as human beings.
What measure are you putting in place to ensure that such open disagreement between the governor and the students will not happen again?
There was no disagreement. But there were agitation, engagement and thd resolution. Those were the three things. If you want something, you will agitate for it. Children would go to their parents and would tell them what they need – you are agitating. The parents will engage you and tell you if you are arrogant that if you want something from them, you must be humble. If you want to ray to God, do you shout on God? You don’t. You go to God and pray solemnly. We must encourage good manners, and positive character building so that at the end of the day, this country can move forward. We should not encourage lawlessness.
What is happening to the Technical University that this administration is working on?
The first set of students will be admitted in September, this year. I am telling you authoritatively. Everything is being put in place to ensure that the university takes off in September 2017. It is technical university where engineering and similar engineering courses will be taught.
We noted the dearth of middle level and high level capability and capacity in engineering and other related courses. So, we need to bridge the gap, rather than allow our children to go to Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and some other countries. One of the things that is draining our foreign exchange in this country today is the rush for education outside this country in those West African countries and other countries in Africa, even beyond, where their education is not as developed as Nigeria.
We should credit this government for trying to actually endure that we put in the best. Oyo State started LAUTECH and within one or two years that the institution started, it was acclaimed the best state university. The Technical University will not be an unorthodox university.
What delayed the take off of the university is a fact that our partner, Texas Tech University, pulled out relations because of insecurity issues in the country, not knowing that in the South West, we do not have security issues. So, whether we like it or not, there is need for technical education. What we are doing is to create the opportunities for our students and children, who do not have that ability to have the first class of what they believe they required; that will be in the Technical University, Ibadan
It was gathered that the Technical University will not be for every Dick, Tom and Harry. It is for people that can afford it. What is your take on this?
The Technical University is targeted at developing those skills that we do not have or that we do not have in sufficiency. It will be a fee paying university. Whatever is good for you, you will pay for it. If you want jollof rice as against eba, you will pay for it. So, the university is not established to further stratify the society. It is just to say that the need of the society, the need of South West, the need of Nigeria have been identified. So, how do you key into providing answers to the needs? This is why the Technical University was established.
The recent reduction of subventions to the seven tertiary institutions owns by the state government by 50 per cent sparked agitation that government should not reduce the subventions. What is the government position on this issue?
I am happy you used the word agitation. In this particular instance, the unions in those institutions had come in to meet with the Commissioner for Education. They came in at a point to attend the Labour/Management meeting and they behaved very well. We never had a situation of confrontation there, and nobody quoted whatever anyone said out if context. That is the kind of agitation we are talking about.
Those institutions you are talking about really have a lot in their loins. For instance, the law setting up LAUTECH allows for the granting of subventions by the two owner states.
Subvention is a form of assistance, grant, aid, given to the beneficiary, which the beneficiary would apply to areas of needs. The institution may decide that the subvention it is taking from government should be applied to salaries, security, development in terms of activities and so on. It is at the discretion of management of every institution to determine what it would apply the subvention to. It is again done at the pleasure of the grantee. The one that is granting the subvention must be able to afford it. When you talk about 100 per cent subvention based on budget allocation, 100 per cent of zero is equal zero. I don’t have money to give you, and you are expecting 100 per cent of no money, then you shouldn’t expect anything.
We all own the capability to develop, maintain and sustain whatever we have. That is what we are actually trying to tell the management of these institutions, some of which had existed for beyond four decades, that they must look inward. A situation whereby government does not have any influence on the number of students you take I to the institution, the fees you charge and other things that goes into your funding, which we refer to technically as sources of funds.
What the government is saying is, having granted you that autonomy to manage your funds, you must be self-reliant. That does not mean where the government is rich enough to give your subvention, it will not give.
When a situation from the Federal Allocation has significantly been depleted, and a state does not have enough to even grant as subvention any longer, the government told them that it would not be able to grant them 100 per cent of subvention, you have to fend for yourself. You must understand that scenario very well. Where the institutions say they cannot fend for themselves 100 per cent, the government would grant them 25 per cent, 20 per cent or 50 per cent, and take 100 per cent where it is available and affordable. If it cannot afford it, it cannot give. This is why management of the institutions must look inward and see what can be done from within. At the end of the day, you will be self reliant. This what the government has said to management of these institution. No provost has come to say they are unable to manage their institutions, arising from lack of funds. It is to task their ingenuity, capability and ensure that they challenge themselves successfully to be able to weather this storm. You must own the institution as management, don’t just say government owns it and if must pay you salaries; no that is not the concept of management.
The management that is evolving and that is all embracing must be able to look inward and must be able to determine the future of its organisation.
Our interaction with one of them revealed that some students don’t even pay fees. They allowed them not to pay fees, and they write examinations. Out of 100 per cent, they would get about 70 per cent to pay, what about the remaining 30 per cent that wouldn’t pay? Why can’t you introduce a scheme where parents and the students can pay their fees instalmentally, thereby ensuring that by the ninth month of the session, they would have paid everything? It happens internationally. You would have an account, you would pay into it. As you get money a d as your parents get money, you pay into it and they pay into it. We told the management to put in place all that can make the students afford the fees.
The issue is that they can get their students to pay 99.9 per cent of the fees they should pay, depending on the scheme you put in place and your managerial capability. If you put all these schemes in place, you will have more than enough at the end of the day.
If the management has issues in payment of salaries, it should be open and be transparent. It is what we do in the state. We have been very open and transparent on how much that comes in for the state and how the money is being expended. We are accountable.
How much is Oyo State owing her workers and did you achieve industrial harmony in the state?
The climate is conducive, harmonious and peaceful. Whatever it is that we are owing them, they know what it is. It is better for us to consolidate the understanding that we have, rather than saying we owe them three or four months. They know why we cannot pay, and they are not insisting we should pay what we did not have. So, let’s leave it at the closer relationship that we have rather than going to whether it is a month or two that we owe them. What is important is that each time we have the funds, we don’t keep money in our coffers. We pay once we have the money. This is why has stemmed the tide of disagreement in the state.
Some village heads in Oyo Federal Constituency just stopped the conduct of local government election you had slated for February 11 through an injunction they obtained at a Federal High Court in Abuja over delineation of the newly created local council development areas (LCDA) and what is known to the 1999 Constitution. So, what is the position of the state?
What we are doing in Oyo State is not new and we are actually in accordance with the provision of the laws, that actually created and consolidated the new 35 LCDAS. It means 35 local governments are in the offing in addition to the 33 that we have in the state, making them 68 ultimately.
There is a process of enacting laws. It went through the House of Assembly; everything was done, including interaction with the public at that point in time. The laws scaled through. So, what we are doing is to implement what has been put in place to ensure that we bring governance and government to the grassroots, that is what we are doing.
After the enactment of that law, we had its amendment to enable the LCDAs to function in accordance with the provisions of the laws; that is the LCDAs, not local government. When that came up, the government set up LCDA Committee on Petitions that may likely arise because there is nothing you do in this world that is perfect. All we are set to do is to satisfy the yearnings of the people, who have really aspired for governance and government to be closer to them.
I shouldn’t comment beyond this on that because they have gone to court. There is an injunction, banning us from conducting election on February 11. In actual fact, we have been served. As such, the election will be on hold as long as the litigation stand. This is a law abiding state, led by a law abiding first citizen, who would not do anything to break the law.
If 16 Baales in a particular locality obtained injunction against the local government election, what can the governor and the government? There is nothing he can do than to abide by the injunction until the litigation is disposed off or terminated.
Initially, people said this government does not want to conduct local government election. The government showed its seriousness by ensuring that when it was time, all the litigations against the conduct of local government election were off. It set up Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC). We had members of the commission, including the chairman appointed. Legally, they were put in place. The election time table was released and the process was going on very well. The chairman of the commission also reaffirmed the February 11 date, to the extent that money has been released by the government for the conduct of the election to show the seriousness of this government as far as conducting local government election would be. But everything we have done is in tandem with the provision of the laws creating the LCDAs, even before the advent of this administration. So, there is nothing absolutely illegal. At the end of the day, we shall see what will happen. Once the case is terminated, we will go ahead with the election. We could not conduct this local government election during the first term of governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, because of litigation.
What effect would you say the non – conduct of the election will have on local government in the future?
Well, it is better imagined. I sincerely believe that the intention of government is clear and genuine.
The government terminated the appointments of over 600 workers over certificate forgery, age falsification, fake results and so on. If there are a few of them, whose appointments were wrongly terminated, what will the government do on their cases. Is it true that you have asked them to report back?
We are doing a restructuring. A component of restructuring has to do with having the right people in the right places; you must be qualified to do what you are doing to enhance your productivity, efficiency and your effectiveness. Those three combined would actually make up the attributes of a season and a desirable public servant. You must be qualified to be able to operate effectively on a position. One thing that will determine your suitability is your qualification.
If you have a qualification that is suitable for that job, you are able to work effectively and efficiently, where we have question, we want to ask question as to capability of whoever is working somewhere, whether you are really qualified. The component of the restructuring exercise is the verification of certificates. This is what we are doing and it is an ongoing exercise.
In the process, we discovered from a consulting firm, that is professionally handling the exercise for government that these people we are talking about actually came into service with falsified certificates. It is the certificate awarding body telling us that those certificates that we had, tendered by our members of staff were falsified. It is a criminal thing. This is why they have been asked to go. Whoever contests it has the onus of proving otherwise. If anybody proves otherwise, he will be absorbed at the end of the day; that is the fairness in the whole exercise. There is no witch-hunting intended.
But with the volume that we have seen, to the extent of falsifying not only West African School certificates, also forging certificates from degree awarding institutions, NCE and so on, is unfortunate. Such a thing should not be tolerated. We are not saying they should just go, they will be prosecuted. Whatever funds they have claimed from government, they will have to refund. We are not retrenching, all we are doing is restructuring.
What kind of relationship exists between you and the governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi?
I am the Secretary to the State Government, serving the government, therefore serving the governor. If you work in a capacity, there is no why you should not work effectively and serve loyally your principal, that is, my governor. So, we work together, he directs what to do as the leader of the government and as the governor of the state.
Definitely, you will wonder why our relationship is pleasant. For you to work with your boss, your relationship must be pleasant, you must be rightly disposed, have right frame of mind, you must be qualified and be exposed substantially. You must also be experienced. If those qualities were found suitable for the governor to have appointed me, I thank him for it, and that is why I am still here.
How is the state coping with the economic recession and what are you doing to put the state on the path of prosperity?
What is more essential for us to understand in this country is what will move us forward. You will see those examples and elements in this state. In fact, you will wonder how we are coping with this very hard situation. This is why we embarked on industrialisation of the state and agriculture will take us there. Also, education in the right manner will take us there. Industrialisation will take us there because if you produce and you are not able to convert what you produced, the extent of wastage will be enormous. You must add value. Value addition goes with industrialisation.
When you have the land, about 28,000 square kilometres, and in Oyo State we have basically about 90 per cent that can be converted, what are you waiting for? This is why we are with China, going into the Free Trade Zone that we are developing, where about 125 companies are coming to operate in this state with a view to industrialising the state. It will be a business hub, not only for the South West alone, but for the country and indeed West Africa. This state is a gateway to some international boundaries. Essentially, we are converting what we have to what we need further.
In our first term, we dealt with the issue of peace an insecurity. It is only in a peaceful, conducive and suitable environment that industrialists will come to invest, and that is why people are coming to set up companies in the state. People are acquiring farmland in the state. At the end of the day, we will have food security and something to convert, and add values so that we will not be dependant on the federal allocation.
We have restructured our Board of Internal Revenue,which means we can depend much more on our internally generated revenue. That is why what we are doing, must be private sector oriented.