By INWALOMHE DONALD
THERE has hardly been any month that the critics of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State spared him unjustifiable virulent attacks, in spite of the fact that he has been very active doing so many things for the people of the state. The time has come for the people to note the hypocrisy of the fake political group behind some of these attacks. Hypocrisy has no place in leadership, whether in the religious, political, or cultural fields.
The 2011/2012 pensioners, who have been staging protests against the governor, claim that they are on a mission to rescue Osun State. It is important that the people begin to show serious interest in these 2011/2012 pensioners who are being used by opposition politicians in the state to foment trouble. This is because the strength of a nation’s democracy is in how vibrant the opposition is. We should, therefore, not encourage the opposition’s tradition of using these pensioners to protest in Osun State. They are the only group of pensioners that introduced internally displaced persons camp in Nigeria.
These hypocritical pensioners are accusing the government of not paying them. This is easier said than done. Leadership is a practical thing. Leadership is by example. It is not enough to point fingers. The leaders and financiers of the 2011/2012 pensioners should tell the people of Osun their motive. This is one way they can shame the ruling party and win the confidence of the people of Osun.
In fact, political opposition is to democracy what spice is to stew. The opposition is supposed to offer the electorate credible alternatives. Unfortunately, opposition parties in Osun have reduced themselves to a mere assemblage of alarmists and propagandists. They are mostly known for raising false alarms about the government and accusing it of not paying their pensions. This is not the kind of contrived political atmosphere that can thrive in modern democracies. It explains why the opposition has not been able to win in Osun, giving rise to anger and frustration on the part of its leaders and financiers.
The language of the protesting 2011/2012 pensioners is not only disgusting but inciting. They have abandoned democracy to embrace insultocracy, a negative political culture that is based on insulting political leaders. A day hardly passes without them insulting the person of the governor, all in the name of pensions, because they have been paid. Unable to manage their frustration, the pensioners have moved from hate to desperation. It is because of desperation for power that opposition politicians with opposing beliefs and ideologies are sponsoring these pensioners’ protests.
Apart from their penchant for raising false alarms, the leaders of the pensioners are known for making threats before major elections. They enjoy making frivolous allegations in the press. In most cases, these alarms and allegations about bailout funds have turned out to be false. The pensioners have deliberately resorted to cheap propaganda, mischief and blackmail to cause division in Osun. Involvement and participation of these older persons in the present politics against the government reflect the extent to which they are alienated from Osun society. During the last one year, an illegal political party of pensioners has emerged in Osun State.
However, they suffered complete defeat because they have allowed the opposition party to use them against the government in Osun. The 2011/2012 pensioners group was formed to promote the interests of the opposition in Osun. It is unrealistic for Osun pensioners to be used as a political party to criticize the government. The group is becoming a destructive problem since there is no strong opposition in Osun. The pensioners are no longer interested in issues affecting their welfare but they are involved in the issues of political parties as it relates to internally displaced persons camp and others.
It is clear that the so-called 2011/2012 pensioners group were hired to stage a protest during Governor Aregbesola’s mother’s burial and few days to the Osun West Senatorial bye-election. Their incessant political protests are unbecoming of retired civil servants who ought to be placed and respected as senior citizens. We know the set of pensioners that are protesting, it is not the entire pensioners of the state. The 2011/2012 pensioners are being used by political blackmailers.
Instead of engaging in dialogue with the government on issues bothering their minds on to how their benefits would be paid, they resorted to a militant approach that is known to be orchestrated by the opposition in the state, engaging in telling lies and character assassination that are capable of destabilizing the peace of the state. The 2011/2012 pensioners group is made up of a fraction of those who retired from service in 2012 to avoid being part of the Contributory Pension Scheme. They are the pensioners being used for protests by political blackmailers in Osun State. It is not the entire pensioners of the state that are involved.
It is disturbing and unfortunate that the acclaimed 2011/2012 retires have chosen to be blackmailing the Osun State Government and persistently constituting nuisance on the streets of Osogbo to the detriment of the peace-loving citizens through sponsored protests on the payment of gratuity and not pension. I want to describe the protest by some pensioners in Osun state as politically motivated. It is connected with the forthcoming 7th year anniversary of Aregbesola’s government in Osun State, January 2018 local government election and September 2018 governorship election in Osun. These senior citizens have been hoodwinked by the antics of those who want to play on their minds and emotions to make them appear like tools in the hands of desperate political gladiators. These pensioners have introduced politics into the estimated N1.75 trillion bailout funds disbursed to the states and local governments that were transferred in about four tranches to some states and local governments which were stressed by the inability to meet up with the payment of salaries.
As the people of Osun State warm up for 2018 electioneering campaigns for local government and governorship elections, cheap propaganda by Osun pensioners thrives and makes waves in the print, electronic and social media. The Osun pensioners issue is more political than economic because of the eventual revelation. Osun state now ranks third behind Lagos and Rivers in the implementation of the contributory pension scheme in the country. Aregbesola had stated this at the presentation of bond certificates to 159 retirees from local government and teaching service. The initial fear about the Contributory Pension Scheme in the state was not necessary.
Protests could have been logically conceived as a normal exercise of fundamental human rights if truly the government had not been living up to its responsibility. As responsible elderly men and women who have given their best to their states in their agile days, it is my belief they should be more circumspect in staging protests especially at times when such actions are capable of being interpreted to mean political orchestrations from those who are desperate to blackmail the Aregbesola administration for their selfish political gains.
It does not sound good at all that the protests by this group are taking place when the government is addressing the problem of Osun pensioners. Given the commitment already demonstrated by the state government, I know this action by the group is not supported by the majority of pensioners in the state.
Donald writes from Benin City, via [email protected]