By Peter Adeshina
The main challenger in the Osun Governorship election, PDP’s Ademola Adeleke, parades himself as the harbinger of light, his campaign slogan being “imole de”, a Yoruba phrase that translates to the light is here. But his plans and vision for the state lack clarity and illumination.
At campaign stumps and during media rounds, he has stuttered and floundered, failing to articulate any real point as to why he deserves a shot as Governor, not even with the support of prepared notes, an almost clownish feature of his media appearances that all but reveal his astonishing inability to convey even the most basic understanding of his supposed policy actions extemporaneously.
Surely a serious candidate for the high office of Governor should be able to answer questions on the important matters of education, finance, and infrastructure without a constant glance at a prepared note every five seconds. His observed failure in this regard underlines an alarming ideas deficiency.
One is reminded of an exchange he had with a prominent aide to a former Speaker of the Senate during which he completely ceded policy proposals to the young man, unable to assert himself in the conversation, thus confusing the public on who the actual candidate was. A man who cannot demonstrate thought leadership in an exchange with young aides is definitely not one who should be placed in charge of a state.
Besides, it is clear that if Ademola Adeleke does indeed have ideas for governance, they were most likely sourced from external sources who perhaps didn’t care enough to familiarize him with them. And if he has no understanding of these ideas let alone ways to execute them, how exactly does he intend to set governance goals, assess performance and lead a cabinet?
Contrast this comical mess with the campaign of the incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola who has premised his appeal for another term on his faithful devotion to his ‘Ileri Oluwa’ pledge to continue and expand the revamp of the critical sectors of the state and, through the facilitation of new growth and economic investments, fortify it against external shocks that hitherto crippled ambitions and threatened state obligations to the main drivers of the economy.
Determined in his goal to wean the state off the perilous reliance on federal allocations, particularly at a time when oil’s decline in the global markets cut the country’s earnings and hamstrung the federal government, Governor Gboyega Oyetola signaled positively to the private sector and global investment community with the state’s first-ever International Economic and Investment Summit where he advertised Osun’s economic potential and reiterated his administration’s commitment to enabling the flourish of private enterprise.
It wasn’t just rhetoric. The Oyetola-administration did more than any other administration in Osun since 1999 to cut red tape and attract private capital inflow through strategic and targeted investments that directly addressed the concerns of private investors.
As a result, Osun moved up 11 places in the Nigeria Subnational Ease of Doing Business Ranking and ranked 3rd, behind only Lagos and Abuja, as the state with the highest capital inflow in 2021 ($29.9million), according to the NBS.
The investments and the accompanying uptick in economic activities created meaningful and dignified jobs and opportunities for young residents of the state and led to a significant reduction in the poverty rate. Indeed, Osun state under Governor Gboyega Oyetola posts a poverty headcount ratio of 8.25%. Only two states can boast of a lower headcount in the entire country.
Additionally, the arrival of the private capital and the productive engagement of its youthful population has strengthened government finances. Osun’s annual internally generated revenue, an indicator of the health of its economy and government administrative competence, grew to over 21BN in 2021 from 17BN in 2019.
With the additional revenue, the administration increased its investments in education, health, MSMEs, and critical infrastructure. For instance, Osun State devoted over 17% of its annual budget to health in 2021, the highest percentage by any state in the country and a record figure in the history of the state. For those who may shrug cynically that budget proposals are simply proposals, Osun state recorded a budget performance of 86.48% in 2021, up from 58% in 2018.
Backlog of pension debts inherited by the administration are cleared monthly, new schools are being built, frustrating queues at public hospitals are disappearing – due to the construction of new PHCs, particularly in rural communities where access represented a serious challenge. The state has undergone a remarkable shift borne of a serious approach to governance and outstanding fiscal discipline.
Yet Ademola Adeleke wants to halt this forward motion. All for what? A misplaced conviction derived from his ability to take the dance floor and familial ties with a famous celebrity. Unfortunately for him, dancing as a skill ranks very low in the consideration for public office, otherwise Micheal Jackson would have been president of the world, succeeded at death by Usher Raymond.
Nigeria and indeed Osun State must manage an uncertain period wrought by a pandemic that continues to rankle in the Global North to unabating inflation and persistent supply chain disruptions that affect local trade and economic growth. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine also looms large with serious consequences for food supply and global trade. The country is the middle of an important conversation on its governance architecture. This moment calls for serious and skillful government management, not clownery. It is not the time for a dancing mascot.
Peter Adeshina is a member of the APC Media and Publicity Subcommittee for the Osun 2022 Governorship Election.