When I was told that Osun State’s debt stock was N407billion, I asked my friends from that state what they bought that sold them to that farm of bankruptcy. I had reservations for the personality of the new governor of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke. I felt that Yorubaland does not deserve his kind of Owambe carriage in leadership. But, as I wrote earlier, I raised my hands up in surrender the day Osun people’s votes for him were announced to be in tomes. It was my own way of showing deference to that ubiquitous mantra called the wishes of the people. I however pray that I will someday come back to this platform to praise him and apologize for equating or assuming that pedigree matters in the task of bringing redemption to a beleaguered people.
Last week however, the governor went a step lower in my very unflattering rating of him. He did well by talking tough as he assumed power, lest anyone hoping to try his will mistake him for a sissy. Don’t forget that the man he took over the mantel of governorship from had the reputation of one with the laudable management of the state’s finance, in spite of paucity of funds. Oyetola had announced to the world that he didn’t borrow a dime and wasn’t owing anyone. In a world where we were tutored that indebtedness was a virtue, that statement caught Nigerians gaping. No wonder that Adeleke’s dissembling arrow was to disorganize this parting kudos.
In a release issued by him that the press entitled “Osun is Indebted to the tune of N407.32 billion – Governor Adeleke,” the governor gave details of the debts he inherited. He stated that, “With high sense of responsibility, I am reporting to our people through our traditional rulers, the total debt profile inherited by my administration from Governor Oyetola’s administration.
“I am pleased to … present to you the official debt profile of Osun state as at November 30th, 2022 as submitted to me by the Accountant General of Osun State,” he said. He then went ahead to itemize the debt one after the other and in closing the speech, berated those he claimed had mortgaged “the future of Osun State with nothing to show for it. This is definitely not acceptable.” I was as shocked as anyone that a poor state was that rich in debts. What did it buy? Where are the projects that fetched that humongous debt figure?
However, subsequent rebuttals from the Oyetola administration got me thinking. Could the new governor be merely playing politics with this typecast? In a release issued by Bola Oyebamiji, the state’s former Commissioner for Finance, Oyetola literally tore the governor’s claims into shreds, alleging that it was “a reflection of (Adeleke’s) combative and vindictive posture,” and “purely a campaign of calumny against a people-centric government.”
Bit by bit, Oyetola repudiated every of Adeleke’s claim, asking that his claim could be affirmed or disputed by the Annual Auditor-General’s report and the reports from the Debt Management Office in Osun and Abuja. What later came to the fore was that Governor Adeleke was pointing his finger at the wrong culprit.
In trying to put a lie to the allegation that Governor Oyetola accessed a loan facility of N18billion after losing the July 2022 gubernatorial election, the ex-Commissioner for Finance said that the Adeleke government would have won an iota of credibility for itself if the details of the loan, including the name of the creditor, were mentioned. That was a major challenge which Adeleke should take up if there is any truth in it. I am sure I am not the only one interested in getting more words on that from the new government.
What has not failed to strike the discerning world watching the drama in Osun is that Adeleke has, apparently deliberately, tried to whitewash the real Judas in that state. The questions that then come in are, did he or didn’t he know who borrowed the said money? If he knew, was he, by that dramatic irony, paying his own 30 pieces of silver to Osun’s Judas Iscariot by not shaming and naming the real culprits?
With the graphic picture presented by Oyetola’s ex finance commissioner about the debt portfolio of Osun State, including when each loan was taken, it is obvious that if Adeleke is serious about going after those he called out for “mortgaging the future of Osun State” he only needs to take a trip to Abuja – not Iragbiji.
The man with a queer administration model in Osun, Rauf Aregbesola, is obviously the smelly shrew – eku asin – that Adeleke apparently knew but failed to mention because they are now political bedmates. Facts presented thereafter have shown that Aregbesola, who was known to revel in inexplicable borrowings and who single-handedly mortgaged the future of the state in the process, should have been given the back of his tongue by Adeleke. However, political expediency and the governor’s IOU to Aregbesola for the support he gave during the last election made Adeleke to speak tongue-in-cheek.
Unbeknown to him, what Adeleke did by that gubernatorial inexactitude – lest I call a governor a liar! – was that he helped Oyetola to reach for the limelight yet again. He afforded him an opportunity to explain his own role in the financial ruination of Osun State. At every forum I attended where the figures Adeleke gave were discussed last week, I heard people affirming that Oyetola did well by not owing salaries or paying half salaries – unlike Aregbesola who got billions of naira as salary bailouts from Buhari but refused to pay salaries. Now, those diverted bailouts and budget-support funds form the core content of the current debt stock of Osun State.
I am one hundred percent in support of Adeleke asking questions, but the questions must be directed at the right culprits. Now, Adeleke should go after the people who, by his own admittance, sold the future of Osun children unborn in a disastrous debt binge. How could a barely surviving state like Osun be owing that much, as if it is Delta? While Adeleke started well by availing the Osun public with details of debts he met on ground, it was sheer hypocrisy that he did not append the right culprit to it. Someone said if he had simply announced that the APC government owed that much, it would not have raised any uproar. I agree – because Aregbesola’s queer penchant for debts when he was governor was legendary.
Also, now that Adeleke has known the gravity of the debt and the real mastermind, he must let the world know whether the procurement of the loans followed due process, what it was deployed for and give his people a full disclosure, as well as conducting forensic audit into the state’s account.
In any case, Aregbesola was only yesterday quoted to have admitted taking those long-term loan facilities from the Federal Government which all made up the legendary N407billion. The man heartedly dismissed the huge loans as posing no threats to the state because the repayment periods spread over decades, some as far as the year 2046. Imagine that! How many years from now is that? Generations of innocent children will pay debts which they know nothing about.
Now that the right culprit has been found for the debts, I hope to begin my growing fondness for Adeleke. This I will do when I hear him readdressing the state, naming and shaming the debt baron and admitting his gaffe. He should find out how the Opon Imo nonsense and other elephant projects constituted the serpentine journey-of-no-return called the N407 billion debts. He should ask Aregbesola to explain what he did with the hundreds of billions from the Federal Government which constitute the bulk of the almost half a billion naira debt. He should also say sorry to Oyetola for calling him a name that belonged to Rauf Aregbesola.
I should also say that Oyetola too should apologise to the people of Osun State for spending his entire four years covering up the evil of his predecessor who mortgaged the fortune of the state. Or, maybe, what Oyetola suffers today is the punishment for not speaking up and doing the right thing when he should, and for not doing justice on the debts without fear or favour. A lesson there for all.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Kaaynan’s editorial stance.