September 24, 2022

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Osun 2022: Not the time for a dancing mascot

The main challenger in the Osun State governorship election, the Peoples Democratic Party’s Ademola Adeleke, parades himself as the harbinger of light with a campaign slogan “imole de”; a Yoruba phrase that translates to the light is here. But his plans and vision for the state lack clarity and illumination.

While campaigning 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 reveals 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 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 deficiency of ideas.

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 after being 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, while he perhaps, didn’t care enough to familiarise himself 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?

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Contrast this comical mess with the campaign of 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 revamping of 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 decline in the global markets cut the country’s earnings and hamstrung the Federal Government, Oyetola signalled 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 enable private enterprises to flourish.

It wasn’t just rhetoric. The Oyetola-administration did more than any other administration in Osun State since 1999 in cutting red tape and attracting private capital inflow through strategic and targeted investments that directly addressed the concerns of private investors.

As a result, Osun State moved up 11 places in the Nigeria’s sub-national Ease of Doing Business ranking and ranked 3rd, behind only Lagos and Abuja, as the state with the highest capital inflow in 2021 ($29.9m), according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

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 poverty rate. Indeed, Osun State under Governor Oyetola posts a poverty headcount ratio of 8.25%. Only two states can boast of a lower headcount in the entire country.

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Additionally, the arrival of the private capital and the productive engagement of its youthful population have strengthened the finance of the state government. Osun State annual internally generated revenue, an indicator of the health of its economy and government administrative competence, grew to over N21bn in 2021 from N17bn 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.

The backlog of pension debts inherited by the administration are being cleared monthly, new schools are being built, frustrating queues at public hospitals are disappearing, due to the construction of new Primary Health Care centres, particularly in rural communities where access represented a serious challenge. The state has undergone a remarkable shift which is borne out of a serious approach to governance and outstanding fiscal discipline.

Yet Ademola Adeleke wants to halt this forward motion. His misplaced convictions are derived from his ability to take the dance floor and his familial ties to a famous celebrity. Unfortunately for him, dancing as a skill ranks very low in the consideration for public office, otherwise Michael Jackson would have been the President of the world.

Nigeria and indeed Osun State must manage an uncertain period wrought by a pandemic that continues to rankle in the global North, causing unabated inflation and persistent supply chain disruptions that are affecting 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 in the middle of an important conversation on its governance architecture. This moment calls for serious and skilful government management, not clownery. It is not the time for a dancing mascot.

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Adeshina is a member of the APC Media and Publicity sub-Committee for Osun 2022 governorship election