This essay was submitted by Oluwasegunfunmi Ewuola from Osun State
Decades into this democratic era which started in 1999, Osun State is still underdeveloped in many respects, and this condition of being “underdeveloped” is a peculiar constant associated with all the thirty-six states spread across the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Although it is probably true that gubernatorial elections in Nigeria are not won based on an evaluation of the candidate’s manifesto, I have absolute confidence in my manifesto which borders on two areas namely the security sector and infrastructure development. I present these two strategies as solutions to four major problems that make Osun State underdeveloped namely; insecurity, infrastructural deficit, high rate of unemployment, and poverty.
Guaranteeing the protection of lives and property for the bulk of its citizens is a core responsibility and the most important function of a government. Top of the list of factors that directly influence economic growth, foreign direct investments, and its attached job opportunities is how safe the state is. It is no gainsaying that States who have challenges with internal security suffer for this defect financially in terms of low internally generated revenue and reduced job opportunities which are both directly tied to lack of investments in the state.
Despite the government’s annual expenditure on internal security, we all know that a lot of people and businesses in Osun still spend heavily to provide security for their lives and property. In every part of Nigeria, this menace of insecurity holds sway and Osun State is not any different since we have been battling this basic problem of insecurity for decades. Instances of communal clashes typified by the Ife-Modakeke crisis of 1997-2000 in which thousands of our people died, constant robbery of banks and kidnapping activities along Osun’s highways are all recurring decimals that expose the poor security condition of the State. More importantly, this absence of security frustrates the government’s efforts on meeting urgent development needs and this continues to make Osun State poorer in several respects.
The effects of insecurity pervade the agriculture sector the most. Osun State is rich in solid minerals and this attracts a lot of illegal miners to the Statev. Illegal miners forcefully take over farmlands to explore the mineral potentials in that land and this often results in clashes between the farmers and the illegal miners. Our Ilesa and Ife people know that this happens frequently in their communities. Although the Ooni of Ife gives financial compensation to such farmers,vi the loss of farmlands to illegal miners reduces agricultural produce thereby threatening food security. Also, businesses are shut, banks and companies are relocated from insecure areas to safe areas because more money is needed to secure them against security risks. This economic insecurity distorts the development of businesses and when businesses fold up or relocate, the unemployment rate surges and poverty continues to spread like bushfire. Reduction in operating businesses spells doom for the government since the internally generated revenue nose-dives and this robs the government of the financial power to implement its manifesto.
In areas where some of these commercial establishments still strive to survive constant clashes between the staff of the electricity distribution company and the youths of communities who feel they are being marginalized in respect to electricity distribution often culminates in the destruction of power cables and the physical harassment of those staff- especially when they are on tour distributing electricity bills. Generally, the effects of these clashes sabotage electricity distribution to business establishments, agricultural industries, and companies in the community who have to resort to alternative sources of power supply such as generators till all grievances are settled and electricity is restored. Asides the fact that the money to fuel the generator increase production costs, MAN in a 2020 report affirmed that no state in Nigeria can develop with a generator-driven economy. To tackle this problem of insecurity, I will have an inclusive government that encourages citizen participation in the fight against insecurity by offering cash rewards to whistle-blowers who report illegal mining activities in their communities. Noting the fact that Osun is a landlocked state, I will equip the Operation Amotekun- Nigeria’s first regional security outfit that deploys drones to solve crimes- with more patrol vehicles. They will have offices at the four border towns that lead in and out of Osun namely Ikire, Okuku, Ikeji-Arakeji, and Owena. This places the Operation Amotekun in an advantageous position to monitor the influx of people in and out of the state and immediately hand over to the police persons suspected to be inimical to the security of our state.
Within the state; first, I will formally request the Inspector General of Police to give us additional police units. I will then instruct the state ministry of works to create a joint committee with the state police command to oversee the construction of additional police stations in each of the thirty local governments in our state, each of which will be equipped with a patrol vehicle. Vigilantes will also receive stipends for their community policing efforts. As the head of the executive arm of government, I will also sponsor a bill in the Osun State House of Assembly that will compel telecommunication companies to assist the police in tracking suspected criminals, and kidnappers who call to demand a ransom. Second, in curbing aspects of insecurity propagated by youths, I will reach out to deprived communities and address their grievances which border mostly on lack of job opportunities and extreme poverty. In partnership with the Osun State House of Assembly, my administration will promote good governance that guarantees justice and equal opportunities for all.
With the issue of insecurity resolved, the next agenda will be to diligently pursue true infrastructure development. As communities and towns in Osun become more populated, the need to meet the growing demand for infrastructure is becoming more urgent, and the continued failure to effectively meet such demand affects the quality of life and societal development.xi The concept of infrastructure refers to the facilities established as a vehicle to realize social, industrial, and economic goals that make life easier for the citizens. This implies that infrastructure comprises interrelated sectors such as road transportation, water, and schools amongst others.
In Osun State, we currently have an infrastructural deficit caused by recurrent underfunding of infrastructure projects. Infrastructural deficit is not a problem that just sprouted from the ground someday like a weed in unwanted places, it had been looming ever since the government stopped funding infrastructure projects that could match the population growth. Like a fart in an overcrowded lift, the effects of this lack of infrastructure have been choking and unbearable for the common man in Osun State.
It is a major threat to industrialization since it sabotages efforts aimed at diversifying the economy, because good transportation structures, water, and waste disposal facilities must as a matter of necessity be effective before the economy can be fully diversified from over-dependence on crude oil to agriculture and other viable sectors that can boost economic growth.
The infrastructural deficit in Osun State is stark from, but not limited to, lack of potable water even in communities plagued by cholera such as Ife,xiv to bad roads that are accident-prone especially the old Ife road and Ikire expressway, absence of quality medical facilities in densely populated areas such as Osogbo and Ede, to epileptic power supply even in areas notable for manufacturing businesses such as Osogbo. This infrastructural deficit discourage investors since there are almost no amenities that aids their business and the risk of operating a business without substantial profit becomes inevitable.
To combat this infrastructural deficit, I will set up an economic think tank to proffer policies and regulatory frameworks that would create an enabling environment which attracts private and major investments especially in sectors like agriculture. Naturally, more investments translates to more employment opportunities, and more revenue for the government to begin the initial funding of infrastructure projects. We need to attract investors and the private sector because they are the ones who have the resources to fund quality infrastructure since they later benefit as the end users of such infrastructure. Investigations have revealed that agricultural investments could generate a revenue of up to 40billion naira yearly. The increase in the state’s revenue is what I plan to use to begin the initial funding of infrastructure projects. This is the only prudent way to fund infrastructure projects without increasing the debt profile of Osun State which exceeds 170billion naira.
In conclusion, my concept of good governance which hinges on improving security, and an unprecedented dedication to infrastructural development is all we need in Osun State. With one voice of support for my manifesto and with your votes for me, this vision of a better Osun State will crystalize into reality and I know that in retrospect, every citizen of Osun will be glad they voted for me because I will not disappoint them.
God bless Osun State, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.