Osun @ 30: Economic Possibilities Amidst 2022 Plebiscite

 

 

The activities commemorating the Creation Day of Osun State climaxed last Wednesday with a state banquet and award ceremony for distinguished citizens and friends of the state whose ” phenomenal contributions in the various fields of endeavour, ” in the expression of Dr Charles Akinola, Governor Oyetola’s Chief of Staff, “have made Osun of our founding father’s dream.”

28 persons received awards in various categories. The honourees included the first military administrator of the state, Leo Ajiborisa; the first civilian Governor of the state in this Republic Chief Bisi Akande, his successor Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Pastor Enoch Adeboye and former health minister, Professor Isaac Adewole. The first civilian governor of the state, late Isiaka Adeleke, was singled out for recognition with a one-minute silence in his honour.

One of the high points of the event was when Oyetola decorated all the former military administrators of the state; while Prince Oyinlola took turn to decorate him in equal breath.

This year’s anniversary is an auspicious and a defining moment to celebrate the resilience of the people of the state, broadcast the storied events of recent past and catalogue milestones recorded so far.

As part of the celebration, on September 9, an anniversary colloquium fielding high-profile resource persons was held in Osogbo, the state capital. In attendance were the former state Governor, Chief Bisi Akande; Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar; former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, Babajide Kolade-otitoju, among others.

Each of the speakers took turn to discuss the developmental strides in the state and proffer suggestions for attaining greater heights.

The occasion was also a moment to salute the exemplary leadership provided by Governor Gboyega Oyetola which advented at a time finance of the state was lying prostrate on the account of reduced federal allocation occasioned by deductions on debt owed by previous governments.

According to the Sultan of Sokoto, Governor Oyetola, whom he claimed he had followed closely since his assumption of office, was a deep thinker and a silent reformer and performer, who came into government with Development Agenda hinged on adequate, quality and equitable service in all sectors. In his words, ” Governor Oyetola has also introduced people-oriented policies based on inclusive governance and sustainable development.”

Similarly in the opinion of the ace journalist and awarding winning commentator, Babajide Kolade-otitoju, Oyetola, nothwithstanding the little resources had done the unthinkable by building inner city roads and bridging the infrastructural deficit in the state. ” Some of us, ” Kolade-otitoju addressing the governor, “didn’t expect what you have done. We thought it would be more difficult.”

On the sideline of the colloquium, Reuben Abati, who said he reluctantly participated in a physical tour of projects done by the Oyetola led government, noted that he saw in Osun State, an unusual level of commitment to infrastructure development . According to Abati, “From Alekuwodo in Osogbo, to the Olaiya flyover Bridge at the centre of the town (which the Governor said was prompted by an accident scene that he witnessed and on the spot decided to address the problem), to the newly rehabilitated Osogbo- Kelebe-Iragbiji road, Ada to Igbajo, Ikirun to Eko Ende and other roads in the state, the Oyetola touch was evident. We visited the Osogbo General Hospital, now being reinvented and expanded.”

Abati also acknowledged the effort of the governor in the area of mining. He made a reference to a Memorandum of Understanding between the present administration in the state and a company called Badger Mines which was signed in 2019. Abati reported that the physical inspection took him to Badger Mines in Osu where the company is working on 73 exploration belts where gold between 200-300 metres have been found. According to Abati, the company’s CEO and his officials, during the tour of the mine, took the excursionists through the gold refining process where high grade technology was deployed and a 25kg good bar worth about 120,000 dollars was produced in their presence.

Abati announced he experienced, first hand, the genuine love the people of the state had for their Governor. Matter-of-factly, no one would do as much as what the Governor has done in the last three years and would not be soundly loved by the people. Since his inauguration 33 months ago, Oyetola has defrayed N67 billion from the almost N200 billion debt left behind for him by his predecessor. The N67 billion repayment is what would have been injected into the economy of the state. Nonetheless, he continues to chart a new, prosperous course for the state hitherto known with a pejorative description of a civil service state. The government has also devoted over N150 billion to resolve pension and salary obligations without giving room for policy redundancy. The government spending which used to be hugely tilted towards personnel payment is now inclined towards capital project and social programme financing. The salutory commitment of the governor to the well-being of the people is one of the reasons the enamoured disposition is always freely given to him. This is the mood the celebrated ideologue, Abati, captured in his write-up.

In the same vein, the Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian newspaper, Martins Oloja, devoted his Sunday’s Inside Stuff column of September 26, 2021 to chronicle the mining revolution going on in Osun State . In his opinion entitled ” Oyetola: A Governor to Copy on Federalism” went memory lane on how mining project began in the state. Oloja enthused, “. . . . there are more to learn from Governor Oyetola who is immersed in the power of his silence. He has laid a very solid foundation for ‘fiscal federalism’ that has been a recent bone of contention between Rivers State and the Federal Government. The state has built upon a solid economic foundation laid by a former Governor of the State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

As it has been reported, in 2006, former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola got the very poor Osun State to register a solid minerals exploration and mining company named Livingspring Minerals Promotion Company Limited. With that company, the state bid for, won, paid and got ten solid minerals exploration licences and seven mining licences from the Federal Government. Seven of the exploration licences are for Gold fields in Osun and in two far northern states; two of the licences are for Lead and Zinc exploration in identified fields in Eastern Nigeria and in a north central state. The tenth exploration licence is for Feldspar and Quartz, Marble and Granite Gneiss exploration in a north central state covering an area of 200 square kilometers. Three of the mining licences are for Gold mining in Osun State while the remaining four are for Feldspar and Quartz in the north – all covering 233 square kilometers.

It is on this critical infrastructure that Governor Oyetola is building solid superstructure for fiscal federalism.

. . . the Oyetola government has assembled a revival dream for the Osun Gold mines while most of his colleagues are beating drums of war over federalism. Specifically, the state-owned company, in partnership with an investor, has established what we can rightly tag as Nigeria’s first gold refinery.

I was one of those who saw the multi-billion naira gold refinery recently. And the solid minerals sector and other stakeholders including governors most of whom have mineral resources in their states have many reasons to borrow from the brilliance that has emerged in Osun State. The local refinery company has assembled very skilled and educated miners from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Germany. The German team leader has two doctorate degrees in mining relevant disciplines.

So, instead of lamenting, the Osun State Governor is determined to change the Osun Narrative through diversification efforts in four key sectors: Agriculture, Culture and Tourism, and Mining (ATM).
The administration set out seven project streams in Osun Minerals Development Plan. In two years, the results are showing:
Commercialisation of the assets: the administration has executed agreements with Badger Mines & Pan Arabian Mines. Both firms have almost concluded their exploration campaign and will declare the commercial valuation soon.

The Oyetola administration has delivered the first Gold Refinery in Nigeria- to be commissioned soon. It’s to be christened Omoluabi – Badger Commercial Buying and Refining Centre (CBRC), Osu .

Besides, the government has concluded the resource valuation of its assets in Kogi state. This was carried out by the minerals valuation group of South Africa and partners from the UAE will set up a world class mine and quarry for Osun’s asset in Kogi anytime soon. The administration has also set up Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) to regulate mining activities in the state.

For security of the assets, Osun state has set up a JTF to handle the security in the resource-rich areas. It has also set up an RFID enabled database and has captured over 13,000 miners awaiting the finalisation of the partnership with the PAGMI – presidential artisanal gold mining initiative.

Accordingly, this initiative will encourage the local miners and buy off whatever they (local miners) produce locally. This is a sure source of employment. This is how ‘federalism’ can work for the common good. ”

If the foregoing, a seeming testimonial on a governor working silently and assiduously to archive his name in the Hall of Fame, is a tacit endorsement of Governor Oyetola’s commitment to sustainable economy of the state which deserves support of every citizen of the state, Abati’s explainer is an open backing for Oyetola’s re-election. He didn’t hide his admiration for the governor well positioned to take the people from economic abyss; same way Dr Festus Adedayo, a popular polemist, in his syndicated opinion piece ” My Osun State Story,” declared his soft spot for the incumbent. Abati remarked that during his trip to Osu, which he undertook alongside Oyetola, everywhere they went, the Governor was received by crowds chanting “Leekan si, 4 plus 4.” He, however, admonished Oyetola, whom he described as a “man of few words and quiet mien” and who seemed to be more interested in development, job creation, making sure salaries were paid, to put up a serious fight to achieve his re-election bid because there is no way one would build a gold refinery and not expect his political adversaries not to court the venture. To him, ” . . . the moment Osun State begins to talk about its gold refinery, its future elections could become war by another name. Everyone would struggle to lay their hands on the gold.” He wanted Governor Oyetola to finish the good work he started.

Abati’s submission is no different from the agreed opinion of many citizens of the state who affirm Oyetola has performed creditably and thus deserves a re-election in grandstyle. One good turn, they say, deserves another.

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