After close to a year that Governor Gboyega Oyetola has been in the saddle of affairs in Osun State, he released the list of nominees for commissioners and special advisers on Tuesday 24 September, 2019. The much awaited list read on the floor of the State House of Assembly and which has flooded the social media and online news platforms has attracted a lot of attention from politicians, analysts, residents and indigenes of the state. The governor was listed among the nineteen governors in Nigeria who have failed to constitute a cabinet after months in office. As expected, there were complaints and compliments that accompanied the release of the list.
While some bemoaned the absence of some purported names which were part of the different lists hitherto flying around before the final one was let out of the bag, others rued the perceived lopsidedness in the cabinet of the governor. Politicians and analysts have questioned why the two local councils in Osogbo metropolis was not given its rightful number of slots despite the huge votes that have continuously been coming from the State Capital over the years to ensure the ruling party had its hold on power in the state. Others are challenging why some local governments such as Egbedore and Orolu did not even get a slot at all in the list.
While the furore that accompanied the release of the list seems not out of place in the Nigerian context of democratic governance. Here people see appointment of politicians into public offices as their own way of being represented on the table where resources are allocated among competing demands. Yet, for very discerning minds, the questions being raised are far from being the right ones.
For a state whose books are precariously hanging in the balance, the list should have been more of a concern in terms of the number of appointees and the value to be brought to the table of governance in Osun. The first question should have been to query whether the state has the resources to cater for those appointed to assist the governor in directing the affairs of the state. This question is germane for obvious reasons. Sources have said the state’s purse is in the red. Having inherited a state whose debts are said to be humongous and capable of putting the state to a standstill as far as developmental strides are concerned, one wonders how the governor would pay the salaries and other entitlement of the 35 cabinet nominees. This is not the only source of worry. Recently, the Federal Government of Nigeria has also asked owing states to start paying back the bailout earlier given out in 2015. This is in billions of naira.
If that question is in the affirmative, people should also probe what is the value these new appointees would bring to the table to ensure the looming financial disaster does not make the state go under. The debt issue is one part of the problem. The other part is the signing into law of the new minimum wage by the federal government. The labour unions, who have been itching to kick-start the process of implementing the new salary structure in the state, would go into full action. This is on the heels of the state’s inability to pay the arrears of the modulated salary inherited from the immediate past administration. How would the governor convince the labour force that the state’s purse is lean?
It is my opinion that the people of the state should have also looked at other metrics for the choice of cabinet nominees. What is the intellectual and professional value the new appointees are going to add to governance in the state? For a list that is full of politicians sparsely mixed with very few core technocrats, the state’s return on investment in terms of emoluments and other entitlements of the prospective cabinet members may not yield much. But time will tell.
For years in this democracy, people have consistently used the same yardsticks to determine inclusion in government whether at the national or sub national levels. Other important factors are set side. In democracies where political patronage, zonal considerations and familial attachment to prominent politicians occupy the front seat in determining who gets what in a government, there may not be much to be expected in terms of real service delivery to the people who bear the most painful part of the democratic experiment. For Osun, despite the fact that the constitution of cabinet indicates readiness for real governance, the coast is not yet clear for impactful governance.