Yoruba Nation agitators mean well – Oyo Commissioner

Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Prince Dotun Oyelade, talks to Funmi Ojo on the recent local government election controversies, the attack on the state secretariat by separatist agitators, Bodija explosion, and other issues.

There has always been nationwide controversy over the issue of local government autonomy. What is the position of the state government on it?
The issue of local government autonomy is raging now, but it has always been there for a very long time. A time when local government autonomy was in true practice. Then, I think, it was around 1999 that the current status began. The stand of the Oyo State Government is basically that the local government, with the kind of experience we have had not only in Oyo State, the current administration in Oyo State is trying to hold the bull by the horns so that we don’t have to deceive ourselves. About 20 years ago, during the tenure of Governor Lamidi Adesina, some local governments were unable to pay the salaries of their workers. At that time, some owed 13 months, while others owed 11 months. So, this pointed to the inability of the stakeholders at the local government level to approach the issue of handling worker’s motivation. But the State Government in Oyo State is looking at these things in a very holistic and practical manner. In the past four and a half years, the position of the State Government on this has been justified because there has never been a time that the people at the local government level, grassroots, enjoyed more dividends of democracy than now. Out of the 33 local governments, name one area that we have not touched in terms of infrastructure, and prompt payment of whatever is due to the workers. The local government chairmen who have just won their election into the 33 local government areas, will play a very active role in whatever the state government will do, and they will be the principal carriers of the dividends of democracy to the grassroots.



The local government election was held recently, but the All Progressives Congress claimed it wasn’t free and fair. What is your take on it?
No, their comments are very unserious and typical. You will recall that even before the election was conducted on that day, April 27, I believe, the APC said that they would boycott the election. It was later, just on the eve of that election, that they rescinded t heir decision and decided to go ahead and contest. When journalists asked them why they were not all about campaigning publicly, like the PDP was doing, the answer they gave was that they were engaged in tactical and strategic mobilisation, house to house, which is a euphemism for not doing anything at all. So this floppy manner of approaching the election is a clear signal that they knew they were going to lose the Local Government election. On the day of the election, barely 30 minutes after the election started, the APC spokesman was all over the airwaves, crying blue murder, saying that the election had already been rigged and all that. It was true that people did not come out as they did during the gubernatorial election or the presidential election, but those who came out voted. It’s the only election in this state that 19 political parties participated in it. The election before it was boycotted. The one in 2017 was equally boycotted. So this was a very credible election. But the opposition is saying what it should be saying.

The Nigeria Labour Congress has presented a N615,000 minimum wage proposal to the Federal Government, but some have described it as unrealistic. What is your take on it?
Well, everybody knows that the Nigerian worker is being shortchanged, and the removal of the oil subsidy and petroleum subsidy has only aggravated the situation. Now, equally, everyone tries to have more than a passing interest and analytical mind on the government-NLC relationship over the period. Since 1977, when the new amalgamated NLC was established and headed by Comrade Hassan Sumonu, the relationship has always been that of the cat and the mouse. So everyone knew that what the Nigerian Labour Congress is proposing, 615,000 is unrealistic. They had earlier proposed one million naira but the government should endeavour to keep discussing with the workers so that, at the end of the day, a realistic compromise can be reached. And my take is that, whatever agreement springs forth from the final negotiation, labour must be made to realise that the Nigerian workers must up their game and their commitment to the people. And the government itself must cut all the flabby areas that are draining the economy and give the better parts to the politicians.

Do you think the government will be able to pay such an amount?
Not 615,000. I don’t think the government can pay it. And I think that in the recess of their minds, the NLC knows that the government will not pay that. They are just flying a kite.

Recently, some Yoruba nation agitators attacked the state secretariat, but they were apprehended. What is the current situation?
There has been nothing else. It was a flash in the pan. They have been apprehended, and they have been arraigned. About 30 of them have been arraigned, and I think a new date has been fixed for the hearing. But that is not to detract from the original concept of the Yoruba nation’s agitation and the founders of that idea. They mean well. They still do. However, some people did not think through the entire gamut of the implications of their actions, and they tried to present a very frivolous front for genuine agitation. 

What is your take on the Yoruba nation’s agitation?
In a democracy, people have very divergent views on issues. So the agitation of those people clamouring for such must be respected, and they must not be discontinuance. But it has to go through a legitimate legal framework.

Part of their reason for the call was that the Fulani herdsmen wanted to take over Yoruba land. How does the Oyo state government ensure that the activities of the herdsmen are monitored in rural communities?
That one is being done actively. As I talked to you, the deputy governor just came back from interland, where he physically led a team on the inspection of the illegal miners, because these are some of the people that are undermining the security of our people. But Oyo State remains the most peaceful of all the states in the Federation. And this is not only coming from us. All the security chiefs posted to Oyo State can attest to this fact. 

Following the Bodija explosion, the state government commenced an investigation. What is the outcome of the investigation?
Three people were arraigned and they are still in court. We are a law-abiding government, and we will continue to do everything according to the dictates of the law. But as for the people who were victims, to show the magnanimity of the state government, we still have some people in hospitals. Even after the January incident, these people are still being catered for by the state government. We still have some people whose houses were blown up or were too risky to occupy. We still lodge them in hotels, even as I talk. 

There were reports that the state government had abandoned the victims of the explosion. However, the state government has also denied the claims. What is the current situation with the welfare of the victims?
No, the government has not forgotten them, and the government is playing an active role in their welfare daily.

State governors have commenced the process of establishing the state police, according to the directive of the President. However, some experts have kicked against this, saying that it will turn the governor into a mini-god, as they will use state police against the opposition. What is your take on this?
In the same manner, you can say that the federal government has been using it to fester their net. There is nothing wrong with state policing. Having state police is inevitable because of the situation we have found ourselves in. I would hope that the governors will stand very steadfastly in this regard, as well as the federal and state legislatures so that we can fully realise its establishment.

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