It is laughable the various arguments that supporters of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) have raised against the recent proposal by the Governor Seyi Makinde-led Oyo State Government to issue a bond to facilitate key infrastructural projects in the state. Most of the arguments put forward clearly suggest that the APC believe that because they are not in power, their default mode should be to attack every single proposal the ruling authorities make. They have decided that the will of the people come second in their quest to retake the state and so do not mind obfuscating issues to do that. Their latest tactic is raising straw man arguments to make the administration look bad.
As an example, Chief Bayo Adelabu, a former CBN deputy governor, who contested against Governor Makinde in 2019, in raising objections to the Oyo State Government’s N100 billion bond proposal hinged his entire argument on obfuscation. We need development, but we don’t need it urgently. We need to take loans but not the type that we will be forced to start paying immediately. We need the airport expanded but let’s lobby the Federal Government (who are disinterested and unwilling) to come and fund it.
Here are some straw man arguments the APC led opposition have created in the past week:
1. Seyi Makinde said loans are bad, but now he has borrowed N140 Billion in 14 months.
This is a strawman. The conversation we are having is that the state government is proposing to issue a N100 billion bond, not whether loans are good or bad. Why not argue the merits or demerits of this action.
Indeed, it is bad enough that this is an obfuscation, worse that is an outright lie. For starters, Governor Seyi Makinde never said loans are bad. What he has said is that borrowing without a set purpose and accountability is bad. For instance, in this Punch report, after talking about how much Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s administration was borrowing, the report clarified what Governor Makinde’s issue with the debts was. “[Seyi Makinde] noted that debt is not particularly bad if the borrowed fund is wisely channelled towards revenue-driving projects and infrastructure projects that yield economic productivity.” This is why Governor Makinde has always made clear the purpose of the loans he is taking and demonstrated that each loan is well thought-out.
2. Seyi Makinde said he wouldn’t take any loans, but he has taken N140 Billion in 14 months.
Another strawman. Remember what the conversation is: N100 billion bond and justification thereof, not whether the governor said he would take any loans or not.
However, just as in the first strawman discussed, this statement is another lie. No member of the APC can provide any evidence that Governor Makinde ever said this. His point has always been as stated above: loans should be targeted towards development. The background of his comments regarding borrowing has always been that Senator Ajimobi’s administration borrowed N99,358,565,798.52 in domestic debt and $136,531,758.12 (report as at June 30, 2019 from Debt Management Office) with nothing but incomplete and poorly executed projects to show for it. Governor Makinde has spent his first year in office completing Senator Ajimobi’s projects because despite claiming to borrow for infrastructure, the ex-governor left the state in infrastructural decay. Visit the Oyo State Government Feedback service, @FeedbackOYSG Twitter handle on any given day and see the complaints about bad roads, dilapidated schools and others. For a governor that borrowed about N150 Billion in external and domestic debt, there is very little to show for it.
3. Seyi Makinde said he wouldn’t need/rely on FG’s allocation after six months in office, but now he is just borrowing and borrowing.
I laugh each time I see this one. Governor Makinde never said this. It is a strawman created by the conjuring mind of the APC and its relevance to the ongoing conversation is zero. Even if Governor Makinde said this, bringing it up in this conversation is a distraction. Whether he is relying on FG allocation or not, would he not take loans for capital projects? Is the Federal Government itself not taking loans even to fund recurrent expenditure?
But, what did Governor Makinde actually say? One of the first times that he made a statement regarding Federal allocations which he has consistently repeated was in 2015. He said he would run the state with transparency and accountability so that Oyo State will not rely on Federal allocations for the payment of salaries. The background of this comment which he first made when he ran for governor under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 2015 was the need to increase the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). In fact, just a few days ago, the Honourable Commissioner for Finance, Akinola Ojo, reiterated this when he said Oyo State was aiming for 6.2 billion/a month in IGR by 2023 so that this resource can be used in paying salaries and benefits while the FG allocations can be used for developmental projects. As at June 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic that is crippling economies, Oyo State still witnessed an uptick in IGR from N2.3 Billion in the first quarter to N2.6 Billion in June 2020.
4. Seyi Makinde has not accomplished anything except paying salaries in Oyo State, yet he is borrowing.
This is the most ridiculous of all straw man arguments. And the fact that APC and its supporters insist on repeating this fabrication is one of the strongest proofs that they are anti-people. Even if they cannot remember all the projects showcased during Governor Makinde’s one year in office, what about the Moniya-Iseyin road? What about the bus terminals? What about the ongoing rehabilitation of the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency in Saki? It is a well-known fact that Oyo State’s Federal Allocation is just over N4 Billion a month, and that IGR is just over N2 Billion. It is also no secret that salaries and pensions gulp over N6 Billion monthly. Should they not be coming to Governor Makinde for tutorials as to how he has consistently paid salaries for over one year while not neglecting infrastructural development. Let us not forget that this is still an attempt to change the conversation. We are not discussing Governor Makinde’s achievements; the conversation is about the justification for the N100 billion proposed bond.
Let us face the facts; these straw man arguments shrouded in lies are not the issues. The issues are: The Oyo State Government is about to issue a N100 billion bond. As at this week, Governor Seyi Makinde has sent a letter to the Oyo State House of Assembly to okay the proposal. Well-meaning citizens should be interested in the projects that they will be funding? How will repayments be made? When will the bond mature? How will the authorities ensure that they do not create an unnecessary burden for any government coming after them? These are the issues that constituents should be having with their representatives who will in turn debate the issues on the floor of the State Assembly.
Let me end this piece by calling attention to another fallacy that the opposition is floating. You may have read it yourself: Seyi Makinde is paying salaries, Seyi Makinde is taking loans. Therefore, Seyi Makinde is taking loans to pay salaries. This causal fallacy is another reason why the good people of Oyo State must be wary of the opposition. How they arrived at this conclusion is simply devious. For every single loan that the Governor Makinde-led administration has taken, there is a set purpose which is clearly marked and in the public domain. The APC has never been able to point out that any of these loans have been repurposed. In fact, the only repurposed loan the people of Oyo State have heard about is the loan that their principal, Senator Abiola Ajimobi took for “agricultural equipment” which had to be repurposed for the development of the Akufo and Eruwa farm settlements.
Interestingly, although the N100 billion bond has not been issued, the projects for which they will be used have been earmarked and is available for anyone who wants to peruse them. The opposition will do well to redirect their scrutiny to these projects and point out which will not be in the overall interests of the people of Oyo State. Let me point out that despite his attempt at obfuscation, Chief Adelabu did raise one issue that needed explaining: why does the 21km Ajia/Ife road/Amuloko road cost more than the 65km Moniya/Iseyin road? During his remarks at the signing of the revised Oyo State budget 2020, Governor Seyi Makinde provided this response: “There is no basis for the comparison between the Airport Road and the Moniya-Iseyin road. Unlike the Moniya-Iseyin road, the Airport road will contain hydraulic structures.” He went ahead to explain that there will be more bridges on the 21Km road than on the 65Km road. He also clarified that the Ajia/Ife road/Amuloko road is being built through the “Alternative Project Funding Approach.” The Alternative Project Funding Approach “entails that the contractor will fund the project and the Oyo State Government will pay for the project over thirty months,” further accounting for it being more expensive.
Nevertheless, it is time for the opposition parties in Oyo State to stop distracting Governor Seyi Makinde’s administration with straw man arguments, obfuscations and lies. The development train of Oyo State has left the station, and it is moving forward full throttle.