Timothy Owoeye is the newly elected speaker of the 7th Osun State House of Assembly. He says the House under his leadership would intensify oversight functions with a view to ensuring execution of people-oriented projects, as well as governance.
We hear that high profile politicking within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) shaped the contest for the speakership position of the 7th Osun State House of Assembly, leading to your emergence. What is the secret behind your emergence?
Despite the fact that the speakership position was keenly contested and I won, the House still remains one. In fact, it’s one big family. There is no division among us. Everybody is back to the trenches, ready to work together in team spirit to move the state forward. From my observations so far and the posturing of the members of the House, I don’t think anybody, including the members from the opposition, the PDP, would work at cross purposes. I believe that everybody is ready to give his best in the new dispensation with the hope that the state would witness a new dimension of legislative functions and activities capable of delivering good governance to the people.
I am sure the 7th Assembly would be a pride to all of us and every lover of democratic governance anchored on a sound legislature. There is no other secret to my victory other than experience. I have 12 years experience as a legislator and you would agree with me that this cannot be wished away easily. You would also agree with me that experience counts in everything that has to do with position and status in every aspect of life, including politics and as far as legislative business is concerned, I have got the experience.
In any democratic institution, it is always very difficult to forego somebody who has almost 12 years of legislative experience for any other person that may have less number of years of experience just as it is in every other business or walk of life. Apart from that, I am a party man to the core. I have been in party politics for the past 21 years and I have never for once disappointed my party, the APC, which is progressive in nature. Also, I have never for once betrayed the trust and confidence that the party reposed in me. With my emergence as the speaker, I believe that the party has made a very good choice and I won’t disappoint nor betray the confidence that the party and my leaders have in me.
There were insinuations that your predecessor, Najeem Salam, and the members of the House of Assembly during the last administration were mere stooges in the hands of the immediate past governor, Rauf Aregbesola, so much that they compromised the decision to introduce modulated salary in the state last year during the economic recession. What would be your reaction if you found yourself in such a dilemma?
The modulated salary that was introduced by Aregbesola’s administration was based on the economic situation on ground then. It was a global problem. When Nigeria was hit by the recession, the Federal Government became financially incapacitated so much that the federal allocation was seriously affected. Consequently, several states, including Osun, could not cope with complete and regular payment of salaries. The modulated salary was like a necessary evil that must happen which was compelled by the economic recession. You can only share what you have, but can never share what you don’t have. We needed to be proactive in finding a way out of the quagmire. So, we advised the former governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, not to lay off workers when we got to a point where it became imperative to lay off some of them off. We felt that it was better to share the available resources for everybody to survive rather than laying some of them off. It was better for everybody to come home with something rather than not having a job at all and not being able to bring home anything. Half bread is better than none. To the glory of God, the initiative worked out and we survived the pang and no single worker was sacked. Now the entire workforce across different sectors has been getting full salary.
In any issue of dilemma, I cannot do anything beyond my party’s decision. I am not on my own and I am accountable to my people. If any crucial issue comes up, the best thing to do is to carry ourselves along. That is the beauty of democracy and good governance. There is nothing like being a stooge in the hands of anybody.
There are also insinuations that the state is in a serious debt now. Don’t you think you risk another modulated salary?
We are not anticipating any modulated salary again. People are just insinuating modulated salary. I think they are doing that because they don’t know how government works. He who wears shoes knows where they pinch. We know the financial situation of Osun and government knows the right thing to do in every situation. We know our financial capacity. We know what we can do and what we cannot do. But one thing is obvious; we cannot compare the APC-led administration with any other party in the state in terms of people-oriented governance and delivery of democracy dividends. Unlike other parties whose trade mark is to dash the hopes of the people and which do not bother much about government’s presence in terms of infrastructure especially in the rural areas; APC’s passion is change and next level. These are the ideal we have continued and will continue to pursue and that is why we have been able to stay in power and would continue to maintain the status.
What do you hope to do differently as speaker?
The primary function of a legislature is to make laws. In any case, there are other oversight functions that he can perform according to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I want the present assembly to improve on the oversight functions. The executive may have good intentions, but the contractors who may be contracted by government to handle certain projects might not cooperate sometimes. An instance was when we were engaging contractors for the rehabilitation of 10km roads across all the local government areas in the state. Some of the contractors were found wanting. They had collected government money but were not doing the jobs. It was the assembly members’ oversight functions that ensured the success of that project; otherwise, it would have failed. Since then, I learnt a lesson and made up my mind that if I make it as speaker, I would encourage members to intensify the oversight functions as a way of monitoring the executive to do the right thing.
Apart from the fact that we make laws, we are also the watch dogs over the executive. Periodical or quarterly review of activities at the ministries, MDAs, agencies and parastatals would have to be reviewed. We will ensure that projects initiated by the executive, either infrastructure, social or economic programmes are executed to the latter. We will not fold our hands and see anything go wrong with government projects. There shall be nothing like abandoned projects. People-oriented governance and projects targeted at poverty alleviation will be our priorities. Of course these are the essences of governance.
There were allegations that the immediate past governor engaged contractors from outside the state because he felt that they were more professional than the indigenous contractors. Do you agree?
The allegation was a mere propaganda to discredit the administration. All the past administration’s socioeconomic programmes were in the interest of economic growth and poverty alleviation. The social investment programme that government introduced which cater for people’s social and infrastructure needs are few examples. It is against this backdrop among others that the World Bank rated Osun State as No.2 out of the 36 states of the federation that has so far recorded a low poverty level through poverty alleviation programmes. I think it is because the activities of government resonate with the people that the World Bank decided to come up with the rating. The past administration maintained this status and I am sure that his successor, Gboyega Oyetola, would toe his path for such global reckoning during his tenure. There is no doubt that the people of the state are still struggling with poverty indices, despite the newly introduced social investment programme and claims that the country, including the state, had exited the economic recession.
Osun is purely a civil service state as it has no major companies to drive a robust economy? What would your tenure do about this situation?
Since the state was created in 1991 when it was carved out of old Oyo State, International Brewery Ltd in Ilesa, which is privately owned, is the only major company in the state that is functioning. Osogbo Machine Tools and Osogbo Steel Rolling which were Federal Government-owned have not been functioning. Though they had been privitised before they went moribund, I still want to implore the Federal Government to come to our aid and resuscitate them. If government intervenes in reviving moribund companies across the state, the unemployment and poverty rates would reduce.
The ongoing migration of miners from Zamfara State to the South West, including Osun, in search of gold as well as the infiltration of Fulani herdsmen into the region have been posing serious insecurity challenges to the people, especially because of the spate of kidnapping, banditry and robbery attacks. How would the Assembly tackle this menace?
Agreed that there are pockets of insecurity challenges in the state in recent times, but the situation is not as tensed as it is being hyped in the social media. Osun remains the most peaceful state among all other states of the federation. Since the state started recording kidnapping cases, government, under the leadership of Gboyega Oyetola, has been making frantic efforts to avert the challenges. He has organised a couple of security summits which was attended by major stakeholders , including the Army, Police, Civil Defence, Immigration, The Nigeria Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), traditional rulers, and landlords among others. Recently, government released funds to the police to refurbish their vehicles and armoured tanks to be able to tackle crimes. At the House of Assembly, we have also passed a resolution that stakeholders’ meetings have to be held across the nine federal constituencies to solve the security challenge right from the grassroots.