By Sarafa Ibrahim

It was a rare sight at the Bola Ige House on Thursday, or more appropriately, an atmosphere that anyone will ever have contemplated. Adorned in Ankara attires, workers in the employment of the Osun state filled the parking lot of the facility that houses the Governor’s office to honour the state governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke.

This sounds unbelievable, but it actually happened. And the Head of Service in the state, Mr. Ayanleye Aina helped unravel the rationale behind the decision of the Osun workforce to honour Governor Adeleke by noting that while experience has shown a striking gap between campaign promises and the actual delivery of dividends of democracy the “case of our amiable Governor is a radical departure from this position as workers and retirees have continued to benefit from the kindness of the Governor.”

And he was not alone with this feeling as labour leaders took turns to justify the decision to honour Governor Adeleke as the “Most Humane Governor Of The Year” award by the civil servants in the state. The significance of the event was striking and historical. Anyone who has followed events in Osun over the years will feel the same way because a poor attitude toward the welfare of workers and pensioners usually puts civil servants on a collision course with the government and hardly give room for any form of honour as done for Governor Adeleke.

The event speaks to the resounding acceptance of Osun workers to Governor Adeleke’s passionate commitment to their welfare. It was a lesson in service that when a Governor puts smiles on the faces of workers by prioritizing their welfare, they are bound to reciprocate the gesture through open recognition as bestowed on Governor Adeleke. When you make governance about the people as Governor Adeleke is doing, it is almost certain that the people will acknowledge it. This was exactly what happened with the Osun civil servants and Governor Adeleke.

In the one year since Governor Adeleke has been in office, I have read and listened with relish series of testimonies of his impactful governance. The height of it came at the event put up by the civil servants to honour the governor as speaker upon speaker highlighted the good deeds of Governor Adeleke and how they affected them one way or the other.

The Head of Service, Mr. Aina noted in his speech that “Prior to the advent of your (Adeleke) Administration in the State, senior workers were owed several months of unpaid half salaries, a situation that came to the national limelight. Believing that governance is a continuum, your administration has been consistently offsetting these backlog of salary and pension arrears. As we speak, four months arrears have been paid to date. Your administration cash-backed arrears of promotions from the previous Administrations which were in millions of naira.”

But the thing is, Governor Adeleke’s incredible posture toward welfare is not limited to active workers. The welfare of senior citizens has seen a remarkable improvement under Governor Adeleke, which Mr. Aina pointed out during his speech. According to him, Governor Adeleke has “increased the monthly release of fund for the payment of gratuities for retirees at the State level 100%, that is from N50m to N100m” and also “increased the monthly release of fund for the new pension scheme from N175m to N350m, that is, by 100%. At the local government level, it was increased to N400m.”

Perhaps this was why the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Osun State chapter, Baba Salau Ganiyu, enjoins the people of Osun to “help us thank the Governor” when he was called upon to address the gathering. The octogenarian who was apparently impressed with Governor Adeleke on the welfare of retirees declared that “He is doing wonderfully well for pensioners.” Then, he highlighted many things that Governor Adeleke has done for pensioners since coming to office, particularly “the enrollment of all retirees on the health insurance scheme”, which he said will handle health challenges faced by pensioners and drastically reduce incidents of untimely deaths among them.

Just like him, the Chairman of Contributory Pensioners in Osun state, Elder Gbenga Oyadare, was full of praise for Governor Adeleke for his humane disposition to the welfare of workers and pensioners. “For the first time, there is no round table discussion on the payment of half salary. If you have taken your bond, you will take it quarterly and if you haven’t, you will get it monthly. Without negotiation at all, health insurance approved, to the level of operation,” he said at the event.

Stories and testimonies of Governor Adeleke’s astounding touching impacts like this abound across sectors and are daily shared by those impacted. Before the advent of Governor Adeleke, the attitude to the welfare of workers and pensioners was erratic just like power supply in Nigeria, exerting undeserved pains on them as reflected in the 30 months of unpaid half salary and pension arrears. Many affected workers lost hope of receiving their earned money because, for the entire forty-eight months of the immediate past administration in office, no attempt was made to pay any part of the owed wage debt. It was considered an impossibility.

Then Governor Adeleke came with his touch of humanity kind of leadership and from that point, those things considered impossible become possible. Payment of the owed half salary was initiated and in one year, four months has been paid. The promotion for civil servants done in 2019 by the past administration but not backed by the consequential financial implication was cash-backed by Governor Adeleke only a few months in office. Civil servants no longer have to bear promotion papers that do not translate to real value in terms of earnings to them as they did for nearly four years as the administration that gave it to them failed to implement the financial consequences.

The story isn’t any different for pensioners in the state. Between November 27, 2022, and November 2023, Governor Adeleke has expended over N20 billion to clear inherited pension liabilities. And right at the venue of the event put up by the civil servants to honour him, Governor Adeleke issued over N2.9 billion in fresh bonds to pensioners across sectors. While retirees under state service receive N1.3 billion in bond payments, those in the local government and primary school categories got a total of N1.625 billion in bond payments. Do not forget that a few months back, Governor Adeleke enrolled the entire retirees in Osun state in healthcare coverage (the first and only state in Nigeria to do so) just to relieve pensioners of the burden of managing health challenges common with old age.

You can now see why the civil servants in Osun state choose to honour Governor Adeleke because right through his actions and deeds, he is indeed humane. He is unlike the experience of the past when civil servants and pensioners will have to pour into the streets in protest before they can get their due entitlements. That is why the civil servants could roll out the drums because they have seen a lot and can tell the difference that Governor Adeleke is a friend and deserves every honour bestowed on him.

Two things stand out in what civil servants in Osun state did for Governor Adeleke– people appreciate good deeds and nothing is more rewarding than touching lives positively. If Governor Adeleke had shown similar disdain for the welfare of workers and pensioners as some ahead of him have done, the gathering at the Bola Ige House would never have happened. And if did, it would not be to honour him but rather, something unpleasant.

Every person in Osun can see the passion that Governor Adeleke has put into solving the series of challenges he inherited. Not just addressing the welfare conundrum that defined the past but also the striking infrastructure shortage that plagued the state. And he is doing all these despite the stress that debt servicing, which stood at about N1.8 billion on a monthly basis, exerts on the derivation of the state. The long and short of it all is that, Governor Adeleke is working for the people and the clearest indication is the “Most Humane Governor of The Year” bestowed on him by the workforce of the state. Congratulations Mr. Governor.

  • Sarafa Ibrahim is a Special Assistant to the Osun State Governor on Print Media. He writes from Iwo, Osun State.

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