Ondo Debt Profile: A Shameful and Avoidable Disagreement!

By Festus Aladesanmi

You may not like Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, the executive Governor of Ondo State but you cannot fault his meticulous way of doing things or ignore his uncommon attention to details.

He surprised not a few on Wednesday 30th August, 2017 when he opened the can of worms of Ondo state debt profile while inaugurating his cabinet. Many didn’t see it coming because of the erroneous belief that Akeredolu’s administration is an extension of Mimiko’s reign.

This erroneous belief cut across major political parties. The most affected were members of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Many disgruntled PDP members refused to wake up from their slumber and keep fooling themselves that Akeredolu won the election because Mimiko gave him tactical support. They still talk boastfully that Akeredolu is the Governor because Mimiko allowed him. They adduced many unreasonable reasons to justify their claims. For their affirmed reasons, they concluded that Akeredolu was taking instruction from Mimiko on major state matters.

Akeredolu’s resolve not to play politics with the lives, future and fortune of the people of Ondo state was also misconstrued by his party members. Here was a man that declared from the inception of his administration that he is not interested in probe. He is aware of the fact that the task of making the sun shine brighter in Ondo state again, requires huge resources and time which are unfortunately grossly inadequate.

Therefore for a focused governor who is determined to make positive impacts against all odds, it is pertinent to avoid anything that can derail or slow him down. For these reasons, he does not encourage frivolous criticisms of previous administration.

Government is a continuum! This has been the position of Akeredolu from the beginning. That is one of the reasons he didn’t change many things (names, logo, color, slang, etc.) that was introduced by Mimiko. According to him, changing of any of those things would have no impacts on the people. Therefore his focus is on things that will positively affect the people.

Unfortunately some of his own party members believed that he was doing all that to shield or protect Mimiko. It’s worrisome how people go out of their ways to fabricate lies to drive home their points. Akeredolu ignored this and stayed focus. It was therefore not shocking to see Akeredolu placing the interest of the generality of Ondo state people above personal relationship or friendship. He rendered the “state of the state” address.

True to type, Mimiko reacted within 24 hours! Commonsensically speaking, it’s not how fast you react that matters but how reasonable. This is the major difference between these two great men. Akeredolu is a man that will rather get his facts right, dot the “i” and cross the “t” before reacting whereas Mimiko belief in giving it back (as e dey hot) straight. No wonder he rendered the most colossal reply I have read from an educated person of his status. The address and response have remained a subject of debates till this moment. There is nothing wrong in debating the state’s debt profile but the shameful disagreement was totally avoidable. How did we get here?

The outcome of the election caught Mimiko and his team unprepared. Unfortunately they couldn’t wake up from the shock until Akeredolu took over. There was a three (3) month gap between the election and the handling over day. That should have been used by Mimiko to prepare a comprehensive and detailed handover note. Unfortunately they wasted the period. On the other hand, Akeredolu and his team used the period to prepare for seamless transition. Akeredolu setup the SDPIC (Strategic Development & Policy Implementation Committee) and Transition committee.

Dr. Mimiko didn’t mention any particular debt or liquid asset in his handover note. He simply reeled out and sang about his self-acclaimed achievements. He didn’t mention any #20billion at that moment. He could not have mentioned it because he wasn’t even sure as at then. The electoral loss and the desperation to cover the loss enveloped him and his team that they paid little attention to the handling over issue.

One of the first set of assignments that Akeredolu did in office was the receiving of the preliminary report of the SDPIC. This necessitated the need for each MDAs to render true picture and account of the MDAs to Akeredolu and his steering committee. The contents of the preliminary report of the SDPIC and the accounts rendered by each of the MDAs revealed mindboggling details. All these were leaked to Mimiko and his team. True to type, he ran to the press immediately and declared that he left #20b for Akeredolu to inherit.

When a report is tagged “preliminary” it simply means the report is inconclusive and may be subjected to further scrutiny to perfect it. Even though the report contained both assets and liabilities, Akeredolu in his wisdom subjected it to scrutiny to avoid mistakes. Many members of Akeredolu’s party who were privy to the details of the preliminary reports expected Akeredolu to counter Mimiko’s claim immediately.

Mimiko supporters who surprisingly didn’t believe the claim that Mimiko left #20b for Akeredolu also concluded that Akeredolu didn’t oppose or deny Mimiko’s claim because of the agreement between them. While all these were going on, people forgot to ask a pertinent question. Why did Dr. Mimiko wait until the reports were delivered to Akeredolu before he suddenly remembered that he left a whopping #20b in the coffers of the state? How come he only talked about the asset then without mentioning liabilities?

Akeredolu ignored all criticisms and pressure. He stayed focus and waited until the reports were thoroughly scrutinized. The final reports availed him the opportunity to have unambiguous true pictures of fixed assets, liquid assets and liabilities of Ondo State. These are raw facts that Akeredolu needed to make matching plans on how to move the state forward.

I understand that the final report is now ready and will be formally presented on the 7th of September 2017. Akeredolu received the report, took his time to scrutinize it and now ready to make it public. It took him six whole months to get it right. Between the person that carried out research before presenting a report and the person that piped through the preliminary reports, who should we believe? Could we have done it better? Of course, we could have done it better!

Imagine if Mimiko had taken the issue of handing over serious, get his own team to prepare the true pictures of the assets / liabilities of each MDAs and include that in his handover note, all that would be requested from Akeredolu and his team to do will be to reconcile the report with theirs and come up with a unifying reports.

However Mimiko didn’t do any of such. Akeredolu relied on the facts as presented by the civil servants who are the real custodians of the state records. A critical and objective study of the report presented by Akeredolu and the counter claims of Mimiko will show all and sundry that the disagreement is shameful and avoidable.

Mimiko claimed that he left #20b behind. This mischievously was inclusive of the February allocation and other revenue that came in the name of February 2017. Mimiko explained and confirmed this on Thursday that “the above amount most of which came late into our tenure was to be used to offset a chunk of the owed salaries before the then accountant general made a curious disappearance.”

Let me say expressly that the Accountant General disappeared just three days to the swearing in of Akeredolu. Akeredolu captured February allocation as part of the money he received. Therefore with simple arithmetic all these show of shame could have been avoidable had it been captured in the handover note.

Also, for the sake of clarity, Akeredolu said he inherited #220billion; he didn’t say that Mimiko alone incurred the debt. True to type again, Mimiko was quick at mentioning how much liabilities he also inherited but he forgot to mention that he equally inherited over #38billion as liquid asset.

A critical and objective study of the total debt as declared by Akeredolu side by side with the one averred to by Mimiko further show that indeed there was no reason for the disagreement. There is no controversy whatsoever on internal and external debts. Mimiko only, shamefully, made clarifications on who incurred the external debt. Government is a continuum, but only selfless and focused leaders observe this mantra. The reply has successfully revealed that the government of Dr. Mimiko didn’t prepare for the eventual defeat and couldn’t handle the reality. How can one describe this? I am disappointed.

It’s also worthy of mentioning that Mimiko had ample opportunity to change the fortune of Ondo state by reducing the total dependence of the state on federal allocation. He was quick to state that he maintained the lowest debt profile among the states in the southwest but he forgot to state that he left the worst, ridiculous and highest debt profile among all the oil producing states.

Ogun state has succeeded in recording tremendous increase in its internally generated revenue through investment promotion. The debt profile of Ondo State was this high because of the many missed opportunities and misplaced priorities.

For instance, Lekki free trade zone is almost ready and should be at the same level with Olokola by now. Dangote refinery that was initially conceived for Ondo state is now near completion in Lagos state. These are few of many great opportunities the Mimiko’s team blew.

During the oil boom, he squandered money on frivolity and failed to save for the raining day. Akeredolu said at inception that he is not interested in probing because the task ahead is enormous. Is anything wrong in showing the true picture of the financial situation of the state to the people? Has he committed a crime by revealing the liabilities of the state after a careful study and perusal? The patriotic answer to this, to me, is capital “No!”.

And does it make sense for Mimiko and his team to be struggling for unnecessary “damage control” when there is literally no basis for it? Do we as a people deserve this shameful and avoidable embarrassment? The answer, again, is capital “No!”

Therefore having failed by not doing the needful at the appropriate time Dr. Mimiko and his team should safe us the trouble. Instead of joining issue with Akeredolu to derail or slow him down, he should apologize to the people of Ondo state.

The failure of Mimiko and his team on the shoddy handover was understandable and forgivable because the victory of Akeredolu was a rude shock and some of them are yet to wake up. However, he and his team should stop insulting and offending our sensitivity. They should stop playing politics with the lives and future of Ondo people.

However if this is a ploy to derail or slow down Akeredolu so as to see negative things to use against him politically, i can say that they have failed. Debt or no debt, Akeredolu is determined to take the state out of the woods.

I implore all well-meaning citizens and residents of Ondo state to ignore this shameful and avoidable disagreement. It’s unnecessary and useless distraction. Cheers.

Aladesanmi, a public affairs commentator, writes from Oba-Ile, Akure, Ondo State via festusaladesanmi@yahoo.com

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