•Information Commissioner, FUNKE EGBEMODE Explains
Many people don’t know how the Osun State Governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola runs State. This is because when he was sworn in last year May, there were those who felt he would not be able to cope. Many felt it would be difficult for him to step into the big shoes left behind by his predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
But over the last one year, Gov. Oyetola has surprised all the doubting Thomases. He has painstakingly ran the state and has returned Osun State to the path of Stability, without making a song and dance of it. How did he do it? His Information Commissioner, Funke Egbemode told City People recently how Gov. Oyetola has confounded his critics. She was our Guest on City People Instagram Live with Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE. She revealed how this easy going man runs the State. Below are excerpts of the Live Chat.
How has it been since you take up your new role as a Commissioner?
I am seeing life in a different way. I am also seeing governance from the inside, I am seeing governance in a serious way. In the newsroom, there are production days: days full of pressure. Now, handling the media of an entire state means everybody is production day. I had found out that whether is at 2 am or 2 pm I am on duty. There are no weekends here, managing the media of Osun State.
So, I am a Daily Editor, I am a Weekend Editor and also a PR Person (laugh). So that is different because governance is totally different. Doing government media is a whole different cup of tea.
Let’s talk about Mr. Governor, how is he coping running the state?
Working with Gov. Gboyega Oyetola is like being in a school, a different kind of school. The governor is a University that has many faculties. We learn different things from him. One big lesson I have learnt working with him is patience. He is very very painstaking. He thinks things through. He listens to advise. You know been governor advice will come from different places and different people.
I have watched him listening to everybody with that calmness. He will look as if your own advice is the first he is listening to. But he listens to everybody with the same level of calmness, receives it and takes his own decision.
So, all his decisions are informed, and when for instance I go to him and ask “oga why are we doing it this way, why don’t we do it this way, I don’t agree we should do it the way you have decided”. When he finishes explaining you will now see that he has considered all angles, and he doesn’t buckle under pressure, and that one is very uncommon in leaders. He considers all the angles. For instance: when the battle against Covid-19 started, Osun is one of the earlier states that locked down the state; and he was the first governor to say the President should consider locking the entire country down because he looked at all the angles. He would hold meetings. He can hold meetings for 6 hours and go into another 7 hrs, and another 7 hours and still looking like he hasn’t done anything. Even those of us who are younger than him have had to say “Oga, Your Excellence I need to go now” and he would say “you can go” and he can go on and on like that. Then, the way he manages the finances of the state. I remembered when coming into the state everybody was telling me how broke Osun was. But when I got here I found out that the man just knows how to joggle balls bus without anyone failing. He is doing a balancing act that is almost magical. I asked him after about 6 months of working with him where he is founding the money to do everything. He is paying salaries, I thought paying salary is all that he would be able to do, considering the allocation that he gets, and then he is able to do a lot of other things. I asked him and he said you will eventually find out.
And then he told me it is just a matter of prioritising and he prioritises very well. The day that he was going to effect the lockdown in the state, he sat on the balcony of the Government House until he sorted out the salaries of all the Civil Servants.
I watched him doing it. He summoned the Commissioner for Finance and others. He told them “you can’t lock down the state until you have paid your workers, that it would be unfair”.
He is just somebody who looks at all the angles. He’s not somebody who will say I am going to buy ventilators I am not going to pay salaries. I am going to equip isolation centre there won’t be roads”. We are constructing roads in the middle of all of these and he is not owing salaries. He is trying to pick all his bills. He is trying to joggle all the bus. He is trying to do all governors forum’s meeting e.t.c. One big thing I have learnt from him is patience, calmness and ability to pack a lot into 24 hrs.
You are somebody who has had a series of experiences from the roles you have played in the past starting from been a reporter, editor and managing a media outfit. Also been the President of the Guild and a Commissioner now. What do you think is the way out in terms of governance in Nigeria?
Dealing with governance in Nigeria is quite complicated because Nigeria are politically savvy. So, I would say that, don’t decide for Nigerians what they need, ask them what they need. Ask them what they want. You cannot prescribe for Nigerians what their needs are. And so, whether you are a Local Government Chairman or a governor or a President. I would say find out what your people want. Don’t decide for them.
Don’t give them pipe-borne water if what they want is health centre. Don’t give them health centres, if what they want are roads. I think it’s a lot easier to first find out what your people want, what their needs are before you write your agenda. Whatever the agenda you used to campaign adjust it to their needs when you come into the office. So it’s you and the people you are working with, the people you are governing are on the same page, which I also found out was done here in Osun State, before I got here.
The governor has done a citizen needs assessment with DFIDUK, and they went from community to community, consistency to consistency and will found out from that city to city assessment that what is needed in Osogbo as a town is different from what is needed in Aiyedaade or what is needed in Boripe. So, it’s a lot easier to figure your people out, for them to understand where you are coming from when you are doing what they want. So I think governance should be easier if you know what your people want and you just stay focus on that. Don’t draw a 14 point agenda when people need can be taken care of before point agenda.
What is His Excellency doing about women in Osun, in terms of helping to advance the progress of women’s folks since he came in?
As I said, he is a listening governor and he knows the power of women. He knows women are the real nation builders, so the policy here is to get women on board. They control votes. The control a lot of things. Yes we want more people in political office but there are women already there, doing things not just because they are women but because they are bright, they are intelligent, they are crowd pullers.
People in Osun have political consciousness. Everywhere, any block you go politically you can see women there. The governor involves them. Of course, we are Oliver Twist, we would ask him for more. He was putting together a team recently and I said Your Excellency I can’t see a woman’s name and he asked me to come up with women’s name and we found a space and accommodate them.
So, he doesn’t put together groups without considering women.