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Arakurin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, I write you this letter with a deep sense of responsibility and duty to contribute to the development of Ondo State; the only place fate presents to me as home.
Despite the harsh realities of today, I believe we can still create a brighter tomorrow by discovering what our real challenges are, and make deliberate efforts to restore the hope of our people in the face of an excruciating economic challenge.
Reduction in federal allocation to states due to the downslide of oil price in the international market is the excuse many Governors give for owing several month salaries.
The hardship of unpaid salaries is even more critical for a “civil servant” state like ours. But even in the days of oil boom when our allocation was mouth-watering, did the financial abundance then give birth to opportunities which we could leverage to secure our economy in times of lack?
Can we even claim that we lived in economic prosperity as a state at that time? Even if we did, the fact that we have an economy that fluctuates easily with federal allocation is an indicator that the resources that form the foundational structures on which our economy is built are wrong.
Effectively, this proves to you that beyond reduction in allocation, our major problem is lack of defined economic structure or a sustainable economic plan. A “people” whose economy lies solely on state allocation is bound to suffer the same fate as an employee whose salary is delayed.
A state that has (or believes in) nothing but federal allocation is a poor state. This explains to you why states like Bayelsa despite their huge allocation cum oil revenues relative to their small land mass and population cannot boast of anything more spectacular than Gombe, Zamfara or Ekiti.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirate and Ruler of Dubai, in his book “MY VISION” idealized that when you face a challenge that demands a solution or a decision, you have two choices — you either emulate the examples set by others or preferably use your own creativity and intelligence to formulate new ideas.
This is the secret behind the transition of Dubai from a regional trading post and minor oil producer into a global investment and tourism hub—and a haven in a part of the world often associated with geopolitical conflict. This is the same spirit that differentiates Lagos from other states including the ones that have a proportionally equivalent income.
Any nation or state that is determined to change her fortune in the face of challenges must also make this choice.I am aware that governors are not absolutely oblivious of the necessity of thinking outside the box. You have even mentioned it severally in your speech. In fact, the phrase “looking inwards” is fast becoming a cliché in governors’ speech on economic survival strategy.
However, where governors get it wrong is that they just enforce various Internally Generated Revenue policies on the citizens with a cynical indifference to their economic realities. In the name of meeting target, your agents take to the street to press money out of already impoverished people, instead of first creating a system that would make their economy flourish and makes tax payment less of a burden to them.
Most times the people helplessly or naively fall victim of multiple taxation and some who cannot cope eventually close down or relocate their businesses to other states like Lagos where tax laws enforcement is even harsher but the working system makes tax payment easy.
For us in Ondo State, I believe that the shortest way to the bright future we seek lies in a creative and pioneering approach; an approach that enables us to perceive challenges as recipe for innovation.
We must at this critical moment look inwards to identify our potentials as a state and invest around them. I will write you a separate letter on these potentials. We also have to see our income as seed and not as yield so we could realize how important it is to not just eat but sow.
We can borrow if we don’t have enough resources to sow. Borrowing is not as bad as government’s recklessness makes it appear today, the problem has been that we borrow to run government and spend wastefully on projects that do not bring income.
We borrow to run public schools that do not generate fund. We borrow to flag off projects few months before election to impress citizens and abandon them just after. The most painful is that borrowed funds are also mismanaged and embezzled at the expense of future income – one of the causes of our present economic quagmire.
The same way a wise employee will sacrificially invest part of his income to get additional income, government need to cut wastages and invest in viable ideas; ideas weaved around our potentials. When we invest our resources in our potentials, it will result in chains of value-creating activities from which our people can tap opportunities.
Jobs surface only when there are activities to be carried out, businesses get patronage only when people who carry out activities get paid and government gets more tax when people earn and businesses flourish.
I am writing this letter from my balcony in Lagos on this second day of October 2017 being a public holiday in commemoration of our 57th year of independence as a nation. I do not know how and when it will reach you but if it ever gets to you, I want to assure you that though this city has given me more hope in few years than my over two decades back home, I still share not only an improbable love, I share an abiding faith in the possibilities of Ondo State.
I may be disappointed by the generation before me; I understand it still that I owe a debt to all of those coming after me.
Yours Sincerely,Akinwumi Omotere