IN the evening of Sunday, six days to the Osun State gubernatorial election, four of the prominent aspirants gathered in Osogbo to demonstrate preparedness for office at the Channels TV debate.
For over an hour, Fatai Akinbade of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Moshood Adeoti of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Iyiola Omisore of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) all engaged each other in a war of words. Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was absent.
Even though emotional statements and campaign clichés filled the debate atmosphere, occasional errors were committed nonetheless. In this fact-check, The ICIR scrutinises the suspicious claims by three of the candidates.
GBOYEGA OYETOLA, APC
Claim: Osun state debt portfolio is about 141 billion
In reacting to claims from Omisore regarding Osun state’s debt profile, Oyetola said what he knew was that the state’s debt from Sukuk bonds and commercial loans is about N141 billion. He said the state will be free from liability on the bond by 2020. He added, in response to whether Osun’s debts are sustainable, that Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio on the average is about 40 per cent, and “ours is still less than 6 per cent”.
Verdict: Partly true
According to 2017 figures from the National Bureau Statistics stating both external and domestic debt stocks of the various states of the federation, Osun State’s total debt is N167.7 billion. This comprises a domestic debt of N138.2 billion and external debt of $96.6 million.
Calculations by The ICIR confirm Oyetola’s claim that Osun State’s debt to GDP ratio is less than 6 per cent. 2012 estimates by Renaissance Capital give the state’s GDP as $9.4 billion. With this figure, its debt to GDP ratio is therefore 5.8 per cent. It is also true payment of the Sukuk bond is due by 2020.
However, it is not the case that the average debt to GDP ratio in Nigeria is about 40 per cent. According to a report of the National Bureau of Statistics, debts of the various states, that is sub-national debt, in relation to GDP rose from 2.4 per cent in 2014 to 4 per cent in 2016 — only ten per cent of Oyetola’s claim.
Claim: UNESCO supports Osun’s new 4-5-3-4 educational classification.
When Oyetola was asked if he would be regularising the school system which Osun State introduced in 2011, he replied: “Even UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] acknowledged the fact that it is the best way to go. And that is the truth… It has not changed the curriculum anyway.”
After an educational summit organised in 2011, the old primary/secondary classification system was renamed and arranged into elementary, middle and high schools. Pupils in elementary school are those from grades, that is primary, one to four. Those in middle school are students from grade five to nine, that is primary five and six, as well as JSS one to three. Finally, high school, under the new classification, is for SS one to three, which is grade ten to twelve in Osun State.
Grace Titi Laoye-Tomori, Osun State Deputy Governor and Commissioner for Education, has also said the new system is patterned after UNESCO standards. This claim is however misleading.
The 2011 UNESCO International Standard Classification of Education does not expressly classify schools according to elementary, middle and high, and does not recommend a 5-4-3-4 arrangement. Rather, it classifies schools according to pre-primary education, primary education, lower secondary education, upper secondary education and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
The document further allows for flexibility in local labelling. “Programmes classified at ISCED level 1 may be referred to in many ways, for example: primary education, elementary education or basic education,” it states. “For international comparability purposes the term ‘primary education’ is used to label ISCED level 1.”
Claim: There is a reasonable number of women in present Osun cabinet
In the concluding session of the debate, the moderator asked candidates about their position on female participation in governance and gender equality. While addressing the subject, Oyetola said: “Even the existing cabinet is pro-[women]. We have reasonable number of women in the cabinet.” But is this so?
A check through the list of cabinet members in the incumbent Osun State government reveals that, out of a total of 45, there are only seven cabinet members who are female: Deputy Governor, Commissioner For Human Resource & Capacity Building, Commissioner for Empowerment & Youth Engagement, Commissioner for Federal Matters, Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, Special Adviser on Higher Education, Bursary & Scholarships, and Special Adviser on Culture and Tourism.
This amounts to only 15.5 per cent — a long way from absolute gender parity or even the 30 per cent affirmative action proposed by the National Gender Policy.
IYIOLA OMISORE, SDP
Claim: “IGR is about 7.7 per cent, debt outgoing is about 36.04 per cent… So there is a net deficit of 29 per cent ab initio [debt versus IGR]. Our budget of 2015 has 41 per cent deficit from the beginning: 2016 has 51 per cent deficit, 2017 has 62 per cent deficit, and 2018 has 82 per cent deficit.”
Verdict: An understatement
During his remarks, the SDP candidate often reeled off figures without properly putting each one into perspective. Part of his many statistics, which he said he arrived at “having done my own work”, are the budget deficits from 2015 to 2018. He said this to buttress his position of Osun State government’s fiscal indiscipline.
Available data, however, shows that the budget deficits between 2015 and 2017 are much more than what Omisore painted. The proposed budgets for 2015, 2016 and 2017 are N197.08 billion, 137.9 billion and 138.2 billion respectively, while the total revenue for those years were N28.3 billion, N14.8 billion, and N16.9 billion. Using these figures, the budget deficits are therefore 85.6 per cent, 89.2 per cent, and 87.8 per cent — not 41 per cent, 51 per cent, and 62 per cent.
Claim: There are no Opon Imo tablets in Osun State schools
Omisore described the famous Opon Imo (tablet of knowledge) project of the Aregbesola-led Osun State government as a scam, and blamed it for the state’s indebtedness. Not only that, he also claimed “there is no Opon Imo anywhere in this state”. After Oyetola denied his remarks, saying the tablets are available and functional, he said there are no tablets in circulation.
“They brought only a few hundreds and launched,” he said. “I have students that live with me, and I’ve not seen any tablet with them. So I don’t know where they are; maybe they are hidden in government office.”
The Opon Imo project was introduced in 2013 by Rauf Aregbesola, Osun State governor, with the plan of giving out 150,000 units of e-learning tablets to senior secondary school students in order to improve learning and ICT literacy.
One reason that may explain why Omisore has not seen the tablet with students around him is that the state government now distributes it only to students in their final-year and then retrieves it after their final examination. Evidence abounds of the annual distribution and use of the tablets.
Claim: In 2010, Osun ranked fourth in secondary school performance.
Criticising the construction of “mega schools” in the state, Omisore remarked: “By 2010, Osun was in the fourth position. They built mega schools, they went to 29th position.” He said the mega schools lack basic facilities such as science laboratories, and are not improving the quality of education in Osun.
While it is true that records show Osun was ranked 29 in the state ranking of 2018 released by the West African Examination Council, there is no data online for as far back as 2010.
Reported WAEC performance data of the state covering ten years, however, shows an improvement of 113 per cent in the performance of students. According to the data, while about 7000 students passed with at least five credits in subjects including English and Mathematics in 2010, this figure shot up to about 17,000 in 2016. This was also confirmed, in June, by the state commissioner for education.
Claim: Nigeria signed treaty to appoint women into 33 per cent of political offices
During the last segment of the debate which addressed plans on minorities, Omisore was asked about his position on women in governance. In his response, he said Nigeria signed to the “Protocol of China”, which stipulates 33 per cent political positions for women.
“And as a law-abiding, my minimum will be that 33 per cent. Women will be very happy in the government coming.”
Following the senator’s response, Oyetola gave the figure, according to “the Beijing Convention”, as 35 per cent, and said that was the maximum. Adeoti jumped on the wagon and said he will ensure not less than 35 per cent of political appointments are reserved for women “because it is a resolution of an international body, the United Nations”. Akinbade also made a similar vow of at least 35 per cent .
But is there any such UN resolution proposing an affirmative action of 35 per cent?
The Beijing Declaration of 1995 does not actually state 35 per cent as the minimum extent of female participation in governance. It merely encourages the equal participation of both genders.
Article 13 states: “Women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace.”
The African Union Protocol on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) also makes no particular demands.
Nigeria’s National Gender Policy, however, stipulates that 30 per cent of political posts should be reserved for women.
FATAI AKINBADE, ADC
Claim: My business is already profitable
Verdict: No available evidence.
There is no available evidence showing that Akinbade’s company, the Owu Crown Hotel, has broken even and is profitable. However, in June, the hotel was among 15 companies sealed off by the Oyo State Board of Internal Revenue for tax violations.
According to the board, the step had to be taken as a result of the companies’ “failure to pay outstanding professional/business registration/renewal fees”.