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OYO101: Waiting Forever; The Agonizing Story Of Non-Teaching, OYRTMA Applicants Under Makinde | Muftau Gbadegesin

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She called when dusk was enveloping dawn to ask a favor: if through my weekend column, I could help articulate her displeasure and draw the state government’s attention to the plight of non-teaching applicants, she would be eternally grateful. Before her call, she had read the mesmerizing story I did on TESCOM and Civil Service Commission’s alleged irregular and arbitrary deduction of staff salary – and the quick, swift, and spontaneous reaction that followed gave her a jolt of optimism. For months, she confided, alongside other applicants, they’ve been made to endure an unbearable, teeth-gritting, and endless heartbreak – one that’s yet to heal. “It was an acute pain”, as she briskly told me, “no human should be subjected to”.

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But now, her voice crystalline, it seems she wants that endless, agonizing story to screech to a crawling halt. In the inner recess of her mind, she knew someone must amplify their voices and speak for them or their pains and agonies will melt in the face of a political windstorm about to blow governance into the backwater. At the start, I couldn’t connect the dots of her dissatisfaction partly because I assumed hers might be an isolated case. But when she walked me through the crucible of her ordeal, the hardship she’d endured in the course of the application, I knew her story must be connected to the larger excruciating experiences of others. From that day on, I set forth on a journey to uncovering various cover-ups in job applications by this current administration, what I found out will puzzle and hit you like a thunderbolt.

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The endless waiting, it surprisingly turned out, was not exclusive to the non-teaching applicants. It was, as one applicant pointedly told me, another ugly trademark of the present administration. In a way, there appears a truckload of applicants stuck in meaningless ruts in search of greener pastures. And for most, the fear of intimidation continues to keep them aground, forcing them to quietude as they watch their lofty dreams dissolve into the quicksand of timidity. In writing this story, I met OYRTMA (Oyo state road traffic management agency) applicants, some of whom now think the government is breaking her promises at a record time, and the non-teaching applicants, many of whom felt disconnected from the system.

“A year and Waiting; the untold story of Non-teaching applicants”

As the Corona-Virus pandemic coursed through the veins of global socio-economic activities accompanied by lockdowns and restrictions, the state government under Governor Seyi Makinde made application to the teaching and non-teaching sectors of the education public. It was in 2020, almost a year into the government. The stakes were staggeringly high as various promises made during the electioneering campaign became hot and trending topics across the media landscape: Job creation being one of the biggest and hottest of all.

Through the education commissioner, the government opened a portal for vacancies of 7,000 in the teaching service and 3,600 in the non- teaching. In the end, a mind-blowing 91, 000 applied for the teaching while 65,000 jostled for the non-teaching slots. Sorting and sifting the eligibility of applicants gulped months and a few millions of naira. And finally, a Computer Based Test was conducted to whittle down the number into considerable junk.
In the end, about 5,000 sailed through the hurdles and had their names stamped on the state government payroll.

By February 2020, appointment letters were dished out to the excitement of beneficiaries but to the bewilderment of non-teaching applicants, many of whom now found themselves in an utter quandary. “We were expecting our turn after TESCOM dished out appointment letters in February 2020,” Bashir Kayode told me “but to our consternation, nothing tangible has come out from government till now”. Bashir Kayode’s story is similar to the appeal of the lady whose name I will call Victoria Gloria (she pleaded not to have her name in print even while on phone).

Others who also expressed disaffection under the condition of anonymity echoed the same dispiriting account. “Can you imagine being stuck in the middle of the road with no direction as per your destination” one applicant queried “that is how it feels to apply without knowing the next step”? It’s like being left in the wilderness without a map or guidepost.

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‘New Recruitment will be political’

Experts lauded the non-interference of politicians in the TESCOM recruitment exercise. Granted, the majority if not all of the beneficiaries secured the job on merit grounds. Consequently, the government’s resolve to stick to meritocracy against favoritism irked most politicians to the marrow. And rumors scattered across that politicians are waiting to pound on the Governor’s flesh for ditching them at such a dire moment. But now, as experts claim, the government may have to do the bidding of politicians as the next election beckons. And that will strip the process of its sanity and sanctity.

“Some of us who are at the last phase of the recruitment exercise may have to begin the process of connecting with local politicians or we risk throwing our efforts under the bus,” another applicant Kunle Ajagbe said in one of our interviews “I applied for the state traffic and road management agency and I have met up all requirement, submitted necessary documents and yet nothing assuring has come out from the government”. It is like being left in a lurch, he said, it’s scary and frightening.

“The Carrot with No stick”

For a state like Oyo, salary payment takes the larger part of its monthly allocation. And because of that, the idea of another round of fresh recruitments into various agencies might appear counterintuitive in the light of revenue generation shortfall. Already, the state ranks among the ten most indebted in the country incurring a whopping #178 billion in the last three years.

While many are aware government borrows to fund capital projects such as road infrastructure, and health care facilities, among others, what’s pretty difficult for majority of the citizens to grasp is that part of the loan is also used to settle workers bills. I know this simple fact when I received the call of an ex-labor leader in the state who called in March to tutor me on the struggles of state government in payment of salary.

“The state government is doing everything possible to meet the demands of workers,” the former labor leader confidently told me “even if it means going out of its way”. Only a few states, he added are economically buoyant to pay salary without batting an eye. Lagos as rich and endowed as it is has not been paying her staff a thirteen-month salary. But here in Oyo, the concerned unionist continued, government has been paying a thirteen-month salary to workers.

Not surprisingly, the state government is stuck between the rock and the hard place. And getting out peacefully will take a careful, deliberate action on government’s part. The type that’s long lost on citizen’s part.

OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion on issues in Oyo state published every Saturday. He can be reached via muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com and 09065176850.

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