Against claims by the current administration of Governor Seyi Makinde that officials who served under former governor Abiola Ajimobi took cars belonging to the state, former information commissioner, Toye Arulogun, has come out to deny it.
He explained that “in some states, they are even building houses for governors, and you people are talking of governor carrying cars. Why is it like this in Oyo State? I thought we had moved beyond this point in the last eight years. We need to understand it better. In some states, they would build a house for the former governor; but in Oyo, it is not in our rule. Even if the governor takes his car, OYSG 1, it would have been signed off properly; go and check the records. I want it to be clearly stated; I am not representing anybody; I’m just talking as Toye Arulogun. It hurts me that we have to go through all of these because it’s absolutely unnecessary.”
Asked whether allegation that Ajimobi and his wife are still in custody of official vehicles, he noted that “there are powers in government. There are approval levels for anything of such. So, maybe they need to study what governance is all about a bit more to understand it. I’m saying it is not just about vehicles, a governor can give you land, without paying a kobo. He has the powers. So, maybe there are people that the governor has approved to take away their cars and certainly they are not new cars because no new cars were bought as far as I’m concerned. Even the incumbent Governor Makinde, the former governor bought him a car before he was sworn-in.”
Arulogun, in an interview with SundayPUNCH, said the bus he personally used is still in the secretariat, adding that Ajimobi asked all those who served with him to drop official cars in their possession.
“It was a general directive to all to hand over to their permanent secretaries or most senior officers in the departments that the aides functioned, including property in their trust. So, the announcement here can only be political. To generalise with sweeping statements in the media is uncharitable. It is also worthy of note that the input to the handover notes and status reports was jointly signed by the commissioners and permanent secretaries or heads of parastatals/agencies. There are therefore relevant persons still in government who can provide further insights or clarifications, if need be.
“When they appoint a commissioner for information, he should go and drive my bus. That was what I was driving. They will buy cars for the governor and the deputy governor cars. What is the big deal about it? They didn’t empty anything; there is no way they would have emptied it. And I’m saying that if anybody took any car, go and ask the people in the cabinet office. There would have been due process. Somebody must have approved it. Before I granted this interview, I called my people and they said they dropped their cars. If there was any, maybe very few; and it must have been project vehicles.
Saying that Makinde is playing politics with his directive to the aides of Ajimobi to return vehicles and other property allegedly belonging to the state government, he said that “It is a laughable directive. The reason why I said so is that this matter is very simple. There are rules for engagement and disengagement in public and civil service, which is well known to everybody. But before I go into that, let me say that people must find out the truth. I think it is very uncharitable for anybody to go out there in public to make such statement. Whoever gave them that false report should have the specifics and details. They ought to give names of those that went away with vehicles. So, it is not a matter of complying with the directive. But it is unfortunate and disheartening because a lot of people forget that government is about sacrifice. In my first four years as a special adviser, I stayed in my father’s house.
“As a commissioner, I did not have an official residence; I did not have an official car. Everybody knows that Arulogun was driving a bus; it was my bus, the ministry’s bus. There was no official vehicle. Yes, in the first term, he (the ex-governor) bought cars for commissioners and the SAs. But the rule also says that after every four years, you should change it. And the economy did not allow us to buy new sets of cars. So, I don’t know where this issue of taking cars home is coming from. But what is important is that there is no directive to comply with. And just peradventure there’s anybody who has taken home any vehicle, they should arrest the person rather than making cheap statement by going to the media. The bus I used is still in the secretariat. What am I going to do with the bus? The claim is in my view all political to call a dog a bad name. To the best of my knowledge, I am neither aware of the purchase of new cars nor such unlawful removal of cars.
He said that the directive is political, adding that “Let it be categorically clear that Oyo State is not an island. It is within the Nigerian nation guided by the same extant rules, standards and practices as all other entities. There are constitutional, statutory, executive and appropriate discretionary powers under which such matters are treated. No principal officer of government and political appointee can go away with vehicles without the constitutional, statutory and executive approvals; nothing beyond the usual practice. All they are attempting to do is a cheap and feeble hit at the integrity of Senator Abiola Ajimobi and his team.”