The Ajimobi administration has laid a very solid ground for institutional renewal and consolidation in Oyo state.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO once remarked: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” This understanding of leadership speaks directly to a standard of assessment. No leader is worth that name if there is no legacy that stands as a testament to the leader’s stay in office. A legacy-conscious leadership is molded in the governance furnace characterized by a three-fold element of strategy, process and systems. These elements are what enable any leader to give attention to the establishment and consolidation of institution. In other words, it is institutions that constitute the backbone of any governance legacy. And there is no doubt that the Governor Ajimobi-led administration laid the foundation for a strong and virile institutionalization in Oyo state. With a very clear vision — “A state in which people can be the best they can be”— and a very smart agenda around the mission of “Restoration, Transformation and Repositioning of Oyo state,” Governor Ajimobi brought his technical-rational management style to bear on the composition of a competence tracking and acquisition backstopped by a framework of talent and knowledge management that led to a competent governance team whose appointment transcended loyalty and sycophancy.
And this yielded results in quantum leaps. Apart from the real valued governance outcomes in terms of security, a reengineered board of internal revenue which transformed the internally generated revenue, wealth creation, and other infrastructural transformation, I will like to identify just a few institutional trademarks of this administration. The first, for me, is the establishment of the First Technical University, founded on a public-private partnership model. Being the first of its kind in Africa, the Technical University brings back the memory of the ingenious Mayflower School founded by Tai and Sheila Solarin, of blessed memory. This initiative not only speaks to a curriculum in which the conventional university, the polytechnic and the vocational colleges converge, it equally points at a unique direction that higher education must face in a development-challenged nation. The caliber of members of the governing council as well as chancellor, the pro-chancellor and the vice chancellor speaks to the competence set that is meant to deliver on the objectives promised by this unique institution.
Three other educational initiatives stand out to complement the higher education initiative of the Ajimobi administration. The first is the management system called the Schools Governing Boards (SGB). The second is the re-introduction of the Oyo State Model Education Intervention (OYOMESI), accompanied by the Digital Literacy Drive as well as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational curriculum orientation which has become a global brand for reorganizing school curriculum in line with the demands for development. Lastly, the Ajimobi government also established the Education Trust Fund as the financial base for carrying out all its education initiatives and sustaining those already established. This ETF initiative particularly resonates with my reform instinct and analysis of the challenges of implementation of policy and the role that funding plays in the success of failure of executing a policy.
The Ajimobi administration has laid a very solid ground for institutional renewal and consolidation in Oyo state. From ground zero of governance brigandage, the administration has been able to commence a transformational process that has the potential of really repositioning the state for better. But that is not the end of the story. As we say, continuity is the key in government and governance. There is always a constant fear in reform management that the hard-won battles could be reversed by a governor without the understanding of what it takes to win the reform. Furthermore, the governance context in Nigeria requires that good governance practice, like the one we just highlighted in Oyo State, ought to be able to generate governance insights which could be adapted across the other states of the federation. I will briefly highlight several issues that should generate reflections and possibilities with regard to governance and institutional reforms. These reflections are generated by the question of how far State Governors could be expected to go in terms of governance achievements without being weighed down by crippling indebtedness, given that most states are not economically viable in Nigeria? How far can a State make governance progress, given that there is already in place a cost of governance predicament that has remained so intractable, and has prevented a genuine institutional restructuring at many levels.
The first and the most significant point of reflection for me is the due attention that should be paid to the emergence of a new productivity paradigm that has the capacity to instigate economic growth and transform the national and state economies. What is in place across the broad spectrum of state economies is a fully entrenched culture of waste, entitlement and redundancies. Government work has now become a site of pure laziness. The public service and other institutions are not only over-bloated, workers are lacking in the skills and competences to run government in a knowledge and technological age in the margin of entry into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There is now in place a pervasive miracle mentality in the average Nigerian which allows them to deny hard work in place of “instant miracles”. Added to this is the already mentioned fact about the high cost of governance in Nigeria where the overhead cost of maintaining political and administrative positions overweighs the cost of good governance. Whether we like it or not, this is an issue that no Governor can ever hope to escape if such a Governor ever hoped to leave a governance legacy that will transform the lives of the citizens of the State. An adequate institutional restructuring and rationalization must not only affect the size of the workforce but also the overall expenditure structure of the state. And this immediately raises the stubborn issue of trade unionism and the reigning adversarial industrial and labour relations.
Trade unions have a right to protect the interests of their members, and the government itself has the right to care about labor efficiency and increasing productivity. The solution lies in a genuine industrial conversation around the significant idea of collective bargaining and developmental industrial relations that see the government, trade unions and the workers themselves as all collectively involved in the productivity profile of the state and progress of society. For instance, the idea of rationalization can be done and done successfully if government is willing to assuage the anxieties of the workers and their trade union with a concrete post-retirement package that will not throw the workers to the wolf after retirement. Industrial and labor harmony within a state not only transforms the investment climate, it further the benefits that comes to the workers themselves.