By Wilfred Eya
Governor ‘Seyi Makinde of Oyo State recently held an interactive session with journalists in Ibadan to mark his second year in office. He spoke on some of his constraints, how his government has fared in two years, the steps taken to address the infrastructure deficit, economic expansion focus of the government among others.
You marked your second year in office on May 29. How far will you say you have gone regarding the mandate given you?
From day one, even during the electioneering, we brought out a document, which is our Roadmap for the Accelerated Development of Oyo State, 2019 to 2023, and we focused on four major areas: Education, Health, Expansion of our economy through where we think we have the comparative advantage; these are agriculture, agribusiness, agro-processing; and the fourth pillar is Security. Recently, I visited the Ikere Gorge Dam, because I wanted the focus to shift to what we are trying to do with tourism and solid mineral development. I can tell you boldly that we are stabilising with some of our programmes. Before I came in, Oyo State was already doing well with cassava; for instance, we had a retreat and I learnt that Oyo State was the second largest producer of cassava in Nigeria at that point. So, I asked how many tonnes of cassava are we producing per annum? And the next question was, how did we get to this point; was it just happenstance or through deliberate action. I asked for an explanation on those actions that we took that got us to that point but I was told the farmers were just cultivating on their own. So, I said I was not sure the government did anything deliberately to encourage the farmers. I said, now, we have to be deliberate on how we approach things. Now, I feel we have stabilised with some of the deliberate actions that we took after coming into government.
What are those deliberate actions you’ve taken?
What did we do? We got the best agribusiness practitioner on this continent to come into this government and got engaged with all the research institutes around here. In Ibadan, we have the FRIN, CRIN, IITA, and all others. We have people doing research here and what have we done with their research outcomes to lift our agricultural output? We started approaching them one after the other and we got IITA to sign an MoU with us and it gave us one of its best brains in agribusiness and, from that point, we started the STEP for the young ones out there. We reorganized what they used to call OYSADEP, which was just a drain pipe, established the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA) and moved the headquarters to Saki. We did the commissioning of the OYSADA Complex as part of the activities marking the second anniversary of the government. The Rural Community Development Centre at Awe was turned into an incubation centre for agribusiness. Of course, not up to six months in office, COVID-19 hit everywhere and we were faced with different kinds of issues. What we tried to do was to turn this into opportunities. We gave inputs and fertilisers to farmers and assisted them with a lot of other things. So, we believe we have stabilized in that area too. What is next? We have to keep expanding our economy and the next thing for us is solid mineral development, because we are blessed with the deposits all over the place. They already discovered lithium in certain parts of Oyo State and while the world is looking for 40 per cent purity of lithium, what we have found and tested is around 75 per cent purity. Also, the tourism potential of Oyo State. For us, we are thinking about our nearness to Lagos and how we can exploit that to boost our own tourism earnings. We may say the world is in the throes of COVID-19 and travels around the world for tourism have been hampered but how about internal tourism? Let us even say Nigeria is not such a fantastic place for anyone from around the world to visit at this period, but internally, rather than people going to Dubai or Ghana, can we have people coming internally and our natural target will be Lagos. So, if people want to come from Lagos and other places as internal tourists, what are the things to put in place for them? We need to address infrastructure deficit and security. And with the rail line coming, people can come in. It is 145 rail kilometres between Moniya-Ibadan and the Yard at Lagos. They are moving at 70 kilometres per hour now. But when they are modulating, they will get to 90 kilometres per hour. That means you can leave Moniya and be at Yaba within one and a half hours. So, for us, to harvest all of those people, we have to deal with our infrastructure deficit, which is why we invested money on Moniya-Iseyin road. That is also the reason I wanted to take you to Ikere-Gorge Dam, because within the next year, that road will also be fixed and our vision is that the place becomes the equivalent of our own Sun City in South Africa. By our calculation, if you are leaving Moniya for Iseyin, it is about 40 minutes and from Iseyin to the Ikere Dam, it should be around 20 minutes. So, within one hour, you land at the train station here and you are out there to enjoy your life. So, we believe we have been a little bit successful with the expansion of our economy. The last leg of our major pillars is security. Yes, it has been quite challenging for us as a state, even country-wise but people easily forget the fact that Amotekun was not in existence before this administration came in. We looked at the control of the federal agencies. They may call me the Chief Security Officer of Oyo State but in reality, I am actually the Chief Logistics officer. I can only give them logistics. If I call the Commissioner of Police to carry out an assignment, she will have to call her Inspector General of Police in Abuja for further instructions. At this point, I don’t think anybody in Oyo State can imagine the state without Amotekun. The last bit on the expansion of our economy has to do with the engagement of our youths. A lot of them are out there on the streets and not able to engage in productive ventures or do much. Some of them are real talents as far as sports is concerned, and that was why we went to Lekan Salami Sport Complex, and worldwide, sports is a 6 Billion Dollar industry. But here in Oyo State, we have not been able to get a fair slice of the money. This is another area where the issue of being deliberate in what you want to do comes in. Before now, Lagos used to be number one at any National Sports Festival, but this last one, Lagos beat Oyo State on the last day by one gold medal. They came 5th and we came 6th.
You just commissioned the 65-kilometre Moniya-Iseyin Road with pomp and fanfare but knowing how vast Oyo is, isn’t the road just like scratching the surface?
What you saw during the trip between Moniya to Iseyin is almost very similar to most of the things we are doing in every zone of the state. If you move further up, there is Saki Township road, which we are almost done with. We will commission it shortly. We also flagged off, a few days ago, the Saki-Igboho-Ogboro road. It is about 45 kilometres. In Oyo, we have also commissioned Akesan Market, which got burnt about 10 months ago, and it is fully reconstructed now. We have inspected the Township road we are fixing and we have also gone to Fashola to launch the farm estate. Once you get to the Iseyin junction and make the next turn, that is the road that will take you to Oyo. We have got approval from the Federal Government to repair it but they said we won’t get any refund. But I believe it is the people of Oyo State that are passing through the road, and it is of economic benefit to us all. Once Fashola is fixed on the right, on the left side, you see an expanse of land that goes all the way to Ikere-Gorge Dam. Those are places where we can do irrigation and have production around. That axis is extremely important to us and I said that our infrastructure will target our economy. We would not just go and build something that we won’t see economic benefits coming out of it. So, that is where we are. In Ibadan, we have the Ajia-Airport Road with a spur to Amuloko ongoing; that is about 21 kilometres and it also sits well with our focus to build infrastructure that targets the economy. There is the Apete-Awotan Road, which we are constructing with concrete. We also have the Akobo-Ojurin Road, which we have re-awarded as well as many others’. On a general level, we have the second phase of the Light-Up Oyo State project going on, covering 70 roads and 223.42kms across the state. We are installing LED-technology streetlights and the focus is to enhance the security of the state and to also enable owners of businesses and services in the state to operate freely without fear of night-time or darkness. That project was initiated when we took over in 2019 and the first phase has been delivered.
So, what have been the challenges or the constraints so far?
Now, in terms of the challenges, this is two years but we should be celebrating six months, because we came in May 2019 and by January 2020, COVID-19 came up, which is still with us till now and throughout the world. That basically triggered an economic meltdown. But the smart countries are managing themselves. At the national level, we have not been able to manage things well and that has impacted negatively on the states. Also, a big challenge for us has been the kind of federalism that we are operating. I signed an anti-open grazing law in November 2019 and we could not implement it because you talk to the Police and they are not willing. They are watching the body language of their folks in Abuja; the IGP and the rest. So, that has been a very big challenge to us. Then, when Amotekun came, we were in total control of their operation and that was why when I operationalised them, I said I should be held accountable for their conduct. But when they tried to implement the anti-open grazing law, they were being arrested. I went to the then Commissioner of Police and asked why Amotekun operatives were being arrested even when the Police were supposed to collaborate with them to make the state safer for us. And he said if people write petitions against them that they killed someone or carried illegal firearms, the Police were the only organisation authorised in Nigeria to investigate those cases. So, if you look through, they are telling us it is almost like the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. They didn’t want Amotekun to succeed in the first instance. So, we had to pull back and re-engage to let them know that we are actually pushing towards the same objective, which is to make this place safe. You have inter and inter-agency rivalry.