From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Saki, a border community between Nigeria and Benin Republic, is in Oyo State. It is about 60 kilometres from the Benin border and it is 173 kilometres from Ibadan, the state capital.
According to the 2006 national population census, Saki West Local Government Area has 388,225 people. The community is reputed for exportation of cotton, swamp rice, teak and tobacco. It is a traditional centre of cotton weaving. Farmers also grow indigo in Saki for dyeing clothes, apart from yam, cassava, maize, sorghum, beans, shea nuts and okra. The importance of cattle raising is also gathering momentum in the town.
Throughout Yorubaland, people also identify Saki with aluminum pot moulding, that usually comes in small, medium and big sizes, especially for domestic and commercial uses. The town also played host to the Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, which was hitherto a campus of The Polytechnic, Ibadan.
Prior to the emergence of Governor Seyi Makinde on May 29, 2019, residents and visitors to the town had been having a gruelling experience on account of the lack of good roads. Residents of the community were not also happy that for about two decades the headquarters of the Oyo State Agricultural Development Programme (OYSADEP) was moved from Saki to Ibadan, the state capital. It was was said to have hampered food production capacity of Oke-Ogun zone of the state as a whole.
The dualisation of Saki township road was flagged off on December 13, 2016, by the immediate past governor of the state, the late Senator Abiola Ajimobi. The 9.7 kilometres road, which passes through Oke Ogun Polytechnic-Ilesha Ibaruba Road, was awarded at a contract sum of N8,239,875,839.47.
The project was expected to be completed within 18 months, which was June 2018. Work started on the project and, by February 2019, it was said that the project had reached 42 per cent. On February 7, 2019, during a meeting with traditional rulers in Saki ahead of the general election, Ajimobi assured people that his administration would complete the road before May 29, 2019, when he would hand over to another governor.
When Governor Makinde came on board on May 29, 2019, the road was not yet done. Residents complained bitterly that the dust from the construction site was too much and it was inimical to their health and wellbeing. During dry season, dust would take over and, during rainy season, ditches and potholes as well as pools of water would take over many portions of the project site.
Makinde scheduled a meeting with the contractor to expedite action on the project. But the level of work done by the contractor up till September 2020 was not satisfactory to the incumbent administration. On September 9, 2020, Makinde revoked the contract and re-awarded the project to another contractor on
September 23, 2020, at the sum of N4.8 billion. It was expected to be completed within 12 months.
The first contractor was said to have received a total sum of about N3billion from the contract sum, while at the point of revocation, the contractor had only executed work to the value of about N1 billion. However, the whole of the 9.7kilometre road has been completed with necessary road markings and streetlight.
But the Okere of Saki, Oba Khalid Olabisi, has requested that the Saki township road should be extended by another 1.2kilometre to ensure that all the problematic portions of the road were fixed. Makinde has granted the request and work is presently ongoing on the extension.
Chairman, Park Management System (PMS) in Saki West Local Government Area, Mr. Dauda Ahmed, said: “Before the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde came on board, the journey from Saki to Ibadan used to take about six hours. Now, after the governor has fixed Ibadan-Iseyin Road and Saki Township Road, we now spend less than three hours from Saki to Ibadan.
“The larger portions of the bad road were between Iseyin and Ibadan. But the governor has fixed the the roads. Then, we were robbed many times on the road because of the deplorable portions of the roads. Again, we never enjoyed our buses because they usually broke down. If you fix a new brake pad then, it would not last more than three days.”
Opinion polls revealed that the journey from Saki to Ibadan, which used to take a whole day, has been reduced to about three hours based on critical interventions by the Oyo State Government, under the leadership of Governor Makinde.
The residents of Saki said the complete reconstruction of over 70-kilometre Ibadan-Iseyin Road by Makinde has eliminated the man-hours that travellers used to waste on the road.
The Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA), which replaced the former Oyo State Agricultural Development Programme (OYSADEP), is currently revolutionising
agriculture in the state, through the effort of Dr. Debo Akande, the Director-General of the agency, who is an appointee of the governor.
The governor also approved siting of the headquarters of OYSADA in Saki, which has been done already. Apart from upgrading the facilities, at the OYSADA headquarters, a governor’s lodge is also cited in a section of the OYSADA facility. In December 2020, the governor spent some days in the lodge at Saki, which temporarily relocated the seat of power from Ibadan to Saki.
The governor’s lodge in the facility has however made the Special Assistant to the governor on Saki West/Saki East/Atisbo Federal constituency, Dr. Lukman Adisa, to describe Saki as the second capital of the state. He added that when the governor lodges in the place, he would carry out his official duties till he goes back to Ibadan.
The Deputy Director in charge of Administration and Supply at OYSADA headquarters, Olajide Olaniyi, said: “Governor Makinde has done wonderfully well to us. Before he came on board, this place was moribund. But Makinde has given us a lifeline.”
He revealed that OYSADA started youth development initative in agribusiness on May 31, 2021 and about 1,000 young persons were inaugurated on that day. He added that on request, the number was increased to 3,000 youths, and there are plans to increase the number to 10,000. The youths, he said, were taken to a private farm in Nasarawa to learn and be exposed to every area of agriculture.
Olaniyi stated further that Makinde has given facelift to a number of facilities at the OYSADA headquarters, including main administrative block, human resource department, farmers’ hall, library, laboratory for soil testing, workshop, new gate house, staff quarters, guest house, hospitality building, indoor game centre, replacement of barb wire fence with block perimeter fence and governor’s lodge, which was said to have been the place where Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (retd), stayed when he was military president of Nigeria and that has not been renovated since then.
Chairman, Saki West Local Government Area of the state, Sarafadeen Omirinde, who doubles as Vice Chairman, Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state, noted: “For a very long time, we have never come across a governor like this. The people of Saki West Local Government Area give kudos to Governor Makinde and we will always stand by him. And that is the reason why we are clamouring for second term for him. Yes, we want continuity for him as a matter of fact.
‘’To speak on the ongoing projects here in Saki, the past government spent eight years and what did our people benefit from those years? Instead, they were rather exposed to a lot of dangers on our roads. Infrastructure-wise, nothing was done. But we thank God that Governor Makinde is opening a dual-carriageway in this town. Though a lot of structures have been pulled down because of this project, the people of Saki Parapo still appreciate it because there is no gain when you feel no pain. We need it.”
‘’Saki West Local Government Area is no longer a village but a city. When Makinde came here for his electioneering campaign, we tried as much as possible to convince our people that he would perform better, but some found it difficult to believe. Some even said that he would not complete some of the projects that were started by the late former Governor Ajimobi. They were not expecting continuity. But we were calmed when the governor himself promised that the dual-carriageway would be completed within the period of two years of his administration and we thank God that it is being achieved.
‘’When he also promised that he would resuscitate OYSADEP, now OYSADA, many said it was impossible. But we have it today. If you had seen it before, it was in a terrible state. He also promised that the sporting activities would be developed and the abandoned stadium will be fixed and upgraded to a modern one. The people felt he was just promising heaven and earth but he is doing it. He has removed us from the bondage we used to be. So, he has done a lot in the four cardinal areas, which his administration is resting upon.
“After governor Makinde’s emergence, the first thing he did for us that we will never ever forget is the installation of the Kabiyesi, the Okere of Sakiland. Nobody believed it could happen. So, we are feeling the impact of Governor Makinde. He has changed the face of Saki West to the extent that our people in the diaspora are clamouring for his second term.
‘’With what the governor is doing for us in the aspect of sports, we believe that, very soon, our own youths will be able to compete with the Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) because he is constructing a standard pitch for us. If you go along the Saki-Ogboro-Igboho Road, the project going on there is very fantastic.
“In Saki West today, five maternity centres in different wards are undergoing rehabilitation out of 11 wards we have here. The abandoned hospital here was fixed four months into his administration. It was around the time when the pandemic was fresh and it was used as one of the isolation centres. We can also talk about the YEAP initiative, which our youths just partook in. Some of the beneficiaries are here today and most of them have much interest in farming now. We are praising him and promising that we will give him all the support he needs.
‘’All the things governor Makinde is doing are really improving the economy of the Saki West. For example, my neighbour is an iron-pot maker and for the past eight years of Ajimobi, he never deemed it fit to go to Ibadan to get the raw materials to produce the product because of the condition of Iseyin-Moniya Road. But immediately the road was fixed by Governor Makinde, all the people in the business are now back and their business is growing. Also, transportation business has become viable because of the condition of the road.”
Chief Festus Adedayo Adejumobi, who is the National President, Saki Parapo, said: “I want to appreciate the present government under the leadership of Makinde because we have never had it so good. Apart from the time of Late Bola Ige (1979-1983) and Lam Adesina (1999-2003), other previous governments neglected this area in terms of infrastructure, education, health and other social amenities.
“Before Governor Makinde came into power, there were so many abandoned projects. Look at the Township Stadium, which has been like that since the time of Lam Adesina. Look at the former OYSADEP, which is now OYSADA. Our school situation was also worst.
“But immediately Governor Makinde came to power, he has been fulfilling his promises in the aspect of education and other areas. On health, our former state hospital has been upgraded to a specialist hospital and well-staffed.”