ON June 29, 2019, the Oyo State governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, like many of his colleagues across the country, who are serving their first term in office, ticked off the second month in the 48 months cycle of the four-year tenure. That day, a Monday, which is the beginning of workdays across the globe, for Engr. Makinde, had also been symbolic as it was the day the governor inaugurated a 10-man committee to review government projects and contracts from 2017 to 2019.
Governor Makinde had, in his two months in office, made it clear that governance under his watch would be about the people’s interest and well-being, a position which he reflected during the inauguration of the committee, telling it to place emphasis on “the significance of the projects for the overall interest of the people.” The inauguration of that committee had, therefore, essentialised the belief of the Makinde government that service to the people should be placed above politics, with the committee’s mandate coming with clear instructions about how past projects had succeeded in serving people’s interests and how ongoing ones could be made to achieve that target. Service-delivery and people-centric actions have been common threads running through the government of Engr. Makinde in the last 62 days in office, with many directives and steps cutting across the education, health, agriculture and security sectors all pointing in that direction.
For those conversant with the politics of Oyo State, the emergence of Engr. Makinde as the governor of Oyo State on March 9, 2019, could not have been possible without the huge support and love demonstrated by the Oyo State electorate. Governor Makinde, who defeated an incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) in an historic election, realised the huge responsibility placed on his shoulders by the people’s love. With that realisation that he could not have achieved success without the people’s power, therefore, Governor Makinde had clearly set himself on the path of serving the people and their interests at all time.
Two months down the line, Governor Makinde has proved bookmakers wrong on his readiness and his genuine intentions at lifting the state out of the doldrums and rescuing it from the edge of the precipice where the high-handedness, insensitivity and executive arrogance of the last administration had pushed it.
For a man largely disregarded by opponents for his ‘lack of experience,’ the activities of the governor in the last 60-something days have put a lie to the fears about his lack of political experience. He has demonstrated that through years of thorough preparation for service and private sector experience, which has seen him superintend multi-billion Naira companies, he has gained a different kind of experience that not only helps him to stabilise the state but also makes it possible to succeed where the previous government failed.
Governor Makinde, for instance, surprised the entire state when on May 30, barely hours after he took over the reins of government, workers in the state were paid their May salaries. While many people were quick to dispel that achievement as a fluke, with people, mostly in the opposition, noting that Governor Abiola Ajimobi must have signed off for the payment of the May salaries, Governor Makinde bettered the May achievement by paying the June and July salaries on the 25th of each of the two months. With this, most people in the state, including naysayers in the opposition have begun to wonder what magic the governor has been performing. The revelation by Ogun State governor, Mr Dapo Abiodun, that the state borrowed money to pay salary in May has also made Governor Makinde’s actions on salary payment commendable.
In the same spirit, the governor recently paid N280million to Level 1 to 17 retirees to offset their 2012 pension, a development that pensioners and retirees in the state commended, describing the governor as a man of his words and a humane leader. Governor Makinde had ticked off the box of mercy and humaneness in leadership when, on the day of his inauguration, he donated his entire salary for four years towards paying pension arrears in the state.
Another step taken on workers’ welfare, which residents of Oyo State have continued to commend, is the governor’s directive that the case of about 2,000 workers sacked by the previous administration be considered. Already, the governor has set up a committee to review the case and restore those found to have been unjustly retrenched.
One good thing that has worked for Governor Makinde in the last two months has been his commitment to fulfilling his campaign promises. In a manner atypical of Nigerian politicians, Makinde’s decisions in the last two months have shown him as a man whose words could be his bond, as he has not only been fulfilling his electioneering promises, he has had to do so even when some of his supporters opposed such line of action. Interestingly, the governor never misses an opportunity to tell the electorate to hold him to words.
Governor Makinde first proved his commitment to keeping promises at the venue of his inauguration as governor on May 29, when he declared the cancellation of the N3,000 Education Development Levy. Many people had expressed opposition to that step, suggesting that the governor should not have proclaimed free education without first studying the situation. But Governor Makinde, in an interview, said he could not go back on his words, assuring the people of the state that the scrapping of the N3,000 levy had been well-thought-out. The governor had immediately followed that proclamation with the cancellation of all fees including examination fees being paid in public schools across the state. Interestingly, it didn’t take up to two months before the fruits of the action started showing as the registration for the placement examination and JSS III examinations increased drastically, proving that the government policy was a step in the right direction for the state.
The governor’s commitment to keeping his promise had also been demonstrated in the area of asset declaration. Governor Makinde had, in a decision that etched his name on the hearts of Nigerians and especially advocates of open government and transparency in government, publicly declared his assets. Having satisfied the demands of the Constitution by declaring his assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau, Governor Makinde went a rare step further by making the content of the declaration available for public consumption. That action not only set a great example for others in the body-politic, it bested the half-hearted measures employed by past and current public office holders in asset declaration.
Another area where Governor Makinde has silenced naysayers and impressed watchers of events in Oyo State and beyond is that of security. Most people who had followed the politics of the state were often quick to praise the past APC government for restoring and maintaining peace and order in Oyo State after years of insecurity, thuggery and brigandage occasioned by power struggle among PDP strongholds in Ibadan. For people in this category, the return of PDP to power in Oyo State might signal a return to the days of violence. Indeed, the opposition played on this narrative and held on to it even after losing power in the state, resorting to a fallacy known as poisoning the water in Philosophy. Two months after taking office, however, not only has Governor Makinde been on top of the security situation, he has exceeded the expectations of residents of the state.
The governor had set forth at dawn on security issues, as he, barely a day after taking office, declared the suspension of the activities of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the state following an outbreak of violence. For someone already portrayed by the opposition as being friends with the union, Governor Makinde’s action surprised not a few people, as the big stick wielded against the NURTW showed him as a decisive leader who is prepared to do all it takes to secure the state. The governor has declared that he would not spare anyone who threatens the peace of the state and with that declaration, all the parties to the NURTW struggle and indeed, others who might be interested in fomenting trouble, now know that there is a new sheriff in town.
Apart from the NURTW issue, other areas of insecurity in the state have not escaped Governor Makinde’s sight, as he has made intervention visits and commitments to security agencies. At a recent visit to the office of the Oyo State Security Trust Fund, the governor promised to review and unveil new security architecture in the state within the first 100 days in office.
In the area of infrastructure, the governor has made it clear that his government would only embark on projects that have direct bearing on the lives of the people and also ensure that the infrastructure are designed target the economy of the state, which he intends to expand. Governor Makinde’s recent visit to the Ibadan Central Abattoir and abandoned silo construction project in Aawe lent credence to this position, while the committee inaugurated to review past projects is also seen as effort by the government to build infrastructure in the state.
In the area of healthcare, the governor has not hidden his resolve to ensure that hospitals work effectively for the health of the people. In fact, it has nearly become Governor Makinde’s slogan to say: a healthy population will bring about increased productivity. In order to bring about a total turnaround in the health sector, the governor has paid visits to the State Hospital, Adeoyo, insisting that his government would give full attention to the facility and other hospitals across the state. As a testimonial to this resolve, the governor told the world that his government would turn the hospital to a medical tourist destination, beginning with the furnishing and commissioning of the Radiology Unit of the hospital in Ring Road.
Clearly, the sustenance of the pro-people policies already embarked upon by the Makinde government will depend largely on the situation of the economy. Naysayers who deride the governor for keeping his promises on the scrapping of the education levy and the prompt payment of salaries have continued to ask how he would match Ajimobi’s achievements in infrastructure development. But the reality of the situation is not lost on the governor, who has made it clear from the outset that one of his greatest missions in the state is to expand its economy. In order to achieve this, the governor had clearly set his sight on agriculture and improving the ease of doing business. And to achieve the set target, he has gone about the last 60 days assessing the situation and taking practical steps in ensuring that solid foundation is laid for the economic expansion vision. For instance, the governor, within a few days, issued a Certificate of Occupancy to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to build another retail outlet. That feat, according to the NNPC team, had been impossible for months under the last administration. Similarly, Governor Makinde had embarked on comprehensive visits to the Ajila Value Adding Farms, where he made clear commitment to partnering with investors and encouraging them to grow the economy of the state through agriculture. The visits were in fulfillment of his vision to drive the economy of the state through agriculture and agricultural value chain.
Governor Makinde had also demonstrated his resolve on increasing the state’s IGR by leading a delegation to the abandoned state-owned quarry and asphalt plant, Pace-Setter Quarry. The project, which was put in place by the administration of ex-Governor Rashidi Ladoja, had not gotten any attention from his successors and has been left in ruins. But Makinde, in his typical nature, insisted that he would not allow the public funds expended on the project rot away. He recognised the benefits the facility, if functional, could generate for the state government while also addressing the challenges of job creation for the people in the state.
With the way the governor has gone about the challenges of generating and increasing the Internally Generated Revenue of the state, as well as how he has administered the state in the last two months, many people have begun to note that the challenges might not be insurmountable after all. They have also begun to express a strong belief in the Makinde leadership’s commitment to restoring the glory of the state and making it a true pace-setter in all regards.
. Ajao, an agriculture expert, writes from Oyo