By Henry Obisesan
When states were given appellations, it was believed that such appellations were upshot of the vision of the founding fathers or a historical precedence that led to the emergence of such state. In some cases, it was the presence of natural resources or agricultural prowess of the people of the state that earned them an appellation. Whatever the factor is, such appellation is a symbol of identity that brings pride to the people of the state.
Oyo State was created out of the Old Western Region. I may be too young to know the story that earned the State the “Pace Setter” as an appellation. I may be too young to know who, among the prominent political giants of the then Western Region, gave the State the name. Whoever it was or whatever the story behind it, that appellation has become a symbol of identity that makes every person from Oyo State to be proud of the State. You may not know the pride you derive from that appellation until you go outside the State and meet people who are from other cultures and tribes.
We derive so much joy when we use the adage that says a ji se bi Oyo laari, Oyo kii sebi baba eni koo kan which literally translates to mean “you can only be like the Oyo people, Oyo people cannot be like you”. Perhaps this adage is what earned the State the name “Pace Setter”. The adage says it all; it encapsulates the leadership, economic, abundant natural resources and agricultural prowess of the State.
Name any part of human development and you will find Oyo people there. It is, therefore, rather ironical that the state is among those states that are being ravaged by the current economic crisis facing the country. The inability of the State Government to pay workers’ salary is an affront to the appellation of the State and an embarrassment to its people.
The government of Sen. Abiola Ajimobi was embraced by majority of the people during his first term in office. His administration came on board at a time the State was ravaged by insecurity; NURTW clashes, killings, robberies, arsons and attacks on innocent people and visitors in the State. During this period, the State was peaceful as those who terrorised the State were arrested and prosecuted. Ibadan, the State capital which had been categorised as a dirty city, became a new bride to its residents and visitors.
The prompt response of the government to the plight of the people that were victims of the 2012 flood that ravaged the State was applauded. The government embarked on massive dredging of rivers across the state. New bridges were constructed and old ones that were washed away by the flood were reconstructed. Agodi Gate, Molete, Iwo Road, Ojo, Dugbe among other places in the State were given a new look. The governor, in his campaign during his first term, promised to construct a flyover bridge at the Roundabout – Adamasingba road to ease traffic congestion. Before the end of his first term the bridge was constructed. The social life in the State capital was restored; Agodi Gardens was given a face-lift. During Owanbe and holidays, there was no dull moment in Ibadan city! One could say his achievements in the first term, brought him back to the Government House, though his government was largely seen as the government of the elite.
However, his second term in office is permeated with crises. The government has joined the group of States that cannot pay workers’ salaries. Government workers and pensioners are dying of hunger under his watch. The economy of the State is in shambles. In the midst of this, the government came up with public – private partnership of certain public schools in the State. A last straw that broke the camel’s back as this decision plunged the State into more crises; schools were shut and workers went on strike. School pupils took to the streets in protest, an action that has never happened in the State.
In democracy, when a government takes for granted the importance of communication, sensitization, orientation, enlightenment and dialogue, the aftermath is not always pleasant. People always resist through labour unions and pressure groups. They want government to communicate with them, and through this communication, the government can get feedbacks on its programmes and activities. It is time for the Oyo State Government to fully adopt this democratic method before we completely loose our “Pace Setter”.
At this trying economic moment in our country, Oyo State ought to be a reference State for others to emulate if we are to live up to our appellation of the “Pace Setter”. As the elders say, those who are brave are best identified during a war. The government needs to look inward and block all loopholes. The recent decision of the government to ensure that workers with requisite skills are rightfully placed where performance and productivity can be optimised is a right step in the right direction toward ensuring efficiency in the civil service in the State.
There is an urgent need to increase the internally generated revenue of the State. Government needs to woo more investors into the State as this will create job opportunities for the teeming youths, thereby boosting the economy of the State.
It is time for the State to begin to see the results of the governor’s shuttle diplomacy with the President. It is time for diversification and there is an urgent need to go back to agriculture if the State really wants to get out of its current mess. It is time to remove the agbada, roll up the sleeves and work to leave an indelible print on the sands of time as the first second term governor in the State as history will not forget if Mr. Governor does otherwise. We are the pace setter!
Obisesan writes from Abuja