By Usman Ayanwale
Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State was confronted by a huge task of improving the welfare of the people, and securing their lives among other tasks. How well did he cater to their social needs?
The people of Oyo State were in dire need of social welfare and security of lives and property when Abiola Ajimobi emerged as governor in 2011. When he eventually assumed office therefore, he was confronted by a litany of life issues that needed urgent attention. Lives were at risk as insecurity was the order of the day in the state. The rate of unemployment was very high, and there were little or no empowerment schemes to alleviate poverty among the people.
Enormity of work
With the enormity of work that needed to be done, the Ajimobi administration took far-reaching measures to give the people a new lease of life. For instance, to deal with the chaos, anarchy and brigandage of the previous years, his government established the Joint Security Task Force, codenamed Operation Burst, which had six zonal commands across the state – Oyo, Iseyin, Kishi, Ogbomosho, Saki and Eruwa. That led to restoration and sustenance of peace, security and safety of lives and property in the state as crime and banditry drastically reduced in the state.
As Ajimobi leaves office on May 29, after the successful completion of his second term, statistics show that reported robbery incidents have declined by 97% over the last eight years from 61 cases in 2014 to just about five in 2018. Similarly, reported incidents of murder decreased from 94 in 2014 to zero in 2018. As a result of the improved security situation in the state, there has been an unprecedented growth in the hospitality and tourism industry with a renaissance of the state’s night economy by an estimated 321%.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Oyo became the 5th most peaceful state in the country in 2018. That gave a boost to Foreign Direct Investment in the state. All these were made possible through well-funded and well-equipped security outfits like Operation Burst, Oyo State Security Trust Fund, Oyo State Inter-religious/Ethnic Committee as well as technology-driven Safe City Project of the Ajimobi administration. The Oyo State Security Trust Fund, for instance, was an initiative for the promotion of Public-Private Partnership on funding security in the state.
Part of the strategy adopted by the government was the creation of Oyo State Safe City Initiative – (CCTV) surveillance cameras that were deployed to crime-prone zones such as Iwo Road Roundabout, Molete, Agodi-Gate, Bere, Dugbe, Ring Road, Born-Photo and Idi-Arere areas of Ibadan, the state capital in the first phase. It was through this that the state achieved a technology-assisted high-level monitoring, crime prevention and swift response of security agencies in the state. On the other hand, the establishment of State Inter-Religious/Inter-Ethnic Committee (SIREC) brought about the entrenchment of religious, inter-ethnic and communal harmony across the state.
The Ajimobi administration also gave adequate attention to the social welfare of the people by introducing poverty alleviation programmes. It created an empowerment programme for women and the less privileged such as children and Persons with Disabilities across the 33 Local Government Areas of the state. In all, there are about 141,280 beneficiaries of various empowerment programmes representing a 1,046% increase compared to the previous administration. The beneficiaries include widows, aged and indigent women. Under his government, the state had the first ever Annual Women’s Summit (OYSOWA), under which 27,500 women were empowered. Over the last eight years, these women have had life-transforming experiences like never before. The enactment of the Law – Violence Against Women in 2017 further enhanced the welfare of women in the state by reducing violence and abuse of female members of the society by about 70%.
In community development and job creation, there are no fewer than 1,800 beneficiaries through engagement in tricycle scheme, representing a 600% increase in employment generation in the transportation sector. Also, about 198 unemployed young persons were trained and empowered with relevant equipment and start-up grants in various skills including photography and video production, barbing, hand-made jewelries, computer centre operations and bakery/confectionery business.
The government also encouraged the creation of 355 self-help projects across the 33 local governments to encourage grassroots participation and community development projects. Similarly, 19 rural communities were provided with palm oil and garri processing machines in the sum of N15.5 million.
Government’s policy to accommodate every citizen
Through the office of the First Lady of the state, the government carried out renovation of the Child Care Unit, Ijokodo with modern child-friendly facilities with support from Access Bank and Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank). And as part of the government’s policy to accommodate every citizen of the state in its social welfare programmes, the state embarked on the rehabilitation of Centre for People with Disabilities. The centre was equipped with facilities for ICT Training and shoemaking with support from British American Tobacco (BAT). About 815 people with disabilities were trained in different vocations and empowered with relevant equipment and start-up capital for self-reliance.
To further expand the net of social welfare in the state, over 10,514 children including orphans, vulnerable and trafficked children have been catered for and provided with educational and nutritional support. Out of this figure, 6,000 benefitted from the ‘Educate a Rural Child’ programme, which is also an initiative of the office of the First Lady of Oyo State. Going further to the grassroots, under the Family Welfare Services, 815 distress families were reconciled and 512 children in the custody of mothers were maintained by their fathers. Another 519 children/juveniles were psychologically reformed, counselled and reintegrated into their families by the Ajimobi administration.
The state also handled 714 cases of juveniles in conflict with the law; 36 indigent parents of multiple births were empowered for self-reliance and medical treatment; 201 children were placed with substitute parents through local adoption while 12 benefitted from international adoption. Similarly, no fewer than 361 destitute were evacuated, treated and re-integrated with their families within and outside the state. Further to this, the government of Oyo State under Ajimobi presented six brand new Hiace buses to the six Market Associations in the state. It also presented N28 million as support to 14 families at N2 million each. These families were victims of Boko Haram terror attacks. In the same manner, the state also offered financial assistance to 908 people, and this amounted to about N55 million.
In another novel welfare programme, about 1,017,000 persons across the state benefitted from the provision of food items in the Ajumose Food Bank scheme. The first of its kind, the scheme was characterized by multiple visitations to all the 33 Local Government Areas in the state at a minimum rate of 500 households per visit.
In youths and sports development, the administration gave a new direction to grassroots sports in the state. It changed the thematic focus of the Ministry of Youths and Sports from ‘Grassroots Sports Development’ to ‘Catch Them Young’. To achieve that purpose, the government reorganised and inaugurated all sporting associations in the state to enable them key into the ‘Catch Them Young’ initiative, which eventually led to the increase in age group sporting activities. The revitalization also led to about a 90% increase in grassroots sporting activities in the state.
The new direction also reflected on the performance of the state’s contingents to various national and international competitions. As a result of the government’s new policy on sports development, there is a 35% increase in private sector involvement in sports development in the state. There is also, a 109% increase in athlete’s participation at the National Sports Festival. Their medals haul increase from 42 in 2016 to 205 in 2018. There is also, a 117% increase in athlete’s participation at international competitions. The impact is that the increase in medals won at international competitions rose to 58. Oyo State teams emerged winners of the Under12/14 Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cups both in the boys and girls categories.
Still, on youth development, the permanent site of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at Agbakuta, Iseyin, was inaugurated. Through the Bank of Industry (BOI), N200 million was released by the state government for youth empowerment. About 20,000 youths were empowered through YESSO, and another 5,000 trained through the Oyo Ajumose Business Leadership programme (OYO ABLE). Under the scheme, 300 artisans and tradesmen were supported through the Oyo Nise Oyo Leko initiative.
With the many accomplishments of the Ajimobi administration, particularly in the areas of security of lives and property, social welfare programmes, poverty alleviation, women empowerment, care for the physically challenged and the needy, as well as youths and sports development among others, the governor can very well beat his chest as an administrator who did not only make his people to have a taste of the dividends of democracy, but also as a politician who made his political party proud by delivering on electoral promises. Unlike many political office holders who complete their tenure without accomplishing their mandates, Governor Abiola Ajimobi has left a positive footprint on the sands of time.