Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, an engineer, has a robust background as the Chairman of Makon Group of Companies. Barely two weeks in office, Makinde, speaks about the place of accountability and probity in the running of the ‘Pacesetter State’ and the core areas his administration is focusing on.
Let’s start with the twin issues of probity and accountability. During the induction programme the state held for members of the 9th Assembly in Oyo State, you made some commitments to probity and accountability. When will the promises come to fruition?
The task before all of us now is to make Oyo State better and I look forward to us working together with the legislature to achieve this. I want us to de-emphasize party affiliations. I want this ninth Assembly to the best ever in the history of Oyo State. I know we can do it. The Assembly is blessed with a blend of experience, youthful energy and commitment. So, we won’t have any excuse not to deliver.
On the side of the Executive, I give you the assurance that we will work together. The relationship will be cordial. I know that one thing members want to hear from me, which is also a major issue in the national space, is the issue of financial autonomy for the legislative arm of government at the state level. You want financial autonomy. Well, we will work on it together and if it is possible for Oyo State, being the Pace-Setter, to set the pace in this regard, we will do it.
I told the lawmakers that as soon as they settle down, I will almost immediately bring Executive Bills. We have four major areas that our government will focus on. We want to expand our economy and lift as many of our people as possible out of poverty. We want to use agriculture to expand the economy. It is not by just saying it; we have to see real action and most of our infrastructure will be made to target our economy. We need to work together on this.
You have also spoken about the plan to establish an anti-corruption body. What really are you driving at?
I have told the State Assembly that the first Executive Bill we are bringing to it is for us to set up an Anti-Corruption Agency for Oyo State. And I will waive my immunity, if I am found not to be above board, to face that agency.
So, why did you make the decision to ban the NURTW, the road transport workers union? This was one of your first functions as Governor. They are a registered body under the law.
As I have said, we are going to take the security of lives and property seriously. The proscription of the NURTW came few days after I was sworn-in. I told the members that we were not interested in stopping them from running their union because it is registered under the law. But we cannot allow few people to hold the state to ransom in the name of running a union. I am talking to security agencies in the state; we know the flashpoints and we know exactly what needs to be done. Oyo State has the largest landmass among the South-West states, four times larger than the size of Lagos State, though Lagos has the population. So, I said that security-wise, we would do what we deem best for Oyo and we intend to make the state one of the safest in the country. We are still studying the situation with keen interest.
The four-point agenda you launched, how will that work?
We are going to focus on four issues. Number one is the economy. We have to take the state away from waiting for federal allocation. That is a task that has to be done. How do we do it? We are going to have to expand the economy and we are going to leverage on the willingness of the private sector to invest in Oyo. I just left an investment forum and the responses have been really great, because we have made commitments to run an open and transparent administration. It means that if people can bring their money into Oyo, they can be sure of return on investments and they can be sure that they have an administration that is pro-business because of my own business background. Number two, we are going to focus on education. We promised to lighten the burden of parents by scrapping the school fees that they currently pay. We are sure that by the next school year, that will kick-off.
Number three is health care. We want to re-energise the system, if I may use that word. We are looking at the Health Management Board, looking at the inefficiencies in there and the inability to attract talents, because doctors, nurses and other health workers, going by the current system, will have to be on the civil service salary scale. Some of them are unwilling to come in and so we will be creative in tackling that. As I said in my inaugural speech, we are not building any new health centre. We all know that when the immediate past administration came on board, they promised to build primary health care centres in all the wards in Oyo State; 361 of such. But it didn’t happen. They built some primary health care centres but most of them were just mere buildings and we have to make them functional. I don’t care if the glory goes to the immediate past administration. I know that government is like the saying, ‘soldier goes, soldier comes but the barracks remain.’ So, what is important to us is to make life meaningful for our people. If they already built the health centres, then we will equip them. These are the things we want to do in the health care sector and we will also need to tinker with the Oyo State Health Management Board. We have to explore the possibility to see if we can have a different result. We want to explore the possibility of some of our secondary and tertiary health care centres having their own boards; giving them some kind of autonomy such that they can function without so much bureaucracy. Number four is the issue of security. We know that if we are talking about Foreign Direct Investment and investors coming to Oyo, even the residents going about their lawful businesses, it has to be in a secure atmosphere. So, we will focus on security. These are the major pillars, but it does not mean that we will not pay attention to sports or we won’t pay attention to tourism and things like that. But these four areas are those that will take the chunk of our attention.
Your pronouncements on education have also been received with mixed blessing, especially the cancelation of the N3,000 levy…
Of course, we have identified education as one of the key areas of focus. During my speech at the inauguration ceremony on May 29 at the Liberty Stadium, I said that the N3, 000 education levy has been scrapped and a lot of people have been condemning the action, saying I should have waited to occupy the governor’s seat and see the magnitude of the challenges before making that move. We did our calculations and we found out that with the enrolment of students, we only require N1.2 billion yearly to take care of whatever the N3, 000 levy was being charged for. In any case, I have given the commitment that the state’s annual budget will be jerked up to 10 percent for the education sector. That would help greatly in addressing some of these things. We have quite a number of programmes that we think will help the state in lifting the standard of education. One of them is that we need the commitment of both the parents and teachers. We will engage them. The teachers have to be motivated. They are currently working under very unusual conditions. We have been to some schools; basic things like chalk sticks, dusters, chairs and tables are not even available. I don’t believe in having six or seven mega schools; the immediate past government talked about six or seven though it only built two model schools located on major roads, but the schools must not be mega in structure. They must be functional. You should put things in those little schools and that is what we have done in the past as private individuals and it produced results. I am a living example of how a functional public school system can turn out productive and successful individuals. I went to Bishop Philips Academy (in Ibadan) and some of my classmates are also doing very well to the glory of God. I believe that if teachers are motivated and rewarded; if you reward hard work, they will want to do more.
In a recent interview you were quoted as saying you had planned to work pro-bono for the state government even before your swearing-in. Was it that you were eager to take over?
Yes, after my victory at the last elections, I became jobless because I had already resigned from my paid job. I was ready to do some jobs pro bono (for Oyo State) but the last administration insisted that they would be in power until the last minute of the last day, which was 11:59 of May 28. In that period, I actually visited a couple of countries, Botswana being one of them. They are big players in mining; they are the second largest producer of diamonds in the world.
That ties to what you have in your policy document regarding mineral deposits in Oyo State. Now what plans do you have pursuant to lifting the sector in order to actualise improved IGR?
The point I was making goes together with the question of IGR. I think Botswana also has the largest deposit of coal in the world, so the country is very good as far as mining is concerned. A delegation from the business community in Botswana actually came for my inauguration. So, we are talking to the countries out there predominantly doing mining. If you recall, in 2015, during our debate at the University of Ibadan, the issue of mining came up and I suggested that area as an area that the state can explore to boost employment and also to expand our economy.
You have mentioned the readiness of your government to promote investment. How will that happen?
We will leverage a lot on Public-Private Partnership (PPP). I will give you an example. Let us talk about the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH); government has not been able to put one block on the other in the university in eight years. For us, we have planned to run with the PPP model of BOO. That is Build, Own and Operate. What we are saying is that we can begin to derive value from those investments from day one. You bring in an investor, allocate a land to him in a school; he builds the structure, owns and operates it. You will look at the sharing formula between the investor and government and what that does for us is that government is realising certain revenues from day one. And in keeping with our campaign promise to make Oyo the preferred investment destination in Nigeria, one of the bills that will get to the State Assembly soon is the Oyo State Investment Promotion Agency (OYSIPA) Bill 2019. The bill, when it becomes law, will birth an agency that will initiate, promote, facilitate and co-ordinate investments in the state through Greenfield, Public Private Partnerships, Privatization, Commercialization of state-owned assets, and transform the economy of the state through strategic Asset Management.
Your victory at the March 9 election seems to have been against the run of play and you are the only PDP state in the South-West. How did you make it?
I think basically we have to appreciate the people of Oyo because they were resolute in pushing forward their preference. Four years ago, it was a little bit different because I ran on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). We moved into the SDP in December 2014 and the general elections were to take place in February 2015, so we didn’t have enough time to reach out to the people at the grassroots level. We managed to let the people know the kind of programmes we intended to pursue if they give us the opportunity to serve the state. That message was out there; that if given the opportunity, we would do things differently and the message resonated with the people; they kept it in their hearts. Some of the people told me in 2015 to wait till 2019 and I was angry at that time. But we waited and here we are.
Another major factor that made the 2019 experience different was the fact that, at the last minute, we had a coalition of political parties, with people like Baba [Rashidi] Ladoja, Senator [Olufemi] Lanlehin, Barrister Sarafadeen Alli, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde and a host of other leaders leading different parties, which all came in to team up with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and that pushed the game beyond the reach of the All Progressives Congress (APC).