By Moses Alao
“So, come with me, work with me; let us take Oyo State to greater glory. Together, we can do this!” These were the words of the Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, on Thursday, August 15, as he inaugurated the 14 newly-appointed commissioners who will work with him in steering the ship of the state.
They were words on marble and they will remain memorable for the Commissioners. They will also be words of challenge for the administrators who are assuming offices in a state that has, in the last 81 days, enjoyed a breath of fresh air or put differently, a shower of Omi Tuntun [fresh water], in line with the governor’s campaign slogan.
Indeed, the last two months and a few days of Governor Makinde in office cannot but remain memorable for the people of the state, who activated the new dawn following the massive votes that brought Governor Makinde to office in the March 9, 2019 election.
Following his inauguration as governor of the state on May 29, 2019, it didn’t take hours for the residents of Oyo State to feel the reality of Omi tuntun, as the governor started fulfilling his electoral promises right from the swearing-in podium. He announced the immediate scrapping of the N3,000 Education Development Levy, which had become a source of agony and anger among the people, thereby fulfilling a promise he made in the heat of elections.
He promised that the state would replace the controversial levy with effective and timely funding of education and by blocking loopholes of corruption. He had also announced the increment of budget allocation to the sector to 10 per cent from a paltry two percent, promising to raise the budget annually until it reaches the 26 per cent which the UNICEF described as preferable for the education sector.
The governor has since followed that action up with the cancellation of examination fees across the public schools in the state, which resulted in massive enrolment for terminal examinations conducted in July.
Similarly, the governor, in a symbolic act that has continued to water the throats of pensioners in the state, announced that he was donating his salaries for the next four years to the Oyo State branch of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners. That action, which was a tip of an iceberg, has been followed by the release of N280 to offset pension arrears of about 100, who retired in 2012 in the state.
With each passing week of the last two months, the Oyo State governor continued to be in the news for all the right reasons, restoring the joy of civil servants in the state through prompt payment of salaries on the 25th of every month, a date that has now become known as the GSM day; restoration and massive increment of bursary award to Oyo State students in the Law School from N100,000 to N500,000 by the governor; bringing back smiles to the faces of pensioners. He had also blazed the trail of public accountability and transparency by being the one and only governor out of those elected into office in the 2019 to publicly declare his assets. Indeed, Governor Makinde’s manner of asset declaration has been commended by articulate anti-corruption agencies such as SERAP and CACOL as well as well-meaning individuals in the country as setting a great example for other public officials at all levels.
In two months, Governor Makinde has emerged the leading topic on Twitter trends, beating entertainment and other trending topics in recognition of his people-oriented leadership and good governance ideals that are paradigmatic of a true democrat and progressive.
But after a few weeks, residents of the state had begun to anticipate the formation of Governor Makinde’s cabinet, waiting with baited breaths to know the individuals that will work with the governor to deliver on the mandate given to him. Going by the kind of characters and individuals that have been commissioners in the state in the past and how their actions and inactions have rubbed off on government and shaped governance, residents of the state who have been enraptured by some of the early steps of Governor Makinde in office, were hoping that the governor would appoint individuals that will build on his achievements and be active vision carriers.
Therefore, when the list of 14 nominees for commissioner posts surfaced, not a few people heaved a sigh of relief that the governor had, indeed, got it right again. The preponderance of individuals with an experience base that is a composite of politics and professionalism was hailed as a good step in the right direction for the state.
For instance, many of the new commissioners, apart from boasting of professional experiences in different fields, have had public service experiences as former legislators, local government chairmen and commissioner.
In fact, as the citations of the new commissioners were reeled out on Thursday ahead of their taking the oath of allegiance and oath of office at the Executive Chamber of the Governor’s Office, to the admiration of hundreds of political dignitaries, civil service chiefs and family members of commissioner-nominees in attendance, the colourful nature of the new cabinet was laid bare.
In the trio of Honourables Kehinde Ayoola; Funmi Orisadeyi and Adeniyi Farinto, Governor Makinde will have the experience and expertise of former legislators at the state level and be well-equipped to sidestep the landmines of executive-legislature face-off that often derail the focus on governance.
It is also to the governor’s credit that he has assigned befitting portfolios to these individuals, who have been tested in different capacities with different stories of success.
Rt. Hon. Ayoola, a former Speaker of the House of Assembly, was assigned to the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, while Hon. Orisadeyi was assigned to oversee the Ministries of Local and Chieftaincy Matters. For those conversant with the politics in Oyo State and, indeed, Nigeria, the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters appears to have become an exclusive preserve for men, but Governor Makinde broke that jinx by assigning it to Orisadeyi, thereby proving his commitment to give women a pride of place. Though a few people had criticised the low number of female nominees among the commissioners, with the assigning of the Ministry of Local Government to a woman for the first time in Oyo State, if not in Nigeria, it should be clear that Governor Makinde, like he has always asserted, has a premium place for women in his government.
The assigning of Hon. Farinto, an experienced lawyer, former local government chairman and former member of the House of Assembly, to the Ministry of Budget and Planning, might have come as a surprise to anyone trying to second-guess the governor. But budget and planning is one area, which the governor, during an interview to mark his 30 days in office, said will be pivotal to this government, in that there will be proper, truthful budgeting and planning for the myriad of development efforts to be undertaken by the government. Therefore, assigning Farinto, with his array of experience, to that ministry, gave the indication that, indeed, GSM means business and would always entrust sensitive assignments to serious individuals who mean business to achieve his vision for the state.
In Akinola Ojo, the new Commissioner for Finance, the governor went for financial management expertise and years of composite experience in different areas such as corporate finance, cash management, auditing, strategic planning, tax and corporate structuring. With Governor Makinde’s focus on expanding the economy of the state, there is no doubt that Ojo’s experience will help greatly in the months and years ahead.
Another area of focus for the Oyo State government under Governor Makinde is the health sector. The governor has made it clear that his administration would give deliberate and strategic attention to improving the health sector, because, according to him, if the state has a healthy population, there will be more productivity. Little wonder the governor turned to an internationally-acclaimed medical doctor, Dr Bello, Bashir-Victor Abiodun, to head the Ministry of Health.
Bello, apart from being an achieved medical practitioner and World Bank scholar, has been deeply involved in the Oyo State health sector, having served in different locations in the state and even heading the Adeoyo Ring Road State Hospital.
It is this wide range of experience and expertise, among other things, that the governor intends to leverage on to rebuild the health sector and rebuild its infrastructure and human capacity.
The governor has also made education of the cardinal areas of focus. This sector remains dear to Governor Makinde and, indeed, central to all his campaigns and programmes since he was inaugurated two months ago. This must inform the decision of the governor to entrust the Ministry of Education into the hands of an astute educationist and thoroughbred academic, Professor Dahud Kehinde Shangodoyin.
Professor Shangodoyin, a University of Ibadan-trained statistician and a consultant to the UNDP and the World Bank, will, no doubt, help to deliver on the mandate of quality education and reposition of the sector in the state. Peeved by the unnerving news of Oyo State’s retrogression in the education sector, Governor Makinde never hid his passion to turnaround the education sector.
Upon his election, it was the first area that received his attention and it has continued to receive immense attention in the last nine weeks, with several ongoing interventions in the sector in terms of infrastructure building, human capacity development and several policy frameworks that will ensure the total turnaround of the sector.
From a 32-year-old United Kingdom-trained Temilolu Oluwaseun Asamu, who has been assigned to oversee the Ministry of Energy to highly-experienced Chief Bayo Lawal, a three term commissioner in the state, who will over Special Duties, to the world-renowned professor of Law, Professor Oyelowo Oyelowo, who has been assigned the Ministry of Justice, one thread runs through the new Oyo State cabinet: excellence. The governor himself attested to this fact in his speech when he said all the commissioners have had successful and fulfilling individual careers in the private and public sectors.
But the governor had gone ahead to make the successful individuals with credentials of many colours realise that they have heeded the call to service and that Oyo State would not be able to make the desired progress unless they all work together as unit. It is on this note that the opening statement of this piece will become memorable, for it is a rallying crying to the new administrators of the state to rise to action, a battle cry to work for the good of Oyo State and its people and restore it to the glorious pantheon of excellence.