By Adeola Badru
Exactly 100 days ago, Governor Seyi Makinde gave an assurance of a new lease of life to the people of Oyo State.
At the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan, Makinde, who emerged winner in the March 9 governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), promised to run an administration that is effective, efficient and which seeks to provide optimal support to the citizens in leading a safe and productive life in line with their desires and opportunities.
According to Governor Makinde, his inroad to Oyo State’s political space was borne out of his passion to serve humanity, as he maintained that before attaining his current status, he has used all his life serving humanity through his philanthropic gestures and social responsibilities to the people of the state.
He made it clear at the inauguration that providing good governance was not negotiable, stating that he was of the strong belief that it is only through improved governance that the benefits of democratic development must directly impact the lives of its people.
A little over 100 days after, residents of Oyo State have experienced the fulfilment of some of these promises in different sectors, with many of them having nothing but accolades for the governor while some, like Oliver Twist, had already begun to ask for more.
Governor Makinde, on assumption of office, had left no one in doubt that that the new administration was set to liberate the downtrodden masses from the grip of poverty and relieve them of some of the hardships occasioned by the alleged anti-people policies of the immediate past government.
As an advocate of transparency and accountability in governance, Makinde had called on the people of the state to hold him accountable to his electioneering campaign promises, while also promising to hold them to account. For him, his administration will not be, as William Shakespeare quoted in one of his books, Macbeth “a tale; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (talking confidently without making good on any promise).
The governor had, in May, told anyone who cared to listen that focus of his administration is to transform it into a leading state in Nigeria where government works for the welfare of its citizens and residents, anchoring that focus on four cardinal programmes, namely; education, health, economic expansion and security.
Other areas of interests, the governor explained, would be about combating poverty, ensuring that the welfare of workers and pensioners are well-attended to, sports development, youth and women empowerment, among others.
The Governor Makinde-led government within the period under review, according to a majority of residents of the state, has made remarkable progress in these key areas by setting machinery in motion towards achieving its desired goal.
From pensioners to labour leaders, from royal fathers to the average man on the street, it has been commendations galore for the government for some of its steps in the last 100 days.
During his inauguration on May 29, Makinde made it clear that his administration would put smiles on the faces of civil servants and pensioners by ensuring prompt payment of salaries and pensions, however, pointing out that they should not expect immediate payment of the new N30,000 minimum wage due to the financial realities of the state.
He said: “I know how access to this type of money will improve the lives of many of the families that I have had direct contact with, but with the way the Oyo State account currently stands, I will be deceiving you if I said we are capable of taking on this burden.”
But in a direct demonstration of his commitment to keeping his words on putting smiles on the faces of pensioners, the governor had pledged his four-year salaries to the Teachers’ Pension Fund while promising that salaries will be paid on the 25th of every month. Without delay, salaries and pensions for the month of May were paid between the 30th and 31st, and ever since then, salaries and pensions for the month of June, July and August were paid on or before 25th in fulfilment of the governor’s promise. Already, residents of the state have marked that day the GSM date.
In recognition of the governor’s efforts, the Oyo State Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners forwarded a letter of commendation signed by its secretary, Comrade Olusegun Abatan, to the governor.
According to the pensioners, “Oyo State pensioners are highly delighted with His Excellency, the Executive Governor of the State, Mr Seyi Makinde on his giant strides since he assumed the mantle of governance in Oyo State.
“For the first time in the history of Oyo State pensioners and workers, June 2019 pensions and salaries were paid on June 25, 2019, lending credence to His Excellency’s promise that salaries and pensions would be paid on the 25th of every month.”
The letter further revealed that the governor has put a stop to the payment of retired primary school teachers and local government pensioners in percentages as they now receive their pensions in full since the governor assumed office.
Though some opposition figures in the state have been quick to try to shut down the joyful reactions trailing the early payment of salaries and pensions, noting that it was still too early to commend the governor on that account, a chieftain of the PDP from Oorelope Local Government Area and former Majority Leader of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Honourable Michael Okunlade, maintained that all men and women of good intentions would commend the governor for the prompt payment of salaries knowing the high number of civil servants in the state.
Though there can be no gainsaying the fact that people-oriented leaders often recognise and match the need to encourage their workforce by paying salaries as and when due to their optimum performance in achieving set goals, the coming months would tell if, indeed, the governor’s action will be matched by the workers’ output.
One of the other areas in which Governor Makinde continues to receive adulations is his stance on anti-corruption. In line with his electoral promise of recovering misappropriated funds by any government official, Governor Makinde inaugurated a seven-man committee led by Justice Laoye Popoola to probe the accounts of the 33 local government areas and the 35 local council development areas of the state from January 2018 to May 2019.
Though people in some quarters have described this step as a way of witch-hunting the previous administration in the state, the governor made it clear that his intention was not a witch-hunt but to ensure accountability. For a man who has transmitted a bill to establish an anti-corruption agency in the state and had made the commitment to waive his immunity to be tried by the agency if he was found wanting, PDP loyalists and activists see the witch-hunting claim as unfounded and puerile.
While inaugurating the Justice Popoola committee, the governor had said: “Let me reassure you that this government is not in any way going after the past administration. We are only setting the stage for our government to take off and deliver the dividends of democracy to the entire citizenry.
“In fact, I must state that the committee we are inaugurating today is pursuant to the Public Property and Funds (Investigation and Recovery) Panel Law, Cap 138, Vol. 4 of the Oyo State Law 2000.”
Also in the last 100 days, Governor Makinde has received adulations for waltzing his way into the history books in the state. In a move that has been commended in the state and beyond, the governor appointed the first female Secretary to the State Government in Mrs Olubamiwo Adeosun. Just like some of the appointees of the governor so far, Adeosun is a proven technocrat with a track record that cannot be easily matched by most women in her age group. The 43-years-old first female SSG in the state, who until his appointment was the Country Implementation Lead of the Shell Business Operations (SBO), observers of developments in the state noted, would bring a lot experience into governance.
Yet in another history-making feat, the governor had appointed Mr Oluwaseun Fakorede, a 27-years-old son of an APC member in Ibarapa as the Commissioner for Youths and Sports. Though the appointment was criticized by many PDP loyalists, Governor Makinde had surprised everyone by insisting that he was the governor of all, irrespective of political affiliations. He specifically said, “my administration is not only for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but for the development and progress of the entire state.”
He added: “We have presented our vision to the people of Oyo State, we have made promises during the campaign and one of the major promises I made at the heat of electioneering was to the youths of Oyo State. I told them that I will select one of them as the commissioner for youths and sports. I promised them that whoever is going to be the commissioner of youths and sports will be below 30 years and I was conscious of the fact that we are not only going to talk about age but we are also going to talk about content. And I am happy today that we have in Seun Fakorede, the 27-years-old, who I am proud of as a product of this state.”
While speaking on governance in the state in the last 100 days, the Special Adviser on Strategy and Political Matters to Governor Makinde, Honourable Babatunde Oduyoye, noted that the governor has successfully laid solid foundations for the next good governance in the state, maintaining that he would build on those foundations a superstructure of governance that places people’s interest first and one that will restore the glory of Oyo State as pacesetter in all good ramifications.
Oduyoye, who was a guest on the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) live TV interview programme, AM120, insisted that Makinde has shown that a governor could be humane, humble and dedicated to the people, noting that he is a clear departure from the executive arrogance and recklessness known with governors in the past and that he holds greater promises for the state in the coming years.
So, as Governor Makinde marches on amid cheers and expectations, there is no doubt that the journey of ensuring sustainable development in Oyo State through viable reforms in education, agriculture, healthcare, security and infrastructural development will be long and testing. The questions are: Will the praises and cheers last? Will the governor succeed in the march to reposition Oyo State? Will Oyo State truly set the pace again? Only time can answer these questions.