By Lolu Aderogba
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State is still savouring what he believes to be the affirmation of his electoral victory by a Court of Appeal but the good people of Oyo State are still waiting and watching for the governor to do away with what seems to be a period of circus and face real issues of governance.
In the last six months of his administration, Makinde seems to have treated with levity, what the people expect from a responsive government.
Only recently the governor revoked the contract for the Ibadan Circular Road project. His reason was that the amount paid by the state was not commensurate with work so far done by the contracting firm, ENL Consortium.
Back in the early days of his administration, the governor treated the state to a dramatic show over the award of contract for the construction of the Moniya – Iseyin Road under the previous administration of Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Without getting his facts right first, the governor told a bewildered people of Oyo State that the contract was awarded to a faceless contractor at a cost of N2 billion per kilometre.
But not long afterwards, upon realising the level of outrage that trailed his comment, Makinde, who ought to have capitalised on the twin advantage of being an engineer and a governor to get all relevant information on the contract, reversed himself by confessing that the contract was awarded to not just a contractor that was known to him, but also a friend.
Apparently not done yet, the governor averred without substantiating, that he was told that in the award of contracts, the governor takes 50 per cent of the total contract sum, the commissioner under whose supervision the project is being executed takes 30 per cent while the governor’s wife gets 10 per cent of the money, leaving the contractor with just 10 per cent of the contract sum to execute the project. Frivolous and ridiculous as that sounds, the governor also went to town with it without cross-checking his facts. How misleading can a government be?
In a similar way, a commissioner under Governor Makinde made wild allegations over the depleted portion of the forest reserve in the state, alleging that certain portions of the reserve were allocated to loyalists of the former governor and that the land remained uncultivated.
That claim followed initial speculation that Ajimobi allocated the land to himself. Thereafter, facts emerged that in a bid to encourage farming in the state, the Ajimobi administration allotted the depleted portion of the forest reserve to indigenes and non-indigenes with a mandate that the beneficiaries must embark on reforestation by planting new trees. But those who were hell-bent on misinforming the people went ahead to claim that nothing was happening on the portions of the allotted portions of the land even when there were activities going on there.
Interestingly, that turned out to be false again. An on-the-spot check on the land showed that the activities of Globus Farms Limited, one of the beneficiaries are eloquent testimony to the fact that indeed, farming is ongoing on the land. Beyond the fact that farming activities are going on, it is also false that the lands were allotted in the twilight of the Ajimobi administration.
The distortion of facts is, to say the least, embarrassing not just to the people of Oyo State who are led by Governor Makinde but also to the People’s Democratic Party on whose ticket, he was declared the winner of the governorship election in the state.
For those who are still in doubt over the dust raised by the governor on the issue of this land allotment and the many lies that trailed it, Globus Farm sits on an expansive land that is divided into two–the fish and poultry sections. It takes about 45 minutes to move from the centre of the farm to the far end. Its feed mill capacity is about 10 tonnes per hour and about seven circles of chicken with 300, 000 chicks per circle at intervals of about three months.
This year alone, the farm has produced 5.5 tonnes of cashew. Last year, 50, 000 plant saplings were given to communities in the area for forestation while 25, 000 saplings have so far been given out this year for the same purpose. As part of the agreement between the Ajimobi administration and Globus Farms, the company has planted over seven kilometres of Teak yielding plants for reforestation.
In addition to that, the farm has 116 fish ponds with a section where it produces fingerlings for the ponds. In terms of employment generation, Globus Farms has about 700 local staff, employed from neighbouring communities. Its welfare scheme for the staff includes a staff bus that takes them from the farm to the town to ease their movement.
Despite the deluge of disinformation that surrounds the depleted portion of the forest reserve in Oyo State, the fact remains that land was allotted to only those that expressed interest in farming in the state including civil servants. Besides, there was no outright sale to anyone or a corporate entity.
The lands are on rent on the condition that any beneficiary that fails to cultivate the land within six months of allotment would forfeit the allotment. There is true, a long list of controversies and contradictions in governor Makinde’s administration.
Not long after he assumed office in the state, Makinde cancelled the popular School Governing Board (SGB) policy of the previous administration which has, to a large extent, helped public schools in the state to develop their facilities. But upon realising how loud the public outcry against the abolition was, the governor quickly reversed himself but still cancelled the N1, 000 per term levy under the guise of stopping extortion of pupils in public schools. This has resulted in a crisis in some of the schools.
When the governor raised the false alarm early in his administration, that Oyo State had a debt burden of about N150 billion, it turned out that the state was not even among the top 10 indebted states in the country, yet he went to town with the falsehood. The fact is that the state was indebted to the tune of less than N100 billion.
It is very interesting to note that of this figure, N72 billion is a World Bank loan to control flooding in the state and less than 25 per cent of the total sum has been taken. What may not be in the public domain, however, is the fact that Governor Makinde is now the one presiding over the spending of the money.
Similar to the World Bank loan is the N7.6 billion Commercial Agriculture Credit scheme (CACs) secured from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by the Ajimobi administration, which Makinde initially condemned.
The governor has also reversed himself, saying he would use the loan to develop two farm settlements in the state. The governor says he intends to transform the two farm settlements located in the Eruwa and Akufor area of Ibadan to farm estates.
In this case, the information that was not made available to the governor before he began to take decisions on what to do with the money was that the loan, which was tied to a particular purpose, going by the terms on which it was secured, cannot be put into an alternative use. But certainly, he didn’t have information on that. Even as governor-elect, Makinde headed for the court to secure an injunction stopping Ajimobi from accessing the loan.
What has become glaring in the last six months of the Makinde administration in Oyo State is that there seems to be apparent lack of focus. He seems to have done more of chasing shadows in a bid to discredit his predecessor without realizing the fact that when one government goes, another one comes, but the policies made in the interest of the people should remain.
It is evident in many respects that the Makinde administration has done far below expectation in terms of policies that are beneficial to the people. After six months in the saddle, it is expected that Governor Makinde should begin to de-emphasize the use of propaganda and outright falsehood to run his government. They have a very short lifespan and do not help society in any way. With time, they are overshadowed by the truth.
Governor Makinde should by now, begin to realize that what is expected of him is to begin to contribute his own quota in the building of the state, bearing in mind, the fact that a society is like a building, where one builder leaves it, another continues from there.
That is not to say that he cannot tinker with a policy or an idea generated by his predecessor to make it better. But everything has to be done in the interest of the people. If lies, half-truths and propaganda are adopted as the cornerstone of government policy, there is the tendency for the people to, sooner than later, see through the charade, and see such government for what it actually is.
And the impression they are likely to form could be that perhaps, you don’t have anything better to offer. This is, therefore, the time to turn a new leaf and think about the people rather than the previous administration. The needs of the people should be given priority attention while politicking and unguarded bickering should be relegated to the background.