•Vows to enforce anti-open grazing law
•Says he has made good progress developing Oyo
Governor ‘Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, in this interview, speaks on how his government has fared in the last two years, the steps taken to address the infrastructure deficit, and economic expansion focus of the government, the next move for the government as well as the challenges in the last two years.
You marked your second year in office on May 29. How far will you say you have gone regarding the mandate given to you by the people of the state and what have been the constraints?
From day one, even during the electioneering, we brought out a document, which is our Roadmap for the Accelerated Development of Oyo State, 2019 to 2023, and we focused on four major areas: Education, Health, Expansion of our economy through where we think we have the comparative advantage, these are agriculture, agribusiness, agro-processing; and the fourth pillar is Security.
Last week, I visited the Ikere Gorge Dam, because I wanted the focus to shift to what we are trying to do with tourism and solid mineral development. I can tell you boldly that we are stabilising with some of our programmes.
Before I came in, Oyo State was already doing well with cassava, for instance. We had a retreat and I learned that Oyo State was the second largest producer of cassava in Nigeria at that point. So, I asked how many tonnes of cassava are we producing per annum? And the next question was, how did we get to this point; was it just happenstance or through deliberate action.
I asked for an explanation on those actions that we took that got us to that point but I was told the farmers were just cultivating on their own. So, I said I was not sure the government did anything deliberately to encourage the farmers. I said, now, we have to be deliberate on how we approach things. Now, I feel we have stabilised with some of the deliberate actions that we took after coming into government.
You commissioned the 65-kilometre Moniya-Iseyin Road with pomp and fanfare, with a lot of people commending the administration for such a laudable project. But knowing how vast Oyo State is isn’t the Moniya-Iseyin Road just like scratching the surface?
What you saw during the trip between Moniya to Iseyin is almost very similar to most of the things we are doing in every zone of the state. If you move further up, there is Saki Township road, which we are almost done with.
We will commission it shortly. We also flagged off, a few days ago, the Saki-Igboho-Ogboro road. It is about 45 kilometres. In Oyo, we have also commissioned Akesan Market, which got burnt about 10 months ago, and it is fully reconstructed now. We have inspected the Township road we are fixing and we have also gone to Fashola to launch the farm estate.
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Once you get to the Iseyin junction and makes the next turn, that is the road that will take you to Oyo. We have got approval from the Federal Government to repair it but they said we won’t get any refund. But I believe it is the people of Oyo State that are passing through the road, and it is of economic benefit to us all.
Once Fashola is fixed on the right, on the left side, you see an expanse of land that goes all the way to Ikere-Gorge Dam. Those are places where we can do irrigation and have production around. That axis is extremely important to us and I said that our infrastructure will target our economy. We would not just go and build something that we won’t see economic benefits coming out of it. So, that is where we are.
In Ibadan, we have the Ajia-Airport Road with a spur to Amuloko ongoing; that is about 21 kilometres and it also sits well with our focus to build infrastructure that targets the economy. There is the Apete-Awotan Road, which we are constructing with concrete. We also have the Akobo-Ojurin Road, which we have re-awarded as well as many others’.
On a general level, we have the second phase of the Light-Up Oyo State project going on, covering 70 roads and 223.42kms across the state. We are installing LED-technology streetlights and the focus is to enhance the security of the state and to also enable owners of businesses and services in the state to operate freely without fear of night-time or darkness.
That project was initiated when we took over in 2019 and the first phase has been delivered. The second phase has also been progressing and all these are parts of our deliberate efforts to address the infrastructure challenge of the state.
So, what have been the challenges or the constraints so far?
Now, in terms of the challenges, this is two years but we should be celebrating six months, because we came in May 2019 and by January 2020, COVID-19 came up, which is still with us till now and throughout the world. That basically triggered an economic meltdown. But the smart countries are managing themselves. At the national level, we have not been able to manage things well and that has impacted negatively on the states.
Also, a big challenge for us has been the kind of federalism that we are operating. I signed an anti-open grazing law in November 2019 and we could not implement it because you talk to the Police and they are not willing. They are watching the body language of their folks in Abuja; the IGP and the rest. So, that has been a very big challenge to us.
Then, when Amotekun came, we were in total control of their operation and that was why when I operationalized them, I said I should be held accountable for their conduct. But when they tried to implement the anti-open grazing law they were being arrested, I went to the then Commissioner of Police and asked why Amotekun operatives were being arrested even when the Police were supposed to collaborate with them to make the state safer for us. And he said if people write petitions against them that they killed someone or carried illegal firearms, the Police were the only organization authorized in Nigeria to investigate those cases.
So, if you look through, they are telling us it is almost like the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. They didn’t want Amotekun to succeed in the first instance. So, we had to pull back and re-engage to let them know that we are actually pushing towards the same objective, which is to make this place safe. You have inter and intra-agency rivalry.
People will want to protect themselves or their agency in an advantageous position. So, that was what we have seen and those are the major challenges we have faced, which have slowed us down. We had COVID-19, economic meltdown, security challenges and all that but we are dealing with them.
For all these projects listed, how have you been able to source for the funds to finance them or, as it is being insinuated, you are doing all these by embarking on a borrowing spree?
Well, you definitely must have seen the release from the Debt Management Office. At this stage, I think Oyo state is probably owing about N90 billion and about $200 million, and since we came in, we took N24 billion for contract financing and we have not accessed everything. We are probably still around 18 Billion Naira.
The $200 million was taken by the previous administration for the Ibadan Urban Flood Management Project (IUFMP). Before I came in, they already spent about 54 Million Dollars of that money and they had committed about 100 Million Dollars as well. For the award packages, they have done the evaluation, selected contractors and it was remaining the final sign-off.
I was going to cancel it when I came in because I did not see any need for that but the World Bank came and said it will affect the relationship with Oyo State. So, I said they should go ahead with the commitment and I am the one spending the over 40 Million Dollars remaining right now. But I have changed the work plan.
For instance, I thought the Agodi Gardens Lake was the major source of flood in Ibadan, and it should have been part of the programme to start with. So, I asked them to change some of the programmes and put in the gardens to desilt that lake so that water can flow freely, and also desilt some of the major streams in Ibadan.
So, that insinuation of a borrowing spree is not correct. These two are the major chunk of money Oyo State owes. Our government took N24 Billion because when we came in, it was almost like we did not meet anything in the treasury, and what was coming from the federation account could not even cover the salary bills.
So, what we did basically was to try to increase the IGR, which we have been very successful in doing. We have increased our IGR from less than 2 Billion Naira to over 3 Billion Naira now, which means monthly, we have N 1 Billion available, which was not there before now. The N1 Billion in a year means I can do N12 Billion worth of projects and the target for us is to push that IGR to about N7 Billion per month, and we think Oyo State has the potential to quickly get to that. Take, for instance, we changed the waste management architecture and now have the Land Use Tax.
I know they have sent bills out to people worth about N20 Billion. Even if we have half or 60 per cent of that, say N12 Billion, that is additional N1 Billion aggregate monthly. So, that will immediately take our IGR to about N4.3 Billion. And you also remember that for this increase, we did not increase the taxes people are paying but all we have done is to just expand the base because when I came in, I told them that nobody has ever given me a bill in my own house here.
Everywhere in the world, you pay property tax, which is supposed to be utilized to ensure that you have security, evacuation of thrash, provision of water and electricity, and other infrastructural facilities but here, people just feel you build houses and don’t have responsibilities for the common areas.
So, what we have done was to move in there, enumerate the houses in Oyo State, and try to bring out a bill commensurate with the type of houses that we have seen. This will be our first year of enforcing that and if we are successful, 60 per cent, it will push our IGR by another N1 Billion and I think we are on that path. So, I have not borrowed anything compared to the previous administration.
Another thing we are doing is being creative with the way we handle our projects. The Moniya-Iseyin project was given out through a contract. We gave the contract out to KOPEK and we paid them based on that contract. But on most of the other projects, we are exploring the Alternative Project Funding Approach.
For Moniya-Iseyin, we paid 60 per cent upfront. We went outside of the procurement law to give special approval because that road was in a very deplorable state when we came in and we thought if we want to start repairing the economy of Oyo State, that is the first road we have to fix, because it is the link between Ibadan, the major consumption area to where we are producing our food in Oyo State.
So, I did not want any delay and wanted the project done within 12 -18 months and it was delivered in 18 months. I was pushing for 12 months but COVID-19 came and they had to slow down. When we paid the 60 per cent, we told them not to come back to us until they have attained 75 per cent of the project and that worked out in the end because they did not come back to us not even with N1 variation on the project.
When we were discussing the 60 per cent payment upfront, we agreed on it based on the fact that they should go out to buy anything and everything that may have inflationary pressure. We told them that once they were able to buy everything that may have inflationary pressure, it means they would be talking about their staff and a few other things, so we should be home and dry and that was why the project was completed on budget and almost on schedule, if we take COVID-19 out. So, we have been creative.
I will also say we have blocked a lot of loopholes and reduced the cost of running the government here. Remember that for one year, everybody in the cabinet was using their vehicles and the ones we met here. I was using my own car. So, we prioritized project delivery for the people as opposed to taking care of ourselves first.
Many states have been banning the activities of commercial motorcycle riders. Going by the nefarious activities of some Okada riders in the state, especially in Ibadan, when is Oyo State going to take action?
I have been asked this question many times and my standard response is, for you to have a supply, there must be demand. If no one is boarding okada, they will be out of business. So, if they are filling a gap, it is a different kind of discussion that you need to have.
Though we have security issues, unruliness in the behaviour of some okada riders, and all of that, what we need to do is to regulate them. For us to regulate them and one thing that is foundational for us is identity management.
We want to know who are those riding? They must get a permit. We must know who they are, where they are and the areas they are operating in. We are in the process of doing that. I don’t think we should just ban okada or restrict them to certain areas.
I took people to Ojoo to see how many people were boarding okada. From Ojoo to Iwo road, go and check the number of people that take okadas on that Express road; the number is few and I have tried it more than three times just to convince myself. So, why are people not taking okada on that axis? It is because you have enough Micra cars out there and the road is such that people are moving at a fast pace, and the road is not that great.
We went to the old Toll Gate and I asked them to tell me how many people they see boarding okada from there to, say Ogunmakin, the border community between Oyo State and Ogun states. Why are they not doing that? We should create superhighways. How come when I go to my Estate at Kolapo Ishola, we don’t have okadas in there? If you go inside the IITA, you don’t have okadas in there, and few estates like that.
Yes, you can see them in some general areas where people going short distances use them. I liken the ban on okada to a Police officer chasing after prostitutes. Yes, it is fine to see them stand by the roadside and you go and arrest them. But that is the supply side, what about the demand side? What have you done to the people demanding the services of those prostitutes?
So, the okada is like that. If the transportation system is such that they are filling a gap, it is okay. And for many of them, that is the only legitimate thing they are doing for a living. So, do you want to turn them into armed robbers? I have been to China and I don’t see those okadas on the major highways but I see them on streets all over. So, if you have demand, you would also have supply and if you try to suppress the process, they will go underground.
Having talked about how far you have gone in just two years, what are your goals for the next two years?
Yes, we will continue to look at those four pillars. On education, we have to consolidate. On health, we said we must have in every ward in Oyo State, a functional primary health centre that will have solid buildings, equipment and be well-staffed.
That was part of the reasons I went to NYSC Orientation Camp at Iseyin last week, because I wanted to know the number of medical doctors and other health workers that they have as corps members. And just like we signed an MoU with IITA on Agriculture, we signed an MoU with UCH on the consultants and health care personnel. Yes, I want to sign an MoU with NYSC.
We have 33 local governments in Oyo State and 351 wards. For each of those local governments, some have 10 wards, some 11, some 12 and the highest being 14. So, to start with, the Primary Health Care Board only has 17 doctors for the entire state. So, I said I want one doctor in every local government, which should be 33.
Then, let us use NYSC doctors to back them up. So, if we sign the MoU with NYSC, they know that they must get 33 doctors for us in every batch, and we also have to make the atmosphere conducive for them. At Igbo-Ora General Hospital Annex, which we recently renovated, you see the Doctor’s quarters. So, in every local government, they must have Doctors’ quarters. Those people are there and they manage the PHCs at the ward level.
We have had to be deliberate about what we do and we are coming from inside a hole that the state was dug into by past administrators. Now, I believe we have stopped digging in Oyo State but we are yet to climb out. So, over the next two years, we need to climb out, we need to continue to expand our economy.
Like I said, we have stabilised as far as agribusiness is concerned. We believe we have made our position known to the entire world. In terms of infrastructure, targeting our economy, we are also making progress out there.
So, what are the next quick wins for us? Tourism, internal tourism to attract people, which is already happening. Two weeks ago, I had folks from Lagos that came to Ibadan to play golf with us. Every Friday, Ibadan is always locked up because a lot of people are coming from Lagos, Abeokuta to come to Ibadan and enjoy themselves. We have the Dry Port, which I believe we can achieve within a year.
We have the rail corridor to develop and a new business district is coming up there. So, the next two years we are also going to be as exciting as these previous two years. We have quite a bit still to do. We have the expansion of our Airport. We want to bring more airlines in here. We want all our people, rather than go to NAHCO Shed in Lagos to clear their goods, we want them to do that here in Ibadan and just turn back and go wherever they want to go.
For cargoes meant for Lagos, NAHCO Shed is meant for them but if it is going to Ogun State, maybe Abeokuta, Ijebu ode, Benin to the South East or Ilorin, Osun, Ondo, Ibadan is far better than Lagos, because you have 120 kilometres that you don’t need to drive through if you clear your goods in Ibadan and turn back. Even those 120 kilometres take you only to the Old Toll Gate in Lagos.
If you are going to NAHCO Shed, you still have almost two hours of serious traffic through Oshodi and all of those places. So, I want those headaches that Lagos is having if they will translate to more revenues for us and that is why we are building the infrastructure to ensure that the head does not ache that much.
What are your thoughts on restructuring and true federalism and would you say the current constitution is a waste of time? Also, when are you going to pay the sacked local government chairmen, who won at the Supreme Court?
Did they win? There is a process. Why did we dissolve them in
he first instance? They held elections into 68 local governments and LCDAs and we said, look, the Nigerian Constitution only recognises 33 local government areas of Oyo State.
Okay, what the Supreme Court basically said with their judgment is that they are not even going to look at why we dissolved them; that it is their policy that governors should not dissolve local governments but the Court can dissolve them. So, they expected that I should have gone to Court, and then, they would look at the case and dissolve them.
But I know if I had gone to Court, it would have taken them much time to come to judgement, they would have used their entire term. As a result, that would have become an academic exercise. Now, they will still need to go to Court to interpret the constitution and say, okay, we have 68 chairmen but only 33 are recognised by the Constitution of Nigeria. Which ones do we pay? So, it is still a long process.
On the issue of restructuring, before now, if you want to apply to University, you apply to that University, you do their exam. If they think you are a good student, they admit you. Then some people were not getting into the University that way.
So, they created JAMB, and then with JAMB, we started hearing of educationally-disadvantaged states and all that. What that has done is to drag everybody down to the same level and that is what some of us are fighting against, asking for true federalism and restructuring.
What we are saying is, look, don’t level down everything for everybody. Some of us may want to develop at our own pace. We set the standard for ourselves in Oyo State. For instance, we have set the standard of the road from Moniya to Iseyin as the state’s standard. If that is the state’s standard, I don’t want you to go to Ologuneru and Eruwa and see something different or go to Saki-Ogbooro-Igboho Road and see something of a lower standard. Anywhere we are fixing state roads, that is the standard.
So, restructuring and fiscal federalism go just beyond state police or federal allocations and all of that; I mean it is striking at the fundamentals of how do we progress as a people? The country must allow the state or people to develop at their own pace. We shouldn’t say because some people are backward, then everybody should be brought to the same starting line.
There was this speculation that you wanted to defect to the APC at some point. What is the true situation of things?
Is APC a party that anybody will want to cross to? It can never happen. Here, when we came in, they were saying the previous administration was the architect of modern Oyo State; they said they constructed roads and I asked them to tell me the roads they constructed and calculate the kilometres of the road
We listed all of them and discovered that, for eight years, they did not do up to 40 kilometres of road and you can investigate that. I can list those roads they started and completed for eight years.
If you are coming to Ibadan from that Toll Gate interchange, they came down to Challenge, went to Orita, and that is just for that axis. When you get to Dugbe through Eleyele, Jericho, they got a spur to Aleshiloye, that rail line, and then to after Police Headquarters and they came towards the Pension House. That is for that axis too.
They did 6 kilometres from the first roundabout in Iseyin to somewhere within the town. They completed that. They did the overhead bridge at Mokola. And that was all. If you see any other one anywhere else, please tell me.
They started the Saki Township road but didn’t finish it. We took it up, and at their own cost, we saved N1.5billion through Alternative Project Funding Approach. The Idi-Ape to Iwo road interchange, we finished it. We are doing the road all the way from Idi-Ape to Akobo-Ojurin.
The issue is that I am not in politics because I am desperate for any position; I was looking for an opportunity to serve. But APC? No. That is not a platform that anyone will even be interested in. If they have done well for Nigeria at least from 2015 till now, they are in the best position to judge. They can set an agenda for all of us and tell us those things that they have done.
The PDP governors go everywhere, commissioning major infrastructure projects, how come APC governors are not doing that? I have been to Adamawa to commission projects. I have been to Rivers. They are more than us and how come they are not going to commission projects in their different states? So, the APC defection rumour is a lie from the pit of hell and it is not going to happen.
Why is Oyo state not participating in the ongoing constitutional review exercise?
What is constitutional review? It is just a complete waste of time really. In 2014, they took people to Abuja, they stayed there and they produced a document. Yes, President Jonathan did not sign it because he thought he was going to be re-elected and wanted to sign it after coming back.
That document has been on their table since 2015, what have they done with it? Yes, during the life of each National Assembly session, they vote money for the review of the constitution and the National Assembly has to spend the money. That is the exercise going on in there. If anything comes out of it, let us talk again.
As the only governor of the PDP in the South-West, you recently tried to bring together all the tendencies in the zone after a long time of protracted crises. But today, some of those tendencies are still there in some states. With governorship elections coming up in Ekiti and Osun States, what are your expectations?
For the PDP in the South-West, all the issues that cropped up before the zonal congress have been put behind us. But I must tell you that I am not the Premier of the South-West region, I am only the Governor of Oyo State, which is one of the states in the zone.
Yes, we have elections coming up in Ekiti and Osun states, but the local chapters will have to be encouraged to give the opportunity to all the aspirants such that we put our best foot forward. That is the only thing we can do and that is exactly what I will encourage there.
You have been on the seat for two years as a governor, what do you think is wrong with Nigeria and how best do you think you can fix the country?
What I can tell you is, what is wrong with Nigeria is known to all of us. First, the majority of us want to reap where we have not sowed. People come to me and say since I am the governor, I own the purse of the state and I am supposed to be doing this and that. That should not be.
Even when we are talking about restructuring, it is not a magic bullet; it will throw up its own set of challenges. But the question is how come we have tried a system in the past where you still have a little bit of corruption but things are really known to the people. So, the problem with Nigeria is us. An arrangement that guarantees fairness, equity and justice, then I think can lead to greatness for this country.
How come our people in the Diaspora are working well, contributing to the world but when they come in here, they cannot function?
It is because people like you, people like me would see white and call it grey. Yes, we may think this is not affecting anybody but, in reality, it is, because people are losing confidence in it.
For me, I say to people that look, I understand how you are feeling. Before now, there has been a trust deficit between the government and the people but we are trying to be open. So, you cannot blame them.
That is why we have to earn back that trust and bridge that trust deficit gap. And once we are able to do that, people will start having confidence in their people. I was tired, honestly tired this night and wanted to sleep but they came to me and reminded me of the promise I made that I would have this interview session by 10 p.m. So, I had to fulfill it and I said, please tell everybody I will be here at 10 p.m.
Yes, it is not easy to build a nation or a state, a lot will have to be committed to it. Even the things that you do; driving against traffic rules; bribing people when you want to get your C of O out, and you are being arm-twisted to do all of these.
All of those things fuel the process.
Again, after I was sworn in, I said I was going to declare my assets publicly. You don’t need freedom of information; I listed where my houses are, so you can go there and check. You can get the address, the owner, and the estimated value of that property.
That is how far the world has progressed. Some people said I should not do that but I insisted I was going to do it. So, you have to help us, especially as the custodian of how information is disseminated to the people. As the opinion molders, you have to hold us accountable.
What will be your own sacrifice to ensure that we have a decent society, so we all have roles to play really?
To address the insecurity challenge and the attacks of the Fulani herdsmen, which other Southern states also face, the Southern governors placed a ban on open grazing, what are you doing to enforce that ban?
It is a law here. I made a comment a few days ago that in eight weeks, there will be a Task Force against open grazing. But first, we would sensitise the people. I am going to install in every entry and exit points to Oyo State that look, this is the law.
I will give them some time to assimilate this but, in the meantime, we will set up a mechanism to deal with it. Yes, it has taken two years but we did not repeal the law and we will implement it. It is going to cause a lot of issues but we have to do what we have to do.