Since the campaign train of the Oyo State governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, hit town, it has been a festival of joy around Oyo State.
The governor has been to Ogbomoso, Ahoro Dada, Olokoto, Tewure and Ikoyi-Ile, Igbo-Ora Iresa Adu, Iresa Apa, Oko, Odo Oba and Ajaawa communities of Surulere and Ogo-Oluwa local government areas, among others, and the rallies and endorsements have been mind-blowing, with citizens lauding his pro-people approach to governance.
He is on campaign but is being decorated with titles, including the student-conferred Deserving Authority of Oyo State and the Atayese of Ibarapaland conferred on him and his wife in Igbo-Ora.
Mammoth crowds chant his name to the high heavens, speaking of what they call the inevitable move from Omituntun 1.0 (accelerated development) to Omituntun 2.0. (sustainable development). But just what has the governor done?
And is he indeed deserving of a second term of office? Millions would answer in the affirmative as the governor continues his campaign across the length and breadth of Oyo State, but hard evidence is still called for.
When COVID-19 struck in 2020, many governors put their states on total lockdown but Governor Makinde was measured and strategic. He used science and sense and refused to lock down his people’s means of livelihood and sustenance.
Instead, he equipped hospitals with facilities, distributed masks and sanitizers freely across the state, and carried out enlightenment campaigns on how people could be safe even while carrying out economic activities.
He was panned by critics but needless to say, his model eventually became the national model adopted by the Federal Government. For his COVID-19 strategy alone, Makinde will always command a smile.
The point is not in doubt that as a society, Nigeria has tended to lack transformational leaders; that is, leaders who make verifiable, palpable changes in the lives of the people and the organization of society, including the intangible aspects of social values.
Transformation leaders are, in the Niger Delta parlance, talk-na-do (talk-and-do) individuals who lead by example, infusing in society a positive, new set of attitudes.
Writing from a business perspective, the American writer, Sharon Hall says that leading by example models ethical leadership, showcases your integrity and ethics as a leader, creates alignment between what you say and what you do, boosts the morale of your team, and develops future leaders.
And what is more, it increases productivity. Because political leadership has to be taken as a serious endeavour, leaders who do not approach the development of society as a serious business are flagrant anachronisms.
Given that since 2019 when he assumed the mantle of leadership in the Pacesetter State, Governor Seyi Makinde has sought to impose a new method of doing things for the betterment of Oyo State, there is a strong case to be made for him as a transformational leader and the best candidate to advance the Oyo narrative.
Makinde’s first steps in office clearly indicated the direction of his thinking: he opened the bridge linking Government House to public use, and set up the first state anti-graft agency in Nigeria.
Makinde was keen to proclaim that he did not believe in abandoned projects and would shelve partisanship in developing the state, which is why he has always given his predecessor, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, due credit, demonstrating a high level of integrity and emotional intelligence.
He outlawed the tuition fees imposed by his predecessor, ordered the reduction of tuition fees in all Oyo State tertiary institutions, and cancelled school fees at the secondary school level, actualizing an unprecedented surge in student enrolment.
This, he backed up with the massive recruitment of promptly paid teachers, provoking intense debate about the sources of funding for these schemes. He would later make Oyo State the sole owner of LAUTECH and establish a campus in the Oke-Ogun area of the state, then upgrade the Emmanuel Alayande College to a University of Education.
To actualize these laudable steps, the governor had stopped the looting of state funds by officialdom. Prompt payment of salaries, including the December bonus called 13th salary, has become routine since 2019.
As an aside, according to Dr Olusegun Abatan, the state secretary of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Makinde’s gifting of N10,000 to each pensioner as a Christmas turkey gift last month was novel.
He described it as “the first gesture of any governor in the state…This is the only state in the Federation that thought it fit to make pensioners happy at this time when the country’s economy is in the doldrums.” Quintessential Makinde.
Makinde’s passion for the development of Oyo State birthed, among others, the Methodist Model School, Bodija, Ibadan; the headquarters of the Oyo State Security Network codenamed Amotekun; the 65-kilometre Moniya-Iseyin Road, 70-kilometre Iseyin-Fapote-Ogbomoso road; the 12-kilometre ongoing Apata-Bembo-Jankata Road, Ibadan road; the dualisation of the Airport Road in Ibadan, together with the 500,000-capacity aviation fuel storage facility undertaken by the state at the Ibadan Airport; the Lere Adigun Housing Estate, Basorun, Ibadan, and the Ode Oba Primary Healthcare Centre in Iseyin, which is actually one of the 299 completed primary healthcare centres in the state.
The governor feels that there must be at least one functional PHC in all the 351 wards in the state, precluding people from going beyond a one-kilometre radius to access primary health care facilities. The Alternative Project Funding Approach (APFA) has come in handy.
Indeed, it is necessary to comment on his eye for traffic order and beauty. Prior to his emergence, the roads leading to the Challenge junction in Ibadan, to take just one example, had been expanded but chaos still reigned supreme.
There were many who thought that a flyover would end the perennial chaos at the spot but Makinde executed a masterpiece, creating an ultramodern park for the transporters who clogged Challenge.
That Challenge point in Ibadan, and with it Felele junction, has become a symbol of traffic sanity and pure beauty garnished with traffic signal installations, traffic signs, anti-finger metal security fence and other infrastructure with a control room and coordination traffic signal devices, a major catalyst for traffic solutions.
The construction of bus terminals in Challenge, Iwo Road and Ojoo as major contributors to traffic safety and the economic development of Oyo State has continued to receive plaudits, but there have been ignorant naysayers like the candidate of the major opposition party who has spoken of converting the bus terminals to libraries, thus creating a chaotic picture of vehicles getting parked on expressways and causing regular harvests of innocent souls through accidents.
It is not for nothing that the opposition machinery has entered total shipwreck in Oyo State, reckoned with only by party thugs and change resisters who are thankfully a pitiable minority.
Political clowns need not detain us: let’s consider Makinde’s work on the 12-kilometre New Garage-Apata road built by ex-Governor Akala between 2007 and 2011. It is now the first circular in Ibadan road because, in the governor’s own words, “once you are coming from Lagos and going to NNPC, you go straight on that road, and if you leave the Abeokuta-Ibadan Road, you can make a right turn, you get to Ring Road junction, and at the right turn, you get to Challenge.” You have to be there to truly understand it.
Here’s the deal: As Makinde himself recognises, his projects “have not only helped in repositioning Oyo State but also lifted the people from poverty to prosperity,” then the Oyo State people will not change the narrative and emplace political buccaneers and clowns.