In the final paragraph of a July 2020 article, entitled: Ajimobi, Makinde and the Beauty of Intellectual Prudence, this writer wrote ”Finally, in spite of the avoidable brouhaha over Ajimobi’s burial site, I am sure the former governor is truly resting in peace, knowing that the people of his beloved Oyo State are in good hands, and also knowing that his legacies are intact, and actually being built upon. What remains for Makinde to do is to appropriately immortalise the memory of this great man”.
With the announcement by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, on March 31, at the second convocation ceremony of the state government-owned First Technical University, Ibadan that the institution had been renamed Abiola Ajimobi First Technical University, in honour of his late predecessor, the governor had indeed immortalised the memory of Senator Ajimobi in the best way possible.
This article, however, is neither about the unique achievements of the late Ajimobi, among which was the establishment of another premier university in Ibadan, which now bears his name, nor is it about the visionary leadership of the first two-term governor of the pacesetter state, that rightly earned him the indisputable sobriquet of Koseleri, which literally translates to a jinx breaker. Rather, the main interest of this writer is to examine the political phenomenon that Makinde is steadily evolving into through the prism of that historic announcement and what this portends for the future democratic governance in Nigeria.
To be clear, Makinde from the get go had demonstrated that he is not your typical Nigerian politician. In the build-up to his first electoral success in 2019, his campaign was devoid of exaggerated or unrealistic promises. He also shunned the usual desperation and the win-at-all-cost attitude of the average politician. Also, as I observed in the 2020 article, Makinde is the only politician in my memory to have openly and unequivocally acknowledged the achievements of his predecessor, despite belonging to an opposition political party
The relevant part of the article under reference further reads: “For me, the most striking part of that message (referring to Makinde’s condolence message to the family of his predecessor) is where Makinde, in a manner most uncharacteristic of politicians, said the following about the late Ajimobi, ‘Surely, he will be remembered for leaving a blueprint for some of the activities that our administration is now undertaking’.”
“What manner of politician openly acknowledges the inherent benefits of projects started by his main opponent and constantly restates his commitment to completing them all, even to point of admitting that he has adopted part of his developmental blueprint? It can only be a politician who puts the welfare of the people over and above politics in every regard,” the article had further observed.
And did he walk his talk? A good answer to this will be the current state of the Oyo State Health Insurance Agency, which was established in 2016 by the Ajimobi administration with a vision of achieving Universal Health Coverage and access to affordable and quality health care for all residents of the state regardless of their economic status. When Makinde assumed office, he immediately demonstrated his readiness to sustain this worthy legacy of his predecessor by resisting the predictable political pressure to remove the Executive Secretary of the agency, Dr Olusola Akande, who was appointed by Ajimobi. Today, the number of enrollees on the scheme has increased from 45,000 in 2019 to over 300,000, while Akande still remains in office.
On how much the Makinde administration has done to sustain the agency, Akande has this to say in a report by Newspeak, dated April 17, 2023. “When the present governor came in, he promised not to cancel anything good that the former administration put in place and he showed fidelity to that promise. Oyo State Health Insurance continues to progress under the present government and expansion has become wider, service delivery has become deeper and coverage has become enlarged.”
This particular uncommon virtue is what Governor Makinde had once again demonstrated by his timing of the announcement of the renaming of the hitherto First Technical University. A decent and principled politician that he is, he resisted the apparent temptation to make this predictably popular and a potentially game changing announcement during his re-election campaign, despite facing a highly uncertain fate and in dire need of every ounce of political capital he could muster.
Faced with a formidable opposition, which had been further buoyed and emboldened by the victory of its candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the presidential election, as well as the rumoured decision of some of his major coalition partners to abandon him at the last minute, yet Makinde refused to be a political opportunist by announcing the renaming of the university before the election. Rather, he chose to do it at the most appropriate and auspicious moment and clearly not for sheer political gain.
Same goes for his principled stance on the issue of a southern presidency, which saw him brazenly opposing the presidential candidate of his own political party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, at the risk of enormous personal and political jeopardy. By ignoring the dictates of political expediency and wittingly putting his political future on the line in the fight for equity and justice, Makinde has proven beyond every shade of doubt that he is a politician hewn out of a wood completely different from what we have become accustomed to.
Makinde’s record of achievements speaks for itself. But that is also not part of the purpose of this article. Nevertheless, it is no longer news that the 2023 governorship election in Oyo State, which renewed his mandate for another four-year term by a wide margin, was adjudged to be among the most peaceful and credible in the country. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that he won the election primarily on the strength of his performance.
Having fulfilled over 70 percent of his campaign promises in his first term, what Makinde must do next is not rest on his oars as most second-term governors are wont to do. This is the time for him to ensure the completion of all the legacy projects started by him or his predecessors. Most important among these is the first phase (32km East End Wing) of the 110km economically super-strategic Senator Rashidi Ladoja Circular Road, Ibadan, which successive administrations have failed to complete since former Governor Ladoja, after whom it is named, conceived the idea during his tenure between 2003 and 2007.
Others, which are equally important, include the proposed Dry Port at Moniya, close to Chief Obafemi Awolowo Train Station, for which his administration has already acquired the needed land and paid compensation to all the landowners; the expansive Government Reservation Areas being developed at all exits points along the Circular Road and in various other locations in Ibadan, and in the four zones of the state, including Oke-Ogun, Ogbomosho, Oyo and Ibarapa. Also of importance are the abandoned Silos project in Oyo town, which will enable farmers in Oyo and Oke Ogun axis store and preserve their grains for large scale industrial use and exportation, and the Shell Gas Plant located on the Ibadan-Lagos Expressway, which will power the government’s industrialisation initiatives, as well as its Independent Power Projects.
The governor must also develop initiatives for tackling the solid waste management problem that has bedevilled the state capital for ages, while also ensuring the completion of the various channelisation projects embarked on by the Ibadan Urban Flood Management Project (IUFMP), especially the ongoing Agodi River and Ona River Channelisation in Ibadan, as a means of finding a permanent solution to the often devastating perennial flooding being experienced in the capital city. Another laudable initiative, which must not be abandoned, is the ‘Light Up Oyo’ project, which seeks to provide night-time lighting in all public spaces in the state, starting with identified black spots.
In addition, Omituntun 2.0, as Makinde has christened his administration’s second term developmental blueprint, must incorporate the timely completion of the multiple road reconstruction and rehabilitation projects spread across the length and breadth of the state. Priority must also be given to the very strategic ones among them, including the 76.7km Iseyin-Fapote-Ogbomoso Road, which connects Oke-Ogun and Ogbomoso zones; the 45.3km Saki-Ogbooro-Igboho Road, which connects Saki West, Saki East and Oorelope Local Government Areas; the 37.41km Beere-Olorunsogo-Amuloko-Akanran-Dagbolu Road; the 34.85km Oyo-Iseyin Road, which connects Oyo and Oke-Ogun Zones and also serves as the main artery for accessing the Fasola Agribusiness Industrial Hub; the 37.41km Beere-Olorunsogo-Amuloko-Akanran-Dagbolu Road; as well as the 35.53 km Ibadan-Iwo-Osogbo Road.
Finally, in the governor’s words on what the Oyo State people should expect from the second term of his administration: “Oyo State Roadmap to Sustainable Development 2023-2027 represents our covenant with the good people of Oyo State. The fulfilled promises stand as a surety for these added promises we are making. If we could fulfil over 70 percent of our promises made in our first term, then you can rest assured that now that we have been there for our first tenure and fully understand the exigencies of governance, we will do even more. Yes, if we have done it before, we can do it again and do even more. Omituntun 2.0 promises to be an upgrade. We have heard people say that when politicians are given a second term in government, they often underperform. We can only speak for ourselves and say; we have laid the right foundations, and each promise made in this roadmap is well thought out and based on strategies that we know will work.”
Oyo State people, e kú ojú lọ́nà.
Ladigbolu is a Lagos-based journalist