Nobody has been able to win him over yet on the matter of issuing, either an outright ban on commercial motorcyclists, better known as, Okada, in Ibadan metropolis or, at least, a restriction from 8:00pm.
The argument has endured, for some time, between the Oyo State Chief Executive and members of his cabinet. Two years on, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State is still being badgered, even by the eminent persons on his security committee to issue a decisive pronouncement on the operation of Okada riders in Ibadan. “Show me the data that supports your argument, ” he said to members of his team.
They are all familiar with Makinde’s assertions. He is more interested in facts and statistics that have been collated for reference. It doesn’t matter what the subject is. It is the same when he is dealing with anything: Whether it is about increasing the yield in Cassava cultivation, justification for siting a new road project or committing funds to any venture, he will convene meeting upon meetings, to hear a more convincing position or a superior argument, even against his own stance, to which he may concede. “We don’t want to be sensational because other states are doing something. I don’t think we should just ban Okada or restrict them to certain areas, he pointed out.
Explaining further, he said, “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.”
A stickler for details, Makinde takes his time to reach a decision. “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 State. 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.”
His graphic example of the futility of trying to ban commercial motorcyclists, better known as, Okada may sound hilarious, and indeed, elicited uncontrolled gawfaw around the room, but the didactic and compassionate note was not lost. “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. 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. 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.”
It doesn’t take long to become a Makinde disciple as some of the journalists, kept nodding in agreement. The Oyo Governor is willing to go an extra mile to prove a point. “Please, take me up on this,” he challenged the media men. “We can go to Kigali and check out what they have done. This is a place where they were at war 20-something years ago, but now the current French President bypassed Nigeria, visited them and stayed there for two days. If we solve that problem, it is solved. When others are coming in, you don’t know them, you ask questions. We want to be able to get on the street, flag an okada down, and say, you, where is your ID card? They must carry it on them. Though here in Nigeria, we cannot manage an ordinary national ID card properly, that is federal. For Oyo State, we should be able to do things right and if we are successful, others can replicate. But I don’t think and mark it, in all the places okadas were banned, give them six months, they will be back there because they are filling a gap.”
The Oyo State Governor suffered heavy criticism last year when many states were on a lockdown to stave off the effects of Coronavirus. He told a group of journalists conversing with him at Governmemt House, Ibadan, “There is no name Nigerians did not call me. They abused me thoroughly, but I was not going to shut my borders or restrict movement because other states were doing it. We were watching the statistics and analysing the data. There was nothing alarming to be worried about. At certain times of the year. It is called ‘ofiki’, the flu-it comes with all these symptoms-cough, catarrh and cold.” At the time of this report, the the Nigeria Centre for Disease Comtrol (NCDC) COVID-19 statistics for Oyo State show total cases as 6,858; number of persons recovered 6,734 and 124 deaths.
Jumping to conclusions is not the way Makinde likes to operate. He is deliberate about his moves and is not afraid to go alone on a road that is less travelled. Many of his aides told him it was a mistake to make his asset declaration public. He was convinced otherwise and went ahead, anyway. Today, he is an example of transparency and integrity among Nigerian governors, that is difficult to find; not even among the so-called progressives. He believes that the society can only get better if each person is determined to be the change he desires. He mentioned an example of personal sacrifice, he had to undertakeat the beginningof his administration. “We have bbocked a lot of loopholes and reduced the cost of running the government here. For one year, everybody in the cabinet was using their vehicles and the ones we met here. I was using my own car. We prioritized project delivery for the people as opposed to taking care of ourselves first.”
“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. What will be your own sacrifice to ensure that we have a decent society? We all have roles to play really.”
For him, leading from the front and by example is important. By staying on that commitment, Makinde has been able to change the financial narrative of Oyo State. He told the journalists, “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 N2 billion to over N3 billion now, which means monthly, we have N1 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.”
Mr. Makinde, 54, one of the new crop of Nigerian leaders who is approaching governance with refreshing pragmatism is a successful engineer and businessman who entered the contest for Oyo governorship on his own, without a political godfather and was able to emerge winner. Not too long ago, he proved that his popularity and increasing understanding of the processes in politics by taking on the enfants terrible of Nigerian politics and former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose in superiority contest over who leads the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-west. Makinde came up tops!
That night as he walked into the ante-room at Governmemt House, Ibadan, he reminded his guests that he was tired and desired a good sleep, but once he was reminded that journalists who were in town the previous night were still waiting for an audience with him, he encouraged himself to keep the appointment. Indeed, for the better part of the day he played host to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue who accompanied him to commission various projects around the state to mark the second anniversary of the Makinde administration in Oyo State.
The interaction with journalists began as soon as formal courtesies were established. A couple of hours after, it was well past 2:00am in the early hours of the next day when his media aides Messrs Jide Ajani and Taiwo Adisa assured him that there were no more questions. He promptly got up and bumped fists with everyone, as much as COVID-19 protocols would allow.
Completely surrounded by ‘enemy’ states controlled by the opposing All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-west region of Nigeria, being the only PDP-controlled state in the region, Makinde lives under the constant threat of political ambush, therefore, putting him in a position of fighting to stay alive under a barrage of political onslaught from the opposition that wants to dislodge him. But the Oyo Governor seems unperturbed, leaving everyone with the impression of one who has little time for profanities and is in a hurry to enact lasting legacies.
He dismissed the speculation that he wanted to defect to the APC. “Is that a party that anybody will want to cross to? He asked rhetorically. He then went on to advance reasons why that can never happen. “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 six 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. 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 APC defection rumour is a lie from the pit of hell and it is not going to happen.”
Leading from the front and by example is important. By staying on that commitment, Makinde has been able to change the financial narrative of Oyo State. He told the journalists, “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 N2 billion to over N3 billion now, which means monthly, we have N1 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