2023: Oyo’s Difficult Options
Four months from now Oyo state electorates would be at the polls to elect their preferred candidate for the governorship seat. More than 10 candidates are in the race for the March 11, 2023 election, including the incumbent governor Seyi Makinde who is seeking a second term. Makinde’s runner-up in the 2019 edition was Adebayo Adelabu, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but in the current edition, Adelabu failed to secure the party’s ticket, as he lost to Senator Teslim Folarin. Following his loss of the ticket, Adelabu decamped to the Accord party, which subsequently nominated him for governor.
Challenging the trio is; Popoola Joshua (New Nigeria Peoples Party), Ajekigbe Olaniyi (Action Alliance), Agbomeji Olamide (Young Progressive Party), Agboyega Raymond (National Rescue Movement), Ajadi Ganiyu (Democratic Congress), Okedara Mojeed (African Action Congress), and Yakubu Adekunle (Social Democratic Party), among others. Without taking anything away from the others, it is not preposterous to state the obvious that only three of these candidates have any real chance of getting to the Agodi Government House – PDP’s Makinde, APC’s Folarin, and Accord’s Adelabu. Party spread and recognition by the largely semi-literate electorates, the PDP’s and Makinde’s incumbency, the APC’s potential federal influence, as well as the Accord’s and Adelabu’s relatively good past electoral performance, are some of the factors that limit the Agodi Government House’s next tenant to the trio.
Given this reality, Oyo’s fate is no different from that of Nigeria’s, considering the quality of these candidates. While Nigerians are considering their potential choice from the less than impressive options available, with many advocating for the least of three evils, Oyo state can hardly identify the least of its own three evils. To many observers from a distance, Seyi Makinde is one of the governors performing well in Nigeria. The distance here includes those who are observing from outside Oyo state (seeing things about the state on social media and other platforms), and those within the state but who hardly look beyond the surface on issues. But that is far from the reality, Makinde’s performance since becoming governor has been way less than impressive, and the records prove this.
Without downplaying his 2019 victory at the polls, it is arguable that Makinde could not have been governor in 2019 on his own electoral strength. Widespread public displeasure with his predecessor, the late senator Abiola Ajimobi, and the APC’s house that fell apart under the pressure of unyielding conflicting party stalwarts were the two major factors that handed Makinde a rare victory at the polls. It is worthy of note though, that the public displeasure with Makinde’s predecessor, Abiola Ajimobi, was not due to poor performance in office, but due to Ajimobi’s knack for saying things as they were (even when they were unpleasant to the ear of the affected, despite being the truth), which many took as insults on many occasions. With this rare opportunity, anyone would expect Makinde to at least do as well as his predecessor, but Makinde has shown himself as an unprepared accidental governor, to use the recent words of his opponents.
Despite his pretense to the contrary, Makinde has performed less than his predecessor in all relevant areas of governance. While he met a largely peaceful state, thanks to Ajimobi’s decisive intolerance of the excesses of the violence-prone members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Makinde’s tenure has made the state less peaceful as a result of his romance with the NURTW. While Makinde’s supporters like to point to the general widespread insecurity in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari, it is glaring to every observer that Makinde has not handled security well in the state, despite receiving as much as one billion naira monthly as a security vote. Under Ajimobi, potential troublemakers in Oyo state were always weary of the then active Operation Burst, a security initiative of the Abiola Ajimobi administration. Today, Operation Burst has been relegated to the background, even when the state has seen better days, security-wise.
On infrastructure, the story is the same. Being an engineer, one would expect that Makinde would significantly improve Oyo’s infrastructure, but that has not been the case. Other than finishing ongoing projects that were started or initiated by his predecessor, Makinde’s administration has little or no original infrastructural projects to its credit. Even those ones he inherited, especially roads, Makinde wastes time on their completion unnecessarily, subjecting residents to unbearable daily torture in avoidable traffic. The Basorun-Akobo road dualisation is a prime example. While the project began in early 2017, the Ajimobi administration dragged its feet on it and didn’t complete it till the administration expired in 2019. Makinde assumed office and also dragged his feet on the project, spending another three years on it before completing a shoddy job in the later parts of 2022. A drive around the state capital, Ibadan, would reveal pothole-ridden roads begging for urgent repair – an “unusual” thing under Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who ensured that the state’s road maintenance agency was up and running.
For years now, governments and other stakeholders globally have been raising concerns over climate change and its effects on our planet. To address climate change, attention is being shifted from fossil fuels to renewable energy, with countries already setting various targets for quitting their dependence on fossil fuels. Seyi Makinde is an engineer and should be aware of these concerns, but strangely the climate concerns were of no relevance to him and his administration when they decided to light up major roads in the state. To power the newly erected street lights, engineer Makinde’s government opted for diesel-powered generators. Asides from the environmental impact of the diesel-powered generators, Makinde, and his administration thought little of the cost of running such a project on diesel.
That was last year, at a time diesel was a little more than N300/litre. It simply made no fiscal sense and was a huge drain on Oyo’s lean purse. Today diesel sells for an average of N789/litre, depending on which filling station you buy from, further exposing the folly in Makinde’s decision to power those street lights with diesel-powered generators. Sadly, but not surprising, Oyo cannot afford to buy diesel at that price. You might guess what that means for the street lights. They are now mostly off, and major roads are now as dark and scary at night as they used to be. Oyo state’s capital, Ibadan has been widely known to be dirt-ridden, a sore to the sight, and foul to the nose, due to residents’ indiscriminate and unhealthy waste disposal practices. Before Ajimobi, Ibadan was widely regarded as the dirtiest city in Nigeria. In his little way, Ajimobi cleaned up Ibadan, creating a noticeable difference in the look and feel of the city. But like other areas, Makinde’s administration has returned Ibadan to its ugly past, with waste littering every nook and cranny of the city, including major roads.
During a radio interview session on Fresh 105.9 FM on October 29, 2022, the anchor Isaac Brown confronted governor Makinde on his administration’s poor handling of waste management. Isaac Brown, noting that he was recently at an event where one of the speakers said Ibadan was fast becoming the waste capital of the Southwest geopolitical zone, asked Makinde about what the governor thinks is wrong with his administration’s approach in managing waste. In a response that betrays his lack of a sense of responsibility, Makinde said, “Ibadan, saying that Ibadan is the dirtiest state capital in Nigeria. Are you hearing that for the first time? Are you hearing it within the last three years? Have you heard it so many years back? The truth is I’ve heard it even growing up. Eh! That is our reality.” Ignoring the log in his own eyes, Makinde pointed out the speck in his predecessor’s, adding that, “And if previous administrations, if they said look, we’ve solved this problem, why are we back to this point?” While there was still much to be done, only a willfully blind and mischievous person would say that Ibadan was not cleaner under Ajimobi. Makinde failed to continue from where Ajimobi stopped, yet blames his predecessors for the current dirt.
In education, the story is no different. A glaring example is his handling of the N3,000 (three thousand naira) public school students levy, which the Ajimobi administration initiated. During the 2019 campaigns, Makinde had been asked about what he would do about it as the levy had generated controversy. Some parents were complaining and preferred to not pay the levy, claiming they couldn’t afford it and that there were no signs of the levy’s use in the schools because the rogues that were in charge of its collection and management were diverting it to personal use, leaving the schools in the horrible conditions they’ve always been. Responding to the question, and to gain cheap public applause, Makinde said he would stop the levy if elected governor since it was being stolen. He made good on his word, announcing the levy’s cancellation immediately after he was sworn in as governor.
Is canceling the payment the solution to the theft? What happened to one of the main duties of the governor, accountability? Perhaps Makinde saw that it was easier to cancel the payment than to ensure that the funds are accounted for and made to serve the purpose for which they were paid. To make up for the canceled levy, Makinde promised that his administration would fund the operation of Oyo’s public schools. You would think the state has that many resources at its disposal. In October 2019, Makinde’s administration released the sum of N526 million for the running of Oyo’s public schools in 2019/2020 academic year – N126 million for the about 2457 primary schools (using the figure on the state government’s website – and N400 million for about 1143 secondary schools – according to the state’s website (571 junior secondary schools and 572 senior secondary schools). If you share N126 million equally among the 2457 primary schools, each would get about N51,282. If you share N400 million equally among the 1143 secondary schools, each would get about N349,956.
Let’s not even look at whether or not these funds are enough to properly run these schools, by the beginning of the 2020/2021 school year, Makinde’s administration had stopped providing the grant. And it became news when schools were seen in videos posted on social media, in which teachers were writing the 2020/2021 first-term exam questions on the chalkboard because there were no funds to print exam questions on paper. According to a report by educeleb.com, Makinde addressed the issue in his speech during the Omituntun Mega Praise and Thanksgiving service in December 2021, claiming that the Teachers Union was dishing out half-truths on why the grant was not released by the government.
According to the report, Makinde said he withheld approval for the grant because the schools’ managers didn’t account for the first grant. “I released grants at the start of the last session. They later wrote requesting another grant. I asked them to explain how the last grant was spent but they gave no explanation”, he said, adding that “due to their failure to account for the earlier one, I did not approve another grant.” As the governor, if you released funds for a project but the person you handed the project and funds to refused to account for the funds, should you just move on like that and not compel the person to account or be punished accordingly? Are the schools’ managers above the law? Makinde stopped the school levy because it was being stolen, and also stopped school grants because the managers didn’t account for it. What manner of governor is this? If Oyo was Makinde’s personal business, would he run it in the same manner, leaving rogues who stole company funds to keep their jobs without accounting for the resources entrusted to them?
These and more are the things that have defined Makinde’s tenure so far. If this is the reality, one would hope that other political parties would present better candidates to challenge Makinde, but that’s not the case in Oyo. The main opposition party in Oyo state is the APC. As stated earlier, the party didn’t give its governorship ticket to its flagbearer in the 2019 edition, Adebayo Adelabu. It gave it to the well-known but unpopular Teslim Folarin. Though Folarin holds a B.Sc degree in Political Science, his time in both local and national politics has been of no positive impact on his constituents. Representing Oyo central senatorial district on the platform of the PDP, Folarin served as a senator in the periods 2003-2007 and 2007-2011 and was appointed senate leader. In 2014, Folarin was the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate, but he lost to the then-incumbent, Abiola Ajimobi.
During the campaigns for that 2014 election, Folarin exposed himself as being unprepared and unqualified to occupy the office of governor, were Nigeria not Nigeria. Despite being a two-term senator, Folarin displayed a shocking lack of ideas on governance, and his poor performance in interviews didn’t pass without being noticed by the electorates. No wonder he came a distant fourth in that election. During one of those pre-election interviews, Splash 105.5 FM’s Edmund Obilo asked Folarin what contribution he had made to his alma mater, the University of Ibadan since he left there. To the shock of Obilo and listeners, Folarin replied, saying that the school had never asked him for anything, as he admitted that he had contributed literally nothing to the development of that school, even since he has been in a significant public office. In a later interview, Folarin tried to make up for that error but only made it worse. According to him, he has actually done something for the school, but he forgot during the previous interview. What did Folarin do for UI? According to him, his Hall of residence during his days in the school had invited him to an event organized by the Hall, and he honoured the invitation.
It is still amusing how Folarin thought that that was a contribution to his alma mater. That is the person the APC gave its governorship ticket to ahead of 2023. After he lost that 2014 election, Folarin decamped to the APC, and became senator again in 2019. Between 2019 and now, little is known about Folarin’s impact on his constituents and the National Assembly. But Folarin and Makinde are not alone. The third major candidate ahead of 2023, Adebayo Adelabu, has not been tested in public office, but even he has shown some signs of what to expect were he to become governor. Debates are opportunities for candidates to share their ideas with the public, and for the public to assess the candidates and their ideas. The 2019 governorship debate at the international conference center (ICC), University of Ibadan, was one such opportunity for Adelabu to sell his candidacy to Oyo electorates, but he could not clearly respond to questions or share clear ideas on how he intended to govern if elected.
Besides, since he lost in 2019 Adelabu has been relatively quiet, which probably explains why he lost the APC 2023 ticket. With Makinde’s less than impressive performance so far, Adelabu as the opposition has done little in putting pressure on the Makinde government to live up to the expectation of a 21st-century government. The March 11, 2023 election will be here in no time, but given the difficult options available to Oyo state’s electorates, the next four years for Oyo – like the case of Nigeria as a country – do not hold much promise.