Oyo’s Makinde: Beyond The Image Laundering
To many observers from a distance, Oyo state’s governor Seyi Makinde is one of the governors doing well in Nigeria since 2019. 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 has Makinde really governed Oyo well? Like most socio-political subjects, there can be no generally accepted answer to this. His supporters will answer in the affirmative, while his opponents will disagree. And there are those who would rather be on the fence, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.
However, irrespective of what side of the fence you are, to answer this question, you will have to consider various factors to arrive at your answer, especially if you’re neither his supporter nor his opponent. To begin, it is without a doubt that Seyi Makinde could not have won the 2019 governorship election on his own. This is not to downplay his victory, but anyone who has followed Oyo’s politics since Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1999, and especially since 2015, will recognize that fact. His predecessor, the late senator Abiola Ajimobi, to the surprise of everyone won a second term in 2015, the first time anyone would achieve such feat. It was because nobody before Ajimobi did more than one term that the Ibadan people claimed to never serve anyone twice (Ibadan é sin ‘yan l’emeji).
Was Ajimobi’s performance so exceptional to have won his re-election? Not precisely exceptional, but there was no doubt that his first term performance was better, in many ways than those of his predecessors – Lam Adesina (May 1999 – May 2003), Rasheed Ladoja (May 2003- January 2006 & December 2006 – May 2007), and Alao Akala (January 2006 – December 2006 & May 2007 – May 2011). Aside from his infrastructure projects, Ajimobi’s main credit point was his ability to successfully put the violent members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in their place – behind the wheels and/or in their garages. Oyo state’s residents could hardly believe that peace and sanity could return to the state after the Akala administration when everyone was literally at the mercy of all kinds of miscreants who made peace and security seem like a luxury.
How did Ajimobi do it? Well, it was no magic as governors today want us to believe while various violent non-state actors hold the country to ransom. Ajimobi worked with the police and the Army (yes, the same police and army that governors today claim they have no control over), they created a security outfit they tagged “Operation Burst”, meaning an outfit whose mission was to burst crime, and they literally lived up to their tag. In Ajimobi’s 8 years as governor, Oyo state residents were able to sleep with their two eyes closed. While Ajimobi did relatively well in his first term, his second term, as is the sad norm in Nigeria, was not as good as his first. By 2018 he had almost literally forsaken governance for politics, politics aimed at self-preservation. Unfortunately for him, he lost control of his party (the APC) and lost the affection of the electorates, which ultimately led to his unsuccessful bid to return to the Nigerian Senate in 2019, and his party’s loss of the gubernatorial election.
Seyi Makinde was the beneficiary of Ajimobi’s many wrong decisions in the 2015-2019 period. Because in Nigeria, the governor in most places controls the party in his/her state – because of his access to the public Till – Ajimobi won the intra-party battles in the APC, and in the process frustrated several influential members out. Do not make the mistake of thinking that Ajimobi was wrong and that the ones who left the party were right. No, neither was wrong nor right. They all fought for their personal interests, not for the good of the state. Those who left the APC went to other parties, but largely all of them entered into an alignment with then PDP governorship candidate Seyi Makinde. Or they thought they had an alignment because as soon as Makinde assumed office, they started coming out again to accuse him of violating pre-election agreements.
While many factors culminated in Makinde’s victory in 2019, the contribution of the APC’s falling apart cannot be overemphasized. And though Seyi Makinde was widely known in the state, at least in the capital Ibadan, he never had the political capital to win a governorship election. And had APC put their house in order in 2019, the best Makinde could have done was to come second in 2019, and that second would have been because he ran on the platform of the PDP. In the previous election in 2015, Abiola Ajimobi (APC) won with 327,310 votes, beating his closest rival Rasheed Ladoja (Accord Party), who had 254,520 votes. Alao Akala (Labour Party) came third in that election with 184,111 votes. In fourth place was Teslim Folarin (PDP) with 79,019. Seyi Makinde (SDP) was a distant fifth, with 54,740 votes.
By 2019, Ladoja had had enough of running for governor and had rejoined the PDP. Seyi Makinde also rejoined the PDP and got the party’s ticket. With Ladoja’s endorsement, and the APC house that fell apart, anyone on the PDP ticket in 2019 would have won (especially given how public opinion was really against Ajimobi), and so Makinde won, with 515,621 votes. His closest rival, Bayo Adelabu (APC) got 357,982 votes. It is no over-flogging the child to say that those 515,621 votes were not necessarily votes for Seyi Makinde, they were more likely votes against Ajimobi and the APC. Yes, Ajimobi had so lost public support that he lost his bid to return to the Nigerian Senate, losing to relatively unknown Kola Balogun of the PDP. There was really little/no difference between Makinde and Adelabu in terms of ideas. So, the election was really not about both of them.
From the campaigns, Makinde had shown signs of his love for looking good in the eyes of the public, and only an observer that wasn’t paying attention to details would have missed/ignored it. For this author, that was the first red flag. An example is his handling of the N3,000 (three thousand naira) public school students levy, which the Ajimobi administration initiated. During the 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.
In response, Makinde said he would stop it if elected governor since it was being stolen. He made good on his word, he announced the levy’s cancellation immediately after he was sworn in as governor. And as he desired, he was applauded by those who ordinarily didn’t want to take up responsibility over their own children, who thought that free education is their right, not minding what manner of (mis)education their children were receiving. Leave those parents and consider Makinde’s decision to cancel the levy. One of his reasons was that the funds from the levy were being stolen. If that is the case, 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.
One other reason that has been given, especially by his supporters, is that some parents can’t afford the levy. Nigeria is said to have the highest number of people living in extreme poverty in the whole world, but is this enough reason to cancel the levy, even when it is a fact that the state does not have enough funds to properly run these schools? Another duty of Makinde as governor is to provide jobs or create an environment where private investors can come into the state and create jobs, encourage vocational skills acquisition, and provide structure to enable it to run well, or a combination of all. Unfortunately, that’s an even more difficult task for Makinde and his peers in Nigeria. You are not helping these parents by excusing their relative irresponsibility over their own children, but isn’t that what serves Nigerian politicians’ selfish ways? Keep the people poor so that they can hardly question you.
In place of the levy, Makinde said his administration would release grants to fund the schools’ operation. You would think the state has that much 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 the 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 last December, saying 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 does that?
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? If you think his handling of the school levy and grant is bad, Makinde has more shock for you. In one of his (wrong) ways of seeking public approval, Makinde reinstated some workers who were dismissed by the previous government for disciplinary reasons. During an interview on the state’s broadcasting service, BCOS, Makinde was asked about some of those workers that were re-dismissed or punished in other ways. Makinde said some of them were dismissed by the previous government for stealing, but he reabsorbed them into the civil service, and the same people who were given a second chance went back to their vomit, and they resumed their stealing. If you confirmed that they were dismissed for stealing, why should you reinstate them?
He has also been disappointing in the area of security, no thanks to his embrace of the trouble-loving and unruly NURTW members. When his predecessor, Ajimobi, became governor, NURTW members were made to recognize that authority lies in the state and nobody is above the law. Ajimobi actually kept a major part of the trouble-prone members in jail for 7 years (the widely known Auxiliary). That sent the right message to the others, who learned to behave themselves while Ajimobi was governor. Seyi Makinde, in his wisdom, decided to do otherwise, and literally returned violence to the state, through the NURTW. Auxiliary has been Makinde’s right-hand man, and he and his men have been doing as they please, with the attendant violence. Only lately did they start exercising some calm, after residents began voicing their displeasure over Makinde’s hobnobbing with Auxiliary.
Agbowo is an area around the University of Ibadan. Due to its proximity to the university, many students have made Agbowo home. Agbowo is a very unpleasant environment, with bad roads that are equally so narrow that they hardly allow easy passage of two vehicles going towards opposite directions (there are actually some that are too narrow even for a single vehicle’s easy passage). But worse than the bad roads and poor town planning is insecurity. Agbowo residents have been crying out for years now about their plight in the hands of all kinds of miscreants, but it is not clear, yet, if and when the government will do something about the menace. Nigeria has never been so unfortunate as it currently is under president Mohammadu Buhari’s administration and APC, especially in the area of security, the problem is everywhere in the country, but Makinde and his peers can do better if they really want to.
When you ask his supporters what significant thing Makinde has done in his more than 3 years as governor, the first, and mostly the only thing they say is that he’s paying civil servants’ salaries. It is sad to have bad governments, but it is worse also to have citizens who, for whatever reasons, have decided to celebrate trivial stuff, citizens who continuously fail to link the dots of bad governance and its effects on their miserable lives. When you tell them that the previous government left office without owing salaries, they say it owed for long before paying up, and that it owed pensions. When you tell them that paying salary is Makinde’s obligation and that he’s not paying with his money, they say he pays on the 25th of the month. If you tell them that 25th to the next 25th is 30 days, and the 30th to the next 30th is also 30 days, they say he’s also paying pension.
Makinde knows them well, that they never bother to examine issues beyond the surface. So he keeps giving them crumbs and they keep praising him forever. There is no wrong in having public opinion on your side as a leader, but when you are obsessed with looking good in the eyes of the public, your motive should be suspected by any serious observer, and that look good obsession will be the bane of your decisions, which would most likely not be in the interest of the general public. It was why at Makinde’s inauguration as governor, he declared that he was donating his salary to the pensions board. As expected, the naive public celebrated Makinde’s “Greek gift”, instead of seeing it for what it was, a mere gimmick. It was even more disheartening to see supposedly educated adults giving a thumbs up.
How much is a governor’s salary, really? How much is a president’s salary? It is well known that these politicians don’t compete bitterly for office just because of their Salaries, they do so because of the other many pecks that come with the office. Makinde actually later disclosed his disappointment when he realized that his salary as governor is N650,000 monthly. He said he thought it was maybe N3 million or N4 million. Even at N4 million monthly, how many pensioners could that pay? When you consider the outrageous amount these public office holders get paid in various kinds of allowances, you will better comprehend Makinde’s deliberate deceit of the people with his “Greek gift”. Leave that and examine how much he gets as security vote, the same security that has eluded Oyo state since he became governor.
In a report on June 27, 2021, Businessday published figures that each state governor gets as security vote per month. In the report, Oyo’s Makinde was said to be receiving a whopping N1 billion monthly as security vote. Can you see the mischief? This ridiculous security vote figure is a major reason for Nigeria’s worsening insecurity crisis. They need the kidnappings, killings, banditry, herdsmen, and Boko Haram terrorism to justify the huge amount of money they cart away monthly as security votes. In other words, Nigerians should not expect a resolution of the crisis, because it is an unholy enterprise for a lot of people.
Makinde has been busy alienating those with whom he worked for the 2019 victory, claiming he does not have a godfather. Right from the start, he’s been in unhealthy competition with his deputy (now former deputy), Rauf Olaniyan. There were interventions from stakeholders to help resolve the rift between them, but all efforts failed. Makinde appears to have not learned from Ajimobi’s case that a tree does not make a forest. While there is no excusing Olaniyan’s perceived or established faults, Makinde has proven to be one who thinks he can do as he pleases with alignments, especially after he’s gotten what he wanted. His rift with the former governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose, and other PDP stakeholders in the southwest over the leadership of the party in the region is also public knowledge.
If he was having issues with politicians because he was governing well and so was stepping on toes, it would have been a good one. But Makinde’s performance has been really disappointing. His governance is simply unimpressive, with little or nothing to show. Oh! There’s something to show, humongous debt. It is beyond confounding that Makinde’s administration has been unable to finish the general gas overhead bridge and Akobo road in more than 3 years in office, despite the fact that the previous administration had started the project before leaving office. Add this to the fact that Makinde uses the road almost every day between his home and the secretariat. He sees the unimaginable suffering that commuters endure every day on that road, yet he’s unmoved. Now, they’re trying to complete [shoddy] work on it, for election purposes.
The Makinde administration and the opposition APC have always been at each other’s neck over Makinde’s numerous borrowings, the same Makinde who regularly criticized the previous government for too much borrowing. An N100 billion bond, N2 billion loan for counterpart funding of donor-assisted projects, and N3.5 billion overdraft for salary are some of the debts the Makinde administration has incurred in just 3 years of being in office. This is more worrisome when you consider that Makinde and his government have been boasting about significantly increasing the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR). You then wonder why they have to borrow to pay salaries, despite the IGR boast.
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 still just over N300/liter. It simply made no economic sense and was a huge drain on Oyo’s lean purse. Today diesel sells for an average of N733, 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 surprisingly, Oyo cannot afford to buy diesel at that price. You can guess what that means for the street lights. They’ve not blinked for weeks now, and major roads are now as dark and scary at night as they used to be. This is not a piece to discredit Seyi Makinde, but a critical look at how he has run the state since becoming governor. Now he’s focused on his bid for re-election. Does he deserve a second term? Oyo electorates will decide that. But if Makinde was less obsessed about his image laundering, Oyo would be better for it.