Whether by chance or design, a medley of cacophonous soundbites has been targeting the governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde, in recent weeks. As multi-layered as the critics come, their antics and desire appear perpetually narrow-ended: to burst the high-flying balloon of the Ibadan-born engineer-turned-politician.
Criticism is of natural occurrence. But those you see raising issues about Makinde tend to easily confuse and misconstrue the man. Over time, you would think they would understand. However, at a point, the critics got furious and vicious, with some wearing the desperation of a hen, which had just been deprived of its last chick by the rampaging hawk. Whatever they saw, they threw at the sky, peradventure it got to haul down the balloon. His case became that of one man, many enemies.
But what was his offence? He hit the ground running as governor of Oyo State. Within the first 100 days, he had redefined governance in the Pacesetter State such that the states’s workers had started comparing his 100 days record with the 96 months of his immediate predecessor. He kept his pre-election words and remained faithful to his book of government.
He cancelled the fees charged in public schools by his predecessor and replaced the same with subventions payable by the government. He is paying at least N526 million per term as grants to primary and secondary schools. He made welfare of workers and pensioners his priority and ensured that the only way to grow the local economy is to inject at least N8 billion (now N11 billion after approval of new minimum wage) into the local economy on a monthly basis through prompt payment of salaries. He said that infrastructural works would be tied to economic growth and diversification; he is ready to fight corruption and to him, security is key to service delivery.
What is obvious in his style of governance is that he has shown himself as a man for the masses and the downtrodden, who reeled out people-centred policies weaved around the four-point service agenda: Security; Health; Education and improved Economy.
Because he cruised past the 100 days in unlikely fashion, thumping records of all predecessors down the line, his waves shot to unprecedented heights locally and abroad. He caught fame and accolades from an appreciative public, which is always in search of heroes. Online, offline and everywhere, praises trailed his utterances and actions.
At home, the critics feared the worst, especially political extinction, if the political whiz kid, sort of, is allowed to run without hiccups. They designed an agenda to tag him. The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) reared its head. Even when the election that brought them into office was held against a restraining order of injunction of the high court, they claimed Makinde should allow their mandate to run. The critics went on a binge, attempting to tag the man with a name he was not christened. They said he was flipflopping, clueless, a traitor and an inexperienced administrator. Good enough, those bile-infested appellations went down without history. They claimed he was a traitor for allegedly dumping the coalescing parties that brought him to power; that he was clueless because he doesn’t know what to do. But it is clear that the authors were merely forum-shopping for unlikely headlines and their plots failed woefully.
Along the line, another set of critics showed up. It was in the aftermath of Makinde testing positive to COVID-19. The critics, some of whom had hitherto stayed aloof of the madding crowd, entered the fray and questioned why Makinde only went into and out of the COVID-19 positive/negative ensemble in a jiffy.
It is a pity they delved into a science and precision arena with tools of speculation, mistrust and guesswork. They raised questions about the COVID-19 positive/negative case history of Governor Makinde and attempted to impugn the integrity of the tests conducted on the governor.
They also echoed a line similar to that of the Ibadan naysayers, who had said that the governor had on occasions been “forced” to recant public utterances and that he had been seen owning up to “gaffes in public actions” in a way they claimed were worthy of “severe reprimands.”
No matter how hard the writers tried to give sense to their claims, Makinde’s public life has given a lie to such claims. The governor’s public life clearly portrays the claims as hollow and formless.
Perhaps they want to lay credence to the March 20 post of the governor, in which the governor took responsibility for the highly-criticised March 18 unification rally of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. Well, Makinde’s comment on that occasion really was not a flipflop. He stated clearly that he took responsibility for that rally but that the event held in view of the information at the disposal of South-West PDP leaders at the time. The truth is that there was no coronavirus patient in Oyo State as at the time. It was hours after the rally that information came that a coronavirus patient had actually spent some two weeks in Ibadan, enroute Ado-Ekiti.
One of the instances the combined forces of critics had used in attempting to justify the destructive claim of flipflopping by Makinde was the governor’s comments on the Ibadan circular road project being handled by ENL Consortium.
Months back, when the governor visited the project site, he made a “Stop Work” order and directed the management of that company to come for a meeting in his office thereafter. One or two reporters projected the stop work order as a revocation of the contract. That’s an error on the part of those reporters, because a day after, the governor had entertained a meeting with ENL’s management, he asked them to get back to site and see out the contract by May 2020, its terminal date. But the naysayers had latched onto the misrepresentation in a few reports to attempt to wear the flipflopping toga on Makinde. In reality, it is not just there.
But the recent voyage into the annals of Oyo State politics and some being released by the critics surprisingly showcased their determination to cause disaffection within the top echelons of Makinde’s administration, an eternal objective of the governor’s sworn critics.
Questions were being asked as to why the governor’s recovery from COVID-19 was that fast and dramatic; why the governor posted items he relied upon to boost his immunity while in isolation; and attempted to check on the veracity of the tests. You would want to wonder why anyone would wish the governor had stayed longer in isolation than he did and for whatever reason. Maybe that wish had its foundation in the posture of some Ibadan naysayers, one of whom had advised that Makinde (as if incapacitated) should have handed over power to his deputy to lead the fight against COVID-19, while he was in isolation. But the Abuja-based politician did not offer a similar advice to President Muhammadu Buhari, when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was named chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, instead of Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
I do not see any reason in that complaint. The world has been battling the rampaging coronavirus and some form of mystery was already massing up in its wake. We saw how a COVID-19 patient vigorously fought the plan by health officials of Oyo State to evacuate him with an ambulance just to avoid the stigma. So, Makinde speaking out was to demystify the mystery around the virus and help propel local initiatives at searching out solutions. Days after, the PTF in Abuja had equally asked survivors of COVID-19 to speak out. Even at that, Makinde did not position himself as a medical expert or as someone making a prescription.
While critics of Makinde are free to air their opinions, resorting to destructive criticisms, or not seeking a full understanding of the governor and his style of governance will make them blind critics. So, if they are confounded by Makinde’s smart moves in the Government House and his exquisite service delivery, maybe they need to take a peep into his upcoming autobiography, “Seyi Makinde: Thinking it out,” where he wrote: “People often ask me what drives my personal, professional and political passions. What keeps me running? I hope I have shown over time that my ultimate goal is to serve humanity with all the resources God has endowed me with. Service to humanity is the number one driving force in my life. I firmly believe in the adage which says that when a man sends a gift to the market, the market will reward him with a gift in return.”
•Adisa is Chief Press
Secretary to Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde