Few months back Chief of Staff to the Oyo State governor, Chief Bisi Ilaka, who is also the Ladilu of Oyo Kingdom spoke to DARE ADEKANMBI on what Governor Seyi Makinde has to showcase as achievements as the administration clocks two years in office, the alternative project funding initiative, the job done so far and accelerated development in two years among others.
Excerpts from the interview:
Governor Seyi Makinde will be two years in office in about three months from now. His first year in office was smooth. His goodwill soared. But in the last six months, things seem to be changing. What is the government doing differently that is possibly changing the perception of people towards it?
I have been with the administration from the transition committee to having the privilege of being the first appointee of the executive governor till we were joined by other members of the administration team. I think the bar was set pretty too low for us. But we set very exacting and very high standards and we have maintained that by and large. Just like any other administration, there will be midterm blues and people will re-evaluate and we now pitch it a lot higher. What we have done has now become generally acceptable. The fact that kids go to school today without paying any money, they get free textbooks and free exercise books. Our hospitals are working; our economy is expanding and these are taken for granted. So people are now saying, what’s next? This is keeping us on our toes and I am sure we will definitely meet up with the challenge.
We don’t expect it to be plain-sailing all the time. And again, we are operating against a backdrop where the other side is made up of a team of propagandists who are willing to spin and spin. We also live in an environment where there is a lot of fake news and this makes it further challenging for all parties concerned to dissect what is true from what is not. But what is most important to us is that we have remained focused. We have set the objective all along that it won’t be business as usual.
We know we will never be perfect, but we will strive for perfection nonetheless. We don’t expect it to be easy. We are up to the task as to the various challenges. We expect a multitude of challenges and our heart is in the right place. We have Men and women of great intellect working with us and I am sure that with that combination we will get the results that the good people of Oyo State deserve.
You are of the view that people have already taken for granted what you have achieved in the last 24 months and are now asking for more. With what that has been happening in the last six months, is your government rethinking how to do governance in a way that will impress the voters again?
When we got in, we quickly realised that inasmuch as we might have campaigned in poetry, we would govern in prose. We live in the prose and we have been doing that thus far. We have moved from that active politicking to serious governance. It is a major change. Somewhere down the line, we asked for the job and those that we asked for the job from will give us a scorecard and we are mindful of that. In alignment with that, we are keeping our scorecard and we know we are on track.
The people we put in various positions to man various operation centres are discharging their responsibilities as they should. We are pretty confident that the electorate will say we have actually done very well.
Could you share with us some of those projects your government has done to improve the lives of people of the state?
I can run through a number of things. I will say basically our people like to see a lot of physical things. What I will talk about will align with the pillars and thrust of the administration which are education, healthcare, security and expansion of the economy. In the area of education, when we came in, Oyo State was languishing in terms of the ‘league table’ for NECO and WAEC.
We were in the 26, 28 and 29 positions at various times in the last administration. But in the last examination, we came 11th because we really had our hands properly on the steering in terms of education since we came on board. The changes we have put in place will percolate through and will become permanent and I am sure next year we will be in a single digit position and do even better.
Oyo State has always been regarded as the centre of excellence for education and fount of knowledge in Africa. We have also succeeded in getting the sole ownership of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) which has been pretty contentious. In terms of finding funding for the school, we will continue what we have been doing solely. I am sure our people are quite happy about that, that we brought the old tussle with Osun State to a permanent end.
We kept and maintained the Technical University in Ibadan. The mandate of the school has expanded and they are also firing on all cylinders. We have looked after our tertiary education system. We came in when lecturers were being paid 25 per cent of their salaries. We have been paying them full salaries and promptly too.
We even promised to pay the arrears owed them by the previous government and we are doing that. We are rolling out wi-fi in our schools. We are teaching and training teachers in ICT. We have a whole lot of teachers being trained at Saints Annes’ School and Government College. The cabling for the wi-fi in our schools and major health centres has been done and we are talking to all kinds of people. Talking about infrastructure, our secretariat is the only one that has wi-fi in the country today, even Lagos State has not got that.
On healthcare, through the eight years of the last administration, no single healthcare centre was commissioned. We have commissioned about seven and we intend to do one in every of the 351 wards in the state before the term of the administration runs out. We know how to get the money for it and so funding it is not an issue. It is not a wish-list. It is what we will do. We have got to have a kind of an integrated healthcare system and with regard to the secondary healthcare system. Adeoyo Hospital, when we came in, had a patchy diagnostic system. We have put in place a lot of diagnostic and radiography equipment.
We have established a strong MoU with the UCH to provide us specialists in all our secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities. We will exchange the know-how that resides predominantly at the UCH in Ibadan. In Saki, we have set up a specialist hospital. We had the challenge of COVID-19 and I think we have done admirably well with it. The recovery rate has been quite decent.
With regard to security, contrary to what people might read in the newspapers, in my humble opinion, we inherited a lot of challenges. The main one was that in our inner cities, we have a lot of unemployed youths who create formations into gangs and cause mayhem from time to time. That is an overhang of unemployment and lack of training. Added to this is the fact that a lot of people have been displaced, particularly from Lagos and they have been literally dumped on us.
We are dealing with the challenges and we are seeing some results. Since the advent of Amotekun, particularly in Oyo town where I come from, our people no longer feel those moments of angst they used to feel.
The issue of Fulani herdsmen differs from one locality to another. So, we are not trying to use a one-size-fits-all approach. We are engaging with stakeholders and federal security agencies have started responding a little bit better. They have been pretty absent for a little while, particularly the police, shortly after the #EndSars protest. That created a void and we are filling that void.
From what I hear and read from dispatches from neighbouring Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti and Ondo states, on a daily basis, there are a lot more incidents happening there than in our state. So, we are not doing badly in the area of security. Our major focus is that we want to expand our economy and we have put a lot of things in place with regard to that. There has been a major infrastructural deficit in the state over the years. The Moniya-iseyin Road, which is a major road in the state is done. We have various road projects which are all scheduled to finish by the end of the third quarter of this year. These are roads in Ogbomosho, Oyo, Ibadan, Saki and people will see the roads completed.
The Lekan Salami Stadium in Adamasingba will come on stream and we have also got stadia in Oyo, Ogbomosho, Saki, and Eruwa which are being totally refurbished as well. Our farm estates are also coming on stream. With regard to cattle rearing, the issue of Fashola Farm has come to the fore again. There has been story of Fashola being a cattle breeding centre. So, we are setting up a farm estate there which will produce and process a lot of agric produce. We are partaking in the value addition and agricultural and food production because food security is a major focal point for us and we know we can become the food basket of the country.
Other farm estates in Eruwa and Akufo will come alive soon and further down the road, those in Iresaadu, Ijaye and others will follow suit, Generally, we think we a comparative advantage in agriculture because we have a landmass of about 28, 454 square kilometers and virtually everything can grow in the state because our vegetation is from derived savannah to rain forest. So, as long as you get your agronomy and other issues right, virtually everything can be produced in the state. So, we are going to use agric as a veritable tool to do that.
Our pacesetter transport system has been re-energised and it has taken delivery of about 100 buses and we expect them not only to be intra-city. They will also be inter-city. So you will see these mint buses plying the roads of the state and our neighbouring states shortly. They will also do cross-national and go to places like Cotonou and Accra.
We will have our terminals up by the end of the year, our terminals at Challenge, Ojoo and Iwo Road. The list goes on. People may say buying cars for the judiciary is not any achievement, but this is against the backdrop that nobody has bought anything for them in the last 10 years. I won’t talk about the refurbishing the mediation centre which will help us in terms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). There are many more good things.
We have done as a consequence of doing governance. Governance has been absent in Oyo State for a long time. There are so many things we have done which are routine stuff. We don’t expect a big pat on the back for paying workers’ salaries on the 25th of every month since we came on board and for also adding the 13th month every December.
The truth of the matter is that salaries were not regular under the last administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC). We have done all these things and we have kept faith with our people. We told them we would be honest and think about the people first, second, third and all the time. That is what we have We have put the people at the centre of our agenda and we intend to keep doing that. Issues have been raised about the priority of projects like the bus terminals and even the cost, which some say could have been handled via a public-private partnership rather than government solely shouldering it. We know you ask contractors to go look for funds for these projects and they get back their money bit by bit…
Before we came in, time after time, there has been this Yoruba adage that “awo o ka oju ilu” [the membrane not enough to cover the circumference of the drum], against that backdrop, we knew funding was going to be a challenge, not just for this administration but all other administrations subsequent because government wants to do a lot of things, but it can’t do all things. So, we have to be innovative, hence this alternative project funding strategy by our administration.
One, we have had a done projects. So, what we have done is to find a way whereby we get the funding for projects and we don’t have to pay all at once. We have got a lot of contracts where advanced payments have been made and the contractors varnished either through the collusion of our predecessors or others. That was the norm in the state.
So, we came up with this strategy to shift the risk back to the contractors. Let them go and perform and based on their performances, we will pay them bit by bit. One thing we know for a fact is that none of those projects will fail and they will all be delivered and they will all be delivered and they will be in Oyo State and people will be able to point to them and see that they have got value for their money. Instead of paying lump sum on such projects, we stretch our money over two or even three budgetary cycles.
The fact is that our contractors will deliver world-class projects because we are benchmarking against the best projects globally. This government is always striving for that value proposition for our people. Before he does anything, the governor asks the question: what is in it for the people of Oyo State? This approach of ours is the best method, new and innovative as it might be, at the end of the day, it focuses on how to get value for our people.
Again, we don’t try to do all things. The things government should do we are doing and will continue do. We are also always looking for the inclusion of the private sector for them to bring their skills, know-how and appetite for risk into the government sector. So, most things we do, there is private sector participation one way or the other. We know we don’t know it all and the private sector is quite a lot more nimble than the public sector. So, we are looking to leverage on that. As to funding, we will pay all out contractors. There has not been any default on our path in terms of any payment. If we had defaulted, the news would have been all over town.
Full Report earlier published on February 14,2021 . Makinde has a lot to celebrate as achievements – Bisi Ilaka –