“It is the first time in the history of this state that a governor will be so loved by his constituents and that is because he is remarkable and different. He is a genuine leader who actually understands what governance is, and puts the needs of the people first,” an Uber driver says, as we snake our way out a traffic jam.
It is December 25, 2019.
Hundreds of people are chanting and dancing outside the 18,000-capacity, multi-use Adamasingba Stadium in Ibadan, Nigeria’s third most populous city and the capital of Oyo State.
Inside the stadium are thousands more people to celebrate Governor Seyi Makinde, who had just turned 52, the music drowning the horns of impatient drivers locked in traffic in one of Ibadan’s busiest roads
Makinde became the sixth governor of Oyo State since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule on May 29, 2019 after his second attempt at ruling the state.
He first contested for the governorship seat in 2015 under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) banner unsuccessfully.
He then returned in 2019 to contest under People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to beat Adebayo Adelabu, his opponent from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), by nearly 16,000 votes. His election was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court, having been challenged by Adelabu.
Analysts speak of a “realistic approach to budgeting,” as a key element of his leadership moving the state forward.
- “He reviewed the budget he took over downward because he believes that budget performance doesn’t match the outlook of what the previous governor [Abiola Ajimobi] presented. So instead of following the band wagon of increasing the budget even if it didn’t reflect on the realities of the people, he cut down on the old budget,” said a top official at the Ministry of Finance who did not want to be named.
During an interaction with voters on Twitter, Makinde said, “When we started, Oyo State’s finances were in a bad state. At the moment, I still use my personal car. We have not bought any cars for the officials, this will cost billions.”
Makinde is now focused on education. The state is regarded to have the highest number of out of school children in south west Nigeria.
In his new year speech, Makinde said his “goal is to make Oyo State the hub for education tourism in Nigeria, not just at the basic education level but at the tertiary level as well.”
The state now has the biggest education spending allocation of 22.4% of the 2020 budget, topping the federal government’s 15%.
Records from the finance ministry showed that last year the state increased education spending to 10% from the previous 4% and provided a N526 million grant to all primary and secondary schools to be disbursed term by term.
- “He declared free quality education, that students in the state should not pay anything,” said a top official in the governor’s cabinet who also requests anonymity.
While the federal allocation still is the primary source of the state’s revenue, his aides said the governor is “working round the clock to make sure that the economy of Oyo State will no longer depend on federal allocation.”
In order to achieve that, he wants to develop an economy that is driven by agriculture and agribusiness.
Makinde said in his January speech that the state was dedicating 25% of the 2020 budget to develop infrastructure that will aid economic growth, adding that the year “presents opportunities for further expansion of our economy with the new rail line, dry port and plans to revamp Ibadan Airport. This is the time to invest in our state to take advantage of these opportunities.”
Not everyone is a fan.
Segun Abidoye, member of the opposition party in the state, says:
- “One cannot dispute that Seyi Makinde is well-loved by the people but love is not what is going to make the state work. The fact is this: the governor does not have public service experience, and that matters in the day to day running of the state. He seems to be relying solely on his business acumen and unfortunately, that is not enough.”
This is brushed aside by the Governor’s press secretary Taiwo Adisa, saying “he has demonstrated commitment to transparency and accountability. He publicly declared his assets, even though the laws of the land did not compel him to so do.”
But his honeymoon period may be over.
In recent days Makinde has attempted to take on the powerful National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), by disbanding their control over transport hubs, and replacing them with his own ‘park managers’.
- As the NURTW are one part of the transport fiasco that has brought Lagos to its knees in recent weeks, Makinde has picked a substantial fight, that may define his term of office.
Furthermore, earlier this month, herdsmen have taken the governor to court in protest against the new anti-grazing laws, passed by the Oyo State House of Assembly in October 2019, claiming that it is a violation of their fundamental rights.
This is not his first foray into politics. Makinde contested for the Oyo South Senatorial seat twice through the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2007, and later for the PDP. He lost both times.
The Houston, Texas trained engineer built his first business – Makon Engineering and Technical Services Limited (METS) – at 29 in 1997. He remained Group Managing Director of Makon Group Limited; an indigenous oil and gas company, until August 2018.
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