The election into office of Engineer Seyi Makinde as Governor of Oyo State was a by a stroke of luck. His supporters may argue otherwise and attributed his victory to hard work. Now in power, he is trading with populism. Before his election, Oyo state had been a domain of the progressive. At the initial stage, not many thought he had chances especially with his campaign branding and positioning which appeared weak. But for stepping on sacred toes, uncouth mouth and arrogance of the former Governor Isiaka Ajumobi, the story might have gone the other way.
To gain the favour of the people, he ran a campaign with an appeal to populism. To ‘perform’ he is now bound by his promise. The question is how sustainable is populism in a state he had confessed he is starting on empty or lean pocket?
Immediately he was sworn-in, Engineer Seyi Makinde abolished three Thousand Naira school fee as well as five Hundred examination fee paid by Oyo state pupils. He opened up the freedom bridge for the public use, established anti-graft Agency; fired some consultants and all the Local government chairmen he inherited.
To his credit he retains the Head of Service appointed by his predecessor. He had promised not to collect salary throughout his tenure. Like his Ogun State counterpart, he had paid the May salaries and pension as promised. Engineer Seyi Makinde had also taken some right steps. He encourages Not Too Young To Run by accepting the emergence of Rt. Hon Debo Ogundoyin as Speaker.
Also his choice of the state’s SSG, Mrs Olubamiwo Adeosun, a thorough professional and Aremo John Adeleke as Chairman of Oyo State Internal Revenue Board are laudable. One must also commend his setting up of the State Advisory Committee, whose members are seasoned professionals and elder statesmen.
Coming back to the issue of populism, one major area I had found unsavoury is the cancellation of the three thousand and five Hundred Naira per session paid by the pupils. Somebody needs to hear me well. I am not against free education. I knew what it mean to be unable to pay the sum of twenty Naira per term in 1984 as a secondary school student after the then Military regime cancelled free education by Bola Ige regime. But I have come to realise today, people are willing to support a government with right and compelling vision they believe in. That is if the leadership can get their buy-in.
If Seyi Makinde can cast a compelling vision and outline the price each person must pay, including himself after due consultation; he would be able to get parent to pay promptly and with ease that amount.
I heard from good sources, the number of pupils in Oyo state public schools are in the region of 400.000. Supposed he created a system like Single Treasury account for that Three thousand Naira fee only. The state can net in about 1.2Billion per session. With this income, let us assume a maximum of Five Million Naira is budgeted for one school for renovation out of the many public schools crying for attention, it means the government can change the fortune of about 240 public schools per session. That is 80 schools per senatorial district.
Now, let us see what Five Million per school can do. Suppose it is a direct labour stuff, Seven Thousand five hundred Naira can conveniently procure a chair and a table per child. Volume is a factor here. Two Million out of the five Million will procure about 266 tables and chairs per school. Let also assume the balance of three Million is used for changing the roofing, ceilings and windows of such schools.
What this means is that the forfeited 1.2Billion per session laundered for populism can change the fortune of an average of 266 pupils in about 240 public schools within the state in a school year. If people really see the changes their ordinary One thousand Naira per term is making within a year, I can bet they will gladly and promptly pay this as part of their personal sacrifices for educational development of the state. We should never forget also, they are doing this for their own wards.
Has Engineer Seyi Makinde and his team calculated what this could mean in four years? Especially in a time where many of the schools are calling for renovation. Mr, Seyi Makinde had promised to increase education budget by 5 percent to meet the global United Nations Educational. Scientific and Cultural Organization’s demand. This is a welcome and lofty idea. But would he have achieved more at the end of his first term in office?
For the purpose of space and time, let us also examine the termination of appointments of elected Council Chairmen. While Engineer Seyi Makinde could be seen as having a ‘genuine heart.’ He does not want to start his administration with ‘liabilities’ as his supporters will want us to believe. Can we say he erred here? There had been precedents he could learn from.
Other Governors in the past had done this and got their hands burnt when such decision was tested at the law courts. The results of many of these cases indicated the limit of power of the Executive Governor with regards to the termination of other elected officials in the state. One just wonders why he is not learning from history.
Let me conclude by saying this is not the voice of an opposition or hireling but someone who wishes Engineer Seyi Makinde a successful tenure. We can only pray he yields to the voice of reason. Through this he can gain the attraction he is seeking for from the masses as well as end up as one of the best governors the state has ever produced.
Yinka Olaito can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org