By Taiwo Adisa
A new Sheriff has come to Oyo State is and things have got to take a different turn. That new officer in charge is Engineer Seyi Makinde, who prefers to be simply referred to as Governor Seyi Makinde (GSM, many would call him), the Governor of the state with the enviable appellation—Pacesetter.
Before his election as Governor of Oyo State on March 9, 2019 the Ibadan-born engineer and businessman had never held a public office. Politics is largely a green field for him, though he had been baptised in it since 2012. He never filled an asset declaration form before but he made a commitment to make his assets public once sworn in as Governor. It was a promise made in the heat of electioneering and one that can easily be swept under the carpet. The campaign crowd might have forgotten and in the typical Nigerian style, memories are short. Existential issues daily contend with space in the memory.
But Engineer Makinde is not one person that would refuse to keep his words. For this Omoluabi of a person, his words are always his bond. And he measurably picks those words, because for him, it is just true that words are like raw eggs; once dropped on the floor, you can’t have them back.
And the situation he met on the ground in Oyo is fertile enough to make him repudiate the campaign promises. He met a state completely ravaged by bad governance and maladministration. A state steeped in all manners of debts; morale depressing arrears of promotions; token payment of percentage-denominated pensions, which ensured that one month pension is paid in a spread of four months; award of contracts to lowly rated upstarts in construction and abandonment of public good. It was a sorry state worse than the colonialists, whose main attraction was to plunder the resources of the land in favour of their masters. It was indeed a sad story that unfolded as Governor Makinde started opening the books of the administration of Oyo State from May 29, 2011 to May 28, 2019.
As if there were no laws in the land, state-owned properties and almost brand new vehicles were dashed out “free of charge” in exercise of some “discretionary powers.” Even in a setting as politicised as we have, many out there know that “discretionary powers” are applicable only in exercise of clemency and nothing about Naira and Kobo.
Governor Makinde has, however, remained unfazed by all the depressing discoveries around the state; the dilapidated structures of the Government House; the debasing interiors of the Governor’s Office and the widespread abandonment of the people of Oyo State by his predecessor. He has chosen to look forward, give encouragement to the people and reassure them a new good life is possible in a revived Oyo State.
And in doing that, he has continued to actualise the details of his campaign promises. He announced the cancellation of the controversial N3, 000 levy on Secondary School students in his inaugural speech as Governor. That amount, which many believe is so infinitesimal to be complained about, had in recent years become a source of pain and anger among the people. Makinde also announced the cancellation of entrance fees to state-owned schools and practically returned the free education policy of the South West under Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
On Monday July 15, Governor Makinde made history as he stepped into the office of the Code of conduct Bureau (CCB) in Ibadan, Oyo state. He requested a copy of the Assets Declaration Forms for Public Office Holders he had submitted on assumption of office and immediately made a copy available to the public through the office of his Chief Press Secretary. It was a commendable act as the Governor of Oyo State made history by releasing a detailed declaration of his assets to the public.
It was a tough decision really, but one for which he took personal responsibility. Friends and associates kept up the pressure to dissuade him. Many were afraid the decision could be read upside down by overtly negative political minds; some were afraid it would expose them as friends of a young billionaire and others gave different reasons. But Governor Makinde insisted, saying ‘my words must remain my bond. To stay true to accountability and probity, you must keep your words as your bond. You must keep yourself an open book and like it is often said, he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.’
If Governor Makinde is pushing for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency in Oyo State, he must show the example and if he has promised to be accountable to the people, he must lead the way. And by publicly declaring his assets, he is leading with the right steps. It is indeed a mark of a man desirous of returning Oyo State to its pacesetting status-a state of many firsts.
Speaking to newsmen at the CCB office in Ibadan, immediately after obtaining a copy of the assets declaration form, Makinde said, “I came here to collect the photocopy of the form that I signed in fulfilment of the campaign promise to the people that I will declare my asset publicly and release the document to the public.
“I will encourage all the members of my cabinet to do the same thing.”
According to the details made public via the document tagged CCB 1 and marked OYSE/2019/001, which was sworn to at the High Court of Oyo State, Governor Makindeis worth over N48 billion in assets.
The document gave details of cash at hand, in bank, landed properties (developed and undeveloped), household items, shares and bonds owed by the Governor, his wife, Omini Makinde as well as his companies. It indicated that the Governor had cash at hand and in bank worth N234, 742,296.01, on the 28th of May, 2019.In dollar terms, the Governor has cash valued at $30,056.99 as of the same date.
Properties, including the developed and undeveloped as well as household items indicated on the asset forms showed that the Governor is worth N2.6 billion, with another $4.4 million assets denominated in the green back currency.
The house listed by the governor includes nine in Nigeria, two in the United States of America (USA) and one in South Africa. One of the properties in the United States is “jointly owned.”
“The details showed the current value of Makinde’s companies stand at N48, 150,736,889 (forty eight billion, one hundred and fifty million, seven hundred and thirty six thousand, eight hundred and eighty nine Naira), with 33, 730,000 units of shares as at May 28, 2019,” the statement released by his spokesman read, while also listing the Governor’s existing Bonds, (Eurobond) worth $3, 793, 500 as well as shares, debentures and other securities valued at N120,500,000(One hundred and twenty million, five hundred thousand Naira).
The asset form also linked the following companies to the Governor of Oyo state: Makon Engineering and Technical Services Limited; Energy Traders and Technical Services Limited; Makon Oil and Gas Limited; Makon Group Limited, Makon Construction Limited and Makon Power System Limited.
Four of the listed Companies are noted to have loan notes including Makon Engineering and Technical Services Limited(N1.7 billion); Makon Power System Limited(N148.4 million); Makon Oil and Gas Limited(N341 million); Energy Traders and Technical Services Limited(N1.159bn), the total amounts to N3.389 billion.
It is incontrovertible that Makinde has shown himself as a man to be trusted; a man who is blessed with some form of comfortable life who can afford the luxuries of life before venturing to into politics; a man with more than visible second address. By resigning from that and dabbling in public life, which is full of bashing and the murkiness of politics, he is making a statement in social responsibility. On a personal note, you can reach thousands, but politics and power allow you to impact on millions with the good things of life. Above all, he is also making a statement to parents; bring up your child in a good way and he will give you a good name that is indelible. He is a product of the Nigerian public school system. His secondary school, Bishop Phillips Academy is just by the roadside along Iwo Road, Ibadan and he attended the University of Lagos. His conduct has shown he is truly worthy in character and learning. The true Omoluabi in Yoruba parlance.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo left power in the South-West more than 50 years ago. He was in office only for eight years. But he remains the issue and the standard in the region till today. The reason is simple; he planted himself in the hearts of the people due to his good works. There is no doubt Makinde is carving himself as the new Awo of the West. Some may say it is too early in the day to make this inference, but the Yoruba would tell you that morning shows if the night that would be favourable. One can only say to Governor Makinde, ride on to a glorious tenure.
*Adisa is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Oyo State