OPINION: GSM In 24 Months: Tracking The Intangibles—Taiwo Adisa
For the everyday politician, political activities must start from the items that shout his name to the rooftops – the broken culvert on a popular road, a failed road beside his opponent’s house or disused transformer in the central market.
Not being your usual politician, Governor ‘Seyi Makinde did not go for the shouting items in launching the deliverables of his administration, as he assumed the mantle of leadership of Oyo, the Pacesetter State, on Wednesday May 29, 2019.
Yes, he announced the cancellation of the N3,000 levy on secondary school students and any other form of payment at the primary and secondary schools levels on the same podium he took the levers of power, those are not items whose results carry short gestation periods. He also announced a 10 per cent reduction in fees payable by students in state-owed tertiary institutions, besides moving the monthly subventions due to the institutions from 25 per cent, which the immediate past administration pegged it, to 100 per cent.
But then, some would say that the above were some of the promises he had made on the campaign train. Even at that, it takes a man who values his words to keep the promises that would consume lots of resources and give results that are not immediately tangible to the eyes.
Governor Makinde would also go ahead to declare the start of free and qualitative education in the State on the wings of the announcement of the four-point service agenda of his administration, spanning Education, Health, Security and expanded Economy, using the agriculture value chain.
Apart from the administration of the revered Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the defunct Western Region and that of the late Chief Bola Ige in the old Oyo State, no other government linked to the Pacesetter State has toyed with the idea of free and qualitative education. It is an intangible sector.
Even, the key aspects of the four-point service agenda of the administration are firmly rooted in the intangibles. Results of service delivery in the Health and Security sectors are not visible to the eyes. They are thankless assignments. But that is the route Governor Makinde has chosen, to showcase his commitment to the service of humanity, essentially as no one can deny the fact that his four-point agenda are weaved around the existential realities of human life.
A man without education is as good as an outcast in today’s world, while without a healthy body, no one can aspire for the good things of life. Without food security as well as the security of lives and property, life can only return to its brutish state in the state of nature and those are the essence of his inclusion of security and expanded economy with agriculture as focal point in the service agenda.
Equally, without a sound economy, life cannot be lived well. Thus, for anyone to live an abundant life, he or she cannot evade the carefully weaved items on the four-point service agenda of Governor Makinde.
The governor left no one in doubt that he would run a people-centred government when he announced the opening of the overhead bridge connecting the Government House to the State Secretariat, and lifted the ban on a certain category of motorists and motorcyclists from plying the Government House/Agodi Secretariat Road.
From the very first month of the administration, the governor announced the setting aside of the sum of N180 million for payment of gratuities, with backlogs extending to as far as 2009. This figure was later increased to N250 million and then N535 million to incorporate pensioners of local governments and that of the state’s mainstream public service and the Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM).
As of May 29, 2019, the Ministry of Establishment and Training reported that the backlogs of gratuities payable to retirees in the state stood at N55.9 billion and that the sum of N13.1 billion has been paid to the retired workers by the GSM government at the end of April 2021.
That is expected to rise to over N17 billion at the end of the year.
“As at today, no pensioner is owed any pension. Pensioners now receive their monthly pension on the 25th day of every month, the same day Oyo State workers receive their monthly salaries,” boasts Siju Lawal,immediate past Commissioner for Establishment and Training.
Lawal’s submissions are pretty much on record, as it has been confirmed that the governor has also approved a number of training programmes to bridge the human capacity gap in the state’s civil service. These includes the training of 600 civil servants in Google Digital skills; training of 350 staff on Human Capacity Development programmes; training of 350 drivers on social responsibility, team building and conflict management; the approval of nine month course in Computer Appreciation for 90 workers; the mandatory six month career advancement course for 150 Secretarial Assistants as well as the conduct of 2017-2020 backlog of promotion exercise for all categories of civil servants.
The coast of civil servants further got enlarged when the governor approved that directors could rise to Level 17, whether they get named as permanent secretary or not.
Early in his administration, Governor Makinde demonstrated his desire to lead with human face when he ordered a review of the cases of over 2,000 workers sacked by the administration of the late Senator Abiola Ajimobi. Many of the workers were eventually reintegrated into the service after they were cleared of wrongdoing.
Makinde, again, further demonstrated that human face in his management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, when it became apparent that nose masks would be inevitable in curbing the spread of the virus, he immediately ordered the procurement of 2,000 copies for policemen in the state, since they relate directly with members of the public.
He also ordered same for health workers who are categorized as frontline workers in the battle against COVID-19.
Most significantly was his decision to apply the governance with human face mantra to the management of COVID-19 lockdown in the state in the heat of the pandemic in 2020. When the Federal Government announced the nationwide total lockdown from March 2020, Makinde was far ahead of the entire nation. He set up a COVID-19 Task Force comprising experts from different legs of Medicine and government officials. With a clear mandate to the Risk Communication Team and a weekly review of state-specific, national and global variables as regards the pandemic, the state was able to implement a lockdown in a selective manner, which ensured that essential businesses opened in a way that achieved a balance between public health realities and economic survival of individuals.
The result of that was the statistics released earlier this year which showed that the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) grew first by 26 per cent during the heat of the pandemic and overall, by 42 per cent in year 2020.
Besides the above, the governor has also procured nine new buses for exclusive use of workers, while also procuring 100 new buses for the Pacesetter Transport Company in a bid to revolutionise the transport sector of Oyo State. The procurement of 10 ambulances and fire trucks are also achievements that may not immediately strike the eyes but whose effects dovetail deeper into accentuating the Human Development Index of the State.
No loud noise is being made around the deliberate development of sports complexes in the five geopolitical zones of the state. But that is another sector of intangibles. The State’s contingent performed excellently well during the just concluded National Sports Festival (Edo 2020) and it was not a mere coincidence. It was due to a silent policy of sports rejuvenation in the state. The same has positively affected the performance of the Shooting Stars Sports Club in recent times. There are ongoing reconstruction works at Adamasingba Stadium, Olubadan, in Ibadan, Soun Stadium in Ogbomoso, Durbar in Oyo, Saki and Eruwa. Oyo State will surely emerge a giant in sports once the potentials from the stadia are harnessed.
Still on the intangibles, the state scored another first recently when it launched a Business Expectation Survey (BES), which revealed a positive business outlook of over 70 per cent among businesses in Oyo State in the Year 2021. Special Adviser on Economic Matters to the governor, Prof. Musibau Babatunde, said that regular payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities are some of the factors responsible for the positive business outlook of the state.
With the consistent reflation of the state’s economy monthly, nothing other than progressive expansion of purchasing power and the economic indices is expected in Oyo State.
Besides, national statistics recently showed that in 2020, the state was able to return at least 40,000 out-of-school children back to classrooms through its policies on education.
With the general stability in the socio-economic outlook of the state, expanding purchasing power and the state fast turning a business destination for small, medium and big businesses as attested to by data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Debt Management Office(DMO), it can be said that the intangibles are already yielding tangible results for the state. And so, in Oyo, it can be said that the good deeds of the governor, even in clearly intangible aspects of life, are not buried beneath the surface, their effects are starring us all in the face.
Adisa is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde.