Fasola: A Pilgrimage Of Love | By Sulaimon Olanrewaju

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Governor Seyi Makinde is so much in love with the people of Oyo State that he pulls out all the stops to improve their lot. He connects with them emotionally and spiritually. He bonds with them perpetually and his heart is with them permanently. He is concerned about their concerns. He is interested in their progress and well being. He wants them to live better, earn better and soar higher. He wants the quality of their life to improve so much that he spares no cost to make them comfortable. Makinde places a premium on the people. He values them like gold and diamonds. As a matter of fact, the people are his gold; they are his diamond.

Love is the ultimate leadership tool. The reason is simple; there is a nexus between love and leadership. The objective of love is to make its object better. Hence, love is never passive but rather passionate; it never takes a rest until its purpose is accomplished. Similarly, true leadership is focused on bringing out the best in people and situations. As observed by Harvey S. Firestone, founder of the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company, the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. So, Governor Makinde’s love for the people of Oyo State is hinged on a desire to see the people prosper and the state blossom.

However, this disposition is not a recent development; it has been with him for ages. Let’s take a retreat into history.

In 1997, after Makinde had established his own company, Makon Engineering and Technical Services Limited (METS), he got a contract from which he made some tidy sum. The first thing that came to his mind as a young man was to give back to society. So, he went back to his alma mater, Bishop Phillips Academy, with the plan to renovate the block of classrooms where he had studied as a Form One student. But after a session with the school principal, Chief Kunmi Agboola, he opted to put up a new block of classrooms with a computer centre. The project, which he started in 1999, was completed in 2000 with the state governor at the time, Alhaji Lam Adesina, commissioning it. Since then he has sponsored so many students and supported so many developmental projects in various parts of the state. This was long before he dreamt of joining politics. This was years before the Omituntun phenomenon sprouted.

Makinde loves the people so much that he does not leave them in the lurch.

The removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, by the Federal Government distorted corporate and personal economies. The policy shot up inflation with many people across the country being pushed into poverty. The people were left in bewilderment wondering how they would survive the situation. But Governor Makinde didn’t leave the people of Oyo State in the lurch; he sprang into action, directing the state-owned Pacesetter Transport Service to roll out mass transit buses to convey the people at the pre-subsidy removal rate with even people above sixty years of age and students in school uniforms enjoying a lower rate. Oyo was the first state in Nigeria to roll out mass transit buses to ameliorate the effect of subsidy removal on the populace.

But the Governor was not yet done. Rather than toeing the path of doling out palliatives to the people to cushion the effect of the policy, he came up with the Sustainable Action for Economic Recovery (SAfER), a well-thought-out programme targeted at helping individuals and businesses bounce back from the economic doldrums foisted on them by the subsidy removal. According to the Governor, palliative cannot help the people get better because it cannot last the distance; it would just make the people feel good for a while only for them to go back to their pre-palliative status soon after. Makinde said he could not subject Oyo State people to palliatives hence, he came up with SAfER to help individuals and businesses grow their capacity for wealth creation and revenue generation.

Through SAfER programme, 200,000 families across the state are being supported with food items bought from local traders. The state is also supporting farmers with seeds and seedlings as well as loans worth N1billion, providing health insurance for 100,000 people, including pregnant women as well as pensioners, and providing N1billion loan for small businesses.

To cushion the effect of the policy on state government workers, Makinde agreed to pay them wage awards for six months starting from October. His administration approved the payment of N25,000 monthly to each civil servant while pensioners are to be paid N15,000. The N25,000 wage award, which is the highest paid by any state in the country, comes at a cost of N2.2billion monthly to the government. But as usual, cost is not important to Governor Makinde when it comes to workers’ welfare. In addition to the payment of wage award to all categories of workers, the governor has also approved 13th month salary for them.

Makinde loves the people so much that he prioritizes their protection.

Insecurity was a major issue in Oyo State before Governor Makinde assumed office but he didn’t throw up his hands in surrender despite the daunting challenge the situation posed. He hit the ground running; he assembled a team of experts and deployed state of the art technology to bring the situation under control. The Governor also aligned with other Southwest governors to float the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun) to support the frontline security outfits to protect the people of the state. Makinde has spared no effort to ensure that Amotekun in Oyo State is well-staffed, well-equipped and made ready to swing into action at the snap of a finger. The effort of the Governor has been well rewarded as Oyo State is fast becoming one of the safest in Nigeria. A proof of this is that bank robbery has become a rarity in the state.

As a way of ensuring the safety of communities with mineral deposits, Governor Makinde recently signed an Executive Order to regulate mining activities in those communities with a view to protecting the communities from criminality and environmental degradation. With the Executive Order, which is first of its kind in the country, Oyo State government is ready to run illegal miners out of town to secure the mining communities.

Makinde loves the people so much that he is securing the future for them.

Limited resources can put a cap on the dream of a state. Without adequate revenue, the education sector will suffer; so will health, housing and other critical social sectors. To put Oyo State on a pedestal of perpetual solvency, Makinde embarked on the process of widening the state’s economic base as soon as he got into office in 2019. He has phenomenally increased the infrastructure in the state, which has resulted in a boost in the state’s Internally Generated Revenue. Makinde has been able to move the IGR from N1.8bn monthly in September to between N3.8bn and N4bn now, putting the state among the top five in IGR. The Governor hopes to grow it further to N6bn monthly in the ensuing year and ultimately to N10bn before the expiration of his tenure in 2027. With a solid IGR, the state will be able to institute some social safety nets that would ensure most residents are above the poverty line.

Makinde loves the people so much that he is fair to all.

Governor Makinde has never portrayed himself as a sectional leader. His carriage is that of a leader whose constituency extends to all nooks and crannies of the state. Consequently, he is fair and just to all. He ensures that no section of the society is shortchanged. The Governor recently established the Oyo State Agency for People with Disabilities to ensure inclusivity. He also ensures that youth and women are included in the decision-making process. The Governor in his first term appointed a man below 30 years of age, Seun Fakorede, as the Commissioner for Youth and Sports. In the second term he also appointed a lady under 30 years, Wasilat Adegoke, as Commissioner for Youth and Sports. In Oyo State, the Secretary to the State Government is a woman, the Head of Service is a woman, the Accountant General is a woman, the Director General of the Due Process Office is a woman, the Commissioner for Health is a woman, the Commissioner for Special Duties is a woman. There is also the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Inclusion.

In addition, the Governor ensures that every section of the state gets its due. His actions are determined by what is best for the whole state, not any primordial sentiments. This has reflected in the distribution of projects across the state. The Governor, who is guided by data, science and logic, decided to connect all the zones in the state to give every zone a sense of belonging and to boost the IGR. The results of his efforts speak for themselves.

Because Makinde loves the people he is also loved by the people.

Genuine love is unmistakable and is usually reciprocated. Most citizens and residents of Oyo State are sure about the genuineness of Governor Makinde’s love for them. They know that he holds them in high esteem, they know that he honours his promises to them, they know that he wants the best for them, they know that he will not shortchange them and they know that he is working relentlessly for them. So, they also love him deeply. Oyo State people love Makinde so much that any negative statement about him by anyone is discountenanced. They love him so much that no one can rouse them against him. This is why every attempt to cast aspersions on the Governor’s person has failed. To the average Oyo State residents, Makinde is their loving and lovable leader in whom they are well pleased. Consequently, wherever Makinde goes the people follow. In their reciprocation of the Governor’s love, the people commemorate his birthday every Christmas Day with relish, trailing him to wherever he chooses to celebrate his special day. For four years, the people, ignoring the distance, embarked on a pilgrimage of love to the OYSADA facility in Saki, which Makinde had upgraded, to rejoice with him on the occasion of his birthday. But this year, the pilgrimage is to Fasola Industrial Hub, a jungle that Makinde has transformed into a business and tourist destination, where the people will openly express their affection for the Governor who loves them.

When a leader sows the seed of love through service he reaps a harvest of affection, admiration and adoration.

Olanrewaju is the Chief Press secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde.

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