The Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, is one of the governorship candidates in the state come march 11, although, his is a re-election bid.
In an interview reported by Tribune, the governor reels out his achievements and why he believes the people of Oyo would vote for him again. Excerpts:
What would you like to pitch to the people of Oyo State within the context of being returned as governor?
Let me start by thanking the good people of Oyo State who gave me the opportunity to serve them. Just like four years ago, the election is going to be a one-day event but the ramification and effect will stay with us for another four years. So, I want to urge our people to come out and not be afraid. Come out and make your choice. Vote for me again. What we have enjoyed for over three years in the state was the result of the step you took by voting for me on March 9, 2019. Now, on March 11, 2023, go out and do the same thing and we will have an Oyo State of your dreams. Now, we are talking about civil servants and pensioners being paid for 45 months unbroken out of 48 month of this tenure. That is about 94 per cent really gone. So, if we want to extend it and not stop at 48 but go to 49, 50 and even to 96, then, come out to vote for PDP and all the PDP House of Assembly candidates. I will work with the House of Assembly members who will approve budgets and bills that we want to turn into laws. So, please vote en masse for the PDP next Saturday.
Your administration was, at the initial stage, criticised as engaging in populism. Did these criticisms get to you at some point in a way that could have made you consider changing your style of leadership and governance?
To be honest, I am not sure what it was about how we were governing the state that made people refer to our policies and projects as populist. Mind you, we have not changed the way we govern. I think, in general, Nigerians are not used to governance with a human face. We promised a government that will execute people-centred policies and that is what we will continue to do. For example, the decision to scrap the N3,000 fees for secondary schools was a pragmatic decision to increase access to education for our people. As a result, in the first two years of our administration, of the over 250,000 out-of-school children our administration inherited, we were able to return over 54,000 back to the classrooms.
Another example is ensuring that salaries of civil servants, pensioners and local government workers are paid on the 25th of every month. Apart from the fact that workers deserve their wages as and when due, this consistent payment of salaries injects about N12 billion into the Oyo State economy every month.
What has kept you going thus far?
I went into politics to make a difference. So, our administration’s focus is to do the right thing that benefits the good people of Oyo State. This is what keeps me going when things are rough. When I go out and see the difference our policies and programmes are making to our people, it encourages me to keep going.
Can we have a brief sectoral overview in terms of what has been achieved, what is being achieved and what is to be achieved in the coming years in the following: security, health, education, infrastructure, pensions, salaries, investments, agriculture, youth and women empowerment?
In Security, we provided critical infrastructure: security vehicles, security posts and communication gadgets, for the security agencies. Of course, a major achievement is operationalising Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Amotekun after South-West governors agreed to set up the agency. To date, we have recruited and trained 2,000 Oyo Amotekun Corps members, the most in the South-West region. We have also equipped them. Our security strategies have resulted in our farmers returning to their farms.
On healthcare, we were able to renovate and upgrade over 200 Primary Health Centres (PHCs) across the state which we have already started equipping. We also upgraded and equipped secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities. We have increased enrollees on the Oyo State Health Insurance Scheme from 45,000 to over 300,000 and they include pensioners who need the service the most. Not only that, our Omituntun Free Health Mission has reached over two million residents in underserved areas of the state with free medical and surgical care.
In the area of education, the big one is sole ownership of the LadokeAkintola University of Technology (LAUTECH). This was a campaign promise which we were able to achieve within our first two years in office. We have adopted a multi-campus approach for the university and we are currently constructing the Iseyin Campus which houses the College of Agriculture and Renewable Natural Resources. Not only that, LAUTECH has been adjudged the best state-owned university in Nigeria in both local and international rankings. We were also able to complete the building of 60 model schools and construct/renovate over 700 classrooms among other projects in the sector. We also reduced the manpower deficit by employing 5,000 secondary school teachers and 692 Education Officers. We recently got approval of the conversion of the Emmanuel Alayande College of Education to a university of education. When we assumed office in 2019, we had 1.5 universities and now we have 3 which will increase access to affordable tertiary education for our people.
In terms of infrastructure, as I often say, where roads go, development follows. Even before we completed the reconstruction of the 65km Moniya-Ijaiye-Iseyin Road, agribusinesses started springing up along the route. Another example is the 7.2km Idi Ape-Basorun-Akobo-Odogbo Barracks Road dualisation project. If you go to that area now, you will see that new businesses have been established simply because the road was done. And all the data from Oyo State attest to the fact that our economy is growing.
Our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has increased by over 100% since we assumed office in 2019 from about N1.7 billion monthly to N3.8 billion as of November 2022. Also, the last available data for Value Added Tax (VAT) collection put Oyo State in third position in Nigeria. This increase in VAT collection could only happen because we have a thriving economy. Upon re-election, we will activate a lot of projects including the Ilutuntun Business District in Akinyele, which will have a digital technology hub for the youths.
Even for big business, we have several examples of businesses expanding their operations and remaining within a zone of the state because of the linkages we have created.
For example, you may have heard that Brent Farms Ltd, which started operations in 2020 in Oyo State, is expanding their business to include a sugar factory. The ground-breaking ceremony for the sugar factory was last month. That factory is on the newly constructed 76.7 km Iseyin-Fapote-Ogbomoso Road.
Just last August, I commissioned another agro-processing facility, the first cassava-based sorbitol factory in Nigeria and Africa and only the second in the world at Psaltry International Company Ltd. Because of the 65km Moniya-Ijaiye-Iseyin Road
Infrastructure development has focused on road construction, resuscitating moribund facilities and housing projects in collaboration with the private sector. We have been able to construct and rehabilitate over 500 kilometres of roads in the past three and half years, including major projects like the 65km Moniya-Ijaiye-Iseyin Road, which we completed in a record 18 months in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing construction of the 76.67km Iseyin-Fapote-Ogbomoso Road and the construction of bridges including interchanges of 32km of the 110km Senator RashidiLadoja Circular Road.
We have resuscitated six previously moribund facilities, including the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba which hosted an international match in October last year for the first time in nearly 30 years; and the Pacesetter Quarry and Asphalt Plant, Ijaiye, which is contributing revenue to the government as well as asphalt for our road constructions and rehabilitations.
Regarding pensions and gratuities, we inherited a backlog of about N56 billion in unpaid pensions and gratuities dating back to 2011. The first thing we did was to ensure that we paid pensions in full from May 2019. The previous administration had been making pension payments in percentages. Next, we started to pay the backlog of unpaid pensions and gratuities and till date, we have paid N19.5 billion.
The salaries of civil servants, primary school teachers and local government workers are paid on the 25th day of every month now known as the GSM day. When we started, people said we could not maintain it for more than six months but we have done this consistently for three and a half years. We have been paying minimum wage and consequential increases in Oyo State since January 2020. Not only that, we have paid 13th month salaries four times in a row and this last year, we also paid N10,000 each to pensioners as well.
On the economy, data from the Oyo State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning shows that our economy has grown from N2.75 trillion in 2019 to N4.05 trillion in 2022. As I said earlier, one of the reasons this has happened is that by creating an enabling environment, we attracted big businesses to Oyo State. Between 2019 and 2022, we attracted net local investments (Capital Expenditure, Business Fixed Investment, Residential Housing and Changes in Inventory) worth over N457.76 billion.
In agriculture, our strategy was to approach it from a business perspective, which is why before our first year in office anniversary, we established the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA) to drive agribusiness investments in the state. We have been able to attract over N35 billion of investments into the sector from big businesses who have also served as off takers for our small holder farmers. We have also registered about 12,000 smallholder farmers who we have been supporting with inputs and assets.
In the area of youth development, our youths are being supported through trainings and enterprise support. We are collaborating with international organisations to carry out some of our programmes for youths. For instance, the Start Them Early Program (STEP) is a collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture trains students in secondary schools on agribusiness value chains. So far, the programme has impacted 1,500 students. We also trained about 4,000 youths in technology-driven agrifood systems both at Nasarawa and at the Oyo State-IITA Youth in Agribusiness Incubation Park Centre, Aawe (another one of our resuscitated moribund facilities).
Of course, sports development benefits our youths as well. As stated earlier, we reconstructed and upgraded the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba. We are also upgrading at least one stadium in every zone in Oyo State. Not only that, we have trained and empowered youths. For instance, we have an ongoing training on entrepreneurship for over 400 youths under the Graduate Industrial Self-Employment Loan Scheme (GISES) and the trainees will be empowered with loans of up to N500,000 to set up their businesses.
As regards women empowerment, of course, our women in Oyo State are not left out. As far as representation is concerned, we appointed the first female Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in the history of Oyo State. In fact, we have 20 percent female representation in my cabinet. Of course, we are working towards increasing that under Omituntun 2.0. We have also carried out programmes targeted at our women. For instance, we worked with the French Government to provide training for 150 women in agribusiness through the Support for Women Entrepreneurs in the Agrifood sector in Nigeria (SEFAN/SWEAN) project. I also signed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill 2021 into law to tackle violence against women.
We will be releasing our Roadmap for Sustainable Development in Oyo State 2023-2027 for our second term at the end of this month. I know second term manifestos are not common in this part of the world but we are not afraid to make promises nor do we deny campaign promises. While we maintained the four pillars: Economy, Education, Healthcare and Security, we have expanded economy to include tourism and solid mineral exploitation.
We are confident of a win in the March 11 election, and with this document, our people will have another opportunity to track our campaign promises and hold us accountable.