Of all the humbling moments I have had in life, the most outstanding one was earlier this year upon being re-elected Governor by the good people of Oyo State.
It was all the validation I needed, as the people of this State are known for their political watchfulness. If I wasn’t doing something right – whether it was or wasn’t so in the eyes of political rabble-rousers – I would not be entrusted, for the second time, with the task of leading our State to further glory.
I have always been one to admit that Oyo State has a long way to go. It was one of the reasons I opted to serve the State in the first place. However, four years alone would’ve been an unrealistic timeline for the actualisation of all the policies and roadmaps we created and which we have been implementing.
Governing a state and turning it around has not and will never be a magic show. It takes patience, research, hard work, insight, and surrounding oneself with the right people. Most of all, it takes an element out of the control of man – Time. During the first four years of serving the people of Oyo, my administration decided to pursue the tripod approach of restoration, transformation and repositioning of all sectors of the economy.
With great intensity, we focused on the education sector, because we know that the foundation that children get determines if they will be productive members of the society in decades to come. It is only quality education that can bring about the kind of manpower that will eventually contribute to the progress that we started in 2011 in Oyo State.
I have always taken to heart the words of the great Awolowo, when he said: “In order to attain to the goals of economic freedom and prosperity, Nigeria must do certain things as a matter of urgency and priority. It must provide free education.” That is why education at basic and secondary school levels was pronounced free; we wanted to encourage more people to educate themselves and their children. It is also why we reduced fees in tertiary institutions and established more of such institutions to cater for the increasing number of secondary school leavers who had, hitherto, been spending years waiting to fill the meagre admission slots available. And when they graduate from these institutions, our youth are being equipped with soft loans and entrepreneurial skills through our youth empowerment scheme, YES-O.
Truth be told, we had our test run by implementing these facets whilst using the old governing structures that were already in place. And despite our tentative steps towards curing the rot that plague our educational system, the saying: “you can’t put old wine in new skin”, rings true.
While some complain that the public school classes are overpopulated and the teachers are few, others remember that Government has a limit to its resources, regardless of its good intentions and policies. I thank the PTA in Oyo for the constant support that is being extended to our public schools. Your support is not misplaced, as even the Oyo State Government is not shirking its duties. Only last week, we broke ground for the construction of two hundred new classrooms, as part of our efforts to improve the conditions under which our children learn. These new classrooms are being built in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
It is easy to forget that governance, especially a democratic one, is not the sole responsibility of the government in power but also the people it governs. ‘Ajumose’ should be the order of the day. We are already doing a lot; we intend to do a lot more. I ask that more Oyo residents recognise this and extend their hands of collaboration.
As policies are being implemented by the government, adjustments must constantly be made by the workforce and general citizenry and belts tightened. We have tried hard to plug the areas where there was excess spending of government funds by reducing the number of Ministries in the State, because it is the Oyo people’s money and it is in their best interest that we make necessary cuts and be fiscally responsible. Nevertheless, we are mindful of the need to put in place an environment that ensures our policies do not hurt the people we seek to protect – the people of Oyo. We are mindful of the contribution of Civil Servants to the State over the decades and their continued efforts, and so we are working to make their lives better.
To ensure that the State grows to the point where it can afford to better the lives of all residents, we are currently working towards enhancing the fiscal status of the state through internally generated revenue. To this end, we have partnered with sister States, especially Lagos, to adopt best practices.
In Oyo, we believe that an agricultural revolution is one of the failsafe ways of achieving that. Already, plans have been set in motion to revive and upgrade existing farm settlements, mechanised farm equipment are being procured to make the process easier and seedlings and loans are being handed out to old time farmers as well as new ones.
We are encouraging more people to take up farming either for subsistence or commercial value. Oyo has vast arable land and the cost of living here is affordable. We are on a drive to become the agriculture capital of Nigeria by making it easy for both local farmers and investors in agriculture to do business here. We will produce good food that will keep our people healthy, and we will sell to the world too.
Also importantly, in the area of health, we set up an all-inclusive health insurance scheme that will capture workers in the public and private sectors. Nobody prays to get sick but alas it is just one more part of life. The insurance scheme is our way of ensuring that whatever the financial circumstances of a resident, they have an easy way to pay for their health needs.
Provisions and purchases are also being made to see to it that our hospitals and health centres are equipped with state of the art apparatus and our health standards meet the requirements of international best practices. In all of this, we recognise the delicate nature of the work healthcare providers do and that is why our recent approval of the 100 percent implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale, (CONMESS) and Consolidated Health Salary Structure CONHESS. No longer will doctors in this state complain about being short-changed as this new structure will see to it that their earnings will be at par with the best paid in the service.
True progress must encompass all facets of life. That is why environmental modifications are also top on our list. We are opting for an integrated approach to solid waste management as we go into open ended partnerships with international agencies. We are adopting diverse methods of converting waste into energy in ways that will be sustainable in this clime. Only recently, we commenced the Waste to Wealth programme that will see waste used to generate electricity, in partnership with Highland Energy Services Solutions Limited (HESSL).
We are building Oyo to become one of the top liveable cities in Africa, one that prioritises food, shelter and social security. We are restructuring our MDAs to ensure world-class service delivery to residents and investors.
Our ultimate goal is to make Oyo State as self-sufficient as possible. We cannot be distracted from the business of taking Oyo to the zenith. I do not believe in trying to use talk to convince naysayers who clearly have ulterior motives. The real business of governing is not about politics, it is about service to the people. And that is why I will run a knowledge-driven government and, as it did during my first term, I will continue to let the progress of Oyo speak to the residents of the State and speak to investors in Nigeria, Africa and beyond.
Abiola Ajimobi is Governor of Oyo State, Nigeria.