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Seyi Makinde and resetting of Nigeria’s democracy

By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor)
26 July 2019   |   4:12 am
There is something quite surreal about Mr. Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde’s life story. Prior to his emergence as governor of the ‘ancient’ state of Oyo, the young man...

Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo. Photo/Twitter/SeyiAMakinde

There is something quite surreal about Mr. Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde’s life story. Prior to his emergence as governor of the ‘ancient’ state of Oyo, the young man was already popular as an engineer. But being an engineer, the odd side comes when those in the know say he is a subject matter expert on fluid and gas metering.

The odd side plays out when you begin to wonder what concerns the subject matter with gas or even petroleum. However, to those not well versed in the precision engineering science, the exploits of Makinde in politics give room for proper socio-political analysis.
Cycle of defeats

Twelve years ago, Omi Tutu, as he is fondly called, aspired to be senator; he wanted to represent Oyo South Senatorial District. In that year, precisely 2007, his political party of choice was the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). He lost!

Perhaps, blaming his woeful outing on the platform, Makinde crawled over to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which platform produced the candidate that trounced him in 2007 Senatorial election. However, despite the change of platform, his ambition to be senator was once again cut short at the stage of primary election. He was not nominated! That was in the year 2010, on the way to the 2011 election.

In the succeeding election cycle four years later, omi tutun decided to rejig his ambition for public service by aspiring for governorship of Oyo State, believing that he was becoming war weary for the senatorial seat.

Even as he decided to upscale his ambition, for inexplicable reasons, PDP found it hard to consider the fresher worthy of its governorship seat. Piqued by the unholy turn of events at the 2014 governorship primary, the young man crossed over to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) believing that instead of being struck under the big umbrella an elegant stallion was more than able to ferry him to Agodi, the seat of Oyo State Government House.

Against the run of play, even atop the SDP’s horse, Makinde still lost the 2015 governorship, but garnered much experience in the power game, having crisscrossed three political tendencies in the state. At least his determination to serve and fresh ideas for turning the fortunes of the state had begun to catch the attention of electorate.

Perhaps having watched his grip on statecraft from afar off, some leaders of his former party, PDP, decided to go fetch the rising star back to the party’s fold. At one of the series of meetings preceding his return to the big Umbrella, Omi Tutun explained that the decision was for the greater reason of finding solutions to the myriad of challenges stunting the development of the state.

Turning a big bend
By 2018, at the build up to the 2019 general election, it was becoming obvious that the material engineer has learnt a few lessons from Jimmy Cliff’s song, ‘you can get it, if you really want.’

Winning the PDP governorship ticket was the first sign that things were not only looking up for him, but also that he has turned a big bend in his quest to join the league of political actors in Oyo State.

Judging by the impressive 2, 772 delegates’ votes that gave him the PDP ticket and the 515, 621 to 357, 982 votes that separated him from Adebayo Adelabu, his governorship rival in the election, Makinde could be said to have demonstrated his conviction in the realistic nature of his resolute vision for a better politics in Oyo State.

But having been elected governor after wandering in the wilderness of varying ambitions, it is in the performance of the responsibilities, expectations and challenges of his high office that the essential Makinde has become the subject matter.

The tide has turned in his favour and Omi Tutun has become Governor Seyi Makinde. Not that alone, he has not been discomfited by the attainment but focused on demonstrating that his aspiration for public service is not for personal aggrandisement or primitive accumulation.

GSM is communicating his vision in such a way that through him, it could be said that the resetting of Nigeria’s democracy, where politicians walk their talk, has begun. Against the background of some socially disruptive decisions he has taken so far in his barely 50 days in office, the 51year-old governor has begun to be seen as initiating some kind of political philanthropy, otherwise known as leadership through service.

In words and gestures the governor has drawn public attention to Oyo State under his watch, especially given that he had prior to mounting the saddle never occupied any elective or appointive public office.

One of the innovative decisions the Oyo State governor took that won the admiration of most Nigerians is the appointment of a woman into the office of Secretary to the State Government (SSG), which office has been described by governance experts as the engine room of government.

Speaking on July 1, 2019 when he swore in Mrs. Olubamiwo Adeosun as the SSG, Makinde observed as follows: “In taking the decision to pick her out of very eminently qualified personalities I had before me, I did a lot of introspection.

“Some people would argue that the best person for the job is a politician, who understands the terrain as they put it. Others would say the engine room of government must be manned by a technocrat, who knows his or her onions.

“But I must state that we need a focused government, which will deliver on its terms. We need capacity and lots of efficiencies and we need a packed personality who in a way encapsulates all of that. In arriving at the choice of Mrs. Adeosun, we have picked a person, whose wealth of experience would lift the standard of our service delivery and performance.”

By his choice of a female SSG, Makinde proved true to type as a political neophyte, because a typical Nigerian politician will consider a political striker for the office of SSG, to balance government policies and political mobilisation.

It is not as if the governor wants the usual narrow considerations for a second term to blunt his vision and ability to tackle the deliverables of the immediate term, which includes his desire to “roll out achievements within the first 100 days would more than dwarf the meagre returns some of the past governments recorded even in eight years.” So saying, it is necessary to underscore the fact that the strong points in his preference of a woman for the crucial position of SSG comprise the issues of gender inclusion, subtle advocacy for girl-child education and meritocracy.

As a technocrat-turned politician, Makinde seems to have brought into governance certain clear-headedness found lacking in most political actors of the fourth republic. He brought that point to light in his choice of a female SSG, when he said: “One thing I need to state very clearly is that in appointing Mrs. Adeosun, we are not appointing her based on sentiments of feminism or other undue sentiments. “We are not just tapping to her qualities but also making a statement to our people out there: educate your wards whether boy or girl. There is no limit to the level an educated person can rise to. We cannot, however, shy away from stating that with her appointment, this government has again showcased its commitment towards ensuring gender and religious balance in the polity.”

Vote for transparency, accountability
One other area Governor Makinde scored a bull’s eye in resetting the dynamics of political apparentation in Oyo State and Nigeria is his recent decision to publicly declare his assets and liabilities. The governor has by that singular show of transparency donated himself for public scrutiny, which is the hallmark of representative democracy. The young man has given a standard for the masses to separate those who are in public service to service their ego and interests from those imbued with genuine desire to turn things around for a better society. By doing what others, save the late peoples President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, could not do, the governor of Oyo State has set the moral tone for the real fight against corruption in high places. Are these flashes of distinction sustainable or mere optics? Suffice it to say that the journey has just started and having set a backcloth for his administration to be judged, whether Makinde earns plaudits or condemnation in the end depends on how he runs the four-year marathon as governor of the’