Monday, March 6, 2017 9:45 am
By Bolanle Bolawole
It is not everyone who wins elections that ascends to the throne. We have the case of the late Chief MKO Abiola, who won the freest and fairest presidential election in the annals of this country but was not allowed to govern. His election was annulled by the military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida. Not only was Abiola thrown into detention when he insisted on his mandate, his wife, Kudirat, was assassinated as she fought for that mandate by his side and, eventually, MKO himself died in detention – poisoned – and did not actualise the mandate. That was in 1993. How about Kogi state’s Prince Abubakar Audu, who virtually won the gubernatorial contest but died before the result could be announced? So, the new Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, must give thanks. Four years ago he contested for the same post but lost the election. God not only spared his life but also made him stronger to take another shot at the post; this time around, he won.
God has also favoured him with “good” opponents who are not contesting his victory; so, he is not distracted and can be focused on the job he just landed. If he does not hit the ground running, he has himself to blame and that will be evidence enough of what level of performance to expect from him. Morning, as they say, shows the day. When President Muhammadu Buhari spent half a year to assemble a team and still ended up with a lacklustre assemblage of tired legs and square pegs in round holes; that was the beginning of his failure. Akeredolu should guide against the Buhari syndrome. He should assemble a good team and be fast about it. Bend over backward to seek the best from anywhere. Your government is as good as the team you assemble. Once you announce your team, we will be able to know immediately whether to write you off or expect a good outing from you. I say this with all sense of responsibility.
After Akeredolu won the election, his first port of call was the Presidency where he praised Buhari and the APC chairman, John Oyegun-Odigie to high heavens. It should end there, please! He must not imbibe the snail’s speed of Buhari. He must also eschew the crass provincialism, unbridled nepotism, and religious bigotry of Buhari in assembling his team. The whole of Ondo state must be his constituency. He must not subscribe to the Buhari nebulous and provocative divide-and-rule illogic of “95%” versus “5%”. All segments of Ondo should be fairly treated; those who voted for him as well as those who did not. All should be adequately represented. No section should be marginalised. Akeredolu as a Christian must treat the Muslims fairly and equitably. Whereas he is from my home town of Owo, which has, over-time, been given the short end of the stick by successive governments; he must be careful not to want to bridge the yawning gap in one fell swoop. I maintain my earlier position that Owo deserves a little bit more than many other sections of the state not just because its son is the new helmsman but because it has been unfairly treated over time. In redressing this imbalance, Akeredolu should tread carefully and not be brazen like the immediate past governor, Segun Mimiko.
I read an interview in which Akeredolu acknowledged that he would not be able to solve all the problems of the state: that is correct; even if he spends two terms, he will not be able to solve all the problems. Were he to have the World Bank vaults open to him and were he to pave every street in the state with gold, he will still not be able to solve all the problems. It is not all problems that money can solve. And for as long as human societies exist, there will be problems. Scriptures say problems are the exercises that God Himself has set for us, for us to keep ourselves busy and fit. Little wonder, the Yoruba saying, “ojo iku l’ojo isinmi”, meaning that we only rest from our labours when we die. So, Akeredolu is right to set his priorities and not be jack of all trades, master of none. In setting his priorities, however, he should let them align with those of the people.
His priorities and those of the people should not run like parallel lines. During the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti, I supported Fayemi but friends and avid readers of this column warned me repeatedly that I was backing the wrong horse. Eventually, Fayemi lost that election scandalously and one of my readers told me why Ekiti was so harsh to Fayemi: He said Fayemi did for Ekiti what he wanted for Ekiti and not what Ekiti wanted him to do for them. One word for that is “disconnect” or “elitism”. Call it the Fayemi syndrome. I heard that Fayemi contributed a lot to Akeredolu’s victory. Find other ways to thank him but never adopt his governance model. Akeredolu used to be an “Owo abroad” person but the four years between his first shot at the governorship and now should have domesticated him a little. Avoid the temptation of thinking you know all the answers.
Let the people tell you what their needs are. They wear the shoes; so, they know where the shoes pinch them. Don’t impose your views or development model on them. Consult the people. Adopt bottom-up approach to development. Budgets that are prepared solely by the bureaucrats in Akure will end up virtually in the pockets of the same bureaucrats. Don’t import all your aides from your former base of Ibadan. If you do, Ondo state people will chastise you like they did Fayemi and the governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. Soon, we shall begin to hear allegations that Ondo state’s resources are being siphoned to Ibadan. And if you pander to your godfathers and allow them unlimited access to the state’s coffers, the same allegations will whip you. Local contents, please. Ondo for Ondo people! Contractors, especially petty contractors, should not come from outside the state. And do not bite more than you can chew, like Aregbe. This is the affliction that has wrecked our combative Comrade. By all means avoid the Aregbe syndrome. Do not put too many irons in the fire at same time.
Will you be able to do what I am now going to ask you to do? Cut down on the bureaucracy! This is a general problem that our leaders have been afraid to tackle. How many are the workers in a state? What is their percentage of the entire population? How come, then, that this infinitesimal group consumes all of a state’s resources? As matters stand today, only Lagos state can comfortably pay salaries. For most of the states, the federal allocation plus internally-generated revenue put together fall far short of just payment of salaries. States borrow to pay salaries. Where are the funds to commit to development? A healthy ratio ought to be 20\30% recurrent and 60\70% capital expenditure. If you cannot do this, you are going to struggle and suffer throughout. You will not be able to find the money to execute your lofty promises if you spend all your resources on consumption, which is what salaries, pensions, and other emoluments are.
The civil service everywhere is bloated. Many go there to trade, sell recharge cards, clothes, baby wears, and trinkets. Many gossip and loiter; yet, they expect salary at month end. Prune the civil service to manageable limit. Move staff to other needy areas, like the teaching service. You said you will not earn salary for the time being; I beg to disagree! How much is the salary of a governor? Is it more than N600,000? If you want to be taken seriously, what you should surrender is your security vote. First of all, tell us the security votes collected by Mimiko month-by-month, even when he was not paying salaries to workers, and then tell us how much you, Akeredolu, will collect every month as security vote; that is, is you are not willing to let go completely. If you fail to come clean on this security vote issue, I will conclude that you are more of the same and that nothing good will come out of your Nazareth.
Then I will suggest that you make agriculture the cornerstone of your administration’s policies. Agriculture, agriculture, and agriculture: All else should revolve around agriculture. Food crops and cash crops; mechanised agriculture; farm settlements; extension services; improved seedlings, dams and irrigation projects; silos and modern preservation services; forward and backward linkages; livestock; etc. Turn cocoa and cassava into gold mines. Build small-scale industries around perishable food crops and fruits growing in the wild all over the place. Turn Ondo into the nation’s food basket. Leave the urban centres and go into the rural areas. Our people have a saying “owo igbe o kii nrun”; literally, this means wealth resides in the forests. Beat a track into the forests of Ondo and bring out the riches.
In the interview referred to above, Akeredolu said he would lay solid foundations for Ondo; again, I beg to disagree! Leave foundations alone, please! Solid foundations have been laid already; so, don’t waste your – and our – precious time and efforts on foundations. If after 41 years, we are still laying foundations, when are we going to put structures on the foundations? As our people will say, if a man spends 30 years laying the foundations for madness, how many years will he commit to the madness proper? It also amounts to trivialising, discountenancing, and rubbishing the efforts and achievements of past leaders if it is Akeredolu that will be laying solid foundations for Ondo state. Continuity, please: A lot of work has already been done; build on it!
Finally, team up with the other South-west governors to move the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) forward. Henceforth, the South-west must speak with one voice and act as one, unbreakable, indivisible entity. Dear brother, I wish you well!
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