By Abiodun KOMOLAFE
Although the initial steps have to be taken by the individual, the picture of personality as having “power to uplift, power to depress, power to curse, and power to bless” is working for Governor Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji of Ekiti State. It is a poser that’s given back to the owner. It makes a man become enthusiastic because, each time he sees the good he has done, he becomes motivated to do more. Essentially therefore, it is an individual’s character that defines his or her legacy.
Tellingly, Oyebanji, aka BAO, has within a year in office redefined governance. He loves development. As a matter of fact, it is infused into his character; and that’s to the advantage of his people. Some leaders are averse to development. Although they say it with the words of mouth, they don’t quite understand what development is all about; and that’s why the pattern remains the same. They leave office without any meaningful impact other than regrets; and the error is in the selection process. A little push, a little compromise; and the error is in the manifest.
Oyebanji is a golden boy in a golden era. Therefore, all he needs to do is to carefully check his options and give the people the best. From the look of things, the governor is not likely to ask for anything from President Bola Tinubu and for the president to be prevaricating, because the president knows that he (Oyebanji) is a shining star; and that’s to the advantage of the ruling party. So, what other former governors could not afford or establish, Oyebanji can now attempt it; and he will get it. If you say it is luck, yes, it doesn’t get better than that!
The only and major problem BAO may likely have – in the state or elsewhere – is with his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwarts who are with the chronic sense of entitlement, a reality which has moved with time and space. Wherever such rears its head, the governor should match out in confidence and implement his policies while allowing the party machinery to arrive at achievable political objectives. He must be conscious of time. He must run as if this is the only tenure for him.
During Bola Ige’s time as governor of the old Oyo State, he was always assuring Ijesaland that it’s the owner of his 2nd term in office, which he never got. When he came to Ijebu-Jesa during one of his official tours, Ige promised, among other things, to turn the then Obokun Local Government Secretariat at Ijebu-Jesa, which was under construction at the time, to a 120-bed hospital. We were all elated! But that opportunity never came because the affectionate ‘Uncle Bola’ never won his reelection bid. So, Oyebanji must not procrastinate. For this 1st term, let him be loaded and let him blast it because this is the day that the Lord has made, and it has been given to him. Let him run with the vision and the precision of the medieval archers. They had that legacy of not missing their targets; and they became renowned for it.
So far, Oyebanji’s interventions have ranged from human capital and youth development, to arts, culture and tourism. From Education and Rural Development, to Transport and Power Infrastructure; and from Agriculture and Food Security, to Industrialization, the governor’s means and ends have shown consistency. Salaries and pensions are being paid promptly and loan facilities are being given to eligible government workers. Free Mass Transit Scheme was introduced for public servants and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), complete with allied gadgets, were procured for the use of security agencies. On his watch, intra- and inter-city roads were either rehabilitated or constructed even as towns and villages were connected to the National Grid. In the Tourism Sector, BAO has not been wanting.
A man rich in ideas, Oyebanji is in the good books of the civil servants. He has also mastered the street politics of Ekiti. In terms of accessibility, he has demonstrated it. He engages regularly with the citizens in both structured and unstructured manners and his feedback mechanism is also very active. He attends APC meetings, visits schools and hospitals unannounced and personally supervises projects through which he has significantly reduced the cost of governance. Till date, Oyebanji has not bought official cars for his use, not to talk of changing the furniture in the Governor’s Office and/or in the Governor’s Lodge. Instead, he channeled the funds meant for those projects into other more pressing needs like infrastructure upgrade, erosion control and rehabilitation of schools and hospitals.
Going forward, BAO must bear in mind that the disoriented and confused youths, and the ever-growing geographical territory of the unemployed are all watching. Since they are always operating without the enabled enhancement of the ‘Omoluabi’ ethos, they are not to be taken for granted. Unlike what worked for the past governors in the Western Region, that solid arrangement cannot be conjectured again. So, the governor must strive to be ingenious all the time.
Ekiti State is blessed with a fantastic natural climate, a relatively stable and safe environment and an economy that has value. It is one state where the Rule of Law reigns and where responsible, responsive and strategic leadership also thrives. It is a state where the legal tender is knowledge. But then, the naysayers and the easily-excited clowns will always be around and functional. In the days of former Olabisi Onabanjo of Ogun State, the same university that’s now performing wonders was put down. So, Oyebanji must never be afraid of the opposition because ‘Ayekoto’, as Onabanjo was fondly called, insisted on what’s good. Now, Nigerians have him to thank for Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago Iwoye, Ogun State.
Ige was also assertive and he eventually suffered legacy comments from the public during the 2nd Republic’s ‘Universal Free Education’ programme. The opposition came after him but he stood his ground. The ‘Cicero of Esa-Oke’ is no longer with us on this side of the divide but what he did when the opportunity beckoned continues to shout aloud; and it’s unstoppable, because it’s the truth. So, Oyebanji must remember that he is there now. Let something speak for him tomorrow. Notable among them are the Ado-Ekiti – Ifaki-Ekiti Road and Ado-Ekiti – Ilawe-Ekiti Road, which once caved in. In the same ship lies the destiny of the yet-to-be-completed Ado-Ekiti – Aramoko-Ekiti – Ita-Iddo Road.
In an ideal democracy, followership and political participation must always be subject to scrutiny. One: what is the party saying? Two: those implementing, in whose interest are they doing it; and, is there accountability? These become necessary because, ‘hey’, believe you me, whatever the answers are to all the raised questions will go a long way in determining the prolonged stay of the party, not the last minute distribution of money or running around to capture votes.
In this part of the world, Local Government structure is considered as a governor’s structure. So, how Oyebanji manages the forthcoming Local Government election in the state will go a long way in defining his government. Since this is a guided democracy which must reflect the wishes of the people, how he also redirects, especially the politics of the swing Local Governments (Ekiti West, Ikere-Ekiti and Ado-Ekiti) and adjoining communities will go a long way in determining the shape and size of his second term ambition. Matter-of-factly, it is when an average person who doesn’t have a political appointment has passion for his political party of choice that the government can run smoothly and peacefully.
Lastly, Oyebanji demonstrated the ‘Omoluabi’ ethos recently when he prostrated, full chest, for Afe Babalola, and ditto for his former teacher. He needs more of these! Most importantly, BAO needs to always consult widely with proudly-Ekiti leaders like Babalola, Wole Olanipekun, Niyi Adebayo, Femi Falana and former Ekiti governors – and they cut across party preferences – to make his first tenure a success.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Ekiti State!
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(Published in THE NATION on Saturday, October 21, 2023)
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