AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF OYO STATE
Good day and compliment of the season to all my beloved people of Oyo State. If you could remember vividly, the State was created on February 3rd, 1976 by General Murtala Mohammed led military government, when the old Western State was divided into Ogun, Ondo and Oyo States respectively. There was also a split of Osun State from Oyo State in 1991. The State is noted for its prominent historical and physical landmarks in art, science and culture associated within its jurisdiction. Nobody can match our warriors and forefathers army.
Oyo state is the nucleus of all States in the South West zone of Nigeria. Do you want to talk of the first university in Nigeria founded in 1948 (became autonomous in 1962) or the first teaching hospital in Nigeria, or the first television station in Africa (NTA, Ibadan), or the first ever sports stadium built in Africa (Liberty) or the first sky-crapper built in Africa (Cocoa-House in Ibadan). The list is endless for the pacesetter of all States. A Yoruba adage says "Ajise bi Oyo la rii, Oyo ki se bi eniko’kan" which means that Oyo always set the pace and never copy others. All these were the foresight and achievements of our patriotic and extraordinarily hardworking founding fathers. Karl Maier also support this in his book "This house has fallen" when he said "There is a sense among the vast majority of Yoruba that they have always represented the progress spearhead in Nigeria society"
Meanwhile, if someone has to critically and objectively examine the activities of administration of Oyo State since 29th of May 1999 till the present regime that culminate to eleven years of democratic governance in the State, two important pressing issues would be noticed. These two issues are; the issue of good governance and problems in picking eligible candidates to contest for State elections within political parties during their primaries. That the truth is bitter is not a new cliché. Our elected leaders in government since the last one decade have not been completely rendering their full responsibilities to the people who voted them into power. The State is confronted with moral decay and economic paralysis thus making fundamental changes to become imperative. The people are fed up with lies and unfulfilled promises. These leaders do not exemplify the wish of our founding fathers.
Our founding fathers want a State where its citizens are more valuable, more worthy of life and more certain of their future; they want our children to have best qualitative and functional education; their wish was not for us to live in darkness; they do not want us to live without water; they want the great majority to have access to basic health care and family planning services; they were very sensitive to our plight and they also believe that human beings have the ability to create ways to live better and even change the environment to suit their needs and wants.
Furthermore they do not want the masses to grow thinner and thinner like broom sticks or like children suffering from kwashiorkor; they do not want leaders who cannot make great sacrifices but prefer to live in opulence and wealth when those who voted them into power are in delusion; they do not want us to live without necessary social infrastructures that will reduce communal hardship on our children and even our rural and urban women making them less vulnerable to disease and squalor; they remembered the sad "wet e" episode and came up with the brightest idea of UPE education so that political thugs and touts would not hijack our society.
What we now expect our present leaders to do is to cultivate the ability, integrity and understanding of the urgency to solve the social problems of the State. Leaders that will base their greatness on the services they render for good of the citizens than the property accumulated within shortest time. Experiences have shown according to Joseph Folmania that "poor leadership in good times can be hidden, but poor leadership in bad times is a recipe for disaster".
Firstly, on the issues of good governance and accountability in the State, I have no political affiliation nor writing to criticise or vindicate anybody, but to inform our rulers, elders and those who have had opportunity to be in government of Oyo State before and now should know that the State deserve MORE than what it is getting since eleven years ago.
A good leader does not need up to three hundred and sixty-five days before starting to perform. The State has been developing at a very slow rate compared to other neighbouring states, considering the fact that we are so blessed with some of the best human and materials resources in the country. As I speak, Oyo State is now regarded as one the least developed in the country.
Less developed society always remain poor. The main advantages of good governance which are free, qualitative and functional education, good health services in all the cities, food security, employment opportunities, regular supply of drinking tap-water, good roads network linking all cities with a reliable and effective bus-transit management, adequate security to protect the lives and property of its citizenry, undisrupted electricity supply, low-cost housing estates and housing loans for low-income earners, social security packages for handicapped or person’s with disabilities, street and traffic lights, public libraries, public tap-water, public toilets, public phone boots, information centres, and other social infrastructures are nothing to write home about in the State. All inherited infrastructures are in shambles.
Naturally, people will not fail to pay their taxes when they enjoy these facilities. If all these facilities are not in place due to neglect, greediness and incompetency, generations now and those yet unborn would definitely suffer.
What we are now witnessing in Oyo state is "government of some people by some people and for some people".
On the issue of education, youths need to make a successful transition from childhood to adulthood but education has not been given deserved priority in the state. Education has the effect of shortening the effort which a person must expand to catch up on the advancement of civilization. Education in the state is not competitive, qualitative and functional for the past one decade talk less of being in line with the provisions of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and tenets of Education For All (CFA). The Oyo educational system is weak and chaotic. Most of our graduates from tertiary institutions are "half-backed" due to the nonchalant attitude of the government to provide formidable educational system that can facilitate national transformation and global competitiveness. There have been persistent poor performances of the State students in WAEC, NECO and JAMB examinations every year because the government has not given education the attention it deserves.
What is the essence of relieving parents to pay for their children WAEC exams fees, if the end results will not be justified? These parents are to pay more than double for their wards to re-take these same exams even without the probability of success as they are out of school. The Voluntary Supervisors Monitoring Scheme is not the only solution to low standard problems.
The solutions are very simple; Since teaching is a commitment to making difference in children’s lives in becoming leaders of tomorrow, all teachers salaries and outstanding welfare packages agreed on should be accepted and paid promptly on the first day of the new month and not almost two months after.
Motivated employees are more committed, more productive and more quality oriented to their jobs. The students stand to suffer for the teachers strike action in the long run. The State Ministry of Education should make it compulsory for all public and private schools in the State to operate well-equipped libraries and must make an "order" to ban pupils roaming on the streets during the school hours.
There must be cordial relation between the PTA Associations and the schoolteachers for effective monitoring of the kids conduct and performances. Personal and current contacts of each parent must be established, reviewed and documented. There should be weekly reports of student’s conduct, which have to be sent directly to all parents. All the 33 local governments in the State should have well-equipped public libraries within their localities.
The state Ministry of Education and schools in collaboration with notable industries and corporate bodies in the state should partner in organising quarterly debates, quiz, games and literary competitions which will attract considerable awards, prizes and certificates for those outstanding students and this must be televised and reported on the State television/radio and newspapers.
Another best way of learning is for our schools to embark on frequent excursions which have to be subsidized by the government to important places that will help children develop through their interactions with their environment according to Piaget theory.
I would never forget what an excursion organised by my old public primary school to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have done to my life. There should be reintroduction of inter-house sports and inter-city sport competitions among schools in the State for extra curricula activities. All these activities develop kids creatively, educationally and socially making them to function very well in a democratic society. Devils seek the idle hands. We should not forget that poverty leads to corruption, disruption of family relations and social life, causing rising crime rate among other vices. Functional and qualitative education is the only solution to poverty. The more educated people are, the less they are prone to illness and squalor.
Modern transportation system conquers distances and natural barriers. Effective, available and accessible transportation is an improvement to the quality of life in any community regardless of size and location. On roads facelift and transportation, kudos has to be given to the present government on the present rehabilitation and construction of roads in the city. I will implore the government to extend this laudable project to all the bad roads in the cities, towns and villages of Oyo State. This project is half-concluded without erecting of more streetlights, street naming and directional signs, modern bus stops, and good drainage system.
The government should know that if these roads are not given good and effective maintenance, all the huge investment would be a waste. Believe this, a car can be on the road for fourteen years without changing a tyre where there are good roads. It is very possible. I have seen that in Europe and it can work anywhere. The government should seek for innovative solutions to transportation problems. Without doubt, those taxi cabs bought by the present government cannot serve all the low income earners or alleviate the suffering of our people in the State. I do not remember when last my mother took a taxi cab. The State is growing in population and there is urgent need for new and expanded community transportation alternatives. The best way to touch people’s lives at the grass-root level in moving from one area to the other is by providing standard public bus services to ply all the cities and villages where low income individuals reside.
These will render services to students (students in school uniform should be free of charge). The Bus-Transit System should be controlled by experienced and effective management board. On March 2-5, this year, I was opportuned to be invited to the first Lagos State Transport Management Conference held at Eko Hotel, Victoria Island and when I spoke with the Governor’s Special Adviser on Transportation, and the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs (who happened to be my hall mate –Mellamby-at the University of Ibadan in the 80s), you will see that these determined young men are bubbling with energy, creativity and innovative ideas to rewrite the history of Lagos State.
Meanwhile, think of the many comforts and conveniences possible with regular water and electricity supply to satisfy the essence of our living. Electricity use is in nearly every home and all living things depend on water. The average person in the cities may use 200 litres (about 50 gallons) of water or more for their personal needs each day. The result of irregular and epileptic power supply have adverse effect on standard of living and quality of life of the citizens. It is very disheartening not to have a regular clean and safe drinking pipe-born water despite all monies spent on rehabilitations and facelift of existing treatment plants at Eleyele, Asejire and Osegere water works and regular fund given by the African Development Bank (ADB). Without regular supply of electricity, there can never be meaningful industrialisation. Successive governments have promised in the past to find solutions to electricity with huge amount of money but nothing came out of it. We still having disrupted electricity supply despite the promises to enter agreement with private independent power providers to supply 30 megawatts in addition to PHCN supplies. If two billion naira was budgeted and spent this year on rural electrification, how much is going to be spent on megawatts to have light? People now rely on "I pass my neighbour" electric generating machine that endanger our health with air and noise pollution.
There should be a renewed and integrated effort towards the industrialization of our beloved State if our effort to alleviate poverty is to be realised. We need to create a conducive environment to boost international trade and launch our natural resources to the world. The only thing we are seeing here is "buying and selling". In the last nine years, none of our successive rulers in the State deem it fit to prepare a location and construct one or two very big commercial centres in Ibadan, the State capital.
Instead, all the lands have been sold to either an influential traditional or religious leader or shared between themselves. On a rainy day, you dare not to go to Akesan market in Oyo, Oja ‘gbo and Oja Akangbe in Ogbomoso, Sango market in Saki, Anko market in Eruwa, Maya market in Lanlate, Towobowo market in Igbo-ora, Bodija and Sango markets in Ibadan because of the messy ground. The tolls and shops rates collected in a year is enough to make necessary rehabilitation of those mentioned markets if these leaders are sincere and feel for those who voted them into power.
Health they say is wealth. The government should embark on projects, notably, standard public health centres in all the cities in the State. The government should fund all the thirty-three local governments in the state to operate and manage mini public health centres within its jurisdiction. These centres staffed with trained and qualified medical personnel will be providing general health education, preventive services, family planning education and contraceptive, specific occupational health promotion services, screening for illness (such as taking blood pressure) and treatment for minor illness and injuries. This will take medical facility nearer to the people. Medical care should be provided in all accredited and organized care services and vigorous efforts should be made to induce physicians and other health workers to practice in rural areas. The Ministry of health should take measures in prohibition of smoking in public places such as hospitals, schools, government offices, theatres, movie houses.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states, " the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government". It is very evident that security of lives and properties of the people are not guaranteed in the State. Everybody lives in fear anytime they go out. Our burglary proofs are now taller and thicker than what we have in prisons. Who are now the true prisoners? Everybody cannot afford to pay for private security. The armed robbers that have taken control by breaking into banks, houses and companies at will with their sophisticated weapons. The recent wave of kidnappings, hired-assassins, thuggery, plain-clothes police extorting money everywhere, advanced fee fraud, and motor-parks touts and pickpockets are increasing everyday. Section 4 of the Police Act, explains police duties by law as "prevention of crime, detection of crime, apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order, protection of life and property". The government should operate an Anti-Robbery Squad as done by other States to patrol the cities and towns. The Police needs sophisticated ammunitions to match with armed robbers weapons.
In a democratic society, all citizens have a right to access and use of information. Information serves as a vehicle for bringing government policies and programmes to the citizenry, thereby making it a bridge that hold the government and governed together. Also, I see no reason why a pacesetter of all the thirty-six states in Nigeria cannot boast of its own newspaper. What does it take the government to resuscitate The Sketch Publishing newspaper with effective management board to create an avenue through which the activities and programmes of the state are made known to the public? The newspaper will provide a feedback mechanism through which the state government can judge the reaction of the masses towards its policies and programmes. That is what is called democracy-"government of the people by the people and for the people". There will never be "disaffection among the masses" if there is transparency and accountability in governance. This publishing company will generate employment opportunities in the State to most qualified graduates roaming on the streets. The most widely read newspapers in Spain (Metro), United Kingdom (Metro and Evening Standard) and South Africa are free newspapers running with only adverts proceeds.
The government should make necessary collaboration in environmental and occupational health research among public health, administrative, industrial and educational institutions to find lasting solutions to our environmental problems. There should be mass participation in pollution control by increasing the consciousness of vast numbers of people in the cities. The waste management board can place plastic bins or drums in strategic places for people to drop their refuse and this will be emptied every-midnight by the refuse collecting vans. The bins can be separated (paper, iron or metal and rest of the waste) in different colours for re-cycling. The cleaning of streets and roads should be extended to other cities of the state. The cleaners should be in complete reflective uniform for their traffic safety.
The second important pressing issue why I decided to write this letter is the problem relating to picking of eligible candidates to contest for State elections by the political parties during their primary elections. This normally generates tension, despair, grievances, hatred and disunity among political elites turning the State politics to a vicious and selfish power play. Every parts of the State has equitable access to present candidate for any post available, even most especially in Gubernatorial race. There is no problem if a Gubernatorial candidate or Commissioner comes from any of these following places; Igbeti, Saki, Kishi, Sepeteri, Okeho, Ilora, Awe, Ilero, Oyo, Iseyin, Eruwa, Lanlate, Igboho, Igboora, Ogbomoso or Ibadan. We are all from the same extended families and forefathers. The State cannot be developed or achieve good governance if we continue to monopolise sensitive appointments solely on rotational criteria and not supporting the right mix of candidates or people with skills and abilities to develop well their political parties agenda and its plans for the people. The most important thing is the capability, integrity, and intellectual ability of a particular candidate and support given by his party members and the entire people. The State is blessed with the best brains you can ever think of in recent years. Some of them remain silent because of the way our elders are turning politics into "do or die" affairs, making the entire citizenry to suffer when other citizens from other State are happy by the collective visions of their enterprising elders. We will all suffer for it if we neglect the optimal utilisation of our collective talents in the service of our common interests. Let our new leaders engage in live television / radio interviews and debates broadcast before elections to tell us themselves, their achievements, ideas and plans to rewrite our history as Pacesetter. The era of dirty money politics and political godfather in handpicking of candidates is gone forever. We should not prefer mediocrity to meritocracy in our selections, appointments and elections. Political agenda, best policies and set objectives need achievers, who are men and women of great discipline. Good governance requires us to select freely, nominate diligently, vote peacefully and defend our votes.
Finally, let us hold the optimistic ideals and pessimism will be driven out. Let us imbibe the spirit of love and unity. "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand" so says the Holy Bible. And the Holy Quran 3:200 says;" vie in such perseverance, strengthen each other, and pious, that you may prosper". We must all unite and work to raise hope, sustain hope and keep hope alive of all the people of Oyo State. Let our elders bare their minds on a round table discussion with courtesy and friendliness. Working together, we can do more. They should forget festering grievances of the past, admit those mistakes of the past, and move on healing old wounds which is essential for future success.
The earmark of a great mind is its ability to forgive and forget. Our elites and leaders trust, integrity and credibility determine the will to serve the State better and make their mark in sands of time. They must leave something for posterity as done by our founding fathers. The war of words and frayed nerves must now be firmly put behind and make the next general election to be peaceful, free and fair. Our elites cannot be enemies forever as we do not want them pass this to their sons. It is better to make the way for coming generation as one. Our politicians should remember the wise counsel of the great American President Abraham Lincoln at Illinois, on October 16,1854; "...stand with anybody that stands right; stand with him while he is right and pact with him when he goes wrong".
Leadership is not for glamour; pleasure, fun, privilege or opportunity to construct estates and buy mansions here and abroad while your subjects are dying of hunger and squalor. Leadership is not opportunity to loot the state treasury and keep the money in foreign accounts while your people cannot afford three-square meals a day. Leadership is not stealing the government money and donate it to churches or mosques. Leadership is sacrifice. Leadership is service. Leaders are servants of the people and the people are their paymasters. You do not need to contest for an election if you do not want to be people’s servant. Leadership is to bless the life of others. Leadership are men of virtue and example of modest. Leaders with enough intellectual capacity to run the affairs of this State can make good things happen. Let us pray for leaders that will strive and work hard to lead our State to climb greater heights of excellence and progress. It is our collective effort and responsibility to make the best of the State.
Where are those stinkingly rich men praised by our musicians of yesteryears? "Vanity upon vanity, all is vanity" as Solomon calls this illusion of life. Only people with good names will be remembered forever. Even you can see the traces and symptoms of poverty among some of the so-called rich men. Lack of love, discipline, wisdom, initiative, integrity and morality are manifested on them. Happiness according to Frankin D. Roosevelt; "...is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievements, and in the thrill of creative efforts". Happiness can never be bought, it has to be experienced. Happiness is neither the wealth nor comfort, instead, it is all about the state of mind.
Wealth, comfort and love can all be the means toward happiness, but they are definitely not happiness in themselves. The origin of this State had a very beautiful history and we shall create another in the nearest future. "It is time to move past yesterday, because today is upon us and tomorrow is only a breath away" as Sunday Dare once wrote. Let us all come out en masse and vote for "a statesman that thinks of the next generation and not politician that thinks of the next election". Failure is not the will of God. If we fail to vote for the best candidate, we will all be responsible for our failure. A Yoruba adage says, "The king whose reign is characterised by peace, history will record it. Also the king whose tenure is fraught with chaos (poverty), history will not fail to record it". I will end this piece with this dictum; Do all the good you can, by all means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the time you can, to all the people you can and as long as you can. When you are good to others, you are best to yourself. God bless the good people of Oyo State. God bless Nigeria.
Adewale T. Akande is an author, educationist and Road Traffic Safety Consultant.