The phrase “barest minimum” or “bare minimum” is used to describe something which is at the smallest possible quantity or the least fulfilling level, but still meets the adequate, condition that is required or acceptable for some purpose. In recent times, this phrase has been used by some who grudgingly concede to Governor Seyi Makinde being better than his contemporaries but at the same time are unwilling to accede to the fact that he is not just the average Joe.
They claim that bar on governance in Nigeria is so low that Governor Seyi Makinde is being praised for doing next to nothing. But do the facts support this claim? Why not let’s set the bar at the highest point and ask ourselves, how does Governor Seyi Makinde measure up when compared to governors in saner climes. What are those elements that place these leaders on a higher pedestal?
Going through the constitution of first world countries and the activities of their elected governors, it is safe to say that these leaders are required to implement the state’s laws and oversee the operation of the executive branch. They are also expected to keep their electoral promises. Governors work on new policies and revise redundant policies and programs using their executive powers, including orders, budgets, and proposal of legislative bills.
Additionally, as ceremonial heads of states, governors host dignitaries from other states or countries and use their position to attract new local and foreign investments into their states. They attend public events, tour their constituencies, listen to constituents and govern in such a way as to prioritise the interests of the governed. Governors thus carry out their constitutionally empowered roles to use every power they have to bring about development to their states
Thus, the barest minimum a governor can offer is to show up at the office and carry out ceremonial activities. A governor doing the barest minimum will not take action on policies and programmes that take them out of their comfort zone. They will simply go through the motions of the office: signing bills the legislature sends in. They would show no innovative thinking or creativity in tackling the issues that affect the governed.
Do the facts show that Seyi Makinde is carrying out just the barest minimum? What do the records show? Firstly, Governor Seyi Makinde (or GSM as his admirers choose to call him) has only been in office for 16 months. In that time, he has again and again provided needed leadership and direction for Oyo State. He has not shied away from taking tough decisions, such as refusing to put the state on a total lockdown at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was fashionable to do so. The result has been a 26.4% increase in the state’s IGR at a time when other states and indeed, countries worldwide are battling with staying afloat.
He has run the government with openness and transparency that people in developed economies are known for. People who allied with him in the hopes of gaining access to state funds are making videos and lamenting on social media. To their shock and dismay, he has thrown the budgeting process of the state open. Townhall meetings are now held so that constituents can participate in the process. Additionally, the budget is made available on the government’s website for anyone who wishes to access it.
Another evidence of his transparency is that Oyo State is one of the five states in Nigeria (in fact they were the first) to give an account of their COVID-19 expenditures, in June 2020. What is more, GSM opened a responsive feedback channel on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, giving residents of Oyo State access to governance. Such channels are a mark of developed countries.
When it comes to policies, Governor Seyi Makinde has sponsored at least three bills in his first 16 months of office. One of the first bills he proposed was to ensure accountability in the system. Also, just recently he inaugurated the steering committee for a 40-year long-term plan for Oyo State and a medium-term plan that runs till 2025. He stated that he embarked on this mission because he found that the state did not have such a plan before now.
Let us talk about Seyi Makinde’s role as Chief Marketing Officer of Oyo State. The phrase Invest Oyo became a catchphrase under his administration. The governor has travelled far and wide even outside Nigeria to sell the investment opportunities available in Oyo State. And he is getting results. One-time moribund companies like the Pacesetter Quarry and Asphalt Plant and the Pacesetter Fruit Processing Company are now either functional or at the brink of starting production, thanks to his ability to attract investments to the state. Also, the Agbowo Shopping Complex got concessionaires under his watch.
GSM’s innovative thinking has also seen massive infrastructural development in Oyo State. The stadium at Adamasimgba, four bus terminals at Iwo Road, Challenge, New Ife Road and Ojoo, the Akesan market that was razed down by a fire, the Ajia-Airport Road, Moniya-Iseyin Road and others are all under development at the same time. This is in addition to building/renovation of schools all over Oyo State. Political detractors will say he has borrowed too much. Still, for every loan he has taken, he has shown accountability by reducing the state’s infrastructure deficit.
These are just a tip of the iceberg. Space would fail me if I went ahead to talk about how he is changing the face of agriculture from the bottom up. Ensuring that the next generation of farmers will be agropreneurs. The Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency is waiting in the wings to move to the site at Akufo and Eruwa farm settlements to be converted into farm estates. Or do we need to talk about how he has shown again and again that the will of the people is paramount? Interestingly, each time he prioritises his people, like when he insisted the police should take the back seat during the EndSARS protests, the opposition will say he is playing politics.
One would have to ask: In which planet do all of these actions translate to “bare minimum”? You really do not have to like him as a person to acknowledge that rating his governance style as “bare minimum” is, for want of a better word, engaging in intellectual dishonesty. Governor Seyi Makinde has indeed raised the bar on good governance. He has steadily fulfilled his campaign promises as contained in his Roadmap to Accelerated Development in Oyo State 2019-2023. The latest evidence of his promise made turning to promise kept is the delivery of sole ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) to Oyo State.
When he eventually leaves office, even if he leaves today, he would have left huge boots that the person coming after him would need to grow even bigger feet to fill. As he stated in one of the many interviews he granted, with him, governance is not rocket science. It is simply taking a common-sense approach. But as his contemporaries have shown, common sense is not common.