An Ijesha man (they are always apt for jokes) boarded a commercial vehicle from Ilesha headed for Ibadan. The driver asked him where he would prefer to alight. The man answered: “Iwo Road.” Once there, the driver asked the passenger to pay and get off his vehicle. The passenger refused. The passenger then launched at the driver a vituperative tirade in his thick Ijesha dialect, complaining about “all these fraudulent, uncharitable drivers out to dupe hapless people.” Didn’t the driver know that he had been travelling to Ibadan long before the driver was born, and didn’t the driver know that he knew exactly what Iwo road looked like? Where were all the road-side hawkers of building materials and Tokunbo generators? What happened to the ever-present craters under the Iwo Road over-head bridge? Where was the motor park that had so much encroached on the roundabout that other users were forced to endure hours-long standstill? The driver welcomed the man to the “New” Iwo Road and a new Ibadan. This on-going jingle on the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) station seeks to accentuate Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s transformation of Ibadan, and I dare say, of Oyo State.
Visitors to the State who have not been there in the past two years will be pleasantly surprised to find an Oyo State that is in a hurry; a giant that has just been woken up from a long slumber - one induced by years of inept, corrupt, and cowardly leadership. I have often wondered how the governments of Adebayo Alao-Akala (a.k.a. Triple A) and Rashid Ladoja demonstrated so much motion (or rather commotion) but with very little movement to show for it. Between both of them, they not only wasted billions of naira that accrued to the State, they also wasted the time and lives of Oyo State indigenes while fighting each other for the right to fleece us blind. How on earth did we tolerate the hooliganism, the brigandage, and the rancid stench that emanated from Molete and Olomi areas of Ibadan? How did we allow Baba Adedibu and the NURTW to literally decide how the State’s revenue was allocated? How did we navigate the interminable traffic hold-ups at Apata, Mokola, Aleshinloye, Onireke, Dugbe, Sango, Challenge, Ring Road/Adeoyo, Apete, Orita-Merin, Oniyanrin/Abebi, and a host of other parts of Ibadan? How did we live with the laissez-faire attitude of the populace in those times?
I had often heard that Oyo State was difficult to govern and Ibadan, in particular, was impossible. And I had often wished I governed the State one day….just for one day…so that I could demonstrate exactly how to govern the State and Ibadan in particular. You do it exactly like Ajimobi is doing now. You do it without caring whose ox is gored. You do it as if you only have one day, not one term, and certainly not eight years. You do it in a hurry.
You begin by telling your political benefactors, or godfathers (the Lam Adesinas, the Kola Daisis, the Alaafin Adeyemis, the Arisekolas), and your political opponents (the Ladojas, the Dejo Raimis, the Akinjides) to nominate candidates for political appointments. You don’t let any of them dictate to you who gets what portfolio. You interlace your list of appointees with your own trusted hands. You screen them all for dedication, discipline, expertise, experience, vigour and vitality. You tell your Commissioners and Special Advisers that none of their positions are sacrosanct; and that they (Commissioners and Special Advisers) are, in fact, interchangeable and expendable if they can’t cope with the depth, spread, and speed of your administration. You put them to work on a vision that you have had years to form, tweak and perfect. And you do it in a hurry.
The biggest blight on Oyo State and on Ibadan, in particular, has always been garbage disposal, or lack thereof. Some previous governments have tried and failed to fix the problem. Others have been so intimidated by its sheer enormity that they did not even attempt to tackle it. The State had abandoned its landfills and the entire trash removal system had broken down. From home to home, business to business, people generated tons and tons of trash everyday, and there was no way of getting rid of it other than starting a bonfire. The alternative was to dump it “just anywhere”. Yes, just anywhere…roadsides, Ogunpa, neighbours’ yards…just anywhere! Our carefree attitude about trash informed our recklessness in littering the roadsides with illegal structures in the forms of shops, stores, and motor parks, to the extent that otherwise beautifully planned Bodija and Oluyole estates totally lost their aesthetic appeals. As Governor, in the Year-Of-Our-Lord 2013, who has spent some time abroad, particularly the US, you can’t but appreciate the duty, perhaps even the moral obligation that the State owes its citizens in providing a way to get rid of their trash…all of their trash, including those illegal structures. You remember you don’t have an eternity to do it. You must do it in a hurry.
Another cankerworm that had crept into the fabric of Oyo State and had eaten deep into its developmental fabric is traffic hold-up. Like Lagos, people were starting to spend 30 minutes in standstill in Oyo State’s horrific traffic! Narrow roads; made even narrower by incorrigible drivers who parked anywhere and anytime: abandoned vehicles; some of which had been there since Adekunle Fajuyi was governor: illegal structures; built right on pieces of land allocated for future expansion of roads; washed-off bridges, washed-off culverts, washed-off pavements, and washed-off tar (which led to gaping pot-holes, man-holes and lakes on the roads during rainy season), all combined to make commuting in Oyo State a hellish experience. People were already talking about relocating “back” to Lagos State! A forward-looking governor had to do something about it. And it was very simple: You get the civil servants in your secretariat to apprise you of the violators of building codes that impede free-flow of traffic and render Oyo State dirty. You give such offenders a reasonable ultimatum to move and self-demolish their structure, failing which the government would demolish it for them. After demolition, you commence the expansion of the road. You do it in a hurry.
You have to do everything in a hurry because our people are quick to ask: what have you done for me lately? You couldn’t demolish structures and not start to build right away. And build is what Ajimobi is doing. He is doing it so effortlessly that Triple A and Ladoja must truly be regretting how they squandered their opportunity to write their names in gold, rather than in infamy.
This week, Ajimobi will commission the new fly-over bridge at Mokola. The bridge is built right over the Mokola roundabout, effectively and permanently removing the decades-long traffic logjam there. Large vehicles are barred from the fly-over in order to prevent blockage in the event of a breakdown. The entire surroundings of the fly-over bridge and the four roads leading to Mokola roundabout are beautified. This is a far cry from the decadent, crime-ridden intersection that we had up till about two years ago. In May, I drove through Oyo and Ogbomoso, on my way to Ilorin, and saw the major roads under expansion there too. I am told that most of the State is going through some sort of renovation/rehabilitation or the other. In other words, if you are in the earth-moving business, Oyo State is where you should be right now. Ajimobi has also constructed an ultra-modern motor park at Podo, complete with drainage system, water, food canteens, security and toilet facilities. He has built a business complex at Scout Camp, Molete, completely transforming that hitherto god-forsaken locale. Commuters in Eleyele, Onireke, Aleshinloye, Ijokodo-Apete, Ologun-eru, Challenge, and a host of other communities are now experiencing “pleasant traffic hold-ups” necessitated by furious road expansions. It’s as if Ajimobi’s life depends on it To even confound me more, Ajimobi is purportedly getting all these done without taking a dime in either international or domestic loan!
Of course, in the process of getting the job done, Ajimobi will step on (and even trampled over) some hitherto sacred cows’ toes, mine included. I got my SUV towed at Bodija-Oja for parking illegally; the grave of a professor’s grandfather was destroyed during the expansion of one road; a traditional chief’s husband’s business was destroyed during the clean-up of one street; a popular musician got parts of his studio eaten up by the expansion of another road; a respected businessman now has to walk 10 feet (instead of two) when visiting his third wife at her shop. But as Governor, you can’t even begin to care about these types of sentiments. These were the same types of hues and cries that prevented preceding governments from getting anything done. These were the same types of complaints that forced previous governments into primitive unctuousness that relegated us to near-second-class citizens in our own country. These ne’er-do-well faux progenies of democracy were afraid to hurt anybody’s feeble feelings.
Already, Ajimobi’s political opponents (understandably so) have embarked on an orgy of lachrymose venom aimed at blackmailing him into pedestrian performance. They have derisively nick-named his government “ijoba ologun ipinle Oyo” (military government of Oyo State) for daring to enforce existing laws that bring our State at par with other civilized societies. This same set of people led previous governments that did not have the vision and/or the intestinal fortitude to grow Oyo State. It is this same set of people - professional critics – that would wait for Ajimobi to leave office and then ask: what did you do for Oyo State? They accused Ajimobi of not providing alternative shops for people whose illegal structures were demolished. What twisted logic! Why should government compensate anyone for illegality? Could anybody whose illegal structure was demolished tender a valid tax clearance certificate? Ajimobi’s foes, blinded by inordinate quest to pander to the populace, would turn logic on its head and wonder why Ajimobi did not give people two-to-three years’ notices. Haba! Out of four years?
The most loutish of his critics have charged that he awarded all his contracts to out-of-state contractors. Some even singled-out Bola Tinubu as the main beneficiary of all road contracts in Oyo State. Who cares about who gets the contracts as long as the roads and bridges are being done properly and on time? Does anybody remember the construction company that built Cocoa House? Does anyone even care today?
Ajimobi’s government is far from perfect. No government and no person can be perfect. But he has injected Oyo State with an infusion of the Can-Do vaccine. And that is all we need. We know now what we can do. We know that we can organize our towns, cities, and villages in a decent manner. We know that just because we are Nigerians does not mean we should live like Barbarians espousing only atavistic tendencies. We know that politics does not have to come with bloodshed. We know that our State hospitals should not cost more than private hospitals while our people wait for hours before being seen. We know that pharmacists in our State hospitals should not sell government drugs to patients while pocketing the proceeds. We know that State hospital nurses should not sell gloves to patients while using the same set of gloves to handle other patients. We know that administrators of State Hospital, Adeoyo, Ibadan, can do better. We used to accept such below-average standards, but that was in the past. Now we know. Now we know that many of our schools still have leaky roofs and some still lack windows and doors. Now we know that many of our children still roam the streets during school hours hawking “pure water” and groundnuts. Now we know that we can do better than that. In the past, we just accepted our lot and consign ourselves to the Stone Age. We know now that right among us, in our own Oyo State, we have leaders and mid-level managers that can help march our State forward. Ajimobi cannot be everywhere. He just has to provide purpose, motivation and direction. And that is what leadership entails.