Leadership lessons from Gov Makinde
THE governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, came to power with some panache. He won an election on a new wave of populism which swept the reins of power from the All Progressives Congress (APC), thus breaching the plan to keep all south-west states within the ranks of APC. His campaign brought a different approach to the quest for leadership in Oyo State. Not once was his campaign accused of the gangsterism that attended previous quests for the governance of the Pacesetter State. Understanding the desire of Oyo people for good governance, one devoid of the braggadocio of politics, Makinde defined his journey into the next four years with a few actions that translate to the positive vision and, redefinition of leadership in Nigeria. By hitting the ground with action, Makinde came out of the first ten days in office as the first of his peers to constitute a due process office with the appointment of a Director General. That singular action is a huge statement on the direction of his service to Oyo State till 2023 in the first instance. He thus says, by the action, that he means business. Not just any business, but business unusual. That move was further reinforced with the immediate proscription of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, a union of persons whose activities had put a stamp on Oyo State as a lawless enclave governed at the instance of the undisciplined. Though one expects a gradual lifting of the ban as a demonstration of the humanity of the governor, it is believed that such action would come after the union and its members bring themselves to operate within limits permitted by law.
However, no step defined Makinde’s vision for the state than that taken during the inauguration of the Ninth House of Assembly. Addressing the lawmakers, Makinde set out his vision in just about 1,020 words. Every paragraph of those words came with meanings and promises. These were promises that etched his campaign in the hearts of the people and made him their darling. But that inaugural speech came with it, some lessons in leadership. Makinde set out with a deep appreciation of the importance of the legislature as a true conglomerate of the elected representatives of the people. He said so when he recognised that with the legislature, every member is elected by his constituents, unlike the executive where only the governor is elected alongside his deputy. Others within that circle are appointed. This is perhaps the first time a governor would humble himself with this reality. The refusal to accept and honour this truism seems to have been at the base of all executive/legislature discontent in Nigeria. Most often, governors tend to see the legislature as an appendage of their offices and the legislators as unnecessary evil which may be carried along. Here, Governor Makinde appreciates the importance of the legislature and agrees to accord it the respect it deserves. This is a sure step forward in ensuring a smooth and effective working relationship for the good of the state. He scores a high mark in not attempting to make the legislature look like the inferior partner in the task of redefining leadership in Oyo state. What is left, however, is a reciprocal gesture by the Oyo assembly in seeing the governor as the pilot flying Oyo to a desirable destination.
His words: “We exist; the executive, legislature and judiciary to move Oyo state forward in the right direction. I will do everything in my powers to see that there is a good working relationship between the arms of government even as we expect the legislature to carry out its oversight functions diligently. We will respect the autonomy of the legislative arm of government and sustain the doctrine of separation of powers as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).” With those words, Makinde put himself in a very uncomfortable position. He openly invited the legislature to carry out its oversight functions. That means he has thrown open the doors of the executive for scrutiny by the legislature. Of course, the legislature will nose around his office and that of other functionaries of the Oyo State government. Has Makinde fetched ant-infested firewood? Not at all. He simply declared his readiness for probity. As it is said, he who goes to equity must come with clean hands. By establishing a Due Process office and empowering it to perform, and then inviting the legislature to bring the executive to scrutiny, Makinde has created an open government in Oyo State, making it possible for the people, through their elected representatives, to question his activities, decisions and spending as governor. He is not afraid of the direction such oversight may go because he is certain that his mission in government is not for self-enrichment, but for the public good. Therefore, whatever direction a legislative oversight on the executive goes, alongside the effects of the Due Process office, it cannot not be for the public good.
During his campaigns, Makinde appealed to the true sentiments of the Oyo people. Oyo State is notable for education. This earned it the sobriquets as the centre of learning with the establishment of the great University of Ibadan which has produced some of Nigeria’s brightest. But subsequent years saw an erosion of that. In Makinde, education gets a desirable mention and attention. He said that much when he told the Oyo Assembly that he would not backtrack on his promise to revive education in the state. By publicly pledging to devote 10 per cent of the state’s budget to education, Makinde made a bold move that aims to cure some of the pains that derailed the administration of his predecessor, leaving some schools in the state in crisis till the end of his tenure. With 10 per cent budgetary allocation to education, the issues of a dearth of infrastructure in the education sector, lack of teacher training and upgrade of training facilities, payment of statutory wages and allowances to teachers and provision of consumables that aid education development in the state will be addressed.
Perhaps Makinde is, again, the first among his peers to make such a bold statement publicly. Will he keep faith with it? Well, he has already set the Oyo State House of Assembly after him and his team. This means the people of Oyo will be on his neck to deliver on this promise. The people want to see their kids back in school, not motor parks and for them, Makinde holds the ace. He sure knows the implication of making such promise in the face of dwindling federal allocation and a threatening return to recession. His boldness here is infectious. Makinde may have to tell us, someday, where he got his guts from. He boldly declared before the people that he would reform public institutions in the state. This is an open invitation to a crisis. His predecessors were deliberate in looking elsewhere while public institutions in the state failed. His disposition to tackle them and bring them back to functionality is a public declaration of ‘war’. With this, he sets his sights at dismantling established norms and cartels that are fattened with the failure of public institutions. To achieve this, Makinde said: “We are not just going to be giving executive directives which will stop being effective once we leave the State House.”
Our government will be building legacies”. Prior to that, Makinde had said: “I want to take Oyo state back to the years of ‘firsts’”. To achieve that, he talked about building strong institutions and noted that “strong institutions are built when the legislature makes laws and the executive ensures that the laws are properly executed”. Then, he promised: “I will assent to bills you send in the shortest possible time and I hope you will deliberate on our executive bill in a timely manner too”.
Makinde shows that he is ready to drive an Oyo state governed by law. Respect for the law is the bedrock of development. To pursue reforms in Oyo state is simply to bring the people back to respect for the laws of the state. Of course, it is expected that this will begin from the top. Makinde is expected to build his team. In doing that, he is expected to bring in experts who are as pained as he is with the deterioration of Oyo state. If he is lucky to get such persons, he must begin the reforms with them. They must have to lead by example. For the people, little things matter. If members of his team break mere traffic laws, the tendency is that he would have announced that he isn’t ready for reforms.
Reforms are painful because they are about moving away from comfort zones, though they are illegal. People who are negatively affected will resist it. They will fight back. They will work to derail it. However, the majority will back it if the envisaged benefits are effectively communicated to them to achieve their buy-in. Makinde understands that and that is why he has invited the legislature to get buy-in into his reform programmes. It is now the task of members of the Assembly to return to their constituents and communicate the expected reforms and their utilitarian value. But first, people must be made to understand that society grows if laws are respected. Law is effective only when enforced against, and for, all. That’s what Makinde is telling his people. He has guts!