Makinde’s Expiring Populism

Barely two years in office, Governor Seyi Makinde’s populist programmes and pronouncements in disarray

The emergence of Seyi Makinde as the governor of Oyo State in the 2019 election undoubtedly, came with a lot of hopes and expectations.  It was a new dawn not just in the South-West but across Nigeria. Makinde’s age, personality and disposition raised the bar in governance. His activities also passed a vote of confidence in Nigeria’s youths. This, he followed up with appointments that also favoured and positioned the youths for greater things.

Outside appointments, the governor’s outlook and resolve to succeed were also breaking new grounds. Makinde, no doubt, rekindled the people’s hope with his actions at the onset.  

The governor’s   initiatives, from the onset, were good and deserved commendations. However, recent investigations and realities on ground indicated that they mostly remain tall ambitions. And some pessimists who had raised their doubt from the beginning appear to have been vindicated. Their new song now is that Makinde has exhausted himself. Initially, they had alleged he was just playing to the gallery to score cheap political popularity.

Surprisingly, however, two years into his first tenure the pessimists, arguably, have reasons to chuckle. His populist concepts appear, according to critics, to be collapsing. Instead of love and affection, deep seated hatred and animosity both within and outside the party, reign supreme.

Although His Excellency had good intentions to transform the state, he has not translated these into reality either because these require enormous emotional and intellectual energy of great magnitude which he either lacks or fails to exploit in the last two years. His leadership quality is believed to be totally abysmal.

This may not be farfetched. One thing is to imagine, another is to possess the competences, the courage and political will to translate dreams to reality.

Makinde’s critics have severally criticized him of many sins. The lethargic performance of the government in the office in the last two years has punctured the high hope and expectation raised by the above pronouncements. The governor’s tenure so far has been trailed by frequent controversies and turbulence. Some critics are alleging unfulfilled electoral promises as its baggage and that the state’s security architecture is in disarray.

A peep into his political, social and economic performance revealed he has not made any difference he promised to make in the last two years. Though his professional skills could be responsible for his success in private life, his leadership skills and political savvy could not be leveraged to repeat the same in his public service. To some analysts he might need to gain more experience.

The core storm against the governor could be traced to his alleged insensitivity to security matters. No doubt, the opposition is gaining more margins while the governor and his party’s chances of second term are shrinking at fast speed.

Prominent among his sins is the alleged anti-people handling of the security situations particularly in Ibarapa and Ibadan axis and in the entire state. This is generating doubt against his preparedness for the exalted office. His alleged procrastination and lukewarm approach has continued to raise dusts against him.

Critics have alleged that the governor is a weakling. Though there were allegations of arrogance and insensitivity against his immediate predecessor, unlike Makinde, Ajimobi was believed to be firm.

Some of Makinde’s critics have questioned his credentials as an administrator and thinker. Does Makinde really understand the position of security in governance? The state has of recent been taken over by hoodlums and Fulani herdsmen who kill, main and rape innocent citizens and residents in the state, thereby creating an atmosphere of lawlessness.

The only area the governor is believed to be outstanding remains the payment of civil servant salaries and pension. Even with that, his opponents are not pacified. Payment of salaries is considered to be a no brainer achievement. They are quick to point at the poor state of road infrastructure, schools, health facilities, agriculture, public utilities, unemployment and hopelessness among both the young and the old in the state.

“I can only see him with a road project in Iwo Road axis of this city, Challenge area and another in Oke ogun which the late governor Isiaka Ajimobi started. But the pace of work has been epileptic despite the fact that he reviewed the contract values upward,” a source said.

Although some of Makinde’s admirers hinged the slow pace of work on the roads on paucity of funds relative to the government’s divergent responsibilities, critics, however, attributed this to lack of resourcefulness and capability to perform. To them, starting resource positions are a very poor predictor of performance. An institution, according to them, could sit atop mountains of cash and command legions of talented people and still lose its preeminent position. Likewise, another could sometimes overcome resource handicaps and successfully deliver.

The state’s internally generated revenues have not been impressive despite the rich potential of the state. Delivering a superior return first is more a function of resourcefulness than resources. Resourcefulness stems not from an elegantly structured strategic architecture, but from a deeply felt sense of purpose, broadly shared dream and a truly seductive view of tomorrow’s opportunity.

According to his critics, the capabilities to leverage resources, intellectual and political skills to transform various aspects of the state to yield sumptuous dividends to different interest groups across the state are palpably absent.

Another notable issue is Makinde’s alleged political naivety, which is considered to be his Achilles heel. The governor’s political dexterity and emotional intelligence are believed by his critics to be below threshold.

Inside and outside the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a groundswell of opposition is developing against the governor among the different elements even among his allies. He has been busy, and perhaps distracted, fighting both visible and invisible forces within his party and outside. This has been exacerbated by his not too impressive scorecards and security lapses.

Makinde is indeed fighting on all fronts with many forces. The biggest challenge facing the embattled governor today is the rift between him and some of his allies. He will need to be highly sagacious and dexterous to calm the frayed nerves of some of his estranged political allies who are waiting for a pound of flesh.

The core of the whole issue is the frightening mistrust which puts the party in disarray. Naturally, the crisis it generated further fractured the PDP in Oyo State.

Even among staunch supporters of the governor in the state’s factionalized PDP, there is fear of the APC staging a comeback in 2023 because of the ruling party’s dwindling political fortunes. The situation is even made worse by the growing allegation of use and dump tactic of the governor which has estranged many party men that he leveraged to emerge against APC.

Some of those allegedly sidelined have labeled him an ingrate. The governor is at war with some strong party members. One of them is Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, one of the architects of his victory who left the party in annoyance and returned to APC.

Some also believed that former governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja left the party to avoid embarrassment from the governor’s alleged political immaturity.

He is not equally in good terms with the Minister of Youth and Sport, Mr Sunday Dare, over some issues a politically matured leader would have handled without jeopardizing the interest of the party.

Apart from the preponderance of new enemies even from the state’s branch of PDP, the south west leadership tussle between Makinde and others, particularly the former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose is hitting hard on the Oyo State helmsman’s popularity and relevance.

As expected, those who failed to emerge during the contest for the governorship ticket in the last election are already regrouping and working to undermine the governor and the party. A source claimed the Makinde used and dumped them despite their contribution to his victory. No doubt, the internal crisis raging among party members is capable of reversing the party’s fortunes in 2023.  

However, public opinion and reports from the civil servants indicate that the governor has majority of ordinary citizens behind him.

Even in the party, sources told this paper that the governor is in control.  This is understandable, given his influence in the party. Some individuals who spoke with this medium believed Makinde is active. Although regularly exhibiting fighting spirit against suspicious moves to reduce him to a figure head in the party, they noted that this is not unexpected.

According to a party member, the rift is purely political. “Those who disparage and malign Makinde because of the crisis in Oyo State PDP are just playing the ostrich. The governor’s insistence to have control of the party under his armpit is legitimate despite the current self-serving castigation from a section of the party,” a close ally of the governor declared.

Shortly after coming to office, he approved N500,000 each for every Oyo State indigene at the campuses of Nigeria’s law school; showed solidarity with workers and retirees by approving the release of 2012 and 2013  pensioners’ gratuity. This, he said was to bring succor to retirees, workers and their dependents.

To boost business activities and ameliorate the suffering of workers and business men and women in the state, he promised his people that his administration would not increase tax on business enterprises. There were efforts also by the government to tap into the boundless agricultural potentials of the state.

Under his administration he promised to make welfare a key focus. The government promised to refund N28 million to parents who paid illegal fees during the tenure of his predecessor, Abiola Ajimobi.

To address the chaos and traffic problems on the roads, the state government constituted a Mobile Court to start the trial of traffic offenders.

The reality on ground is that the revolution promised by the governor in Oyo State remains a speculation. However, this is not too late as the governor has two more years to live up to the expectation raised from the onset.


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