By Sulaimon Olanrewaju
No leader sets out to fail. Most leaders assume office with great plans to effect a great change in their domains. But quite often, that does not happen. In the course of carrying out their functions, many leaders act contrary to their avowed intentions and head south. Why? It is because the road to hell is paved with good intentions, not bad ones. Similarly, the road to bad governance starts with good intentions. Bottom line: Good intentions do not always translate to good performance in office.
A dearth of knowledge is the death of good intentions. Limited knowledge rubbishes good intentions. Limited knowledge constricts accomplishments. Limited knowledge deters progress. Limited knowledge locks down a person’s potential. A society’s stride is directly proportional to the leader’s knowledge. Therefore, one of the best things a leader can do for those he leads is to be unwaveringly committed to personal development. A leader should develop his capacity so that very few things are beyond his knowledge. This is the rationale behind the call for the enthronement of philosopher kings.
The thrust of the philosopher-king concept propounded by Plato is that no society can be better than the quality of its leaders. For a society to attain great heights, it must be led by people of great knowledge, not intellectual minions. For any society to stop the ballroom dance of one step forward and two backwards, it must be governed by those who have committed themselves to the continuous search for knowledge. This is important because a people’s destinies are tied to their leaders’. Put differently, the fortune of a people is determined by their leader’s ability or lack thereof. What the people do, what they get, and what they become are tied to the quality of the leadership provided for them. Since a person cannot bequeath what he lacks, it means that for the followers to get better, the leader must not be satisfied with the status quo. He must be on a journey of continuous improvement. If a leader puts a cap on his personal improvement, he has put a lid on the improvement of the people who look up to him and a ceiling on the progress the society he leads can accomplish. But when a leader is unrepentantly committed to self-development, he sets the society that he leads on the path of sustainable and scalable development.
This is where Governor Seyi Makinde stands out. While not positing that he is a philosopher or a king, it is indubitable that Governor Makinde of Oyo State epitomises the attributes of a philosopher king. His love for reading is tremendous. His devotion to self-development is phenomenal, and his affection for learning is exemplary. Governor Makinde reads daily and widely. He reads science books, biographies, history, geography, and global politics. He is also keenly interested in innovations and inventions. His ability to absorb new information, just like foam soaks in water, equips him with facts, data, logic, and knowledge beyond his immediate environment. These often put him several steps ahead of others. So, he can see opportunities before they become obvious and appropriate them. He is also able to identify problems before they manifest and prevent them.
There were genuine security concerns before Governor Makinde’s inauguration for his first tenure in 2019 as a result of the crisis involving members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). But without much fuss, Governor Makinde quelled what could have become a conflagration. How? He proscribed the NURTW in the state and set up the Park Management System (PMS). That masterstroke achieved two things. First, it took the wind out of the sails of the warring members of the NURTW, as there was no need to fight over what had ceased to exist. Two, it reverted control of the parks to the government and boosted its revenue generation. That novelty has since been adopted by a number of states in the south-west geopolitical zone. Question: How did Governor Makinde arrive at proscribing the union? Albert Einstein said a problem cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created it. So, Governor Makinde elevated his thinking and solved a perennial problem that had gotten the better of several administrations before his. Problems cannot exist where knowledge abounds.
Governor Makinde’s love for knowledge acquisition has made him cosmopolitan rather than provincial. Unlike many of his predecessors in office, he always considers the big picture before taking a decision. Consequently, instead of concentrating development in Ibadan, his native land, he has ensured the even distribution of projects to all parts of the state.
Governor Makinde has been able to connect all the zones in the state with good road networks. Through the Moniya-Iseyin road, Ibadan zone has been connected to the Oke-Ogun zone; through the Oyo-Iseyin road, Oyo zone has been linked to Oke-Ogun zone; through the ongoing Ogbomoso-Fapote-Iseyin road, Ogbomoso zone is being linked to Oke-Ogun zone; and through the Ido-Eruwa road, Ibadan zone is linked to Ibarapa zone.
Beyond the ease of movement that the road networks guarantee, the philosophical underpinning behind Governor Makinde’s decision to link the zones is what scientists refer to as the butterfly effect.This is the term used to explain the situation in which a slight change in an element ignites a huge effect in another element in a deterministic nonlinear system. By connecting all the zones in the state, Governor Makinde has deliberately unleashed the economic potential of each of the zones and prepared the state for long-lasting economic benefits. Governor Makinde realised that in the long run, a naira expended on interconnecting the zones would yield more benefits to the state than the same amount of money spent to fix roads in urban areas. This is why he started by connecting the zones. Before connecting the zones, the bulk of Oyo State’s revenue was from the Ibadan zone. But with the connectivity, all the zones are positioned to contribute to the state coffers. Now, how does a single-engine aircraft compare with a five-engine airplane in speed and stability? Only the deep can do the profound.
During the inauguration of the Iseyin Campus of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Governor Makinde said one of the reasons the College of Agriculture and Renewable Natural Resources was sited in that town was because of its proximity to the hottest local government area in the state. The Governor posited that with the rising clamour for clean energy from the whole world, the new Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources would be positioned to take advantage of its nearness to the hottest part of the state to conduct a series of research studies about solar energy and prepare the state to take advantage of its abundant sunlight to improve energy generation in the state.
So, while the location of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology College of Agriculture and Renewable Natural Resources in Iseyin was an answer to the prayers of the people of the town, it was also a strategic move by Governor Seyi Makinde to convert the abundant solar energy in that axis to the advantage of the people of Oyo State. As often said by Governor Makinde that he is guided by logic, data and science, locating the LAUTECH campus in Iseyin was beyond political settlement, logic, data and science supported. The logic of locating the college in Iseyin is that the town people’s agitation for a tertiary institution was justifiable. The data is that sitting the college in that zone would boost the state’s revenue generation through the expected town and gown engagements, and the science is that the area could offer opportunities to improve life and living through research activities in various human endeavours.
Continuous learning has drilled into Governor Makinde’s sub-consciousness the necessity to pass on to others the values that have helped him in life and leadership. Regularly, he engages Oyo State citizens on X (formerly Twitter), where he gives updates on government activities. Every other week, the governor sends a letter to the citizens of the state, where he shares his thoughts on various issues, gives accounts of his activities, and challenges the citizens to embark on self-development by sharing insights on the books he is reading while requesting feedback from them. This is what leadership experts refer to as mentoring.
Mentoring is critical to nation-building and vital to the preservation of cultural values because it is a means of transferring knowledge, attitudes, norms, and ideals to the next generation. It is also an avenue to build character and shape lives. But, unfortunately, mentoring is lacking in our clime because it is the forte of the deep. Many political leaders have scant interest in preparing the next generation for the serious task of nation-building because they are not as deep as they should be. Lack of mentoring has robbed Nigeria, or Africa, of the bulk of our resources. Lack of mentoring has crashed patriotism and vitiated nationalism. The youth do not have many people of substance to look up to, so they make villains their heroes. But by regularly engaging the youth and the people at large, Governor Makinde is changing all of that; he is giving hope to the youth, inspiring them to become better, and encouraging them to believe in the best in their country. Without actually striving to, Governor Makinde is fast becoming a role model for many Nigerian youths.
Now, if any Nigerian governor regularly engages the youth, mentors them, inspires them, tasks their intellect, and challenges them to be the best version of themselves, I would like to meet with him.
*Olanrewaju is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde.