Seyi Makinde, Santa Claus and the joy of Christmas

It’s Christmas! Renditions of “Feliz navidad” and a plethora of other Christmas songs at carol cantatas would now cease. Shouts of joy and merriment will replace carol songs, for Christmas brings glad tidings in all parts of the world.

Along with Christmas comes Santa Claus, the legend from the North Pole, who comes bearing goodies annually. But Christmas has since come to have an additional meaning to Oyo State residents – it’s also a day to celebrate the birthday of a mortal, who has become a specialist in spreading joy, which is the essence of Christmas – Governor Seyi Makinde.

Born 54 years ago, the legend of Makinde as a joy-giver started about 21 years ago when he first made his first foray into the politics of Oyo State as a philanthropist desirous of giving back to the society where he was born and bred. Born around Yemetu Ibadan, a location sandwiched between the affluence of Agodi, Bodija and the squalor of Beere, Oja’ba, Makinde realised quite early how important it was to give back to the society and thereby make an impact on the lives of others. He equally realised almost immediately that he could only do a little in his private capacity, hence the decision to join politics.

A decade and a half after taking the leap into politics, spending heavily to spread happiness to others, Makinde was nowhere near his dream of getting a proper platform to reach a larger number of people with the goodies of life. He battled the treachery at the political parties’ level but did not change his nature of giving. He soldiered on; giving scholarships to thousands of students, giving vehicles to motorists, giving financial support to market women and in the overall, giving hope to a society beleaguered by failed promises from elected political office holders.

Like Santa Claus, Makinde always returned with gifts and more gifts for Oyo State people, not just on an annual but on a permanent basis. Pronto! The years of standing with the people paid off in the 2019 general election, when he was elected governor of the state.

As a child born on Christmas Day, GSM, as he is now fondly called, is no stranger to joy-giving and glad tidings. This must be the reason behind his undying passion to spread happiness ever since assuming office on May 29, 2019.

On the podium at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium( formerly Liberty Stadium), he vividly explained his vision of a shared prosperity in Oyo State and gave an inkling of the joyous future ahead by announcing the outright forfeiture of his salary to the teachers’ pension scheme. He equally cancelled all fees payable in public schools.
Two years and six months down the line, the GSM administration has centred around joy-giving and building citizens’ confidence in elected leadership. Today, residents of Oyo State express joy about the education sector, where every promise made in terms of delivery of quality education, reduction of education infrastructure deficit and repositioning of the sector has been kept.
From the poor 26th position often recorded by Oyo State in public examinations, the state is now number 9th, gradually on a glorious ascent to its former pace-setting heights. From the inglorious abyss as the state with the highest number of out-of-school children, the Makinde administration’s policies have helped in restoring 54,000 children back to school in just two years.

In under two years, Makinde rescued the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso from the anguish of poor funding and an intractable ownership crisis between Oyo and Osun states, returning the varsity to an enviable height of being adjudged the best State University in the country by the National Universities Commission (NUC).

These and many more positive developments have taken place in Oyo’s education sector under GSM’s watch, bringing joy to thousands of Oyo State residents who are now at awe as to how much Makinde has achieved in just two years and six months. Talk about a man who knows how to give excellent leadership as a gift to his people!
In the health sector, a massive reform has brought about improved health care delivery, with the ongoing renovation and equipment of at least one Primary Health Care Centre in each of the 351 Wards as well as the equipment and general upgrade of tertiary health facilities. The songs of joys from the people ring out loud.
Today, Oyo State ranks as number 7 on the list of states with the highest internally generated revenue in the country, with the Makinde government having grown the state’s IGR from about N1.9 Billion to N3.3 Billion in under three years. The economy of Oyo State has been expanded and is well on course as one of the fastest growing economies in the country, with the government’s investments on agribusiness development and security set to change the economy of the state forever.

The governor reckoned that the administration has been able to execute more projects in the state as a result of increased revenues and he is right! Like Santa who comes wielding gifts, Governor Makinde has gifted Oyo State people quality infrastructure across the length and breadth of Oyo State. Though infrastructure building is part of the responsibilities of the government, the attention given to building infrastructure by the Makinde government is unprecedented.
In less than three years, the government awarded and completed the 65-kilometre Moniya-Iseyin Road and the LAUTECH-Under-G Road in Ogbomoso.

The same administration has completed the abandoned 9.7 kilometres Saki Township Road, while works are at the final stages on the 21-kilometre Ajia-Airport Road with spur to Amuloko; Asipa-Oroki Road Oyo; the 12-kilometre Apete-Awotan-Akufo Road; Bashorun-Idi Ape-Ojurin Road in Ibadan and several internal roads. The second phase of the Light-Up Oyo State project, a street-lighting intervention that has seen at least 233 kilometres of roads lightened across the state, is also close to completion. Several road rehabilitation projects on Alao-Akala Express, Beere-Idi Arere and other locations in Ibadan have also brought ease to road users.

Only recently, the governor flagged off the 34.8 kilometres Oyo-Iseyin Road and the Airport Dualisation. It had, weeks earlier, awarded the construction of the 76
.7km Iseyin-Fapote-Ogbomoso Road. All these were in addition to the announcement of the government’s readiness to dualise the Akanran-Olorunsogo Road as well as the commitment to fixing internal roads across the state through direct state government approach and the RAAMP intervention funds.

It must also be stated how the Makinde administration, using the novel Alternate Funding Approach (APFA), a strategic tool already used to great effect in transforming Oyo State’s infrastructure, has brought the Lekan Salami Sport Complex, Adamasingba, Ibadan back to life and how it is spreading the gains of sport development by building mini-stadia in Ogbomoso, Oyo, Iseyin, Saki, Ibadan and Igbo Ora.

Outside of infrastructure, education and health, the GSM government has succeeded greatly in rebuilding people’s trust in government. Makinde has proven to residents of Oyo State that it is possible to keep all electioneering promises. From his promise to pay workers and pensioners as and when due, including paying them a 13th month salary, to his commitment to pay full pensions and pay arrears of gratuities owed by previous administrations, Governor Makinde has not failed in one area. Indeed, workers and pensioners who were once ignominiously referred to as the dead by the APC government of Senator Abiola Ajimobi, are one of the greatest recipients of the good tidings from GSM.

As the world celebrates Christmas, celebrating Jesus Christ, who is renowned for bringing glad tidings, Makinde is in Saki, Oke Ogun, where he has just delivered glad tidings to its people with a 9.7-kilometre dual carriageway.

The story of the Saki Township Road is amusing. The previous government awarded the road for N8 Billion in 2016, paid out N4 Billion of the contract sum but left the project barely after it was started. Saki became a massive dust city; it’s people lamented, complaining of strange illnesses and deaths as a result of uncontrollable dust from the abandoned project. Their complaints reached the ears of former Governor Ajimobi, who on an occasion, told Saki residents to always send their wives to water the road in order to reduce the dust. He left office three years after awarding the contract and doing little or nothing. But in just one year, the Makinde government has not only delivered a quality project, it has equally approved an extension of the project by over one kilometre. That is joy-giving at its best!
Aside from the roads, the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA) headquarters, which Makinde restored to Saki after the defunct OYSADEP headquarters was relocated from Saki, is also a source of joy to the people. Ditto the ongoing 46-kilometre Saki-Ogbooro-Igboho Road.

In the last two and a half years, GSM has, indeed, proven himself to be a certified joy-giver to Oyo State residents. He elicits excitement with his Midas touch in governance. His people love him for delivering good governance in a state where cosmetic governance held sway for eight years.

Today, they celebrate him for all the good he has done and will still do. Like other residents of Oyo State, I join in saying a happy birthday to the people’s Governor, a God Sent Man who has made it his business to share the joy of Christmas to all strata of Oyo State residents all-year round.

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