July 15, 2024

Makinde: Transforming Oyo One Policy At A Time // By Sulaimon Olanrewaju

Before the ascension of Deng Xiaoping to power, China was a closed economy with the state in control of all productive assets. But when Xiaoping became the paramount ruler in 1978, he came up with an economic liberalization policy that freed industrial enterprises from the control and supervision of the government.

He allowed factory managers to determine production levels and pursue profits for their enterprises. He also opened up Chinese companies to foreign investment. Xiaoping encouraged free enterprise by allowing individual Chinese to make personal economic decisions. He similarly supported the acquisition of skills and promoted technical education.

This resulted in the production of skilled, well-educated technicians and managers who spearheaded China’s economic development.

Today, China is not just the world’s second largest economy after the USA, it is also the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with growth rates averaging 10 per cent over a period of 30 years. So prosperous has China become that it was able to move 800million people out of poverty between 1978 and 2008. But all these feats are a consequence of one thing, Xiaoping’s policy to liberalize the Chinese economy. Though Xiaoping died in 1997, the transformative power of his economic liberalization policy is still very much alive.

At his inauguration for the first term in May 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde announced the cancellation of all fees in Oyo State primary and secondary schools.

This singular policy has resulted in the return of almost 80,000 out-of-school children in the state to the school system.

Those who had been forced out of school because their parents could not meet up with the payment of fees were able to continue with their education as a result of the policy. Consequently, Oyo State which, according to a 2018 StatiSense report, had the highest number of out-of-school children in South West Nigeria has moved up the ladder of states with low out-of-school children rate.

But beyond the rating of the state is the impact of that policy on the affected children. On the surface, taking 80,000 kids away from the streets into the classrooms may not appear so significant, but a trip into the future will paint a different picture. If not for Makinde’s intervention which took those kids off the streets, in 10 to 15 years they would probably have grown up as adults with no form of marketable skills.

That would have meant 80,000 young men and women without any prospect of any worthwhile employment.

Invariably, they would most likely have become political thugs, arsonists, bandits, armed robbers, kidnappers, pipeline vandals, drug traffickers, human traffickers and prostitutes.

They would have become 80,000 Nigerians who will constitute a pain in the neck of their compatriots and a bulwark to their country’s development. But with the Makinde’s free education policy, these young Nigerians can look forward to a secure and prosperous future. Now, they have as much a chance as anyone else in the society to become successful.

That is the transformative power of a policy.

Oyo State Agriculture Development Programme (OYSADEP), which came on stream in 1989, was established to boost the state agricultural production by strengthening agricultural services through a unified extension services and On Farm Adaptive Research (OFAR) as well as intensifying the provision of inputs and capacity of Cooperative Financing Agencies (CFAs) for rural savings and mobilization.

Thus, the focus of OYSADEP was the smallholder farmer. The programme did well to support smallholder farmers by providing extension services for them. The impact of this reflected in their output.

However, the OYSADEP intervention did not result in the optimization of agriculture as the business side was largely ignored. To correct this, shortly after his assumption of office, Governor Makinde came up with the idea of leveraging agribusiness to improve the fortunes of the state.

Therefore, the government rested OYSADEP but migrated its agricultural extension functions to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The government then inaugurated the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA) to create an enabling environment for agribusinesses to thrive by supporting infrastructure development and policy formulation.

The agency is also to develop agricultural hubs which would be homes to all elements of the agri-food value chain with a view to driving industrialization and growing the economy.

That tweak in agricultural policy attracted development funds of over $120 million into the state to support agribusiness in four years. In addition, about N50 billion worth of investments came into the state as a result of the policy shift.

Similarly, since the policy redirection, new companies such as Psaltery, the first company of its kind in Africa, which processes cassava products into sorbitol; Rontol Farms in Ilora, which also processes cassava and the Oyo Sugarcane Processors Ltd, among others, have sprouted in the state. In the same vein, Niji Farms, which runs one of the largest agricultural fabrication centres in the South West, has moved its operations from Lagos to Oyo State.

Fasola Farm Estate, which had been reduced to a jungle pre-1999, has been transformed into an industrial hub, which houses leading operators in the agricultural sector.

By emplacing the right policy for the agricultural sector, Governor Makinde opened a new vista of opportunities for the state, thus increasing the productive capacity of the state, attracting new funds and creating employment opportunities for the people.

Tourism is a money spinner. That played out at the just concluded Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, which recorded daily attendance in excess of two million people between February 9 and 17, 2024. If on the average, a tourist spent $100 per day for the nine days that the festival lasted, the country would have grossed at least $1.8 billion in tourism revenue from just one event.

To turn the state’s cultural heritage and tourist attractions into revenue-generating entities, Governor Seyi Makinde, on October 24, 2023, signed an executive order to create the Ministry of Culture and Tourism following the excising of same from the Ministry of Information. The whole essence of the executive order is to empower the new Ministry of Culture and Tourism to institute a structure and facilitate the development of the infrastructure that would boost tourism in the state.

Oyo is the home of culture and the habitation of some of the jaw-dropping wonders of the world. But these had hitherto not really contributed much to the economic development of the state.

However, with the decision of Governor Makinde to make tourism an economic pillar, the tide is beginning to change. Already, investors are showing interest in the Cultural Centre, Mokola, Ibadan. The implication is that the era of the underutilization of the centre, which ranked among the best in the country before falling into disuse, is gradually coming to an end. Very soon, the Cultural Centre will bounce back with many of our compatriots being gainfully engaged there.

Then, in December 2023, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) inscribed Sango Festival, which brings all Yoruba sons and daughters at home and in the Diaspora together in Oyo Town, on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, putting it on the same pedestal as the Rio Carnival. Now, plans are underway to upgrade Agodi Botanical Garden, Eleyele Waterfront and the Iyake Suspended Lake to international standard. Not only will all of these push up the state’s tourism revenue, they will also create business and employment opportunities for thousands of Oyo State residents.

When the right policy is emplaced, opportunities are unleashed.

To give succor to the people and support to businesses affected by the twin challenge of fuel subsidy removal and the floating of foreign exchange, Governor Seyi Makinde, came up with the Sustainable Action for Economic Recovery (SAfER).

The SAfER intervention has two raisons d’être; to provide soft landing for families affected by the challenge and to reinvigorate the economy by empowering farmers and small businesses.

While announcing the SAfER initiative to the state during a broadcast, the governor had said, in coming up with the SAfER intervention, “We considered the importance of using these economic packages to stimulate our economy and bring about sustainable development.”
The SAfER initiative has five packages.
Food relief package – This focuses on providing 200,000 poorest of the poor households in the state with food items.

Transportation – This involves the extension of bus routes, the introduction of inter-city Omituntun buses to link geo-political zones and fare reduction for students as well as the aged.

Healthcare support – Under this scheme, the government promised to provide health insurance for 100,000 of the most vulnerable citizens. It also promised to pay their one-year health insurance premium under the Oyo State Health Insurance Agency (OYSHIA) scheme. In the same vein, the government promised to pay the health insurance premium for all pensioners under OYSHIA scheme.

Food security – The government promised to provide input support for 10,000 farmers in the state; it also promised to give N1billion loan to farmers to improve their agricultural enterprises.

SMEs stimulation package – The government promised to provide N500 million low interest rate loan for Small and Micro-Enterprises (SMEs), including traders, artisans and other small business operators, in the state through microfinance banks.

Six months after the commencement of SAfER, the intervention has impacted the people of the state positively. According to verifiable evidences, Oyo State Government, through the SAfER initiative, provided food packages to 200,000 households across the state. Similarly, over 400,000 Oyo State commuters across all the zones in the state have benefitted from the subsidized bus services provided by the state government just as over 100,000 citizens, including retirees, pregnant women and young people have had access to free health insurance.

In the same vein, N500million was disbursed as loans to 2,085 micro and small enterprises in the state to stimulate the economy just as N460million has been disbursed to 1,407 farmers across the state to grow their farming businesses.

In addition to this, 2,000 poultry farmers have been supported with 800 metric tons of grains, while 1,000 fish farmers have received support with fish feed to increase fish production in the state. Altogether, over one million individuals and 6,500 businesses have benefited from the SAfER initiative.

With SAfER, Makinde has not only stopped the spread of poverty in the state, he has also unstopped the spread of prosperity. That is the power of a transformative policy.

Leadership is the art of solving problems, not papering over them. Problems only persist for as long as leaders permit. By deploying the right policies, Governor Seyi Makinde has been solving problems regarded as intractable, thus transforming both the people and the state.

Olanrewaju is the Chief Press Secretary to Oyo State Governor.

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