My dear good people of Oyo State,
congratulations to us all for being alive and well to celebrate another Democracy Day, the seventeenth since the return of civil rule in 1999.
This year’s Democracy Day presents another opportunity for me to share my experience with you on the journey so far.
In 2011, you graciously entrusted your faith in me by ensuring that I emerged victorious in the keenly contested governorship election.
And by the grace of God and with the help of you, my most important support base, our government was able to achieve some modest but significant milestones.
When I came back to seek your mandate for another four years, you were kind enough to reward our labour of love and performance for a historic second term.
For your abiding faith in me, I am eternally grateful.
WHAT WE INHERITED
I took up the gauntlet of leadership knowing that your support and full backing would serve as an elixir to take us to the Oyo State of my dream where life would be made more abundant for all.
I wanted a state where businesses would thrive under an atmosphere of peace and security,
Where the young and old would be able to harness their potential and where socio-economic development would usher in a new lease of life for our people, especially those in the rural and suburban areas.
No doubt, the task has been daunting but thankfully most of you have been supportive of our effort at reengineering our state.
The pre-2011 era was a dark period in the history of our dear state. That was a time when brigandage, violence and insecurity ruled the land.
That was the best forgotten era when heaps of refuse dotted the landscape, when public servants went about with ebbing morale, when leadership mediocrity turned our state into a pariah among our peers in the country.
The ranking of Ibadan, the state capital, as second dirtiest in the country was a major stain that I found unacceptable.
As expected, international development partners, as well as local and foreign investors stayed away, refusing to touch us even with a long pole.
CLEANING UP THE AUGEAN STABLE
As a first step towards restoring sanity into the system, we moved swiftly to clamp down on rampaging marauders and outlawed the then National Union of Road Transport Workers, which had become a law unto itself; their kingpins were quickly whipped into line.
Thus, Ibadan gradually became an investors’ destination judging by the unprecedented number of industries and commercial enterprises. Citizens began to sleep with their two eyes closed, a luxury that had eluded them for many years. But we did not achieve this feat alone.
Kudos must therefore be given to the men of the Operation Burst, a joint security outfit we inaugurated to restore sanity to the land.
Thereafter, we set the machinery in motion to clear the Augean stable exemplified by the mountain of refuse in Ibadan, which had become an eyesore as you move round the city. In the same vein, we introduced weekly environmental sanitation to rid our business premises of filth.
With the cooperation and support of stakeholders, Ibadan today wears a new look of aesthetically delightful scenery. Our cleaner environment has consequently and drastically reduced ailments and diseases associated with filth. For example, with the reduction of diseases like cholera and malaria, we have achieved better, healthier living standards for our people.
Although some of our people may be gradually returning to that unenviable era of filth, I want to reassure us all that we would not allow them.
Similarly, as you probably all know, many dilapidated roads across the state were rehabilitated as part of measures to modernize our decrepit infrastructure.
More than at any time in the history of Oyo State, many more roads were dualized and fitted with modern street furniture in almost all major cities including Oke-Ogun, Oyo, Ogbomoso and Ibadan.
While many of these developments are still ongoing, I admit there is more to do.
A NEW LEASE OF LIFE FOR WORKERS AND CITIZENRY
While my dreams and vision for the state may be far from being fully achieved till date, we must nonetheless periodically take stock, lest our sworn critics fill in the gap with lies and distortions, afterall they have become quite adept at twisting facts and promoting falsehood.
It is therefore with a heart of gratitude to the prayerful help and support of our compatriots that I recall how we have given the state a new lease of life.
By a combination of administrative redesign, economic re-engineering and the creation of an enabling environment we have successfully attracted local and foreign investors that have brought in new industries and business concerns.
This has created thousands of new jobs for our teeming population.
The Civil Service reform we embarked upon in the last five years – although not yet completed – has given our workforce a new sense of identity and improved their socio-economic wellbeing.
Because of our belief that an incentivized workforce will be a veritable partner in driving government’s laudable programmes and policies, our administration introduced several new incentives such as regular local and foreign trainings for public servants; free bus shuttle to and from work; payment of salaries on or before the 25th of every month; payment of 13th month salary for a record three years before the current economic recession unfortunately altered the status quo.
We also progressively raised the bar of our graduate primary school teachers from Grade Level 14 to Grade Level 15, extended the retirement age of academic staff in our tertiary institutions to 65 years and offered an unprecedented increment in workers’ salaries on three different occasions, among others.
We are not resting on these laurels. Rather, I want to assure our hardworking and dedicated workforce that a lot more is in the offing with the structural and financial re-engineering we are currently engaged in.
HOW WE GOT TO WHERE WE ARE
As in every human endeavour, there will always be challenges and this administration has had its fair share of these. Part of the challenges we are currently facing is the progressively dwindling revenue occasioned by the sharp drop in the price of crude oil in the international market, a situation which has negatively affected our allocation from the Federation Account by over 60 percent.
That is a reduction from about 5billion naira to 2billion naira.
Our internally generated revenue was also negatively affected, not only by the dwindling economic environment but also by pilfering and fraudulent activities of some civil servants and conniving corporate bodies.
NAVIGATING THE MAZE
Let me now share some of the efforts we have been making in the last one year. First is the massive re-organization of the Board of Internal Revenue culminating in its upgrade to a full-fledged Bureau.
We have also identified and blocked loopholes and leakages within the system, while our tax net has been expanded. On this, we request your usual support and cooperation in the payment of your taxes and dues accordingly. Similarly, we are inviting our patriotic citizens to be vigilant and join hands with us by exposing the incorrigible elements who might want to draw back the hands of the clock.
I must confess; we cannot do it alone.
Regarding the ongoing staff verification exercise in the public service, let me use this opportunity to reassure our people that it is not an attempt to witch-hunt or lay-off workers who possess valid credentials and job records.
Rather, it is part of our efforts at making our workforce not only effective but efficient.
But we are not unaware that political jobbers have gone to town with the tale that we are retrenching more than 16,000 workers.
That is very untrue. As a matter of fact, quite a number of those 16,000 workers have already been cleared of any wrong doing having clarified their data entries with the Verification Panel that we set up for that purpose. Let me therefore reiterate that only those who are unable to satisfactorily clear their issues have any cause for concern.
While I empathize with workers and pensioners over the delay in the payment of salaries and pensions, which is a nationwide conundrum foisted on us by the dwindling allocation from the Centre, I want to assure all and sundry that we are diligently working to break the jinx.
We are working hard to address the situation, part of which informed the decision by the government to concede 100 per cent of the state’s allocation from the Federation Account to the payment of salaries.
To diversify our economy and create employment opportunities for our teeming population, we have engaged local and international partners in the implementation of industrial and agricultural programmes aimed at creating wealth for our people.
For example, just as we have set about a massive revamping of our agricultural programme, plans are ongoing for the construction of an industrial park with attendant policies and logistic facilities like rail lines and a dry port that will turn our state into an economic and manufacturing hub.
This major shift and new direction of our administration was embarked upon after our fact-finding tour of similarly growing economies in Europe and Asia to have a first-hand knowledge of how these countries were able to use agriculture not only to jumpstart but to sustain their economies.
My experience, findings and the commitment I have extracted from these partners have encouraged us to inaugurate a major agricultural initiative known as ‘AgricOyo’. This new initiative is aimed at benefitting over one million people through engagement in the value chain.
My conviction is that our comparative advantages of a vast arable landmass, a teeming population, a concentration of agricultural research institutes and the political will are the required elixir that will ensure the success of our massive job creation initiative.
I am confident that all these efforts will bear fruits very soon, but I must remind our people that it may take a little while to begin to reap the full dividends of our current initiatives. I am therefore imploring the workforce, labour leaders and the good people of Oyo State to join hands with our administration in this onerous task in the spirit of collective responsibility.
I want to assure you that I will bequeath a lasting legacy of an inspired workforce, a state dotted with modern infrastructure, enduring peace and security, a solvent economy and a stat that would serve as the food basket of Southern Nigeria, in the first instance.
Let me end this message by recalling the great words of our late leader and sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo who said,
“After rain comes sunshine; After darkness comes the glorious dawn. There is no sorrow without its alloy of joy; there is no joy without its admixture of sorrow. Behind the ugly terrible mask of misfortune lies the beautiful soothing countenance of prosperity.”
I enjoin our people not to despair in the face of today’s challenges. I assure you all that better days are ahead of us in Oyo State. I therefore want to solicit your continued support and cooperation as we intensify efforts to make our dear state a reference point in the country.
K’Oyo le dara si, ajumose gbogbo wa ni o.
I wish you all a happy Democracy Day.
Senator Abiola Ajimobi
Governor, Oyo State
Sunday, 29th May, 2016.