IT is ever so easy to forget good things. That is why there are many more biographies of Adolf Hitler than those of the great statesmen who led the world through the dark age he invented.
Public discourse in Nigeria is a monotony of complaint spiced with disavowance. Good acts of public service without the usual tincture of mendacity is a rarity that rivals the angry moon of Ramadan. Evidence of poor governance and repudiation of official responsibility abounds everywhere. The flag is down on practically every monument. And fellow citizens seem to have accepted it is unusual if not irregular to expect something good to venture out of Israel. Then came May 29, 2019 and a most unusual man called Seyi Makinde.
He shocked the world by publicly declaring his assets, a feat which even those who contested and won on the ticket of probity still shuffle their feet and mumble about. Not even Mallam Gaskiyya, a man who boasted a hundred cows and empty bank account as his assets could make an emphatic public declaration of his assets. From the fringe of the desert also comes a man called El-Rufai who pretends to be pristine. Even he made his asset declaration in the comfort of shadows. When activists got a leaked document and announced he had N70b, daring him to deny, our tall friend simply bit some kola and looked away. The problem obviously was not his considerable assets, but openly affirming them.
Seyi declared his assets and dared any who had interest to raise queries. That is the extraordinary fellow whose exploits form the topic of this scription. The previous regime had imposed school fees. Many children hit the sidewalk and opted for odd jobs. Seyi abolished school fees and paid decent subventions to schools. It was a huge shock. 400,000 children of school age returned to school. Private schools started gasping for breath as children flocked into the newly invigorated public schools manned by better qualified and more experienced teachers. Many wondered where he got the money. But we ain’t seen nothing yet. The new government announced salaries of civil servants would be paid on the 25th of every month. It was being paid well past the fortieth day of the month in the previous situation. There was a time when civil servants lost track as they were owed in multiples.
Only recently Nigeria’s oldest and finest newspaper, the Nigerian Tribune, invited Makinde to mount the podium and get honoured for his signal strides. The citation was an intimidating excursus into a clearly unparalleled run of achievements within an amazingly short period of time. Health care, education, workers’ welfare, agriculture and security. It was simply breath-taking. While other governors staked and dithered about security and allied threats to lives and property, Seyi rolled out a long line of vehicles for the police to cut down response time significantly. The Nigerian Tribune lived up to its bounden legacy by that signal award and the ovation reverberates. It was a befitting gratitude on behalf of all of us. A drive through the state capital at Yule tide revealed a new energy never known in a long time. Elegant decorations at various points and the parks and joints all filled to bursting! It was a far cry from the dreary Yule tide of the years of yore.
These are disquieting as they are fascinating. You can’t but wonder the source of so much mysterious energy and fillip. The populace was used to a suggestion that zero governance was the only possibility. Government was only keen in the award of major contracts that raised dust in the mind while you thought of providing your own water, security and medicare. It was a period of total surrender. And Seyi came with a breath of fresh air. For once, the unspoken assurance is loud enough about the possibilities of good governance and responsible citizenship. Where is Seyi getting all the money? That was a question many asked. The distressing answer is a nodded silence. My guess is as good as yours. Oyo State has just escaped a noose. Only recently the announcement came that the state civil servants were to be paid on the nineteenth day of December while Xmas bonus came befittingly, on Xmas day. A tour of the capital as stated earlier, found a new city, adorned in lights and sundry decorations. It was a perfect match with the mood of many citizens.
Things have certainly been different in the last half year. I wonder if these things would be remembered in the years to come. That is best rested in the bowels of posterity. For now, it has been so far, so good. It fits for now to set these in stone, lest we forget.
Ogunwusi, a former editor of the Nigerian Tribune, is a legal practitioner