“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” – Muhammad Ali
Countrymen and Women, I do not need write who or what I am, I do not need remind the people that I am a progressive-minded character embedded with progressive idiosyncrasies and I do need to remind somebody that I am a registered member of the ruling party in Oyo State – APC.
Do I need to remind the public that I am one of the greatest fans of His Excellency, Governor Abiola Ajimobi right from his days as a governorship candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party in 2007? I don’t think it is new to any creature of God if I posit that I was also one of the many thousands who were consistent on social media prior to the 2011 elections, agitating that Ajimobi MUST be elected Governor of Oyo State.
Let me expressly state that my passion and love for His Excellency remains unaltered, therefore, come February 28, he has my vote again.
However, despite my unflinching support and admiration for Ajimobi, it would be wrong for me to see people that gave him an insignia of power being psychologically and emotionally humiliated and keep silent. I am a patriotic follower, not a sycophant!
Consequently, good people of Oyo State, I have asked myself severally, who ordered the sudden closure of the Secretariat flyover? And what could have led to this act? Why will a bridge valued in modern day construction at N1 billion be meant for just selected and privileged individuals out of a population of eight million people?
The bridge, which is located at the main entrance of the government secretariat, should be about 200m long. It was constructed by the military administration of Brigadier General David Jemibewon to grant access to civil servants, government functionaries and the general public, who have business transactions within the premises. It serves as one of the other six entrances to the government secretariat built by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It spares the driver the headache of passing through the roundabout provided you are approaching from the Government House road of the city. Ever since I was a student at the Ikolaba Grammar School in the early 90s, I have always seen motorists take full advantage of the motive behind its construction by plying the bridge without any hitch. My days as a student in secondary school were all under military administrators. Four elected governors post 1999 political dispensation have ensured, as matter of selfless service enshrined in democratic ethics, have access to this bridge.
The motive behind this piece is constructive. I do have reasons as a matter of parental responsibilities to pass through the Bodija-Secretariat Road every blessed morning only to meet civil servants going to their offices within the secretariat struggling with commercial and private drivers on who controls the roundabout. Same thing will always repeat itself every afternoon when the civil servants close from work. I need not remind my highly esteemed readers that vehicular accidents have occurred at the secretariat roundabout owing to impatience by all concerned.
My personal statistics have shown that there are more car owners in 2014 now than we have them prior to the closure of the bridge as a result of increase in population, which should necessitate building of more infrastructural amenities than shutting down existing ones for the use of a limited few. Even with the advent of YES-O or OYRTMA officials on the busy road, sometimes the traffic is heavily built up.
And I have studied carefully to know who then uses this bridge constructed with tax payers money. I have seen the governor, deputy governor and the speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly make use of this bridge. After their passage, the two Mobile Policemen attached to the newly constructed gate would seal it off immediately. I have also observed that members of the Oyo State House of Assembly, elected to make laws and guide the policies of the government, are also victims of this “emperortic” policy.
Commissioners, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants, who are all political appointees of Mr. Governor, can’t also use the bridge, talkless of the Head of Service, Permanent Secretaries, hundreds of Directors of the over 18 ministries we have within the secretariat complex. They don’t have access to the “Jemibewon” bridge again. WHY?
Curiously, as a member of the APC, a pro-Ajimobi, I took it up to inquire why the bridge was completely closed for use of members of the public. I contacted political appointees within my reach, none could provide an answer. It was ONLY Babatunde Muraina (The Special Assistant to The Governor on Electronic Media) who gave a security reason for the closure. He narrated an ordeal where a Coca-Cola truck broke down on the bridge while the governor was going to his office as the reason behind the closure. This, to me, was not convincing enough.
So I wondered: not even because Boko Haram threatened to strike within the secretariat complex, not that the bridge was becoming structurally defective and may collapse soon. WHY? I equally sent text messages to well above 30 political appointees appealing to them to see the need for a re-opening of this bridge. Few of them shared in my concern and visibly I could see their helplessness. It was only the Special Adviser on Political Affairs (who I don’t even know) that gave me a short response of: “Noted, something will be done on it soon.”
Out of genuine passion to ensure the issue is resolved, FOUR of them (separately) gave me the direct line of Mr. Governor to take it up with him. That he is approachable and entertains constructive criticism. I have sent countless SMS to this mobile line without even an acknowledgement. Hence, this court of public opinion for a redress, which is my last resort. My message is simple and devoid of political manoeuvring of any sort.
On why I actually wrote this piece: Last Wednesday, I was at “BUSH” to wet my appetite. Whenever I am within the secretariat range, I do have my lunch there. So I am not a stranger to the attendants. Of note, I overheard one of the attendants telling two gentlemen: “He is an APC politician, approach him.” Immediately, I rose up when I saw the men moving towards my table and called the attendant to disclaim the lie she told against my person. Sincerely yours, I lied to them. I declined being a member of any political party. I don’t work here. I am a citizen of Oyo State. They were left more confused. We later shook hands, we made a brief introduction. One is a civil servant on the payroll of Oyo State, while his friend is from Ondo State.
Just one question the Ondo guy asked courteously: please why did the governor close the secretariat bridge? Aaaaaahhhh. My mouth was wide opened. I was ashamed. I didn’t allow them spend so much time on this topic since I was defenceless, but I took the opinion of Kayode, the civil servant of Oyo State, to represent the massive opinion of other civil servants. They may be happy with the 13th month salary, but on this bridge, Kayode opined, Ajimobi should not criticise late General Sani Abacha, as he governs with skilled military acumen.
I think this is another area lawmakers from the opposition in the Oyo State House of Assembly have failed us. Their parties have not also shown strong courage to fight for the common man aside the urge to grab power by 2015. Instead of peddling falsehood and fabricating lies against the present day government, this is a just and civil cause to battle with.
My Governor, God’s willing, your desire to govern us once again will materialise. God will approve of it and this positive affirmation of mine on your re-election is of vast majority of the entire populace who know quite well that you have surpassed the performance of all your predecessors joined together. Gladly, your strength overshadows your few weaknesses. I am also aware through my research that few of your kitchen cabinet members are saboteurs, sycophants, political liabilities and people without touch with the common man on the streets of Oyo State in the name of technocrats, who may have wrongly advised you to initiate this policy. This is just one of the foxes that spoil the vine.
Sir, I need not remind you that leadership and public office is all about service, improving the mental and physical well being of the governed, which should be total, visible and selfless from all angles.
With due respect to your office as the number one man of Oyo State, the bridge belongs to the people as it was built solely for them and it remains a public property, which should serve all and sundry.
Please once again, use your good office to order the re-opening the Secretariat flyover bridge. Maybe in order to curtail breaching of security, the mobile policemen guarding the gate can begin with a STOP and SEARCH technique while we open up the bridge once again.
Let me leave you with the words of Niccolò Machiavelli: “It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new but bad system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution which is largely beneficial and merely few lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new approach.”
And also this beautiful quote I love so much: “In each action we undertake as Leaders we must look beyond the action at our past, present, and future state, and at others whom it affects negatively or positively, and see the relations of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious.” – Blaise Pascal.
Of course, this is a transformational policy that will definitely not outlive your administration. Sir, if this request is NOT granted, when you leave Office (May 29, 2019), another governor will open this bridge for the general public.
This piece written by Owoyokun Samson, a member of the All Progressives Congress, was first published on October 28, 2014.