Rethinking Development: Developing the Citizenry as a strategy for Developing the Nation

There are four basic and primary things that the mass of people in a society wish for: to live in a safe environment, to be able to work and provide for themselves, to have access to good public health and to have sound educational opportunities for their children. We must remain confident that with the right political leadership, the political will, and with the personal commitment of the citizenry, the state can and will overcome the obstacles towards development

Title: Rethinking Development: Developing the Citizenry as a strategy for Developing the Nation by Temidayo Israel

Today here we gather rethinking development. Development for Africa, Development for Nigeria and importantly Development for Oyo State. I believe this is a timely initiative as for far too long we have been quiet and silent over the development of Oyo State. I am very kin to Oyo State and have never visited Nigeria without visiting Oyo State. I literarily visited Oyo State over 20 times in 2009 and I can say I have visited Oyo State more than any other state in Nigeria. 

I remember the early days of my advocacy when UNICEF held all its South West meetings in Ibadan. From Premier Hotel, Kakanfo Inn to name a few. We were always excited about visiting Oyo State and Ibadan in particular; however the case is not so today. 

I was speaking at the GOFAMINT Camp in Ojo Ibadan a few months ago and going through the city, it was an eye sore. 

As much as a large part of Ogbomosho is being developed – especially the roads, other parts of the state remain in abject deprivation of basic amenities and infrastructural development. Dilapidated roads, environmental nuisance, thugery and poverty. 

As a matter of fact, during another visit on my way to Ilesha the plan was to send my driver back to Lagos and take a chartered transport from Ibadan. As a result of the major traffic on the road we got to Ibadan late and had to arrange accommodation before proceeding on our journey the next day. Whilst waiting at the Main round about in Molete or Challenge, I saw over 200 Children and Young people sleeping under trailers in the garage and gas station, homeless and abandoned – neglected by family, ignored by government. The future of the state left to the mercy of the evil perpetrators who in turn raise these young people into criminals. 

I was so disheartened that I had to buy them food, give them money and pray for them. I made attempt to speak to the First lady of the state about this situation but it wasn’t forthcoming. However it remains one of the unforgettable encounters I have had so far. As I watch through the eyes of those children, I see the need for change in Agodi come 2001. The need for a sincere and impactful change. 

Your Excellencies, this is just one of the many challenges experienced in Oyo State that needs a turn around. I am sure I need not highlight the various political challenges in the state that was once the PACE SETTER STATE. 

The Importance of Oyo in the history of Nigeria or even the History of the Yoruba cannot be undermined. The Oyo Empire was one of – if not the strongest Empire in Sub Saharan Africa. 

Oyo gave us the first university in Nigeria – University of Ibadan which has the distinction of being one of the premier educational institutions in West Africa. Another prominent landmark in Oyo State is the Cocoa House, the first skyscraper built in Africa. The state is also home to NTA Ibadan, the first television station in Africa and Liberty Stadium the first stadium built in Africa. 

Oyo gave us the Alaafin of Oyo, the Olubadan of Ibadan, the Soun of Ogbomosho, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Lekan Salami, Adisa Akinloye, S.O Lanlehin, S.L Durosaro and late Oba Adeyemo. Even late Papa Obafemi Awolowo served as the first Premier of the defunct Western Region followed by the late Chief S.L Akintola and it was also from Ibadan the first African governor in person of the late Ooni, Oba Adesoji Aderemi emerged followed by late Chief O. Fadahunsi.

However, that same Oyo in recent years have been led by Thugs and heartless men. Since the advent of democracy in May 1999, some few states have been lucky to have governors who care more about leaving legacy than lining up their pockets and such governors did their best to improve on the comatose infrastructure inherited from the past military regime, they improved every sector of life namely education, health, agriculture, roads, creating enabling environment for businesses to thrive and laid or are laying foundation for successive government and the generation yet unborn. Amongst these visionary governors are Late Chief Bisi Akande of Osun state, Dr. Donald Duke of Cross River state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos State, Danjuma Goje of Gombe state, Governor Ikedim Ohakim of Imo state, Servant Leader Babangida Aliyu of Niger state, and my amiable rainmaker Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos state. 

However, Oyo State on the other hand has been what I may call unlucky. The state has not been privilege to enjoy the service of visionary and selfless governor since the advent of democracy in May 1999, hence development has been arrested in the once famous pacesetter state. Only few roads and beautification has been added to the state capital since 1999, and the road, infrastructures & buildings etc that was inherited from the previous administrations are not well maintained, to say the roads and monumental buildings built during the good days of Awolowo and Chief Bola Ige are in comatose is to be economical with words, from the great Agbowo shopping complex, to Olubadan stadium, to Trans hotel, Trans wonderland, Agodi gardens, Adamasingba stadium, Gbagi International market all this infrastructures are in a sorry state of disrepair. 

I remember when I was growing up and my high school had an excusion – we were all excited about visiting Ibadan Zoo and going to Ibadan Zoo was like going to London. However today the development of tourism in Oyo State is at a standstill. 

In a country rich in tourism potentials, Oyo State stands out as one of the States with the greatest Tourism potentials, both for local and foreign trade. Although untapped, the potentials for this trade have been officially recognized and developed for nearly a hundred years now. 

Sites such as Manor House, Capt. Bower Center, Ibadan Zoo, Agodi Garden’s, Oyo State Cultural Center, Ado Awaye Suspended Lake, and Relics of Ijaiye war; have lost their significance and their economic value. Consider: 

• The Ruins of old Oyo Empire (i.e. Old Oyo National Park);

• The Royal Forest (Igbo-Oba) at Igboho;

• Ikere Gorge Dam and its wonderful scenery;

• The Palace of Soun and its Local armory with the ageless Tortoise;

• The Palace of Alaafin of Oyo;

• The Asabari Hill at Saki;

• The ruins of Igbon, Jabata, Ajase

• The wonderful Rock Formations at Igbeti 

All these are great tourism asset for the Pace Setter; however the lack of a visionary leader and political will remains a challenge for the state.

As a matter of fact, Oyo State challenge can be summed in 3 part – the security challenge; the development challenge; the challenge of human rights and the rule of law –

On a lighter note, one of my friends recently joked that maybe Ibadan would become better when they change the name of the famous bus stop from Challenge to Progress. 

Still on the same point however, Fortunately, the vast majority of Oyo’s tourism potentials still remain intact today. In spite of the various abuses. Fortunately also, with Tourism, Oyo can begin again to turn around her economic fortunes.

The challenge is ahead of you Your Excellency; the victory of your campaign depends on your involvement of the people. Politics have to move from ones personal interest to the interest of the people.

The people of Oyo need a new leader, a new leader passionate about the development of the state and its people. As a matter of fact, the whole Yoruba race is looking to the restoration of Oyo’s glory. That would begin with unification of Yoruba leaders across board, and then re-shaping the focus of our race.

It can be said that there are four basic and primary things that the mass of people in a society wish for: to live in a safe environment, to be able to work and provide for themselves, to have access to good public health and to have sound educational opportunities for their children. Currently Oyo state is struggling in each of those four areas, but we must remain confident that with the right political leadership, the political will, and with the personal commitment of the citizenry, the state can and will overcome the obstacles towards development.

That is to say, For Development to occur in Oyo State, it’s more than offshore investment. It’s about looking inwards. There is a lot of internal resources to be tapped. However the Government must first show its concern for the people. Health infrastructure has to be prioritized.

The people have to enjoy access to basic amenities from good health care to free education and economic development. Employment has to be on the rise, and the government need to create an enabling environment for small business and enterprise to thrive.

The State has to go back to Farming and Livestock. Oyo State has a land mass of a nearly a million square kilometres of arable land, extremely favourable for the propagation of large varieties of food and cash crops. Yam, cassava and maize do very well in Iseyin, Okeho, Saki, Ago Amodu, Tede and virtually the entire Oke Ogun in particular and, indeed, the whole of the State.

The semi savannah areas of Iseyin and Okeho completely favour the growth of cotton; Shear butter also thrives very well in all of the areas aforementioned. Eruwa, Igboora, Lanlate, Iganna all also favour virtually the growth of all the crops.

Good roads and infrastructures have to be built. From Oke Ogun to Iseyin. The people must feel the government.

Let me round up on this note with 2 important point from this short story found in John 6! One day, Jesus had just finished performing great miracles so a great multitude followed him – over 5000 men, excluding children and women. They were hungry for a leader and wanted him to shepherd them.

Jesus noticing they were hungry asked his disciple, how we feed this people.

My first point is in the 6th verse which says “This He said to prove them for he himself knew what to do”.

Your Excellency, people of Oyo are looking for a Man that knows what to do. They are looking for a man that feels their pain, their hunger and their trouble. That is the man that they would give their vote to in 2011. A man who knows what they are going through and knows what to do. I pray and hope you are that man.

It is important to also highlight that the people of Oyo also knows what to do. Oyo Mesi!. The people of Oyo are ready to vote for the man who would change their destinies and turn their future around for good.

Finally, the development of Oyo is not outside, it is within. It is not in offshore investment, it is inward. The investment needed in Oyo are not the Arab money; they are from the Oyo Indigenes all over the world – many of them multi millionaires in dollars. It is with the engagement of Oyo indigenes at home and in the diaspora that the state would return to its place of prominence.

Indigenous investors are key to the development of Oyo State. With success of past indigenous private Sector Investment in the Health Sector like the ARAMED Medical Centre owned by Chief Bode Akindele which is a world-class Health Center, it is evident that Oyo would turn around when its affluent citizens are motivated to invest home.

A famous man once said! What lies around us, and what lies beneath us, cannot be compared to what lies within us.

Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you all a fruitful time this evening and wish Hon. Kazeem Adedeji a successful election campaign and look forward to seeing you in Agodi Government House come 2011 by God’s Grace.

Oodua a Gbewa o.

Thank You 

Temidayo Israel