By Bolaji Tunji
For over a year, this column had been rested. Resting the column was to take a long sabbatical, to gather more of life’s experience, to serve the State. It’s over a year now, the assignment is over, but the experience gathered have been invaluable.
One has more insight into human nature, into governance. It clearly has been a priceless experience and it is one that I will recommend for anyone, if possible, as such experiences enrich, positively add value and give insight into national issues. Serving in government had made one to realize certain of life’s facts and brings further home the axiom that the people truly deserves and determines the government they eventually have to live with.
For most of our people, once you go into government, you have gone to make money which you are expected to start sharing. It’s a time people come to the realization of their relationship with you. Your relatives, some you have never heard about come out to appropriate you, but it would have been better if it had ended that way.
They expect more from you, they expect you to share from the ‘largesse’ that God has bestowed on you. Their thinking is that you were placed in that position because of them. You cannot blame them, the concept of governance in the country is warped…you are there to make money rather than serve and they are entitled to part of that money. It is a peculiarity of our nation, no state is exempted.
I recall that a few months into my new position, I got a call from someone that I had never met in almost 40 years of my life. Someone that had never spoken to me as far as I could ever recall. He described his maternal relationship to me, until I saw the light.
Several others came with projects they suddenly realized needed completion. It was simply a time that you became everyone’s long lost or favourite cousin. Mine was inconsequential compared with principal officers in the administration I served. They had to continually service their ‘constituencies’.
For established politicians, this comes with the territory if you still want to remain relevant and have your people ‘behind’ you. Every ailment that afflicts them becomes your responsibility. For school fees they come to you, for health challenges, you have to contribute, when music album is being launched, you would be the guest of honour.
Your time in government is also when you are found worthy of being conferred with different awards. That is when you become an icon of this or that. The best in your field, notwithstanding that most never even knew what you did before you came into office.
You had better be ready to live up to their expectation. But one cannot really blame them, poverty is an established social problem. Jobs are unavailable and people must survive.
During that period, my vocabulary especially in the local language increased. That is where I learnt of expressions like ‘le mo’, in Yoruba language which simply means stick it to him. The concept as the name implies is to simply cook up a story about you. It does not have to be factual. In politics, it is not necessary.
‘Le mo’ is just a lie that is attached to you because you have offended some people or they feel they have to de-market you for things you may not even know about. A friend once narrated his experience. A politician in his area had gone to report him to the party leader over an offence.
Of course, there was no offence. Consistently, the man would come up with different stories about my friend every time he went to the leader until the leader decided to call the offending person to confront his accuser. It eventually came out that the stories were all lies. What the culprit simply said when the truth eventually came out was that my friend was not sharing money he was making in government with him.
To a lot of our people, rendering service is not the issue, it is about servicing their need, their craving for money. Luckily for some of us, we worked for a principal that had his eyes firmly fixed on the ball. An administrator that wanted to leave an indelible footprints in the sands of time. It was about work, work and making impact in the State and in the lives of the people.
For anything you have to do, you must justify, you must defend. You must do your homework thoroughly and even at that you are not assured of getting all your requests approved. It was an administration that ran on prudent management of limited resources. Indeed, the State was better for it. It was a widely acclaimed fact that the administration did well in infrastructural renewal.
Some would say, ‘but you lost the governorship election’. The loss of the election was not due to non-performance but other extraneous causes. I felt irrespective of performance, the State simply wanted a change. The political history of Oyo state has never favoured a two-term administration.
No administration has ever served more than one term. If memory serves, the longest period ever served by any governor was five years. A two-term administration in my State is breaking the jinx and you must have been exceptional in your first term. That was exactly the situation with the Abiola Ajimobi administration in Oyo State. Getting that second term was simply jinx-breaking.
Though different candidates, the people were not going to give you any other opportunity, irrespective of the programme or the performance of your party while you were in power. That is how the politics of Oyo State is configured.
Many tend to describe the situation as lack of political sophistication. They believe that you do not change a winning team. They cite the Lagos State example. Since 1999 when democratic governance berthed, once again in the country, Lagos State has always been in the progressive fold. This has brought about continuity in governance. Projects are hardly abandoned and Lagos State has been the better for this.
But in all these, one thing is clear; we need to change our concept of governance. For a country of our dream, the rulers and the ruled need paradigmatic shift. We must ask ourselves whether we want the short term gratification or the long term bliss. The ruled must understand the power they wield at any point in time. They should be able to hold the political leaders accountable.
Short term gratification will not get us to the promise land. And as for the political leaders, the love of the people and the need to live up to why they were elected should constantly be at the back of their mind. If out of millions of people, you were singled out, then there should be humility in carriage and how you go about the business of governance.
Nigerians are simple and easy to please, they are hardworking, it’s just about providing the enabling environment and they will thrive. That is what will help our nation, that is what will give us the country of our dream.
Bolaji was the Senior Special Adviser on Media and Public Communication to Chief Abiola Ajimobi, former Governor of Oyo State.
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