By the time the tenure of the present administration of Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Governor of Oyo State draws to a close in May 2019, one thing would have become clear, that the governor had been able to restore the state to its past glory of many firsts which earned it the tag of the pacesetter state. Indeed, Oyo State has always been a state of many firsts, not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. It was the state every other state in the country aspired to match which could be attributed to the originality, resourcefulness and the pioneering nature of the people of Oyo State. For the records, some of the groundbreaking feats that cemented the status of Oyo State as the pacesetter in Nigeria and Africa include, being home to the first television station in Africa (NTA Ibadan); the first stadium in Africa (Liberty Stadium, Ibadan); the first skyscraper (the 24-storey Cocoa House in Ibadan); the first dualised road in Nigeria (Queen Elizabeth Road, Ibadan); the first teaching hospital in Nigeria (the University College Hospital, Ibadan) and the first housing estate in Nigeria (Bodija Housing Estate, Ibadan), to mention a few. But all these feats were achieved decades ago in the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Ladoke Akintola as premiers of the Western Region. But, Oyo State has been practically living on past glories. Successive administrations in the state have struggled unsuccessfully to maintain this enviable status, due to lack of innovative ideas and visionary leadership, until Governor Abiola Ajimobi appeared on the scene. And now, after seven years of the Ajimobi administration, the song has finally changed, likewise the drumbeat, for residents of the state. Once again, Oyo State has begun to live up to its tag as the nation’s pacesetter. In Education, for instance, the successful introduction and implementation of the School Governing Board (SGB) and OYOMESI (Oyo State Model Education System Intervention) policies have caught the attention of other South-west states, which are already scrambling to adopt them. This futuristic policy that emphasizes participatory management of public secondary schools and the promotion of moral uprightness in students has proved a sustainable solution to the perennial problem of inadequate funding of education in the country.
Also, these unique initiatives have already achieved significant result with the state recording its best WAEC result in the last 18 years, while several respected public commentators have also recommended the wholesale adoption of the policy to the Federal Government. Since, the introduction of the SGB model, about N2billion has been expended on public education. Not done, the state government followed up this well-acclaimed policy with the state’s Health Insurance Scheme, another innovative strategy designed to ensure unfettered access to healthcare services by residents of the state, most especially the vulnerable class. This scheme, which has recorded sizeable membership within a very short time, is a system where contributors’ funds are pooled to deal with the financial burden of healthcare in times of need. In essence, each member is appropriately served, not on the basis of his contribution but according to his needs, invariably guaranteeing access to quality medical care for everyone, regardless of social or financial status. With the inauguration of the Oyo State Health Insurance Scheme on May 25, 2017, followed by the launching of a N50 billion Healthcare Endowment Fund for the “restoration and transformation of government hospitals and health centres in Oyo State”, on August 3, same year, the state has again set another pace for others to follow. The measure adopted by the state government involved fostering strong partnerships with the private sector, development partners and other stakeholders in the health sector to pool resources, knowledge and skills that would ultimately help in achieving the desired goal of improved access to affordable and high-quality healthcare service delivery across the state. Speaking at the inauguration of the health insurance scheme, the Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, noted that scheme was the first by a state government in the country. “We have taken Oyo State higher than we met it. This health insurance scheme is for everyone, especially the poor and that is why we have pegged the registration at N200 only and a monthly premium fee of N650. It is free for children under age five and pregnant women.
“This scheme is one among the various health initiatives we offer our people to give them accessible, affordable and quality healthcare. The free health service, where several people are being treated, is presently going on across the state. We are committed to making life meaningful for our people and everything humanly possible to achieve this will be done.” In concrete terms, the endowment fund is expected to provide the much-needed funds for the renovation and upgrading of all primary and secondary health institutions in the state, including 57 General Hospitals and 622 Primary Health Centres; procurement of medical equipment and consumables, as well as training and motivation of medical personnel.
Also, in a bid to ensure that tertiary education is driven by the demands of the labour market and students are equipped with relevant skill sets, the Ajimobi administration conceived and successfully established the first Technical University in Nigeria. The university, which has commenced academic activities, will ensure that youths are armed with practical and entrepreneurial skills that will make them employable and employers of labour. It is also on record that Ajimobi built the first ever flyover by any civilian administration in the state. This feat successfully decongested the once intractable traffic at the popular and ever-busy Mokola roundabout in the heart of Ibadan metropolis. Also, his administration was the first to construct inner city dual-carriage roads across the five zones in the state and has been acknowledged as having constructed more roads than the previous civilian administrations combined.
Several other road dualisation and expansion projects are ongoing in different parts of the state, including Ibadan, the capital city. Ajimobi scored another first when he flagged off the construction of the N70bn circular road in Ibadan, which was conceived about 15 years ago. At the flag off ceremony, the governor said, “This project was conceived in 2002 by our great leader and former governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina, as a way of freeing Ibadan metropolis from gridlock in the intra and intercity movement. But, the project was abandoned by successive governments after Adesina left office. “We revived the project after considering the importance, not only to our socio-economic survival but also the benefit of neighbouring states. This made the state government signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of the road through a Public-Private Partnership agreement with ENL Consortium Limited.” The ongoing ‘Safe City’ project is another first by any administration in the state.
The idea is to assist the various security agencies with modern technology that will ensure greater effectiveness in their operations. Currently, the government is installing surveillance cameras in identified black spots and other strategic locations across the state capital as part of the first phase of the project. Also, figures by the National Bureau of Statistics have shown that Ajimobi’s administration has attracted more industries to the state than any of his predecessors. And despite all, the governor is not resting on his laurels. He is, without a doubt, geared up to accomplish more unique and unprecedented feats before the expiration of his tenure. Finally, if I may add, history will never forget that Governor Abiola Ajimobi was first to win a second term of office since the creation of Oyo State.