Being the Remarks by His Excellency Seyi Makinde, the Executive Governor of Oyo State, at the 85th Birthday Celebration of His Excellency Chief Bisi Akande held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, on Tuesday, 16 January 2024.
Let me express my immense gratitude to the organisers of this 85th birthday celebration event of His Excellency Chief Bisi Akande for asking me to chair this wonderful occasion. Baba Akande is indeed an icon and as some of you may already know he served the old Oyo State as a Secretary to the State Government.
There was an article published some years ago of a presentation that Baba Akande made in 1977 at the constituent assembly in Lagos. I would urge everyone here present to find that speech and read it. He raised some key issues affecting our constitution which were inadvertently leading to societal inequality.
I will be highlighting a few of these issues in my remarks. I believe that there can be no better way of honouring His Excellency Chief Bisi Akande on the occasion of his 85th birthday than by speaking to some of the ideals that he stands for.
We may not be aligned with the same political party, yet one of the strongest beliefs of this great man is that power should be used to benefit the people. In so doing, he advocated for fiscal federalism, restructuring and State police.
I also agree that there is a vital link between these three constitutional issues and people-first governance. For example, fiscal federalism involves understanding which governmental functions should be centralised and which should be decentralised. You will agree with me that if some of the functions of the Federal Government are decentralised and put in the purview of the States, the people will begin to spend more time focused on getting their State governors to function more effectively.
A case in point is the recent amendment of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), devolving power generation, transmission and distribution to State Governments. In Oyo State, citizens ask why they do not yet have a State-generated and transmitted power supply. This shift in focus to a level of government which is closer to the people is what will bring about the real development we desire.
Also, with restructuring, we can see States devolving certain powers to Local Governments. Not the Federal Government directly funding Local Governments as if they are answerable directly to the central government.
Of course, the devolution of the power sector is one example where we are getting federalism right. But there are other areas where we still need a lot of work. Let me give you one to think about. How is the Federal Government in charge of solid minerals development, whereas the land where these solid minerals are mined is under the purview of the State?
This is just one of the oxymorons of our constitution. Perhaps, we will have one of the lawmakers in our National Assembly make a presentation regarding this, just as Baba Akande did decades ago, which will finally force the type of deep constitutional amendment we have been hoping for.
An amendment that would perhaps lead to giving us community policing.
Some of you here know the pushback Southwest Governors received when we first floated the idea of the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Amotekun. This singular act has become a lifesaver for us here in Oyo State. Residents can sleep with both eyes closed because they have these Amotekun corps members working with Federal security agencies to protect them.
Some have wondered how State policing will work with the already existing Federal police. Well, this is why we have to sit down and discuss how this will work. When we talk about homegrown democracy, we do not mean that we copy and paste what is already happening somewhere else. What we mean is that we look at what works for us. We benefit from what has failed or is not working elsewhere to determine what is best for us.
Over four decades ago, Baba Akande was espousing these issues. It is not too late for us to begin to take actions that show we are learning from history. Indeed, one of the best ways of celebrating our icons, past and present, and honouring their legacy is by examining their thoughts and actions and implementing them in a way that would benefit our people.
So, let me once again, congratulate Baba Akande as we celebrate with him on his 85th birthday. May God continue to bless and keep you in good health.
Thank you, and God bless you.