SALAKO Azeem Oladimeji.
Distinguished guests on the podium, the organizer of this program, Revive Nigeria Mission RNM, members of the press, and ladies and gentlemen. Firstly, I wish to appreciate the platform and privilege you have bestowed on me to deliver this keynote lecture. The lecture topic; KNOCK THE DOOR AND IT SHALL BE OPEN; Reviewing The Aftermath Of A Year of Consistent Knocks- A case of Aworiland, Ogun state – is uniquely and thoughtfully crafted to the extent that it is context-specific, thus, reacting to fundamental issues in a sub divisional unit within the omnibus Nigeria democratic governance environment. I must say it unequivocally that, topic of this kind represents the hallmark of good academic endeavor, socio-political engagement and meaningful conversation with a prospect for sustainable development. That we have remembered to organize a talk of this dimension even in the middle of an overwhelmingly notorious Covid 19 pandemic is another point worthy of commendation.
Last year 29th of May, Nigeria celebrated her democracy day. Although, what become more significant this day last year was the handing over/swearing in of elected politicians across the country to commence a new democratic administration that will last another four years. However, the case in Ogun state just like her Lagos counterpart was beyond the commencement of a new administration. It also inevitably ushered new political personnel that will manage and coordinate the executive arm of government resulting from the incumbent executive Governor Mr. Dapo Abiodun who defeated Adekunle Akinlade, the anointed candidate of his immediate predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Let me briefly construct a background to this study so that we can have adequate understanding of the thrust of this lecture- Ladies and gentlemen The 2019 Ogun state gubernatorial election was abruptly an ideological battle, mainly between ‘Dapo Abiodun of the APC and ‘Adekunle Akinlade’ of APM, with both ostensibly campaigning to represent a bi-polarized ideological viewpoints which I have coined as “reactive governance, and “consociation democracy respectively. Simply put, reactive governance explains a counteraction against an existing or an ongoing approach of ruling, policy as well as strategies used in achieving it. Consociation democracy on the other hand, point at applying a cooperative principle in deeply divided societies that is based on power sharing between people from different social groups. Since democracy is somewhat a mathematical system where candidates/parties with higher numbers of votes wins; the two viewpoints were well stretched and articulated by their conveners in order to appeal to the reasoning of the electorates.
Putting it in more practical sense, one, the Amosun government by the APC was indicted to being sectional as he primarily focused his infrastructural strides in the Ogun Central district where he is indigenous to. He was also indicted for various undemocratic practices which include the unlawful sack of labor leaders whose crime was their agitation against the illegal use and lack of access to their deductions. But these weren’t enough reason for Dapo Abiodun to occupy the executive seat at Oke mosan. For instance, Akinlade and his godfather were simplistically straightforward; in their own thought, since the creation of ogun state in 1976, 2019 was already unjust and late to have the seat of power in ogun state zoned to the Ogun West senatorial where the Aworis and Yewa ethnic groups are domiciled.
This simple undoubted expression was enough fact that should appeal and convince any democratically sound mindset to vote APM. Noticing the strength and effect of this rhythmical fact, the APM intensified their campaign and continue to win political souls. However, the APM strategy was not a surprise, and should not ordinarily trouble the Abiodun political camp. It was a well envisaged ploy, predicted as a design to later sustain the pattern and legacy of Amosun rulership even at the end of his eight years administration.
So, with the APM political strategy, the APC Dapo Abiodun losing the entire ogun west was imminent, but minimizing the loss to ensure a grand victory for Dapo Abiodun APC logically result in nominating Engineer Noimot Salako – oyedele who is from Ota, a section of the Aworis in the Ogun West senatorial district as Dapo Abiodun running mate.
Aside this political consideration, since it was almost certain that the voting bloc in the Yewa axis of the Ogun West district will be mobilized to support Adekunle Akinlade their golden son, what was reverberated and later expressively used as a strategy to garner enough votes of the Aworis was that the choice of Noimot Salako will considerably represent the agenda of the Ogun West, and her presence in government as the deputy governor will consecrate the totality of the pressing issues facing the people of her ingenious jurisdiction. She also with the APC party leaders toured round the entire Ogun west senatorial district – majorly the Awori section, and significantly Ota where she indigenously hailed from, urging the people to massively vote APC, with the assurance that; when push comes to shove, her presence as the second citizen of the state will significantly activate or be useful to influence good governance, employment, education, socio-cultural development, and unlock economic opportunities etc. for her people.
“And as the saying goes in Yoruba informal parlance; Karo di maso, karo aso modi – kidi sa mati gbofo – contextually interpreted as whether we have a governor from Ogun West or Ogun west being represented in the executive arm – the assurance of good governance and quality representation should be the core goal.”
This psyche as it eventually played out was enough anti-thesis that should readily intercept the ideologically persuasive and rhythmically convincing standpoint of the APM. At least, if not for everyone in the Ogun West district, but the Aworis particularly the Ota people (whose population is almost larger than the population size of other parts of ogun west put together) who will have their daughter occupy the exalted seat of the deputy governor.
It is one year upon the emergence of the Dapo Abiodun – Noimot Salako APC government in Ogun state, hence, it becomes imperative to critically examine, analyze and dissect the effect and aftermath of the decision of the Aworis, particularly the Ota and how the seat of the deputy governor has effectively and practically beyond rhetoric represents their interests or if the deputy governor has adequately function and react to the fundamentals that necessitated her choice and rise to power. This is the exact objective of this lecture, hence my interpretation of the choice of the lecture theme; Knock and It Shall Be Open…..
My spiritual potency and intelligence, strategically enabled me to relate with the dynamics of the major subject of the theme ; Knock and it shall be opened; a biblical verse that explicitly explicate the total gamut of governance as an offshoot of many componential parts that interrelates or interdepend to achieve some sets of goal. It thus also practically demonstrate the role and function of citizenship in a state, and the desirable and expected responsibility of the state to the citizens.
Mattew chapter 7 verse 7, says;
Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh. Findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
In a sense, nothing can be different to this biblical position in what David Easton would later refer to as Systems Theory which implies the model of “demand-supply-feedback-supply” or the thesis of Billy Dudley – Consciousness formation to political transcendence with social mobilization, institutional struggle and contestations of ideas as intervening variables.
While Jesus teaches about the effectiveness of our prayers (demand) to the lord Almighty, Easton and Dudley describes the role, relationship and interaction between the governed and the government. But it is not enough to loosely describe this role and interactions in general terms, if so, it will create some polemics and underplay the core values that is peculiar to each political socialization, culture and system which includes the essential attributes in defining a society. That is, the features mainly the relationship between the ruler and the ruled in a theocratic state cannot be identical or useful to a military regime. Just the way the taxonomies of military system will be an aberration in democracy.
So that for us to make a good sense of our analysis, there is the need to put for instance, the God-servant, ruler-ruled or government-governed relationship within its appropriate contextual use or environment. In a democracy, governance should be seen as the supply of the demands aspired by the people. This is most meaningful within our understanding that, whatever that is collectively aspired is desirable (demand) and whatever that is desirable should be possibly achievable (supply). When there is a disconnection between demand and supply, basic understanding of political economy defines that as bad governance. It is upon this theoretical constructions that every government in a democracy should be measured and evaluated based on the demands, desirability of the people she governs and not her logic, intuition, or subjectiveness which can only be permissible in a military dictatorship.
Against this background, it is important for us in reminiscent into the events, and realities that bedeviled Aworiland which later become the source of the Aworis decision resolving to support the Dapo Abiodun – Noimot Salako All Progressive Congress. Then, how the seat of the deputy governor or the role of the deputy governor has influenced addressing these issues within the first year of the government. Since, government includes not only the executive arm, the lecture also attempt to discuss the role and impact of the legislators that represents Awori towns in the Ogun state house of assembly and the intergovernmental relations of these legislators and the executive arm for the public good of the Aworis.
Amongst several critical problems that confronts the people of Awori, Six (6) were prominent in the build up to the 2019 gubernatorial election in Ogun state.
1- Construction of Ota Central Market
2- Creation of Awori Traditional Council
3- Regaining Awori territories and fight against expansionists
4- Job opportunities and youth economic empowerment
5- Building of infrastructure (roads, bridges, library etc.)
6- Quality local governance system
7- New Problems
I made a post on the 17th of May 2020 on a Whatsapp Platform – Ota Update Today;
“Before 2019, the Aworis use to assume that their problem was because they have a problem of identity, representation, sphere of influence in the state government. By May 29th 2019, the deputy governor of the state (executive), the majority leader of the legislative house (legislature), and a member of the state judicial council (judiciary), to include the head of the state civil service (bureaucracy) were indigenous to the Ota, Awori territory but yet, self-help irredentist struggle, economic backwardness, poor local governance system, high level of unemployment, etc. persists. I have undoubtedly cast this as a problem of lack good, sincere, and honest political leadership.”
Despite being the economic blood of Ogun state, Ota as well as some other Awori towns has the most poorest and ridiculous central market system. As you can see on the screen, is the picture of this “refuse dump site” (mis)called a central market. For clarity, this is the market of the largest industrial concentration, commercial hub, the economic life of the state, and the home of the deputy governor, majority leader of the legislative house, of Ogun state and the local administration chairman of the Ado/Odo-Ota local government. I wonder if the impression isn’t to allow this epidemic pave way into human society, with the masses live with it so as long as it suits their impoverishment as well as useful for generating levies.
Awori Traditional Council –
I also want to argue that Awori is an ethnic group with;
i. Significant ethnic differentiation with large size of geographical area and population
ii. Distinct Language, culture, and values
iii. Distinguishable units or subgroups under chiefs, and kings
iv. Viable and viral economic advantage
And in as much as much as a community encompasses all these factors, it means it is legitimate for such community to have a traditional council. Till date the Awori identity and culture is facing a nonresistance neo-colonization which has enthralled their culture, identity and belief system in the vassalage of the Egbas and Yewas whose socio-cultural values and traditions are averse to the cultural realities of the Aworis. Despite the traditional posturing of this arrangement, it remain a political creation that can be achievable ultimately with the state executive political will, in which the state governor unarguably controls. However, the influence of the deputy governor as well as other elected politicians towards achieving this aim cannot be underplayed. A sound leadership role with strong commitment if exhibited by Her Excellency could tacitly influence the will of the Governor. In addition, giving the principle of neighborliness, Her Excellency the deputy Governor understands her terrain better, and there can be no laws stopping her to organize a summit of all the Awori traditional rulers. If not for anything, to show a sign of concern, commitment and create a cognition of togetherness and common goal. It is 365 days after, not only that Awori traditional council remain idealistic, but government and none of the political elites elected to represent the Aworis has shown a sign of concern towards this pursuit.
Quality of Local Governance –
I will want to talk lastly on the quality of local governance system in Aworiland- I choose this as my last strand because it could provide me the opportunity to discuss all other highlighted disturbing issues that has crippled the socio-economic system in Ogun state as it affects also Awori land.
It is perturbing that a one year in office will be celebrated without a local government. I have pointed out in my previous lectures; that what we have in Ogun state from 2019 till date is a ‘local administration’ which defies every theory and practices of a local government system. Simply put, a local government system is a legally established sub divisional political organization managed by elected politicians who are expected to independently but cooperatively act in carrying out the functions of government at the lowest level of the state. A local government system is significant for grassroots development and provide the opportunity for democratic practices and democratic consolidation.
Little wonder what the House Speaker, and our own majority leader of Ogun state legislative house would celebrate for today’s democracy day. They have corruptly ridiculed the legislative chamber in such that their fundamental goal which is checking the excesses of the state government has become an aberration.
The Governor has shown his indifference creating a democracy that allow the people the opportunity to elect who should administer their socio-political lives in their local parlance as detailed in the constitution. Her deputy on the other hand, was indicted to have played a major role in the well spread allegations of two greater than five ballot. If true, it means she has utterly proved unsuitable and unamenable to a democratic culture. She therefore lacks every moral right to celebrate a democracy day.
Too much of her boisterousness and fascist political orientation that culminate to her intolerable political tendencies- annulling the announcement and enforcement of the outcome of a democratic process adopted for the appointment of the chairman of the Ado/Odo-Ota local government transitioning committee, which she supervised.
The broad day military approach is democratically murderous and should not be dignified with any style or form of consent, including silence. It is a precedent that will continue to hunt the future of the Aworis in the coming years. I make bold to say that posterity shall judge all the unashamed conspirators in that, barbaric and uncivilized political recklessness, and power hangover.
Despite the public advertorials that acknowledged the provision of thousands of jobs by the state government in her democracy day account of stewardship, it is imperative to ask questions on the statistics of unemployed youths in Aworiland that are beneficiaries of this program. Beyond partisan and cronyism, it is legitimate to ask how many youths have been economically empowered to self-suffice.
The toll gate Ota that borders Lagos and Ogun remain suicidal, whereas, the avoidable but ridiculous traffic gridlock at Oju Ore Ota continue without any agitation for a lasting solution, as if an overhead bridge is an abomination on the soil of the Aworis. I am shocked to have witnessed a high level of deceit and shenanigan displayed by the government over the Covid 19 testing center brought to Ota. The infrastructure stays for only few days after the medially photograph session of the grand commissioning. The rest is history today. The turmoil continues and I ask if a democracy day is worth celebrating.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have come to the conclusion of this lecture. I must thank and appreciate your rapt attention. Democracy indeed is all about communication and responsiveness which you have explicitly showed today. Yes, it is one out of the three years of active governance system. I say this because the last of the four years will be for politics. Let us be hopeful that the coming years will be more progressive and Aworiland will be able to have a conviction to celebrate the democracy day. But for now, I leave us in these reflections.
Thank you and God bless.