MAKINDE: STANDING UP FOR THE PEOPLE By Sulaiman Olanrewaju

Monday, April 8, 2024 will remain indelible in the memory of Messrs Nurudeen Abiola and Taiwo Adeagbo Adigun of the Oyo State Road Transport Management Authority (OYRTMA) as well as their families because of the visit of Oyo State governor, ‘Seyi Makinde, to both men in their modest homes at Binukonu Olunloyo and Oke-‘Badan areas of Ibadan respectively. The visit looked too good to be true, but it was also too real to be illusory. The expressions on the faces of many of those who were in attendance betrayed their bewilderment. It was a visit neither of the men or even their relations could have foreseen but it was a visit that changed the narrative of both men. It was a visit that elevated the profile of the men. It was a visit that sent a message to dedicated and devoted civil servants in Oyo State that their industry and commitment to the ideal which the state upholds would not be ignored. It was a visit that sent a message to all and sundry that the life of every citizen of Oyo State is valued by the governor and the government. It was a visit that showed that the wellbeing of everyone in Oyo State matters to the governor. It was also a visit to send an unequivocal warning to all that any attempt to trample on the rights of the citizens or stand in the way of the law in the state would be resisted by the resolve of the governor and the resources of the state.

However, the build up to the visit was not exactly a pleasant experience.
The two OYRTMA officials had been about their duties of managing traffic at Onipepeiye, Old Ife Road area of Ibadan when they effected the arrest of a man who was driving against traffic. The arrest and the ensuing melee culminated in the OYRTMA officials being brutalised by some Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) officers attached to Zone F.

In the days of yore, this would have been handled administratively with the matter ending up under the carpet and the brutalised men having to nurse their wounds, trauma and shame in the confines of their homes. But when Governor Makinde got to know of this incident, not only did he resolve to address it, he also decided to put an end to such ignominious acts. Makinde visited the victims of the brutality to comfort them and assure them of the support of the state government. The governor told the men that those who brutalised them would have a rendezvous with justice as the state would ensure their prosecution. He also visited the Nigerian Immigration Service’s office to underscore his displeasure about the ill-treatment meted out to his men and to register his determination to see that such would never recur in the state.

Governor Makinde never stops his demonstration of love for the people of Oyo State. Every of his actions as a governor speaks to the infinite love he has for his people. The governor shows the people so much love because he realises that love is the ultimate leadership tool.
There is a nexus between love and leadership. The objective of love is to make its object better. Hence, love is never passive but rather passionate; it never takes a rest until its purpose is accomplished. Similarly, true leadership is focused on bringing out the best in people and situations. When a leader loves his people, he values them and goes all out to serve them. Consequently, he pulls out all the stops to shield them from harm and stands up for them when occasions demand.

It is the calling of leaders to do for others what they cannot do for themselves but that becomes feasible only in an atmosphere of love. Leaders wield enormous power but that power is to be deployed for others’ benefit. Great leaders use their power to add value to others; they use their power to defend their people; they deploy their power for the purpose of enhancing the quality of lives of others by helping them to realize their goals and aspirations.
Not only does Governor Makinde love the people he leads, he also understands the essence of his office and the purpose of his power. He understands that his primary assignment as the state chief executive officer is to protect the people and ensure their wellbeing. That is why he took it upon himself to visit the OYRTMA personnel rather than sending representatives.

The Governor’s action has a long-lasting effect on the people because while he might have risen specifically in defence of the two OYRTMA personnel, he actually spoke for everyone in the state. He has shown that every citizen is important irrespective of their status or station. He has also demonstrated the resolve of the state to defend every citizen. Gestures like that, according to the law of reciprocity, are usually recompensed by citizens. The law says that everyone who has enjoyed a good deed feels indebted to whoever made it possible and looks forward to an opportunity to reciprocate same. As a result of what the Governor did, Oyo State citizens, whether they are in the civil service or not, are motivated to support the governor in his bid to improve the state. They are also inspired to give their best at all times for the state knowing that they have the support of the state.

As a result of what Makinde did, Oyo State citizens will trust him more and go out on a limb for their state because they know that the Governor has got their back. The people are encouraged to take risks for the state because they know that they will be protected should things run contrary to expectations.
What leaders demand from the followers most of the time is total commitment. But commitment does not happen in a vacuum, commitment is a product of trust. When the people know that their leader will protect them, they grow to trust him and this inspires commitment in them. When leaders make it abundantly clear that they will protect their people’s interest even beyond the call of duty, what they earn in return is the trust of such people. One thing about trust is that it cannot be legislated; it is a response to the leader’s attitude to others. A leader that values his people and cares for them will earn their trust with ease. On the other hand, when a leader is lackadaisical about the wellbeing of the people, it will be difficult to earn their trust. The best such leader can hope to get from them is compliance. The difference is that while the committed are willing to go the extra mile, the compliant are not willing to go beyond the call of duty. While the committed own the task, the compliant do not. They do not see the task as their own but the leader’s. So, they are not bothered by its success or failure.

Caring for the people is not quite common in Nigeria. More often than not Nigerians are made to feel as if they count for little. Everyone with a measure of power rides roughshod over the common people without any consequence. Institutions take advantage of the citizens without any help from anywhere. Military men, paramilitary men and police officers denigrate the average citizen without any redress. Even foreigners assault Nigerians within the shores of the country and get away with it. The people need to be defended, that is why they have leaders. When leaders fail to protect their people, the people resort to self help. This is one of the factors fuelling lawlessness and criminality in the country.
Governor Makinde’s action of standing up for the helpless and demanding justice for them is a demonstration of great leadership. When leaders rise in defence of the people, the people rise to build a great society.

Olanrewaju is the Chief Press Secretary to Oyo State Governor.

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