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HAPPY DEMOCRACY DAY: LETS REMEMBER A POLITICIAN, WHO TOUCHED LIVES.

 By SUNDAY AJIBOLA 

HAPPY DEMOCRACY DAY: LETS REMEMBER A POLITICIAN, WHO TOUCHED LIVES.


Today, the 12th day of June is unique in the annals of the political history of Nigeria. It was on this day in 1993, that is, 32 years, ago that all Nigerians jettisoned our self-inflicted, divisive differences and voted as one. 



We all chose Chief M.K.O Abiola to be our President. The election was annulled by enemies of the people. The annulment led to widespread protests and resulted in ousting of the military from office in 1999. 25 years have gone that civilians have been running the affairs of the country. We are celebrating the return of democracy, a system of government popularly known as, government of the people, by the people and for the people. We ought to be in high spirits, roll out the drums and give thanks to God over our turn around for good.



   However, it is gloom, regret and indifference everywhere. Nobody should blame the people for being unenthusiastic about today's Democracy Day. The reality on ground in Nigeria is a far cry from the expectations of democratic governance. What do I write here that is not known to all .Nigerians?  There ain't no need repeating what is an open secret, as the Americans would say.

   In celebrating the day, I have chosen to go the memory lane by reminding us in Ondo State about a man we are still missing even 42 years after leaving office. Bi awon bati nsàro oku, o tumo si wipe awon towa  laaye o se daradàra. (When people miss the dead, it implies that those alive are not doing well) I find some habits of my contemporaries amusing, sincerely. My contemporaries are people above 50. We have been running the Nigeria since 1999 and we have brought the country to her knees with our inability to do the right things. We make governance seem so difficult and meaningless that the responsibility of making life meaningful for our people is impossible.

   LETS FORGET NOW AND REFLECT ON THE LEADERSHIP OF A MAN, WHO SHOWED US THAT DEMOCRACY IS GOVERNMENT OF THE PROPLE REALLY.

    Late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin assumed power on October 1, 1979. His priority was Education and his exploits in that sector is my focus. Under his guide, primary and school education was free and compulsory for children of school age. He distributed free textbooks, workbooks and stationary materials to students. This man announced free education the very day he was sworn-in as Governor, making him the first out of five state Governors of the South West to do so.(South West comprised of Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Bendel (now Edo and Delta) and Ogun States known as LOOBO states).
He set aside N3.5million for operating expenses in schools, N2 million for science education and N40.77 million for the Central School Board.
The man established a University and a Polytechnic as well as improving the four Technical Schools. He increased the number of Secondary Schools from 250 to 473 and he expanded the existing 10 teacher training colleges.

  His administration established the Teachers’ Housing Loan scheme which initially gulped N5 million. Baba Adekunle Ajasin administration took over the payment of 50 per cent of the primary school teachers’ salaries despite the fact that it was the responsibility of the local government. He also expanded the special schools for the disabled in Akure, Ikare and Owo.
Ajasin devoted N92.4million of his budget in 1982 to education and he allocated N3.4 million to subsidized feeding in all the teacher training colleges, a gesture which gulped N7.018 million. Over 2,246 Ondo state students who were studying overseas also benefitted from the awards for which N11.7 million was set aside.
No fewer than 15,243 students of the old Ondo State origin in higher institutions benefitted from the government’s bursary awards
He did not collect the Security Vote meant for him. He used it to fund education. In case, you are wondering how he was able to achieve all these within 5 years, late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin was owner of the blueprint that Action Group (AG) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) both led by the unforgettable late Chief Obafemi Awolowo adopted for their Free Education program. This piece cannot contain what this inimitable politician and a quinttessential genuine democratic did for Yorubaland and old Ondo State in the Education sector.

HIS OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

Baba established many industries and establishments such as Oluwa Glass and Ifon Ceramics, which employed many youths. Owena Mass, a public transportation system meant to bring succour to the masses. It was turned to a conduit pipe for Chairmen appointed to oversee it.

When workers threatened to go on strike over salary increase, Ajasin intervened personally. Baba Arije was the chairman then, while his deputy was Mr. Adegbehingbe. The chairman travelled. The Governor had to visit Adegbehingbe around 4 a.m, accompanied by his ADC. He pleaded with him  to persuade Labour to shed the strike. Baba said, 'you are aware that this administration is prudent. You can see what we are doing. Please, prevail on your members to forgo the industrial action.' He now brought out papers detailing how what the state's funds are being used for.

    As Governor for four years and two months, he did not buy or build a single house. It was said that the number of clothes he brought in, on assumption of office had reduced drastically when he left. He was not concerned with sartorial elegance; his vision was to make the State and its people attain their potentials.

    His exco members tried to lure him to change his policy of using the Ministry of Works for construction of roads to no avail. They fashioned out a way to get him approve contracts for Road construction. They compiled the names of exco and top party members. The name of his son, Tokunbo topped the list. On receiving it, Ajasin was aghast to see his son's name among the intended beneficiaries. Baba thundered in his husky voice, 'Tokunbo, kilo fe fowo se?' (Tokunbo, what does he want to use money for?) He brought out his red pen and drew a line across it without looking at the other names. That was how the matter died prematurely.

    When the military struck and took over on the 31st of March, 1983, Papa had N36.00 in his account balance. When questioned about what happened to N100.00 of N136.00 the day before, he said, 'I budget my salary every month. A relative  came yesterday for monetary assistance and I gave him what I could afford.' Ajasin was the first of the then Governor's to be released by the junta.

   Come to think of it, a man was able to lead the old Ondo State and he accomplished so much in less than five years. In the present dispensation which is over 25 years, we have had 5 Governors to date in the new Ondo State. All of them combined have not achieved half of what Baba Ajasin did. Its to our collective shame.

   Happy Democracy Day. Aseyi samodun.

 

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