Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State Monday set a new paradigm regarding assets declaration by public officers. Instead of following the trend of hiding asset documents in secrecy, Makinde opened the Pandora box by publishing details of the contents of his declaration forms marked CCB OYSE/2019/001, which was filed on May 28, 2019, showing he had N48 billion in cash and properties.
It is not just that the governor complied with the country’s Code of Conduct law which mandates senior public office holders to file their asset details with the Bureau upon assumption of office and while exiting from office. The law however, did mot make it compulsory for the details of asset to be made public. And that is the crux of the matter.
Aware that the war against corruption has not had any effective result and that it appears successive governments have only paid lip service when issues of wedging real war on corruption is concerned, Makinde decided to pull the bull by the horns and distinguish himself above every other Nigerian politician, in this political dispensation, especially those of them occupying top offices in the executive arm of government, especially governors and the president.
Gov. Makinde at Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, said he would not just make the declaration and go to sleep. He made it pointedly clear that he would encourage all his potential cabinet appointees to do same when they are nominated.
Making the contents of the forms public, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, reeled out the asset which was categorised in cash at hand, cash in the bank, landed properties (developed and undeveloped), and household items. The asset also included shares and bonds owned by the governor, his wife, Omini Makinde, as well as companies where he had interest before he became governor. It is instructive that unlike other public office holders who would pretend they never had interest in companies, Makinde listed his companies to include: Makon Engineering and Technical Services Limited(N1.7 billion); Makon Power System Limited(N148.4 million); Makon Oil and Gas Limited(N341 million); Energy Traders and Technical Services Limited(N1.159bn) totaling N3.389 billion. He added that his personal bank balance stood at N234,742,296.01. In dollar terms, he had cash valued at $30,056.99, as at the date of filing the assets forms.
Without dwelling so much on the worth of the governor, it is imperative to state that by this singular act, Governor Makinde had written his name in gold. He had proved that he is not just determined to fight corruption, but has set the standard with himself. He has also proved that those who have all along been ‘mouthing’ that ‘if you fight corruption, corruption will fight back’ are economical with the truth. With what Governor Makinde has done, he has elevated moral standard on standard apex and is therefore determined to shame those who would plot to smear him at the end of his tenure.
The great lessons to learn with his exemplary action, especially coming from a politician of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stock, is that he has placed all those politicians in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on the jump. The ruling party’s manta of anti-corruption has been put paid by this singular act and Nigerians eagerly await when members of the APC occupying top political portfolio, beginning with President Muhammadu Buhari would join the queue and make their asset declaration forms public.
What with all the hullabaloo regarding the corruption toga laced on members of the opposition political party and public office holders since 1999, the APC is now being pursued by the toga of either coming clean or be seen as merely shadow chasing all along.
With Nigeria being listed among the most corrupt countries by reputable global rating agencies, and with the claims by the opposition parties that the level of corrupt act being perpetrated by public officers of the APC stock appear to be unimaginable, public decency and morality demands that the APC government should take the bull by the horn by not just making it mandatory for all the public office holders of the party’s extraction to follow Gov. Makinde’s footsteps, but should as a matter of fact, carry out the necessary constitutional review and take away all encumbrances that deter public access to asset declaration forms. They should also prove the critics of their national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole wrong, when they insist that the APC national chairman said “if you join APC, all your sins will be forgiven”.
Makinde’s bold steps should be appreciated by every well-meaning Nigerian especially as he had set new template for measuring the beginning of transparency of self and approach to governance. With the country earning so much in petro dollar and other income sources, yet rated as a country with one of the most endemically poor people, the time has come for our political leaders to appreciate that the issue of wedging war against corruption should not be seen as mere rhetoric. The ordinary citizens are anxious to know when federal, state and local government land registry would make public ownership of property street-by-street for public scrutiny, claims and objections. It is the general belief that except we remove the toga of secrecy towards asset declaration and property ownership, the war against corruption would remain mere word and no action.