Sunday, April 17, 2022 12:00 pm
By Oladeinde Olawoyin
There is so much to unpack from Edmund Obilo’s interview with Governor Seyi Makinde on Splash FM 105.5 in Ibadan Saturday morning but I’d leave issues of politicking, subterfuge, patronage and prebendalism to politicians. I am more concerned about perhaps the only matter of public interest thrown up in that chat: the recent furore over an N998m School Exercise Book project.
Gov. Makinde said on the programme that Mr Oriyomi Hamzat, CEO of Agidigbo FM, submitted a bid for the project and was awarded about three slots. That claim, which he made in his earlier response, runs VIOLENTLY contrary to Mr Oriyomi’s initial claim that he NEVER bid for the contract, but only “allowed some local contractors to use his company” (hear! Hear!!). It also runs contrary to Mr Oriyomi’s claim that he knows nothing about the exact contract amount (sic). Now, between Mr Oriyomi and Mr Makinde, one person isn’t saying the truth. It’s left to Oyo people to find out whom they consider the matter important enough.
Gov. Makinde also affirmed, with some air of supremacy, that he would resign if the unit price in the contract amount exceeded the market price of about N300. With that in mind, he echoed Mr Oriyomi’s claim that the entire story was ‘fake news’ cooked up to tarnish his image. Now, this is laughable, to put it mildly.
First off, the idea that a new story is “fake news” targeted to pull down” a public figure isn’t exclusive to Mr Makinde and allies. Donald Trump popularized that funny deflection tactic at the height of his presidency. What’s not funny is that anyone who knew the primary source of that story would simply go ‘SMH-ing’ upon listening to Mr Makinde’s.
An otherwise deep, probing, brilliant and analytical Edmund Obilo did something quite funny, if not disturbing when he moved away from the fundamental issues around an alleged violation of procurement laws and asked Mr Makinde about his plan to “sue Sahara Reporters”—which Makinde claimed was witch-hunting him. As a seasoned broadcaster, Edmund sure knows that the primary source of that story was Dataphyte, a relatively young and independent data analytics media outfit. SR only amplified the story; and for anyone who knew about that new outfit and its record of data analytics and use of open-source datasets for compelling storytelling, it would be utterly laughable to attach such a beer-parlour-gossip-level degree of partisanship to it. The intellectually rigorous Obilo that I knew would also have been more concerned about the real issues of procurement laws and its dictates, and whether there are actual violations in the contractual process. But then, it is what it is.
Last week, I listened to Mr Oriyomi speak about his (non-)involvement in the contract and I nearly threw up. His was a ghastly mixture of crass ignorance (of procurement laws) and a puerile attempt to sit on the pity potty. Being one broadcaster whose pro-people antecedent endeared to many, especially Ibadan hoi polloi, it would have been most dignifying if he kept mum. After all, word on the streets is that such a contractual relationship is the norm in government anyway, even long before Makinde assumed power in the state. As a pop sensation, Black Sheriff says: ‘Who never fuck up hands in the air — no hands’. It is just what it is. What’s funny is that some people possibly want to enjoy the impunity of power and play the saintly card all at the same time. In any case, a fawning civil society, a servile media, and a most spineless, utterly decimated opposition would have ensured that the matter died a natural death.
To be sure, the concern around the claims brought forward by Dataphyte per the controversial unit price of each book revolves around the contract figures it accessed on the state government data portal, which is verifiable by everyone. Dataphyte also claimed to have sent in enquiries to government quarters for clarification. So, fingers crossed.
The other part worth mentioning is that contrary to our people’s perception of what constitutes the core of this Exercise Book conundrum (the N2,100 unit price), the real issues are systemic and institutional. They are issues that go beyond Engineer Makinde and the present administration. It is almost plausible that the average person on the street would not find these issues “sensational” enough to be considered important but those are the real issues that would determine the future of our dear state.
For one, it’s a GROSS VIOLATION of the Procurement Act for a single person to be the front for the same contract with multiple organisations, as far as I know as a layman. What about bidding for contracts using the veil of some other people, barely two months after your company was allegedly established? What about awarding contracts to INACTIVE companies? These are mind-boggling issues of alleged violence against contractual/procurement laws. There are so many institutional issues that I am MOST INTERESTED in, even beyond the N2,100 unit price conundrum. That’s why I look forward to the lawsuit threats by the state government. It would be insightful to see our laws being put to test about institution building, transparency and public accountability.
Finally, I am under no illusion that all of this means anything in the grand scheme of things in Oyo. I have spoken to otherwise vocal, conscientious young journalists about Oyo affairs and they told me they are being careful because of the climate of fear, brigandage, and institutionalised silence established via Auxiliary and his murderous goons. That’s why I have enjoyed the siddon-look position thus far. But sometimes one has to say a few things just for the sake of saying them. And—maybe—for records purposes. It is what it is.
*Oladeinde Olawoyin, is a journalist and public affairs, analyst