BY FUNKE EGBEMODE
I knew it was not going to be a walk in the park but I must confess I didn’t know it was going to be this intense. Thirty years in the newsroom toughens you but this, running points on information management of the state is like jogging uphill constantly. Try and imagine that, jogging uphill everyday. You know what that does to you? Even if you don’t jog, you can picture how hard that can be. One of the things it does to you is you want the nights to be long so you can postpone the jogging.
Then you begin to ‘unlike’ the sight of your beautiful red trainers, the sexy jogging pants that leave the guys drooling when you roll pass them. All you wanna do is curl up under the duvet and sleep some more.
In your dream, ah ah. May be in the next life but if you are Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation in Osun State, you must love jogging uphill, befriend your trainers and learn to ignore those who are panting and drooling after your sexy behind. Seriously.
It’s been more than one year since I officially was sworn in into this office. I’m supposed to have relaxed into the job, right? I’m supposed to be used to the hard grind and merciless hours, right? Wrong on both counts, well done.
First, everyday is production day. Yeah. You are constantly alert, watching out for the darts and bullets. Too many people using your principal as target practice.
My principal, the Governor, he takes it in his strides. He says politics is interesting and that he signed up for service. Good for him. Bad for my shape. Ruins my make-up too.
I hope he’s not reading this.
Those using Oyetola as target practice, why are they doing it in the first place? Why have they chosen to go jogging in their dancing shoes?
First, they didn’t think Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola was going to pose any problem. Osun is broke. He will not be able to pay salaries. He will not be able to clear the backlog of pension arrears. And if he’s struggling with those basics, where will he find funds to do any meaningful projects. So, the bad guys figured, indeed were convinced that Oyetola was going to be easy meat. They figured wrong. They have since discovered that joggers, not dancing shoes were what they need for this race and round. So, each time they look at the remains of their ruined shoes and bleeding feet, they just grab at anything and hurl at the Governor .
I understand their pain. Poor, poor folks. But my guys (as Prosper would say in the TV comedy series, My Flatmates), you need to calm down, accept that this ain’t the race you will win.
All your permutations are destined to miss the mark. Oyetola is determined to make his mark, regardless of every distraction.
How did Governor Oyetola pull the rug from under those who thought he’d not be able to deliver? He ended the season of unpaid or half-paid salaries. The people who run the machinery of government deserve their wages. He pays consistently the backlog of retirement benefits. He implemented the payment of 100% CONMESS (for doctors) and CONHESS (for other health workers). He topped that with the implementation of the new minimum wage, lifted the ban on promotions. Now, workers, active and retired are happy and praying for him.
To think that election campaigns in these parts for a while had been about unpaid and half-paid wages, what are ‘my guys’ going to do now?
Oh, the projects executed, being executed and about to be commissioned are in dozens. Commissioners and heads of agencies are kept on their toes to deliver, all of us. So, every sector has been touched. The empowerment programs excite me. The joy on the faces of the members of Old Students Associations whose schools got their grooves back is awesome. The Primary Health Care Centers have been retrieved from the Snowball, Napoleon and Old Major of Animal Kingdom. From Agric to Commerce, Transport and Works to Security, things are looking up and there is hope Osun will be better than Oyetola met it.
But I must confess, the experience has been awesome. Wait, that does not mean I like all of them. Yes, I like the traditional drummers because I naturally like to dance. So when I step out of my car and the drummers swoop on me, I let go. They cheer me up and in any case, I have to part with some money, so I might as well get value for my investment, right? They drum, I dance a little and pay a little. Sometimes that happens four times in one day. Didn’t I tell you, this job is not a sit-in-your-office-and-drink-coffee job? You are all over the place. I report, I write, I come up with story ideas, I proof read and do all the attached politics.
My biggest lesson though is, there are still good men among our leaders. Not all of them are selfish and self centered. The day Governor Adegboyega Oyetola said to me: “Funke, I don’t want you responding to all those distractors on social media. I want to only see reports about what government is doing. I don’t want any distraction. Just promote and publicise what I’m doing. No embellishment. Strictly what you can defend.”
My jaw dropped. I quickly picked it before it landed on the floor. Wow, is this Governor a politician? Is he one of us? That was in January 2020. I swallowed hard and told myself he’d soon change. Is he not a governor, a Nigerian politician, baked in our political oven? He’d soon know ’whatsup’ and wise up. But Oyetola is still the same old kind, level-headed, warm, soft-spoken, measured leader. Not even the attack on his life in October changed him. Not the looting, not Endsars. Sure-footed daddy of all. He wouldn’t even let anybody be ‘convicted’ for flouting Covid-19 protocols. ‘Go and rev up the enlightenment, Funke. Yes, let them sit by the roadside. But don’t turn anybody into an ex-convict. They’ll need to fill forms, travel out of the country when all this blows over. Let’s look beyond today.”
I’ve learnt how to be calm in the face of extreme provocation. The foolish girl that broke the windscreen of the vehicle I was in the day the Governor was attacked would not have gone scot-free if I wasn’t copying Mr Oyetola. Even my closest family are shocked at how I’ve handled that.
After all the shots, axes and cutlasses attack, all Mr Oyetola had to say to me is: ‘set the records straight. I don’t want their lies to gain traction. Let’s do the decent thing.” Ah, I wanted to fight o, I must confess, because those goons almost made my children orphans that day. But I have calmly reported them to God and the host of heaven. It was not easy to be calm considering many things. Hmmmm. But this Governor teaches you daily not just by what he says, how he says it, but also what he does. Like I told him, I’m ‘prouding’ because he has shown that you can be a politician and still be a good man, that you can love the people you govern even when your life is threatened. He has made my job easy too. It’s been one year and sixty days of very long hours but this apprentice politician from the newsroom is learning fast.