Since the first time I saw a Twitter user apply the term, ‘intellectual prudence’, to describe one of the actions of the Oyo State governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, the phrase stuck with me and I immediately resolved to further explore the import of this phrase in relation to other actions of the governor.
However, I continued to put off this self-imposed task until the night of June 25, when I read the condolence message of Makinde to the family of his predecessor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, over the sad incident of the latter’s death from COVID-19 related complications.
Before I proceed, I will also like to extend my sincere condolences to the Ajimobi family, friends and supporters, and indeed the government and people of Oyo State over the death of the former governor, a charismatic and visionary leader and a politician who made history as the first two-term governor of the state.
Back to where we were (apology to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo), the tone and content of Makinde’s condolence message also appeared to carry a shade of this so-called intellectual prudence. There is a common template for such letters by political leaders and the words they carry are pretty much predictable. But Makinde’s letter was slightly different. It sounded sincere and completely devoid of any political undertone.
First, let us examine the meaning of the word, prudence. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, prudence simply means “intelligence in action”. However, the Catholic dictionary takes it further by describing prudence as an “act of virtue” that involves the following three mental operations: “To take counsel carefully with oneself and from others; to judge correctly on the basis of the evidence at hand; and to direct the rest of one’s activity according to the norms determined after a prudent judgment has been made.”
Put in another way, prudence or intellectual prudence as the case may be, is an emotional state in which a person dispenses with actions or deeds that are in his own personal interest and embraces actions that are in the best interest of everyone. It is fully expressed when a leader especially predicates his actions on what is evidently right, at the expense of what he considers to be right, personally.
Now, I will give a few examples. On May 27, when Makinde inaugurated the Anwar-ul-Islam Basic School, Ipapo in Itesiwaju Local Government Area, he did not only acknowledge the fact that the model school was a brainchild of the Ajimobi administration. He specifically noted that it was one of 22 model schools started by his predecessor, which his own administration had the privilege of completing.
Makinde did not just stop at giving credit to the ex-governor, whose party he defeated at the polls, he also stated categorically that it was the priority of his government to complete all outstanding projects started by his predecessor.
Similarly, on May 29, at the inauguration of the rehabilitated Eleyele Dam, a project that is of unmatched importance to Ibadan residents, given the painful history of flooding in the historical city, Makinde had the following to say: “This afternoon, I commissioned the Eleyele Dam Rehabilitation project. I restated that the Ibadan Urban Flood Management Project initiated by the previous admin was a courageous and bold move to ensure that we do not live the history of the floods of 26th August, 2011 again.”
It was this preceding statement that the Twitter user, @amstrodema, who I referred to at the beginning of this article reacted to as follows: “The fact that you complete projects initiated by the past administration regardless of party differences is a sign of intellectual prudence. You give me goosebumps sometimes sha.”
Again, on June 18, when the governor inaugurated the expanded Security Control Room and City Watch facilities at the Oyo State Security Trust Fund Headquarters, Onireke, Ibadan, he also took time to explain that the project was done by Ajimobi and that all he (Makinde) did was to improve it to make the system more efficient, cost effective and sustainable.
Highlighting some of the improvements made to the system, the governor noted: “The entire system has been reconfigured so that we no longer need to pay internet access fees of N3.5 million/month. Also, we have acquired the license for the software for life so no longer need to run the trial version we met. This facility now wholly belongs to Oyo State.”
The governor further explained some of the enhanced functionalities of the system, including how it is now possible for residents who are in danger or distress to discreetly alert security agents at the touch of a button on their mobile. The technology also allows operatives to narrow down the location of the victim in real time. The rest of this is a story for another day.
One more thing that made a lasting impression on me was the following statement by Makinde at the same occasion: “For those familiar with my statements during my campaign trail, you’ll recall that I was going to scrap this entire architecture because it was like a white elephant. But I was convinced to give it another shot and today we have been rewarded with a functional centre.” This indeed is a classic demonstration of intellectual prudence.
Finally, back to the beginning, some of Makinde’s assertions in his condolence message to family of his late predecessor, Ajimobi, in my opinion firmly established his sincerity of purpose, high level of emotional intelligence and the possession of a high degree of intellectual prudence.
For me, the most striking part of that message is where Makinde, in a manner most uncharacteristic of politicians, said the following about the late Ajimobi: “Surely, he will be remembered for leaving a blueprint for some of the activities that our administration is now undertaking.”
What manner of politician openly acknowledges the inherent benefits of projects started by his main opponent and constantly restates his commitment to completing them all, even to point of admitting that he has adopted part of his developmental blueprint? It can only be a politician who puts the welfare of the people over and above politics in every regard.
One can therefore conclude that Adebayo Adelabu, the governorship candidate of Ajimobi’s All Progressives Congress, who lost to Makinde in last year’s election, was merely betraying his own lack of intellectual prudence, when he accused the governor of lacking adequate preparation for governance.
According to Adelabu, this was why Makinde had been busy completing and inaugurating projects started by his predecessor instead of initiating his own set of projects. Adelabu was saying in essence that were he to be the one in Makinde’s shoes, he would have abandoned all the projects left uncompleted by Ajimobi, despite their obvious benefits to the people, and initiate new ones just to show the people that a new man is in charge.
By the same token, one may equally credit veteran politician and candidate of the African Democratic Congress in last year’s governorship election in Oyo State, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, with the gift of prescience going by his account of how he turned down overtures made to him by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to support Adelabu against Makinde in the same election.
Hear him: “Despite ongoing Coalition talks at that time, I still gave audience to Governor Fayemi, a man for whom l have a great deal of respect, and who I’d had a wonderful relationship with, right from our days in NADECO. I respectfully turned down his passionate plea that I align with Bayo Adelabu and the APC.
“Despite my progressive roots, which Governor Fayemi alluded to in that meeting, l explained to him my reasons for turning him, and indeed Adelabu, down. The crux of our discussion, then, was that every politics is local, and that it was in the best interest of Oyo State at that time of its history, that I coalesced with Engr Seyi Makinde, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to win the gubernatorial election.
“I wish to conclude that despite the advertised failings of post-victory agreements, I sincerely do not have any regrets for being an active participant in the Coalition that brought in Engr Seyi Makinde, as it was honestly, the best decision, in those circumstances, and sincerely, in the interest of Oyo State.”
With the hindsight of Makinde’s sterling performances in the last one year, it was also likely the Oyo electorate were gifted with some sort of clairvoyance to have voted for Makinde so massively during the election.
Anyone familiar with the late Ajimobi, would readily attest to the fact that one of his most favourite statements was that government is a continuum and that it is not compulsory for any particular government to complete all the projects it started. He must have said this in the belief that his successor, just like himself, would feel duty bound to complete any such projects in the overall interest of the people.
For this reason, Ajimobi strongly desired for Adelabu to succeed him. But the omnipresent knew that Ajimobi, for all his efforts, needed a Makinde to build on his legacy. In the end, God did not only grant Ajimobi the unprecedented privilege of governing Oyo State for two successive terms, He also gave him a successor he truly, truly deserved.
Finally, inspite of the avoidable brouhaha over Ajimobi’s burial site, I am sure the former governor is truly resting in peace, knowing that the people of his beloved Oyo State are in good hands, and also knowing that his legacies are intact, and actually being built upon. What remains for Makinde to do is to appropriately immortalise the memory of this great man.
Ladigbolu is a journalist based in Lagos.