08 Aug 2020 Speech on the National Workers’ Day (May Day) Celebration
When I was taking over the affairs of government on May 29, 2019, I never envisaged that our first Worker’s Day celebration would happen without the usual pomp. No one would have thought at that time, that in just about a year, the world would be thrown into confusion as they struggle to understand a new strain of the coronavirus disease. But as the saying goes, “you have to take the bad with the good.”
Historically, this day has been set aside as a holiday in solidarity with workers. It is a day to remember that the labours of workers, in the public and private sector and in the formal and informal sector, is the back on which our economy rests. It is a day to take stock of how we, as a nation, have been treating our workforce and what we need to do to improve their working conditions. It is a day to reflect and assess. It is also a day to commend and appraise.
Let me start by commending every worker in Oyo State as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Not just the health workers who are leading the charge and risking daily exposure to this disease, but the volunteers from various sectors who are working in little ways and big ways to ensure that we prevent, contain and control the spread of COVID-19 in our state.
The next couple of months are going to be difficult ones, but we are working hard to mitigate the shocks to our economy. Already, we have secured the cooperation of the legislature to take a 30% cut to their monthly allocations, while senior government appointees take 50% pay cuts. This is because we feel that the economic safety of the workforce must be prioritised.
We must on this day, appreciate the efforts of those who have taken pay cuts so that others may be catered for. I am happy that under this administration, the wellbeing of the common man takes precedence. I give you my word; we will continue to put in the work needed to ensure that you are never paid with “bear with us” at the end of any month.
We salute the workers who have had to sacrifice their earnings at this time, those whose businesses have been affected by the partial lockdown in Oyo State. Private schools cannot operate at this time. Event planners are also badly hit; you can’t run your operations when there are no gatherings. Night clubs have lost income; the curfews seem to be targeted at your business. Cinemas are facing huge losses. Transporters are taking cuts; they have been directed to operate at 60% capacity. The principles of social distancing have also affected the income of many more businesses and individuals who rely on their daily income. Many of you have lost your jobs.
But as our people say, ” Ilé ọba t’ójó, ẹwà ló bùsi.” When the palace of a king burns, it behoves the architects to redesign the dwelling place and make it more elegant than the first.
The COVID-19 pandemic has struck. It is now the responsibility of us all to build something out of this pandemic that will make generations to come proud.
Post COVID-19, we will be left with an economy which must be grown and sustained. This is why I ran for governor, for a time like this. I will make the tough decisions so that our economy can thrive.
We want to get our economy back on track. This is why we have started opening up the system while keeping an eye on the reports from the Oyo State COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre.
We have partially opened up the State Secretariat. We are picking up infrastructural projects that we have had to hold off. Already, some projects have been approved in the last week. We are injecting funds to kickstart our economic recovery.
Amid this pandemic, on April 14, 2020, I signed the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency Bill into law. The core mandate of this agency is to create Private, Public and Development Organisation Partnerships that will ensure food security in Oyo State and grow our economy.
We are taking these steps because of you, the workers on whose back the economy rests.
I remember, during my inaugural speech, I had asked for your patience because we could not pay the newly introduced minimum wage. I promised that we would pay, but that you should give us a little time. You did. And we did not let you down. Less than ten months later, we not only approved the payment of the new minimum wage, we paid the backlog from January 2020. And by the grace of God, we will keep paying it. The 25th of every month will remain the date when you receive your salaries every month.
We will continue to prioritise your health and safety.
This pandemic has shown how decayed our healthcare system is. We have had to invest in upgrading and equipping our healthcare facilities. We are proud of the work we have done in the one-hundred-bed Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo. Now we are working at upgrading the facilities at the Agbami Chest Centre, Jericho and the isolation unit at LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso. We will be moving to Saki and Igbo-Ora afterwards. We helped to upgrade the Diagnostic Centre at the Virology Department of the University College Hospital, Ibadan. As far as fighting COVID-19 is concerned, we are testing more, just as we have better facilities to manage cases. Please, keep following the directives of the Oyo State COVID-19 Task Force.
I am convinced that if we keep working together, we will not only build our economy, we will make it better than it was before COVID-19 struck. We remain open to ideas that will help our economy grow. Those businesses that have been especially affected at this time, we are open to listening to your ideas and suggestions to bring you back to stream gradually.
At this time, we are leveraging on the agriculture sector. Food security remains essential. We must move from simply growing and exporting food crops to agro-processing. We are starting with turning the two farm settlements at Akufo and Eruwa into farm estates, but we plan to scale up and incorporate the other five settlements across the state.
We promised you that we would build a strong economy and we will deliver a strong economy. I have seen in the past weeks some articles which have attempted to divide us. They have insinuated rifts within my cabinet, and have tried to make it look like we are not united in this battle to restore the economic health of our great state completely.
I want to assure you, the good people of Oyo State, that these are just disgruntled people clutching at straws. The entire cabinet will continue to work with you to ensure that Oyo State attains its rightful place in Nigeria. Together, we can do this.
Great Oyo State Workers!
Happy Workers’ Day.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
God bless Oyo State.
Governor Seyi Makinde, May 1, 2020.