In what would pass as the most cheering news from Oyo State for thousands of residents in the state and across Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and even Edo states, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu finally approved Governor ‘Seyi Makinde’s request to upgrade the Ibadan Airport, Alakia into an international airport.
The approval by the President underscored the import of determination and strong will that leaders must demonstrate to achieve success in governance. The President’s nod relived the words of Socrates, the Greek Philosopher, that “when you want success as badly as you want the air, then you will get it.”
Governor Makinde is not Plato; he definitely didn’t learn at the feet of Socrates. But he must have studied the Athenian and his views about tenacity and purposeful leadership to know that there is no other secret of success than desiring it and working hard to get it, as Socrates opined. For GSM, the approval by the President was a dream come true; it was a deserving conclusion for his tenacious struggle to rejig Oyo State’s economy through an expanded Ibadan Airport.
In the last five years, Governor Makinde has been striking the iron at the same spot, literally speaking, determined to make a masterpiece out of a once-so-glorious edifice that has been left to ruin.
Governor Makinde, the electrical engineer who has since etched his name in gold as the Engineer of Modern Oyo State, made it clear from the outset that he would fly where angels did not dare to tread, with regards to infrastructure development. He knew and made it clear that for the state to move forward, something drastic must be done about its economy.
According to him, that vision to grow Oyo State by expanding its economy would remain a mirage once nothing is done to address the decayed infrastructure across the length and breadth of the state. In his policy document, Oyo State Roadmap to Accelerated Development, 2019-2023, which guided his first term as governor of the state, Governor Makinde made it abundantly clear that he would attack the infrastructure deficit in the state and build infrastructure that will target his administration’s economic expansion agenda.
But while the people looked forward to and got heart-warming results from the government in the area of road constructions and rehabilitations, with the government successfully building roads that connect all zones of Oyo State, not many people looked at the infrastructure albatross from the perspective of Governor Makinde, the thoroughbred visionary, who appeared to see tomorrow and had determined to make adequate provisions for it.
In his estimation, the infrastructure deficit in Oyo State was beyond the Trunks A, B or C roads, which were in deplorable states when he took office in 2019, the decay that needed fixing extended to the historic Ibadan Airport, Alakia, which had become a shadow of itself and had been overlooked by successive administrations since 1999.
Started in the late 70s and commissioned in 1982 by Senator Joseph Wayas, President of the Senate at that time, the Ibadan Airport is one of the smallest among the 16 Airports being operated by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). With a runway orientation of 05R/23L, a runway dimension of 2400MX45M and an approach of 122.6 MHZ, the Airport has had the inglorious record of not having been upgraded once since it was built.
Upon his assumption of office, Governor Makinde had made it clear that the airport is tied to the economic growth of Oyo State, adding that his vision was to make sure it is upgraded into an international airport and is able to provide the needed support as an important fulcrum for the state’s new economic structure that will see it compete with the best of the rest.
Typical of GSM, who has proven himself a worthy student of Socrates; an administrator that understands vision, purpose and tenacity required to turn a dream into reality, he led the Oyo State government to put its money where its mouth was by embarking on several efforts aimed at achieving the bigger picture of Ibadan Airport assuming an international standard. Beginning with the provision of a Fire Truck and a Pick-up Van for the airport to the construction of a new Lounge, the Oyo State government took the challenge head-on.
Upon seeing that the state was, indeed, serious about its resolve to change the story of the airport, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) first upgraded the facility to a Category 6 Status in April 2021.
In a letter with Ref No FAAN/IB/AM/421C/VOLI dated 29th April, 2021, the Ibadan Airport Manager, Aiyenuro Oghenetega E., appreciated the Oyo State government under Governor Makinde, saying: “With a deep sense of gratitude, I humbly write to appreciate and congratulate Your Excellency on the recent attainment of the Category 6 status of the Fire Cover for the Ibadan Airport.
“Oyo State has been part of the process of the attainment of the Cat 6 status vis-a-vis recognition by NCAA from the inception. The management of FAAN is aware and appreciative of all the human and material resources the State has committed to ensure this feat is achieved in record time.
“I wish to state, therefore, that this feat may be pronounced as the exclusive achievement of this administration.”
As a man who understood that to achieve success, one must be unrelenting, Governor Makinde had immediately followed up the small win of the CAT 6 upgrade with the construction of a 500,000 Litres Aviation Fuel Dispensing Facility, which will enable bigger planes to be able to land in Ibadan and refuel. That success had also immediately been followed up with the planned expansion of the runway.
But why has Makinde been playing the blacksmith, hitting at the iron on the same spot regarding Ibadan Airport? The governor had set a target for himself; that Ibadan Airport would become the entry and exit points for hundreds of local and foreign investors, who have made Oyo State their destination following a myriad of policies and programmes that have made the state one of the best in terms of ease of doing business.
In what would be GSM’s biggest case for an upgraded Ibadan Airport, the governor argued in his last newsletter that an international airport would make his government’s effort to turn Oyo State into an economic hub easier to achieve.
“It is a fact of history that Ibadan is a nodal city, the place where traders arrived with their caravans. I always remember this when I think of the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam with their byline ‘See, Buy, Fly’. Ibadan has the potential of being the Schiphol of Nigeria with an international airport. We will have more international visitors to Come, See, Enjoy Oyo State tourist attractions. And as they come for business, leisure or bleisure, they will see and enjoy spending their money here as they patronise our local businesses,” Makinde explained.
Already, Makinde government’s unassailable successes in agribusiness development, which have attracted over N10 billion in private sector investments and the massive transformation ongoing in the mining and tourism sectors, where investors are already milling round the state as well as the 100 Million USD Shell Gas Infrastructure deal, which the state government recently brokered with Shell Nigeria, among others, are enough reasons to have an international airport in Ibadan. They are the realities of the economic hub that Oyo State has become.
Also as part of his targets for the state, the governor had made it clear that pilgrims to Saudi Arabia would be airlifted from Ibadan Airport. This dream, when it becomes a reality, will no doubt boost the state’s economy in no small way.
With the approval granted to the state government by President Tinubu, to carry out an upgrade on Ibadan Airport, which will see the airport’s runway expanded and the facility renewed with modern features, it is now a matter of time before Makinde takes his deserved bow as a successful student of Socrates. He will take that bow as a student that has demonstrated courage and tenacity in leadership.
That bow will be worth the wait and it would certainly attract applause from teeming residents of Oyo State, who have seen about seven elected governors come and go before Makinde, with none of them doing anything tangible to change the lot of Ibadan Airport. In Makinde, residents of Oyo State have had a courageous governor, who continues to use every opportunity to demonstrate his understanding of Isaiah 8:12, which says “do not call conspiracy everything these people call a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” The governor has never been shy to take the bull by the horn; he has never been afraid to ask the Federal Government or any government, for that matter, for approvals on issues that will benefit his people.
Before the upgrade is completed and Makinde climbs the rostrum to take his bow, shall we not raise a toast to Socrates’ student born from Ajia, Ibadan, who has been showing that leaders can make so much difference with determination and tenacity?

Alao is the Special Assistant (Print Media) to Governor Seyi Makinde