Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun
Last week, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, led some of his cabinet members in an interactive session with newsmen where the governor reeled out his achievements in the last 15 months of assuming office. Sheriff Balogun reports
Venue was the Press Centre, Government House, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State. Clustered round Governor Ibikunle Amosun of the state, were the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Alhaji Yusuph Olaniyonu; Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Shuaibu; Commissioner for Housing, Mr. Daniel Adejobi; Senior Special Adviser on Media, Mrs. Funmi Wakama, as well as other media assistants to the governor.
The event was to give a situation report on the administration as Amosun, for the first time since assuming office in the last 15 months, spoke on some of the achievements of his administration.
By way of introduction, he said: “I believe our work should speak for us, but I also know that we should collaborate with you (media) to inform the people on what we are doing.” The governor’s analysis was centred majorly on his five-point agenda which he christened ‘Mission to Rebuild Ogun State”.
He said the state was known for its pre-eminence in many key areas of the socio-economic life of the country, but added that the people of Ogun should not live in the past but align with modern day realities.
The governor’s first call of his achievement was in the area of education. He said he was not inclined to cast aspersions on the performance of anybody but only needed to let people know that his government met dilapidated classrooms all around the state and “we realized that a lot of our students are out of school.”
Consequent upon this, Amosun said his government decided to return some of the schools to their traditional owners- the missionaries. “I have no problem with that, so far there are schools that can accommodate those who cannot afford to pay the high fees in private schools, yet deserve access to quality education.”
The unfortunate aspect of this, he said was that the state had a preponderance of missionary schools- good schools. “In fact, about 90 percent of the schools in Ogun State were established by missionaries and what we discovered was that in the first year of returning the schools to the missionaries, 19,000 students dropped out of school and by the following year, the figure jumped to 21,000. We came in and introduced free education and we were able to get 20,000 students back to school.
“The missionaries want their schools. Yes, we will give them but we need time and resources to do it. We then went on the offensive by renovating 100 blocks of classrooms in100 schools in 100 days of the administration. By now, the number must have risen to 200,” he said.
The governor explained that “the enrolment figure now increases every day. We saw the long-time neglect of the schools and so, we decided to construct model secondary schools and they will be ready by early next year. The plan initially was to get them ready before the start of the current academic session but we had some challenges that delayed them. We had land challenges.
“The kind of schools we envisage is one that would rival some universities. We need land for the facilities we wanted to construct there. But by early next year, 15 of these 26 model schools would be ready. We’ve reverted back to free education and that, to me, is the most important thing,” he said.
Another issue that raised curiosity at the gathering was the slashing of salaries of political office holders in his cabinet. Defending his action, Amosun said “we reduced salaries of political office holders because we need money for development. We felt that because of our financial situation, we must make sacrifice. It will be like that until when we are buoyant as a state.”
But the governor described as his greatest challenge since assuming office, demolition of houses during the construction of six lanes at Totoro area of the state. “The challenge I have is when I have to demolish homes of people to pave the way for road. I am not happy at all because this has been the abode of people for ages and now they have to move to make way for a road. I am sad by that but we must plan for our children and work for their future.”
Amosun said he was excited about the commissioning of the Ibara-Sokori road because people whose houses were marked for demolition waved at him, an indication that they saw the speed and commitment of government on the project.
On the issue of severance benefit for political office holders who served in the last administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the governor admitted not paying yet and for reasons he also explained. “I am yet to pay it. If those who are still working now are still being owed a backlog of 11 months unpaid salary and you that caused the whole mess are asking for severance pay. I will pay but it is not a priority.”
Infrastructure development is one area government appears to be taking seriously and across the three senatorial districts. Amosun said before he came on board, the roads were full of potholes and that motorists went through hell moving around. But this ugly trend, he claimed his government has addressed as motorists now move round with ease. A case like that, he claimed was not part of initial plan but a stop-gap measure to keep government running without offering lame excuses.
“What do I mean by that? Our goal is to construct modern roads that will last for over 10, 15 years. That is why the thickness of our roads is about four layers of bitumen. The roads must be wide enough to accommodate mass transit buses with six lanes, minimum.”
His kind of roads, he said, must have all the furniture of world class roads like the pedestrian sidewalks, flower tracks, pedestrian bridges, and maintenance holes for water, internet, gas pipelines, drainages, and street lights.
According to him, some of the barely functional roads had been constructed since creation of the state in 1976. “How can something that was designed with just one million users in mind conveniently accommodate the present population and pressure that we have now? We are close to five million now.” The governor, citing Lagos as an example, said what happens in Lagos was a big lesson for the state. “The World Bank, for instance, won’t support you on any mass transit except you have a lot of six lane roads to support the vehicles.
“This is because they will tell you if you have four lanes and the big buses take one, are you saying the other vehicles will use just one lane? You must have at least three lanes so that when you dedicate one lane to mass transit busses, the other two would be available for other road users.
“Someone did one in Lagos and this is what they are enjoying today. We are committed to constructing these Ogun Standard roads. I can assure you that though, we have just one completed now; others would be ready by our second anniversary. We should have eight of such roads ready by our second anniversary.”
Urban renewal is another aspect of development the governor said is not subject to debate. He said the state has to move forward and that the founding fathers of Ogun state and those that governed before are futuristic and they did their best. “They built this place we are presently using as state secretariat. But we can’t be like this for ever. We need to improve on it and keep pace with time. We don’t want to do housing estate for the fun of it; each of the three senatorial districts would have two estates each.
“In Ogun Central, because of the high population of civil servants, we are dedicating one for them at Kemta Idiaba. We also have another one tailored along the one that Chief Olusegun Osoba did. We want to do something like that behind the secretariat here. We will begin the sight and services there. We will also have similar ones in Ilishan Remo. But these things are not what can be realized in one month,” he added.