Soyombo Opeyemi writes that the Senator Ibikunle Amosun administration is setting a new standard in governance in Ogun State; a tradition that must not decline in the future
By the time the 26 world-class model schools under construction across the three senatorial districts in Ogun State are completed, I wonder if the proprietors of mission schools in the state will still want to take possession of their schools or ask the state government to retain its current ownership of some of those institutions and turn them also into model schools. By the time these top-notch model schools with state-of-the-art facilities commence admission process, the oft-quoted remarks of the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, would have turned out prophetic.
“We are not interested in taking over any school; all we have said is to ask them to give us a couple of years to sort out ourselves. A policy that would have seen over 20,000 children roam the streets in one fell swoop is certainly not in public interest. In fact, our plan is to give the private schools a run for their money by the kind of facilities we intend to put in our public schools,” he once said.
The mission schools which constitute over 90 per cent of the academies in Ogun State, will now need to ask themselves a lot of questions. Here are Amosun's model schools that stand out; he is providing free and qualitative education for our children. Can we attract children to our schools by providing the same structures and facilities that Amosun has provided in these model schools? Can we also provide free education to our children?
Here lies the concept of ‘The Ogun Standard’. The Ogun Standard is a philosophy propounded by Amosun. It means any project or activity embarked upon by the state government should set a benchmark for others. Such a project should comply with international best practices; it should be a reference point; a model for others to copy.
I have illustrated this with our efforts in the education sector, particularly the model schools' initiative of the Amosun-led administration. It does not end there...I have interacted with members of some of the communities where the model schools are sited and they are upbeat about the modern educational edifices, the very first of such in the state. They can hardly wait to see this dream come to reality.
They know that beside the knowledge and vocational training to be provided by these schools, they will open up the host communities and hasten their pace of socio-economic advancement. More hands will be employed. Commerce will increase. Other development projects will be attracted.
This is also part of the Ogun Standard. Every project should also factor in economic linkages, backward integration or beneficial value chain for the citizens of the state. The Ogun Standard is also illustrated in the security architecture of Ogun State. The state-of-the-art armoured personnel carriers purchased by the current administration to contain the security challenge it inherited are the very first of such in Nigeria. They are of the latest technology in the world. They are indeed of the Ogun Standard. As Amosun posited, "we also value the lives of our security personnel; they must be provided with equipment that as much as possible guarantee their own security as well." I understand a couple of other states are trying to purchase these latest APCs.
Said the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, on April 20th, 2012, during the launch of the APCs and other security equipment provided by the state government: "I have served in all the six geographical zones of this country, I have never seen the kind of equipment you are donating to security agents today. This is the first of such maximum donation I have ever seen since I have been serving as a police officer."
In the same vein, if the then Minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji, had made it to Abeokuta on that fateful day when the administration of Amosun inaugurated 500 transformers for distribution to communities across the state, he would probably have spoken along the same line as Abubakar.
I am not sure of any state government in the country that has made such quantum of purchase in one fell swoop. As these transformers are energised across the length and breadth of the state, the battery chargers, barbers, hair-dressers, video-club owners, business centres, auto-mechanics, auto-electricians, welders, tailors and others whose businesses had been hitherto paralysed by lack of power, will have their businesses energised and be able to contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state; unproductive hands are engaged and many idle hands are taken off the streets. Such a gargantuan intervention in the critical sector of the economy is also of the Ogun Standard. It's one single project that creates massive beneficial ripple effects.
The Ogun Standard as well takes cognisance of present realities and the future, hence the Bus Mass Transit Scheme (BMT) launched by the Amosun administration. As at the time Ogun was created, the population of the state would probably not be more than a million, but today we are about 5 million. How can we continue to rely on taxi cabs and narrow roads for transportation? And so, for the first time in the history of the state, we have modern luxury buses introduced, even as the governor continues the offensive against poor road network... Look at the very first ultra-modern secretariat of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ogun State chapter that sits splendidly on the Abiola Way, Abeokuta, it was built with the support of the Amosun administration. Imagine the taste and touch of excellence! That's the Ogun Standard, which sets benchmark for others.
I saw the expression on the face of Amosun in Ota during the local government assessment tour early in the year. He was to inaugurate a road. He said frankly that "the road is good as it will end the distress of those communities, open up the area and increase commercial activities. But this is not of the Ogun Standard!"
A road of the Ogun Standard, according to the Commissioner for Works, Mr. Lekan Adegbite, "will have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years barring wilful damage. It will have four or six lanes with drains, sidewalk, median, lighting and greens." The Ibara-Totoro Road, constructed by the current government, is of the Ogun Standard, indeed the very first of such road in the history of Ogun State. It has become a reference point even as a couple of the above features are in the process of being added to that highway.
Talking about the durability of Ogun roads, someone from the opposition once remarked that apart from the small Oke-Ilewo road in Abeokuta, there was no single road constructed by the immediate past administration that outlived it, in contrast to the Chief Olusegun Osoba roads. I thought that was hyperbolic but as we toured the entire state from Ipokia to Ijebu-Waterside, from Ago-Iwoye to Sango Ota, ijebu-Ode to Ilaro, etc., I could not see a single road constructed by the last government that had not been plastered and re-plastered. The sight of an accident victim with multiple injuries emerging from a hospital (with plasters all over) better illustrates the point here.
If Ibara-Totoro Road is the first of its kind by any state government in Ogun State, the Ibara Flyover Bridge under construction is also the first by any state government in the annals of the state. What about the ongoing footbridge that sits above the Ibara-Totoro Road? It is to be fitted with an air conditioner - that is, replicating in Ogun the modern facilities we see abroad; it is the first of such in Nigeria.
All these have set the benchmark below which no future governments in Ogun must bring down. You can perform better but you are not permitted to fall below this standard that has been set by Amosun. That is the concept of the Ogun Standard.
It's about having a vision that transcends the present, the immediate. And wherever the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the late Chief Bisi Onabanjo are, they will be happy that there is again in Ogun, a man of vision, resolutely committed to the mission to rebuild the state.
*Opeyemi is Special Assistant on Media to the Governor of Ogun State