By human nature, change elicits anxiety and new expectation. This obviously describes the atmosphere in Ondo State as Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu takes over as the new helmsman of the sunshine state. Gone were the negative campaigns against the person of the new governor during the build-up campaign to the gubernatorial election.
Even the bickering within the All Progressive Party (APC) has since fizzled out; leaders appear to have closed ranks with a resolve to work for the success of the party. For the people of Ondo State, what is uppermost in their minds now is to rally support for Akeredolu to take the state to the next level.
However, considering the keen contest that produced Akeredolu and his perceived cosmopolitan nature, the new governor is expected to hit the ground running almost immediately to prove the doubting Thomas wrong. Governor Akeredolu should follow the foot step of Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos, who was seen two years ago as a neophyte in politics but within a year in office turned the table around and warmed himself into the hearts of Lagosians. Today, Ambode has suddenly become the new bride as a result of his infrastructural development of Lagos. As things are, even those who initially thought Ambode would not be able to fit into former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s shoes are begin to have a rethink.
Like Ambode, Akeredolu doesn’t appear like someone who could sway his audience with oration. But what Ambode lacks in speeches, he sure has it in performance. No wonder; his works are speaking for him anywhere in the commercial city. Two things will make the job easy for Akeredolu. One, there will be little or no distraction that normally arises from pending cases of aggrieved contestants in courts. Another thing that will make the job easy is the fact that Akeredolu cannot be linked to any political godfather that could be a burden on him. And as a professional, who had reached the peak of his profession before becoming governor, Akeredolu will definitely not be carried away by unnecessary perks of the office.
Unlike many Nigerian leaders, Akeredolu will have his name written in gold if he tries to live above petty politics of ignoring existing developmental projects embarked upon by his predecessor in office. This advice is necessary because the fear in some quarters is that he too may abandon the existing projects and start new ones to earn cheap popularity that typical Nigerian politicians are known for. His interest should lie in what will bring total good to the people. To this end, one will expect Akeredolu to focus on works that would create jobs and develop the state. Interestingly, he appears like a leader who is coming in to build and not to destroy and whoever that has that in mind will not abandon developmental projects of his predecessors.
To succeed at this crucial moment when there is paucity of funds in the country and poor rating of his party –APC, Akeredolu is expected to think out of the box. With innovation and assemblage of good economic team, his performance in office will be next to none. Thank God, he is not coming in by accident but through a process that has allowed him to plan and think of what to do to alleviate poverty in the state. Over the years while aspiring for the office, Akeredolu is believed to have mapped out good strategy to rescue the state.
During a recent visit to Akure and Owo, Akedolu’s home town, by this reporter, a few indigenes of the state spoke on the areas they want the new governor to focus on. One of the few leaders from Akure, who against all odds and criticism from those who insisted that Akure must produce governor in 2016, Honourable Sunday Abegunde, described Akeredolu’s emergence as the best that could happen to the state at this time.
“My reason for supporting Akeredolu was based on the need to have the best person for the job without giving in to emotion or sentiment. We saw in him what many people didn’t see and we are not in doubt that he would reposition the state for better. Akeredolu is not like the typical politicians around, who will resort to unnecessary rhetoric just to win election. He shared with us the blueprint through which he wanted to uplift the state and given his integrity and accomplishment over the years, we knew he was the best person for the job. In the next few months, everybody will see the wind of change blowing all over Ondo State.”
A chieftain of the APC in the diaspora, who is equally an active member of the party in the state, Alhaji Kazeem Falodun, believes that Governor Akeredolu will take Ondo to a greater height if he can concentrate on long term projects that will create employment and strengthen the revenue base of the sunshine state.
“I will urge the incoming governor to take another look at the Olokola Free Trade zone, the Bitumen project and the possibility of having a port in Ondo State, to attract investors and create jobs. With those three projects, Ondo will be well positioned as economic haven. If Olokola had been given attention in the past, Ondo would have become as rich, if not richer than Lagos State. With Olokola, many investors would have come to Ondo State,’’
Another indigene of the state, who spoke to THISDAY in Akure, Mr. Femi Odere, also expressed his confidence in the new administration. He however urged the governor to overhaul the entire civil service in order for his programme to have enduring impact on the state.
“With the fresh revelation in the country, we have now seen that corruption has pervaded all aspects of our system. Meanwhile, the root of this corruption is in the civil service both at the federal, states and local governments. To this end, the civil service must be pruned down and while doing this, the governor must not forget the perennial issue of ghost workers. In 21st century when technology advancement has simplified things, it is embarrassing that ghost workers menace is still a headache in our system.
Measures should be put in place to eradicate it finally in Ondo State.”
Speaking further, Odere called on government to work closely with the House of Assembly for a law that would address the menace of ghost workers. ‘’Through a formidable law, those who are benefitting or pilfering from the ghost worker syndrome or those benefitting from within and outside government should be prosecuted while their properties should be confiscated. This is necessary because free money is no more in the country and is not likely to surface again in the system.’’
Odere, a public affairs analyst, also reasoned that there were some people in government whose services were no more required. To address this, he advised the government to put measures in place through which some civil servants could be brought out, especially those who are approaching their retirement age.
‘’For those who have few years to spend and they are no more contributing much to the day-to-day running of government, their salaries can be paid up front. Through this, government can successfully unleash another set of entrepreneurs into the system. They will create jobs, pay tax and contribute to the economy. This is possible because many of them will go into agriculture and other SMEs,” he said.
From any angle one chooses to look at what Akeredolu years will look like in Ondo State, it is obvious that the new helmsman sure has a task ahead. Though Ondo State enjoys a special privilege in the South West as the only officially recognised oil producing state with appreciative federal government allocation, all the same, it requires a forthright leader to harness the resources and utilise them for the total good of the populace.