Femi Ogbonnikan writes that Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State has committed himself to run an administration that is fair, just, equitable and inclusive
What looked impossible to many has happened. Prince Dapo Abiodun has assumed the mantle of leadership of Ogun state, as the fifth executive governor. Having taken the oath of office, the new governor will to hit the ground running. With high expectations, the people of Ogun state are full of enthusiasm for the change of baton.
The eight-year tenure of the immediate past governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was a harrowing memory of untold hardship brought to bear on the citizens. Most hit were workers of the state-owned tertiary institutions, students, artisan, traders and pensioners, who are praying not to have a repeat of such an insensitive government.
Keen followers of events in Ogun State see the much-touted legacy projects, Amosun claimed to have executed as nothing, but mere window dressing to score cheap publicity to save his drowning political machinery. The power sector that he was expected to invest in was neglected, but he elected to embark on white elephant projects (for examples, flyovers, model colleges, road extension, etc) that have no direct bearing on the citizenry. At night, virtually every part of the state capital (Abeokuta) is thrown into total blackout.
Poised to make a marked difference, Abiodun constituted an Economic Transition Team, made up of a constellation of stars, led by Mr. Tunde Lemo, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to draw a road map for the socio-economic development and growth of the state.
At an inauguration lecture at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto-Abeokuta, Mr Fola Adeola, former Managing Director (MD), Guaranty Trust Bank delivered a paper titled, ‘Good Governance In Public Administration’, in his capacity as chairman of the event. He berated successive administrations in the state, for failing to implement the recommendations of past committees. Chiefly, he situated the problem on the over-bearing influence of sycophants and booth-lickers who mislead elected governors.
He said, “Campaigning and winning an election anywhere in the world is an act of courage and submission to the peoples’ will. As soon as they win, the electorates will never find them (elected candidates) again. I would be less than honest if I did not admit that when the governor-elect called me, I was far away in Australia and he requested that I chair this event. My acceptance was reluctant. I was happy for him, yet I was reluctant. Why? Because I have been here before, almost to the date, 16 years ago. I gave the inauguration address at the swearing-in of my dear friend, Gbenga Daniel. It seems to me that after this electoral victory, there is a declaration of new dawn by the new office holder.”
Adeola went to state what in his estimation often leads to a blockade of communication between those in government and the governed. “The problem is that, soon after the declaration of that dawn, darkness invariably returns in the gap between the dawn and the dust.” He explained his reluctance in accepting Governor Abiodun’s invitation to give the inauguration lecture. “I am tired. We are here again after another election. The governor-elect has convinced us to speak on the subject of good governance in public administration. What does that really mean? At the beginning of each new dawn, committees are set up that require hope and the best of the state minds are rolled into those committees. This time has not been different. The Governor-elect has set up even more committees than in the previous eras. If it has been based on that alone, we should believe him. Shouldn’t we? But we have seen committees before, we have also seen them transiting into four years administration when nothing happens, in respect of the recommendations that you make. And you know what? As they say in my own branch of Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), “nothing spoil”. May be, what is different is the thing that has convinced us around. Good governance with costly implications, does Mr. Abiodun have it with him? Does he know what good governance is? Governance is willful submission of the self to rules and regulations, envisage rules by laws, not rule by men. Is that what he wants to do? I don’t believe him. Why not? Because, winners of an election, the drivers of the dawns are accountable to no one. Like his predecessors, they now put our state’s cheque book in his pocket and he needs not consult us before he uses it. He may be saying that his tenure will be different that he will submit himself and his friends to the best interest of the state, that the agenda he will execute will be for us and, not for any other purpose.”
These were hard words coming from Adeola. But it looks like Abiodun chose him for that purpose. He did not want someone who will romanticize his ego and in the end say nothing that will challenge him to do some deep soul searching.
Adeola did not spare the immediate past administration of Senator Amosun. His reference to his era was clear. He said, “Most governors do uncompleted projects with the state’s cheque book. We have seen few of such cases these days, of imaginary bridges and phantom projects. That said that is our democracy. In Ogun State, It will be uncharitable to say we have not witnessed significant investment in infrastructure, just not in human capital that will bring the infrastructure alive. For the economic good of the state, as the Yoruba says “a n ko ile, a o ko omo, ta lo ma gbe ile na ta, bi kose omo ti a o ko?” (meaning, “if we build a home, and we don’t teach a child in a moral way of life, who would sell off the home if not the untrained child?”). It is the same Yoruba that says ‘eni ba mo iyi wura l’a nta fun” (meaning, “He who values gold, gold is sold to him”‘). Do we know what good governance is all about? Or are we just here for the celebrations of another dawn? Do we know when to say we have enough of bridges and roads, estate named without a president? Do we know when to ask for quality education? Are we people to whom gold can be sold to? Finally, does Dapo Abiodun have the goal to serve? Does the governor-elect know what good governance means and is he prepared to deliver it? We have established that he has some courage, and we have established that he has humility when he is not in control of the outcome.”
After raising these important questions, Adeola went on to proffer the solutions he deems fit, as a stakeholder in the Ogun polity. In his definition, good governance, is submission of self. He advised Abiodun to focus on good governance to the best interest of the state’s development. Going in that direction, he said will “develop economies, not just buildings schools that provide knowledge to the changing global economy, not just building with fans in every local government, not just schools, hospital buildings, even, if this is your soul legacy in this office, you will give Ogun State, possibly, Nigeria, the gift of the century. If on the other hand you do not, you need not worry, the bar is so low that the heaven will not fall, you will only be like the rest in the same mould of those who came before you. May God help you to become better than you are.”
Also, Prof. Pat Utomi, guest speaker of the inauguration lecture, congratulated Abiodun on his electoral victory.
“You were not a man to be alive, they wanted you to be dead. But you were lucky to emerge victorious,” said Utomi.
He, however, charged the new governor to invest in training and retraining of civil servants for efficient service delivery.
“Hold your political appointees accountable no matter whose ox is gored. Also, hold the civil servants accountable for their actions.”
Utomi advised Abiodun to put paid to the era of sharing government money to friends and political associates.
“Those have been surrounding you since your victory are self-wishers and not well-wishers. Be wary of sycophants if you want to succeed.
“Tomorrow may be too far if we don’t pay much attention to our youths. Your priority should also be in the areas of security, education, healthcare delivery service.
“If you can do those things, with the declining budget availability and internally generated revenue, the burden would be lesser,” said Utomi.
The hall was expectedly quiet when it came to listening to Abiodun’s response, not necessarily because of the eminence of the speaker. Many where looking out for his comportment. Will he be angry with the forthrightness of Adeola? Thankfully, he went straight to address the task at hand. Abiodun promised to invest in human capital development to drive the socio-economic development of the state.
Discussants at the event included Abiodun’s friends from the United States Embassy and the British High Commission; Dr. (Mrs.) Chrisitiana Famro, former Head of SERVICOM in the Presidency, and Dr. Tunde Oseni (Senior Lecturer, Lead University, Ibadan, Oyo state) and Prof. Ayo Olukotun, pioneer Vice-Chancellor, Babcock University, Ilishan, Ogun state). Other dignitaries were General Oladipo Diya, former Chief of General Staff, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former governor of the state, Prince Gboyega Isiaka, Ogun state ADC Governorship candidate in the last general election, Rt Hon Suraj Adekanmbi, Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon Titi Oseni-Gomez, former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, former and serving Senators, Oba Gbadebo Adedotun, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba (Prof) Adeyemi Obalanlege, Olota of Ota, Oba Adewale Ajayi, Akarigbo of Remoland and other royal fathers.
Everyone listened with rapt attention as Abiodun relayed his experience during the campaign and informed the gathering that this knowledge will guide his administration. “I saw the abundant natural endowment and vibrant youth population and felt the enterprising spirit of the people. But the deplorable conditions of our infrastructure, the less than dignifying living condition of the average citizen and the unmistakable disconnect between the government and the citizenry also stared us in the face. Citizens have become cynical of government; and trust, an essential element of social contract between the government and the governed, has been badly impaired. Indeed, the wide gap between the potentials and the realities on the ground shows that there is a missing factor, a catalyst and an enabler. I have no doubt that the missing link is good governance.”
To the great relief of many, he made a commitment that he could held down to. According to him, “Three major steps have been taken as part of the preparations for the administration to match action with words in the determination to realise the mission to provide good governance.
We have collated a list of basic needs of the people across all the local governments in the state. These include rural and township roads, primary health care centres, public primary and secondary schools, with indication of their current condition and categorisation as to the required efforts to turn around their fortunes. The next phase in this process is to engage the local communities to jointly determine the priorities for government intervention in the infrastructure in their respective areas. The intention here is to ensure government expenditures are aligned with the prioritised needs of the people and they are constantly engaged in matters that affect them.
“Also, we have deliberately encouraged and invited various zones and critical stakeholders to submit in written form their peculiar requirements and perspectives on how the incoming government should positively impact their lives. It is gratifying that this challenge has been taken up enthusiastically by different groups who not only submitted their respective input but made professional presentations that make one to be proud of having the honour to preside over the affairs of such an enlightened people as the good people of Ogun State. My commitment is to serve you diligently and sincerely as an appreciation of the mandate you have bestowed on me.
This event is therefore another step to emphasise the need for, interrogate, and further enrich the good governance mission of this administration. The resources are limited. I am confident that once we have the most important currency in our piggy bank-the trust of the people, earned through openness in the conduct of government affairs, accountability, integrity, engagement and remaining connected with the people on administration, we have all it requires to deliver on our campaign promises and have the shield to navigate successfully through the landmines. In all our decisions and conduct, the government will be fair, just, equitable and inclusive. These are non-negotiable principles that will underpin government operations.”
His last words included the broad theme for his administration: ‘Building Our Future Together’. But he specifically said, “Let me assure you that we will carefully study and distill the conclusion of today’s conversations and synergise them with other submissions such as the Work Group reports and various input of stakeholders. Furthermore, this type of gathering will be a regular feature of our administration during which we hope to report back to the citizens, measure progress, tweak where necessary and build new momentum.”