With a clear vision, Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, is poised to deliver a defining change, writes Lanre Alfred
If vision is the incense of change, delusion is its nemesis. It takes a humane heart, however, to achieve true, positive change in a human swamp, where delusions are jealously defended against all the assaults of reason. Nonetheless, illusions may be the only things that render life tolerable to a people under the siege of bad leadership but after its leaves have fallen, we return to a plain sense of things.
What’s vision to Governor Abiodun? If you listen to him long enough, and see him work, you would develop a sense of purpose about his imagination. You might get the feeling that his vision, intense as it is, remains singularly a collective vision, and that he sees its realisation as something uniquely to be established through the people and for the people. Barely two months in office, Governor Abiodun, is keen at justifying the mandate of Ogun people via ambitious efforts and initiatives of his administration. Compassion is the key. But too many politicians are incapable of it. Unlike Dapo Abiodun, the executive governor of Ogun State. Blessed with a perfect bearing of governance, Abiodun navigates his way through its clotted swamps. Knowing it is hard to create new paths when the old ways are ingrained, he endeavours to be different.
Prior to his forays in political office, Abiodun was notable for his kindness and selfless pursuits in the interest of all. He was neither enslaved to mammon nor gold; of both, he would not obsess about so much as a seal ring, choosing to store his money in the stomachs of the poor rather than keep it for show.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Abiodun would initiate series of pro-people schemes immediately after he assumed office.
Aside from his road and infrastructure renewal initiative, Abiodun has initiated plans to launch a Job Board to tackle the unemployment scourge in Ogun State. In a few days, the online job portal would begin operations and its sole purpose, according to the government, is to link Ogun’s unemployed youths with matching job opportunities the state’s labour market. The governor hopes the move would attract many investors and companies to register on the portal to post job opportunities and select candidates.
On the scheme, applicants would also benefit from periodic trainings to hone their skills and increase their value and potential in the marketplace.
Among other benefits cited in favour of registered companies and individuals on the portal, the trend of urban migration drift in search of non-existent jobs will reduce significantly as young people get job opportunities in the state. In a recent interview with media executives at Iperu Remo, his country home, the governor unveiled his first four-year vision, among other related issues.
Fostering public-private partnership
The focus of his administration, he said, is to provide a focused and credible government, while creating an enabling environment with public and private partnership.
“We believe that if we do that, it will translate into the economic transformation and well-being of the state. If the state is economically transformed, there will be progress. So, our vision is to provide a focused and credible government. We are creating an enabling environment with public private partnerships for the economic growth of the state and well-being of its people,” he said.
To this end, he has assembled a formidable team, but his approach is different. He said: “We have articulated a vision for ourselves, which was based on our experience as we crisscross the state, going through the 20 Local Government Areas, 57 Local Council Development Area (LCDAs) to see situations on ground and to enable us plan effectively and give priority to areas of need across the state. Our visit also provided us opportunity to meet the people and to know the issues they have. Those issues helped us to articulate a vision for ourselves.”
One vision, collective effort
Governor Abiodun chants the mantra of “building a future together,” and this is derived from the intent to create a focused government. “We want the economy to grow and to achieve it, we will remain focused. Having put in place our first four-year plan, we will not only execute those plans but also have units that will ensure that as they unfold, they will be measuring our successes and ensure that we execute those plans as envisaged in our vision,” he said.
But how does he midwife change in an atmosphere of great insecurity? The issue of security, argued Abiodun, is been taken seriously “because you cannot create an enabling environment without security.”
He said: “Today, Ogun State has the largest number of industries in Nigeria. Lagos is now congested to a point that the next state to reckon with is Ogun. It is truly the Gateway State because you cannot go anywhere in the country without passing through the state; we border five states, Benin Republic and this has become a security challenge. If they chase criminals in Lagos, they run to Ogun State. Even, some criminals also come from Burkina Faso via some borders between Ogun and Benin Republic. There is no way you can make the state an economic hub if you cannot guarantee the best of safety.”
Abiodun enthused that many companies are in Ogun State because they were pushed out of Lagos due to congestion. But his administration’s focus is to attract more of them to his domain. “We have resolved to make Ogun No.1 on the index of the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, but security is key. We are rejigging our security trust fund, a bill is being sent to the state house of assembly on it. It is an amendment of an existing bill.
“Already, there is a chairman, DG, stakeholders in place. The objective of the bill is to pull more funds for the provision of necessary equipment for security operatives to function well and police the state better. We are going to buy drones, cameras, install surveillance systems, tracking devices, among others. We are going to do anything to discourage banditry, cultism and crime among other vices. For us, security is key,” he said.
Infrastructure is key
After security, road infrastructure is key, according to Abiodun. “You cannot attract investors to the state if access to the state is difficult. We are placing premium on roads that connect us to other states. We are also going to pay attention to the township roads as attention is often given to the highways leaving out the township roads. How do you expect an investor to take you seriously when roads within the town are not motorable,” he said.
And to ensure good roads, Governor Abiodun is setting up Ogun State Public Works Agency. He said: “The agency will help in cutting the bureaucracy in the award of third party contracts, and allowing us to use direct labour, which benefit citizens through employment. The bill is in the house already. Though there are roads that the third party cannot construct because they do not have the expertise, yet there are roads within the township and rural roads that can be handled by the agency. They will open them up, grade them, do drainage, put asphalt, among others to make the roads motorable enough for the trucks to take goods from the hinterland to the market.
“So, we a placing a premium on road infrastructure, seeing it as an enabler of our vision for creating an environment for public private partnership, and seeing it is also as an enabler for other things that we talked about.”
To that extent, Governor Abiodun’s government looks to award the Lagos-Epe-Ijebu road very soon to ease the traffic on Lagos-Ibadan highway.
“We are looking at alternative roads of which, the Lagos-Epe-Ijebu road is one, the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta road, and Lagos-Shagamu-Ikorodu road. We are looking at partnering the federal government on the Lagos-Ota and Lagos-Shagamu roads. The moment these roads are done, the issues of connectivity and access to the state will be solved,” he said.
Governor Abiodun has also commenced plans to deploy digital infrastructure in boosting socio-economic development in the state. Digital infrastructure offers data that enable other developmental planning, it can tell the number of civil servants, how efficient a particular agency is, and monitor financial operations among others.
“So, we are building a digital infrastructure that will be a background to all these things so that we can have a dash board to monitor our success and areas to pay more attention. The digital infrastructure will also impact the ease of doing business in the state,” disclosed Abiodun.
He stated: “We are also going to establish Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency, a one-stop-shop for investment. The agency will work to ease the requirements and stress of investors wanting to come and set up businesses in the state. The bill establishing the agency is also before the house of assembly. We are bringing someone who is versatile in the business of investment to head it; someone who the business community can trust.”
An agricultural lifeline
To power the state’s agricultural development drive, Governor Abiodun intends to partner the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on some agricultural projects. “We are going to allocate hectares of land to youths to farm, in the Anchor Borrower scheme. They will be given the seedlings, we will provide the extension services, and the CBN will provide the fertilizer. It will be like the model farms in Ethiopia run by graduates. As well, Ethiopia makes more money exporting flowers than we make from exporting oil,” said Abiodun.
Education and health
Education is another focal point of his administration; to check the decline in the sector, Abiodun is going to “declare a state of emergency in it and overhaul the whole system.”
He said: “We are going to repair and refurbish one school per ward across the state. We are also looking at vocational centres and turn some schools to tech hubs, and create a job portal to warehouse skilled youths for employers.”
Health is another pillar of his administration. “The health facilities across the state are in shambles and we are going to restore them to life saving facilities instead of death traps. We are focusing on primary healthcare centres because they are the closest to the people and it will reduce pressure on public hospitals. We want to justify the mandate of the people by prioritising their needs. We are going to create industrial park to boost our development plans, as well as, focus on providing housing to people across the state, to all levels of income earners,” said Abiodun.