· a new Governor seen in a new light
Saturday, September 7, 2019, marks the 100th day in office of Prince Dapo Abiodun as the fifth Executive Governor of Ogun State. An astute business magnate, Abiodun was certainly not a greenhorn in government at his assumption of office. He was handling a national assignment as Chairman of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), where he exhibited excellence and proven integrity by increasing Nigeria’s appeal as a for thriving business ventures. The impact of his work were visible by the country’s improved rating in the ease of doing business index. Abiodun came with a formidable résumé, strengthened by his sound educational and entrepreneurial depth, writes LANRE ALFRED.
Teaming with Civil Service for Efficiency
On assumption of office, Governor Abiodun held a series of meetings with all Permanent Secretaries in the state’s civil service. His intent was to have a detailed knowledge of the situation of the state. At the meeting, he tasked the Permanent Secretaries to rise up to the challenge of their office as they would be frontrunners in driving the wheel of progress in the state in the next four years.
Abiodun took the opportunity to intimate them with his vision to reposition the civil service as an efficient organ of government. He minced no word about his resolve to address the anomalies of the appointments of 18 permanent secretaries and recruitment of 2,000 staff into the civil service by the immediate past administration on the eve of its departure.
His promise was immediately matched with legislative imprimatur of the State Assembly, which reversed the appointments and classified them as actions taken in bad faith and without due process. This move has been appraised by many as good for the morale of the service as most of such appointments were politically motivated and could manifest as a landmine to sabotage the incumbent governor.
In the last three months, Governor Abiodun, in collaboration with the Permanent Secretaries, has kept the wheel of governance moving at a steady pace. He has also constituted, based on merit, a team of special advisers and aides who are bringing years of professionalism to bear in steering the affairs of the state in the right direction.
Abiodun has demonstrated commitment to the welfare of the state’s work force, as he has been paying salaries every month as and when due, even when he had to borrow to do so.
Familiarization with people’s plights
The culture of ‘First One Hundred Days in Office’ has become a phenomenon in that it is within this period that people will know what path they are to be led in the next four years. By any standard, the period does not seem to afford any administration the opportunity to have monumental impact in people’s lives; but it affords the leadership the opportunity of intense engagement and putting in place the foundation for a minimum of four-year tenure and/or maximum eight-year tenure. It is in this light that one can contextualise Governor Abiodun’s extensive travels across the length and breadth of the state in the early days of his administration to meet with the citizens of Ogun across all the local governments with a view to obtaining their demands and take note of their needs, especially the very critical ones.
From Opako-Adigbe, Odo Gbanga, Isale Oja, Kuto and Ijeja to Igbeba, Paramount, Moborode, Italapo, Degun and Imowo Ibadan roads within Ijebu Ode metropolis; his visit to areas devastated by floods in the state has afforded him the opportunity of having first-hand knowledge of people’s plight. He has brought immediate succour to many by distributing relief materials to the affected. Besides administering palliative measures like fixing roads eroded by flood in areas like Itoikin-Ibefun-Ijebu Ode road, he has set aside resources to mobilise for lasting solutions to the problems of recurring flooding in the areas.
Abiodun has held interactive meetings with numerous stakeholders for the purpose of inclusiveness in his administration’s pursuit of development in the state. He has established a pattern of involvement in the seven critical areas of governance: healthcare, agriculture, human development and workers’ welfare, infrastructure development, security and ICT. Farmers, healthcare stakeholders, security chiefs, the business community and prospective investors constituted the governor’s audience and collaborators.
Governor Abiodun has continuously engaged regional and international development institutions in his quest to get them to commit to strategic partnership and critical assistance. The World Bank, for instance, has promised to partner with the state government on a number of social intervention and socio-economic programmes. This was disclosed in Abuja on July 31, when Governor Abiodun and aides met with a team of country representatives of the World Bank, led by the Country Director, Rachid Benmessaoud.
The latter, while granting the governor’s request for assistance, stated that Ogun State had been included as a beneficiary of a $900m ecological intervention fund. And in relation to the agriculture drive of his administration, Abiodun has held fruitful talks with the African Development Bank (AfDB). The initiative has given birth to a proposal to develop a 300-hectare farmland in Ogun State.
Abiodun’s administration has also commenced efforts to establish a dry port around Itori in Ewekoro Local Government Area of the state. He announced this recently in his office at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta during a courtesy visit by a team from the African Development Bank (AfDB), led by the Senior Special Adviser to the President, Prof. Oyebanjo Oyelaran-Oyeyinka.
At the meeting, Abiodun stated that since agriculture is a key focus of his administration, the establishment of a dry port in Ewekoro is important, as it would complement the airport currently under construction in the axis by handling agriculture and its related products.
He said: “We will key into the various intervention programmes of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in order to encourage investors to make good use of our conducive and favourable environment.”
In his remarks, the leader of the team which visited the state to introduce Chinese investors to the numerous available investment opportunities, Prof. Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, stated that there was a proposal to develop a 300-hectare farmland in the state. He added that the team would visit Oyan Dam and the airport to see how they could be harnessed.
Senior officials of three big banks namely Access Bank, First Bank and Wema Bank, have also had official meetings with the governor, which have yielded tangible results, as they have made various commitments to various development projects in the state.
Participatory Democracy & Accountability via Digital Governance
One of the promises given amplified projection during the campaign was open governance and government of inclusion. With this, Governor Abiodun intended for an administration that would leave no one out, irrespective of demographic or political differences. It would be recalled that Abiodun promised the people transparency in governance while he campaigned across Ogun State as the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He reiterated this in his inauguratal speech as elected governor of the state; he promised to make the business of government open, accessible and participatory to the Ogun populace.
The first sign that Abiodun is a candidate to be trusted, emerged when numerous vested interests collapsed their cliques into one strong force for the common goal of actualising his gubernatorial aspiration. It was easy for them to unite for his sake because of the personality of the Abiodun. A major power broker in the state was quoted to have said, “I joined forces with Dapo Abiodun because he ran an issue-based and clean campaign devoid of mudslinging and spewing negative narratives typical of an average Nigerian politician. He is also trustworthy. His word is his bond.”
Victory secured, the then Governor-elect, Abiodun, announced a broad-based 23-man economic transition committee, comprising people of unblemished character across party lines. It was a master-stroke that endeared him even to his harshest critics. He had said on a number of occasions that partisanship would take the back seat in selecting his team. He has since demonstrated that only the best would be head-hunted to assist him midwife the long desired development of the industrial hub called Ogun State. His appointments, so far, reflect his penchant for excellence and meritocracy, a corporate trait for which he was legendary while he held sway in the private sector.
His grasp of the issues stifling the growth of Ogun State is outstanding, and he consciously actualises his promise to run a government of inclusiveness as he casts his net of robust ideas open and wide through consultations with his people. His performance, so far, in office has established his resolve not to arrogate to himself any trait of omniscience or make reckless prescriptions and myopic solutions to the hydra-headed challenges plaguing the Gateway State. His decisions have been all about the people as he feels their pains and is ready to listen and commit the state’s resources to resolve their problems.
In a polity beset with apathy and dispiritedness towards politics and government, Governor Abiodun’s open policy and his continuous avowal at religious gatherings to conduct the business of government with such transparency unprecedented in the history of the state speaks volume of a man with conscience who understands that his stewardship would not only be accounted for before men, but also before his Creator.
When his inaugural oath-taking as the 5th Executive Governor of Ogun State was live-streamed across multiple social media platforms on 29th May, 2019, many received it as an ephemeral novel idea meant to fizzle out in no distant time. More than two months after his inauguration, every official event that matters has not escaped the viewing attention of everyone that plugged to the e-governance model of the Governor. Meetings with conventional stakeholders and development partners, visits to places of interests, all have not escaped real time live-streaming on social media; thus bringing governance to as many people as possible through their gadgets.
From pop stars to the ordinary dude on the street, Governor Abiodun’s ubiquitous conventional and media engagements have become avenues through which he feels the pulse of his people through feedback and their comments. Over time, his social media followership has experienced some exponential growth indicating surge in millennials’ interest in government. For the first time in Ogun State, government affairs are being conducted with unprecedented openness and strict adherence to the e-governance model.
Security, Law and Order
Abiodun was unmistakable about his resolve to make Ogun State a bastion of safety and security for livers and those who run businesses or envisage the state as a hub for socio-economic activities. He made this known in his first day in office while having a security meeting with all Service Chiefs in the state. Beyond sounding fierce warnings to unscrupulous elements taking shelter in the state, Abiodun has left no stone unturned to ensure that the relative peace enjoyed in the state is not breached. He has since inaugurated a committee peopled with men of impeccable characters to oversee the now amended Ogun State Security Trust Fund, which he has signed into law with intentional alacrity. “It is a demonstration of our government’s unreserved commitment towards ensuring that the people have a good life and pursue their legitimate business in a secured environment,” Abiodun said while affirming that the Fund is a private sector-driven program that would support the state government in addressing various security challenges facing the state.
Chaired by a top corporate guru, Bolaji Balogun, the committee, as announced by Governor Abiodun, has CEO of RTC Advisory Services, Opeyemi Agbaje as its Executive Secretary. Abiodun also named as members of the committee Rtd Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Olushola Subair; Chief Financial Officer, Access Bank, Seyi Kumapayi; Group Executive, Commercial Banking, First Bank, Seyi Oyefeso; and Executive Director, Wema Bank, Wole Akinleye.
With the launching of the reinvigorated security trust fund, the full architecture for internal safety of lives and property has been fully emplaced. Meanwhile, he has enjoined all landlords in the state to do due diligence checks on the characters of their tenants as his administration is in the process of commencing demolition of houses identified to be residences of kidnappers and revoking the certificate of occupancy of such buildings.
Knowing the critical place of the National Road Transport Union Workers in the whole security architecture of the state, Governor Abiodun, without delay, set up Road Transport Union Committee with a mandate to ensure sanity and stability. While inaugurating the Committee, he emphasised that the approach was not an attempt to take over the functions of the Transport Unions and other stakeholders in the road transport sector, rather it was an avenue to ensure maintenance of law and order in various transport unions, adding that government would intensify efforts on infrastructural development, particularly on roads. He noted that it was pertinent for his administration not to allow any form of vacuum in the management of transport unions, saying the suspension of all activities of road transport unions in the state therefore became necessary and a 13- man committee was put in place to oversee their activities.
According to the World Bank, roads make a crucial contribution to economic development and growth and bring important social benefits. One area that has received hearty attention of the Governor is the dilapidated state of roads in the state. His familiarisation visits to the nook and cranny of Ogun State drew out his compassion and made him raise a team to provide immediate palliative works on the roads, especially ones with high frequency and density of usage.
Construction of roads across major towns has also commenced. The State has begun extensive rehabilitation of the 32Km Sango-Ojodu-Abiodun Road, which the last administration awarded and abandoned. The road cuts across various border communities between Lagos and Ogun State. The road was awarded at a cost of N12bn in 2012 and the immediate past administration later raised the budget to N70bn with N22bn already expended on 5-flyover bridges along that road. The Abiodun-led government lamented that the socio-economic activities along the axis had been greatly affected due to the neglect of the road. Residents along the road, in reaction, commended Abiodun for his quick response.
Governor Abiodun is under no illusion that the deplorable condition of three strategic federal roads in his domain is hindering economic progress and social life; he therefore has taken it up as a matter of urgency to turn things around. He has formally sought permission of the federal government to allow the state rehabilitate and dualise the strategic highways linking Ogun with Lagos and other parts of the country. Listed for such intervention are: Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Epe-Ijebu-Ode Road and Ikorodu-Sagamu Road. This bold move, which will be under the public, private sector partnership arrangement, is definitely bound to have a salutary effect on the state’s economy. For decades, these critical arteries that link Ogun to major industrial hubs in Lagos have deteriorated scandalously. Pending the approval, impressive progress has been made on the ongoing palliative repair works along Lagos – Sango – Abeokuta Dual Carriageway and Ijebu Ode – Epe Road. With their rehabilitation, huge relief has now been brought to users of the roads as economic and social interactions have now been enhanced in the state.
“We have identified other roads like the Agbara-Atan-Ota, Ewekoro-Ifo, Sagamu Interchange and the Ilaro-Ibese roads which are in bad shape and working to put them in good condition,” the Governor said at a meeting with business executives.
The Governor has inspected rural and townships roads in need of urgent repairs and upgrades. With his signing of Ogun State Road Maintenance Agency (Amendment) 2019 into law on Wednesday, August 28, the deplorable township and rural roads in the state would soon begin to wear new look as the agency would swing into action almost immediately. Ikola, Navy, Itele, Ikoro- Otun, toll- gate Ilo- Awela roads have been slated for various types of works.
In curbing the spate of accident on the toll gate, Ilo- Awela road, Governor Abiodun directed the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure to include in their construction plan, provisions for market, bus stops and speed breakers so that the road would be wide enough to accommodate the traffic and also help reduce accidents on the road.
Adigbe-Opako Road in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area is presently undergoing aggressive total reconstruction after its closure to forestall any likelihood of unfortunate occurrence. This on-going work, upon completion, will permanently address flooding in the area. The infrastructure decay ravaging Itori and Yewa axis is also receiving the attention of the governor. He reaffirmed his administration’s resolve to ensure that the road was made more motorable for the people, adding that the road which was a federal road would be looked into in conjunction with relevant stakeholders in the corridor.
Attracting Investors & Ease of Doing Business
Governor Abiodun believes in building institutions. As such, he constantly seeks legislative framework for his efforts. He has been putting digital infrastructure in place to impact the ease of doing business in the state. The bill to establish Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency, a one-stop-shop for investment, is before the State House of Assembly to be passed soon. The agency will work to ease the requirements and stress of investors wanting to come and set up businesses in the state. According to him, “we are bringing someone who is versatile in the business of investment to head it; someone who the business community can trust.” He explained that his administration had established the State Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) to strengthen Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) and boost their capacities.
Nothing drives economic growth and all round development of a state like the atmosphere of peace and security. Governor Abiodun’s strides in the security sector have inspired confidence in prospective investors who have been visiting in droves to tap into the economic opportunities inherent in the state. Since his coming to the office, the governor has met several groups of local and foreign investors. He has met with Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and Prince Segun Awolowo, CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), who promised to use his good offices to fast track the vision of the administration, especially, in the area of agricultural productivity and also enhance our administration’s drive in terms of exporting finished products to other countries. He has also met with investors from China, UAE, United States of America and others. Governor Abiodun has promised an enabling environment for willing investors, stressing that his ambition is to improve on the ease of doing business in the state.
Only several weeks ago, the Chief Executive Officer of Irish Diary Milk, Global, led a team to register the company’s readiness to site their manufacturing plant in the state. Access Bank Plc showed their great confidence in the leadership of the State by committing to building a creative arts, information technology and entertainment village in the State. Elephant Group Plc has pledged to offtake the total production of rice and cassava in Ogun State, while engaging at least 40,000 farmers within the next three years. The GMD/CEO of the Group, Mr Olatunji Owoeye, who boasted of the Group’s relationship with the Bank of Industry (BOI), Bank of Agriculture and the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), stated that they would within the next 18 months construct a 100-ton cassava plant in our dear State, with the overtaking of rice and cassava from this year’s harvest. The GMD/CEO spoke with assurance when he added that the land for the cassava plant project had already been acquired. With this type of intervention, the state partnership with the private sector is bound to bring good results that would not only revolutionise the agricultural sector and the State’s economy but also better the lives of the people, through industry, food security, and job creation.
Education & Healthcare
Governor Abiodun in his maiden address after resumption, he made it clear that his administration was going to “to be focusing more on primary and tertiary education. We are going to bring our education sector up to standard.
“Yes, we have the largest number of tertiary institutions in this State, however, the performances of our students are not encouraging and we have to change that so we may be declaring a state of emergency in the education sector.”
He has followed up with setting up visiting panels on tertiary institutions in the state. Days ago, the Visitation Panel, which was set up to look into the protracted crises battling Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu, submitted its reports with comprehensive recommendations that address the core issues. The reports from that of the panel on Moshood Abiola University of Technology (MAUTECH) and Ogun State Polytechnic (OGUNPOLY) is being awaited. The Governor had set up the panel on June 29 with a mandate to holistically review the status, viability and sustainability of these institutions. The committee is also expected to recommend operational modalities for these institutions, after interfacing with stakeholders in the education sector. At the inauguration, he expressed his dismay at the inability of the Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUTECH) to take off, two years after it was established.
With the amount of focus this administration is giving to repositioning and strengthening the educational institutions, it is only a matter of time before Ogun State regains it pride of place in the educational sector nationally and globally.
Governor Abiodun has had an Engagement Meeting with the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib and his team, in line with his administration’s resolve to rejuvenate the delivery of Primary Health Care to every citizen of Ogun state. Very soon, our people will start experiencing the positive results of this engagement.
Abiodun has inaugurated an administrative panel to examine the current situation of things in the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Ago-Iwoye. The 8-man committee, which is chaired by Dr Yemi Onabowale, a general physician and Chairman, Reddington Hospital, is charged not only to assess the modes of operation and state of facilities in the hospital in line with global best practices, but also to review all third-party agreements, giving appropriate recommendations according to the various levels of compliance of involved parties. All these will ensure that an institution and hospital that has produced the best medical practitioners and provided world-class medical services is brought back to its enviable status.
To ensure even distribution of health facilities across the state, he has met with community leaders and those of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) from across the state, and requested that the leaders of each local government should meet and suggest the top three priority roads, a Primary Health Care Center and a Primary School per ward, where they want government’s intervention. The list has since been submitted while government has done cost evaluations with an intent to start working on them soon.
Governance on course
With this foundational structure formidably put in place, Governor Dapo Abiodun appears all ready to set the wheel of governance in full stream as the stage is set to ignite what will be the most significant administration in the state since its creation in 1976. The Ogun State Elders Consultative Forum led by its Coordinator, Chief Taiwo Alimi, has lent its support and applauded the government for the setting up of committees to look into the numerous issues affecting the state. The commendation of the Forum which is made up of prominent elders like the Chairman, Justice Bola Ajibola, who have dedicated themselves to the voluntary service of Ogun State and Nigeria at large is a testament that he is steering the affairs of the state well.