By Seyi Bakare
You need not be familiar with the epic novel by the top South African writer, Zakes Mda, to know that in the life of an individual or state, sometimes there is a void. Yet nature, as Wole Soyinka reminds us in the Jero plays (quoting the Greek philosopher and master theoretician, Aristotle), abhors a vacuum. Of a truth, “so resolutely does nature abhor a vacuum,” and that is why, recognizing and intent on fulfilling his historical mission, the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, has come into the Ogun landscape fully armed with the resources of state building, the means for filling the void still left in the Ogun developmental odyssey. The accolades are already pouring in from informed circles, but Abiodun sets no store by these knowing full well that as our elders say, no one is a hard worker who only shines in the beginning (ibere ki se onise). Imbued with a noble vision of statecraft, he wants to get the job done first, then let the people, the driving force behind his vision in Ogun, take it from there.
And yes, we come to brass tacks. All too often our people are mere statistics in government departments and agencies. But not with Abiodun, who upon assuming office rolled out a noble project of renovating and rebuilding a school per ward in the state, so that every community in the state can feel government presence. It is quite understandable if he is receiving flak from those who think, acting on the basis of our sordid history, that development ought to be limited to the state capital. As soon as the 236 schools currently receiving attention attain the required state, work will begin on another set of 236 schools, and education will begin to acquire meaning once again. This is demonstrably better than building a few mega schools in major towns and leaving the majority of schools in the state to rot. Instructively, the renovation of schools has come with deep concern for parents’ pockets. The schools may be good but if parents cannot afford school levies, education still would be imperiled. And so Governor Abiodun revoked the N3700 school fees imposed on parents in the state by the immediate past administration. The message: come to school and don’t be late, school is free. Free books are being given to complete the package, and the promotion of teachers has taken centre state. Over 10,000 teaching and non-teaching staff in public schools have already benefited from the gesture, and many more are on the way. At the tertiary level, the MAPOLY crisis has been resolved and the school now has its full accreditation status back in the kitty. The recommendations of the visitation panel on the Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE), including appointment of a Governing Council, have been implemented and the school is back on track. If you are a former student, apply for your transcript immediately. No more delays. And there is now a Government Delivery Unit for Education.
Ogun people are definitely happy with the 50 units of housing at Hilltop Estate Abeokuta, and the 200 low-income, mass housing units project at Ibara, Abeokuta. They welcome the empowerment of widows through the ‘OkowoDapo’ loan programme with open arms. They are pleased with the ongoing road projects handled by the newly set up Ogun State Public Works Agency. It is a fact that the roads that were hitherto a nightmare to motorists are now being rehabilitated across all the local government areas of the state. In Sagamu, Abeokuta, Ifo, Otta, Sango –name it—the roads are being repaired as governance goes to the grass roots. But if the roads are good but the people have no jobs, it would still be difficult to escape from misery. And so in Ogun today, a job portal has been put up to determine the number of underemployed and unemployed youths. Within three weeks, it recorded over 120,000 names. Businesses operating in the state are actually posting vacancies on the portal, and there is a local content law in the pipelines that will stipulate that a certain minimum of companies’ staff must be Ogun State indigenes. Skills acquisition centres have been set up across the state. Consider the Tech hub in Kobape, Abeokuta. These technology hubs are meant to rejig ICT across the state and confirm the premium position of the state in digital economy. This may be why the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy rated Ogun as the Best State in ICT Penetration And Adoption.
Still on job creation, in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Anchor Borrowers Scheme is on course to produce Ogun agricpreneurs. A total of 10,000 youths among those who registered on the job portal have been allocated a hectare of land each and given all the relevant documents attached to the lands. The Central Bank of Nigeria, which provides funding for the project, will pay the agricpreneurs stipends until the harvest. At stage two of the project, another 40,000 agricpreneurs will be empowered over three months. The plan is that in the next two years, about 200,000 agricpreneurs would have been created. Still talking business issues, it is no longer news that the Ogun State Business Environment Council is now in place to improve and streamline the state’s internal processes towards achieving better scores in the ease of doing business ranking, or that the Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency(Ogun Invest) has been established to attract investment and provide a one-stop shop for investors and support businesses. What is news is that in addition to these lofty initiatives, the Ogun State governor has established the Enterprise Development Agency (EDA) for capacity building and facilitation of financing access to support the MSMEs sector. Again in Ogun, there is now a creative arts and entertainment hub in conjunction with Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility Limited (SANEF), a special purpose vehicle of the bankers’ committee to further deepen development at the grass roots. And when you factor in the Ogun State Economic Transformation Project Implementation Structures, part of the requirements for the establishment of Project Steering Committee (PSC), Project Implementation Unit (PIU) for the $250m World Bank loan, you cannot but marvel about how so much has been done within just six months. Well, all it takes is a man with the requisite vision, passion and dedication and, above all, love for the people.
It would be unfair not to mention the health sector, where the Abiodun Administration is giving dilapidated hospitals a facelift and setting up more resident primary health centres per ward in the state. At the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, the recruitment process for all categories and cadres of healthcare professionals has already commenced. The State Hospital Ilaro, has been refurbished. The government has already held a free medical outreach held at Ilishan, Odeda and Ilaro, addressing polio, diabetes, malaria, eyes, malaria, typhoid and other health conditions.
If security is the raison d’etre of the state, Dapo Abiodun seems to be naturally cut out for the Ogun top job. As many Nigerians would no doubt recall with fond memories, when in Lagos between 1995 and 1997, a band of criminals from neigbouring Republic of Benin put Lagos under siege, snatching cars and robbing hapless citizens with reckless abandon, it was Dapo Abiodun who rose to the occasion and saved the day. Mandated by the Lagos State government to end the rampage, he rolled out the car tracking initiative. And so when the robbers came again and found the people all too willing to give up their exotic cars without as much as a whimper, they (Beninoise bandits) thought that they had hit a jackpot. But as they were soon to find out, they had been outsmarted: the cars were immobilized via remote control and however hard the panicky and shaken bandits tried, they (cars) failed to budge. And so the bandits fled, their ugly tails between their legs. And robbery? Well, there was Alarmnet. Lagosians simply rang a dedicated line and within minutes, men of the Rapid Response Squad came in sight, giving the robbers their just deserts.
Alarmnet curbed robbery in Lagos, and echoes of Abiodun’s giant strides were enacted only recently when a band of kidnappers seized RCCG pastors on their way to Lagos. Location: Lagos/Ibadan expressway. Excusing himself from a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, the governor asked for and obtained helicopters, and the police stormed the expressway, easily mapping out the target. All the hostages, and many others who had thought they would never again see the sun, were rescued. And so when on assuming office Governor Abiodun solved the communication equipment problem among Ogun security agencies and procured 100 ‘4x 4’ patrol vehicles and 200 motorcycles to aid the police in their work, he was only treading a familiar turf. Ogun, if the submission of the Business Day Research and Intelligence Unit is anything to go by, is now The Most Improved State On Security.
You simply can’t make this stuff up.Ogun is on its way to progress.
*Barare writes from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State.