By Funmi Branco
Remember the iconic phrase, “par ardua ad astra”(through difficulty to the stars)? It is the official motto of the Royal Air Force. In Nigerian literature, to bring the thought closer home, it is a motif in Bayo Afolabi’s epochal political drama, To the stars. And yes, such is life, which is why the inimitable Tai Solarin would always pray: May your road be rough. In the case of Dapo Abiodun, governor of Ogun State, the road has been more than rough: it has been paved with thorns. For when, having carved a niche in the world of business and carved a good image for yourself on the national scene, you offer your services to your people, intent on liberating them from deprivation and bringing them into a world of prosperity, you have no choice but to pass through persecution. After all, freedom is never willingly given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. However, even though it’s been a tortuous journey for the affable Ogun helmsman, as the Bard of Avon William Shakespeare says, all’s well that ends well. Whoever gets into the skies, into the stars, without difficulties, anyways?
Dapo Abiodun did not ask for trouble, but it located him very quickly. For no sooner had he announced his intention to run on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) than the formidable political machinery of the state government was ranged against him. The message was clear: he was contending with the state government. In fairness to the former governor, Ibikunle Amosun, this hostility was probably more rooted in the politics of self-presevation than anything else. It was certainly not due to a lack of acknowledgement of Abiodun’s rich credentials: those credentials were like an open book. Yes, winning the APC ticket was not expected to have been a piece of cake, but the forms that opposition to his candidature took were simply gross. He was certainly not expected to win either the APC ticket or the election proper given the holes dug against him by the then sitting government and the alliance of forces ranged against him to make his candidature near impossible and defeat his dreams for the state. But against all odds, he won both by resounding margins, but the Ogun version of the Battle of Maldon was only just beginning. To take just a few examples: there ought to have been a committee working with the outgoing government on how to hand over power, but there was none. And the former governor reportedly ensured that he did not get the handing over notes until a few hours to the inauguration when the deputy governor received them on his behalf; the open-roof pick-up used during his inauguration was borrowed from another state; some thugs piled wood on the inauguration pathway.
During Governor Abiodun’s inauguration, he promised inclusive governance and spoke of building the future together. He had previously brought the creme de la creme together to create a blueprint, and now it was time to work. But as soon as he got in, the APM machinery led by Amosun took him to the Election Petition Tribunal, trying to hijack his victory through the back door. And even before then, his educational qualification had been challenged, all to no avail. And when he came into office, most of the permanent secretaries he met were those appointed by his predecessor. Unlike others, he did not relieve them of their jobs. Most had only six to seven months to retire anyway. He didn’t want to add more problems to the ones he already had to contend with. Yet some of these individuals functioned as moles, issuing contradictory statements on behalf of the government and causing confusion. One such statement said the government had spent close to N60 billion on roads within just a few days, which had to be refuted. Talk of landmines!
Even the last few days before the Supreme Court judgment affirmation of his irrevocable mandate were dotted with intrigues: notable people functionaries within the party played double games, being seen with the APC in one minute and APM in the next. A prominent official of the last administration who claimed to be of APC teamed up with his boss the former governor, thinking that the Apex court would rule in the APM’s favour. Other interest groups within and outside the party struggled to pull him down but he remained focused. The apex court validated the people’s will, and the governor could now heave a sigh of relief. Within just a few days in office, he had launched Security Trust Fund where over N1 billion was raised. He had launched the 100 patrol vehicles now dotting towns and communities in the state. His mission is to make Ogun impregnable for criminals. In the area of agriculture, he rolled out the agricpreneur programme that is now public knowledge. Then, he created technology hubs to harness the gains of ICT in the state; engaged in massive wealth and job creation, flagged off the rehabilitation of schools, one per ward in the 236 wards in the state, and began massive rehabilitation of roads in all local government areas of the state, simultaneously. One can go on and on.
Now, new commissioners have been inaugurated on Friday and 15 Special Advisers have taken the oaths of office.
He has approved the list of Caretaker Committee chairmen to cater for the grass roots. And so in this New Year, Ogun will witness transformation like never before. Their governor has put all the intrigues behind him. He is running an inclusive administration, his message being: Building our Future together. Through difficulties to the stars.
*Branco contributes this piece from Oke Ilewo Street, Abeokuta, Ogun State.