Lanre Alfred writes about why Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, elicits deafening tributes of interminable cheers at 60
May 29, 2020, is an auspicious day for Prince Dapo Abiodun, the Governor of Ogun State. That day, he would be 60. The same day coincides, by providence perhaps, with his first anniversary as governor. Indeed, his emergence as governor last year was a fitting denouement to an episodic political journey which began about three decades ago.
At a time when it was generally believed that one had to be a lowbrow, an incorrigible liar and a bit of a murderer to be a politician, the successful businessman ventured into politics to improve lives yet, bucked at seeing people sacrificed or slaughtered for the sake of his ambition. It is a reason his life offers interminable lessons on the beauty and benefits of resolve, compassion, unpretentious generosity, humility, and family values.
For Ogun people, he came with the ‘Building the Future Together’ agenda has neither deviated nor dithered from exploring every avenue to attract growth and progress to the state; while he has been hands-on and virtually omnipresent in all areas of the state’s life with laudable policies and visible projects dotting its landscape.
Noteworthy also is that silently, but steadfastly, Governor Abiodun is redefining the art of governance because what many of his predecessors and peers make a song and a dance of, and mount billboards and take advertorials in newspapers to celebrate as achievements, Governor Abiodun sees them as all in a day’s job, writes Lanre Alfred.
“A man is nothing without his virtues,” Governor Dapo Abiodun once told this reporter during an interview session. This, he said with undisguised pathos, is why he endeavours to do good wherever he finds himself and that his deeds are done not as an apology or extenuation of his fortune and citizenship of the world; he does his thing because it is an intrinsic part of his humanity. This is the same principle that undergirds his governance approach in Ogun State as explicitly and elaborately outlined in his ‘Building the Future Together’ agenda.
If Ogun State was hitherto known for being among the best in Nigeria educationally, that notion had changed over time due to neglect and lack of proper funding. Starting with a 20% increase in budgetary allocation, Governor Abiodun has unleashed his ingenuity to bring back the lost education glory of the state. At the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, the state government has completed and commissioned the largest Information and Communications Technology (ICT) centre in any Nigerian university. The multi-purpose complex sits 3,000 persons at a time and is fitted with all the gizmos – computers, printers, free Wi-Fi facilities, etc., that make reading profound and pleasurable. There are also training programmes required to make learning and teaching easier for researchers and staff of the university.
At the Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa, the governor recently commissioned a 2, 000 capacity twin lecture theatre, remodelled the 1, 500 capacity multi-purpose hall; and refurbished and equipped its ICT centre. In the period under review, the governor offered automatic employment to the best graduating students in institutions like the OOU, Tai Solarin College of Education, and the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro.
Due to the COVID-19-induced school break, the state government introduced the Digiclass, which aims to provide digital education to students in primary and secondary schools. Described as the first of its kind in Nigeria, Governor Abiodun said, “We plan to improve the development of the human capital through greater investment in qualitative education by harnessing innovative and creative strategies for qualitative, accessible and equitable Universal Basic Education for all children of Primary and Junior Secondary ages through (the) Universal Basic Education Act.”
Prior, he had made free education mandatory for pupils in primary and secondary schools who had, otherwise, been subjected to paying indiscriminate fees and levies over the years. This declaration ended the N3, 700 levied on students as adopted by the former administration. Also, the Abiodun administration has embarked on the construction and rehabilitation of a total number of 94 blocks of classrooms for public primary and junior secondary schools across the 236 wards in the state while creating a mouth-watering reward system for teachers in both private and public schools. Commendably, Governor Abiodun authorized the release of the 2014 – 2017 UBE matching grant to the tune of N10billion which translates into 952 education projects across the state. The special needs school, in Sagamu, was renovated while 53 interactive boards were donated to all the special needs schools in the state.
Meanwhile, confronted with the deplorable state of rural and township roads, the governor vowed that his administration was determined to make it easy for people to move with relative ease between Lagos and Ogun State. He promised then that the roads linking Ogun to neighbouring states would receive priority attention as well as the construction of rural roads to foster development. Thus, as a quick fix mechanism to address the deplorable condition of the roads, Governor Abiodun established the Ogun State Public Works Agency which is proving to be efficient and responsive in rehabilitating intra and intercity roads.
History and posterity would be most kind to the governor for remembering the Ijebu-Ode-Epe road, which had been in a state of disrepair leading to abandonment by commuters because successive administrations in the state only mouthed reconstructing it but never made good their words. Governor Abiodun recently turned the sod on the very important road, which is planned to have 10 lanes – four on each side with one pull-out section – and a toll plaza comprising 14 payment points. Aside from easing traffic on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the road would bring relief to commuters and indigenes, save Nigerians valuable time in traffic and engender the socio-economic growth of the state.
For information and communications technology-savvy youth, the governor also created the Ogun Tech Hub and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Stem) Centre. Located along Kobape Road, Abeokuta Expressway, the Ogun Tech Hub is sited on a vast expanse of land which used to house an abandoned school building. It was, however, re-purposed for the tech hub and is now a sight to behold at night and during the day. Inside the hub, which now serves as a knowledge platform where citizens connect, share, build new skills and competencies to solve local challenges that improve the quality of life of Nigerians, are a sprawling tableau of ICT experts, trainees and gadgets. According to Governor Abiodun, the hub was conceptualized to make Ogun “the one-stop-shop for technological innovations across Africa where start-up companies will conveniently be set up. This step is, firstly, a result of the collaboration of tech enthusiasts and private sector players largely independent of our government.”
Farmers are not left out of the manna from the man burning the midnight candle at Oke-Mosan so that Ogun State can be greater than any Nigerian state. Last year, he launched the Anchor Borrowers Programme in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). A poverty-eradicating initiative that will provide inputs, service support, and training required for farmers through a single-digit loan and guaranteed off-taker, the ABP idea is in fulfilment of Abiodun’s promise to increase food production and create employment opportunities for Ogun people, especially youth and women involved in agriculture.
The governor also said that the scheme was another avenue to boost the nation’s self-sufficiency in food production, “which is in line with the federal government’s agenda on food security to save the foreign exchange spent annually on the importation of food items that could be produced locally. Providence has blessed us with a favourable climate and fertile soil for agriculture. We sit on a landmass that is over 16,000sqm, 80 percent of which is arable; that is, we have over 12,800sqm of arable land.”
Towards fulfilling his promise to make healthcare services accessible, affordable, and qualitative, Governor Abiodun instituted a health insurance scheme to meet the health needs of the citizenry. This, he said, became necessary because healthcare services come at a huge cost for many Nigerians. Over N50million has been expended on equipping hospitals across the three senatorial districts of the state alongside the acquisition of 10 ambulances to transport patients in times of emergency.
Beyond physical projects, some of Governor Abiodun’s initiatives are centred on empowering the people and making life better for them. This was why he launched, in September 2019, the Oko-owo Dapo, an empowerment initiative to provide funds to women who are involved in legitimate SMEs across the state. The initiative also aims to enhance trade as well as micro, small, and medium scale enterprises. 2000 women benefitted in the first phase of the initiative as it is envisaged to reach at least 100,000 women in the first year of the Abiodun-administration. Beneficiaries include market women, politicians, and members of women’s societies, religious associations, or trade associations.
And to reduce the unemployment rate in the state, Governor Abiodun created the Ogun Job Portal, which aims to link the state’s unemployed youths with matching job opportunities in the labour market. Describing the job portal as one of the initiatives that would take the good people of Ogun State out of unemployment while also bettering the career chances of the employed, he said that the portal is particularly suited to preparing the people to fit into appropriate sectors while revitalizing all the sectors of the state’s economy.
Security is integral to the prosperity and growth of any state or nation and Governor Abiodun is blithely conscious of this which was why he promised at the outset of his administration that he would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the state maximized its potential to the fullest by creating an enabling environment for residents and prospective investors. Firstly, he inaugurated the Security Trust Fund committee to source funds for the acquisition and deployment of security equipment, personnel gears, and other resources necessary to prevent crime and preserve public peace in Ogun State.
The committee is also to promote the synergy of all security agencies in the state and mobilize support in cash or kind from public and private sources in a transparent and accountable manner. Secondly, the governor signed into law the State Security Trust Fund Bill. Thirdly, he procured 100 Patrol Vehicles and 200 Bikes to aid the activities of law enforcement agents in the state while reiterating his support for efforts and ideas that would make Ogun a crime-free state. Just recently, the governor also signed into law the creation of the Western Nigeria Security outfit, Operation Amotekun.
For several years, water was a scarce commodity in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, and environs. Millions of households had to improvise to get that basic necessity of life. Worse for the people was that the Ogun State Water Corporation in Arakanga, Abeokuta North Local Government Area of the state, had been comatose. The corporation has a pumping capacity of 103.68 million litres per day, yet, nothing was done to make it work; until recently. Governor Abiodun, who believes that water is not only an essential commodity but a right to which people should not be denied, didn’t see why the situation should persist regardless of the challenges.
Therefore, he embarked on an assessment tour of the corporation where he was confronted with its derelict and degenerate state. He announced on the spot that water would not only be restored, but there would also be prompt repair and restoration of faulty transformers in the corporation. That was early January. Two months later, the story has changed. When our correspondent visited the community recently, water had become available in many households while the corporation is being optimized for the benefits of the people. Even within the capital, there’s an improvement in water supply owing to the ongoing rehabilitation of the barrage across the Ogun River and the construction of cofferdam structures for ease of installation of the barrage. Just as the Ota Regional Water Supply project has been completed in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
On Governor Abiodun’s watch, Ogun State is morphing from a plain sense of things to a tabernacle of feats and precious attainments. His relentless bid to turn the fortunes of the state around has made this obvious to all and sundry. And he is exploring every avenue to attract growth and progress to the state just as he did on a recent trip to the UK where he met with the executives of at least nine UK-based companies in a bid to pull investments into Ogun.
Governor Abiodun, who attended the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020 in London with President Muhammad Buhari, had promised to represent the interests of the people of the state both at the summit and on the sidelines. The summit, facilitated by the UK Department of International Trade under the Investment Promotion Programme, is a platform that avails participating countries the opportunity to establish a new phase of partnerships on investments and mutually beneficial economic prosperity. Abiodun had an assessment tour of the UK manufacturing and agro-processing headquarters of Alvan Blanch, which specializes in the manufacturing and supply of machines used for the processing of agricultural products and wastes. He also visited five other companies with specializations in energy, infrastructure, agriculture and agro-processing, investment, and asset management to meet with their executives.
The governor opined that the state is a great destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) not only for its advantage as a transport-cum-logistics hub but also because of reforms in the ease of doing business and respect for the sanctity of contracts by government agencies among others. He said, “We have also given a fillip to our ‘Ease of Doing Business’ drive, by building institutional frameworks that disentangle investors from bureaucratic bottlenecks of all sort.
We have come up with several reforms to drive speedy economic growth in the state.
“The Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency was set up to provide a one-stop-shop and eliminate unnecessary delays in processing necessary documents, while the public-private office has also been established to ensure that the state has a template transparent and accessible. To say that we are ready for business is an understatement.”
So much has been achieved in Ogun State in the last 12months of the administration of Governor Abiodun and so much, especially in the area of infrastructural renewal, security, health, education, and Information, and Communications Technology among others may still be achieved if the achievements of the past one year are to be the benchmark and if the governor does not deviate or dither in the years ahead. But it is in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) that the governor is showing even more exceptional and proactive leadership.
Since the outbreak of the case in Lagos, the Abiodun administration had plumbed into the depth of its resourcefulness and sense of duty to curtail and contain its spread. The state’s index case, an Italian, who has now been discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos, was announced March 9. Ogun is the closest state to Lagos. Perhaps if the Italian harbinger of COVID-19 had not visited Ogun, the state would have been without a case or its first case would have been delayed judging by the measures quickly put in place by Governor Abiodun. One of which was to set up the Disease Surveillance Notification Centres (DSNC) all 20 local government areas of the state. Thereafter, the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, was painstakingly upgraded to a full-fledged bio-security and containment centre to attend to anyone who tests positive for the virus. Within a few weeks, the state government constructed purpose-built isolation centres in Ikenne and Sagamu, which have 128 beds and 21 beds respectively. Another centre, located in Iberekodo, Abeokuta, with 100 beds, has also been completed while the state government recently commissioned an additional 100-bed isolation and treatment centre essentially for low-risk cases. The centre, a donation from the private sector-driven Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID), is located in the Oke-Mosan area of Abeokuta, the state capital. Speaking at the commissioning, the Commissioner for Health, Tomi Coker, said the state government now has over 300 beds across its isolation and treatment centres.
As part of measures to further flatten the curve, President Muhammadu Buhari had announced a 14-day lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun commencing from March 30th. However, Governor Abiodun, who understands the peculiarity and challenges of his people, sought and got President Buhari’s consent to allow Ogun indigenes time to fetch necessities before observing the stay-at-home order. The Ogun lockdown effectively began four days after the initial date. Before it commenced, the governor had put in place a robust palliative package to cushion the adverse socio-economic effects of the lockdown directive. The packages, delivered to 500, 000 homes with an average of four persons each, contained staple food, anti-bacteria soap bars, detergents, and hand sanitizers, which were produced by the state Ministry of Health to the World Health Organisation’ standard. He emphasized that the distribution exercise was monitored to ensure that the people remained well-fed and healthy during the lockdown.
The governor further established the first-ever drive-through testing laboratory in Nigeria to ramp up tests for possible coronavirus cases in the state. Located in Ijamido Townhall, Ota, the centre is equipped with a protective glass box that allows health personnel to take samples of suspected patients without being exposed to infections from persons whose samples are being collected. The state also pioneered the use of mobile technology to engage frontline health workers and enable the public to self-screen for the virus.