An Omowulabi Governor at 60

Dapo Abiodun

Tunde Oladunjoye highlights the sterling managerial attributes of Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State

When Prince Dapo Abiodun was, on the occasion of his 59th birthday, sworn-in as the Governor of Ogun State on May 29, 2019, he made some solemn pledges in his inauguration speech.

In the seventh paragraph of the speech delivered before a mammoth crowd at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta, the new governor said: “You will always find in me, the conduct of Omoluabi expected of Omo Teacher! I will govern with character. I will serve you diligently and sincerely. I will make your interests the core of governance. I will neither personalise nor abuse the mandate. I will not betray your trust”.

The above pledge has been repeatedly and consistently demonstrated and fulfilled by the governor in the course of his 365 days at the helms of affairs in the “Gateway State.” In fact, it should be taken for granted that anyone who aspires to occupy public office at any level in Ogun State should come aboard with such characteristics of nobility.

Ogun State is not only the “Gateway State” of Nigeria in terms of maps and geography, it is actually and undeniably the pathfinder to Nigeria in many areas too numerous to recap. Journalism berthed in Nigeria with the publication of Iwe Iroyin in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Founded on December 3, 1859, by a missionary, Henry Townsend. It was published bi-weekly, in Yoruba and English language and ran for about eight years, specifically from 1859 to 1867.

Furthermore, Ogun State has led the nation in almost every facets of human endavours, producing the only Nobel Laureate in Literature, Professor Wole Soyinka. The greatest music legend to have come out of Africa, Abami Eda, Anikulapo-Kuti; Fela’s mother, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria; Dr. Tai Solarin, Prince Bola Ajibola, Sir Mike Adenuga, Chief Adeola Odutola, Hubert Ogunde, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Basorun MKO Abiola, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Ernest Sonekan, and many more, are all from Ogun State. Therefore, it is expected that the person in the exalted office of the state will be a personification of Omoluabi, as pledged by Dapo Abiodun, the Royal Prince from Iperu.

On assumption of office, people expected the new governor to follow the ‘established precedent’ of a new governor immediately preoccupying himself with overturning what his immediate predecessor did. Rather, Prince Dapo Abiodun decided to set up committees to look into gray areas. These contentious areas include last minutes employment and award of contracts by the immediate past administration, appointments of permanent secretaries and general managers of statutory bodies, last minutes loans and incurred financial obligations, abandoned and ongoing projects, crisis in tertiary institutions, and so on and further on. In fact those who were very agitated and expectant of drastic, it not vindictive actions, described the Governor as “slow”, and his government as a “government of committees”.

Yet, Dapo Abiodun trudged on with the royalty and nobility in him taking the lead. About seven months in the saddle, the “Omo Teacher”decided to regularize and accommodate into the civil service, the over 1,000 workers hurriedly employed by the immediate past administration in its twilight.

The Guardian newspaper in a report filed by Bukky Olajide from Abeokuta on January 23, 2020 reported that: “speaking at the swearing-in of eight newly-appointed permanent secretaries in Abeokuta, Governor Abiodun noted that despite some flaws noted in the appointments and recruitments, his government has decided to be magnanimous as a people-centred administration and not to be vindictive.”

He speaks further: “Let me state that we appreciate the recommendations of the Review Committee, comprising eminent retired public servants, that the appointments and recruitments were fraught with non-adherence to the principles and laid-down traditions of the public service. But in line with our administration’s commitment to equity, fairness, justice and inclusiveness, we will not engage in any action or policy that may be viewed as vendetta, rather, we will call on all to continue to put in their best for the service delivery to the people of Ogun State.”

“Despite some flaws, we have upheld all the appointments of the permanent secretaries made in the twilight of the last administration.”Abiodun however cautioned against lobbying by civil servants to attain unmerited position, saying all the new permanent secretaries got their appointments on merit. “I never met any of these new permanent secretaries before. I had no private discussion over who to choose. If you merit it under my watch, you will surely get your promotion as and when due,” he said.

There was palpable tension among the workers last year, when in August Governor Abiodun set up a committee led by a former Head of Service, Dipo Odulate, to look into the appointments and promotions approved by Amosun between February 1st and May 28th, 2019.

Amosun had in April appointed 18 Permanent Secretaries, barely a month to the end of his administration and also approved the recruitment of over 1,000 workers into the state’s civil service, while he promoted about 5,000 others.

Walking his talk further, Abiodun in February, 2020 ordered the payment of seven-month salaries of the said workers recruited. The lucky officers who had been unsure of their fate, rushed out of their offices singing and dancing to express their joy on the good news.

The the State Head of Service, Amope Chokor, said “the development would further affirm that workers’ welfare was a priority and of utmost importance to the governor.” In fact, the workers way-laid the convoy of the governor on his way to the office the following day after the government decision was announced. They swarmed and sang the praises of the governor to high heavens and did not budge until the governor came down from his vehicle to address them.

His policy of “inclusiveness” was also unique. It was a clear, rare and deliberate policy position by the Governor that the politics of winner-takes-all cannot augur well for the political space of Ogun State. Of course, the “inclusiveness”, naturally, did not go well with some politicians. That has not been the practice.

But also, it is on record that the outpouring of congratulatory messages by opponents of the Governor at the March 9, 2019 governorship election. Governorship candidates like Prince Buruji Kashamu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Otunba Rotimi Paseda of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), and former Governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel, were among the early callers at the Iperu country home of the then governor-elect to felicitate him.

The first committee to be set up by Abiodun even before his inauguration was the Economic Transition Committee headed by the former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr Tunde Lemo, who is not even a politicians. Not less than three gubernatorial candidates of different parties along with notable opposition politicians like former Deputy Governor, Alhaja Salmat Badru, accepted and served in the committee.

Few months into his administration, the Governor received into the fold of his party, top-rated politicians from other major opposition parties. They include Alhaja Salmat Badru, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, Olootu Dipo Sofowora, Kunle Ishiaq Salako, Reverend Iyabode Apampa and many others.

The comportment and disposition of the Governor has in no small way, has engendered peace within the political space of Ogun State. The attitude of the Governor has also won him love, adoration and cooperation from the workers in the civil service.

It is expected that the Omoluabi posture and disposition of the Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, would be reciprocated by all and sundry. After all, one good turn deserves the other.

On the Diamond anniversary of the noiseless Omoluwabi, we can only wish him the very best in his devotion to make Ogun State peaceful and better than he met it.