By Seyi Bakare
The Covid-19 crisis came like the proverbial trouble dramatised by the arch novelist, Chinua Achebe: when you tell him there is no stool for him in your house, he tells you not to worry, that he has brought its own stool. In the last five months at least, it has redrawn the geography of governance and the ecology of expectations in the country, and strained the common social bonds that bind communities together. The virus, not the colonialist this time around, “has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart,” like Achebe writes in the epochal Things Fall Apart. With 36,663 cases in Nigeria alone as of Sunday, July 19, the pandemic has indeed tasked the patience of many a government, becoming the proverbial abiku of Yoruba lore that makes a liar of the medicine man. In a few states, though, excuses just won’t cut it, and commendable strides have been made, and continue to be made, in virtually all sectors of the economy. Take Ogun, for instance, governed by the business mogul and boardroom guru, Prince Dapo Abiodun: it’s been a year of challenges, no doubt, but the democratic goodies—rich, constant and unceasing– continue to pour in.
The Abiodun administration has battled COVID-19 to a standstill. It has seen to the establishment of five treatment and Isolation Centres for COVID-19 patients. The centres are located in Ikenne, Sagamu and Abeokuta. It set up a Molecular Laboratory at Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, (OOUTH) Sagamu, the first Molecular Laboratory solely funded by a state in Nigeria, with capacity for 150 tests a day, together with the first COVID-19 Mobile Laboratory in Nigeria with the capacity to run 450 tests a day, at the intended 250-bed hospital at Abeokuta. There are COVID-19 Drive-Through and Walk-In Testing Centres equipped with a specially designed protective glass enclosure preventing medical personnel collecting samples from getting infected. Of course, there is the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) floor of the 250-bed Hospital at Abeokuta, with a capacity for 18 available beds. The administration also renovated two General Hospitals and 20 selected PHCs, to serve as first responders to cases of COVID-19. To ginger health workers to be at their best, it reviewed Hazard Allowance by 300 per cent, and enrolled over 8,000 health workers in a life insurance scheme.
But life’s apparently not all about Covid-19. Education is the sector in which social engineering was actualized in the South-West during the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and it is where we begin. The Abiodun administration came into office determined to make a change, and make a change it has. No sooner had it settled down in office than it quickly resolved the protracted crisis over the status of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, the intended Moshood Abiola University of Technology, as well as the perennial crisis at the Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu. The Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Ojere-Abeokuta, was brought back on its feet, with a good number of employed staff, matriculated students, robust IGR, conducive ecosystem of caterers traders, artisans and community working in harmony. That was not all: the administration renovated and reconstructed 95 public schools fitted with modern corrugated roofs, furniture, halls and modern toilet facilities across the state, being firmly committed to providing similar structures and facilities for at least one school in each of our 236 wards. This was part from setting up a Government Delivery Unit for Education, clearing the backlog of 10,000 teaching non-teaching staff promotion exercise for 2016/2017, undertaking foreign capacity building for school administrators, ensuring technology-based human development for our teachers, and inducting132 principals, 122 vice principals and 4 zonal secretaries to fill the deficit the administration met across secondary schools in the state.
Without good roads, just how do you fast-track development? How do you bring farm produce from the hinterland into the city centres? In Abiodun’s Ogun State, happily, there are road projects everywhere, whether you are thinking of the Obantoko road, Idi Aba- Elite-Oke Lantoro, Abeokuta; Abeokuta-Sagamu Interchange, Ikola/Navy-Osi Ota Road; or Raypower Road, Ota. The State Hospital, Ilaro internal road network has been done, just as the Ota Owode-Idiroko, Molipa-Fusigboye-Ojofa Street, Ijebu-Ode; Asafa Oke-Asafa Isale-Ayegun- Ojofa Street, Ijebu-Ode; Bright Fashion Baruwa Street, Sagamu; Hospital Road, Sagamu; Oba Erinwole Dual Carriageway, Oru-Awa-Alaporu-Ibadan; Adigbe Bridge, Ikoritameje-Adenrele/Olose Titun-Vespa, Ifo, Iberekodo General Hospital Internal Road, Abeokuta, Iperu Ilishan, Sagamu Iperu Ode, Siun Ogere, among others. There is also the 14-kilometer Ijebu-Ode-Epe road, a dual-carriageway with 10 lanes, and a 14-lane toll plaza for easy payment of tolls.
The roads have been complemented by strides in housing. That is as it should be. The Abiodun administration constructed Prince Court Estate at Kemta, Abeokuta, an affordable housing project with a plan for 450 units. It also accomplished the King’s Court Estate Development project at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta. It built 23 units of 2 and 3 bedroom affordable bungalows under the Laderin Estate Civil Servants Scheme. On the sidelines, ot undertook downward review of the selling price for the 3 bedroom flats and 2 bedroom flats at the A.A.K. Degun Estate situated in Laderin, Abeokuta and ensured the relaxation of terms and condition of sale of the units, including the reduction of interest rate from 18 per cent to 6 per cent. Governor Abiodun’s direct Labour Policy alone has benefitted 400 youth artisans who were recruited across crafts (plumbing, electrical and building) for the State Ministry of Housing’s Building Programme.
Within the last one year, the administration also resuscitated the construction equipment rental company, Plant Gate. For the first time in the state’s history, there is now a Power and Energy Board carrying out, among others, procurement and installation of transformers to communities across the State. ICT has been given a boost with the establishment of the Ogun TechHubs as centres for incubation and innovation for tech start-ups, skills acquisition. Nigerians are well aware of the fact that, following the first edition of a competition tagged Governor’s Challenge, a number of innovative ICT solutions that immediately received support for further refinement and commercial development, emerged. Two awards by the Federal Ministry of Digital Economy and Communication – Best State in ICT Penetration and 2nd position in ICT Human Capital Development, affirm Governor Abiodun’s efforts to make Ogun Nigeria’s ICT hub.
The foregoing is of course not to say that the health sector has been given a shortshrift. On the contrary, it is, together with education, arguably the centerpiece of the Abiodun administration Build our Future Together mantra. With the rehabilitated of two General Hospitals, one in Abeokuta and the other in Ilaro, with work ongoing in 236 Primary Healthcare Centres, with the recruitmenr of 82 health workers, including resident doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals in various cadres into the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, and 56 others across the other state health facilities; with the immunization of about 1.3 million children against polio; with regular medical outreach offering free medical examination, including free eye glasses, immunisation, blood pressure and sugar level checks, Hepatitis counselling and vaccination, providing life-saving intervention to 8,000 women, and many more, the administration has demonstrated its belief in the maxim that health is wealth. As a matter of fact, it has upgraded select State Hospitals to provide Prevention of HIV from Mother to Child (PMTCT) and Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) services; and purchased new collection of medical equipment, including a dialysis machine, mobile digital x-ray machine, high resolution ultrasound machine, new intensive care beds, twelve new ventilators, eight CPAP machines, 10 new ambulances and logistics trucks.
The Abiodun administration established the Ogun State Business Environment Council and Enterprise Development Agency (EDA) for capacity building and facilitation of financing access to support the MSME sector, and initiated a creative arts and entertainment hub. It implemented the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for budget preparation. It also set up a Fiscal Responsibility Commission, established the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Office, implemented staff biometrics and payroll audit and created the Bureau of Public Procurement Council. As noted by a distinguished writer, it is indeed a tribute to Abiodun’s genius that despite inheriting N221.55 bn debts and expending over N15bn on servicing debts incurred by previous administrations, he is not owing workers salaries.
*Bakare contributes this piece from Mowe, Ogun State.