Governor Dapo Abiodun’s effort to reposition Ogun State appears to be paying off, writes Tobi Soniyi
When he was sworn in as the Governor of Ogun State on May 29, 2019, Prince Dapo Abiodun had his work cut out for him. He inherited a state with a few new shining bridges, roads, a high level of unemployment, dilapidated public schools, demoralised workforce, a health system begging for attention, and an education system in comatose.
As if all these were not daunting enough, he had to contend with litigation challenging his election.
Confronted with these challenges, Abiodun did not claim to be all knowing. In line with his decision to run an inclusive government, he consulted with community leaders, interest groups and other stakeholders across the state’s 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
He asked them to submit a list of infrastructural needs, in order of preference in their areas. Their responses included roads, schools as well as Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs).
Sometimes, governors embark on projects that suit their fancy as against what the people actually need. This often results in waste. The Ogun State governor chose not to follow this path.
When asked for his reaction to the consultation with stakeholders, the governor said: “This exercise has been very rewarding, allowing us to strategically allocate resources.”
According to him, this approach sits well with the implementation of his “Building our Future Together” Agenda. But before he could begin to execute the projects the people asked for, he must as a matter of urgency, resolve some avoidable crises his predecessor had plunged education into before he left office. Ogun State used to be at the forefront in education.
This, however, is no longer so due to the negligence of the sector by successive administrations. Still, the state is home to the highest number of tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
Abiodun recognised the fact that all the firsts that Ogun State and her people had scored could be attributed to the state having a head-start in education. He had no choice but to declare a state of emergency in the sector.
“We are determined to deepen this legacy. In this regard, we evolved a multi-dimensional approach for further development of our educational industry,” he explained.
He started by setting up administrative and visitation panels to make recommendations on the situation in some of the tertiary institutions in the state.
A panel headed by Prof. Segun Awonusi resolved the lopsidedness concerning the status of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic and the intended Moshood Abiola University of Technology while Prof Kamal Balogun investigated the perennial crisis at the Tai Solarin College of Education, (TASCE) Omu-Ijebu.
So far TASCE has returned to its old glory and held its first combined convocation ceremony last year in December, something that was impossible for 11 years.
Similarly, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Ojere-Abeokuta, which was an established tertiary institution, but for political expediency was supplanted and meant for conversion to a university of science and technology – a move that would have cost all academic and non-academic staff of the institution to lose either their jobs or some years of service, has been brought back from comatose.
It is back on its feet, with a good number of employed staff, matriculated students, robust IGR, an ecosystem conducive for caterers, traders, artisans and community working in harmony to give everybody a cause to smile.
The governor had also invested in infrastructure, capacity building for teaching and non-teaching corps; resolved industrial crises in that sector; appointed digitally compliant teachers while motivating staff with timely promotions and introduction of ICT into the teaching-learning process.
In addition to establishing a government delivery unit for education, the governor had successfully created an environment conducive for education to once again thrive in the state.
At the primary and secondary school level, his government has renovated and reconstructed 95 public schools fitted with modern corrugated roofs, furniture, halls and modern toilet facilities across the three senatorial districts.
Beyond the structures, he has also approved the backlog of 10,000 teaching and non-teaching staff promotion exercises for 2016/2017.
Unemployment is another challenge the nation is grappling with and Ogun State has its own fair share of the problem. The governor is addressing this on many fronts, including Information and Communication Technology, agriculture, and creation of a unique job portal.
Recognising the fact that ICT offers tremendous opportunities for employment generation and wealth creation, the governor established the Ogun TechHub as a centre for incubation and innovation for tech start-ups, skills and acquisition. It is also a platform for engagement between venture capital providers and technology talents that abound in the state.
The development and deployment of the Ogun State Job Portal is yet another demonstration of the governor’s commitment to leveraging on the potential of the ICT for socio-economic transformation.
This initiative has already yielded positive results. Ogun State had received both local and national accolades, with two awards by the Federal Ministry of Digital Economy and Communication – Best State in ICT Penetration and 2nd position in ICT Human Capital Development.
For those working but whose incomes could hardly sustain them, the governor has different patterns of empowerment for them. For instance, there is a particular need for those involved in micro, small and medium enterprises.
Some of these initiatives are the “Oko’wo Dapo Scheme for Women, which provides economic empowerment and increased productivity for collective development; Empowerment of over 1,000 widows with start-off funds for their businesses; The state has keyed into the federal government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme.
It is worthy of note that Ogun State is just about to benefit from this scheme for the first time in the last 4 years, as a result of Abiodun’s vigorous effort. There’s the enrolment and graduation of 300 unemployed women and youths in the state trained in 4 different vocations.
The release of counterpart fund for the National Food for Work Programme (NFWP), which provides support for the development of living conditions of women in Ogun State, through grants, skills training, and the overall socio-economic uplift of women.
There’s also the release of N50million counterpart fund for the World Bank-assisted Ogun State Community and Social Development project. The first and second tranches of the grant from the World Bank had been released to 13 selected communities in 6 LGAs, including Abeokuta North, Ipokia, Yewa, Remo North, Ado-Odo/Ota and Odeda.
Facilitation of the continued inclusion of the state in the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, which provides that over 60,000 Primary 1-3 public school pupils will benefit across all 20 LGAs in the state.
The state is currently into aggressive distribution of palliatives to the poor, vulnerable and elderly on the one hand, and the youth across all 20 LGAs in the state during the COVID-19 lockdown periods. Not less than 400,000 families had benefited. The governor’s relief package distribution to the poor and vulnerable youths had reached about 20,000 youths.
Agriculture has the potential to generate thousands of jobs. With a landmass spanning 16,000 square kilometres, 12,000sq km of which is fertile for food and cash crop production, the importance of agriculture is not lost on the Ogun State governor.
To create jobs, the state keyed into the CBN Anchor Borrowers’ Programme on Agriculture, which was commenced on Friday, 6th September 2019, and the FADAMA Graduate Unemployment Youth Scheme, (GUYS) launched on 29 August 2019, directed at women and the youth.
Under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, the state facilitated the crediting by the CBN of 3,500 farmers drawn across all 20 LGAs with over N700 million.
Other agricultural initiatives embarked upon by the governor included the Ogun Broiler Project under which day old chicks, feeds, inputs, and training are provided to young farmers. About 9,000 youths have benefitted with each making a profit of about N130,000 in each six-week cycle.
There is also the Joint Ogun State and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Value Chain Project already ongoing across eight LGAs of the State, including Obafemi-Owode, Yewa North and South, Ijebu North & East, Ifo, Odeda and Odogbolu.
Creation of Agro-Industrial Processing Zone is another great feat. After competitive bidding with other Southwest states, Ogun State was on April 8 2020, shortlisted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) as a major hub for Industrial Cassava, Poultry, Agro-forestry and Fishery production.
In the year under review, the Ogun State government has constructed and maintained 385 new fish ponds/tanks and 300 fish farmers across the state. In addition, 2,815 farmers were assisted in stocking 2,815,000 Clarias Fingerlings.
The government, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, has also distributed improved varieties of plantain, banana, and pineapple to 100 farmers as a way to promote increased productivity of farmers.
Ogun State is also providing technical and logistic backstopping, such as training, and advisory service. The governor has approved the recruitment of additional Agricultural Extension Agents. They have jointly conducted 153,600 technical advisory field visits to service 360,000 farm families through contact farmers’ groups across the state.
To encourage more people to embrace farming, the state government has constructed four solar-powered boreholes, to make a total of 11 of the type, resulting in 2,500 beneficiaries of the Ogun State Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) having access to safe drinking water.