By Oyawamide Ojo
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu Aketi (SAN) has been in the saddle for the past three and a half years. The governor is about rounding off his first term of four years in office. Therefore, voters in the state will go to the polls on October 10 to elect the next governor of the state.
Only the mischievous and those blinded by partisan hatred and bitterness can dispute the claim that Arakunrin Akeredolu has kept faith with his promise of good governance. The tree of his government has yielded bountiful and the sweetest of fruits for the state. It is, therefore, expected of anyone who professes love for the state and concern about her wellbeing to recognise the need to keep up the gains.
One remarkable gain of the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu government that requires sustainability is industrialization. Before now, the last time the state had it so good in terms of industrialisation was during the Baba Adekunle Ajasin era. It is heart-rending that virtually all the industries established by the forward-looking government of the late sage are now dead.
Their ruins are a sad reminder of the mismanagement, profligacy and corruption of the eras after that of Baba Ajasin. In 2014, the state lost the opportunity of hosting the Dangote Oil Refinery. The Chairman, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, had in 2013 signed a deal with some banks to finance the oil refinery project which was to be sited in the state.
But unfortunately, the project was relocated to Lagos State. Till now, nobody has explained what factors compelled the Africa’s wealthiest man to move the project out of the state. Imagine how the oil refinery would have transformed the economy of the state!
Industrialization is a potent strategy for the expansion and development of any economy. Governor Akeredolu appreciates this fact. And that is why the massive industrialisation of the state is one of the important goals of his government.
Today, there is the Ondo-Linyi Industrial Hub in Ore. At present, the hub is hosting no fewer than six industries. In the hub are truck assembly plant, cassava-to-ethanol plant, textile mill, paper mill and the first MDF factory in West Africa. The industrial hub is still a work in progress. More industries are still coming.
The state is blessed with abundant bitumen. The natural resource had remained untapped since 1904 when it was discovered in the belly of the southern part of the state. But it is a good piece of news that the story has now changed. An indigenous company, the South West Bitumen Exploration Limited (SWB), has commenced modular exploitation of the bitumen deposits. This is one of the notable feats that have been achieved by the Akeredolu government.
In Ilaje, the state has the natural gift of the longest and deepest coastline in West Africa. The country and, of course, the Sunshine state have not made utmost use of this God’s gift. The government of the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu tried its best to ensure there was a seaport in the state. However, the dream was not realized by the government before it was abruptly removed by the Court of Appeal, Benin Division.
Almost a decade after, the Akeredolu government revived the seaport dream. Port Ondo is expected to come into existence soon. Everything necessary to be done to have the dream realised has been done.
With all these industrialisation efforts, the Akeredolu government is laying a solid foundation for a self-reliant and prosperous Ondo State. There are other benefits the government has brought to the people in the areas of infrastructural development, education revitalisation, health rejuvenation and adequate security provision among others.
There is the need to sustain the gains of the first term of Governor Akeredolu. The sustainability can only be achieved through the continuity of his government. There is no guarantee that the solid foundation being laid by the present government would not be abandoned if Arakunrin Akeredolu is not reelected, given the adversarial nature of Nigerian politics.
The Agagu government initiated Olokola Free Trade Zone. The multi billion naira project would have brought prosperity to the people of the state and ensured self-reliance. But it became moribund after the late Agagu left the stage. It was abandoned. Therefore, Olokola became a victim of the abrupt discontinuity of the Agagu government.
The present government in the state revisited the project in 2017 when Governor Akeredolu set up a nine-man technical committee to reactivate the free trade zone. The committee was headed by Funso Kupolokun, a renowned Petroleum Engineer and one time Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
As the gubernatorial election approaches, the best decision to take by the Ondo State electors is to vote for the continuity of the Akeredolu government. It is only that decision that can guarantee a self-reliant and prosperous Ondo State.
* Ojo is the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Akeredolu on Media and Publicity