By Seyi Bakare
By the nature of events quite beyond governmental (or in fact human) control, 2020 has been a troubling year. In metaphorical terms it has been the proverbial trouble which, per the master novelist Chinua Achebe, tells you not to worry about the lack of a seat in your house because it has brought its own stool: the year has left a trail of tragedies. Beset on every angle by the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian state is battling a renewed upsurge of terrorism, kidnapping and banditry, not to talk of the tragedies that attended the recent massive protests against police brutality. Against that backdrop, governance has been muted in many states as inhibitors pile up, but there is cheering news in a few climes blessed with leaders conditioned by experience acquired in years of toil and triumph to thrive in the face of adversity. Among these admittedly scant crop of leaders, as Nigerians certainly must have noticed, has been Dapo Abiodun, the Iperu-born prince who pilots affairs at Oke Mosan, Abeokuta.
In the last couple of weeks, reputable institutions have started recognizing the modest achievements of the Abiodun-led revolution team in Ogun State. First, the National Parent Teacher Association decorated him with the Best Governor of the Year in Education. Then stakeholders in agriculture sector, with support of the African Development Bank, honoured him as the Best Governor of the Year in Agriculture. The euphoria had hardly died down when he was recognised by yet another organization as the Best Governor in Housing. His programme on housing targeted at delivering 2,500 affordable housing units, some of which have been completed, had not escaped recognition. The awards tell an alluring story of strides in agric intervention, urban renewal, information and communications technology and education, an eloquent testimony to the transformation, the real change over and above the usual window dressing of state capitals disguised as development in many climes, that the gentleman prince has crafted since being sworn into office on his 59th birthday. In all ramifications this is a story of a silent achiever, not a media-hugging chief executive.
The awards have their roots in the smiles of a happy populace, a people who see and appreciate the gains they are making in a season of national anguish. Roads, schools and hospitals are springing up in communities long abandoned to their fate; graduates are being given the ICT skills needed to fish in the tide of the information super highway; agric entrepreneurs are beginning to build the future in farm settlements equipped with state-of-the-art technology, and those women who in Niyi Osundare’s poetic lore are “battling centuries of maleficent slavery” are being empowered to take charge of their own economy and hence their slice of life’s offerings in a rapidly and happily changing state. In this clime where integrity and accountability have become a rarity, appreciating the valiant efforts of the few leaders who stand out away from the madding crowd is a patriotic duty.
No sooner had the business mogul assumed office than he deployed the expertise acquired in the board room to turn around the state of things in Ogun State. In education, he began building model schools in each of the 236 wards in the state, abolished tuition fees, effected the promotion of teachers, and resolved the lingering disputes in the state’s higher institutions. With tuition fees abolished and with model schools staring everyone in the face, school enrolment tripled, as those who had dropped out following their parents’ failure to pay the tuition fees imposed by the previous administration returned to school. In the agric sector, Governor Abiodun’s agropreneurial scheme gave opportunity to young graduates to farm their way into prosperity. The young graduates at the centre of this scheme were allocated farms and provided with the necessary equipment. The administration ensured that they had quality seedling, made stipends available to them on a monthly basis and, what is more, also created markets for their produce. As everyone knows, there is a company that processes cassava into ethanol in the state. The company can take several millions of tonnage of the agropreneurs’ cassava output every month. There is a ready market for the produce, which invariably enhances the revenue profile and hence the quality of living of the agropreneurs. Then we are also talking of employment of labour because the agropreneurs cannot do the work alone; they need farm hands. This ultimately has effects on the economy of the state.
Determined to safeguard the health of the people and fully sanitise all poultry markets in the state, the government has been training live bird market operators as well as poultry value chain actors on the promotion of biosecurity and disease reporting. As the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Adeola Odedina, said: “Because we share boundaries with neighbouring West African countries, it is important that we carry stakeholders along in this renewed drive. Our regular engagement with live bird market disinfection and decontamination activities especially during festive periods has helped in no small major in checking the spread of Avian Influenza which has become a standard for effective control and eradication of the disease as recognised by the Food and Agricultural Organisation. ”
In fishery, Ogun under Abiodun is said to have the largest fish farm in the country, and young people are trained on how to cultivate ponds and ensure quality production. Again the market is there, both locally and internationally. Apart from giving the agropreneurs fingerlings, the government also trains them on marketing strategies. In four months, the fish are ready for the market, and the technology for drying them is available. Rice plantation is part of the package. The market is being flooded with this locally produced rice and this partly mitigates the effects of border closure. In the area of housing, the Abiodun administration is turning the sod and making the underprivileged house owners. Civil servants areowning homes, and the process of acquisition has been simplified, together with that for obtaining the certificate of ownership. The strides in housing have arguably enhanced the state’s urban renewal drive. And with tech hubs, young graduates are coming to grips with the latest skills in the information super highway. These achievements show that Dapo Abiodun has brought a lot of creativity to bear on governance and, in any case, his appointees are people with proven track records.
Given the foregoing, it came as no surprise that Prince Abiodun took home the Governor of the Year Award at the Nigeria Agriculture Awards 2020 held at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja, on December 2. The Nigeria Agriculture Awards 2020, the seventh edition since inception in 2014, was the climax of the Feed Nigeria Summit tagged “Agribusiness: Leading Nigeria’s Recovery”. The event had in attendance national and international experts and stakeholders in agriculture, including private sector players. The roll call included several governors, H.E. Rudolf Kulitz, Deputy Ambassador, Federal
Republic of Germany and the German Community; Head of European delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karrison; IFAD Director in Nigeria and Central Africa, Nadine Gbossa; Prof. Egesi, Project Manager NextGen Cassava, Agricultural Development Partners such as IITAgi, private sector players, relevant farmers and commodity groups, Directors in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture( Gender, Policy, Agricultural Sciences) among others.
And no less a person than the governor himself has declared that his administration’s intervention in the infrastructural, education, housing, health and agricultural sector in the State had begun to yield positive results. Speaking during the inauguration of the N5bn Ultra-Modern PET Packaging line of Nigerian Breweries at Imagbon, Ijebu-Ode, Governor Abiodun enthused: “Few weeks ago, the National Parent – Teacher Association conferred on me Best Governor of the Year in Education for our initiatives in Education. Two weeks ago, the stakeholders in Agriculture Sector, with support of the African Development Bank, also conferred on me the Best Governor of the Year in Agriculture. Just last week, we were also recognized with Best Governor in Housing. I believe our investment in infrastructure are yielding positive results.” They certainly are.
*Bakare sent this piece via email@example.com