Ogun: The Legacy of a Great Future

By Tunji Olaopa


In this keynote, I will touch on several critical issues that impinge not only on the historical location of Ogun State and her development achievements, but also on her fundamental role as an economic corridor in the redefinition of governance in Nigeria. I will further characterize the governance insights to be derived from Governor Abiodun’s leadership style, and then draw significant lessons that could aid future possibilities.

In the 2018 Human Development Index (HDI), Ogun State was second on the list, with a medium human development status of 0.662, behind Lagos State with 0.673. This is a very significant jump from a 2016 where Ogun State was placed a distant eight position (0.549). This figure alone tells several significant stories. First, it signals the fundamental significance of continuity in government. Ogun State did not become a significant human development participant on the strength of a single administration’s efforts and achievements. Second, this is a state that is progressing steadily in the task of achieving the well-being of its citizens. And what best way to track that progress than through the human development index? And third, this trajectory of governance focus speaks about the determination of the state to achieve a legacy that aims for the future and for posterity.

Ogun State has a rich historical narrative rooted in liberation and human development. Permit me to refresh our collective memories with the emancipatory narrative of Lisabi Agbongbo Akala, the indomitable warrior whose historical sense of justice and freedom was all it took for the Egba to be liberated from the overlordship of the Old Oyo Empire, a narrative that did not diminish the legendary heroism of Sodeke of Egba and Onafowokan of Ijebu. And the real paradox is that while Oyo gave its name to the Southwest as the foundation of our cultural unity, Ogun in turn became a very significant member-state under the Oodua cultural banner. Indeed, Ogun state has played a most significant role in molding the stature and status of the Nigerian state since independence. And it has done this through the exportation of her sons and daughters, her veritable human capital, to the overall development of the Nigerian state. The story of Ogun state’s impact on Nigeria did not stop with Lisabi’s liberation of the Egba from Oyo, and the deep lesson in social justice that it taught. From music to business, from politics to administration, and from activism to education, Ogun state has an array of individuals who became national figures.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s cultural and political achievements loom large in this firmament of Ogun’ human capital contribution. It is most significant that Ogun produced a figure that had become canonized as the Yoruba leader par excellence. What does anyone here expect me to say about the mercurial Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his ongoing statesmanship to unite a great nation? Chief Ernest Shonekan was a critical political figure when Nigeria needed a stable transition. Chief M. K. O. Abiola who bestrode Nigerian political space as colossus, the hero of the Nigerian democratic movement and its sacrificial lamb? What do I say about the quiet political significance of Professor Yemi Osinbajo? How about such legendary statesmen as Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Chief Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi, Administrator, Western Region in crisis period in Nigeria’s history, Dr. Tai Solarin of Mayflower fame, Hebert Ogunde, father of the theatre in Nigeria, Chief J. F. Odunjo, foremost author and Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo, my hero and father of the civil service in Nigeria, to name just a very few.

Ebenezer Obey’s music defined the entertainment context of his time, along with those of other markers of traditional music as Haruna Isola and Yusuf Olatunji. Apart from Rev. Isreal Oludotun Ransome-Kuti’s pioneering place as the father the teaching profession in Nigeria, the Ransome-Kutis were the very essence of civil right-revolution catalyzing-type rebellion to initiate social order not only in Ogun State but also in Nigeria. Laureate Wole Soyinka’s literary prowess and activism enabled us not only to understand the social anomie we are battling with, but also to warn us that the man dies in anyone who closes his or her eyes to injustice. Chief Adeola Odutola was the very essence of entrepreneurship before it became a global imperative in the era of the Mike Adenuga of our age. Akinlawon Ladipo Mabogunje straddles academics and public administration with a deep understanding of Nigeria’s cadastral mapping, and I can go on and on. These are all not just transnational figures whose influence remains grounded in our national consciousness; they are also inter-generational in their capacity to generate conversations that are enduring between the past and the present.

The Challenge of State Governance in Nigeria

This array of human capital stars provides the context within which we can commence our discussion about state governance, especially within Nigeria’s problematic federation. This is where all the idealistic veil will be taken off our eyes, and we will see for what it is the very travail of being a Governor in any state in Nigeria. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution was supposedly written in the spirit of federalism founded on the framework of a tripartite legislative powers shared between the federal, state and local governments. While the federal government legislate over the exclusive list, the concurrent list is meant for the joint supervision of both the federal and the state legislatures, while the residual list comes under the local governments. But any acute observers of Nigeria’s national affairs for many years now, and especially in recent times, will notice that things are not as they seem.

The security situation in the country demands that the Governors, as the chief security officers of their respective states, take a firm stand on the safety of their citizens. But they seemed handicapped because of the centralized security apparatuses at the constitutional behest of the President. In a normal federal framework, the idea of state and community policing would have been a foregone conclusion. But Nigeria’s federalism is not a normal one. And it is not normal because it is a federal arrangement answering to a unitary logic that takes away the power of the states to achieve constitutional initiatives that are conducive, for instance, to democratic governance. The truth is that most states, like Ogun State, with the vision and the will to develop have to factor the import of Decree 34 of 1966 that took away the federal impulse in the Nigerian Constitution. One implication is that the exclusive list contains as many as 68 items that include issues that ought to be solely at the preserve of the states, especially issues like security and land use. This leads to the emasculation of the federating units through the empowering of the center.

The urgency of the issues involved becomes clearly defined when we examine the impact of our “unitary federalism” on the prospect of fiscal federalism for internal development of the federating units. If it is correct that government exists to bring economic development through infrastructural provisions to the citizens, then we immediately see how the federal system can adequately manage this. The 1963 Constitution provides a sound demonstration of this: the regions not only had control of the natural and human resources in their domain, but were also able to exercise wide powers to use these resources for local development. We saw the result in terms of agricultural development, education and industry. However, with military rule commencing in 1966, state autonomy became critically reduced with growing centralization. It is against this fiscal injustice in the Nigerian constitutional and economic framework that we can begin to understand the evolution of Ogun State since its creation in 1976, and its struggle to achieve the best socioeconomic and infrastructural objectives for the Ogun people.

Ogun State as Economic Corridor

When it came into existence in 1976, Ogun State immediately inherited a unique development and business geography that positioned it as a central hub around which development in Nigeria would be measured. Bordered by Lagos to the south, Ondo to the east, and Osun and Oyo to the north, Ogun became aptly the Gateway state because it is not only strategically contiguous with Lagos state as the hub of industrialization and commercialization in Nigeria, it is also the lead-way into the southwest, and the rest of Nigeria as well as the rest of the West African sub-region.

Ogun’s proximity to Lagos state has turned it into a growing and significant industrial hub benefitting from its strategic location near Lagos. Indeed, Ogun has been dubbed the “New Jersey” of Nigeria because it has now become the preferred location for investments in Nigeria. as Nigeria’s largest commercial market and busiest port center, Lagos state does not have the capacity to deal with the large flow of business coming into the state. A spillover effect ensured that Ogun state would benefit from the necessity of relocation for businesses and development dynamics that needed to escape from the congested environment. Two significant factors have concretized Ogun’s strategic relevance to Nigeria’s development. The first is her natural endowments, especially the availability of limestone; and the second is the access to a large quantity of natural gas that makes energy available in abundance.

Ogun’s favorable climate that aids good vegetation also ensures the cultivation of valuable food and cash crops—cocoa, palm oil, rubber, rice, tobacco, yam, etc.—that add value to the state’s agricultural agenda and also increase its industrial and manufacturing strength, deriving from processing of agricultural products. For instance, this led to the conception of the Olokola Free Trade Zone in 2004 by the Gbenga Daniel administration. The need to take care of the huge manufacturing concerns attracted to the state also led to the emergence of the public-private partnership enabled Agbara Industrial Estate. The state’s strategic location has therefore been rewarded with a huge foreign direct investment (FDI). Between 2011 and 2016, Ogun State accounted for 74.5% ($11.9billion) of the total FDI that came into Nigeria. and in 2015, its manufacturing strength accounted for 71.2% of the total of N180.1 billion invested in Nigeria’s manufacturing sector.

Ogun State in Nigeria’s Economic Framework

In the 2018 Ease of Doing Business (DB) in Nigeria report, we get a glimpse of how Nigeria’s governance environment has been compromised by her unitary constitutional framework (conducive to centralization), and weak institutions. Nigeria ranked 183 out of 190 in the 2020 Ease Doing Business report. This poor ranking has tremendous impact on individual states within the federation which has to contend with federal regulatory laws and statutes which limits their creativity and initiatives. Despite being a strategic economic corridor to the southwest, Nigeria and the West African subregion, Ogun state still had to contend with the overall national economic and business atmosphere in calibrating her own development. The DB report rank each state of the federation according to four indicators:

(a) Starting a business

(b) Dealing with construction permits

(c) Registering property

(d) Enforcing contracts

In (a), Ogun ranked 4th, 11th in (b), 28th in (c) and 20th in (d), out of the 36 states and the FCT. The good news is that, according to the report, there is no single state that dominates across the indicators. But Ogun is not among the five states—Kaduna, Enugu, Abia, Lagos and Anambra—which record the largest advance towards global best practices. The 2019 edition of the State of States report about fiscal sustainability in Nigeria provides another glimpse into the current state of Ogun state and her fiscal status. In the fiscal sustainability index, Lagos leads, and is followed by Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Kano. Ogun state came 6th. Yet, it has quadrupled its IGR from 17.5bn in 2014 to 84.6bn in 2018. And this gave it a percentage growth advantage over Lagos and Rivers. However, its debt profile as at 2018 stands at N98.7bn.

The 2018 Human Development Index which placed Ogun state second behind Lagos is further complemented by the Nigerian Poverty Index 2019 which revealed that the southwest and the south recorded the lowest poverty rates. Lagos had the lowest at 4.5%, followed by Delta with 6%, Osun (8.5%), and Ogun with 9.3%. Sokoto and Taraba had the highest poverty rates at 87.73% and 87.72, respectively. In the unemployment rate index, Imo had the highest unemployment rate of 48.7% and Anambra had the lowest at 13.1%. Ogun’s unemployment rate stood at 16.3%.

The deduction from these data is simple: Ogun state, like most states within the federation called Nigeria has not been given the adequate environment within which to realize their governance capacity on behalf of their citizens. and yet, each of them keeps struggling against the current of centralization and fiscal injustice. The revenue allocation formula ensures that the center is disproportionately allocated 52.68%, while a grant of 26.72% goes to the states. With its hold on the enormous exclusive list, the federal government has a taxing power through an access to the most lucrative revenue sources, while the states are left to depend on the center due to their weak fiscal capacity.

And so, more than ever, we come face to face with the governance challenge a governor like HE, Prince Dapo Abiodun has to face in not only coming to terms with the governance assets and deficits of his predecessors, but also fashioning a governance template that furthers the well-being of the citizens, within a constricting constitutional and fiscal framework that is disenabling.

Governor Dapo Abiodun’s Vision and Actions

We need to clearly state that a Governor is not applauded for the grandness of his vision or his capacity to achieve the minimum of administrative and governance requirements, like paying workers’ salaries. On the contrary, a Governor’s achievement derives from the administration’s ability to transform the good governance narrative in the state through a qualitative change in the quality of life of the citizens. This requires a synergy between vision and mission statement, on the one hand, and ideology and strategy on the other. Every vision needs a strategy backstopped by an ideology. And Governor Abiodun realized the urgency of this governance imperative. His vision is simple enough: “…to give Ogun State focused and qualitative governance and to create an enabling environment for a public-private sector partnership, which is fundamental to reliable economic development and individual prosperity of the people of Ogun.”

This vision already indicates a significant strategic ideology, which is further fleshed in the ISEYA acronym—Infrastructure—Social Welfare and Well-being—Education—Youth development—Agriculture and food security. The acronym therefore provides a Yoruba cultural call to duty for the governor and his team—it is time to work! And His Excellency definitely set out to work, guided by the intense discipline of the private sector managerial dynamics that is motivated by performance management and productivity indicators. This ideological context for governance performance was also hedged about with what the Governor called “strategic enablers”—good governance, security, information and communication technology (ICT), infrastructure and welfare—grounded on the strategic pillars of agriculture, education, health, environment and infrastructure.

What is unique about Governor Abiodun’s vision and strategy? It is simple but brilliant: he realized the comparative strength of Ogun state and he tapped into it to harness its capacities. Ogun state, as we noted earlier, is strategically placed as the gateway into the southwest and into Nigeria. And it has been naturally endowed with arable lands, as well as an industrial potentiality deriving from its contiguity to Lagos, that promise huge returns. Given the fiscal limitations that the Nigerian Constitution imposes on the state, what best way to harness these potentials that Providence has given Ogun state than through a collaboration between the government and the private sector? And who is in the best position and with the vast experience to realize this than someone who cuts his professional and managerial teeth in the private sector? It therefore becomes possible to deploy a vast youthful population to an agricultural agenda backed by a huge industrial framework that can move Ogun forward. The establishment of the Ogun State One-Stop-Shop Investment Center (OSIC), which later transformed into the Ogun State Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency (OgunInvest) in 2018 is a critical structural complement to Governor Abiodun’s PPP vision.

The second leg in Governor Abiodun’s governance agenda is the reform of the civil service to boost its capacity readiness to deliver on his vision. The reformer in me delights in the Governor’s effort to erase the skill and capacity gaps in the operational functionality of the MDAs. This is the way to go to transform the MDAs into world-class functional unit for governance successes. This reform consciousness is complemented by series of reform processes: rejuvenation of the M&E department, appointment of a director-general for the Bureau of Public Procurement, and a Statistician-General for the Bureau of Statistics, and the putting up of the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).

And after one year in office, the Governor was able to say, with confidence, “We delivered on our promises to the people of Ogun state.”

And yet the job is not yet done, as His Excellency recognized. In the next few pages, I will outline the challenges ahead, together with the opportunities available for the Governor and his administration to tap in.

“Building Our Future Together”

The Abiodun administration has three more years in its first tenure office. And these years are sufficient to generate the goodwill that will give the governor a second term to keep up the good governance work embedded in ISEYA. The solid indication for this is the demonstration of performance intent that the first year produced. This implies that the administration must take seriously its own slogan of “building the future together.” This slogan has significant administrative and governance implications that can improve the governance and productivity profile of Ogun state. I will highlight three.

The first is economic collaboration. In October 2019, the Governors of Lagos and Ogun states were hosted to a business meeting to discuss the possibilities of collaboration demanded by their economic and geographic contiguity. Yet, this principle of contiguity ought not to be restricted to Lagos alone. It ought to extend to the entire southwestern region that borders Ogun state. These are sister states whose economic profiles and cultural dynamics mirrors those of Ogun state. There is a lot to be gained in terms of governance and trade agreements and partnership. Indeed, as I see it, the DAWN Commission ought to be a truly functional catalyst for Governor Abiodun’s vision of PPP.

The second institutional template for togetherness in realizing the objectives of Ogun State is the need for a deeper attention to the functionality of the Ogun state public service. There is an urgent need for a rigorous and more focused reform implementation dynamics that will facilitate the capacity readiness of the public service to deliver on the policy of the Abiodun administration. This means that the reforms signaled by the Governor—economic and public financial reform, public financial management reforms, fiscal and institutional management reforms, etc.—require detailed implementational and evaluative mechanism that will produce tangible outputs. There might be a need for a reform agency in the office of the governor to take charge of reform matters and their management.

The third institutional component I will urgently signal is the need for an anti-corruption framework that will serve as a critical structural watchdog to undergird the administration’s governance objectives and projections. Political and bureaucratic corruption are both fundamental variables that undermine good governance. The trajectory of governance achievements which His Excellency has proven in his first year cannot be rubbished by the prevalence of corruption and its debilitating consequences.

The last institutional template I am convinced will add value to the Abiodun administration is the urgent need to establish an inter-generational forum that will enable the state to harness the vast human capital resources available to the state in education, music, entertainment, industry, the private sector, science and technology, politics, public administration, and so on. All these achievers, heroes and heroines constitute a framework of intelligence and wisdom that the administration can call upon to backstop its policies and projections. They remain a veritable bridge between what had been done and what is possible, especially in terms of youth development which is a significant plank in the Abiodun administration’s governance strategy.


Let me end this keynote with a quote from Dwayne Johnson, the American movie star. According to him, “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” The responsibility attached to governance requires focus, and consistency and hard work. I have no doubt that all these can be found in HE Prince (Dr) Dapo Abiodun. I have no doubt that he is already laying the foundation of a great future in Ogun state. His reward will be that no one will ever forget the legacy that will come from his good governance agenda.

  • Being Keynote Lecture delivered at the Symposium organised by the Ogun State Government to mark the 45th Anniversary of the State’s creation by Professor Tunji Olaopa, professor of public administration and public policy, retired Federal permanent secretary and Directing Staff, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru, Jos Wednesday

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