An Overview of Gov Abiodun’s Renewed Social Contract

Femi Ogbonnikan
The campaign for the March 11 governorship election is gradually winding to an end after months of rigorous engagements with the critical stakeholders at the grassroots. But for the inauspicious timing of the unpopular Naira swap policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and its attendant hardship precipitating some pockets of resistance, the exercise has been very peaceful in Ogun State under the watchful eyes of Governor Dapo Abiodun.

Unlike the experience of the 2019 general elections which was characterized by tension, the political temperature in the state has been largely tolerable due to the leadership quality of the governor as well as the collaboration between law enforcement agencies, politicians, traditional rulers, civil societies, and the citizens.

While the eruption of violent protests against the naira scarcity threatened the reigning atmosphere of peace in the state, the governor was proactive enough to nip the crisis in the bud. As the Chief Security Officer of the state, he deserves all accolades for his swift response to the brewing social unrest occasioned by the activities of miscreants who wanted to take advantage of the situation to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens and the assets of the financial institutions operating their legitimate business.

Thus, he maintained regular dialogue with the banks to ensure that the interest of the masses was adequately protected and people have access to their money. He also went further to demonstrate his compassion for the common people by suspending his re-election campaign to attend to the crisis even when others elected to maintain a conspiracy of silence in the face of misery and anger deliberately instigated by some power mongers against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to make it lose the election. At the risk of being labeled recalcitrant, he stood tall among men of honour and integrity who had the courage and temerity to voice out their opposition against the policy, seeking the suspension of the fire brigade approach adopted by the Federal Government in its implementation at the Supreme Court. The nation awaits the outcome of the ensuing legal tussle.

One of the lessons the drama of the naira swap policy has taught us as a people is the need for the electorate to be more circumspect in entrusting their mandate to the state actors who populate the political space masquerading as defenders of public interest. By keeping silent on the policy in apparent deference to the plight of the common people, opposition parties and their candidates have shot themselves in the leg, for the electorates now know who they can trust with their votes.

By all standards of measurement, Governor Abiodun has established himself as a trusted and dependable leader given the profound impact his stewardship has had on the socioeconomic well-being of the people of Ogun State. A profound impact that has spurred the people’s voluntary support and endorsement of his re-election bid. Today, the imprints of his achievements could be seen in virtually all aspects of the economy, investment inflow, industry, infrastructure, healthcare service delivery, human capital development, job creation, youth empowerment, increased capacity for Internally Revenue Generation (IGR), and social welfare, among others.

One major takeaway from his campaign tour of the nooks and crannies of the state is the promise of a better tomorrow given another opportunity for a second term. By giving him a second term, he will be able to nurture his vision for the industrial transformation of the state into fruition.
Thus, preparatory to the final round off of his campaign activities ahead of the INEC timeline, Governor Abiodun has made his renewed social contract with the people all-encompassing, promising to promote enhanced inclusiveness, participatory governance, grassroots development, completion of the ongoing infrastructural projects, conducive and sustainable business environment, joint border cooperation between Ogun and Lagos State, and economic prosperity for all and sundry to mention but a few.

Because of his over-arching objective of promoting inclusive governance, he has set the development of local administration as his top priority. Evidence from the World Bank has shown that Poverty is best tackled at the local government level. This is because not only that strong local governance can foster strong local democracy, but also tackle insecurity and stimulate the local economy, thereby opening opportunities for all and sundry. Regrettably, over the years, the politics of state/local government joint account has been largely responsible for the abysmal failure of Local Governments to meet the need of the people at the grassroots level. Every attempt to grant autonomy to local governments had been met with resistance from some state governors who often argued over the right to exercise close oversight over them. The latest of such resistance was the recent opposition to President Buhari’s Executive Order 10 of 2020, which grants financial autonomy to local governments as well as state legislatures and judiciaries.

By supporting the autonomy bill, the Ogun State government under the leadership of Governor Abiodun has demonstrated its commitment to accelerated development of the council areas. As a strong believer in the financial independence of local government as a third tier of government, he has shown the right way to achieve the goals and objectives of a functional local administration. By taking a lead in giving support to the passage of financial independence of local government, he has laid the foundation for grassroots development.

Apart from the fact that Ogun is the first state in the Southwest to pass the bill, the governor has also gone a step further to set up a special committee to look into the ways of releasing some sources of Internally Generated Revenues to the local governments to make them more functional. With the provision contained in the bill which allows for a special account into which all allocations due to Local Government Councils from the Federation Account and from the state government are to be paid, elected chairmen can now determine their priority projects.

In so doing, local governments are now well positioned to unlock local development better than central and state governments because of their local proximity, knowledge, and the local specificity of their services.

Besides, local government autonomy, one other significant landmark achievement of the Abiodun administration is the successful completion of the Gateway International Agro Cargo Airport, Ilishan, as well as other infrastructural facilities that could act as a catalyst for the ultimate diversification of the economy.

By projection, not less than 25, 000 jobs would be created within the first 18 months of its operation. “We estimate that in the first eighteen months, we will create a minimum of twenty-five thousand jobs in that airport,” Abiodun enthused.

This is in addition to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) development, agro industrialization through innovative linkages of primary producers to the industrial process, export promotion/diversification, leveraging local, national, regional, and international trade advantages including African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA). It will also boost the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) capacity and launch Ogun State as an international industrial hub of huge potential and gateway to neighbouring countries of Republic of Benin and Togo.

Governor Abiodun has announced that the state government would be revisiting arrangements to establish a multi-purpose creative and entertainment village in the state with an intention to partner with a Special Purpose Vehicle Organisation, Banks, and artists, to make his vision become a reality. According to him, the Creative Arts and Entertainment Village which will be located along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway will change the face of the entertainment and tourism sector in the country.

As a responsible government, peace, security and adequate protection of lives and property remain one of the cardinal agenda of the present administration. To this end, Governor Abiodun has taken delivery of drones to assist the security agencies in the state to frontally deal with the challenge of kidnapping and other forms of criminalities. The governor made the disclosure when he received the new Commissioner of Police in the state, Frank Mba, and the new Brigade Commander of the 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta, Brigadier-General Mohammed Aminu in his office. “We have since ordered some drones that have now arrived, we are now about to launch those drones and the drones we have purchased particularly for that corridor and other sensitive corridors so that it can help you in ensuring that we are proactive and we see these criminals before they begin to perpetuate their criminal tendencies,” he said.

In his response, Mba said that he witnessed the huge support the governor had given to security agencies in the state in the last three and half years, adding that he was in the state to fight crimes and defend the rights of the people of the state.

For border town communities, Governor Abiodun promised to establish Agric and Technical Colleges in his second term. He made the promise during the official flag-off of his campaign at the Imeko-Afon local government area of the state. He also pledged the commitment of his administration to address the challenges of bad roads in the council area, assuring the readiness of his government to reconstruct the Abeokuta/Imeko-Afon road. “I will commence the reconstruction before the end of the election to boost the socio-economic development of this area.

“We reconstructed Oke-Ola road here in Imeko town, Imeko -Afon LGA within the stipulated period. We have been doing our projects without making noise and we will not stop doing things that would be making our people happy,” he promised.

In pursuance of the light-up-the-rural-areas project of his administration, Governor Abiodun has equally indicated the preparedness of the government to commence in earnest the distribution of electricity transformers and solar systems for the rural communities. As part of a sustained effort to promote synergy between Ogun and Lagos State, the plan is also underway to extend the red and blue rail lines from Lagos to Agbara and Kajola respectively.

Similarly, an arrangement is being worked out to partner with Independent Power Project (IPP) providers, not only to generate electricity but to also involve in the distribution of power to industries, public and commercial entities in the state.

To address the challenge of infrastructural deficit at Tongeji, an oil-rich Island situated in the Ipokia Local Government Area of the state, the Governor has assured the residents that he would make case for more federal presence in the region to make life more meaningful for the people. While decrying the challenge of accessing the local government in the country, he raised the alarm that the neighbouring Benin Republic was aiming to annex the oil-rich Island to their country.

In order to boost Agriculture, the administration of Governor Abiodun has entered into a strategic partnership with national and international development agencies. These include the proposed Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone-SAPZ by the African Development Bank. Ogun State is one of eight states in Nigeria to benefit from the first phase of implementation which was flagged off in February 2022. With the partnership, the World Bank/Ogun State Economic Transformation Project (OGSTEP) is targeting 40,000 farmers in nine priority value chains (cassava, maize, rice, soybean, tomatoes, and pepper, sesame, fishery, and poultry). In the same way, EU/GIZ/Federal Government/Lagos State/Ogun State Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP) also aimed at creating jobs for 3,000 farmers, including youths, in tomato and chilli pepper value chains with 6,000 indirect engagements.

This is in addition to the Federal Government Agricultural pilot programme through the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) which include the Integrated Farm Estate, Garri Packaging Plant and a 200-Trainee Soil-Testing Programme, Fan Milk (Danone) Plc/Ogun State Government Dairy Farm Facility at Odeda Farm Institute, Odeda Local Government Area of Ogun State, Ogun State Government/Federal Government/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP).

Already, over 400 private firms have signified interest to collaborate with Ogun State Government to provide Farm Mechanization Services, Input Service Delivery, and in the Development of key Value Chains, which include Cassava, Rice, Fish, Poultry, Cattle, Dairy, among other commodities.

All of these are expected to come to fruition in the years ahead under the renewed mandate of Governor Abiodun.

Ogbonnikan wrote from Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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