By Olaniyi Ajibola
The popular dictum in the local parlance that ” The bride is the star of the show” clearly explains the present status of the Gateway State in the South West of Nigeria; Ogun, the industrial capital of Nigeria and the emerging beautiful bride for investors around the world.
Since beauty is a combination of many factors, so also the present status of Ogun State reflects array of factors that turned around its obscure position in the comity of states to become investors’ destination of choice.
Of course, the first factor is quality leadership; there is no gainsaying the fact that there was a total departure from the past, immediately after the change of guard in May 2019, when a Prince of Remo, His Excellency, Governor Dapo Abiodun took the mantle of leadership and hit the ground running.
Abiodun’s approach to development and transformation of his State is indeed different from that of his predecessors, the shrewd business mogul brilliantly studied the environment and maximally utilised the Ogun State’s Comparative Economic Advantage of Location(CEAL) solely predicated on distinct developmental agenda, ‘ISEYA’.
By the concept of ISEYA, Abiodun prioritized critical factors of the State’s economy, namely: Infrastructure, Security and Social Welfare, Education, Youth Empowerment and Job Creation and lastly, Agriculture; and swiftly moved to aggregate these factors in the most efficient manner.
Within his first term tenure of four years, Abiodun had constructed over 400km of roads across the State, and carefully broke the barrier of accessibility between Ogun and Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria and 5th largest economy in Africa, to systematically connect the two States for investment opportunities. Unlike before when the journey from Lagos to Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital could take up to two or three hours, one can now access Abeokuta from Lagos within 50 minutes or less.
Speaking at the 27th Annual Conference of Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers in Abeokuta on Thursday, the Governor gave a vivid narration of the systemic implementation of his transformational agenda, he said”, For us in Ogun State, our development agenda, which is informed by our vision, has really helped us to leverage our geographical location which is one of our comparative advantages .We have turned the push factor to the pull factor by the introduction of various reforms , policies and provision of required infrastructure .
“As a result, we have dramatically increased our ranking on the ease of doing business index, Ogun state has become the investors destination of choice, we won the no 1 state in Industrial Revolution by Forbes and from the Federal Government of Nigeria, I believe we have by so doing contributed the number of potential companies that will be listing in the capital market “.
The Governor has consistently described his State as the New Jersey of Nigeria, insisting that what Ogun State is to Lagos is what New Jersey is to New York, as the State represents the overflow of Lagos with its expanse land size spanning 16,000 Square kilometres, which is four times the size of Lagos State, coupled with the strategic location of the State which gives it permanent advantage of connecting every part of Nigeria by land, sea and air.
Being a sensitive leader who understands the intricacies of the socio-economic environment, with the capacity to recognise problems before it become an emergency, Abiodun quickly worked on those primordial practices that could hinder his developmental drive, including the age-long mentality of land grabbing and bottlenecks in the issuance of Certificate of Occupancy, which hitherto had discouraged many investors from coming into the State.
The Governor, while recently playing host to the board and management of Odua Investment Company Limited, said,”People are buying land; they are speculating. We have issues of land speculators. We had to practically shut down our lands department for a while and appointed somebody new to oversee the land administration in the state.
“We have a backlog of Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) and today, I think, we are the first state to implement our ‘Electronic Certificate of Occupancy’ equipment that has a machine that can sign 2,000 certificates of occupancy in a day because it is important for you to have your CofO.
“These are the kind of things that have been the clog in the wheels in the past and we are ensuring that we fast track these processes so as to ensure that the reforms reflect who we are”.
By this action and policy statement, Governor Dapo Abiodun has made it crystal clear to everyone that it is no more business as usual and that unlike in the past when the whole statements and policies of government ended on paper as mere political talks and deception, he has demonstrated honesty and capacity in power.
The latest, unprecedented and the most pragmatic move of Abiodun’s administration in Ogun State presently is the implementation of his multimodal transport system; especially the Agro-Cargo Airport, the best of its kind in Nigeria.
The Airport, which wa located in the centre-point of Ogun State, for easy accessibility connects the two major highways of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Sagamu-Benin Expressway, co-located within Ogun State’s special Agro-Processing zone and major plantations of the State. It is indeed an Aerotropolis, with special features that can make it compete with other airports of that purpose around the world.
Governor Abiodun, couples of weeks ago, at the Odun Omo Olowu in Abeokuta put the concept and the rationale behind the Airport in perspectives by saying:” I am very happy to announce to you another landmark success in our quest to make Ogun State the first destination of investors in Nigeria, and that is our new Agro Cargo International Airport, known as Gateway International Agro Cargo Airport, located at Iperu-Ilishan Road in Ikenne Local Government Area of the State, a very strategic corridor that is visibly contiguous to Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre.
“The Cargo international Airport aims to boost agricultural and non-agricultural goods exports and reinvigorate socio-economic activities, ultimately increasing the state’s revenue generation. The airport is designed as an aerotropolis, equipped with a special agroprocessing zone, an international testing center, passenger operations, and parcel receiving facilities.
Its structure and business plan make it a game-changer in import and export promotion efforts, as it enables the processing of raw agricultural material, certifying agro-produce to international standards, and receiving parcels for redistribution”.
With the longest and the biggest runway, apron and terminal in Nigeria, the Airport is the first of its kind in the whole of West Africa Sub-region, and game changer in Nigeria and entire Sub-Saharan corridor, aiding the African Free Continental Agreement, which was enacted to remove all trade barriers between one country and the other on the continent, thereby putting Ogun State on the global map of investments.
In addition to that, as it stands, every arrangement is completed to build a dry port at Kajola, in the Central Senatorial District of the State in consideration of the number of cargoes that come to Ogun State either as raw materials or finished goods, those that are being imported through Lagos seaport. The dry port became imperative in response to the inefficiency of Lagos ports in the past years.
Speaking on the necessity of the dry port recently, Abiodun said:” Beacuse the inefficiency of the Lagos seaports seriously affect our manufacturers and processors, So, we decided that to further ensure that we constantly increase our ranking in the ease of doing business index, we must find a way of allowing our manufacturers who are exporting to be able to export their containers efficiently. We would be also constructing our dry port and when the port is constructed which would be in Kajola, it means that, if you are shipping goods from anywhere in the world to Ogun State, you don’t need to go through Lagos anymore. You can simply ship your goods through Kajola Dry Port, just to take the containers on the train and then come down to Kajola”.
While the process of the dry port has commenced in earnest, the Airport, which Abiodun started two years ago after remaining a mere ‘power-point’ Airport for over fifteen years will commence commercial operations by the end of this year, and create employment for over 30, 000 youths in the State and beyond.
Without mincing words, the combination of efficient transportation system, accessible energy, especially the criss-cross of natural gas in the State, expanse land size and business friendly policies of the State government, among others unarguably make Ogun State the Emerging Beautiful Bride for investors in Nigeria and by extension in the West Africa corridor.
Many thanks to the Lee Kuan Yew of Ogun State, the celebrated intellectual of great sagacity, Prince Dapo Abiodun, CON.
*Olaniyi Ajibola is a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Strategic Media.