Of Ogun and inclusive governance

August 3, 2020
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IT is no longer news that the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun on July 23, 2020, constituted the Boards of the various parastatals and agencies in the state. But what will go down in the political history of the state is Abiodun’s masterstroke of appointing Board members from the opposition camps, especially from the African Democratic Congress (ADC), along with other seasoned technocrats. This historic turn of event would be driven further home when the winner-takes-all politics that has pervaded Ogun State since the return of democratic governance in 1999 is considered. In the March 9, 2019 governorship election, the ADC candidate, Prince Gboyega Isiaka, who had contested for the same position in the 2011 and 2015 elections respectively and had impressed himself on the people of the state as a serious politician, was a formidable and active challenger to Prince Abiodun. Isiaka’s political factor was not lost on Abiodun as he settled down to governance after his poll victory. It is little wonder then that a considerable number of the latest appointees have been drawn from the ADC, notably among whom are a former commissioner for health in the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Dr. Kunle Salako, and the younger brother of Prince Isiaka, Alhaji Wasiu Isiaka.

The broad-based appointments also have a daughter of Second Republic governor, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Barrister Bukola Onabanjo; former ADC House of Representatives candidate, Mrs. Abimbola Majekodunmi; former ADC chieftain who is also a former commissioner for environment in the Daniel’s administration, Engineer Anthony Ojesina. Others include, Chief Waliu Taiwo, a former commissioner for agriculture in the Daniel’s administration and also the Director-General (DG) of Ladi Adebutu’s Governorship Campaign Organisation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Adekunle Adeyemi, a former House of Representatives member and a staunch member of the APC, Osoba group and Mr. Abayomi Hunye Semako, a die-hard supporter of former governor  Ibikunle Amosun from Ipokia Local Government Area of the state. Prince Abiodun’s aim of making such  appointments that cut across party lines is unmistakable: to calm frayed nerves. Although, the appointments were made few days ago, the impact has reverberated across the state, even as the appointees are people of proven pedigree and have further demonstrated Abiodun’s pursuit of qualitative governance which is the major thrust of his administration.

He had declared at his inauguration on May 29, 2019 that his administration would comprise capable and proven individuals with track records, regardless of which political divide they belonged, with a view to entrenching the philosophy of “Building Our Future Together. It is worthy of note, however, that the latest appointments are by no means exhaustive as he is determined to continue his search for individuals that are filled with passion to turn around the state in the most positive ways. The agencies whose board members were constituted include the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) and Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM). Others are the Housing Corporation, Health Management Board, State Agro Services and State Bulk Purchasing Corporation. The new appointees are expected to add value to the administration by guiding and advising the Governor. But they would, nonetheless, be building on a solid foundation that has made him one of the best performing governors in the country. Governor Abiodun has impressed it upon them that their recognition at this particular critical time is fundamental to the creation of an enduring economic development and individual prosperity for the people of Ogun State.

The last 14 months of the administration have witnessed many tremendous giant strides, which has confounded  critics who gave the governor no chance. The people of the state have witnessed massive road rehabilitation and construction across the three senatorial districts. Some of the them include Itokin-Ibefun-Ijebu Ode road, Iperu-Ilisan road, Sango-Ojodu Abiodun road, Ilaro-Owode road, Abeokuta-Sango-Ota-Lagos road, Osi-Ota-Awolowo-Navy-Kola road and Balogun Kuku road in Ijebu Ode.  In particular, apart from the completion of  Opako bridge in Adigbe, Abeokuta, the government has commenced the construction of culverts at strategic locations along the route in order to forestal perennial flooding that has destroyed some parts of the road. Plans are also afoot to construct durable drainages, by retaining walls on the busy bridge owing to lack of proper drainage channel.  Easing of traffic on the Sango/Abeokuta road has been receiving serious attention. Palliative works have begun in earnest from Sango Tollgate inward Abeokuta in a bid to end the suffering of commuters. The abandoned 32-kilometre Akute-Ajuwon-Alagbole road has also been prioritized, although it is supposed be a joint effort by the governments of both Ogun and Lagos states. Palliative works have commenced on the 4.65 kilometre Ojodu-Abiodun/ Dento/Isashi/Ajuwon/Akute/Alagbole/Yakoyo, Alagbado/Oke/Aro/Lambe/Matogun roads and their environs.

At the moment, a total of 50 roads have been completed spread across the senatorial districts, with two of them fitted with lights, while there are also 19 on-going projects across the state in consonance with his ‘accessibility’ philosophy. Of a particular interest is the Sagamu-Abeokuta road that was awarded through Direct Labour, which ensured that all the materials and labour are sourced locally, the target being to create employment in the state, particularly in locations around the infrastructure. Prince Abiodun, since his assumption of office has given the education srvtor serious attention because he considered the sector as a bedrock. One primary school has been built in each of the 236 electoral wards in the 20 local government areas. He raised a visitation panel that helped to resolve the six-year crisis that threatened the foundation of the Tai Solarin College of Education, resolved the crisis that rocked the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic and restored hope and confidence in the institution. Over 218 community schools spread across the state were approved between January and June this year, while 577 teachers in the affected schools were also absorbed into the state’s civil service system.

Water shortage in the state has been addressed, with hundreds of thousands of households that had endured water scarcity getting huge relief after restoration of the corporation was ordered through the Governor’s personal supervision, which demonstrated him as a hands-on administrator.

The health sector has also received huge boost with the Governor pledging to build a well-equipped health center or renovate others in all the wards. So is the agriculture sector which was prioritised to achieve self-sufficiency in food production for the state. The Steering Committee on the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme was also launched, as well as the FADAMA Graduate Unemployed Youths Scheme known as FADAMA GUYS, which handed automatic slots to 200 beneficiaries that would derive grants from the Ogun State Anchor Borrowers’ Programme which targeted 40,000 beneficiaries after starting with 10,000 farmers who would have access to a single digit interest rate loan as a means of employment in accordance with the objectives of the administration in easing the burden of unemployment for the youth.

The empowerment initiative, known as “Oko-Owo Dapo”, was also launched to provide funds to women who are involved in legitimate SMEs across the state, aimed at enhancing trade as well as micro, small and medium scale enterprises, with 2,000 women benefitting in the first phase of the initiative which also targeted 100,000 women, politicians, members of women’s societies, religious and trade associations; the ultimate aim has been to reduce unemployment rates.

The success recorded by the Ogun State Job Portal which was launched last year has reverberated across Nigeria, with some states already moving to duplicate the model in their quest to tackle unemployment. Likewise the establishment of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Centre that would serve as technology hub for the state as well as a one-stop-shop for technological innovations across Africa in the years ahead.

The Ogun State Road Management Amendment Bill, which gave birth to the Ogun State Public Works Agency (OGPWA) as a result of which an unprecedented massive road rehabilitation and construction has been witnessed, has boosted hope for infrastructural development across the state. The re-invigoration of Ogun State Waste Management Authority (OGWAMA) has also proved strategic to creating employment, generate revenue and also to ensure a healthy environment for all and sundry.

By far,  the greatest test for the Abiodun’s Administration is in the health sector, no thanks to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic whose index case in Nigeria occurred in Ewekoro, Ogun State on February 29, 2020. Ogun State has emerged the best in the South West in deploying measures to fight the pandemic, but not without stretching the state’s finances to the limit, with the governor’s approving payment of 300% increase of the current hazard allowance to be paid as Special Covid-19 Hazard Allowance to all health workers in the state and local government service, in addition to payment of Special Risk Allowance to to all health workers directly managing Covid-19 patients at the respective isolation centers spread across the state on a monthly basis, until cessation of operations on Covid-19, even as the state has also floated a Group Insurance for the frontline health workers directly involved in the care of Covid-19 patients and the beneficiaries have been issued their electronic certificates.

It is to the credit of this Administration that the Covid-19 challenges have not deterred the government from prioritizing capital spending on critical sectors such as agriculture and infrastructure, in addition to other projects that enhance living standards.

All the foregoing feats should interest the new appointees into the parastatals and boards with a view to positioning themselves to offer optimum service to the state. The chairmen and their members fit the bill perfectly. In the reality the Administration has so far delivered on its electoral promise, even in view of the aforementioned Covid-19 challenges, the new appointees can only make their impacts felt in the task of “Building our Future Together”.

  • Otegbeye, a public commentator, writes in from Ilaro, Ogun State.

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