By Kunle Somorin
About 45 months ago, Prince Dapo Abiodun came to office amidst massive hope and expectation from the people of Ogun State that at last a leader had come to truly guide Ogun to progress, development and the realization of her destiny. The mood all over the State, at the time he took over, was, incontestably, euphoric. Looking back now, it is even grandly euphoric as the Governor’s Midas touch can be felt in every part of the state.
Come Saturday, the people of Ogun State will come out, again, to express their franchise to choose or reject his leadership. But the gale of endorsement across different demographic, social and religious groups, attests to one thing: he has taken the state a notch higher. First elected governor on March 9th, 2019 it has been so far, so remarkable for the businessman turned politician and his party, the All Progressives Congress.
No wonder, the party cleared all the available seats in the February 25 round of elections. In the world of performance-based rewards, no one gets cheated on. No one’s mandate is stolen. If you earn it, then you deserve it. More reason an American Author, Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” It is about bettering the lives of others, being part of something bigger than yourself, and making a positive difference. Governor Dapo Abiodun has contributed, in no small measure, to the growth of Ogun State and its people; and this piece intends to highlight some of the strides of his administration.
As facts are known to be stubborn and good works unable to be hidden, the servant-leader has garnered recognition and conferred with numerous awards for his hard work, the most recent award is “Forbes Best of Africa’s Governor in the Industrial Revolution,” which is a testament to the giant strides that has been recorded in the state’s industrial sector.
From the get-go, to curb unemployment level in the state, Gov. Abiodun launched, in August 2019, the Ogun Job Portal which dimensioned unemployment crises and linked young people with business owners. The State Government utilised the online platform to get details of applicants for employment and empowerment in different sectors, especially education, security and agriculture. Consequently, over 10,000 youth have been empowered and recruited into teaching internship scheme called OgunTeach, the Ogun State Environmental Protection Agency, OGEPA, different cadres in the health sector, as Fire Service officers and into Amotekun, the security architecture designed by state government in the South Western parts of Nigeria. Within the same period, 400 youth artisans across crafts (building, electrical, and plumbing) were employed in a direct labour initiative into the State Ministry of Housing under an ambitious programme that achieved the construction of over 1,700 affordable housing units across the length and breadth of the state. Equally, Dapo Abiodun’s Administration mainstreamed 2000 ASCON entrants who had been supposedly employed by the immediate past administration but without files and records into the Ogun State Civil Service, and paid the backlog of their salaries.
Security and development are intertwined. No wonder, Abiodun in his first 100 days in office saw to the re-energisation and restructuring of Security Trust Fund to receive and manage donations from the private sector. The Committee also mobilized these funds and resources for the training and retraining of security personnel. The private-sector led OGSTF has made remarkable achievements that have strengthened the security architecture of the State, received significant donations and earned the trust of the Federal Government that released Police aircraft to monitor the State. Security has equally gone digital in Ogun with drones and technology now deployed for surveillance and monitoring as a way of preventing and detecting crimes in the tandem with the dictates of the 21st century. Unlike in the past, strategic meetings are held with security chiefs, patrol vehicles and motorcycles have been donated to all security outfits, including those to support local vigilante and hunters who now work with the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Army, State Service, Civil Defence Corps, Operation So Safe and others to engender mutual collaboration.
The livewire of any nation is education. Therefore, at every point in time, a nation stands between education and destruction. A nation survives and triumphs on promoting its quality education and it dies and perishes on neglecting its education. Education is life; ignorance is death. And this serves the main reason Abiodun resuscitated, in Ogun, the excellence and eminence that is attached to education in the developed parts of the world. In effect, the Ogun State Government launched the Ogun State Teaching Experience Acquisition Channel (Ogun TEACh) in March 2021. This two-year, paying special intervention programme was created to fill open positions in public primary and secondary schools as well as technical colleges in the State. 5000 interns are been hired during the review period across the State’s 20 local government areas, or LGAs, without no discrimination. His impact on education did not stop here as he triggered a significant transformation by resolving inherited crises in the tertiary education sector that resuscitated institutions like the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic that was in limbo when he was sworn in and the Tai Solari College of Education that never graduated any set of students for 11 years previously. Today, classrooms, hostels, restrooms, offices, stores, and computer rooms with equipment have been built in various schools. Similarly, the yellow roof revolution dot all the State schools and healthcare facilities. So far, over 100 primary healthcare centres (PHCs) have been rehabilitated, equipped and appropriately staffed.
Gov. Abiodun’s impact also cuts across to the infrastructure, rural development, commerce, agriculture and youth development ecosystem. A man of ideas, from day one, Governor Abiodun appreciated (and still does) the role of investment as the engine of economic growth. For this, he established the Ogun State Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency. It was “with a mandate to attract investors into the State; coordinate the private sector investment activities, and streamlining processes and procedures to ease the investors’ journey to setting up their operations successfully in the state.” Other supplementary initiatives include capacity building for well over 500 entrepreneurs across the State to enable them to access financing and also scale up their businesses; empowerment of over 2500 rural women across the state through the provision of products worth N100m; land acquisition within 30-day for the issuance of C of Os through the launch of an online portal and above all Ogun State Land Administration and Revenue Management System (OLARMS). Observers are unanimous that the ambitious Digital Economy Infrastructure Project of laying 5000 kilometre of fibre optic cable and Tech Hubs across the state is the pathway to making the State to Nigeria’s future Silicon Valley.
Infrastructure is another area that Governor Abiodun has scored a bull’s eye, spreading projects around all the Senatorial Districts like confetti. When he came on board, he discovered that all the major roads within communities had become dilapidated. He initiated the direct labour agency – gun State Public Works Agency (OGPWA) which moved into all the 20 local government areas of the state simultaneously and started rehabilitating roads. That done, the governor then did something entirely different: he embraced the projects abandoned or half-executed by his predecessors. Today, he has rebuilt 400 km of roads, including the Ijebu-Ode-Epe expressroad, Sagamu-Interchange-Abeokuta expressroad and Ilaro-Owode-Yewa road. The Lusada-Atan – Agbara road, in particular, is crucially important to the South-West, Nigeria and indeed the West African sub-region because it hosts the biggest industrial complex in Nigeria. Even federal roads are receiving attention. As he usually says, people in the area care less about the Federal Government: it is state government that they know. Everywhere you turn in Abiodun’s Ogun, you find projects. Numberless rural road are being rehabilitated and reconstructed in villages that didn’t witness caterpillars in the last 30 years!
The icing on the cake is the Ogun State Gateway Agro-Cargo International Airport meant to serve as cargo and passenger facility from the heavy industries built between the Lagos-Ogun corridor and the Agbara Industrial Layout. It is expected that the airport, which is well located, will provide seamless service for the evacuation of finished products from these companies and delivery of raw materials, as well as create jobs for 25,000 persons. Already test flights had commenced and a Special Agro-Processing Zone (SAPZ) has been inaugurated. The location of the airport at the off limits of the notorious traffic gridlock that characterises Lagos State puts the facility in a vantage position to move goods to other parts of the country from the airport. Essentially, it will be a rendezvous for the assemblage of farm produce before export, as the government of Ogun State is putting things in place to build an aerotropolis at the airport. This means that agro based factories and others can sprout at the airport. That will give rise to an economic community that will create jobs, create revenue for the government and expand businesses between the two major states in the South-west.
These are some enviable records set by the Prince Dapo Abiodun-led administration that reassures citizens that their votes have not been wasted. The people of the state have, as a result of his leadership, had been living peacefully. Ogun State can only wait and anticipate even improved outcomes in the upcoming years, including the second term of the effective and development-oriented governor.
• Somorin is the Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Dapo Abiodun