By Funmi Branco
When he assumed office as the fifth democratically elected governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, promised to change the face of things in the state. He unfolded what he called the ISEYA mantra to show how he was going to prioritise infrastructure development, social welfare and wellbeing, education and human capital, youth empowerment and agriculture and food security. Since hollow political promises abounded in this clime, it wasn’t a few people who chose to doubt him. Today, three and a half years on, however, it is quite evident that the man is an administrator intent on delivering self-evident democratic dividends. The lesson, apparently, is that it is good for a governor to have an idea of what he intends to do and, more crucially, how to do it. Now, the reality has dawned on the naysayers: the man who, not long after he was elected, flew back home from official engagements in Abuja to contribute to the successful effort to rescue RCCG pastors kidnapped on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway has been able, through infrastructure, to give each of the 236 wards in the state a sense of belonging.
Abiodun’s first port of call was the roads left uncompleted by his predecessor. He started rehabilitating local government roads. And during the COVID-19 crisis when some governors were hiding under the cover of the virus to mouth excuses, he was busy constructing roads and initiating agric policies that affected thousands of lives. He was rehabilitating schools across the state, creating an enabling environment for business to thrive, inviting entrepreneurs to take advantage of the business opportunities in the state, and creating opportunities for existing businesses to thrive by building infrastructure. Wherever you turned in Ogun State, you saw roads springing up, whether the Sagamu-Abeokuta road, the Ijebu-Ode Epe road or the Atan-Lusada-Agbara road in Nigeria’s busiest industrial corridor. In a move that differed significantly from the typical window-dressing of the state capital, Abiodun started working simultaneously in the three senatorial districts.
Even when his adversaries tried to distract him, calling him different names under the sun, he kept his gaze on governance. It is therefore no wonder that he won various awards, including the Distinguished Award for Industrial Revolution bestowed on him by the Federal Government recently; the good governance award he won at the Nigerian 62nd Independence Anniversary and Global Award Gala held in London, United Kingdom; his recognition by the Zone B of the Nigeria Union of Journalists as Best Governor in the South-West in the area of infrastructure development, an award given in recognition of his administration’s construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of over 600km of roads across the state; the award given by the Federal Government in June this year recognizing Ogun as the Best State in Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Policy Support for the Year 2022 at the Presidential Villa; the Vanguard Governor of the Year 2021 award, and Daily Independent the ICT Governor of the Year award, among others.
Not surprisingly, his second term bid has received widespread applause among an appreciative populace. Students, artisans, teachers, among others, have lauded his strides in various sectors, pointing out that even though there are still projects not yet taken up, his utilization of the limited available resources has been phenomenal. They described him as a talk-and-do governor who does not promise what he cannot do. Quite naturally, his performance has endeared him to major stakeholders in the state across board and of these the endorsement by traditional rulers across the state, the custodians of tradition, deserves special mention. The Obas say he deserves another term because under him, the economic potential of the state has improved greatly. They say he merits support because of the stability within the political system, and the peace and tranquility that have enveloped the state since his emergence in May 2019. They laud his strides infrastructure, investment, roads, workers’ welfare and youth and women’s empowerment. These aren’t just words: the elders have the benefit of years of experience. They were present last Friday when he performed the groundbreaking of the $400m first phase of the development of the State Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone at the Agro Cargo International Airport in Ilisan-Remo.
The special industrial park for agro-processing and allied products, a collaboration between Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms and Ogun State, is the first of its kind in the country and is poised to generate over 20,000 direct jobs and enhance individual prosperity, and is to be completed in just 18 months. According to Gangan Gupta, the president of the ARISE Integrated Industrial Platforms, the company will build industrial platforms to transform the Ogun economy, and the Minister of Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, was apt in his remarks when he described the project as a landmark in Nigeria’s economic revolution. The special agro-processing zone, he noted, “is going to be a regional trading hub”.
As Governor Abiodun remarked on the occasion, the agro cargo airport is probably the fastest-built international airport in Africa. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is locating one of its biggest facilities in the country therein, and has already paid N3.2bn for100 hectares of land. Said Prince Abiodun: “Today, we are adjudged one of the safest if not the safest state in the country. We have at least one road in every one of our 20 local government areas and we have built over 1200 affordable homes across the state, creating jobs for artisans.We will be back here very soon to commission our international agro cargo airport in another few months and our deep sea port is also loading.” What a bountiful harvest of life-changing projects!
The foregoing certainly explains the governor’s endorsement for another term of office by traditional rulers from Yewaland in Ogun West Senatorial District. The move is significant because there is a candidate from Ilaro, the headquarters of Yewaland, in the governorship race, and the traditional rulers must have weighed their options very carefully in pitching their tent with Abiodun and against their son, Biyi Otegbeye, who is running on the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and who enjoys the backing of Abiodun’s immediate past predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. Speaking on behalf of the monarchs, Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, said: “We are 100 per cent support of your second term…Our governor is talk and do. The governor has lived up to our expectations in Yewaland. We have trust in him and we believe he will never disappoint us.” And a grateful Governor Abiodun promised: “I will not take you for granted. I will not disappoint you.”
The endorsement by the Ogun West Obas came on the heels of a similar move by their counterparts in Ogun East. Governor Abiodun was publicly endorsed by the Ijebu Traditional Council under the leadership of the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona. The 52-member council lauded the governor’s Obas and Chiefs Laws of Ogun State 2021, which they said had positively reformed installation and burial rites of traditional rulers in the state; the inclusive governance that had brought down drastically, the political heat in the state, and the governor’s strides in carrying out projects equitably across the state. They listed projects such as the ljebu-Ode-Epe dual carriageway, the Agro-Cargo Airport located, the reconstruction of the Sagamu-Abeokuta Expressway; Kobape Housing Estate; the Ray-Power Road; llaro-Owode Road; Imasayi Ayetoro Road, among others. “The governor has attracted an unprecedented inflow of direct foreign investments to the state and making the state the preferred investment destination,” they said. And so say all of us in Ogun.
• Branco sent this piece through [email protected]