When exactly a year ago Prince Dapo Abiodun was sworn in as the fifth elected governor of Ogun State, the stakes were mountain high. The Iperu-born business mogul and long-standing politician had threaded a path paved with thorns to the Oke Mosan Government House, hemmed in on every side by the government he unseated, but had surmounted all hurdles. Legal and political battles raged, with mendacity on many sides, including by rogues readily colluding with mischief makers to hatch barbarity at night but deviously aligning with his supporters to mouth solidarity by day. Thugs had barricaded select roads leading to the inauguration venue, and even the open-roof pick-up used during his inauguration was borrowed from a neighbouring state, but he was undeterred, telling the people: We shall build our future together. In the last one year, and in spite of the fallouts of the coronavirus pandemic currently ravaging the world, he has made a startling difference, elevating populations long treated as mere statistics in government circles into active participants in a new, project-driven and progressive era. This is why testimonies across the state continue to show the huge impact he and his stellar cabinet, a welter of distinguished intellectuals and trail blazers, have made in just a short while. Admittedly, though, only a few of the achievements can be mentioned in this piece.
From security to infrastructure, and from agriculture to business, tourism and spirts development, Abiodun has shown what it means to have a proven and time-tested wealth creator and agent of change at the helms of affairs. Governor Abiodun wasted no time in addressing security issues. He procured 100 vehicles and 200 motorcycles to arrest security threats in the state after having first provided communications equipment for the security agencies. That was far from fortuitous: as a consultant, he had helped Lagos State conquer cross-border banditry in the 90s. Besides, no sooner had he been sworn in than he took the gospel of road construction to every nook and cranny of Ogun State, rejecting the window dressing of state capitals that frequently passes for “good performance” in this clime. Suddenly, the so-called “remote areas” that politicians typically only remembered during campaigns began to feel government presence. The gullies that used to swallow vehicles as it were, especially during the rainy season, vanished as the Public Works agency went to work across the state. Only recently, Prince Abiodun flagged off the construction of the 14-kilometer Ijebu-Ode-Epe road. The road, which lies at the border area and connects Ogun to Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, has special features, including a dual-carriageway with 10 lanes – four lanes on each side with one pull-out section, and a 14-lane toll plaza for easy payment of tolls. The objective is to provide a perfect alternative to the always locked-down Lagos-Ibadan expressway due to annoyingly ceaseless gridlocks. As a matter of fact, he has promised to turn attention to the Sagamu-Ojigo and Sango-Ota-Abeokuta roads, among others, provided that the Federal Government agreed to cede the roads to the state government.
In addition, Governor Abiodun established an agency to conduct, audit and provide a roadmap to actualising the “Light Up Ogun” project, with a view to ensuring that most cities in the state have uninterrupted power supply. The objective is to regenerate the state’s old cities, places like Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu and Ilaro, in a sustainable fashion and without compromising the future. And, fully apprised of the linkage between education and development, he also enacted the novel project of rehabilitating a school per ward in the state. There are 236 wards in Ogun and if every ward had a standard school with state-of-the-art facilities, the governor reasoned, the educational revival of the state would have begun on a sound footing. But that was not all: as soon as the first phase of the project was completed, the second phase would begin, giving every part of the state a sense of belonging. Said a head teacher in Ilaro: “Yes, the previous government built mega schools, but these were too few and far between. With the one-school-per ward policy, every part of the state can now develop educationally. It’s a method that I think is more cost-effective and realistic in the long run.” In tertiary education, the governor’s impact has been no less than resonant. He set up visitation panels to troubled higher institutions in the state and addressed the contending issues with dispatch. Since assuming office, Governor Abiodun has attended convocation ceremonies in all tertiary institutions in the state, interfacing with their management both formally and informally and seeking ways to make them deliver on their core mandates in research and innovation. He has given the best students in those institutions get automatic employment, to reward academic excellence and gradually build a civil service boasting the best materials. In any case, one of the first things he did upon being sworn-in as governor was to abolish the N3,700 educational levy imposed by his predecessor. The result? School enrollment exploded as parents heaved a sigh of relief.
Jettisoning the bitterness of the past, Abiodun ordered the full absorption of workers recruited through the back door by the immediate past administration in the state. According to reports, Governor Abiodun ordered that the appointments of Permanent Secretaries made the in the twilight of the immediate past administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun be regularised, while also directing the mainstreaming and regularisation of the appointment of over 1000 graduates recruited into the state civil service by the same administration. For him, governance is all about putting the people first. Indeed, in line with the paradigm shift that has hallmarked his administration so far, the Ogun State governor, Prince Abiodun, in preparing the 2020 budget, obtained the inputs of critical stakeholders in all the three senatorial districts in the state.
In all that he has done in the past one year, Governor Abiodun has made the people’s comfort his mission. He has served and protected Ogun people, including from the ravaging impact of the coronavirus pandemic, about which the Federal Government recently gave a great testimony. He had set up five isolation centres, increased contact tracing, and set up testing labs. It was through his efforts that Nigeria’s index case was traced and quarantined. Returnees from Cote d’ Ivoire who could have transmitted the virus in Ogun were intercepted and the Osun State government alerted. For Abiodun, it’s been hard work all through, but the results have justified the labours.
■Alhaji Alli, an Islamic scholar contributes this piece from Ifo, Ogun State.