By Femi Ogbonnikan
Except for some occasional tirade, which is not unusual in politics, electioneering for the 2023 governorship election in Ogun State has been quite exciting. We must give kudos to Governor Dapo Abiodun for always insisting on decency, equity, fairness, inclusiveness, participatory and decorum as guiding principles for progressive governance and politicking.
He has demonstrated maturity in his approach to his re-election bid. It is not by a do-or-die affair, but by the trust and confidence of the people reposed in him, he has diligently served in the last three and a half years of his administration.
Against all odds, he has conscientiously worked his way through the vicissitudes of time to deliver on his electoral promises. Between 2019 and now, we have had COVID-19 pandemic that locked down the entire human race for months. That was the existential threat that subdued even developed countries of the world with their advanced medicine. Ogun State under Abiodun waded through the storm with minimal loss.
Then, recession came in two quick successions. Still, the Ogun’s economy bounced back, emerging the fourth state with highest capacity for Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), coming only after Lagos, FCT, Rivers and Delta.
What about the spectre of violence occasioned by the marauding herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits? Ogun remained one of the most peaceful states in the country. For some political profiteers, all these would have been a good excuse for non-performance. But the governor took the challenge in his own stride and saw it as an opportunity in building investment potential, changing the infrastructure landscape and creating sustainable environment for ease of doing business.
So, when I heard some people campaigning that they would stop Abiodun from coming back, pontificating rabidly, I took a long laugh.
Of course, his opponents are on the prowl. They are not relenting in their efforts to truncate the good work the administration is doing. But they are a tiny minority who prefers the dark jungle of infamy to the light of a clear and bright day, signposted by people-centred development strategy of the present administration.
In politics, not everybody will like to see your face. Even if you feed the entire state daily, some people won’t like your guts. Abiodun has unsettled his opponents by his sterling performance. They know that there are no more lies to sell to the electorate, which is why they have been all out with vengeful anger and disparaging stories. Truth will eventually triumph over darkness; it is only a question of time.
Regardless of how you view his actions and inactions, you can’t take away the fact that Abiodun has done enough to justify the mandate of the people freely given him in the last governorship election. Besides, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria permits him to go for a second term.
Of course, those who do not like him have a right to their conviction. But they cannot turn everybody to their enemies and expect to win their political battle. The Yoruba have a saying, “you are not welcome in a town and you raise a song, who will chorus it for you?” I leave the rest to the wailers. A word, they say, is enough for the wise.
Abiodun brought human face to governance by a way of sharp departure from the past. In doing so, he has placed a higher premium on the people as the centre-piece of his development strategy.
In this country, because of warped mind orientation of some of our leaders, a lot of state actors focus mainly on infrastructure and other material development at the expense of the welfare of the people. On the contrary, Abiodun’s concept of inclusive governance is focused on improving the lives of the people, while at the same time working on infrastructural projects that would impact positively to greater opportunity for all.
In other words, “Building Our Future Together” mantra of the administration is primarily meant to carry everybody along in decision-making process. A clear demonstration of this commitment is the on going effort to seek the inputs of stakeholders into the 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and 2023 budget through the town hall meetings being organised across the state.
According to the Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Mr Olaolu Olabimtan, 65 per cent of projects executed in each zone of the state in 2022 were based on request. Apart from combined advantages of consensus building and enhanced channel of feedback, the policy also engenders the ownership of the process option, which is now the in-thing around the world.
Abiodun laid the foundation for economic prosperity. This is in spite of the challenges of the global economic crisis, which the nation has had to grapple with in recent times. As shown in the latest release by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory recorded N1.89 trillion in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in 2021, the year following the coronavirus pandemic.
Further analysis showed that Lagos had the highest IGR with N753.3 billion, representing 40 per cent of the total figure, followed by the FCT with N131.9 billion; Rivers State, N123.3 billion and Ogun State, N100.7 billion.
This feat can be linked to a number of reform initiatives introduced by the present administration to boost investment potential. These include the ease-of-doing-business, friendly environment for industrial growth, land acquisition and construction permit, network of road infrastructures cutting across all the three senatorial districts and local government, youth employment, investment in human capital development and agro-allied processing, among others.
For all this, the concern of the present government is to enhance investment potential of the state and turn it to a leading industrial hub, not only in Nigeria but, in West Africa. Therefore, there is no gainsaying that the loss of the $16 billion Dangote Refinery to Lagos State due to a break down in discussion between Dangote Group and the immediate past administration of former Governor Ibikunle Amosun is a huge setback for the state’s drive towards a sustainable industrial growth.
Among other things, it has resulted in monumental loss of income and employment opportunities to the teeming youths in the state.
Abiodun lamenting the sad development said the project was conceived not just for refining petroleum in Ogun State but also as a mining lease: “I work as chairman of Olokola Free Trade Zone that was meant to have the Dangote Refinery cited in Ogun State Waterside. However, discussion broke down between Dangote and the then, administration which led to the loss of that project to Lagos State; a $16billion was lost to the state.”
Dangote Industries Limited is the highest employer of labour outside the Federal Government. By projection, the refinery, when completed, is expected to produce 650000 barrels of oil per day and generate over 250,000 jobs. You can imagine what would have been the multiplier effect of its location in Ogun State. If not totally, it will significantly reduce the rate of youth unemployment in the state.
Perhaps, there is much more to it than what the public has been told of the deal. Whatever informed that decision, history is there to judge whether or not it was done in the best interest of the state and its people.
To forestall a repeat of the same experience, every effort by the present administration has been geared towards ensuring a sustainable environment for businesses and industrial investment both local and foreign. This commitment has accounted for the massive road infrastructure dotting the entire landscape of the state.
Topmost among these is the on going construction of the International Gateway Agro-Cargo Airport to facilitate economic transformation, rapid industrial growth, employment generation and improved capacity for IGR.
Apart from infrastructure development, Abiodun has also shown demonstrable commitment to improved healthcare service delivery through the rehabilitation and equipment of both primary and secondary health care institutions, provision of affording housing, regular payment of workers’ salaries, pension and gratuity. Official records say over N78 billion was released for the payment of gratuity arrears since 2019.
This is in addition to the increment of the quarterly payment to defray outstanding gratuities from N500 million to N600 million. Abiodun made this disclosure during the town hall meeting on the 2023-25 Medium Term Expenditure Framework for Ogun East Senatorial District, Ijebu-Ode, on Monday, October 17, 2022.
Also, as part of his commitment to develop the grassroots, Abiodun opened a new vista of hope for local government administration. Ogun State is the first in the South West to pass the Local Government autonomy Bill. The governor has also gone a step further to set up a special committee to look into the ways of releasing some sources of IGR to the local governments to make them more functional and independent.
This is the right way to achieve the goal and objectives of local government administration as a third-tier of government in Nigeria. Anyone who values democracy must value strong local governments, as strong local governance fosters strong local democracy. Without financial independence, no meaningful development can take place at the grassroots level.
As Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th century advocate of local governance succinctly stated: “Local governments can unlock local development better than central and state governments because of their local proximity and knowledge and the local specificity of their services.”
Above all, a functional local government administration is essential for social capital-trust and confidence that exist between the government and the people. When there is a direct connection with the citizens at the local level, naturally, every other thing follows. And on this note, Abiodun has been tested and has been found to be trustworthy both in action and in words.
*Ogbonnikan wrote from Abeokuta, Ogun State