By ADEJUWON SOYINKA
They converged on Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital from different parts of the country. As at the morning of July 30, not less than 250 of them had arrived the state capital. Some came from Kogi State, from Owerri, Imo State; Port Harcourt, Rivers; Abuja and neignbouring Lagos and several other states across the country.
There was something they all had in common. They arrived Abeokuta on power bikes. They are members of the different associations of bike riders from different parts of the country and they met in Abeokuta from Friday, July 29, to Sunday, July 31, 2016.
Called the Bikers Converge, the three-day meeting was a carnival of sorts that saw the bikers, their friends and lovers of bikes from all over the country taking up hotel accommodation all over Abeokuta. They are the informal sector, contributing to the economy of the states.
Shortly before the bikers came, there was the 3rd Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria which also held in Abeokuta. An affiliate of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, the delegates’ conference drew large numbers from all the states of the federation. They came in the evening of July 26 ahead of the opening session of the 3-day conference on July 27.
Members of the Joint Tax Board, JTB, preceded the senior civil servants. The JTB is made up of the tax authorities of all the 36 states of the federation, including the Nigerian Customs Service, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, and the Federal Ministry of Finance. They too had converged on Abeokuta from Monday, July 25 for their conference. All of these within a week that also saw Abeokuta hosting about 300 participants for a workshop preceding the flag-off of the Federal Government School feeding program in Ogun State. Of this number, there were delegates from the relevant federal government agencies, over 20 private sector organisations represented as well as representatives from the State Universal Basic Education Board, farmers cooperatives, health officials and several others.
Indeed, national conferences and summits of this nature are gradually becoming a common event in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, leading to a situation where some now describe the gateway state as a Mecca of sorts. Earlier in the month of July, the state capital also played host to about 93 Rectors and Provosts of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
There was also the conference of Vice Chancellors of Universities in Nigeria, which was also hosted in Ogun State in June 2016.
The state is also playing host to the national conference of Finance and Administrative teams of the West African Examination Council, WAEC, in early August. Equally on the plate for August is a national conference of Pharmacists as well as the first national annual conference of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ.
So, why is Ogun State now the darling of conference and Summit organisers from across the country and even beyond? The answer is not far-fetched. Since he assumed office as Governor in 2011, Senator Amosun has invested heavily in security. His administration has provided the Police with logistics, political, moral and financial support to bring out the best in them at all times. Predictably, the result of this sort of effort is the peaceful and secure environment that the state now enjoys.
But that is not all that is responsible for the recent attraction to Ogun State. There is also the fact that Amosun administration has developed Ogun State and transformed its major cities to places that are attractive to local and international tourists as well as investors.
What did the magic can be easily traced to the massive infrastructural development drive of the Governor Amosun administration. Indeed, infrastructural development is a critical component of Governor Amosun’s Mission to Rebuild Ogun State. Little wonder, therefore, that in the last five years, several hundreds of kilometres of roads have been constructed, expanded and resurfaced. The vision of the governor is to create an environment that enables businesses to thrive, attracts investment and opens up new and existing areas for growth.
To make this happen, the Amosun government constructed the Ibara-Totoro Road, the first international standard six-lane road in Ogun State. It also built the flyover at Ibara, Abeokuta, the first constructed by any administration since the creation of the State in 1976. The first 10-lane boulevard, which begins at Sokori and opens up into the elaborate Itoku Bridge, is a stamp of modernisation affixed to the state capital by the current administration.
Without doubt, this is one of the reasons the bikers chose Abeokuta as venue for their annual convergence. They met in Abeokuta for the first time in 2015 and fell in love with the standard of roads in the capital city. But they soon realized that this was not limited to the capital city. Those who rode their bikes through the other two senatorial districts of the state also attested to the quality of roads in those areas too.
That’s why they returned this year and its also reason why some of them are already suggesting that the gateway city be made permanent host of the annual bikers’ converge. The massive infrastructural development also attracted other businesses including international standard hotels and resorts that now dot the different parts of Ogun State.
Indeed, these factors have made Ogun State an irresistible bride and destination of choice not just for people and organisations seeking a great venue for conferences, summits, seminars and retreats, but also for industries.
nSoyinka is SSA (Media) to Governor Ibikunle Amosun