The Gateway State; New Dawn, New challenges…

ON May 29, the tenure of Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun will expire and Governor-elect Prince Adedapo Abiodun will step in as his successor.

Amosun succeeded Governor Gbenga Daniel on May 29, 2011 on the ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which later fused into the All Progressives Congress (APC), where he was re-elected in 2015.

Since the administration took off, the governor had carried on with his five cardinal programmes-education, health, agricultural development, youth empowerment (mass employment) and infrastructural development.

The administration, many believe, has managed to move Ogun State further on the path of progress from where Daniel left it over seven years ago.

However, since the conclusion of the 2019 governorship election and the emergence of Abiodun as the governor – elect APC, eyes are now on the successful entrepreneur, oil magnate and real estate player, as he prepares to succeed Amosun.

The shift of attention is not misplaced. The people of Ogun State have endured in the last seven years and 10 months, an administration that has concetrated on the succession crisis than governance. It is not surprising that all hope rests on the in – coming governor as a possible messiah in the days ahead to end their years of perceived deprivation, divisive and sectional governance.

Also, a ground swell of goodwill cutting across the three senatorial districts, the last minutes alliances and fence mending that resulted in the victory of Abiodun on March 9, despite Amosun’s undisguised opposition to his candidature amid repeated vaunting that Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) would succeed him, attested to the resolve of the people to end the alleged final transmutation of Amosun into an “Emperor” in a sophisticated state.

Already, the governor-elect has constituted a 23 – member Economic Transition Committee (ETC) to help him articulate his manifesto for the state, ensure robust engagement with stakeholders and chart a roadmap to guide the implementation.

The committee is chaired by Tunde Lemo, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria while Dapo Okubadejo serves as its Secretary.

Former Deputy Governor, Salimot Badru, the governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the last gubernatorial poll, Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, the deputy governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Reuben Abati and Social Democratic Party (SDP) gubernatorial candidate, Prince Rotimi Paseda, are among members of the Economic Transition Committee (ETC).

Other members of the Committee are Senator Gbenga Kaka, Foluso Phillips, Prof. Konyin Ajayi (SAN), Kunle Elebute, Mutiu Sunmonu, CON, Olajide Odewale, Chief Kayode Sofola (SAN), and Prof. Sidi Osho.

Also listed as members are Prof. Semiu Musa Olomu, Engr. Bayo Adeola, FNSE, Mr. Tola Mobolurin, Mr. Lekan Asuni, Dr. Tunji Oredipe, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, Arc. Dunni Opayemi, Mr. Bola Ogunsola and Chief Bode Mustapha.

The membership composition reflected his avowed commitment to run an all-inclusive government and in recognition of the state’s abundance human resources in all fields of endeavour.

It is believed that this will go a long way in healing the wounds of the perceived divisive and sectional politics of the out – going administration.

Abiodun revealed that these distinguished sons and daughters have volunteered their skills, rich and diverse experience and vast network to work on the important assignment of moving the state forward.

The in – coming governor also has Work Groups, each of which focuses on its assigned thematic area such as Education, Youth and Sports, Health and Social Services, Government Processes, Agriculture and Food Security, Transformational Initiatives, to ensure an effective and efficient discharge of assignment while the Economic Transition Committee will focus on developing the roadmap.

There is another committee to interface with the incumbent government to ensure a smooth and orderly change of administration.

Abiodun appeared prepared to hit the ground running he had declared that his government would give the state a focused and qualitative governance that would be responsive, open and accountable to the people by pro actively creating and promoting on enabling environment for a public private sector partnership, which is required for rapid industrialisation and infrastructural development.

It is expected that the next government should focus on development of agriculture and rural roads to increase food and cash crops, create wealth for farmers and ease the movement of farm produce to the markets within and outside the state while generating revenue.

Again, the local government administration, which is the closest to the people, ceased being relevant or functional in Ogun after the tenure of Daniel in 2011 and literally slipped into comatose with the advent of the Amosun’s government.

The yearnings of the people is that Abiodun should rejuvenate and return relevance to this ‘third tier’ of government and create a beneficial synergy that will quicken the pace of development at the grassroots.

The people also crave fairness and equity in the spread of infrastructural development.

The general perception of the lopsided development in the state has remained so strong, particularly in Ogun East and Ogun West to the extent that the people came to define the politics of Ogun 2019 from the prism of sectionalism in such a way that each arrived at the conclusion that it is only when a governor comes from them, that the injustices of the Amosun’s skewed infrastructural distribution would be addressed.

From the bitumen rich Ogun waterside to the oil rich Tongeji Island in Ipokia, Ogun is well blessed with natural resources deposited across the state and ready for harnessing in the overall interest of the people. The same goes for the Olokola Free Trade Zone and the Cargo Airport projects started in Ogun East by the immediate past administration, but were shoved aside.

Coming to governance from a successful private sector life, Abiodun’s rich experience is expected to count for good. He has pledged to place high premium on human capital development, including workers and civil servants.

In his reckoning, “the people shall be (placed) first in governance” having being convinced that this would also formed part of the fundamental process to the creation of an enduring economic development and individual prosperity of Ogun people.”

But as optimistic as Abiodun sounds, his adminstration may walk through mines – filled path and if not carefully navigated, could signpost the beginning of administrative and political turbulence.

The first landmine that may rattle the new governor, is the burgeoning debt profile of the Gateway State, which the out – going administration will inevitably bequeath to him.

Although the true profile the debt is shrouded in secrecy, as at April 2018, the governor put the debt burden at a little above N103bn, including the N49bn he inherited from Daniel administration.

But, the people of the state put it at well over N350bn when what is allegedly owed contractors, unremitted cooperative deductions, salary and pension arrears, allowances owed to civil servants and other workers in the state’s institutions are factored into it.

The infrastructural needs of Ota, Agbara and Igbesa areas are gargantuan. Residents and business operators in these industrial hubs have had to contend daily with deplorable roads, epileptic power supply and sometimes, security challenge without the present administration doing much to alleviate their plights and despite their tax payment to the state’s purse.

Today, the organised private business sector and members of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN) look up to Abiodun to end their years of neglect.

Education is one huge social industry the state is also reputed for and it is not for fun that Ogun produced the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka, Dr Tai Solarin and other notable educationists.

In the eight years of Amosun, he spent multi – billion naira to build 20 model Secondary Schools across the 20 Local Governments. Unfortunately, two or three of them have been completed. Only one or two have been put to use while the rest – mainly the uncompleted ones, were abandoned to wild birds, reptiles, weeds, shrubs and misguided youths turned some of them into a safe haven for illicit sex and substance abuse.

The in – coming administration may find it difficult to determine what use those uncompleted and abandoned model schools in their fast depreciating state could be put to, after scarce tax payers money had been expended on them, and when time and circumstances appeared to have rendered the concept obsolete, wasteful and poorly thought out projects.

An industrialist and philanthropist Chief Jackie Adunni Kassim, did declare that the multi-billion naira model schools were not the ideal ones the state and her pupils deserved.

Kassim, who was the governorship candidate of the United Democratic Party(UDP) in the last governorship election, however, said “ideal model schools” could be achieved by upgrading the infrastructures in some existing state – owned secondary schools, stressing that given the opportunity to govern Ogun State, she would turn Amosun’s model schools into centres where Ogun youths could acquire skills in carpentry, welding, iron fabrications among others.

Funding of education at the state’s tertiary institutions is at its lowest ebb. At a time, the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago – Iwoye, was running for over two years without subventions from government, to detriment of teaching, research and infrastructural developments. Protests by the workers – academic and non – academic, forced the governor to respond with minimal monthly subvention to the institution about a year ago.

The monthly wage bill of OOU is N300m while the monthly subvention being released had remained at N70m in the last one year, a situation that had continued to compel the university management to put the burden of making up for the N230m shortfalls on the students by way of payment of prohibitive fees and levies.

Amosun’s administration has never executed any capital project at OOU. Even his pledge to build an iconic Senate building for the varsity has not been fulfilled.

The experience is not different at the Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun where monthly wage bill is about N200m while its subvention from the state government is about N25m per month, forcing many to wonder how the Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH) would be adequately funded in the light of the experiences of the existing ones.

Many are also not happy that the five percent of all payments to the universities are said to be paid to a consultant foisted on the universities. They lament that the policy only served to further impoverish the two state universities.

The acceptance fees for fresh students in the two universities are more than what obtains as tuition fee per student at the Lagos State University, Ojo.

Recently, the Academic and non – academic staff of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, broke its silence on their plights, alleging that the administration withheld their N170m unremitted pension deductions.

The worker, led by the branch Chairmen of Non-Academic Staff Union(NASU), Kola Sopade; the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), Babatunde Osifalujo; and Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics (SSANIP) Kola Olawunmi, have been at a loggerheads with the state government over the conversion of MAPOLY to Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH) and the establishment of Ogun State Polytechnic in Ipokia, cautioning the governor against taking any action that could further pauperised them.

The situation is particularly pathetic at the Tai Solarin College of Education where some of the staff have not earned salaries for the past eight years, with their salaries accumulating to the tune of over N4b (four billion naira).

Some of the workers of Tai Solarin College of Education being owed by state government have died.

These are some of the knotty issues that would confront Abiodun. How he tackles them, would shape the people’s perception of him and his administration.

No doubt, these are by no means petty tasks, given the monthly wage bill of the Ogun state government which is put at N9bn, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) that oscillates between N6bn and N7bn monthly amid dwindling monthly federal allocations, according to Amosun.

It is hope that, beyond the Economic Transition Committee and Work Groups already in place, Abiodun should assemble the best hands as cabinet members to help him navigate the labyrinth of more crushing liabilities than assets he would likely inherit without hurting the diverse interests that converged to bring about the March 9 victory in the state.

The governor – elect seemed to have taken cognisance of this and met with notable traditional rulers – the Awujale and paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Olu of Ilaro and paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, and Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Adewale Ajayi) to show appreciation for their prayers and support.

He has also visited the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Aremo Olusegun Osoba, and founder and chairman, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Plc, Chief Subomi Balogun among others on a thank you mission.

 

SOURCE; ERNEST NWOKOLO, THE NATION NEWSPAPER, https://thenationonlineng.net.

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