There is no gain saying that Prince Dapo Abiodun is focused on making the next four years the best for the people of Ogun State. To actualise his lofty vision, the governor has been exploring every avenue to attract growth and progress for the State. In the last 10 months, he has been hands-on and virtually omnipresent in all areas of the state’s life with laudable schemes and visible projects dotting the landscape of the State, especially in the area of infrastructural renewal, security, health, education and Information and Communications Technology among others. The foundations have been laid and more would be achieved in the months ahead.
Last May, when Governor Abiodun was inaugurated, he espoused his “Building the Future Together” agenda for the state. Judging by the indices so far, he has not deviated or dithered, rather, he seems to be on a supersonic speed to pack many achievements into his first year in office.
On his first day in office, Governor Abiodun stunned workers across the State civil service. He has left them breathless and bubbling with perks and feats that their contemporaries in other states may think impossible.
On resumption as the State helmsman, the governor was confronted with a near-empty treasury on his first day at work yet, salaries were to be paid. He recalled telling the Head of Service that whether the workers were expecting their salaries or not, he had promised during electioneering that salaries would be paid as at and when due.
“So, I picked my phone and called my friends who are MDs in different banks. I told them that I needed to pay salaries and this is the little I have; almost nothing in the state account. I requested for a credit facility to allow me to pay over N7 billion, which is the state wage bill. That day, my intention was that maybe one or two will oblige me, but the five banks I called obliged me,” Governor Abiodun recalled. And the civil servants received their alerts that evening and being his first task in office, it gave him a sense of fulfilment.
Ever since, he has not reneged on prompt salary payment. But what shocked the entire workforce, however, was that over 1,000 workers recruited by the immediate past administration in the state through the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria and whose salaries were suspended because of the need to investigate the process of their employment received their entire nine months salaries in February. In his magnanimity, the governor declared that his administration would absorb the workers irrespective of some irregularities discovered through the Appointment and Employment Review Committee that was set up.
Taiwo Oduntan, a staff of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, said: “We are happy because coming to work for nine months without receiving salary was not easy at all. Only a humane governor could have done what Governor Dapo Abiodun has done.”
Whatever doubt any civil servant had about Governor Abiodun fulfilling his electoral promises has now evaporated completely as he has agreed to pay N30,500 as minimum wage effective January 1, 2020. In a memorandum of understanding signed by the representatives of organised labour, comprising the Joint Negotiating Council, Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and the Head of Service, Amope Chokor, who led the government delegation, both parties also agreed on the Consequential Adjustment of 27 per cent for grade level 07, GL 08 (20%), GL 09 (19%), GL 10 to 14 (15%) and GL 15 to 17 (14%).
The chairman, JNC, Olanrewaju Folorunsho, who spoke on behalf of organised labour, thanked the governor for taking the bold step in approving the minimum wage. While appreciating the workers for their patience during the negotiation, Folorunsho charged them to reciprocate the gesture by working hard to bring more wealth to Ogun State.
Likewise, the state NLC Chairman, Comrade Emmanuel Bankole, said the agreement was signed in the interest of the workers after they considered its affordability and sustainability, adding that it will be a morale booster for the workers in general.
It is not only civil servants that are enjoying the rewarding stewardship of Governor Abiodun. Indeed, no indigene is exempted from making a robust livelihood except those who are congenitally indolent because some of Governor Abiodun’s initiatives are centred on empowering the people and making life better for them.
For women who are desirous of trading or boosting their current trade, the governor launched in September 2019 the “Oko-owo Dapo”, an empowerment initiative to provide funds to women who are involved in legitimate SMEs across the state.
The initiative also aims to enhance trade as well as micro, small and medium scale enterprises. Two thousand women benefitted in the first phase of the initiative as it is envisaged to reach at least 100,000 women in the first year of the Abiodun Administration.
Farmers are not left out of the manna from the man burning the midnight candle at Oke-Mosan so that Ogun State can be greater than any Nigerian state. Last year, the Governor launched the Anchor Borrowers Programme in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria. A poverty-eradicating initiative that will provide inputs, service support and training required for farmers through a single digit loan and guaranteed off-taker, the ABP idea is in fulfilment of Abiodun’s promise to increase food production and create employment opportunities for the people of the state, especially youth and women involved in agriculture.
The governor also said the scheme was another avenue to boost the nation’s self-sufficiency in food production, “which is in line with the Federal Government’s agenda on food security to save foreign exchange spent annually on importation of food items that could be produced locally. Providence has blessed us with favourable climate and fertile soil for agriculture. We sit on a landmass that is over 16,000sqm, 80 per cent of which is arable; that is we have over 12,800sqm of arable land.”
And to reduce the unemployment rate in the state, Governor Abiodun created the Ogun Job Portal, which aims to tackle the scourge of unemployment by linking the state’s unemployed youths with matching job opportunities in the labour market. Describing the job portal as one of the initiatives that would take the good people of Ogun State out of unemployment while also bettering the career chances of the employed, Governor Abiodun said that the portal is particularly suited to prepare the people to fit into appropriate sectors while revitalising all the sectors of the state’s economy. To underscore his seriousness in this regard, one of the earliest appointments Governor Abiodun made was that of Olalekan Olude, an award-winning entrepreneur, co-founder of Jobberman Limited, the leading job site in sub-Saharan Africa and founding partner of the African Talents Company in South Africa.
Olude is also the co-founder and Executive Director at Rovedana Limited, a business process outsourcing company that provides employment to more than 2,000 Nigerians across different industries and specialises in upscaling and placing them into employment with over 100 companies.
For information and communications technology-savvy youth, the governor also created the Ogun Tech Hub and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Centre. Located along Kobape Road, Abeokuta Expressway, the Ogun Tech Hub is sited on a vast expanse of land hitherto housing an abandoned school building. It was, however, re-purposed for the tech hub and is now a sight to behold at night and during the day. Inside is a sprawling tableau of ICT experts, trainees and gadgets. Governor Abiodun said that the hub was conceptualised to make Ogun “the one-stop-shop for technological innovations across Africa where start-up companies will conveniently be set up. This step is firstly a result of the collaboration of tech enthusiasts and private sector players largely independent of our government.”
Essentially, the Ogun Tech Hub and STEM is a grand step geared towards fostering creativity and achievement of purpose for technologists, social entrepreneurs, tech companies, impact investors, and even ethical hackers and governments around Ogun State.
The Hub will also serve as a knowledge platform where citizens can connect, share, build new skills and competencies to solve local challenges that improve the quality of life of Nigerians.
Towards fulfilling his promise to make healthcare services accessible, affordable and qualitative to the people of Ogun State, Governor Abiodun has revealed that his administration is putting in place a health insurance scheme to meet the health needs of the citizenry. This, he said, became necessary because healthcare services come at a huge cost for many Nigerians.
The Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu is currently wearing a new look as internal roads are being tarred and drainages are being better channelled while the institution is being re-equipped to meet healthcare demands, research and teaching. The OOUTH is also where the state government sited the Disease Surveillance Notification Centres. It was designated and empowered specifically to be a DSNC in the case of an outbreak.
Governor Abiodun opines that security is integral to the prosperity and growth of any state or nation and he promised at the outset of his administration that he would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the state maximised its potential to the fullest by creating an enabling environment for residents and prospective investors.
Firstly, he inaugurated the Security Trust Fund committee headed by Bolaji Balogun, Chief Executive Officer of Chapel Hill Denham, one of Nigeria’s pre-eminent investment banking firms, to source funds for the acquisition and deployment of security equipment, personnel gear and other resources necessary to prevent crime and preserve public peace in Ogun State.
The committee is also to promote the synergy of all security agencies in the state and mobilise support in cash or kind from public and private sources in a transparent and accountable manner.
Secondly, the governor signed into law the State Security Trust Fund Bill. Thirdly, he procured 100 Patrol Vehicles and 200 Bikes to aid the activities of law enforcement agents in the state while reiterating his support for efforts and ideas that would make Ogun a crime-free state. Just recently, the governor also signed into law the creation of the Western Nigeria Security outfit, Operation Amotekun.
If Ogun State was hitherto known for being among the best in Nigeria educationally, that had changed over time due to neglect and lack of proper funding. Now that he is in the saddle, Governor Abiodun has unleashed his ingenuity to bring back the lost education glory of the state which has proudly produced many icons of global repute as well as thought leaders and political gladiators with an impact that has remained indelible for ages.
At the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, the state government has completed and commissioned the largest Information and Communications Technology centre in any Nigerian university. The multi-purpose complex sits 3,000 persons at a time and is fitted with all the gizmos that make reading profound and pleasurable. There are also computers, printers, free Wi-Fi facilities and training programmes required to make learning and teaching easier for researchers and staff of the university. In the same institution, internal roads are being reconstructed among other amenities.
In the period under review, the governor has offered automatic employment to the best graduating students in institutions like the OOU, Tai Solarin College of Education and the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro. He made free education mandatory for pupils in primary and secondary schools who had been subjected to paying indiscriminate fees and levies with little or nothing to justify such payments. His declaration of free education put an immediate end to the N3,700 levied on students as adopted by the former administration on the advice of the Parents Teachers Association.
Also, the Abiodun Administration has embarked on the rehabilitation of public schools across the 236 wards in the state while creating a mouth-watering reward system for teachers in both private and public schools.
Meanwhile, confronted with the deplorable state of rural and township roads, the governor vowed that his administration was determined to make it easy for people to move with relative ease between Lagos and Ogun State. He promised then that the roads linking Ogun to neighbouring states would receive priority attention as well as the construction of rural roads to foster development. Thus, as a quick fix mechanism to address the deplorable condition of the roads, Governor Abiodun established the Ogun State Public Works Agency because “infrastructure, for us, is key to development. We have been able to demonstrate a commitment to the continued socio-economic development of our dear state, particularly in education, health, infrastructure and other key sectors that have a direct and positive impact on our people.
“You will recall that we requested that our people should select roads that should attract immediate attention in each of the 236 wards across our dear state. These roads are receiving an immediate intervention. This is in addition to government’s identified projects that will be spread across the three senatorial districts of our dear state.”
The Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Ade Akinsanya, pointed out that besides the road construction and rehabilitation, the state government had also begun the re-designing and proper channelization of drainage in different parts of the state and explained that works were being done with a view to checking flooding being experienced by residents and road users in the state.
During a recent media tour around the state, it was evident that the OGPWA is proving to be efficient and responsive in rehabilitating roads. Commendably, the Ijebu-Ode-Epe Road, which had been in a state of disrepair leading to abandonment by commuters because successive administrations in the state only mouthed reconstructing it but never made good their words, has got a new lease of life.
Weeks back, Governor Abiodun turned the sod on the very important road, saying, “One of our promises was to provide infrastructure in all parts of our state. In the course of our campaign, I made a promise that our administration will rehabilitate and reconstruct the Ogun end of the Ijebu-Ode-Epe road to bring succour to our people and engender the economic development of our state.”
The dual carriage road is planned to have 10 lanes – four on each side with one pull-out section – and a toll plaza comprising 14 payment points. Aside from easing traffic on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the road would bring relief to commuters and indigenes, save Nigerians valuable time in traffic and engender the socio-economic growth of the state. Governor Abiodun said that the project was necessary as it would be an easy link to Lagos, thus improving the economic and social well-being of those in the axis.
Speaking with one of the engineers of the contractor, Craneburg Construction Limited, a leading civil engineering company, he said the state government had given them a completion date and they were working round the clock to ensure that they did not disappoint. “We work day and night and are committed to meeting the completion date as agreed with the state government,” the engineer said.
. Sodunke, a public affairs commentator, writes from Itele, Ogun State.