By Kunle Somorin
There is a reason intellectuals avoid sweeping generalizations, prefacing their submissions with checks such as ‘perhaps.’ As people who mean to be taken seriously, they are aware that their postulations are necessarily limited by their own exposure and knowledge, and that, in simple terms, they cannot assume too much.
This “intellectual caution,” if you like, is a necessary ingredient of enlightened discourse, be it a newspaper article, a government policy briefing or an academic paper. Sadly, the piece, ‘Much ado about Abiodun’s ‘slow’ governance in Ogun,” published in the July 12 edition of The Guardian, lacks intellectual caution. It dresses the Ogun State governor in the robes of a villain and, for good measure, allows a well-known rabble rouser in the opposition unfettered freedom to articulate his usual bigotry.
Although we find a single positive view of the governor which is discarded forthwith, interspersed with the views of the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, such views are just there to take up space.
According to the writer, “two months into his second year in office as governor, the people of Ogun State have begun to express worry over Prince DapoAbiodun’s alleged sluggish approach to governance.” These “people of Ogun State” are, of course, the writer himself, together with two disgruntled elements. This is the research population, the people of Ogun State! There is no traditional ruler, business executive or academic of note or trader to express any view.
Although there is a voice of reason in the immediate past chairman, Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Comrade Arabambi Abayomi, who warns that “you can’t successfully compare a government that is performing and developing each and all sectors to a government of a mono-sector performance. Amosun was active in developing only roads in exclusively one senatorial zone, while Dapo has been creditably acknowledged across the state as a governor performing very well and commendably in virtually all the sectors of government,” his opinion is promptly discarded.
The truth, quite simply, is that even with the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic of the last six months, which the piece carefully avoids mentioning, Ogun has been one of the stand-out states, as acknowledged by President Muhammadu Buhari himself when he gave support to Lagos and Ogun states for the efforts to combat the pandemic. The state has been turned into a construction site and it is simply because of this that some members of the opposition, intent on political mileage ahead of 2023, strive day and night to diminish Governor Abiodun’s personality and government.
The piece in question haughtily dismisses the road construction efforts in Ogun State, but as many are no doubt aware, Governor Dapo Abiodun has taken the gospel of road construction to every nook and cranny of Ogun State, jettisoning the mere window dressing of state capitals to which many a governor is prone in this clime. This is the kernel of the submissions by the LP chairman in the piece under reference. Today in Ogun, hitherto neglected communities, especially the so-called “remote areas” that had hardly ever seen anything more than campaigns during electioneering, are now experiencing real governance.
It is a fact that in the last one year, the total length of new roads construction is 87km, out of which 20.35km had been completed. The total length of rehabilitation carried out is 68km. The roads include: Obantoko road, Idi Aba- Elite-Oke Lantoro, Abeokuta; Abeokuta-Sagamu Interchange, Ikola/Navy-Osi Ota Road; Raypower Road, Ota, State Hospital, Ilaro Internal Road Network; Ota Owode-Idiroko; Molipa-Fusigboye-Ojofa Street, Ijebu-Ode; Asafa Oke-Asafa Isale-Ayegun- Ojofa Street, Ijebu-Ode; Bright Fashion Baruwa Street, Sagamu; Hospital Road, Sagamu; Oba Erinwole Dual Carriageway, Oru-Awa-Alaporu-Ibadan; Adigbe Bridge, Ikoritameje-Adenrele/Olose Titun-Vespa, Ifo, Iberekodo General Hospital Internal Road, Abeokuta, Iperu Ilishan, Sagamu Iperu Ode, Siun Ogere. Indeed, a great milestone was reached when 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 on each side, with one pull-out section, and a 14-lane toll plaza for easy payment of tolls.
In consonance with our inclusive governance principle, we received buy-in from stakeholders within the communities before embarking on roads – either for reconstruction or rehabilitation – or any other project for that matter. The long abandoned link roads to Lagos was stakeholders’ Number One choice at the State Industrial nerve centre, Ota. Today, the Ikola/Navy-Osi and Raypower have earned the State respect for their excellence of design, drainages, streetlights and other furniture that would make them endure all the worst of seasons. The story is similar in all the other projects we have done and are doing. So, is the writer in question describing the same Ogun that everyone world knows or another?
In just one year, the Abiodun administration resuscitated the construction equipment rental company, Plant Gate. It established, for the first time in the state’s history, a Power and Energy Board carrying out, among others, procurement and installation of transformers to communities across the State. It established Ogun TechHubs as centres for incubation and innovation for tech start-ups, skills acquisition. Indeed, following the first edition of a competition tagged Governor’s Challenge, a number of innovative ICT solutions that immediately received support for further refinement and commercial development, emerged. Two awards by the Federal Ministry of Digital Economy and Communication – Best State in ICT Penetration and 2nd position in ICT Human Capital Development, testify to Governor Abiodun’s efforts to make Ogun Nigeria’s ICT hub.
In the area of health, the administration rehabilitated two General Hospitals, one in Abeokuta and the other in Ilaro, with work ongoing in 236 Primary Healthcare Centres. It recruited 82 health workers, including resident doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals in various cadres into the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, and 56 others across the other state health facilities. It immunised almost 1.3 million children against polio, undertook regular medical outreach offering free medical examination, including free eye glasses, immunisation, blood pressure and sugar level checks, Hepatitis counselling and vaccination, providing life-saving intervention to 8,000 women.
It upgraded select State Hospitals to provide Prevention of HIV from Mother to Child (PMTCT) and Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) services; purchased new collection of medical equipment, including a dialysis machine, mobile digital x-ray machine, high resolution ultrasound machine, new intensive care beds, twelve new ventilators, eight CPAP machines, 10 new ambulances and logistics trucks.
To contain the coronavirus pandemic, the Abiodun administration established five treatment and Isolation Centres for COVID-19 patients at Ikenne, Sagamu and Abeokuta. It set up a Molecular Laboratory at Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, (OOUTH) Sagamu, the first Molecular Laboratory solely funded by a state in Nigeria, with capacity for 150 tests a day, together with the first COVID-19 Mobile Laboratory in Nigeria with the capacity to run 450 tests a day, at the intended 250-bed hospital at Abeokuta. It provided COVID-19 Drive-Through and Walk-In Testing Centres equipped with a specially designed protective glass enclosure preventing medical personnel collecting samples from getting infected. It completed the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) floor of the 250-bed Hospital at Abeokuta, with a capacity for 18 available beds; and renovated two General Hospitals and 20 selected PHCs, to serve as first responders to cases of COVID-19. It reviewed Hazard Allowance to health workers by 300 per cent, and enrolled over 8,000 health workers in a life insurance scheme.
In the area of housing, the Abiodun administration, in the year under review, constructed Prince Court Estate at Kemta, Abeokuta, an affordable housing project with a plan for 450 units. Already, 135 units have been delivered in the first phase. King’s Court Estate Development project at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta is a 23-unit of 2 and 3 bedroom affordable bungalows at Laderin Estate under our Civil Servants Scheme. The Dapo-Abiodun Administration undertook downward review of the selling price for the 3 bedroom flats and 2 bedroom flats at the A.A.K. Degun Estate situated in Laderin, Abeokuta and ensured the relaxation of terms and condition of sale of the units, including the reduction of interest rate from 18 per cent to 6 per cent. What’s more, this Government has also commenced work on the predecessors projects that are considered priorities and considered impactful as recommended by the review committee that was set up to those contracts awarded in the twilight of the previous Administration and in almost all, this Government has been negotiating and mobilizing the contractors back to site and they are all on site. Seeing Government as a continuum was dusted when all projects were abandoned by succeeding ones, irrespective of their social relevance and economic imperatives. We challenge the author of the piece under reference to fact-check these claims and in good conscience draw a line and not blood.
In education, among others, the government resolved the crisis over the status of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic and the intended Moshood Abiola University of Technology, as well as the perennial crisis at the Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu. It brought the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Ojere-Abeokuta, back on its feet, with a good number of employed staff, matriculated students, robust IGR, conducive ecosystem of caterers, traders, artisans and community working in harmony. It renovated and reconstructed 95 public schools fitted with modern corrugated roofs, furniture, halls and modern toilet facilities across the state, being firmly committed to providing similar structures and facilities for at least one school in each of our 236 wards. It also set up a Government Delivery Unit for Education, cleared the backlog of 10,000 teaching non-teaching staff promotion exercise for 2016/2017, undertook foreign capacity building for school administrators, ensured technology-based human development for our teachers, inducted a total of 132 principals, 122 vice principals and 4 zonal secretaries to fill the deficit the administration met across secondary schools in the state. This is hardly the hallmark of a slow administration.
The Abiodun administration understands the centrality of Government in providing a conducive policy climate for businesses to thrive. In one year, it established a Business Environment Council as a one stop shop for those wanting to start invest in Ogun, where land applications, permits etc will be facilitated without red tape. It sets up Enterprise Development Agency (EDA) for capacity building and facilitation of financing access to support the MSME sector, and initiated a creative arts and entertainment hub to bolster the primacy of the State as the Nation’s Number One Industrial hub. It implemented the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for budget preparation, set up a Fiscal Responsibility Commission, established the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Office, implemented staff biometrics and payroll audit and created the Bureau of Public Procurement Council. It is indeed a tribute to Abiodun’s genius that despite inheriting N221.55 bn debts and expending over N15bn on servicing debts incurred by previous administrations, he is not owing workers’ salaries.
Is it not the same man that absorbed about 2,000 ASCON entrants who were supposedly employed but without files into the civil service record, and paid the outstanding 9-month areas in one fell swoop? That same ‘slow man’ re-instated unionists that were unfairly sacked by his predecessor and in February 2020 alone, recruited 1,000 people from across all 20 LGAs into the Ogun State Environmental Protection Agency (OGEPA). His direct Labour Policy alone has benefitted 400 youth artisans who were recruited across crafts (plumbing, electrical and building) for the State Ministry of Housing’s Building Programme.
Governor Abiodun’s strides in the last one year are too numerous to list here. There is no conceivable justification for Gbenga Akinfenwa’s “unkindest cut.” We suppose that having summoned the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, in his title (‘Much ado about..”), he will at least have the courage to admit the errors in his postulations.
• Somorin is Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun