Ajimobi’s potpourri of hubs and the task before Seyi Makinde

WHEN Governor Abiola Ajimobi leaves office on May 29, 2019, he will be remembered for a potpourri of the good, bad and ugly. Since assumption of office on May 29, 2011, Ajimobi has, at several fora, identified the layers of his administration’s pyramid of development of the state as technology, industrialisation, agriculture, health, culture, education, infrastructure, with peace and security at the base. Beyond being referred to in some quarters as Koseleri I of the federation, the builder of modern Oyo State, Mr Constituted Authority, Ajimobi has regularly stated his commitment to implementing his development plans by making the state a technological hub, industrial hub, agric hub, tourism and culture hub, economic hub, investment hub, infrastructure hub, media and entertainment hub. With Seyi Makinde billed to take over the reins of power from May 29, observers are keen on the extent to which the hubs have seen the light of the day.

If there is any achievement that members of the Ajimobi administration can beat their chest about, it is ensuring that residents live in a peaceful and secure environment. Coming from the pre-2011 era of intermittent clashes among members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the institution of the joint security task force known as “Operation Burst” to stem the tide is noteworthy. Though the state still has records of criminality and thuggery, it can’t be compared to the fact that the state was once tagged a capital of brigandage, thuggery and dirt. Ajimobi would usually say that he wants to be remembered for having laid a German floor of peace and security. The installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in hotspots of violence in Ibadan by the Oyo State Security Trust Fund (OYSSTF) is in apparent furtherance of its commitment to peace and security. No doubt, the incoming administration would be closely watched on how well it manages those tendencies of violence and maintains a relatively peaceful state.

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Ajimobi’s strides in road infrastructure have been likened to that of former military governor of defunct Western State, General David Jemibewon. The administration is said to have spent over N200 billion on reconstruction, dualisation, rehabilitation of roads spanning about 590 kilometres. In fact, there are several ongoing road projects that residents hope would be completed before May 29, including Eleyele/Ologuneru/Eruwa; Idi-Ape/Basorun/Akobo/Odogbo Barracks Junction; Gate/Old Ife Road/Alakia, as well as Oke Adu/Iwo road. Though the Oyo State Road Maintenance Agency is seen from time to time patching roads, several inner roads in Ibadan and around the state are in dilapidated state, needing attention.

Also, in road infrastructure, Ajimobi, in June 2017, flagged off the N70 billion Ibadan Circular Road project expected to span 110 kilometres. In fact, an 18-month timeline was given for the completion of the first phase of the project, spanning 32 kilometres, from Badeku village, in Ona Ara Local Government Area, to Ajanla Village on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. When it became apparent that the deadline may not be met, the project contractor, ENL Corsortium, had, in November 2017, noted that the project faced obstacles in taking off from owners of several cash crops on the project area expanse. To the end, the contractor had issued N26 million in compensation to land owners spread across 57 villages to enable the takeoff of the project. The 18-month timeline set for completion of the first phase of the project has expired with work not yet completed as expected. Residents would have their eyes fixed on heaven, hoping that the incoming Seyi Makinde administration sees to the completion of the project.

One hub that Ajimobi has expressed keen desire to realise is an industrial hub. In this light, Ajimobi, on November 2, 2016, turned the sod for the creation of Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone and Industrial Park on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The free trade zone project is a partnership arrangement between the Oyo State government and a Chinese conglomerate. China Polaris was to have a hub for solar power generation, manufacture of building materials and the assembling of automotive parts among other products. The first phase of the project, comprising five factories was estimated to cost about $500milion and was expected to be completed before the end of the first quarter of 2017, while the entire project had a completion date of end of 2018. Project facilitator, Dr Mufu Raheem, had then said 15 automative companies from China had shown interest in siting their plants to manufacture car batteries, tyres and car engines at the free trade zone.

However, a visit to the proposed site shows that it has been overgrown by weeds, while the investors are still being expected. Apparently disgusted that the project had failed to proceed as expected, even two years after, Ajimobi, on November 6, 2018, while receiving the Outline Business Case Compliance (OBC) of the new Ibadan dry port from the Nigeria Shippers Council, lamented the fact that some of its negotiations with some Chinese companies to begin some projects in the state were yet to materialise. He pointed to making nine trips to China to seal deals with investors, yet his desired influx of investors to the trade zone was yet to come to pass. Will Seyi Makinde take up the industrial park/free trade zone project?

While the intended technological hub through the creation of industrial park is yet to see the light of the day, Ajimobi has shown drive towards having a technologically-driven economy through the establishment of the first technical university, introduction of e-governance and Geographic Information System. With the state being put on the track of digitalisation and technology by the outgoing administration, it is expected that the incoming administration keeps up with technological advancements in its plans to develop the state.

In agriculture, Ajimobi has regularly identified the state’s potential to be the food basket of the nation. According to him, the state was in good stead to be a major agric hub, judging by the concentration of reputable research institutions in the state, its vast arable land, as well as location between Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of the country and the North, among other comparative advantages. In April 2016, he inaugurated the Oyo State Agriculture Initiative, AgricOyo programme at Paago, Iseyin Local Government Area targeted at increasing arable crops production from 1.73 million to 69.3 million metric tonnes, while one million residents were to be beneficiaries across the value chain of job creation, poverty alleviation and food security. Contradicting notions that the results of the AgricOyo initiative were not heard about compared to its much publicized launch, Oyo Commissioner for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, Mr Oyewole Oyewumi, said about 200 hectares of maize were planted in five local government areas, 500 hectares of cassava planted in 14 local government areas and 15 hectares of vegetable in one local government area. He said the state faces the challenge of access to land but explained that explained that it had moved away from the Paago idea to expanding the scope of the agricultural transformation to cover the state.

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Resolved to create an agriculture hub, the state governor, in March 2017, also visited Port Novo, Benin Republic, returning with the promise that the Songhai integrated organic farming formula of Port Novo would be replicated at Pacesetter Farms in Awe area of the state. The Songhai farm system entails organic farm process in poultry, fishery, livestock and crop production from planting to harvesting, storage, transportation, manufacturing and processing in the state. Responding on the extent on implementation, the agriculture commissioner said the Songhai project started at Awe with training of persons on the initiative but that it had been modified to incorporate a Federal Government initiative called Youthlab. Above all, Oyewumi said the state Ministry of Agriculture had entered into a partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to produce a 25-year agricultural roadmap for Oyo State, where soil mapping of its agricultural land, particularly in the Oke Ogun area, will be done. Responding on why the results of AgricOyo and Songhai initiatives were not visible, Oyewumi, in February 2018, said the results of the state’s strides in agriculture would be more visible in three years’ time. But will the Makinde administration key into the 2021 agenda before the state begins to live out its potential to be the food basket of the nation?

Oyo State is home to showcasing the Yoruba culture in dressing, songs, language, while boasting of tourist attractions and historical monuments. In showcasing the state a culture and tourism hub, the state introduced Aso Ofi Festival, Amala Fiesta and Twins Festival. As promoted by state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Toye Arulogun, the festival, targeted to be an annual event, was to showcase and celebrate the locally made fabric called aso ofi. In hosting the 2017 edition of the festival, the foundation for the “Aso Ofi International Market” was laid by state deputy governor, Mr Moses Adeyemo, in September 2017. The project however is still at foundation laying stage, with the Association of Iseyin Weavers and Marketers urging the state government to commence construction works on the 13.5 hectares land expanse to house 500 weaving sheds/workshops, 500 exhibition shops, warehouse, textile museum moves up from foundation level. Responding, Arulogun shrugged off notions that the project had been abandoned, noting that government would commence phase one of the market as soon as it got the final approval and required funding.

The state government, in promoting food tourism, also initiated the Amala Fiesta in 2016. Arulogun, who is the initiator, said the festival was to showcase the uniqueness and nutritional benefits of the state’s brand of Amala. However, the Amala Festival has not continued in subsequent years as thought. In 2018, the state organised the maiden Twins Festival to showcase Igboora in Ibarapa Central Local Government Area as the town with the highest rate of twins and multiple births in the world. It waits to be seen whether Makinde will lift the Aso Ofi International Market from foundation stage and if the Amala Fiesta and Aso Ofi Festival will be continued.

Strides of the state government to improve the education sector include the launch of School Governing Boards (SGBs), Education Trust Fund (ETF) and Oyo State Model Intervention System (OYOMESI). While the SGB, launched in February 2017, aims to encourage public/private sector involvement in the management of schools, the Oyo ETF, inaugurated in November 2017, similarly advocates collective financing of educational activities. Evidences of the successes recorded since the SGB was launched abound with several old students returning to their alma maters to carry out various rehabilitation and reconstruction works. The Ajimobi administration will also be recorded as having inaugurated the first Technical University, Ibadan and embarked on construction of three model schools. However, the fact that the several of the 628 schools across the state have weak, old and dilapidated structures remains. The state may have recognised this fact when the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Professor Adeniyi Olowofela, in November 2017, said government had approved and initiated the process of renovating 100 schools with about N5 billion. However, only two demolitions of structures have been publicised so far.

An Achilles heel of the outgoing administration is the persistent agitation of staff of the state-owned tertiary institutions over unpaid salaries and the attendant industrial actions. As against the state government’s sermon on the need for the institutions to be self-funding, thereby reducing subventions from 100 percent, staff unions have argued that the institutions were not ripe enough to survive without government’s adequate funding. The incoming Makinde administration must devise means to ensure regular payment of salaries of tertiary institutions’ staff. It must also look into the joint ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, with Osun State with a view to engendering better management and funding.

In the health sector, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Azeez Adeduntan, has echoed the ultimate aim of his principal, Ajimobi, to make the state a Mecca of healthcare services in Nigeria. From the launch of the N650 per month health insurance scheme to free health missions, N50 billion health endowment fund, rehabilitation of some hospitals like Adeoyo Hospital, Ibadan, Ajimobi has consistently expressed his resolve to ensure that the people of the state have access to affordable and qualitative healthcare delivery. However, several of the state’s 36 hospitals and 700 clinics and health posts across the state suffer from infrastructure deficit. Apparently identifying the infrastructural deficit in its health facilities, the state government has continuously harped on the need for intervention of individuals and organisations to revamp the health sector with the establishment of health endowment fund. For example, there has been the donation of medical equipment to hospitals like the $2 million medical equipment at Adeoyo Maternity Teaching Hospital, Yemetu, Ibadan by Nigeria Women Association of Georgia and Medishare Incorporated, renovation of maternity ward by MTN Foundation and JNCI. It is expected that increased funding of the health sector by the next administration would address infrastructural gaps in the state’s health facilities, especially primary healthcare centres and attend to the several yearnings of health workers of LAUTECH Teaching Hospital for improved welfare. Also, institution of health insurance scheme, if well managed, will get resources that can be deployed to the renovation of primary health care facilities, the conduct of minor surgeries and purchase of drugs.

Another hub envisaged by the outgoing administration is making the state the entertainment and cultural hub of the South-West. When Mr Yomi Layinka was, on March 9, 2018, made Special Adviser, Ibadan Media City Project, the task given him by Ajimobi was to lead the transformation of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State into a massive and formidable media, entertainment and cultural hub for the South-West. The envisaged BCOS would encompass television and radio broadcasting, production studio services, theme parks and resorts, hospitality and leisure services, live events and a media academy. However, the wait for the envisaged hub continues. Addressing the delay in take off of the project in 2018, Yomi Layinka, said the state government was creating an enabling environment for its major take-off in terms of land assets and was talking to a multi-national corporation involved in entertainment businesses. One prays the Makinde administration takes up the media city project, side-by-side the proposed transformation of BCOS, as a priority.

As governor-elect, Seyi Makinde is billed to take over the reins of power in the state on May 29, his 8-point agenda for governance are not entirely exclusive of what Ajimobi had done and envisioned for the state over the course of 94 months. Makinde’s message throughout his electioneering campaigns resonated around agriculture/food security; health; education; infrastructure; domestic resource flow; ease of doing business; youth empowerment; social inclusion and protection; security. His plans are not far off Ajimobi’s focus on technology, industrialisation, agriculture, health, culture, education, infrastructure, peace and security. The tendency for a shared vision, cum continuation of some programmes, is therefore feasible. Moreover, Makinde did ask for a shared vision for development of the state when he visited Ajimobi.  Consequently, the envisaged industrial park/free trade zone, Aso Ofi International Market, CircularRroad, road dualisations, media and entertainment hub, among other hubs can still be actualised in the spirit of continuity. That Ajimobi has set the tone for modern Oyo state is clear going by his great strides in infrastructure; peace and security; education through the institution of School Governing Boards; health through the Health Insurance Scheme. However, the governor has, at several fora, pointed out that the task of developing the state is huge and cannot be all done by one administration. It waits to be seen the extent to which Makinde would yield to Ajimobi’s appeal not to destroy his good strides, but look into those areas he did not accomplish.

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