Dapo Abiodun at 61: Come, let us rejoice!

TOMORROW, Prince Dapo Abiodun, Ogun State’s fifth democratically elected helmsman, clocks three scores plus one. It is, as usual since 2019 when he mounted the saddle, a double-tiered song and dance, for this is also the day that he clocks two years in office, two solid years of phenomenal feats in a Build Our Future Together movement.  Many would say that the celebrations have been richly earned, but Governor Abiodun will let no one forget that being alive and in good health has not come by the arm of the flesh. It has all been by the grace of the Almighty God in whose lustre he (Abiodun) basks, firmly believing that whatever He does, He does so well, and that the future with grace at the steering wheel is beyond assured. This is not merely fortuitous, and the fact that Prince Abiodun reckons that he might one day become a preacher of the gospel is not even under consideration right now. The point is that in the last 61 years, he has, for want of a better phrase, confronted more than a fair share of baptisms of fire.

From serious health challenges that almost took the wind out of his sails to perils on the road stoked by men of the underworld; from character assassination by trusted allies to hollow promises by friends intent on nothing but personal gain, however dishonestly obtained; from persecution by the Ogun State political establishment when he threw his hat in the ring to the purveyance of falsehood by opposition desperadoes when, eventually, he made it after a decade of trials … the Iperu-born Prince, business mogul and consummate administrator has seen it all.  From 1998 when he got elected to a senatorial position under the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) and late that year when he introduced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State but bowed to party wishes and supported Otunba Gbenga Daniel for the Oke Mosan job, to 2007 when, again, he bowed to party supremacy and conceded the Senate race, to 2011 and 2015 when he threw his structures behind Senator Ibikunle Amosun to clinch the Ogun top job, Abiodun has faced battle after battle. Success has not come on a silver platter: it has been a case of par adua ad astra, “through difficulties to the stars,” as the Royal Air Force proclaims in pursuit of triumph. And so, praises and adorations to the Lord of all will occupy the most substantial portions of today as Abiodun exults in the joy of The Lord.

Proverbs are the horse on which words ride in the land of Oduduwa, and if a word is lost, it is with proverbs that it is retrieved: character, say the Yoruba, is beauty. And on this point hangs the first aspect of the personality of Governor Abiodun that deserves ample mention.  Governor Abiodun is, to say the least, a man of character; an Omoluabi, in the full Yoruba conceptualisation of the term. Entrusted with power, he has not gone haywire, as is the wont of many in this clime. He does not rail at elders in the name of political braggadocio; he does not use dirty and uncouth language even when justly aggrieved; he has not used the instrumentality of state power to constitute himself into a glorified lout. He exudes refinement, and refinement is a critical need of every society’s leadership. Abiodun is not without his own fair share of human foibles. But when leaders come on the scene in this clime, with the value of self-effacement, of discipline, of self-denial and of comportment, they deserve applause. The nation teems with brilliant rogues in the corridors of power but Abiodun presents a difference we must embrace if we want true progress. In choosing not to habitually pick quarrels with people or be drawn into the murky waters in which political charlatans swim every day, Abiodun is not being a coward: he is being a man of character. Character is beauty, and as the timeless poet John Keats writes in his epochal poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Many in political circles thought that immediately upon assuming office, Abiodun would root out the over 1000 workers clandestinely and improperly thrust on the state’s wage bill in the twilight of the Ibikunle Amosun administration. But their qualms proved to be of no movement: the governor chose to regularise their appointments, together with those of a slew of permanent secretaries. That was a political sermon without sophistry: politics must be without bitterness.  Enthralled by his open embrace of all, high-profile politicians in the opposition have cast their lot for Abiodun. The roll call includes a two-time governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Right Honourable Dimeji Bankole; Alhaja Salmot Badru, a former deputy governor of the state, and Prince Gboyega Isiaka, candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and a main challenger during the 2019 governorship election. The list also includes Apostle Dave Salako, a two-time member of the House of Representatives; Elder Joju Fadairo, former State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and Chief Pegba Otemolu, former State Secretary of PDP, among others.

Unlike some, Dapo Abiodun did not come into office as a career politician. He was already established in the oil and gas and security world before he toed the path of partisan politicking. As many would no doubt recall, it was to him that the Lagos State military government turned in the early 90s when the state was under the siege of robbers, especially from the neighbouring countries. He developed a car tracking mechanism that saved lives, and the Rapid Response Squad of the state comprising mobile policemen was placed under his control.  And since being sworn-in as the fifth democratically elected governor of Ogun State on May 29, 2019, he has left no one in doubt about his administration’s interest and focus on the information super highway, launching the Ogun TechHUB  described as an innovation hub that provides ideal conditions for entrepreneurs to collaborate, flourish and accelerate the growth of their businesses, the Ogun Technopreneurship Program (OTP) which has the crucial objective of nurturing high quality ideas in various industries to become tech-start-ups and Tech-SMEs, and the Ogun Innovate Start-up meant to empower people in the state with essential skills needed to succeed in business, to create opportunities for entrepreneurs and to empower the unemployed.

It is a fitting tribute to his genius that the ICT industry accounts for more than 21 per cent of Ogun State’s GDP while providing countless job opportunities for the growing educated and creative citizenry. The witness of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is apposite here: “Bridging the digital divide in the state will begin to improve education outcomes and provide opportunities for improved access to education across the state starting from primary to the tertiary level. The digital revolution that this project will bring will be a game-changer in every aspect not the socio-economic life of the state

Excellence is inevitable in Ogun at this moment, and going forward. The event, the operatives of the security outfit had been carefully selected and trained to secure lives and property, while the state government has provided the outfit with vehicles, motorcycles, communication gadgets, technical back-ups and the political will for an effective take-off and efficient operation.

In November last year, he flagged off the Adire Digital Market at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, advocating  the promotion of Nigeria’s indigenous fabrics to the world and affirming that adire fabric could be adopted as national wear for athletes during sporting engagements. Adire, he declared, would become the official school uniform in all public schools in the state. He then urged Foreign Missions to adopt adire fabric as a cultural symbol that will further project our rich culture to the outside world.

The first phase of the Agro-Cargo Airport at Ilisan-Remo in Ikenne local government area of the state would be ready by May next year. The cargo airport, a heteropolis (complete airport city), would have a special agro-processing zone, with factories where raw materials could be turned into final products for export, and would, in fact, be complemented with the first international testing centre where goods would be evaluated for export.

Prince Dapo Abiodun comes seasoned with experience from the corporate and political worlds, a man of deep introspection, high intellect and passion to make real, verifiable change in the lives of people; a game-changer built for the toughest of times, a technocrat with a difference; a master administrator fully cognizant of the place of a stellar cast of committed individuals in driving developmental agenda, the values of teamwork, the gains of data-driven governance and, of course, the rewards of perseverance.

Akinmade, former Commissioner of Information in Ondo State, writes in via kayodeakinmade809@gmail.com.

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