Dapo Abiodun: Portrait of a business executive as a statesman
We want the economy to grow and to achieve it, we will remain focused. Having put in place our first four-year plan, we will not only execute those plans but also have units that will ensure that as they unfold, they will be measuring our successes and ensure that we execute those plans as envisaged in our vision
—Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State.
AS can be seen from the above quote which in every material particular captures that governing philosophy of the new governor of Ogun State (the Gateway State), a new kid is on the governance block bringing to bear his business acumen to transform Ogun State for the general welfare of the people. Just within three months in the saddle as the helmsman of the state, a new governance pattern is emerging with a clear focus on fostering public/private partnership as a model for efficient and credible public administration in the search for economic growth and the well-being of the people.
At the initial stage, many were worried and thought that the administration needed to have formed its cabinet immediately after the governor was sworn in, but with steps taken so far by the governor in concert with the permanent secretaries, one can now understand the governor’s style and its strategic relevance in the unfolding history of Ogun State. The series of meetings the governor held with the permanent secretaries after assuming office have turned out to have given him a detailed knowledge of the state and the challenges ahead. These meetings, from what can be observed so far, also gave the governor the needed opportunity to interact and intimate them with his vision to reposition the civil service which, no doubt, is the engine room that has the responsibility of driving his government. In the last three months, governor Abiodun, with the full collaboration of the permanent secretaries and his team of advisers, has put in place a worthy structure for the full take-off of an administration that is well focused and result-oriented.
As promised during the electioneering, the governor has focused on the welfare of the state workforce by paying salaries as and when due, in spite of the parlous state of the state’s economy; establishment of the Ogun State Security Trust Fund, a private sector-driven programme that would support the state government in addressing various security challenges confronting the state; setting up of Road Transport Union Committee with a mandate to ensure safety and peace; familiarisation with the people’s plights, including his visit to, and offering of palliatives in, areas recently devastated by floods in the state and setting aside resources for lasting solutions to the recurring flooding in the concerned areas of the state.
So far, the governor has established a pattern of governance in seven critical areas: healthcare, agriculture, human development and workers’ welfare, infrastructural development, security, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), farmers’ welfare, the business community and prospective investors. In line with his business-mindedness, he has continuously engaged regional and international development institutions in his avid quest to get them to commit to strategic partnership and critical assistance to the state. To this extent, the World Bank, for instance, has promised to partner with the state government on a number of social and economic intervention programmes which involve a $900 million ecological intervention fund. The governor has also held fruitful interactions with the African Development Bank (AfDB) which have given birth to a proposal to develop a 300-hectare farmland in Ogun State. Efforts to establish a dry port around Itori in Ewekoro Local Government Area are also afoot.
Again, the governor’s campaign promise on open and inclusive governance has been demonstrated in his appointments as instantiated in his broad-based 23-person economic transformation committee and other appointments which reflect his penchant for excellence and meritocracy, corporate traits for which he was legendary while he held sway in the private sector. A team has also been raised to provide immediate palliative works on the roads, especially ones with high frequency and density usage, construction of roads across major towns and the rehabilitation of the 32-kilometre Sango – Ojudu – Abiodun road, which the last administration in the state awarded and abandoned.
Other important roads are receiving urgent attention. These include but not limited to three strategic federal roads in deplorable condition hindering economic progress and social life: Lagos – Abeokuta Expressway, Epe – Ijebu-Ode and Ikorodu – Sagamu roads.
In the meantime, impressive progress has been made on the ongoing palliative repair works along Lagos – Sango – Abeokuta dual carriageway and Ijebu-Ode – Epe road. With the governor’s recent signing of the Ogun State Road Maintenance Agency (Amendment) 2019 Bill into law, the deplorable township and rural roads in the state, the agency is to begin work on Ikola, Navy, Itele, Ikoro – Otun, Toll Gate, Ilo – Awela and Adigbe – Opako road in Obafemi Awode Local Government Area.
As a firm believer in building institutions, it is little wonder that Abiodun consistently seeks the required legislative framework for all his efforts as seen in the current bill to establish Ogun State Investment Promoting Agency, a one-stop shop for investment. Furthermore, as part of the efforts to drive investments and economic prosperity of the state, the governor has established the State Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) to strengthen Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) and boost their capacities.
Apart from creating an atmosphere of peace and security, the governor has also opened up strategic engagement that will catalyse economic activities and opportunities with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), investors from China, United Arab Emirate (UAE), United States, Irish Dairy Milk Global and others.
In fact, Irish Dairy Global has promised to site its manufacturing plant in the state. In conjunction with a consortium of banks, Governor Abiodun is building a Creative Arts, Information Technology and Entertainment Village on the outskirts of Lagos, while the Elephant Group Plc has pledged to off-take the total production of rice and cassava in the state and will engage at least 40,000 farmers within the next three years and has issued Certificates of Occupancy (CofO) of one hectare of land each to 2,000 persons in the first batch of the scheme. What’s more, he is paying stipend until first harvest and has put in place facilities for clearing of land, extension services, training of farmers and fertilisers to make the farmers kings, as they say.
In the areas of education and health, the state government, under the leadership of the governor, is marching on with seriousness. Visitation panels have been set up to investigate Tai Solarin College of Education, Moshood Abiola University of Science Technology (MAUSTECH) and Ogun State Polytechnic (Ogun Poly). The essence of this visitations and restructuring is to put the educational system at an optimal level and these institutions have roared back to life from their inchoate states.
Other measures aimed at improving the quality of education at all levels, including the refurbishing of, at least, one school per ward across the state in each of the 20 local government areas and 50 local council development areas have been put in place. Efforts are also ongoing to rejuvenate the delivery of efficient health services in the state. The government’s emphasis is on primary healthcare, because it is the closest to the people.
It is meet to state that the governance structure put in place by the governor is on steam and the wheel of good governance has taken off across the entire length and breadth of the state. The deployment of digital infrastructure in boosting socio-economic development and the unprecedented openness and strict adherence to the e-governance model put the governor in good stead. For Governor Abiodun, it is yet morning on creation day.
- Olanrewaju writes from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.