Ogun at 45: A new era beckons


At 45, Ogun State has come of age. Its birth followed the merger by a special decree of both the defunct Provinces of Abeokuta and Ijebu into a full-fledged state within the then 19 states structure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Ultimately, when the then military junta headed by the late Gen Murtala Muhammed, on February 3, 1976, approved the recommendation of the Justice Ayo Irikefe’s panel for the creation of Ogun State, every discernable mind thought that carving out the state from the old Western Region was a huge blessing for its citizens to start unfurling its full potential. Predicated upon its bourgeoning status, the state took off on a sound note, with Lt Col. Seidu Balogun, on the saddle as the pioneer helmsman. It became a leading light and model as one of the most prosperous and viable (economic wise) states in the country. The unprecedented feat achieved by the citizens in all spheres of human endeavours waere not far-fetched. Of note, the advent of early missionaries, led by the late Rev Birch Freeman, in Abeokuta, the state capital, played a significant role in the enrolment of pupils into schools, a development which subsequently raised early indigenous scholars who were privileged to travel outside the shores of Nigeria to train in their various chosen careers and obtain higher qualifications. Thus, its pioneering role in the field of education has fast-tracked rapid growth and development. This role accounts for the relatively high literacy rate and considerable trained manpower in the state, on one hand and Nigeria, at large. Without mincing words, Ogun State is the cradle of western education in Nigeria which every government at all the three tiers has placed premium on the sector.

In the political, social and economic areas, a substantial number of the sons and daughters of the state have continued to distinguish themselves and make their indellible mark in diverse professions. They have contributed immensely to the growth and development of the corporate existence of Nigeria and beyond the shores. Besides, it has produced icons and pioneers, in the likes of the first Nigerian lawyer, Chief Alexander Akintola Sapara Williams; the first Nigerian Judge to sit on the Supreme Court Bench, Hon. Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu; the first indigenous Chief Judge of Nigeria, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola; the first Nigerian lawyer to head a Regional Government, Chief Obafemi Awolowo; pioneer Permanent Secretary, Head of Service and Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Chief Simeon Adebo; Black Africa’s first Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka; a one-time Military Head of State and President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; an Interim President, Chief Ernest Shonekan; foremost educationist, Dr Tai Solarin; a one-time Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Adeoye Lambo; a renowned historian, Prof Anthony Asiwaju; foremost authors, Chief Joseph Odunjo and Prof Afolabi Olabimtan.

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Others include, former National Planning Minister, Chief (Mrs) Ebun Oyagbola; first Iyalode of Egbaland and first industrialist in Nigeria, the late Madam Efunroye Tinubu; foremost architect and first Nigerian to obtain PhD in Architecture, the late Oba (Dr) Adisa Odeleye; first woman to drive a motor car in Nigeria, the late Mrs Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti; first female surgeon in West Africa, the late Dr (Mrs) Stella Adeperu-Adeoba; first Professor of Medicine in Nigeria, Prof Theophilus Oladipo Ogunlesi; and first female Chartered Accountant in Nigeria, Chief (Mrs) Toyin Olakunrin. The list is endless.

Meanwhile, at 45, a new era beckons. Since the inception of governance in 1976, Ogun State has been lucky to have been governed by 16 administrators, both military and democratically elected, who, in their various capacities, have brought their wealth of experience to bear on the landmark achievements of the state.

However, the initiatives and set goals, as road maps for accelerating rapid growth and development of the various administrators differ. We have those that have built on inherited legacies, while others have chosen diametrically opposite paths.

In the last 20 months, it is on record that the current administration led by Prince Dapo Abiodun has left an indelible footprint in the sand of history, in turning around the fortunes of the state for the better. A silent achiever, devoid of noise-making to herald his developmental strides, Abiodun, three days after assuming the mantle of leadership on May 29, 2019, began making waves when he entered into a social contract with the workforce of the state government. Unlike in the era of owing workers’ salaries, that characterised the immediate past administration, the governor made a radical departure from the tradition of his predecessor.

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With or without Federal Account Allocation Committee and Joint Account Allocation Committee, he pledged the prompt payment of workers’ salaries on/or before the last working day of the month. So far, he has lived up to expectations. Not left out, he defrayed all outstanding gratuities of pensioners. Going by a popular saying, “Health is wealth”, Abiodun took the bull by the horns when he paid an unscheduled visit to the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, and expressed displeasure over the deplorable state of the state-owned institution. Without much ado, he directed the immediate rehabilitation of the existing structures and subsequently, provided the teaching hospital with the state-of-the-art equipment. Also, other primary and secondary health centres, across the three senatorial districts, have benefitted from the rehabilitation. Besides, at the state-owned tertiary institutions, like Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ojere, Abeokuta, Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu and others, that were shut down indefinitely, Abiodun waded into the industrial disputes and restored sanity. Also, he directed their immediate re-opening. Backlogs of teachers’ promotion in the both public primary and secondary schools were also cleared.

Worthy of note is the current bridging of the infrastructure gap towards accelerating the socio-economic development which is the state’s priority. The strategy adopted is to endear investors to the state, where already an enabling environment has been created for them. While envisaging the growing influx of the people into the state daily, one striking challenge of the current dispensation is the ongoing revolution in the provision of housing projects at adequate, affordable and sustainable rates in all the 20 local governments in the state, in order to take care of the threat of deficit in the nearest future. They include 400-unit Housing in Kemta, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta and 160-unit AAK Degun Estate, Laderin, Abeokuta, within a year in office, while others are undergoing construction in the two other senatorial districts, Ogun West and Ogun East. The governor with his private sector background and purposeful governance anchored on a robust developmental blueprint, summarised as “Building our future together”, has opened up every nook and cranny of the state through capital investments in road infrastructure. Major roads that are of economic benefits have been constructed, while he has, at the same time, embarked on the completion of the abandoned roads inherited from his predecessor. To reinforce its commitment and resolve in attracting potential investors into the state, the administration introduced tax waivers. Among them, it came up with 30 per cent rebate on Land Use Charge. The administration also came up with a novel idea of floating a ‘job portal’ which provides an avenue for the recruitment of young and agile unemployed youths needed by the government and also as an out-sourcing agency for companies.

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Other investments include the revolutionary in the agricultural sector. And towards attracting investment in the sector, the administration introduced the ‘Anchor Borrowers’ scheme to assist potential farmers, especially unemployed graduates to take interest in, and also cash in, on the opportunity. Consequently, the state is fast becoming the food basket of the country, on account of the huge turnover in farm produce that has been recorded.

Indeed, the success story being told today is as a result of the top priority the current administration accorded the road map, culminating in the manifestation of these executed noble projects.

Ogbonnikan wrote in from Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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