Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State has been credited with massive infrastructural development in the state. This is apart from his agricultural revolution; plan to provide internet services all over the state, low cost housing schemes for the masses and provision of social amenities. The state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon. Waheed Odusile, revealed in an interview that Governor Abiodun is a silent achiever and that the next two years would be more eventful. He spoke with OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI in a recent interview. Excerpts…
The government of Governor Dapo Abiodun would be two years old on May 29, what would you consider to be the highpoints of the government?
This is a government of the people, the Governor is people’s Governor, and it is a government that has won the heart of the people. One of the few things the Governor did, when he got to office was to inspect the facilities at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH) and he spent a lot of money to upgrade it such that if you have been there before and you go there now, you will marvel at the kind of transformation in the place even in the area of staff morale.
Allowances, and salaries of staff have been improved upon and equipments have been purchased for the hospital. We also recruit doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and all categories of health workers were recruited. This has not happened in the hospital in a long time.
The Governor is interested in the health of the people apart from education and infrastructure. He believes that if the people are healthy, it would impact on their productivity and this would affect the economy of the state. So, this will help the main programme of the government, which is agriculture. About 10,000 youths have been engaged in agriculture. We provide funding for them and during the gestation period, when they are still planting, they still have some money with them till that time when they harvest. Also, prior to the time they would harvest they already know how much they would get and that has really helped a lot of youths to be busy. We are the largest producers of poultry products in Nigeria. The Governor has invested so much in agriculture and this is impacting on our economy.
We are an agrarian society because we have arable land. No wonder, the Governor was awarded as the Governor of the Year in Agriculture. In the area of infrastructure, he has done a lot. When he got to office, the Governor made a vow that any project that has a bearing on the economic well-being of the people, no matter how it is, he would complete it. Even some projects that might not actually affect the people, instead of abandoning them he has turned them into another use. An example is a model school on the way out of Abeokuta, he has turned it into technology hub, where our youths are kept busy.
It is located before you get to President Muhammadu Buhari Estate, instead of abandoning it, he turned it to a tech hub. He didn’t abandon any projects that has a bearing on the state, he have turned them into other uses. He has built Lafenwa/Ayetoro Road, and Adigbe Road, these are in Ogun Central. In the next few days, he would start the Lusada- Agbara Road, which is in the heart of the industrial headquarters of the state. Ogun State has the largest industries in Nigeria. Agbara is about the largest industrial area in the country. Ota/Agbara axis is about the biggest industrial area in Nigeria.
So, Lusada-Agbara Road is very important, it will open the state to business. When you are talking of business, infrastructure is important so that when you say come and invest; there will be something to complement that. Any moment from now, we will launch an ICT Programme that will make internet available in every part of Ogun State through wifi. We are laying cables that would link all parts of Ogun State together to achieve this. It is not for the people of the state alone, but for investors.
As we are doing this, we are also investing in energy; we are funding our own power project so that there would be constant power supply in the state. We also want to ensure that every home in Abeokuta has water. The Governor is doing all these because he is focused. He is not a Governor that would make a promise that he would not fulfill.
He always says ‘once I say it I will do it.’ He would not promise to do everything, if it is 10 kilometer road that he can do now, he would tell you I would do 10 kilometers this year, next year, I will do another one. In the three senatorial districts, the leaders, the senators, traditional rulers and others would come together and identify the key road infrastructure that they want the Governor to do for them and he will listen to them.
I was going to ask if the Governor is working on landmark projects such as the bridges and others that were done by the last administration
Of course, we also have our own signature projects, one of it is the Ijebu-Ode/ Epe Expressway, it is about 13 kilometer road, about six lanes that would open up that corridor. Geographically, Ogun State is the only neighbour that Lagos State has, which is why it is called the Gateway State because Lagos is the economic nerve centre of Nigeria. Whichever way you want to come to or leave Lagos State; either by land, air or water, you would pass through Ogun State.
As a result of that, we want to take advantage of our nearness to the economic nerve centre of Nigeria, which is Lagos and leverage on it. We are also looking at investors bypassing Lagos and coming to Ogun. If you are coming from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway via Shagamu, within 20 or 15 minutes drive you are in Epe. So, people who do business in Epe or Lekki can come down to Ogun and they would find the journey more pleasurable. We want to provide a better environment than they can get in Lagos State.
We have also simplified ease of doing business such that you don’t need to jump from one office to another before you start a business venture in Ogun State. We have done it in such a way that within a few days you will get permission to do business in the state. May be it is because the Governor started as a businessman, so he made it easy for people to do business in the state. Security is another major determinant of where people do business. So, we are focused on security.
There was a time some farmersin Yewa area of the state were disturbed by Fulani herdsmen and the state re-cently launched ‘Amotekun’ Security Outfit to handle security issues, what is the situation of things now?
The issue of Fulani herdsmen in Yewa axis is very unfortunate and the Governor is not happy about it. That was why he took far reaching decisions on it. Intelligence gathering is the major issue about security. The Governor set-up a committee comprising farmers, herders, police and the people of the community immediately the incident happened, which was why he was able to nip it in the bud. The matter has been resolved now and the security agencies; including the military and paramilitary were also involved and the Governor gave them equipment, vehicles and others. ‘Amotekun’ had even been working in the state before it was launched and they started from Yewa axis. The people employed into the ‘Amotekun’ are the local people there and this has helped the situation. The Governor warned those who want to foment trouble that Ogun State would be difficult for them to stay. I saw a video, where a ‘baale’ in one of the communities was praising the Governor on how he handled the security issue in Yewa area of the state.
Some people have been talking about restructuring the country and establishment of state police to combat insecurity in the country, will your government support these?
The Governor said at the launch of ‘Amotekun’ that it is not in competition with any other security agency that it is just to complement their work and efforts. Like I said, we are not in competition with all other security agencies, all of us are for the security of the environment. The issue of state police is not what one state can just conclude upon, it has to be a national policy. Our own is just to protect our people.
There is tendency for the opposition to say that Governor Dapo Abiodun has not done much, how have you been tackling this, then how is the government coping with finance as there are allegations that the last government left a lot of debt for this government?
Well, in our own environment, you don’t expect the opposition to praise the incumbent government. If they start praising us, it means something is missing. The only thing I can say is that we must base our arguments on facts. If the fact is there let us look at it, facts are sacred. But the people know that we are doing very well. The people can feel our government, if the opposition is saying something else, it is left for them. Our Governor is focused, the administration is focused and the Governor says he wants to deliver on his campaign promises. It is all politics; when the time comes, the people know who to believe. On debt, government is a continuum, but I will say that our government has been prudent. What we have done is based on our prudent policy. On our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), I may not say where we are, but we have improved on it. Without raising tax, we have been able to bring a lot of people into the tax community. You know some people stay in Ogun State and pay their taxes in Lagos State, which is wrong. There are some liabilities we inherited from the last administration that were not captured in the handover notes. We have liabilities of gratuities, pensions and others that were about N50 Billion that were not captured. The Governor disclosed this and some said we have borrowed a lot, but it was inherited. It is a liability. Just recently, the Governor paid N500 Million to pensioners in the state and he promised to do that every quarter.
What is the relationship between the Governor and his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun?
I cannot say precisely, but he is a former Governor of the state, we are doing our business. I don’t think there is any big deal about it. The Governor is a gentleman; he is working with everybody, so I can say that the relationship is cordial.
What is the state doing on tourism as there are many tourist centres in the state?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 affected a lot of things in the state, especially on tourism, but we are not unmindful of the tourism potential of the state. We have a lot of them such as Olumo Rock, the government is doing a lot to improve the place, we have Bilikisu Sugbo, and masquerades in Ota. We have been taking the COVID-19 vaccines and we are hoping that the pandemic would soon be combated so that things can go back to normal in the state. We are vaccinating our people and we using the opportunity to develop the health sector in the state. We have 200 wards in the state and the governor said that every ward should have a primary healthcare centre. We have rehabilitated about 80 primary healthcare centres, and where they don’t have we build for them. Also, our general hospitals have been repaired including those in Ilaro, and Ijaiye in Abeokuta and of course, OOUTH. Recently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila told our Governor, when he visited the state that “you are not just Mr. Road, you are Mr. Health” because he has spent a lot to improve healthcare in the state. The Governor recently inaugurated the Board of Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital and the Chairman is one of the best physicians in the world, not just in Nigeria. The governor as a businessman brings in people from the private sector and our security trust fund is private-sector driven, which is why we were able to do a lot in the area of security. Also, the ease of doing business is also one of his programmes. We recently had the Gateway Trade Fair, which is another way of improving the economy of the state.