Barely two months in office, Dapo Abiodun, governor of Ogun State, is keen at justifying the mandate of Ogun people with some actions already happening across the state. In this interview with some media executives at Iperu Remo, his country home, the governor unveiled his first four-year vision, among other related issues. OBINNA EMELIKE was there. Excerpts:
How has it been since you were sworn in as governor of Ogun State?
Well, because of the uniqueness of the political landscape in Ogun State and my emergence, to say the least, there has not been a dull moment.
Having won the primaries, we held on to that and begin to prepare for the main gubernatorial election. Our focus then was on how and what strategy to deploy to win the election. I am sure that it is needless to say that we operated in the most unfriendly circumstance, and in probably, the most intolerant administration. It was indeed a very charged atmosphere then. But we give glory to God because it was an opportunity for Him to avow his supremacy in our land. When God wants to do something, over a billion men cannot stand on His way. I did not have a doubt that I was going to win the primaries because I was not desperate to become governor, I was only desirous. I had a relationship with the then incumbent but the point of departure was when I said I would like to take over from him. I must have faced the biggest battle in my life to be here, the rest is now history.
What is your vision for the state?
I have a formidable team, and we want the state to grow, but our approach is different. We have articulated a vision for ourselves, which was based on our experience as we crisscross the state, going through the 20 Local Government Areas, 57 Local Council Development Area (LCDAs) to see situations on ground and to enable us plan effectively and give priority to areas of need across the state. Our visit also provided us opportunity to meet the people and to know the issues they have. Those issues helped us to articulate a vision for ourselves.
Our focus is to provide a focused and credible government, while creating an enabling environment with public and private partnership. We believe that if we do that, it will translate into the economic transformation and wellbeing of the state. If the state is economically transformed, there will be progress. So, our vision is to provide a focused and credible government. We are creating an enabling environment with public private partnerships for the economic growth of the state and wellbeing of its people.
Our mantra is building a future together, and it is derived from our vision of creating a focused government. 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.
Beyond being focused, we also want to be qualitative, which means that we are going to be a good administration and that will ensure good governance, which is a consensus-oriented government. It means that we will be equitable, fair, effective, efficient, participatory, and accountable.
With that, we will now begin to send the right signals, give this government the right perception because if you want to create an enabling environment, those you want to attract need to see that you adopt public private [partnership (PPP), that you are accountable, participatory and transparent.
We also will ensure the economic welfare of not just the citizens, but also those who work for us to achieve our objectives and the core of those people are the civil servants. They do not need to beg for their rights in this administration. Our commitment to the people is to ensure stable government by paying salaries, arrears, and by making sure that pension funds are remitted to the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs). I have assured the civil servants that their salaries would be paid as at when due. The first thing I signed in the office was the wage bill.
This is good governance and it is necessary in order to achieve the ambitions of this administration.
What are your plans for providing adequate security across the state?
Next to good governance is the issue of security. Security is the most discussed and most disturbing of all the issues we have in the country today.
I remember the time when suicide bombing started and they said Nigerians would take part in it because they love their lives. Overtime, it has changed and now happening here. The issue of security is what we are taking seriously because you cannot create an enabling environment without security. Today, Ogun State has the largest number of industries in Nigeria. Lagos is now congested to a point that the next state to reckon with is Ogun. It is truly the Gateway State because you cannot go anywhere in the country without passing through the state, we border five states, Benin Republic and this has become a security challenge. If they chase criminals in Lagos, they run to Ogun State. Even, some criminals also come from Burkina Faso via some borders between Ogun and Benin Republic.
There is no way you can make the state an economic hub if you cannot guarantee the best of safety. Many companies are here because it is convenient and some were pushed out of Lagos due to congestion. This administration’s focus is to pull more of them to Ogun State and we are going to do that consciously. We have resolved to make Ogun No.1 on the index of the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, but security is key. We are rejigging our security trust fund, a bill is being sent to the state house of assembly on it. It is an amendment of an existing bill. Already, there is a chairman, DG, stakeholders in place.
The objective of the bill is to pull more funds for the provision of necessary equipment for security operatives to function well and police the state better. We are going to buy drones, cameras, install surveillance systems, tracking devices, among others. We are going to do anything to discourage banditry, cultism, crime among other vices. For us, security is key.
You mentioned road infrastructure as one of your focus areas, what are your plans on roads?
After security, road infrastructure is key. You cannot attract investors to the state if access to the state is difficult. We are placing premium on roads that connect us to other states. We also going to pay attention to the township roads as attention is often given to the highways leaving out the township roads. How do you expect an investor to take you seriously when roads within the town are not motorable.
To ensure good roads, we are setting up Ogun State Public Works Agency. The agency will help in cutting the bureaucracy in the award of third party contracts, and allowing us to use direct labour, which benefit citizens through employment. The bill is in the house already. Though there are roads that the third party cannot construct because they do not have the expertise, yet there are roads within the township and rural roads that can be handled by the agency. They will open them up, grade them, do drainage, put asphalt, among others to make the roads motorable enough for the trucks to take goods from the hinterland to the market.
So, we a placing a premium on road infrastructure, seeing it as an enabler of our vision for creating an environment for public private partnership, and seeing it is also as an enabler for other things that we talked about.
To that extent, we are looking to award the Lagos-Epe-Ijebu road very soon to ease the traffic on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which I learnt has enough budgetary allocation for completion. But even after completion, there will still be congestion because the population on the Mowe, Ibafo, Arepo axis has grown beyond the projection of those who planned the highway years back.
We are looking at alternative roads of which, the Lagos-Epe-Ijebu road is one, the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta road, and Lagos-Shagamu-Ikorodu road. We are looking at partnering the federal government on the Lagos-Ota and Lagos-Shagamu roads. The moment these roads are done, the issues of connectivity and access to the state will be solved.
You also mentioned digital infrastructure, how will it boost socio-economic development in the state?
We will be looking at how best to conduct business in the state. We discovered that things are still done in the old fashion way and part of our growth is the digital transformation of the state. We believe that we must have digital infrastructure in place to help us monitor and plan better across our health sector, to take inventory of our pharmaceuticals, various primary and tertiary healthcare centers, monitor the number patients going to hospital, digitise the number of students we have in the state, give students PIN numbers that can be used to track them while in school, we can track the actual enrollment, monitor the curriculum that is being taught, and to ensure that teachers do their work among others.
Digital infrastructure offers data that enable other developmental planning, it can tell the number of civil servants, how efficient a particular agency is, monitor financial operations among others.
So, we are building a digital infrastructure that will be a background to all these things so that we can have a dash board to monitor our success and areas to pay more attention.
The digital infrastructure will also impact the ease of doing business in the state. We are also going to establish Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency, a one-stop-shop for investment. The agency will work to ease the requirements and stress of investors wanting to come and set up businesses in the state. The bill establishing the agency is also before the house of assembly. We are bringing someone who is versatile in the business of investment to head it; someone who the business community can trust.
How are you handling the political class on expectations on quick appointments?
You have seen that coloration in the choices we have made in the past few weeks. Some have been asking why I am not making noise, but the truth is that it is not in my nature to make noise, but to perform.
In the private sector, you do not perform by making noise, you strategise, plan and execute.
We are not in a haste to fill positions, we want competent people in place to help drive our vision and build the future together. We will not be arm twisted in doing what is not our focus. My appointments will be characterised by competence.
What are the pillars of your administration?
The first in our pillars is agriculture because we have the land, the people and the market. Our land is fertile, so we do not see why we cannot be the food basket of the nation and that is what we are striving to be. We are going to partner the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on some agric projects. We are going to allocate hectares of land to youths to farm, in the Anchor Borrower scheme. They will be given the seedlings, we will provide the extension services, and the CBN will provide the fertilizer.
It will be like the model farms in Ethiopia run by graduates. As well, Ethiopia makes more money exporting flowers than we make from exporting oil.
Education is another pillar for us because the decline in the education sector in the state is embarrassing. We are going to declare a state of emergency in education and overhaul the whole system. We are going to repair and refurbish one school per Ward across the state. We are also looking at vocational centres and turn some schools to tech hubs, and create a job portal to warehouse skilled youths for employers.
Health is another pillar. The health facilities across the state are in shambles and we are going to restore them to life saving facilities instead of death traps.
I have been to many of the health institutions, and they are not conducive for health personnel to work.
We are focusing on primary healthcare centres because they are the closest to the people and it will reduce pressure on public hospitals. We want to justify the mandate of the people by prioritising their needs. We are going to create industrial park to boost our development plans, as well as, focus on providing housing to people across the state, to all levels of income earners.
We are also focusing on physical planning. The Lagos State governor and I are putting up a joint development commission to ensure good physical develop in many areas we share boundaries.
We will also focus on the provision of good roads, good drainages, and efficient movement for citizens. It also needful because people live in Ogun and work and pay tax in Lagos, we need to resolve this.
We are looking at Agro processing zone, reviving the Olokola seaport, among other industrial clusters across the state to boost our economy and further the development of the state.
These are some of the visions for the first four years, but we need to monitor to see their execution or else you miss out on lifting people and fulfilling the mandate of the people.