For many Nigerian governors who are in New York, USA, at the moment, it is different strokes for different folks. While some were heckled and booed by disgruntled natives, Governor Dapo Abiodun was unanimously hailed for starting brilliantly by introducing a series of reforms geared towards reducing bureaucratic bottlenecks and improving the ease of doing business in the state.
At local and international gatherings, the joke was often told that at the State House in Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, governance was endlessly entangled with the dead hand of bureaucracy, which never did anything but bash brilliant ideas on the head. That was in the previous era. The situation is markedly and remarkably different under the leadership of Governor Dapo Abiodun who has introduced a series of reforms aimed at reducing and totally eradicating bureaucratic bottlenecks and improving the ease of doing business in the state.
Some of these ingenious and far-reaching reforms earned Governor Abiodun rousing and robust plaudits in New York, U.S.A, during the week. He and the governors of Imo, Lagos and Edo States among other top government functionaries had joined President Muhammadu Buhari who was attending a programme on achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Conversely, when Governor Abiodun sauntered into the same venue, sharply dressed in a bespoke, well-tailored suit, he was genuinely and gladly hailed for having started brilliantly in Ogun State.
Without any scintilla of doubt, Governor Abiodun has shown that he came into office very well prepared and with a clearly articulated blueprint on how to make Ogun State a primus inter pares. Some of the reforms that quickly set him apart include the establishment of the State Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), which aims to strengthen Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and boost their capacities; the Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency set up to provide a one-stop-shop and eliminate unnecessary delays in processing necessary documents; and the Public-Private Office established to ensure that the state has a transparent and accessible template.
The governor was quoted to have said that he had to quickly introduce these reforms, among others, because of his commitment to creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive while reminding all that as the next-door neighbour to Lagos, Ogun State has always been a sure destination for population explosion drifts.
Thus, internally generated revenues accruing from these communities are worked out by both states and remitted to the appropriate quarters for the provision of basic amenities for the people. To, however, foster sustainable development and boost the Internally Generated Revenue of Ogun, Governor Abiodun said a joint development plan to harness the opportunities the two states have in common has been initiated with his Lagos State counterpart, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Thus, for the first time, hopes are high that the collaboration would be a catalyst for rapid socio-economic development in the two states.
“Till date, Ogun State has been rated largely for what we call the ‘Push’ factor of Lagos, meaning that people coming to invest in Ogun State are networked to Lagos, or perhaps there is no land available in Lagos, that is the “Push” factor. We are committed to changing it to a “Pull” factor,” Governor Abiodun said.
He said further, “We appreciate the fact that to keep our vision is to have a focused and qualitative governance while creating an enabling environment for a Public-Private Practice (PPP) sector, which we believe is fundamental to the economic growth of this state and individual prosperity. A lot of emphases are being put on the Public-Private Partnership (PPP). And to encourage Public Private Practice (PPP), you must have the right infrastructure. The issue of rural and township road is just a matter of infrastructure.”
Before his trip to New York, Governor Abiodun had called on prospective investors to consider natives of the state for permanent employment or internship when establishing their businesses in host communities. He said then that a bill on local content had been sent to the House of Assembly to that effect and assured that his administration would ensure good governance through focused leadership, provision of good road network to ease movement, provision of adequate security and digitalisation to enable the state make use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in its educational institutions as well as employment generation.
As part of efforts to create an enabling environment for people to come and invest in the state, the contract for the construction of the Ijebu-Ode -Epe road had been awarded, just as the Ogun and Lagos governments had approached the federal government for the take-over of construction of the Sagamu-Ogijo-Ikorodu, and Abeokuta-Ota-Lagos roads.
It is not for nothing that Governor Abiodun continues to effortlessly command and elicit the relentless tribute of a cheer from far and near; he has brought a different approach and gravitas never seen before in governance in Ogun State. As the Chief Security Officer of the state, what the governor demands is nothing peculiar to his domain; it is that the state is made peaceful and safe to live and do business in, among other things. Days after he signed the Ogun State Security Trust Fund into law, the governor also donated 100 patrol cars and 200 patrol motorcycles to aid the activities of law enforcement agents in the state while reiterating his support for efforts and ideas that would make Ogun a crime-free state.
Likewise, while on the entourage of President Muhammadu Buhari for an ECOWAS Summit on Counter-Terrorism in Burkina Faso earlier in the month, Governor Abiodun averred that terrorism is, indeed, a troubling issue that has gradually grown in the West African region. And, being a border state, Ogun State, particularly, has a significant role to play in curbing illegal migration and its attendant demerits.
To that effect, last August, the Ogun State government partnered with the state command of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to launch an E-registration program for all immigrants residing in the state to check illegal migration as well as inter-border crimes. At the flag-off of the novel E-registration program at the command’s Abeokuta office, Governor Abiodun applauded the NIS, saying that the exercise was in tandem with his administration’s vision of good governance and that there was no better way to do the exercise than the electronic registration, which affords security agencies easy access to information that would go a long way in curbing inter-border crimes.
Perhaps what have continued to earn Governor Abiodun global acclaims are the recent launch of three wide-reaching schemes; the Ogun Tech Hub and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Centre; the indigenously named Oko’wo Dapo; and the new Ogun State Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
The Ogun Tech Hub and STEM is a grand step geared towards fostering creativity and achievement of purpose for technologists, social entrepreneurs, tech companies, impact investors, and even ethical hackers and governments around Ogun State.
It is conceptualised to make Ogun “the one-stop-shop for technological innovations across Africa where start-up companies will conveniently be set up. This step is firstly a result of the collaboration of tech enthusiasts and private sector players largely independent of our government.”
There are also the Ogun State Anchor Borrowers Programme, a poverty-eradicating initiative, which would provide inputs, service support and training required for farmers through a single digit loan and guaranteed off-taker; and the agreement with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to site in Ogun State the biggest Agro-Processing Zone in Nigeria.
According to Abiodun, “The decision of the AfDB, headed by our very own Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, is a result of our constructive engagement with the bank over the last 70 days,” adding that locating the project in the state in addition to the Anchor Borrowers Scheme “is sure to raise income, eliminate unemployment, especially youth joblessness, reduce food import bill to the barest minimum and reduce prices of high-value food products.”
The ‘Oko’wo Dapo’, an initiative to provide funds to the people, especially women and youth, is one programme that has been widely applauded across the country and beyond. So far, 2000 women have benefitted in the first phase of the empowerment initiative that also aims to enhance trade as well as micro, small and medium scale enterprises. A social intervention programme borne out of the passion to make life better, the governor revealed that the initiative is the first in the series of social intervention programmes of his administration. Femi Oladipo, a New York-based systems technology engineer, said he is particularly fascinated about the Ogun Tech Hub and could not wait to return home to contribute his quota to making Ogun a technologically-advanced state.