Dapo… Go For Gold, By Dele Agekameh
Dapo Abiodun’s destiny as leader of Ogun State is now in his hands. His place in history is confirmed. The only question is: What legacy will he leave behind in Ogun? The history sheets are now open before him to fill with his works and actions.
How time flies. I enrolled as a student at the Federal School of Arts and Science, Ondo, Ondo State, for my A levels programme in 1977. In September 1978, new students (freshers) came in, and one of them was Dapo Abiodun. The elder Abiodun, his father, was then a senior lecturer at the Adeyemi College of Education, also in Ondo. I remember when Dapo would go home from school on weekends and return with his father’s neat, gold-plated Toyota Crown car to organise his many friends on campus, including Muyiwa Omole, Wale Anidugbe, Femi Olutoye, Bankky and others, for parties in town. In those days, there were numerous parties in town, beginning from Thursday till Sunday, almost every week. Dapo and I have kept contact till date.
Today, Dapo has transited from being a successful oil magnate to becoming the executive governor of his state of origin – Ogun. This is a State that can boast of many shinning stars in the country. As he takes the oath of office this morning, May 29, 2019 – a day that holds even more significance for him because it is his birthday – many things will be ruminating through Dapo’s mind. First, he has made it to the top, no doubt. Second, from today, he will be the cynosure of all eyes both within and outside the country. Third, he has been presented with a rare but golden opportunity to write his name in letters of gold on the concrete of time. Whichever way, the choice is his.
The political pedigree of Abiodun was confirmed in his governorship election victory in March, when he prevailed despite the machinations of Ibikunle Amosun, his longtime friend turned adversary. It was a real Kilimanjaro climb, for those in the know about Ogun politics, and it speaks to his fortitude. Amosun had declared himself god of Ogun politics and had sought to deceive Abiodun out of holding any position in the State. But Abiodun’s dexterity won him the support of Ogun State political heavyweights like Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president; Chief Kessington Adebutu, a business mogul; and former governor of the State, Aremo Segun Osoba and others, who helped dislodge the recalcitrant Amosun.
In the celebration of Abiodun’s victory at the election, and in the courts – on the basis of a frivolous suit about his qualifications, there is need to refocus on what matters most – the development of Ogun State and empowerment of its indigenes and inhabitants. Already, he has made promises about crucial areas like education, where he has vowed to make primary and junior secondary school tuition-free throughout the State, among other things. Appointments into his transition committee had also traversed party lines, showing a different approach from the favouritism that had been on display in the State.
Before his victory, Abiodun vowed to run a “mass-centric” model of governance in Ogun, which focuses on the ordinary people of the State and targets direct impacts on their livelihoods, in place of needless white elephant projects and governmental showmanship. The lofty plans and promises of his incoming government places Abiodun in a bind of great expectation, which must be tempered by competence if history is to positively judge his administration. His bold declarations are things that are ordinarily avoided by politicians. It is already giving him distinction as a man on a mission, and he only now has to match his words and plans with competent action.
So far, Abiodun has shown himself worthy of the challenge. Born on democracy day, in the year of Nigeria’s independence, Abiodun seems to be destined for leadership in this country, and those marked by fate usually live on in history, for good or for bad.
Ogun State has long been in the shadow of Lagos State. Some say that there is no point in the comparison of Ogun State and Lagos State, with its long history and geographical importance to the country’s trade and commerce. The point may be true, but it is also true that Ogun State stands to gain the most, of all the other states, from the busy and thriving commerce in Lagos. With a good strategy, while focusing on developments in the border towns with Lagos and increased partnership with other illustrious neighbours, Ogun State stands to gain so much, in terms of employment and investment that may be saturated in Lagos. With parts of Lagos and Ogun already indistinguishable in reality, the goal should be to capitalise on and tap from the huge opportunities available to both states.
Abiodun has spoken repeatedly about the importance of investing in human capital. It is an investment area where the country is currently lacking. The is so much pressure to lay much needed infrastructure, but many infrastructural projects have been dragging down the public purse for many years, well past their estimated completion dates and many times over the budget. Human capital is an investment that guarantees returns if handled properly, even contributing to the demands for infrastructure in the long run.
The new governor believes that people are capable of phenomenal things if an enabling environment is provided, and he appears to be willing to focus on harnessing the potentials inherent in the people to take Ogun forward. In that respect, education, health and the creation of employment are key. Since the technology industry is growing and in demand globally, the creation of tech hubs and incubators, in partnership with the large number of educational institutions in the State, may be one way forward.
Harnessing human capital potentials also includes guaranteeing the security of the people of Ogun State. The laws and political structure of the country at the moment currently makes it difficult for state governors to tackle security problems within their states, as the apparatus for security is centralised. However, a dedicated leader can find innovative ways of securing his state through the involvement and engagement of people at the community level, where in-grown solutions can be conceived and proferred, with recommendations made to federal agencies. The current problem of banditry in the country leaves all states exposed, and Ogun State has witnessed the activities of bandits in the past.
The governor laboured tirelessly for the success he has achieved. In spite of daunting challenges on his way, he surmounted all obstacles – natural and man-made – to clinch victory. Now is the time for him to work for his people.
Irrespective of the apparent hostility of the outgoing government, it is important for Abiodun to rise above the cold reception to the transition in the greater interest of the State. He has said in the past that his government will improve on and continue on-going projects of his predecessor, because he recognises the value of continuity. Therefore, political squabbles should not be carried into the implementation and delivery of basic amenities. Amosun has recently embarked on a series of project commissioning in the last days of his administration, also including hundreds of last minute appointments and promotions that could be problematic for the new government. Even though many are of the opinion that the intention is to create pitfalls for the incoming administration, Abiodun is advised to be graceful and to remember his focus of human capital development in addressing any concern.
Many, including this column, can attest to the new governor’s competence as a successful entrepreneur and public administrator, but taking on the wheels of a State with so much promise is a different ball game entirely. So far, Abiodun has shown himself worthy of the challenge. Born on democracy day, in the year of Nigeria’s independence, Abiodun seems to be destined for leadership in this country, and those marked by fate usually live on in history, for good or for bad.
Speaking at a religious gathering in London shortly after his victory, Abiodun opened up about his favourite Bible passage, Mark 11:23. The passage talks about overcoming great odds, through faith. Having overcome turbulent and tempestuous times in his life, the governor must now find his faith to overcome the challenges facing Ogun State. The governor laboured tirelessly for the success he has achieved. In spite of daunting challenges on his way, he surmounted all obstacles – natural and man-made – to clinch victory. Now is the time for him to work for his people.
Dapo Abiodun’s destiny as leader of Ogun State is now in his hands. His place in history is confirmed. The only question is: What legacy will he leave behind in Ogun? The history sheets are now open before him to fill with his works and actions. So, God willing, he should go for gold by surpassing the records of his predecessors.
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