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Opinion

Kayode Akinmade: 2023 in retrospect: Dapo Abiodun’s rising profile

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To all intents and purposes, 2023 has been an eventful year in Nigeria’s Gateway State. It is a year that will be remembered by Governor Dapo Abiodun for a very long time. It has been a year of political calculations and decisions, the year of a make-or-mar second term poll that proved to be tension-laden. At the beginning of the year, the governor was seen crisscrossing all the local government areas in the state, campaigning vigorously for re-election. Having discovered so many adversaries that never wanted him to come back to Oke Mosan, including his immediate predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who with his multiple machinations vowed that he (Abiodun) would be upstaged, and naysayers within his own political structure, including another former governor, Gbenga Daniel, together with other members of the APC who were neither here nor there, he knew that the battle would be fierce and deployed the power of resilience, confident that his achievements would speak for him.

The naysayers had their say, but the Governor did not allow their qualms to deter him. Instead, he tried to build bridges, getting more people into the party. The pre-election period indeed saw an avalanche of political jobbers decamping and recamping, pledging loyalty everywhere, and moving around with vigour, buoyed by the power of bribes. The February 25, 2023 election came and the APC made a clean sweep, but then the main battle was just starting, with so many divisions within and without. There were people very close to the Governor who literally made a show of working against him. And the opposition believed that with money, their plans were fool-proof. Evidence abounds of a vote buying plot, with over 20,000 ATM-like cards printed to buy the people’s conscience and ensure that the governor did not get a second term, and the Federal Government is currently prosecuting the culprits, some of them now fugitives, in the court of law.

Amidst the storm, Prince Abiodun stuck with God the Father: he had no godfather to rely on. And so he was able to navigate the political terrain and gain victory when some believed that it was impossible. After the polls, he took stock of developments, identified mistakes, and forged ahead with his agenda to develop Ogun State. As soon as he was sworn-in for a second term, he took the decisive actions that have now made Ogun State an investors’ delight and one of Nigeria’s safest states. He continued work on the cargo airport, the best in the country, and constructed so many quality roads. Even roads such as the Atan-Lusada-Agbara road, though not yet completed, have continued to attract so much attention because of their scope and beauty.

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The statistical agencies are keeping record. A report by Economic Confidential, a subsidiary of PR Nigeria, recently showed that apart from Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, Ogun State is Nigeria’s most economically viable state. Pointing to the Gateway State’s status as Nigeria’s topmost investment destination after Lagos, the report showed that the Dapo Abiodun-led Ogun State outperformed Rivers State, which joined Lagos and Ogun on the list of economically viable states for the year 2022, along with Kaduna, Kwara, Oyo and Edo states. The report compiled from figures released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) showed that while Lagos received the sum of N370, 921, 413, 425.62 from the Federation Account and generated N651,145, 633.085 as internally generated revenue, Ogun, on the other hand, received N113,404, 027,439.22 from the Federation Account and generated N120,548, 157,140.78 internally.

Only recently, the Abiodun government indicated that the recently approved Dry Port at Kajola Papalanto of Ewekoro Local Government Area of the state would create at least 40,000 jobs for both skilled and unskilled workers in the state, expand the internally generated revenue, reduce transport and transaction costs, and attract various infrastructure and regional development projects, amongst others. Efforts have actually reached advanced levels in actualizing the Abiodun administration’s vision for the port. With the Gateway International Airport nearing completion, the congruent plan is to develop a dry port that will receive goods from Apapa and Tincan dry ports. The proposed site has been satisfactorily assessed to be proximate to both NRC narrow and standard gauge rail lines, and has the Lafarge and Dangote cement factories within its catchment area.

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Instructively, even the Federal Government, which through the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) had previously lamented that Nigeria’s agriculture industry suffered an estimated N3.5 trillion in post-harvest losses every year, has thrown its weight behind the airport as a game changer in reversing the trend. Hear the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Mr. Wale Edun: “We look forward to the end result which is the creation of jobs, increased production, and increased opportunities for farmers to produce and sell their products at a good price and in good time without any of the usual post harvest losses and loss on transit. The airport is good for the economy of Ogun State and Nigeria, and we would like to see more of this. We encourage other states to join the private sector to achieve such. The ARISE Agro-Cargo Industrial and Export Processing Zone, is a major economic achievement that speaks to the possibility of rapid growth of the economy, which is the objective of Mr. President to have more investments like this. It is the type of investment that grows the economy, creates jobs and reduces poverty and it is good for the people of Ogun State in particular as well as Nigeria in general that new economic life is being breathed into the area.” The airport is expected to create over 25,000 direct and indirect job across the agriculture, transportation, logistics, hospitality, tourism and other sectors.

Next year, the government is focusing on the construction of infrastructure at the various economic development clusters, while extending the Lagos Blue Line Metro Rail Project into Agbara and ensuring the well extension of the Lagos Red Line Metro Rail Project to Ijoko and Ifo/Kajola in line with the execution of the State’s multi-modal transport plan under the Lagos-Ogun Joint Development Commission initiative. Steadily, Nigerians are beginning to appreciate Ogun’s emerging status as a giant construction site and Nigeria’s top investment destination. Besides, Ogun under Abiodun will join league of oil-producing states soon. Already, there is a Ministry of Mineral Resources saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the general administration and operation of the natural resources that abound in the state, and a Ministry of Energy to take advantage of the constitutional amendment that allows sub-national governments to participate in the energy sector. The administration will construct over 2,000 housing units in Warewa, Sagamu, Iperu, Ibara, Ayetoro Road, OGTV Village, Ijebu-Ode, etc, and ensure water reticulation projects to connect more households to potable water supply, having completed the Urban Water Supply Project.

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Given the foregoing, it is no surprise that the governor has continued to win laurels. He is The Sun newspapers’ Man of the Year 2023 and also Silverbird Television’s Man of the Year 2023.Ogun is seen as one of the progressives and viable states. Many people who never believed in him are now converts. Good things are happening in Ogun State in the area of infrastructure building, agriculture, human resource, women and children’s empowerment, among others. Ogun is in the news for good almost everyday, and so many people are wondering where the governor got the energy from. Governor Abiodun’s rising public image and political profile is, therefore, not quite a surprise.

Akinmade sent this piece through kayodeakinmade809@gmail.com

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