BY TUNDE OLADUNJOYE
When Prince Dapo Abiodun was, on the occasion of his 59th birthday,, sworn-in as Governor of Ogun State on May 29, 2019, he made some solemn pledges in his inauguration speech.
In the seventh paragraph of the speech delivered before a crowd at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta, the new governor said: “You will always find in me, the conduct of Omoluwabi expected of Omo Teacher! I will govern with character. I will serve you diligently and sincerely. I will make your interests the core of governance. I will neither personalize nor abuse the mandate. I will not betray your trust.”
The above pledge has been consistently demonstrated and fulfilled by the governor in the course of his 365 days at the helms of affairs in the ‘Gateway State’. In fact, it should be taken for granted that anyone who aspires to occupy public office at any level in Ogun State should come aboard with such characteristics of nobility.
Ogun State is not only the ‘Gateway State’ of Nigeria, geographically, it is actually and undeniably the pathfinder to Nigeria in many areas too numerous to recap. Journalism berthed in Nigeria with the publication of Iwe Irohin in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Founded on December 3, 1859, by a missionary, Henry Townsend, it was published bi-weekly in Yoruba and English languages, and ran for about eight years, specifically from 1859 to 1867.
Furthermore, Ogun State has led the nation in almost every facet of human endeavour, producing the only Nobel Laureate in Literature, Professor Wole Soyinka. The list continues with a great music legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti; his mother, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, who was the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria; Dr. Tai Solarin, Prince Bola Ajibola, Sir Mike Adenuga, Chief Adeola Odutola, Hubert Ogunde, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Basorun MKO Abiola, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Ernest Sonekan, and many more.
Therefore, it is expected that the person in the exalted office of the state will be a personification of Omoluwabi, as pledged by Dapo Abiodun, the prince from Iperu.
On assumption of office, people expected the new governor to follow the ‘established precedent’ of a new governor immediately preoccupying himself with overturning what his immediate predecessor did. Rather, Prince Dapo Abiodun decided to set-up committees to look into gray areas. These contentious areas include last-minute employment and award of contracts, appointments of permanent secretaries and general managers of statutory bodies, last-minute loans and incurred financial obligations, abandoned and on-going projects, crises in tertiary institutions, and many more. In fact, those who were very agitated and expectant of drastic, it not vindictive actions, described the governor as ‘slow’, and his government as a ‘government of committees’.
Yet, Dapo Abiodun trudged on, with the royalty in him taking the lead. About seven months in the saddle, ‘Omo Teacher’ decided to regularize and accommodate into the civil service, the over 1,000 workers hurriedly employed by the immediate past administration.
He noted that despite flaws noted in the appointments and recruitments, his government has decided to be magnanimous, as a people-centred administration and not be vindictive.
He speaks further: “Let me state that we appreciate the recommendations of the Review Committee, comprising eminent retired public servants, that the appointments and recruitments were fraught with non-adherence to the principles and laid-down traditions of the public service. But in line with our administration’s commitment to equity, fairness, justice and inclusiveness, we will not engage in any action or policy that may be viewed as vendetta. Rather, we will call on all to continue to put in their best in the service delivery to the people of Ogun State.
“Despite some flaws, we have upheld all the appointments of the permanent secretaries made in the twilight of the last administration.” Abiodun, however, cautioned against lobbying by civil servants to attain unmerited positions, saying all the new permanent secretaries got their appointments on merit. “I never met any of these new permanent secretaries before. I had no private discussion over who to choose. If you merit it under my watch, you will surely get your promotion as and when due,” he said.
There was palpable tension among the workers last year when, in August, Governor Abiodun set-up a committee, led by a former Head of Service, Dipo Odulate, to look into the appointments and promotions approved by Amosun between February 1 and May 28, 2019.
Amosun had, in April, appointed 18 permanent secretaries, barely a month to the end of his administration, and also approved the recruitment of over 1,000 workers into the state’s civil service, while he promoted about 5,000 others.
Walking his talk further, Abiodun, in February 2020, ordered payment of seven-month salaries of the said workers recruited. The lucky officers, who had been unsure of their fate, rushed out of their offices singing and dancing, to express their joy on the good news.
State Head of Service, Amope Chokor, said: “The development would further affirm that workers’ welfare was a priority and of utmost importance to the governor.” The elated workers ‘ambushed’ the governor’s convoy on his way to the office the following day, singing his praises to high heavens and did not budge until the governor came down from his vehicle to address them.
His policy of ‘inclusiveness’ is also unique. It is a clear, rare and deliberate policy position by the governor that the politics of winner-takes-all cannot augur well for the political space of Ogun State. Of course, the ‘inclusiveness’, naturally, did not go down well with some politicians. That has not been the practice.
It is on record that the outpouring of congratulatory messages by opponents of the governor at the March 9, 2019 Governorship election. Governorship candidates like Prince Buruji Kashamu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Otunba Rotimi Paseda of the Social Democratic Party, SDP; Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, and former governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, were among the early callers at the Iperu country home of the then governor-elect to felicitate him.
The first committee to be set-up by Abiodun, even before his inauguration, was the Economic Transition Committee headed by the former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Dr. Tunde Lemo. At least three gubernatorial candidates of other parties and opposition politicians like former Deputy Governor, Alhaja Salmat Badru, accepted and served in the committee.
Few months into his administration, the governor received into the fold of his party, top politicians from opposition parties, including Alhaja Badru, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, Olootu Dipo Sofowora, Kunle Ishiaq Salako, Reverend Iyabode Apampa and many others.
The comportment and disposition of the governor has, in no small way, engendered peace in the state. His attitude has also won him love, adoration and cooperation from the workers in the civil service.
•Oladunjoye is Publicity Secretary, Ogun State chapter of APC.