Dapo Abiodun

By Funmi Branco

To be 62 anywhere in the world, let alone in a clime where life expectancy is only slightly above 55 years, offers exciting memories. It offers lessons for the future. For Dapo Abiodun, the fifth democratically elected governor of Ogun, Nigeria’s Gateway State, May 29 isn’t just inauguration day; it is his birth date. He is a man of destiny, the man for this season when the business of governing Nigeria’s most educationally advanced and increasingly the most industrialized state (in large part due to his genius) demands a seasoned administrator and matchless manager of men and materials. Today, Prince Dapo Abiodun is marking his third anniversary as governor, and his 62nd birthday, and the celebrations have been richly deserved. Let the drums roll out, and let voices of praise be lifted up on high…

The celebrations are in order not just because they are inevitable; they are in order because of sheer grace, God’s grace. Because for the Iperu-born prince, it has been, as the motto of the Royal Air Force says, “through difficulty to the stars.” In particular, the last few months have been nothing but a re-creation of his pre-inauguration tribulation by   the mindless mob of political adversaries. He has been robed in the garb of a villain and tarred with the acerbic brush of naysayers. He has been labeled a fraudster, a jailbird, an illiterate, a drunkard and just any tag the evil imagination of the critics, many of them brandishing fake names and addresses to evade justice while perpetrating incitement to chaos, can conjure. Unable to withstand him on the political or mental turf, they have resorted to character assassination. They have mocked him for being bereaved of a son at a stage in his life—their vile politicking would not even let the dead rest in peace—and for refusing to trade off the Ogun patrimony for political patronage. But he has kept his pledge while being sworn-in as governor of Ogun State on May 29, 2019 in mind : “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.”

Just like they did when he first signified interest in the Oke Mosan Government House race, political adversaries have wearied themselves hiring mercenary writers to denigrate him, thinking this is the only way they would stand any chance at the 2023 general election. They have published no manifesto: hate is all they purvey. They came up with all kinds of junk to distract him but he has remained undistracted, having passed through that thorny road before. He knows that with the help of God he will overcome. It will not be a bed of roses—the adversaries are still on the loose—but just as his name implies, God will continue to be glorified in whatever he does. In the last couple of months he has passed through fire. But it is fire that purges gold to make it more refined.   He has become more experienced, more enlightened and more prepared to wage war against poverty and all indices of underdevelopment in Ogun. In the face of mudslinging, he has remained focused. Believing that all power belongs to God, he has not gone out of his way to malign or attack anyone. He has demonstrated his Omoluabi qualities time and again.

This May 29 is therefore the stuff of legend. Prince Abiodun is on his way to a landslide win next year while the critics for whom mischief comes naturally keep themselves busy with vile abuse. That is actually a wonderful formula: you bellyache, I move forward.   Governor Abiodun has cause to be thankful for what God has done for Ogun State. Ogun is now Nigeria’s top investment destination.

He has built more infrastructure than previous administrations put together. Evidence of strategic thinking targeted at lifting Ogun State into a development highway is massive, and by reason of space constraints we can here only provide snippets.

Take the Olokola Free Trade Zone which for many years was mere artifice. It is now a giant reality, and the Ogun State government’s recent signing of a $400m Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a foreign firm, Arise Integrated Industrial Platform, on the development of the Olokola Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and the Remo Agro Processing Zone could not have been more strategic. With about 25,000 jobs guaranteed willy-nilly, the project approaches a revolution in literally turning the corridor into an industrial hub: a power plant exists   through which gas can be accessed. It has been said that a free trade zone hosting property, automobile, agriculture and manufacturing industries and complemented by an agro-allied airport is an unbeatable economic prospect for Ogun State, and one cannot agree more.

There’s no space to mention agriculture, a sector in which Prince Abiodun has been winning gongs back to back at the Nigeria Agricultural Award (NAA). The panel of assessors noted the integrated approach to production, processing and marketing through land provisions/inputs distribution, processing and marketing with individuals and corporate organizations; the support for 40,000 smallholder farmers   with inputs such as seeds, cassava cutting, insecticide and herbicide during the 2020 planting season, the fertilizers palliatives   given to10,000 farmers and continued support across the state; the support given to young farmers with over 900 hectares of land preparations in 17 locations, with some 2,500 unemployed youths and farmers engaging in cassava production; the setting up strategic partnerships with international development partners and farmers in large-scale cultivation of rice and cassava in 36 locations in 11 local government areas, among many other innovations, including the Ogun/Kebbi Joint Commission on Rice Production. They also noted technological innovations and support to farming and related activities, including technical backstopping, demonstration farms and enterprise development. Ogun is very competitive in arable crops like cassava, yam, maize, sweet potato, and cash crops like cocoa, oil palm, timbre, kolanut, cashew and rubber, and the agro-allied airport in Ilishan-Remo is nearing completion.

When President Muhammadu Buhari visited Ogun State in January, it was to inaugurate landmark projects, including the Ijebu-Ode-Epe road, an arterial road that, among other benefits, links the Lekki / Epe corridor of Lagos State to the eastern corridor of Ogun State at Ijebu-Ode and provides a ready alternative to the Lagos/Ibadan expressway for those going to Lekki and adjoining areas; the 42 km Sagamu Interchange-Abeokuta road, the main arterial road that leads to the state capital and comes with a dual carriageway with streetlights, median and other road furniture; the Gateway City Gate, an architectural masterpiece made of composite materials towering to a height of 27m and warmly welcoming visitors to the state; and the two Housing Estates for low, medium and high income earners at Kobape and Oke-Mosan. The president then promised to rehabilitate dilapidated federal roads in the state.

Governor Abiodun has done wonderful things in the health sector. He has built new hospitals and refurbished existing ones, making the state Teaching Hospitals world-class with massive provision of facilities and the recruitment of specialists. Recall that while some governors slumbered in the thick of the   Covd-19 crisis, he worked hard, as affirmed by the Presidency. President Buhari turned down the request for N5 bn by the Kano State government, saying that he gave that sum to Ogun and Lagos because he saw their sincerity of purpose in tackling the scourge.

Ogun under Abiodun has become an industrial hub. Industries and estates are springing up everywhere. And the improvement in IGR is massive. With good road networks, enabling environment peace and stability, development is inevitable. And this is why the awards have trooped in. Only last week, Abiodun emerged the Vanguard Governor of the Year. Recall that Daily Independent gave him the ICT Governor of the Year gong. The New Telegraph previously honoured him. His life is one of achievements.

At 62, Prince Abiodun knows that people who do not want to be smeared don’t go into politics. He knows he will continue to be the victims of concocted and distorted information. But he has a very good story to tell about his first term in office, and he will have one to tell about the second. Happy Birthday to the people’s governor.

•Branco contributes this piece through [email protected]

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