Dapo Abiodun, governor of Ogun State is under fire for his perceived weakness, non-performance, alleged accumulation of debts, insecurity across the state and also for engendering hopelessness
Ogun State, known as Nigeria’s Gateway State because of its strategic location and economic viability is in dire straits. Like most states in Nigeria, Ogun is battling poor leadership under its governor, Dapo Abiodun. The Gateway State had faced different challenges in the past under different administrations but the problems of today under the current government are assuming frightening dimensions for reasons that are purely and squarely leadership.
For this Gateway State and its people, the problems are many. The challenges are also growing by the day. However, the troubling part is that there are no solutions yet in sight. But one thing that has defied all logic is the fact that despite the huge funds from the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, IGR and the monthly allocation from Abuja, nothing significant seems to be happening in the state. Unlike neighbouring Lagos State where nearly all the uncompleted projects of the Akinwunmi Ambode administration have been completed by his successor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, this cannot be said of Ogun State where Dapo Abiodun is still walking around looking for excuses for non-performance.
Ironically , the above scanrio is contrary to the hope raised by Prince (Dr.) Dapo Abiodun initially . He spotted those challenges and potentials on assumption of office so early with a deft move to arrest them . He and his counterpart , Babajide Sanwo-Olu met at the Eko Hotels, Victoria Island, on October 31, 2019 to deliberate on how to exploit the potential advantages that underscore the principle of consanguinity that binds both states. The focus was on and around trade, investments and industry guided by three anchors of trade facilitation and agreements, ease of doing business; and the economic growth and well-being of citizens.
Whether planned or fortuitous, the Ogun State Governor forged a positive relationship with its direct neighbor as an ally, a co-player in the needs-based reality of two sub-nationals which will open these states for value-based outcomes. On the face of it, Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dapo Abiodun promised to build a close relationship and a common affinity; which enabled them to find a common ground upon which to tackle such serious issues of which the Joint Border Community commission forms a crucial part
This move was timely based on what on ground when he assumed the mantle of leadership. . Ogun State Government had IGR that was low relative to its potential size, its VAT collections in particular were far below its most efficient possibilities
The States tax collection was relatively low because economic activity was not energized to leverage activities along the contiguous economic zones with Lagos, in places such as Ifo, Shagamu, Agbara, and Otta.
Also, the high cost of governance the State’s recurrent spending relative to revenue was inhibiting its release of resource for capital development this was made worse by a high debt to revenue ratio .The structural support facility obtained from the Federal Government to relieve immediate pressure of paying workers salary in 2015/2016 created a huge first line charge on the State’s federation account allocation resulting in leaner non-IGR revenue, which in return limited the governments capacity to meet capital project expenditure thereby slowing down critical infrastructural development
Indeed, Ogun States natural inclination would be towards working on the contiguous areas around Lagos State and building integrated urban industrial/housing development frameworks that allows the State jumpstart its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
However, half way into his tenure , the promises made are disappearing under the cloud of blame game and tales of woe; the governor is confronted with battles from various fronts . The state debt profile is mounting yet nothing on ground to justify it . . Politically the state is unsettled. Dapo and his political god father , Chief Olusegun Osoba and his followers are in battle of survival ; even his relationship with his immediate predecessor is frosty . Also , the state security situation is in a mess ,To cap it all the nation and its sub-nationals are faced with a liquidity crisis that is manifesting in a number of ways – from increased social deviancy to a growing lack of faith in traditional institutions of the state
The issue of the rising debt profile has ,indeed, the storms , the dusts of which are yet to settle . Though the DMO guidelines on borrowing, indicated that no state should have outstanding loans that are more than 50% of their total revenues in the previous 12 months ,Ogun State contravened the guidelines of the DMO by contracting debts exceeding their 12-month revenues . Its net revenue of N39.64 billion and its debt of N130.42 billion means a debt to revenue ratio of 328.97% as at the end of 2020 . The state, therefore, had passed the limit set by the DMO by 278.97%. in 2020
The latest report released by the Debt Management Office (DMO) showed that Ogun State’s domestic debt profile had risen from 95 billion naira in June 2019 to over 153 billion naira presently .
However , the incumbent governor in his reaction accused the government of former Governor Ibikunle Amosun of failing to disclose N50 billion of unpaid pensions, gratuities and unpaid staff salaries, which he said were added to the debt profile to arrive at the billion naira released by the DMO. This rising debt profile is in spite of the fact that the state is one of the top five states with biggest IGR. The state IGR for 2019 was N70.9 billion and N50.75 billion in 2020 ,
Though Amosun may be raising an alarm on the rising debt profile , he is equally part ,if not the greater part of the debt crisis . The State’s domestic debt profile has escalated since 2013 requiring the government to increase IGR to reduce the fiscal burden while engaging in capital raise to expand infrastructure within the state and improve forward-looking revenues
A few other statistics create some clarity over the state of the Ogun fiscal finances in the last six years of Amosun , revealed the average monthly FAAC Allocation declined steadily over 2013-2018 just as the state debt profile ballooned between 2015 and 2016 as a result of the fiscal bailout it received from the federal government (FGN)
A look at Ogun States Expenditure for 2017 exposes the recurrent expenditure challenges the government faced and its prospective annual budget performance .
Despite the above gloomy picture neither the incumbent nor the immediate predecessor was creative enough to boost the revenue base from the state’s rich potentials. The great advantage or disadvantage that Ogun State has is its proximity to Lagos. From this lies its fortunes but none of the has proved he can think of out box . With regard to Lagos state , the increasing scarcity of space, and the over-congestion which has resulted in the last two decades in an urban sprawl from Lagos towards every part of Ogun State which is its nearest neighbor ,
the effect is that housing schemes, industrial projects and other investments that could ordinarily have been located in Lagos, are being moved to Ogun State, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on the Southern front, and towards Epe and Ijebu Ode on the Northern axis.
The best option is to turn the state into an industrial hub, not just for proximity purposes but also as the gateway to the East and the neighboring countries However , no governor of Ogun State has been able to exploit this advantage, Ironically ,with many Ogun State residents working in Lagos, commuting daily between the two states, the bulk of the tax that should go to Ogun State ends up in Lagos State coffers. . Most of the people living in Ifo 2 Constituency and Obafemi Owode Local Government, for example, live in Ogun State and pay tax in Lagos. The proximity between both states is such that in places like Alagbole, for example, some of the residents have their living rooms in Lagos State and their bedrooms on the Ogun State side of the divide
There is also a school of thought that believes that at the root of the state’s many challenges is politics. Despite its proximity to Lagos, those in power in Ogun State still lacks the ability to learn all the useful lessons about continuity and unity in Lagos. This example from Lagos State is critical to all the political gladiators in Ogun State. There is also the ugly ethnic politics playing out in Ogun State among the major ethic groups . Things are so bad in the state today that even a governor who was elected to serve the interest of the entire state is either being referred derisively as ‘Remo Governor’ or Egba governor . Sadly, those who hold this view believe that he is working only for the interest of a few, particularly his people, and this is dangerous.
A report noted that Ogun State’s most viable option for sustained growth was to adopt a Lagos 2.0 economic model that took advantage of the Lagos commercial and Sea Port activities to grow contiguous communities that would generate the revenues needed to expand economic activities in new cities created to service the needs of an increasingly densely populated Lagos State. The model would see massive increase in Ogun States IGR and its VAT collections.
However, it is most unfortunate that governance in Ogun State as is the case in other states of the Federation has been reduced to the distribution of privileges based on ethnicity .This battle for cargo port has been ongoing ,and no doubt has been highly sentimental . In 2007, Engr Gbenga Daniel as Governor of Ogun State decided to set up a Cargo airport in the state, to attract business and investment, and to take full advantage of the proximity of Ogun State to Lagos. Lagos, Nigeria’s main commercial centre and the host of two sea ports and an international airport is congested, creating nightmares for both residents and businesses. The clearing of cargo in Lagos at the time and even now was an abiding source of frustration for business and industry.
This was the vision of the Gbenga Daniel administration. The chosen location for the Cargo airport was Ilishan-Remo part of the state, close to Sagamu. Governor Daniel got the necessary approvals from the Federal Ministry of Aviation and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and did the ground work. But the Cargo airport was not completed before the end of his tenure.
In 2011 , Governor Daniel was succeeded by Senator Ibikunle Amosun as Governor of Ogun State. The new Governor also saw the good sense in what had been initiated by his predecessor but rather than continue with what he met on the ground, Amosun decided to start an entirely new Cargo Airport and chose as new location, a part of the state called Wasimi.
This is where the problem lies. Daniel was a Governor of Remo extraction. When he decided to locate the Cargo airport in Remoland, the Egbas accused Daniel of taking every important project to his part of the state. When Amosun took over, he looked towards his own territory, Egbaland and hence decided that the proposed Cargo airport was best for his own people.
Observers of the scenario accused Amosun of greediness and political immaturity . This allegation may not be far from the truth . When in power he did a lot for his Egba people. He changed the face of Abeokuta, the capital of the state. He also gave them a flyover in Ijebu Ode allegedly to divide the ijebus . \
Amosun , from all indication ,has not seethe his sword. At the senate he is still executing the battle against the incumbent perhaps to please his people against the Ijebus , some political observers noted . The cargo airport has now become a source of concern. Recently , the matter reportedly came up before the Senate Committee on Aviation, following disagreements between Governor Dapo Abiodun and former Governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. The former is interested in building the Ilishan-Remo airport. Governor Abiodun, like Daniel is from Remo. Amosun wants the Agricultural Cargo Airport in Wasimi, in Egbaland. The Senate Committee on Aviation reportedly visited the two sites, as both Governors have been struggling to persuade the Senate to include their preferred project in the federal budget.
. The attitude of Amosun is considered unfair by some analysts .They believed he would never have accepted such meddlesomeness from his own predecessors
As it turned out, the representative of the NCAA told the Senate Committee on Aviation that the agency has no record of any approval for the establishment of a Wasimi Cargo Airport, but it has all the necessary documentation for the Sagamu cargo airport. But the Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Smart Adeyemi subsequently resolved the matter by saying that Ogun State has the capacity to manage two airports. This did not go down well some observers who believed one port is enough . They accused Senator Adeyemi of playing politics, double-talk and hypocrisy .
This is no doubt playing out in the attitude of the incumbent governor towards the projects left behind by Amosun .Nothing brings the leadership crisis in Ogun State closer home than the poor state of road infrastructure across this Gateway State. For instance, the highly important roads of border towns of Akute-Ajuwon-Lambe-Alagbole-Ifo axis, among many others, left uncompleted by Amosun, remain impassible despite the economic and social importance of the towns and communities. One had thought that these roads would be given priority attention because they have been under construction for many years now.
Sometimes, people wonder if the governor is even aware of the existence of these roads. But the neglect is widespread. Even the road to Agbara and Ota, which is a major business hub of the state, is also neglected and the consequences are there for all to see. The saddest part is that the situation is relocating businesses and worsening employment problems in the state. A multi-national, Procter &Gamble, obviously frustrated by the never-ending challenges of doing business, had to pack their things and go even after building a multi-billion dollar business complex.
Critics of Abiodun have also accused him of indifference. They claim that he remains unconcerned by the direct consequences of his actions and inactions even as citizens groan under deteriorating economic climate, worsened by COVID19 and all the associated health and survival challenges. For instance, under this administration, there has not been any major employment exercise, unlike his predecessors who deliberately planned employment opportunities to reduce unemployment, increase productivity and manage social tensions.
As things currently stand, the teaching profession, especially at primary and post-primary in the state are under threat. Schools are not only facing huge challenges in manpower development, there is also paucity of learning and teaching aids in public schools.
The two previous governments headed by Gbenga Daniel and Ibikunle Amosun employed teachers to boost teaching and also replace retiring hands. There is no employment exercise or incentives to encourage teachers whose lives are now a daily struggle on account of the realities facing the nation. In fact, there is a story making the rounds that a teacher now handles two classes because their numbers are decreasing by the day.
This actually calls for serious action but nothing is being done now or in the future to address all the noticeable challenges facing teachers and the teaching profession. Infrastructure is also a major challenge in Ogun State at the moment. There is absence of public utilities in many parts of the state and where they still exist, they are in complete state of disrepair. Infrastructure and related amenities do not only improve life and wellbeing of citizens; they are also monuments for this generation and the generation to come. So, it is unacceptable for a government to neglect such a critical sector under the guise of lack of resources because the state’s public account is an open book. Ogun is not a poor state by all standards. After all, anyone who cares to enquire about the state’s finances can easily know the resources available to Ogun State both from Abuja and within the state.
On the other hand, security, which has remained a major problem, continues to adversely affect lives and livelihoods. Almost on a daily basis, the state witnesses unwarranted and wanton attacks of its citizens by Fulani Herdsmen and their agents who commit serious crimes under the guise of cattle rearing, particularly in the Northern part of the state. In fact, there are reports and footages of how a few months ago, Ogun indigenes where sacked from their village by Fulani herdsmen aided by Nigeria’s security operatives. This is appalling but many indigenes of Ogun State have attributed government indifference to political correctness and the need to avoid rocking the boat ahead of 2023. Ogun State is also dealing with other layers of security threats in its major towns and villages.
Those who insist that the state government has failed woefully with regard to getting its priority right may have a point after all. This group of people has argued repeatedly on the administration’s poor choices, priorities, indecisions and weaknesses, especially when strength matters. This issue of priority actually came to the fore recently when the governor handsomely rewarded an Ogun State Big Brother Nigeria housemate with a Bungalow and five million naira for participating in a controversial and morally bankrupt reality show. This fueled resentment especially among hardworking young people across the states who were dissatisfied with the cash and house gifts.
For a better and greater Ogun State, the notion about favouring a set of people above others must stop. And the governor must quickly go to work to prove to the world that the allegations of weakness, non-performance, mismanagement of resources and insecurity are unfounded. That is the only way to build the state and unite its people.