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Developing Ogun State economy through politics

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Sogunle

Sogunle

Ogun State economy in the last three years

THE state has many potentials that we call the Gateway advantage; advantages of geography of its unique location of natural and fertile vegetation as well as the quality of her people that are vibrant, energetic, exposed and enlightened. The state has a cherished history of role models, mentors and leaders that have led different sectors of the polity. You cannot talk of the history, politics or economy of Nigeria without mentioning the critical and pivotal roles played or being played by Ogun State indigenes like Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Obafemi Awolowo, MKO Abiola, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Olusegun Obasanjo,  Ernest Sonekan, Simeon Adebo, Lateef Adegbite, Oluwole Adeosun, Bola Ajibola Ebun Oyagbola, Professor Asiwaju,  Subomi Balogun, Mike Adenuga and Fola Adeola. These are a few of the great men and women from Ogun State. But we observe that this pedigree, people and potentials are not being effectively harnessed for the creation and sustenance of wealth of the state that would be of ultimate benefit to the people.

Our political reality since 2011 is that, arising from the conflicts and contentions in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the people elected by default an ACN/APC government led by Senator Ibikunle Amosun that turned out to be a great mistake. And out of unpreparedness for governance and leadership, that government could not continue the spate of economic progress and development that had started with the deliberate political economic programmes that commenced with the government of Otunba Gbenga Daniel. The state is experiencing a cacophony of knee jack, emergency and spontaneous policies, programmes and projects that could not be connected to leverage the development thrust that had been projected. This has led to the wobbling of the macro and micro economy and characterized by cries, protests and strikes by the critical constituents of civil workers, traders, students and various concerned citizens.

Given the professional that the Governor is, we expect a good foundation through the drafting of a robust plan on the holistic development of the state and implementing that conscientiously despite the fact there is a 25 year regional master plan that could have been adopted or at worst reviewed. Our current political economy can best be described as conceptually weak and pedestrian characterized by projects that are not thoroughly conceived.

Despite what are being presented to people as development and urban renewal, there are no clear tangible benefits for the people of the state. I allude that to the fact that the foundation of planning is faulty. They say, without vision, people perish. I cannot see a clear vision driving the famed “mission to rebuild”. And because the vision is not clear, we are experiencing a jumble of misdirected activities that is negatively affecting the lives of the people.

There is a very close connection between the economy and politics and by extension governance, Governance is about everybody, it is about the well being of the people. And when you begin to implement policies that affect the lives of people negatively, there is a problem. There is nothing wrong with urban renewal, but it must recognize the economic rights of the people and their continuous and sustainable well-being. Where an economy that is not robust enough is disrupted, you have disrupted the foundations for the society.

Where the economy of Ogun state is being directed to is not clear enough for some of us observing from the outside. There is a mistake people make that when you develop infrastructure, the economy will develop, I do not agree to this derived connection. Economic development is a deliberate activity and without that deliberateness, you would spend so much money without stimulating growth and development. Economic strategies and activities must be geared towards improving the quality of life of the people. People can be classified into three – the thriving/successful, the striving/struggling and the vulnerable. A set of deliberate economic initiatives must be instituted to attract the thriving and successful people so they can invest, employ and boost consumption and stimulate production. Building a sustainable economy will encourage and support the striving and struggling so that they can develop their capacities to service the economy and generate more wealth whilst the vulnerable or poor would be protected through empowerment and other social welfare services. This keen conceptual understanding and characterization of the polity is not appreciated and applied in the political and economic direction of the current APC government of the state.

It was reported in the news recently that the governor was complaining about the paucity of funds received from Federal Allocations and that the state is currently barely surviving. This is not unexpected because some of us have been championing the need for a robust sub-national economy that is not dependent on the monoculture economy of the Federation. A governance mindset that depends significantly on the centre do not appreciate the dynamics of the new economy and would be subjected to the vagaries and shocks that is being experienced at this time with falling global oil prices, exchange rates and consequent reduction in the distributable pool. A paradigm shift and knowledge base is required to recognize the inherent potential and advantages in the state and strategizing on how to harness them for true economic independence, which the state can definitely achieve, if put in the right hands.

Ogun’s N6 billion monthly IGR

The facts available to us reveal that the highest IGR realized since the inception of Amosun’s government is N3.3billion with the introduction of the Home Charter Programme. Since 2011, the yearly monthly average hovers between N1.2billion to N2.5 billion despite the introduction of harsh taxation regime and decoy revenue generating schemes. I challenge the government to bring out facts to controvert this assertion. It is unfortunate that government can be speaking to the gallery and be deceiving people to score cheap political points on matters that bother on transparency and accountability and are verifiable. The reality of the financial situation is now dawning on them given the raised expectations they have stimulated in the people that they have built a strong and sustainable financial capacity.

The fact is that the modest increase in IGR were derivable from the revenue generating reforms and foundations created by the government they succeeded. And they refused to recognize that governance is a continuum. They run a government with the mindset that government can provide everything and they embark on huge and audacious projects simultaneously without adequate financial planning and engineering and weak assumptions. Today, none of the famous mega schools had been concluded and we have around a litter of uncompleted roads, bridges and flyovers that are often “decorated” with huge heaps of waste and rubbish. We are also faced with a series of strikes and protests from various entities and interests that are groaning from the pangs on unfulfilled promises and commitments.

This is a governor that condemned the previous administration’s attempt to raise long term funding to support the economic projects such as the Free Trade Zones, The Olokola Sea Port, the Agro Cargo Airport and the likes that were being planned then and had taken deliberate steps to frustrate both the investors and the projects that could have stimulated production, employment, consumption and concomitant taxable income to the state. As a financial person, I will not contest borrowing because I know that a measure of leverage is required for business and even economic expansion. But such leverage and borrowing must be used for activities and projects that will stimulate the economy with the sustainable capacity to repay.

The spate of reckless borrowing and accruing of liabilities to fund recurrent and egoistic and self seeking capital expenditure is not acceptable. This is compounded by the fact that local and rural development is seriously hampered by an arrangement that concentrates the use of all states funds, including that of the local government under the control of the governor. Aside from the signpost projects concentrated in the major urban centres, the state government could not point to any significant project in most of all local government areas, with most of the “selected” chairmen and councilors serving at best as passengers in government. This is not the type of democracy that our dear people of Ogun State deserve.

What we need now is a government that understands the politico economic dynamics of the state and how to holistically and systematically support it for sustainable growth, peoples welfare and peace. The reality is that this state has opportunities, has potentials to be economically viable, but needs to be managed by people who understand how opportunities can be tapped and how they can attract the right funding and right support to realize these opportunities. I am not happy at the standard of governance and instability I see in Ogun State today. We are seriously on the slope from the leading and excellent path that we used to be and the world is not waiting for us.

Opportunities for rapid economic development

It is a pity that the current government could not see the foundation that has been laid for these developments. Instead of thoroughly studying the detailed and voluminous handing over reports and notes that were left behind, they decided to engage in a war of political attrition, vendetta and victimization both of perceived opponents and even erstwhile political colleagues. All that has snowballed into the serious cracks and divisions within his party and government and the parting of political ways with its backers and politically experienced godfathers that he then had.

Be that as it may, Ogun State is well positioned and still has the resources and the people with intellect and commitment to salvage the situation. That is why some of us stand with the candidate of the PDP, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (GNI). He has a good educational background; he has good understanding of investment possibilities and ability to harness these opportunities to make Ogun less dependent on Abuja. I am thrilled by his political mantra, Life more abundant or Irorun De. To us, life is about leadership, integrity, financial management and economic development. In every entity, when those four ingredients are missing, you will be struggling.

Earlier contributions to economic growth

Before 2003, nobody talked about Ogun State as an economic hub. The civil service largely influenced the economy. It took the vision and commitment of the government of OGD to see that there are potentials in the Gateway advantage. We had to put a lot of structures and processes in place. We laid a foundation for planning as well as scheduling our programmes into Short Term, Medium Term and Long Term ones. Largely, we achieved the objectives of the short-term interventions in the areas of employment creation, rural roads infrastructure and building an inclusive people oriented government as we also achieved a lot in the areas of education, health, housing and transportation. We were already working on free trade zone, LNG plant and a sea port at a location with a deeper depth than the Apapa sea port that can serve the whole of West Africa. We attracted free trade zones and Ogun State had three. Four stadia were put in place. We had also obtained the necessary approvals for the development of an international agro cargo airport. All these were to provide infrastructure for rapid economic development. We also commenced a systematic urban renewal project by moving the civil service offices and government residences to new locations and building new secretariats and housing estates to pave way for city renewal. All these were done with adequate compensations, incentives and with minimal negative impact on people’s social and economic lives. Our attempt at supporting the long term projects with appropriately long tenured funding in the form of bonds was misunderstood and thwarted by the then legislature under intense political influence and interplay because of the economic potential they could see. As no one can stop an idea whose time has come, we have gone back to the drawing board particularly with the bitter experience of the people in what can be regarded as the political “interregnum” of the current government and are fully poised to win in the coming gubernatorial elections through the same candidate.



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