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Ogun State: The legacy of a great future

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Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun

In this keynote, I will touch on several critical issues that impinge not only on the historical location of Ogun State and her development achievements but also on her fundamental role as an economic corridor in the redefinition of governance in Nigeria. I will further characterize the governance insights to be derived from Governor Abiodun’s leadership style, and then draw significant lessons that could aid future possibilities.

In the 2018 Human Development Index (HDI), Ogun State was second on the list, with a medium human development status of 0.662, behind Lagos State with 0.673. This is a very significant jump from 2016 where Ogun State was placed a distant eight-position (0.549). This figure alone tells several significant stories. First, it signals the fundamental significance of continuity in government. Ogun State did not become a significant human development participant on the strength of a single administration’s efforts and achievements. Second, this is a state that is progressing steadily in the task of achieving the well-being of its citizens. And what best way to track that progress than through the human development index? And third, this trajectory of governance focus speaks about the determination of the state to achieve a legacy that aims for the future and for posterity.

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Ogun State has a rich historical narrative rooted in liberation and human development. Permit me to refresh our collective memories with the emancipatory narrative of Lisabi Agbongbo Akala, the indomitable warrior whose historical sense of justice and freedom was all it took for the Egba to be liberated from the overlordship of the Old Oyo Empire, a narrative that did not diminish the legendary heroism of Sodeke of Egba and Onafowokan of Ijebu. And the real paradox is that while Oyo gave its name to the Southwest as the foundation of our cultural unity, Ogun, in turn, became a very significant member-state under the Oodua cultural banner. Indeed, Ogun state has played a most significant role in moulding the stature and status of the Nigerian state since independence. And it has done this through the exportation of her sons and daughters, her veritable human capital, to the overall development of the Nigerian state. The story of Ogun state’s impact on Nigeria did not stop with Lisabi’s liberation of the Egba from Oyo, and the deep lesson in social justice that is taught. From music to business, from politics to administration, and from activism to education, Ogun state has an array of individuals who became national figures.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s cultural and political achievements loom large in this firmament of Ogun’ human capital contribution. It is most significant that Ogun produced a figure that had become canonized as the Yoruba leader par excellence. What does anyone here expect me to say about the mercurial Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his ongoing statesmanship to unite a great nation? Chief Ernest Shonekan was a critical political figure when Nigeria needed a stable transition. Chief M. K. O. Abiola who bestrode Nigerian political space like a colossus, the hero of the Nigerian democratic movement and its sacrificial lamb? What do I say about the quiet political significance of Professor Yemi Osinbajo? How about such legendary statesmen as Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Chief Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi, Administrator, Western Region in crisis period in Nigeria’s history, Dr. Tai Solarin of Mayflower fame, Hebert Ogunde, father of the theatre in Nigeria, Chief J. F. Odunjo, foremost author and Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo, my hero and father of the civil service in Nigeria, to name just a very few.
Ebenezer Obey’s music defined the entertainment context of his time, along with those of other markers of traditional music as Haruna Isola and Yusuf Olatunji. Apart from Rev. Isreal Oludotun Ransome-Kuti’s pioneering place as the father of the teaching profession in Nigeria, the Ransome-Kutis were the very essence of civil right-revolution catalyzing-type rebellion to initiate social order not only in Ogun State but also in Nigeria. Laureate Wole Soyinka’s literary prowess and activism enabled us not only to understand the social anomie we are battling with but also to warn us that the man dies in anyone who closes his or her eyes to injustice. Chief Adeola Odutola was the very essence of entrepreneurship before it became a global imperative in the era of the Mike Adenuga of our age. Akinlawon Ladipo Mabogunje straddles academics and public administration with a deep understanding of Nigeria’s cadastral mapping, and I can go on and on. These are all not just transnational figures whose influence remains grounded in our national consciousness; they are also inter-generational in their capacity to generate conversations that are enduring between the past and the present.

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The challenge of state governance in Nigeria
This array of human capital stars provides the context within which we can commence our discussion about state governance, especially within Nigeria’s problematic federation. This is where all the idealistic veil will be taken off our eyes, and we will see for what it is the very travail of being a Governor in any state in Nigeria. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution was supposedly written in the spirit of federalism founded on the framework of tripartite legislative power shared between the federal, state and local governments. While the federal government legislate over the exclusive list, the concurrent list is meant for the joint supervision of both the federal and the state legislatures, while the residual list comes under the local governments. But any acute observers of Nigeria’s national affairs for many years now, and especially in recent times, will notice that things are not as they seem.

The security situation in the country demands that the Governors, as the chief security officers of their respective states, take a firm stand on the safety of their citizens. But they seemed handicapped because of the centralized security apparatuses at the constitutional behest of the President. In a normal federal framework, the idea of state and community policing would have been a foregone conclusion. But Nigeria’s federalism is not a normal one. And it is not normal because it is a federal arrangement answering to a unitary logic that takes away the power of the states to achieve constitutional initiatives that are conducive, for instance, to democratic governance. The truth is that most states, like Ogun State, with the vision and the will to develop, have to factor the import of Decree 34 of 1966 that took away the federal impulse in the Nigerian Constitution. One implication is that the exclusive list contains as many as 68 items that include issues that ought to be solely at the preserve of the states, especially issues like security and land use. This leads to the emasculation of the federating units through the empowering of the center.

To be continued tomorrow.
Professor Tunji Olaopa delivered this piece as Keynote Lecture at the Symposium organised by the Ogun State Government to mark the 45th Anniversary of the State’s creation on the 3rd of February, 2021. Olaopa is professor of public administration and public policy, retired Federal permanent secretary and Directing Staff, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru, Jos.

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