Akeredolu’s blue print to progress in Ondo
When Oluwarotimi Akeredolu contested the covetous Ondo state governorship poll under the Action Congress (AC) political party platform and lost, the pundits felt that was the end of his political career or ambition but he never gave up. That was in 2012.
In a twist of fate, some four years later, in 2016 he threw his hat into the ring, this time under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and won it. He must have done something differently. But what exactly was that? He came to grips with the bitter fact that his people, the politically savvy Ondo citizens hate to be dictated to, by those considered outsiders when it comes to making the critical choice of who to pilot their political affairs.
In retrospect, it would be recalled that during the heady days of the Second Republic when the then ruling NPN attempted to forcefully foist Chief Akin Omoboriowo on Ondo people, it instantly triggered off violent reactions. This, most unfortunately led to the wanton and wasteful carnage, as evidenced in the destruction of precious lives and property running into millions of Naira.
Similarly, Ondo people’s penchant to be left alone to freely express their democratic franchise through the ballot box without overbearing foreign influence also came into full play in 2017. That was when Dr. Olusegun Mimiko won the gubernatorial seat under the platform of Labour party, a political platform that was registered barely three months before the governorship election!
Though he was initially denied that mandate but it did not take long for him to reclaim it via the election tribunal. On that score, Akeredolu came to grips with the fact that his people’s political persuasion must be respected at all times. If he was rejected back in 2012 because of the hands of the powers that be from the Lagos axis, he would be better off, being his own man. He learned the hard way, made the necessary amend and got it right this time around.
He must have gleaned from the wise counsel of Grover Cleveland who noted that: “A government for the people must depend for its success on the intelligence, the morality, the justice, and the interest of the people themselves.”
Truth be told however, winning is one thing. Making good use of the opportunity of the instrument of governance to right the wrongs of the past and positively impact on the quality of lives of the led majority is another thing entirely. So, when he eventually mounted the pedestal of political power as the governor of the state he decided to make a difference, in more ways than one.
Firstly, he cleared the backlog of the seven months salary arrears his administration inherited from the Mimiko-led government. And he has, unlike several of his counterparts strewn across the landscape of Nigeria, continued to pay worker’s emoluments as at when due. To Akeredolu SAN, it is morally unjustifiable, indeed reprehensible for any state governor to collect federal allocations and sundry bailout funds and yet refuse to pay the long-suffering workers their constitutional entitlement. Next, he went a step further.
He came up with the policy document aptly tagged the:“Blue Print to Progress, 2017-2021.” This followed a report of the Strategic Development and Policy Implementation Committee SDPIC, put up by the state government. It was conceived as a policy template that will guide the All Progressives Congress, APC-led state government in Ondo State in developing the economy of the state.
While unveiling the document back in September 2017 at the Dome in Akure, Akeredolu, said the move signaled the commencement of total transformation of all sectors by his administration. He emphasized the importance of meaningful planning to the success of any government, noting that that was why his government chose to take off on a sound footing based on well mapped out strategies.
“Consequently, we direct all state functionaries to adopt this compendium of recommendations for the administration of all sectors as a guide for governance,” Mr. Akeredolu said.“Commissioners, heads of agencies and parastatals are further instructed to ensure strict compliance with the clear provisions of this document as regards their respective portfolios and agencies.”
He noted the document would chart a clear course of government activities for the next four years, and stand the administration in good stead in engagements with development partners including World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNIDO, FAO, JICA, USAID.
So far, it has been an action-packed ride carrying the people along the blueprint focused on job creation, urban renewal and infrastructural development across the nooks and crannies of the Sunshine State. For instance once dilapidated, pothole riddled roads such as Akure to Ondo, Akoko through Owo to the federal government-owned, Lagos-Abuja expressway are all wearing a more solidified and durable look. Work has also begun on the important Owo-Akure highway.
And central to the envisioned fast-paced economic development, a vital Interchange is being built at the well-known Ore axis that links to the Northern and Eastern parts of the country.
Furthermore, a Free Trade Zone is on board as a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU has been signed with a private company to kick-start the construction of Nigeria’s second private refinery there, given the fact that Ondo State boasts of the longest seashore line in the entire country. The economic benefits of massive job creation, and Foreign Direct Investment FDI are noteworthy.
On human capital development, he has earmarked N500 million as development loan to market women in the state. Some 1,430 civil servants have been promoted to oil the engine room for more functional, people-oriented government machinery.And by the time the latent potentials of the large bitumen deposit in the state, considered as the second largest in the world is unleashed, Ondo State will become the second largest economy in the Southwest and the fifth in the country.
To facilitate quicker economic development, focus is shifting on better use of water transport system even as two airlines – Air Peace, Lagos-Akure and Overland Air, Abuja-Akure have started daily operations.
Still on efforts to draw global attention to Ondo state, the tourism potentials are being reinvigorated. For instance, Idanre Hills is attracting government intervention for upgrading, even as Agogo cultural festival in Owo is receiving the impetus for a renewal to make it a tourist destination. Owo, it should be noted once once the epicentre for the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s progressive political renaissance, as is also an iconic map location where the late educationist and one time governor, Adekunle Ajasin took a firm root.
With a firm focus on agriculture to look at the timbre, cocoa industries, the tomato factory in Arigidi and Okitipua palm oil industry, Ondo State is well on its way to realizing its immense God-given economic giant status.That all these and more are taking place under the forward-looking Akeredolu’s administration is a testament to a people-oriented governance that demands commendations.
Oladele writes from Akure