Reflections on Ogun politics after Buhari’s testimonials
Thursday, January 13, 2022, remains a red-letter day for Governor Dapo Abiodun and his team. His political opponents too will not forget the day in a haste.
Among dignitaries present on the day were Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Gboyega Oyetola of Osun and Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Rauf Olaniyan. Also present were all the living former governors of Ogun State and a mammoth crowd of Ogun citizens. They all came to receive President Muhammadu Buhari and to testify to the uncommon transformation going on in the state under the watch of the incumbent governor, Dapo Abiodun.
President Buhari’s arrival at the Gateway City Gate – one of the five symbolic projects the President came to commission, demonstrably gave meaning to the President’s often quoted dictum: “I belong to everybody and belong to nobody.” The import of this is not lost on the political class who believes the President is in the pocket of some naysayers. It purged the resentful of their ill-emotions and was a moment of catharsis for all.
President Buhari was on his first official visit to the state since his host was sworn in as governor on May 29, 2019. It was a rescheduled visit initially billed for December 21, 2021. Ogun State was in celebratory mood as evident in the new look the streets of Abeokuta and environs were wearing and the smiles on the faces of the people who trooped out to give the president a resounding welcome. The disappointment, which greeted the earlier cancellation of the visit had been replaced with relief, joy and celebration.
If anything, the thunderous echoes of “Sai Baba!” and “DA continuity!” which rented the air during the president’s visit were the first signs of admiration for the August visitor on the one hand, and approval and appreciation of the host on the other.
While welcoming the president at the Gateway City Gate, Prince Abiodun thanked the president for making out time to honour the visit. He also reminded the president how he paid the president a visit to share some success stories of his stewardship of his first year in office. The visit, he said, was necessitated by the outbreak of COVID-19 and health protocols, which made it impossible then for the president to visit the state to physically commission those projects.
Abiodun further stated that President Buhari was in Ogun on his (Abiodun’s) invitation to “see our modest contributions to the continued development of our dear State in line with our ‘Building our Future Together’ Agenda.”
Explaining how his administration was focused on qualitative governance and creating an enabling environment for a public private partnership to thrive, Abiodun said the five projects Buhari was in Ogun to commission were a selected few, which were symbolic of the various types of projects across all sectors of the state’s economy spread across the state’s three senatorial districts.
“We believe this is fundamental to the socio-economic development of the state and individual prosperity of our people. It is noteworthy that all our projects have the inputs and are informed by the needs of the people as expressed by them at different engagement fora that we provide. This is because we anchor our ‘Building our Future Together’ Agenda on inclusiveness, equity, fairness, transparency, accountability, justice, and obedience to the rule of law,” Abiodun said.
Although the purpose of the visit was for the president to commission key trailblazing projects, the official visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Ogun State on Thursday, January 13, 2022 was significant and symbolic in many more ways. While thanking Prince Abiodun and the good people of Ogun State for the reception accorded him and his team on arrival, the president himself confirmed that “conflict of schedules” was responsible for his inability to visit as initially planned.
The president added: “The last time I visited Ogun State was during the electioneering campaign and build-up to the 2019 general elections. Between the last visit and now, so much has changed. The then candidate,
Prince Dapo Abiodun, is today the performing Governor of Nigeria’s Gateway State. I have read and heard so much about this silent but effective achiever and deliverer of good governance.”
Back to commissioning of projects, after commissioning the Gateway City Gate and the 42km Sagamu-Abeokuta Interchange, President Buhari went ahead to commission three other projects: the 14km Ijebu Ode-Mojoda-Epe Road, which was completed in record time and connects Ogun to the fast-growing Epe-Lekki axis of Lagos; Kobape Housing Estate, located along the Sagamu-Abeokuta Interchange under the Affordable Housing Scheme; and the upscale Kings Court Estate in Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.
Describing the projects as “five visionary and trail-blazing projects”, Buhari, who christened himself “Omowale” during the visit, said impenitently about the undeniable difference Prince Abiodun had made in the state: “I am delighted to accept his invitation. The invitation was not just to come and see or inspect but to commission fully completed projects that his administration has delivered for the wellness and wellbeing of the people of Ogun State.” (Italicised words mine for emphasis).
It will be difficult to read through the president’s mind to know if he was making a comparative statement or was recollecting his last visit to the state. What we know, however, is that the last time the president visited the state, he was taken to inspect, rather than commission, a white elephant 250-bed hospital which had barely got off the ground. Buhari was also taken to a fictitious housing estate cleverly named after him but which, in reality, was nothing but an acquired piece of land. Someone that day broadcast from an “ultra-modern” Ogun Sate Television (OGTV) studio newly set up, except that there was no ultra-modern studio anywhere!
Governor Abiodun used the opportunity of the president’s visit to appeal for tax credit scheme to be extended to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) for the reconstruction of Sagamu-Ogijo-Ikorodu Expressway, a strategic road which does not only lead to one of the largest depots of NNPC at Mosinmi, Sagamu, but also an alternative route to the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Note that a similar creative funding arrangement had been reached with Dangote Group for the reconstruction of Sagamu-Interchange-Papalanto-Ilaro Road under the federal government’s tax credit scheme. President Buhari promised to consider his host’s request.
Ogun State’s heavy investment in social welfare, security, regulatory reforms and employment were also highly commended by the president, describing Prince Abiodun as a laudable ambassador of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC).
“I am proud of what you have done for your state and your people. You have made our great party, the APC, proud too. You are a worthy example of promises made, promises kept. These lofty projects could not have materialised without your huge investment and commitment to security of lives and property.
“This has made Ogun State one of the safest and most peaceful States in the country and investors’ destination of choice. You have justified the mandate of the people of Ogun State. You have represented our party very well,” Buhari said.
With Buhari’s visit and his impression of the new Ogun State and its leadership, any fragment of argument left as to whose hands is piloting the state and the ruling party’s machinery has been put to permanent rest. Those who claim to have strong political affinity and social familiarity with the president enough to circumvent party procedures and threaten to interrupt the dividends of governance now enjoyed by the good people of Ogun State have been rightly put in their place as men of yesterday who exaggerate their political worth and relationship with the grassroots.
With what the president met on ground and how he was received in the state, there is no doubt that he had made his choice on who is adding value to governance and enhancing the credibility of the APC between Abiodun, a respected and admired technocrat whose vision is to deliver dividends of democracy to the people; and a self-acclaimed grassroots mobiliser whose pastime is to engage in anti-party activities once decisions didn’t go his way.
With such a clear presidential seal of approval, Prince Abiodun has promised to follow up with more developmental projects in 2022 in order to transform the state by implementing the “Building Our Future Together” agenda, built around the five developmental columns of I-S-E-Y-A: Infrastructure; Social Development and Wellbeing; Education; Youth Development, and; Agriculture and Food Security.
Definitely, the governor was paying attention to the parting words of President Buhari: “Whilst commending you for your achievements so far, I urge you not to rest on your oars. The reward for success is more hard work to meet the increasing expectations of the people. When state governments deliver impactful projects, in consultations with stakeholders, like we have witnessed in Ogun State, the trajectory of our national development will be enhanced.”
Clearly, as father to all, Mr. President has by his testimonials and visit demystified and indeed put paid to the much vaunted “filial ties” some political gladiators in the Ogun State political debacle hitherto used to browbeat their opponents. With his pronouncements penultimate Thursday, it is clear that such braggadocio or fears are groundless. The President only reminded us that such cynicism are of no effect and the cryptic message is clear. Like the reaction of maverick basketballer, Tristan Thompson on his paternity crisis: “Sometimes you don’t realise your own strength until you face your greatest weakness,” the Sacramento Kings player, 30, posted via his Instagram Stories on Friday, January 21. “…hide from your demons and they’ll slowly destroy your potential. Face them and they can potentially become your greatest asset.” Ogun people now know better than the hogwash dished out from quarters with ego taller than their caps.