When Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun nominated Waheed Odusile as the Honorable Commissioner of Information in his cabinet, it became evident that the governor is ready to work and take Ogun State to the next level.
Before he became the President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in 2015, Abdulwaheed Odusile was the Managing Editor of The Nation Newspapers based in Lagos. He had also held various other Editorial positions including being the pioneer Editor of National Life Newspaper.
An activist and crusader, the challenge of re-positioning the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in particular and Journalism to attain its rightful position as the fourth estate of the realm is his concern, hence actions targeted towards Journalism enhancement and practice, achieving the capacity building of media professionals in Nigeria.
A researcher and resourceful person in media, Abdulwaheed Odusile has many publications amongst which are Media Ethics and Promotion of Democratic Culture in Nigeria, the Media, Socio-cultural and political Integration, Thoughts on policy, and many others.
He recently spoke to the Publisher of Nigeria’s leading newspaper, Integrity Reporters, ADEWALE OGUNNIRAN on how far Prince Dapo Abiodun-led administration has taken the Gateway State in less than two years.
OUESTION: There is no doubt that you are a veteran journalist and you have seen it all before you were appointed as the Commissioner of Information, what is the hallmark of Prince Dapo Abiodun’s administration so far?
ANSWER: First let me say for emphasis sake the administration in Ogun State led by Prince Dapo Abiodun has at the bedrock of it activities service to the people of Ogun state, we are buildings service around the people with everybody being involved. It is a government for everybody in Ogun State, that’s why the mantra is “Igbega Ipinle Ogun, Ajose Gbogbo Wa Ni”. So, it’s an all-inclusive government that prides itself on being honest, sincere, and dedicated to serving our people. When I say he’s sincere, we have a governor that says it the way he sees it. We have a governor that makes promises and keeps his promises, there has never been a promise made by Prince Dapo Abiodun, that he never kept. He doesn’t make an empty promise, and he says it. That he does not discuss anything that he will not implement. Even in the areas of projects.
There are some projects that we inherited that were not completed. The governor said, no project that impacts the life of the people will be left uncompleted regardless of who started it. Even some of the projects that the previous administration started and they abandoned and we are completing them, and they are projects that ordinary will not serve the purpose of our people. We have had to change them. There is one school nearby here in Abeokuta; the so-called model school and was abandoned. We came into office and we activated the entire building and change the concept. That’s why we now have the Ogun State corp. even driving around that place, if , let’s assume that your phone is on, there’s wifi over there, so, all these kids that are tech-savvy have been patronizing that place, some of them have even developed the acts of using the facilities that we have there. Also the two Flyovers that were abandoned are almost completed now. The same thing suffices in every one of the 3 senatorial districts; all projects that are beneficial to the people, abandoned or unfinished by the previous administrations are being completed by the tenure of Prince Dapo Abiodun. That’s one.
Two, this administration stands on 5 pillars, which is with the acronym ISEYA, and you know ISEYA is part of the anthem of Ogun. The “I” in ISEYA stands for Infrastructure, the “S” stands for Social Wellbeing and welfare, “E” for Education, “Y” stands for Youth Empowerment and the “A” stands for Agriculture. Those are the five pillars of this administration. And if I take them one after the other for you, you’ll be marvelled. The infrastructure, I said we have completed over a hundred kilometres of the road so far. Our signature project is the Ijebu-Ode Epe Expressway which is due for completion around May 2022, when we will be having our second anniversary. That road is a multi-laying highway, we are talking about six lanes on both sides, and it’s about fifteen kilometres of road between Ijebu-Ode and Epe.
Now that road will open up that axis for industrialization and other things. It will also decongest and reduce the pressure on Lagos Ibadan expressway from Shagamu to Lagos. A lot of traffic coming from the East instead of coming through Shagamu and going to join Lagos Ibadan Expressway at Shagamu will just negotiate to the left and hit Epe within minutes. By the time you get to Epe, you are already in Lagos and you can go to any parts of Lagos you wish to go.
On the other axis within the central here, we just completed a 7-kilometer road in Abeokuta, that’s Ogun central which is the first road that will connect two local governments in Ogun state. In Ogun west, the Yewa Axis, we have also done a series of roads there. At the moment, the Sango-Ota/Abeokuta Expressway, we are doing some palliatives there. The road is terrible. It’s a federal government road, but the governor in conjunction with his counterpart in Lagos, that’s Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. They have actually written to the federal government that the road is very important to our people. So, governor Abiodun doesn’t care whether it is federal or State road. The road is used by our people in the state. That takes care of the infrastructure, part of the infrastructure is the housing that we are also working on. We are building a social housing scheme. We are talking about ten thousand units of houses we are doing that in conjunction with the federal government. The state government itself is also working on many housing projects. We have the Price Court here. We have one at Kobape, and we are also working on those who want to have their own housing estates. If you go to Social wellbeing and welfare under which we have health and stuff like that, when the government came in, one of the first things he did was to reactivate all of our health centres in the state, because the objective is to have a working health centre in each ward. Even the ones that we have now they are doing rehabilitation, the general hospital in Ilaro was in a terrible state, and so also other general hospitals in the state. We are currently rehabilitating them.
We are not there yet, but we have actually reached a commendable level within one year in office.
When he came to the office, one of the things he was told was that workers cannot be paid for that month, and he asked why. Within a few days before the end of the month, you know he resumed on May 29, before that month ended within 24 hours, he had to look for the money and he paid the workers. And he vowed that he will never owe our workers. And he made sure that before the 25th day of every month, they are paid. He has never owed for one day. He also approved the minimum wage for the people, you need to see the workers when they came here on a thank-you visit to appreciate what the man has done even in spite of the lean financial status of the state and the COVID-19 effect. He made sure he paid the minimum wage even before the month ended.
Education, of course, if you go round Ogun state, you will notice the yellow roofs, those are the projects that the governor is working assiduously on. Even in tertiary institutions, Ogun is one of the states with the highest number of tertiary institutions in Nigeria, and we are doing well, funding and
improving the facilities. Then if you look at youth empowerment, of course, we have done so much for the youths, just recently, the governor announced the recruitment of 250 youths per local governments, and we have 20 local governments that will come to about five thousand. Those five thousand are being recruited and are going to be trained in various vocations. During their training, the government will give them a stipend to pay them. And when they finish, depending on the kind of vocation that they were trained in, for instance, if somebody opted to become a bricklayer, once he leaves the training, and he’s certified okay by his boss, we take them on to be part of constructions going on in our housing schemes where we absorb them and they will earn their living there. They will even improve on it than the time they have gone through the training.
We also have a similar scheme in Agriculture. We have a broiler project where we provide some of them with a day old chicks, they were also given the feeds and everything to take care of them, and within 60 days, they become chickens, and the off-takers buy from them. These are young indigenes of Ogun state. Having seen the success of that, we want to replicate it in all the 20 local governments in Ogun state. We are the highest producer of poultry products in Nigeria. We are also the highest producer of rice in the southwest, so we want to leverage that to create employment for our youths. We are doing that for Agriculture very well. When we came into office last year we also created an online data bank where you can go and register, and identify your skills, and we were able to link them up with potential employers, some of them have been employed, some of them have been assisted to set up their own businesses.
Also, one of the important thing we did during the #Endsars protest, was that we used the community approach to douse the tension. We talked to them and pacify them. That gave us an insight to what the youths want and what we could do for them, and after that we had a youth summit, a stakeholder summit for the youths, and we came out with quite a laudable proposals.
OUESTION: With all these things that you have highlighted shows that Prince Dapo Abiodun-led government is focused, but when we consider the people who are residents around the border of Lagos and Ogun is having issues with bad roads which amount to habitual gridlock. How do you intend to address this situation?
ANSWER: You know that I said this administration doesn’t just make empty promises. For the border community, there are ongoing plans to assuage the issues. For instance the Alagbole area, and Akute, Lambe, and Matogun, there was disagreement between Lagos and the past government before ours. Now, we have been able to talk to them, the paperwork had been completed, they will go to the site very soon if they are not even there as we speak. You know, now that the wet season is gone, you’ll see a lot of activities around that axis, especially on their roads. That area is also heavily populated. We are also mindful of those roads. The rehabilitation project in that area will consume a whole lot of money. You know most of those who reside there work in Lagos and we are working to ensure that when we return to retrieve their taxes, we will not have any issue, so work is in progress. We have identified about 47 roads that need urgent attention in general, and that axis is also part of those roads that we have considered for urgent rehabilitation. So we are doing them in phases. At the last EXCO meeting, I think about 12 more roads were approved for either rehabilitation or construction. Some of the roads are on that axis. And like I said they are in phases. And that is still the second phase. But our mission is to ensure that no road will be left unattended to.
OUESTION: Ogun State has the highest number of tertiary institutions in the southwest; colleges of education, polytechnics, and Universities. Does your government have a special program or project for them?
Well, education is an industry in Ogun State, we pride ourselves to be the leading state in education in Nigeria, if we are not number one, I’m not sure we have more than one state that will be ahead of us, because we take education seriously. Tai Solarin University of Education, for instance, we are the first state to have a tertiary institution dedicated to Education in Nigeria. Not all states even have a State University in Nigeria. Education is just a faculty, but we have upgraded the concept.
There are so many tertiary institutions owned by the government. We placed priority on education, that’s why we take the funding of all the institutions very seriously. In this government, we are doing more of Public-Private Partnership, PPP to fund some of the projects, we really want to do so many things but we don’t have the financial muscle to shoulder the cost alone. That’s why we are calling the private sectors to come in and work with us. Just recently we had our budget defence and say to my colleague from the ministry of finance, he’s of this business table, and he said our intention is to bring Ogun to number in the business activities in the southwest and remember that Ogun is the only neighbour that Lagos has, so we also want to make sure it works for us, but we don’t want to import the problem of Lagos, but we are looking at how we can work more together. That’s why those roads at the border mean a lot to us. That’s why we are minimizing the red tape around doing business, even up to the point of getting a permit for your houses, within 7 days if your papers are right, you get your permit. Even if for whatever reason, as an industry, we can’t do it in days, we can give you a temporary permit within that 7 days, so we give you another 7 days to perfect your paper, so that any investor coming in here, will not have a problem, that’s why we are placing more emphasis on that ease of doing business on the table. We want to be number one in Nigeria so that any fallout from Lagos will come to our ground to do business.
QUESTION: Lastly, how best can you describe your principal?
Hmm,.. I know he’s passionate about the development of Ogun State. He’s a proud indigene of Ogun State and he wants to develop and take Ogun to the next level. You know one thing in life is if you are passionate about something you won’t mind what it will cost as long as it is legitimate and legal to achieve that thing. He’s bent on the development of Ogun State; infrastructure, education, economic diversification, and human resource is our greatest asset in Ogun State. So the governor is determined to develop Ogun state and wants to carry everybody along. He wants to run an all-inclusive government. That’s why I said earlier that our mantra is “Igbega Ipinle Ogun, Ajose Gbogbo Wa ni”. He wants everyone to work together for the success of the state and the people in Ogun state. That is what the governor is working towards. That is what matters to him as far as this government is concerned. He has also been enjoying all his appointees and the civil servants who have also been supporting the best way they can. We know we must deliver to our people, not just the dividends of democracy but to make sure that Ogun state is one of the best, if not the best in Nigeria within the shortest possible time. As a person, he remains compassionate and believes in the reward system. That is Prince Dapo Abiodun for you.