‘If performance is sole criterion for re-election, Abiodun should start preparing for fresh oath’
Sunday Olakunle Somorin, chief press secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, in this interview with some editors, spoke on the performance of his principal’s administration in the last three years plus; why his re-election chances are bright; why the governor has been a blessing to the state; the governor’s hunger to take the state to the next better level, among other issues. ZEBULON AGOMUO brings the excerpts:
Do you believe Governor Dapo Abiodun deserves a second term considering his performance in the last three years?
If performance is the sole criterion for re-election, then we should start preparing for a fresh oath on May 29, 2023. Gov. Abiodun has acquitted himself creditably. He has touched all sectors, sections and segments of the State. He came in prepared to operationalise a collective vision which is to provide focused and qualitative governance whilst creating an enabling environment for public private sector partnership, believing that is very fundamental to the economic growth of the state and the individual prosperity of our people. There is no local government or ward that he has not impacted. He has pushed governance a step higher by his achievements in agriculture, education, youth empowerment, by turning the state to a big construction site for roads, houses and other public infrastructures. So much so that all the abandoned projects of his predecessors are being completed and commissioned, including a once-upon-a-time audio cargo airport that existed only in power point presentation. It is actually an aerotropolis, we are putting up. It will soon be declared the non-oil export terminal for the country. He not only consolidated the State’s position as the Industrial Capital in Nigeria but made it the Number One Investment destination in the sub-region. Ditto for Education. Even when the unexpected happened and COVID-19 index case was reported in our State, our ever-ready team overwhelmed the virus in a manner we turned adversity on its head. Till today, plaudits are still being extended to him for managerial acumen and sagacity. The World Health Organisation said so. The National Centre for Disease Control validated. As recently as last week the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA gave kudos for our vaccination efforts as the number one state in the country. Even an otherwise taciturn President Muhammadu Buhari was overawed by our achievements that he openly described my principal as a model, a performing Governor who makes and keeps his promises. The testimonials on the governor’s performance from all quarters, including opposition elements, youths, tradesmen, civil service, market women, traditional institutions, the professional class, the media, the academia are enough to convince doubting Thomases that Dapo Abiodun deserves and will by God’s grace and the goodwill of the electorate get a second term.
There is the belief that Osun poll results spurred Governor Abiodun to begin massive projects in the state?
That is the wishful thoughts of cynics and it will not come to pass. They are basing their assumptions on wrongs premises. It is most unscientific and ungodly. It is a reflection of lazy thinking. Applying assumptions in inappropriate circumstances basing expectations on bad data, or making assumptions based on wrong thinking will surely not come pass in Ogun State. Any keen, genuine and impartial analyst or pundits will not say that. Right from the get-go, the governor has been his roadmap and he’s following his vision systematically. For instance, he stated that he was going to roll out the drums for landmark days. He did not celebrate just 100 days in office, but celebrated achievements by completing roads abandoned by his predecessor. He constructed border roads with Lagos – Osi-Ikola and Navy School Raypower roads at Ota in the West Senatorial District, commissioned 130 units of houses in Kemta Idi Aba in Abeokuta, and security infrastructure including 200 motorbikes and 100 operational vans. He activated other projects on youth empowerment like the job portal to dimension unemployment and gaps in employability and vocational training. He set up the Tech Hub to groom future Elon Musks, Bill Gates and Zuckerbergs. He reversed the dismal fortunes of our tertiary institutions like MAPOLY and TASCE to exemplify his preparedness to build the future of the State in tandem with the 21st expectations. The facts speak for themselves and intervened to bring the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Teaching Hospital back to its lost glory by recruiting the best medical consultants available across all specialties, among many other things. Was Osun election an issue when the yellow roof revolution started in our schools across the 20 LGAs or when he constructed and rehabilitated over 400km of roads across all the three senatorial district? Do you know that this Administration has built over 1500 housing units – that’s more than double those provided by all his predecessors combined – within the same period and rehabilitated over 100 primary health centres and secondary healthcare centres? This is a focused and inclusive governor that is developing all the sections. He has promised not to develop any section at the expense of the other. The primary consideration for Gov. Abiodun’s projects implementation is not driven by politics, but borne out of their importance to the socioeconomic development of the state. He is not your typical dye-in-the wool Nigerian politician who is limited by the outcome of the next election, he is futuristic. He is in politics to add value.
In education sector, may we know his score card?
Governor Abiodun prioritizes human capital development. Also don’t forget that Ogun State is the Education Capital of Nigeria. Education remains one of the biggest industries here and one of the proudest legacies. The least we can do is to sustain this proud legacy. For this reason, Gov. Abiodun declared an emergency in that sector on the he was sworn into office. That’s a man of vision for you. Gov Abiodun as an omo teacher swung into action immediately. The previous administration had almost consigned Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta to the dustbin of history. Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu Ijebu was in an inchoate state and did not hold graduation for 11 years. He resolved these crises and restored the dignity of these great citadels of learning less than three months into office. Opening these institutions brought their entire ecosystems back to life; revamped prosperity for scholarship and businesses around these schools. Today, students in Ogun tertiary institutions receive bursaries to augment what their parents can give them. There is provision for schooling and working simultaneously for brilliant students. Indeed, the best graduating student in TASUED last year came out of this innovative funding process for indigent students. The governor’s approach has been holistic, methodical, multi-dimensional and calculated. Our public basic schools – primary and secondary schools now wear a new look with the yellow roofs revolution. More than 1200 blocks have both been rehabilitated and built. Gov. Abiodun has activated the provisions implementing the Universal Basic Education Act, as well as ensuring free education for all children in primary and junior secondary schools. The welfare of teachers is of utmost importance and being given utmost priority in order to ensure that the best brains are attracted and retained in the system. Gov. Abiodun approved and implemented career elongation of degree holders in public primary schools for teachers who had been stagnated on Grade level 14 for years. He promoted 10,000 teachers whose elevation had been delayed since 2016, employed 1,500 Basic School Teachers and the Teaching Service Commission through our OgunTeach scheme is engaging 5000 teachers. He facilitated the release of 2014-2017 UBE Matching grant to the tune of N10 billion, which translates into over 1000 education projects. These projects have two special features including yellow roof and terrazzo floor in our public primary and secondary schools. Free teaching aids are in our schools and furniture as required. He keeps expanding the capacity of and sponsored school administrators and technical education instructors abroad to enhance their performance and service delivery on the job. All the 20 LGEAs in line are now technology-driven and to teaching and learning have been digitized, so much that during COVID-19 our state was the first to introduce distance virtual learning through the Ogun Digiclass. These efforts have not gone unacknowledged. Not only was he named the Most Outstanding Education-Friendly Governor of the Year by the All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools, ANCOPSS while the National Parents Teachers Association named him as the Best Governor in Education sector. We continued to reap bountiful harvests because our learners at different levels of education have been doing us proud in Mathematics, Sciences, JETS competitions, Projects and overall best performance within the last three years, back to back – 2020 and 2022. Indeed, we have always celebrated or laureates in all spheres. For instance, the Mathematics genius, Faith Odunsi who won the Global Open Mathematics Tournament and all those laureates were hosted to encourage more outstanding scholarship among our people.
Could you please speak on his performance in the health sector? In all sincerity, does he score a credit there?
Health is under social welfare and wellbeing. So, the same rule of total, all-round development applies. We’ve attended to the health sector in terms of providing health infrastructure. In the area of health, our administration, in its first 100 days alone rehabilitated two General Hospitals, one in Abeokuta and the other in Ilaro. To operationalise what we call our hub and spoke model, we are rehabilitating and constructing primary healthcare centers across the length and breadth of the state. We’ve done about 120; our aim is to do 236, that is, at least one per ward, so that each Ogun indigene or resident can walk into a primary health care center with relative ease. We’ve also provided them with tricycle ambulances for ease of access. Today, we have about 50 ambulances in the state, including tricycle ambulances for the rural communities. When we assumed office, we only had five ambulances to a population of about six million. Ridiculous, isn’t it? But we are redressing that. We have upgraded the facilities at our General Hospitals across the State; same at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu. We have employed top-notch consultants, researchers, doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists and technologist and all cadres of medical officers. We are also partnering with the private sector and development partners to embrace our “adopt a primary health care policy” for their corporate social responsibility. We have attracted support from Czech Republic, Unilever Nigeria Plc and Lafarge Africa Plc and Abdul Samad Africa Initiative among others to bolster healthcare delivery to our people.
In the last three years we have recruited over 1000 health workers in different categories. We immunised almost 1.3 million children against polio, undertook regular medical outreaches to offer free medical examinations, including free eye glasses, immunization, blood pressure and sugar level checks, Hepatitis counselling and vaccination, and to provide life-saving interventions to 100 of thousands of women. We upgraded selected State Hospitals to provide Prevention of HIV from Mother to Child (PMTCT) and Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) services; purchased new collection of medical equipment, including a dialysis machine, mobile digital x-ray machine, high resolution ultrasound machine, new intensive care beds, scores of new ventilators, eight CPAP machines. We have also provided logistics trucks and various incentives such as enhanced wages and allowances, prompt promotion, insurance and conducive work environment. Much as it was unfortunate to be the state with the index case of COVID-19, we worked assiduously to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and won plaudits for establishing five treatment and Isolation Centres at Ikenne, Sagamu and Abeokuta. We set up a Molecular Laboratory at Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, (OOUTH) Sagamu, the first Molecular Laboratory solely funded by a state in Nigeria, a COVID-19 Drive-through and Walk-in Testing Centres equipped with a specially designed protective glass enclosure preventing medical personnel collecting samples from getting infected.
How may you describe security in Ogun State since he assumed office in the last three years plus?
He is doing his best as the chief security officer of the state. Gov. Abiodun dimensioned the nexus between unemployment and insecurity and created avenue for job creation and employment because it is only in an atmosphere of peace that all his lofty development dreams could materialize. Today, Ogun State is noted as probably the safest state in the country. The President and Commander-in-Chief said so. The Inspector General of Police and his immediate predecessors attested to that. You will recall that there were a bit of skirmishes between herders and farmers early last year. But he promptly mobilised the good people of the area and set up a committee to restore peace. The crisis was assuming ethnic colouration as fifth columnists had started asking some ethnic groups who had lived in with native inhabitants to leave. He waded in because these are third and fourth generations of settlers who ordinarily should not be bothered about their ancestral origins again. He swiftly brought the unfortunate situation under control. The same way, he dealt with the clashes, he was able to keep kidnappers who tested his will at bay and many have said that ours is the safest state in the country. It didn’t just happen: he had consciously set the template from day one. As soon as he was sworn in on May 29, 2019, he knew that as the Chief Security Officer of the state, one of the first things he immediately decided to do was to call a meeting of all our security chiefs to assess the situation on ground because the welfare of the people and their security are the major reasons we have a government on the saddle. He was amazed to find out that a security meeting of that nature had not been held three years before that day – May 30th. And at that meeting, a lot of things unfolded. How would you have development without security? It’s impossible! That meeting established the needs of security agencies and also carried out a security assessment of the state. Sequel to that, the security reports were submitted to him by all our security chiefs, and the report enumerated all that were required to keep our state secure, including how we can look after our investors and also those that have chosen our state to be their home. The meeting exposed the fact that our law enforcement agencies did not have a communication system or equipment in place in Ogun State, meaning that the Commissioner of Police could not speak with his counterparts in the military or in the Department of State Services (DSS) or even worse still, he could not speak with his Area Commanders or the DPO in any of the police stations across the state. There was hardly any functional vehicle. There were no tracking devices. There was hardly enough finance to look after the welfare of the personnel and obviously, there was hardly anything available to maintain those vehicles. So, he decided that he would do everything possible to give the needed support to the security agencies. He strengthened and repositioned our Security Trust Fund. He made it private sector-led, appointed the former Chairman of Lafarge as the Chairman of the Trust Fund. He funded it more generously with counterpart funding and provided vehicles and communication equipment for the police and other security agencies. He have relaunched OP MESA, our joint security patrol team comprising of the military, Police, Civil Defence, So-SAFE and Amotekun. The Amotekun Security corps is a security mechanism emplaced by the South Western governments to provide solution to the problems of insecurity in our respective states. Our Amotekun corps has been performing very well in conjunction with other security agencies in the State. Our Amotekun is with a difference. We are scientific in the operations of the security outfit and already the fear of Amotekun is the beginning of wisdom for criminals in the state. Led by a retired Commissioner of Police, Dave Akinremi, and with the support of men from the police, army, vigilantes and hunters, they have been suppressing and repressing criminals and bandits. They also have members of the intelligentsia working on information gathering and analysis. It will interest you to note that Prof. Wole Soyinka is a Super Marshall of our Amotekun Corps and many Kabiyesis, Baales and community leaders work with us. As we speak, we have upped the game and pushed the war to the backyard of criminals and kidnappers are apprehensive that operating in Ogun State is an unsafe business. Gov Abiodun has always been pro-active. When we came in, there were a couple of kidnapping in the state. He realised the fact that this required some emergency response. He immediately reached out to the President, because the kidnapping incident happened while he was having a retreat in Abuja. He approached and asked requested to have a helicopter so that we could respond swiftly to the cases. That afternoon, a helicopter was dispatched to the Ogun State Police Command. With the helicopter, we were able to immediately track the kidnappers and liberated the victims. That sent a clear signal and message that we have zero tolerance for crime and criminality to all those that intended to make criminality their occupation in Ogun State.
How prepared is Governor Abiodun to render account of his stewardship to Ogun people?
He is very, very prepared. There are many things to showcase.
Do you think governor Abiodun has projects to campaign on for 2023 re-election?
From what I have enumerated so far, you should know. Our goal is to put our state in the league of advanced economies and make it an investors’ destination of choice. To achieve this, we know the importance of modern day and world-class infrastructure. For this reason, we will continue to rehabilitate existing infrastructure, build new ones and also put them in a position where they will not only stand the test of the time, but serve as a catalyst for our socio-economic development. It is the desire to achieve this objective that makes us commit huge resources to the development of infrastructure while not neglecting other sectors competing for the scarce funds of the State Government.
Former governor Ibikunle Amosun threatened to ensure Abiodun does not return to Oke-Mosan; and we hear that your boss and his camp are jittery. Can you tell us the true position of things in that regard?
You know the person you are talking about is at the twilight of his political career. He has been described as someone obviously suffering from political amnesia and out-of-office loneliness. Ogun State is not anybody’s father’s inheritance. Who speaks when the Almighty has not spoken and pitching his tent against the will of the good people of Ogun State? Don’t get interested in the paranoia of a delusional outgoing senator. Ogun State is not anybody’s father’s inheritance. We are all stakeholders in this commonwealth called Ogun State. He has one vote like my great-grandmother in the village and does not even have her kind of integrity. I am not going to join issues with anyone who plays God; I will leave him to God. God can deal with whoever is challenging His authority. All I can say is that what we have a sophisticated electorate in Ogun and no one likes to change a winning team. By Sunday, March 12 next year he will encounter an epiphany and realise how wrong he is. Prince Abiodun is only committed to providing purposeful leadership and purposeful infrastructural development across the length and breadth of the state.
It is said that Governor Abiodun concentrates projects in his senatorial district; how true is that?
That is not true. The truth is that in the course of electioneering, Gov Abiodun extensive touredand saw the unsatisfactory state of our public infrastructure roads: rural and urban, water, electricity and housing. He therefore set to give succor across board. Today the stories of even development can be attested to by people from Ilaro to Ilara, Ajebo to Ajenbadele, Odeda to Odogbolu, Iwopin to Iwoye, Iperu to Ipokia, Sango- Ota to Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode to Ijoko, Igbesa to Igbogila. Our traditional rulers, market men and women, statesmen, artisans, politicians across party lines and youths have endorsed DA for his fairplay on location of projects, unlike what was witnessed in the past. Only last week, the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle appreciated his inclusiveness and even-handed development. Kabiyesi said the difference between Gov Abiodun and his predecessor is that Abiodun goes beyond foundation laying to completing and commissioning of projects. Indeed, the first roads were constructed in Ogun West at Ota. We have commissioned the Lusada – Ogun Gyandong Free Trade zone road. Even the long abandoned Attan-Lusada-Agbara and Ilaro-Owode-Yewa road are nearing completion and would be commissioned this year. There is no local government that has not felt the Governor’s Midas Touch. I recall that at the commissioning of the first phase of 130 housing units at the Prince Court Housing Estate, Kemta, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, commended Prince Dapo Abiodun for embarking on infrastructural projects capable of enhancing the even socio-economic development of the state and for his administration’s efforts to give Abeokuta a befitting status as the state capital and for not abandoning meaningful projects embarked upon but not completed by his predecessors. Alake said the new estate, apart from adding to the aesthetics of the state capital, would also go a long way in providing decent and affordable houses for residents of the city and he further scored the Abiodun-led government high in housing, health, education, agriculture, and ICT sectors as well as infrastructural development. The truth is that the construction of the Elite-Oke-Lantoro Road, which was in bad shape for years have been rebuilt. Same for Interchange-Abeokuta express road, NNPC-Kuto, Pansheke-Adigbe road, Lafenwa Rounda Road and the Fajol Gbonagun road as well as the Kemta-Somorin road are testimonies of what he’s doing in the Central. The 526 units Low and Medium Housing Scheme and the high income King’s Esate is across the Governor’s office here. We have done more roads in Ogun Central than anywhere else. The schools rehabilitated are even across the 20 LGAs and the Primary Health Centres are being done across the 236 wards. We always identify projects within our major towns and cities. We have done justice all not only the senatorial districts but we further disaggregate to the local governments, so that development can percolate down to the wards. We have always been guided by our ISEYA mantra and all we do is to give a lease of life to our people through infrastructure development, social welfare and the wellbeing of our people; education of our future leaders and youth empowerment, as well as agriculture. Our goal is to ensure food security and employment. That is everything that ISEYA encapsulates. This, to us, was very important in our quest to increase the ranking of the state on the ease of doing business index, which we have been able to successfully do. We called it changing the push factor from Lagos to what we call the pull factor. So, all these things are what made us arrive at our ISEYA pillars and our mantra is Building Our Future Together because we appreciate the fact that we can only do this by joining hands with everyone and it is only by doing that that we would be able to achieve any success.
From what you can read of the political mood of the state, how would you describe the chances of the APC in Ogun in the 2023 governorship election?
We are the party to beat. Others are like what some Olympians say they do: their essence is to participate not necessarily to win. They are welcome to fulfill their democratic right.
Are you saying you are not afraid of PDP and its governorship candidate?
Which of them now? Neither Segun Sowunmi nor Ladi Adebutu is sure of their party’s ticket. They (PDP candidates/aspirants) know in their hearts of hearts that they have no chance with the electorate.
Let us be specific; how bright are your principal’s chances in Ogun Central and Ogun West?
Very bright. From the gale of endorsements by the people across social strata and demographic blocks, you should know that the people have confidence in the leadership of Prince Dapo Abiodun. I can comfortably say that he has done very well since he came on board to justify the mandate given in 2019 and due for renewal on March 11, 2023. Across the length and breadth of the State, people are craving for his return. People still want a continuation of welfare and social security packages like the Ok’owo Dapo initiative that has empowered thousands of our womenfolk who ordinarily would not have been able to access credit to finance their small businesses. They want a continuation of enhanced individual prosperity, upgrading of social infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools, etc. Workers want their promotions unhindered by cronyism and prompt payment of their salaries. They are enjoying incentives like car loans and permanent secretaries who just got brand new official cars know that this is a promise-keeping governor and not someone who will promise to do everything but ended up doing nothing. Our people want a reassurance of being the most secure State and the digital economy infrastructure. The Adire marketers are proud of the Dapo Abiodun phenomenon and want him to continue. I can continue to reel out our successes that even our opponents with good conscience acknowledge in their private discourses. Dapo Abiodun has done well and that’s the truth.
The Governor’s kinsmen, Ladi Adebutu and Biyi Otegbeye, are contesting against him. One comes from the same local government with him and the other (Otegbeye) is from Ogun West; are you saying these men are inconsequential?
The relationship is closer. Dapo Abiodun is his (Adebutu) elder brother from the same extended family and the same town. That will make the thrashing easier to accomplish from the homestead. For Biyi Otegbeye, he has been looking for platforms since he could not beat Dapo in APC. Unfortunately, APM that lost to DA in 2019 rejected his overture to carry their flag.
How would you generally rate Abiodun’s administration on road projects specifically?
I have addressed these over and over. We have been on top of road construction across all the wards, LGAs and Senatorial Districts. Go to any LGA to fact check. We have touched 400km of roads like Obantoko road, Idi Aba- Elite-Oke Lantoro, Abeokuta; Abeokuta-Sagamu Interchange, Ikola/Navy-Osi Ota Road; Raypower Road, Ota, State Hospital, Ilaro Internal Road Network; Ota Owode-Idroko; Molipa-Fusigboye-Ojofa Street, Ijebu-Ode; Asafa Oke-Asafa Isale-Ayegun- Ojofa Street, Ijebu-Ode; Bright Fashion Baruwa Street, Sagamu; Hospital Road, Sagamu; Oba Erinwole Dual Carriageway, Oru-Awa-Alaporu-Ibadan; Adigbe Bridge, Ikoritameje-Adenrele/Olose Titun-Vespa, Ifo, Iberekodo General Hospital Internal Road, Abeokuta, Iperu Ilishan, Sagamu Iperu Ode, Siun Ogere and of course the Ijebu Ode-Mojoda-Epe border road that connects Ogun to Lagos,