Our Ogun State is Bouncing Back!

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I have been watching for some years now, with keen interest, the happenings in my home state, Ogun State. 1999 marked a turning point as we witnessed a return to civil rule and fortunately, Chief Olusegun Osoba, a protégé of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo emerged as governor under the aegis of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). By this, it was apparent that the good old times had come to roost. However, after four years, the progressives, in what seemed like a civilian putsch, were swept off the government houses by the opposition party. That berthed the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). After eight years in power, the PDP, like in the other southwest states, was blown off the seat of power. The progressives returned, and in Ogun State, it was Senator Ibikunle Amosun of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), that became governor.

OGD was a very powerful governor and in the PDP circles, he was famous and influential. He had a firm grip on the state-controlled media, and his cronies in the press were numerous. His bad press later, in the twilight of his second term, did not obscure his friendship and control of the mass media. In a transformational fashion, he renamed the state TV and radio, Gateway Television and Radio, respectively. This was to reflect the motto of the state namely, the ‘Gateway State”.

OGD’s fame soared when he created ICT polytechnics in the major geo-political zones of the state, as well as upgraded the Tai Solarin College of Education to a university, renaming it Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) in the process. The argument then was that, the educational pressures and needs of Ogun State, one of the foremost educationally advanced states in Nigeria, were expanding.

Also, OGD built new stadiums in the state. These stadiums were of world standard. When Nigeria was going to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2009, the Ijebu and Sagamu stadiums were described by the soccer body as two of the best Nigeria was proposing. The Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta was also upgraded, and when Nigeria hosted and won the African Women’s Championship and WAFU Nations Cup, hosted by Ogun State, OGD became noted as “Mr. Sports.”

OGD’s use of these successes for political scores became phenomenal. The regular Saturday programme on AIT became one of the numerous channels to hype the accomplishments. While one cannot deny the fact that the governor took the initiative to bring the state to the forefront by the ‘transformations’ and changes, which are commendable; the eventual politicization of all these projects spoilt the whole thing. It now became obvious that they were smokescreens for OGD to immortalize himself more than for the good of the state. The intentions became clearer, that OGD was merely promoting his own profile. This point was particularly established by the abandonment of the basic necessities, such as schools, hospitals, water and roads.

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The inadequacies of the state medical centres were exposed to me in 2008 when I had cause to visit the OOU Teaching Hospital in Sagamu, OGD’s hometown. It was nothing to write home about. There were no beds, no places to sit, no functional emergency vans, and the staff’s attitude was horrible. In fact, we lost the person we rushed there because of the very appalling state of the facilities and doctors’ attitude.

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Ogun, once noted for its high quality of education, soon had a steady decline to a bewildered situation. The great schools of yore now have classrooms without roofs and without teachers.

The worst legacies of the past administration are the roads. They are a sham. There were simply no roads in Ogun State for eight years! From Abeokuta to Ota, Owode to Ijebu Ode, Odeda to Waterside, Ikenne to Imeko, the roads degenerated from mere pathways to deathtraps. OGD simply abandoned the people to their miserable fate. Only the major highways in Abeokuta had cosmetic rehabilitation, and that was because Abeokuta is the capital in which the governor lived.

Despite these shortcomings, OGD became a sort of god in Ogun. He was famed for confronting the most powerful, including the former President, OBJ, and some powerful monarchs, particularly the number one king in the state, Alake of Egbaland, Oba Gbadebo. He even tried to push him into the shadows of other Obas. That was preposterous, considering the legendary eminence of the Alake in Yoruba history! Also, he stood up the House of Assembly for a long time and locked it up. But for Amosun’s emergence, Isiaka, OGD’s protégé in the governorship race last year, would have perpetuated the OGD legacies.

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Going by the kind of person OGD had become in the state, one would have expected his successor to either tread softly, or ignore his past outrightly, without any reference to it. But Governor Amosun began an inquest into the eight-year reign by setting up a truth commission. Despite subtle and real protests from the OGD camp, Amosun proceeded, with the view, according to the governor, of fixing the wrongs.

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The next thing Amosun did was to embark on land reclamation and urban renewal. The dispassionate way of going about it, not minding whose ox is gored, is unprecedented. OGD became the first major casualty. The land, on which he built the Abraham Tabernacle and other private assets, was allegedly wrongfully obtained. The tabernacle was, sadly though, dismantled, and the land was reclaimed to be given back to the rightful owners.

No immediate past governor has ever suffered this kind of fate. This should serve as a lesson to other big masquerades who must always remember that power belongs to the people, ultimate power belongs to God, and that terrestrial power is transient.

Again, Amosun came up with the idea of scrapping TASUED, merging it with the state university as its College of Education, and merging the ICT polytechnics. The government rationalized this by arguing that TASUED and the ICT polytechnics had lost focus and were churning out unleavened (not to talk of half-baked) graduates.

Again, Gateway TV and Radio were once again renamed OGTV and OGBC by Amosun. Amosun reasoned that these were the names the two media bore when they were the best in Nigeria, so you do not change a good name. The Gateway name had changed nothing but confirm their deterioration into infamous pantheons and complete their decline into obscurity.

For the kind of fearsome person that OGD was, one cannot but be compelled to admire and salute Amosun for those daring steps. Not because OGD was outrightly bad (he had his brilliant sides which have been enumerated), but more because the wrongs that big and powerful men commit and go scot-free, can be queried and prosecuted. Other governors and leaders should emulate this feat and make Nigeria a better place. I must however caution that, neither Amosun nor any emulator should play politics with such acts. They should correct things not for cheap political or party interests, but in the interest of the state and people.

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