PDA: ONE YEAR AFTER, WHAT NEXT?

ABIOLA TAIWO SOLAGBADE

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May 29, 2020 marked 21 years of uninterrupted democratic rule in Nigeria. It also,marked five years of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration at the Federal Level of government under President Muhammadu Buhari. Equally, all first time governors inaugurated on that date last year, marked their first year in office.
But, in Ogun State, it was a double celebration, though without funfair. Governor Dapo Abiodun’s first year in office conncided with his Diamond Jubilee on earth. For most of that day, sponsored well wishers’ messages dominated the air on both state owned (OGBC 2 FM radio), privately-owned radio stations, as well as the state owned television, OGTV, the acclaimed peoples telly. Messages from friends and political associates; chieftains of the APC; members of the state executive; political appointees; heads of ministries, parastatals and agencies in the gateway state, trade associations, captains of industries and even traditional rulers literarily fought for prime time to be aired and caught the celebrator’s attention. The sequence at which the commercials (sponsored congratulatory messages on radio and television) ran back-to-back throughout the broadcast hours, particularly on the two state owned broadcast stations, will make one envy Prince Abiodun. Nevertheless, it is habitual of politicians. They celebrate to high heavens, these they eat from. Not all those messages were heart-rooted. Just “long may king reign “on the tongue. Ask all the ex-this, ex-that. They now know better.
In fairness to him, PDA has been humble in celebration, even as congratulatory messages kept pouring in from the known, unknown and unexpected quarters. The Iperu-Remo prince described the period, considering the pandemic COVID 19, as a time for sober reflection during which thanks should be given to God for His kindness. However, PDA stirred the hornet nest when he noted that “the devil manned a road block on our way to victory last year”, as it generated diverse reactions. The governor’s handlers insisted that the comment was one of the generalisation of attributing challenges faced by people of faith, especially Christians and Muslims, to the handwork of the devil. Still, some observers of political events in the state held the views that the comment, by governor Abiodun, may be alluding to the activities of the immediate past governor and senator representing Ogun Central Senatorial District, Ibikunle Amosun, and his supporters in the APC in the build-up to the 2019 general elections which culminated in majority of the ex-governor’s followers defecting to the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) on which platform most of them, earlier deprived the APC tickets to contest elective positions, including Hon. Abdulkabir Adekunle Akinlade, the governorship candidate, went ahead to contest the elections in the state. Whatever happened before and during the last general elections are better confined to the annals of political history in the state.
In the preparation for the first year in office of the current administration in the state, the unforeseen and unavoidable occurred. Not peculiar to Ogun State or Nigeria, but a global health challenge. The pandemic Coronavirus broke in Wuhan, Republic of China. On February 27, 2020 the first index case in Nigeria was detected on Thursday, February 27, 2020 through an Italian working in a cement factory in the Ewekoro Local Government Area of the state. He was said to have started his journey from Milan on Monday, February 24 and transited through Istanbul, via a Turkish airline and arrived in Lagos on Tuesday night of February 25 2020 and spent the night in an hotel near the airport before he came down to Ogun State. That was the traceable genesis of the novel pandemic in the country. Since then, it has continued to spread like harmattan fire. Already, thousands, of people have been infected, with over several other thousands of people treated and discharged, with over 700 deaths recorded as a result of the ravaging disease. The number of people infected with the pandemic in the gateway state was close to 700 as at the time we went to press.
Now that the pandemic has become part of our day-to-day activities, it is futile to dissipate energy on what the government, at any level, did or failed to do to alleviate the suffering of the people during the compulsory lockdown slammed on them as part of measures to flatten the curve of the pandemic. Before the pandemic broke, electorate in the gateway state were agitated. They wanted to see what projects the PDA administration would inaugurate to signpost its one year in office. Earlier, Abiodun had promised to renovate at least one primary school and one primary health centre in each of the 236 wards across the state. The government, later, stated that those promises could not be fulfilled again in the face of dwindling revenue in the coffers of the state government. Eventually, one block of classrooms and one primary health centre were renovated, wearing yellow roofing as the symbolic touch of the PDA government in each of the statutory 20 local government areas of the state. One hopes PDA government will honour the earlier promise when the economy of the state improves. Equally, the current administration has embarked on reconstruction of some roads across the three senatorial district of the state. However, pundits condemned the “touch and go (afowo ba file) “style of PDA government which started the road, projects and abandoned some of them halfway. Of note is the Salam Kaola/Elite Idi-Aba road which residents had expected would be completed and commissioned to mark his one year in office, which is now a disaster in the waiting. We can only pray there would not be heavy rain until Ogun State Public Works Agency (OPWA) returns to sites. Again, the Abeokuta, Siun/Interchange expressway which the PDA government planned to re-asphalt is now a nightmare. The existing asphalt surface was scraped to allow for resurfacing, thereby reducing the road to one lane haphazardly. This has been causing auto accidents almost on daily basis, involving drivers who are not conversant with the new development. The OPWA sees no urgency in the completion of that project, even as lives are lost on daily basis as a result of their lackadaisical attitude. It is expected that these road projects, including the Ijebu-Ode/Epe road, will be completed in record time for safety and benefit of road users in the areas. Still, the PDA administration announced its resolve to complete all ongoing road projects and overhead bridges of the immediate past government. This is highly commendable. Now, the flyover at Kuto in Abeokuta has been asphalted, but the roads on its sides are yet to be touched. The road projects which PDA noted had been truly paid for, should be delivered with despatch as any further delay would make life more miserable for motorists and other road users who ply those roads even as we approach the months of heavy rains.
The decision of the PDA government to complete his predecessor’s projects has been commended as this will resolve the political row between the camps of the two political gladiators, PDA and SIA. By choosing to complete SIA’s projects will ensure that tax-payers’ money did not go down the drain.
Although, the governor has been acknowledged as a silent worker, he has to be consistent, in order for much to be achieved for the benefit of the electorate. As things stand, the revenue and expenditure of the gateway state has been shrouded in mystery since PDA assumed office as governor. It is on record that the governor was quoted to have said he borrowed N7 billion from friends and banks to offset workers’ salaries and other immediate expenditures to put the state back on stable economic pedestal.. Till now, the government has not deemed it fit to explain how the loan was spent or whether it has been paid back. Instead of probing that transaction, or the $250 million loan processed by the SIA administration and paid to the current administration, the Ogun State House of Assembly has approved another N250 billion loan bond in anticipation of the post COVID 19 economic challenges. It is important for this administration to understand that when roasting groundnut for the blind, there is need to whistle non-stop. The monies, by whatever means they are generated, are people’s money, and they should know how they are spent.
Furthermore, giving the secrecy surrounding the finances of the PDA government, it is extremely difficult to rate it in terms of fulfilment of electioneering promises. Those who follow political trends in the state hold that periodic town hall meeting where the electorate will be availed information about the activities of the government and how much of the tax payers money are going into it becomes imperative. This will build trust and confidence in the relationship of the government and the electorate. PDA should do more. He needs to be seen and heard, not only on radio, television or newspaper. Unscheduled appearance at sites of ongoing projects will help to fast track delivery of equality service that will stand test of time. It is hoped that PDA will be right, just, fair and equitable in the distribution of dividends of democracy to the electorate in the three senatorial districts.
At this junction, the need to acknowledge the exemplary activities of some members of the state executive who believe in the mantra “Idagbasoke Ipinle Ogun state, ajose wa ni” and are delivering in their respective capacity. Dr. (Mrs) Tomi Coker, Commissioner for Health, has shown bravery and professionalism in the confrontal steps taken in the ongoing fight against COVID 19, as well as the renovation and provision of equipment to health facilities. Dr . Adeola Odedina; Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, has also proven those who thought his academic status and body size may prevent him from being available and accessible to the farmers. Nay. He was always at all events and farm settlements to assure the farmers in the three senatorial district resolve to make the state self-reliant in food production and making agriculture sustainable source of revenue. This is commendable. The Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Abiodun Abudu Balogun seems to have woken up from slumber. Nevertheless, he needs to do more.
Another measure of the PDA government worthy of mention, is the unbundling of the ministry of education. Now, there are separate departments for primary Education; Secondary and Technical Education and Tertiary Education. Experts in the sector are of the opinion that this measure will make administration of education in the state more effective and efficient. It is important to remind the ministry of the need to revisit the immediate past administrations technological advancement project in partnership with Japan at the Technical College, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta. The equipment and human capital already invested on the programme should not be allowed to waste. Instead, it should be annexed for the development of the state as part of the tech-hub scheme of the PDA government.
In conclusion, PDA’s remaining three years should focus on delivery of people-oriented projects, programmes and policies that will build human capital and liberate more electorate in the state from the shackles of adversity. He should consider, as priority projects, completion of the Lafenwa/Ayetoro/Rounder road ; as well as facilitate the completion of the Abeokuta/Sango Expressway by the Federal Government. The promise of zero-tolerance for pothole should manifest, even at the junction to the Government House, Oke- Igbein. Definately, the completion of the Kuto, Mokola/ Adatan and Adigbe roads will endear the government to thousands of the electorate. It is our prayer that the gateway state will continue to attain enviable heights under Prince Dapo Abiodun’s watch.

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