By Tunde Oladunjoye
Not a few people doubted whether President Muhammadu Buhari would visit Ogun State as expected last Thursday, though the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, and his team continued in feverish pace the last-minute preparations to receive the President.
The air of doubt arose from the fact that the presidential visit had earlier been cancelled a day before the scheduled visit as a result of a clash with other presidential schedules. Pronto, the Secretary to Ogun State Government, Mr. Tokunbo Talabi, issued a statement wherein he apologised for all inconveniences arising from the cancellation and assured that a new date would be announced soon.
The press release, signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, titled “President Buhari to commission landmark projects in Ogun State”, confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari will undertake a one-day official visit to Ogun State on Thursday, January 13, 2022, to commission landmark projects undertaken by the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
“The President will commission the 42km Sagamu Interchange – Abeokuta dual carriageway, the new Kobape Housing Estate, located on the Sagamu – Abeokuta Interchange, and the first phase of Kings Court Estate, Abeokuta, developed by the Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation (OPIC). President Buhari, who will use the opportunity of his State visit to interact with some stakeholders, will return to Abuja the same day”, Adesina said.
The presidential statement became the needed elixir, for party leaders and members of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to finalise plans to give Mr. President a rousing welcome to Ogun State, a state President Buhari has always described as his second state because of his stay at Lafenwa Barracks, Abeokuta, during the early period of his military career.
Last Thursday, all roads led to the Ogun State end of the 14-kilometre-long Ijebu-Ode–Epe Road, constructed by the Dapo Abiodun Administration. The party members, in their thousands, trooped out in large numbers as early as 7am, adorned in different shades of Adire and Ankara attires, in different styles, but with a touch of yellow.
The yellow colour, which is among the official colours of Ogun State, is synonymous signature-colour of the Governor Dapo Abiodun-led Administration and this is evident on all the projects of the present government. The security operatives had a hectic time controlling the enthusiastic crowd.
President Muhammadu Buhari was welcomed with a thunderous ovation and shouts of “Sai Baba! Sai Baba!” and “DA Continuity”, as he arrived the commissioning venue of the 14-kilometre newly constructed Ijebu-Ode – Mojoda- Epe Highway in company of the host Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
On the entourage of Mr. President were the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu, APC National Caretaker Chairman and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, among other top personalities, top government functionaries and many others.
The royal fathers from the Ijebu axis, under the auspices of the Ijebu Traditional Council (ITC), were led to the epoch event by Kabiyesi Alayeluwa, Oba Yinusa Adekoya, the Dagburewe of Idowa, who stood in for the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona.
Also present were former and serving members of the National Assembly, members of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Local Government Council Chairmen, Party Chairmen, market women, students and many more.
President Buhari wasted no time at all, as he proceeded straight to cut the tapes to commission the road and thereafter led the dignitaries to Sagamu Interchange.
At the Gateway City Gate, even a more tumultuous crowd welcomed President Buhari and his entourage as it turned from a carnival to a festival. On arrival, Mr. President led dignitaries to move round the City Gate to feel and admire the ambience and splendour of the iconic tourist centre situated at the Roundabout that connects the three senatorial zones of the Gateway State, namely Ogun East, Ogun West and Ogun Central.
The Gateway City Gate could be rightly described as the heart of Ogun State and its outpouring infrastructures with beautiful embrace of nature. It was a beauty to behold. It is a place that tourists and lovers alike would not be in a hurry to depart from.
It was at the Gateway City Gate that President Buhari paused briefly to interact with stakeholders of Ogun State before proceeding to cut the tapes to open the reconstructed Sagamu-Abeokuta Expressway, which has been renamed President Muhammadu Buhari Way; the Kobape Housing Estate and the luxurious Prince Court Estate in Abeokuta.
Admiring the Gateway City Gate Project, President Buhari remarked that: ‘‘It is not just a Park beautification project. It depicts that something new is happening in Ogun State, a welcoming entrance into the State Capital at the centre point of the State.’’
He added that the project was also an icon depicting the joining of hands for building the future of Ogun State in togetherness.
It was a very elated President Buhari that addressed the people of Ogun State while also using the occasion to pour deserved encomiums on Governor Dapo Abiodun, for delivering visionary and trail-blazing projects for the people, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Describing Abiodun as the ‘‘performing Governor of Nigeria’s Gateway State,’’ the President said he is a worthy example of ‘‘promises made, promises kept.’’
The President noted that the lofty projects: the Gateway City Gate; the 42-Kilometre Sagamu Interchange-Abeokuta Road; the 14km Ijebu-Ode-Epe Expressway and two Housing Estates for low, medium and high income earners at Kobape and Oke-Mosan in Abeokuta, respectively, “could not have materialised without the State government’s 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 (Prince Abiodun) have justified the mandate of the people of Ogun State. You have represented our Party very well,’’ the President said.
The President expressed delight that the 14km Ijebu Ode-Mojoda-Epe Road, he earlier commissioned that day, was reconstructed into a modern expressway by the State government. He posited rightly that the road would complement the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Sagamu-Benin Expressway that the Federal Government is currently reconstructing and which will be commissioned this year.
Mr. President added: “Just across the road is the 42-kilometer Sagamu-Interchange-Abeokuta Road which the state Government has reconstructed and equipped with street lights.That road enjoys a direct linkage with the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway that the Federal Government is rebuilding and due for completion later this year.
‘‘I am particularly impressed by the quality and standard of your road projects, and the creative way you have deployed resources to reconstruct and rehabilitate them. It is significant to note that the two road projects being commissioned today are federal roads. This is an example of constructive engagement, cooperation and collaboration between the States and Federal Government.
‘‘These roads also fit well into our rail transportation master plan that connects Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital to Kano, with Ogun State having more rail stations, along the Lagos-Ibadan rail corridor.’’
On the housing programme of the Ogun Governor, the President commended its inclusiveness, saying it is equally heart-warming that it cuts across different social strata, capturing the low, medium and high income earners.
‘‘Your Excellency, well done! 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.’’
The State Governor, not wanting to miss the opportunity of the August visit in the month of January, urged the President to accord Ogun State a special status and also give priority to the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta and the Sango-Otta-Idiroko roads respectively.
Responding, the President assured the people of Ogun State that these roads will receive Federal Government’s attention. He announced that the Federal Government would consider extending tax credit, as funding option, for the reconstruction of these roads, as done for the 100km Sagamu Interchange-Papalanto-Ilaro Road.
Similarly, the President promised to consider the approval of the reconstruction of Sagamu-Ogijo Road by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited under the tax credit scheme.
The President thanked the residents of the State for the warm reception accorded him and his entourage in the Gateway State, which was his first visit to any State in the New Year.
‘‘This welcome by the large crowd brings back the nostalgia of my first arrival on this soil as a young infantry officer in the Nigerian Army at the then Lafenwa Barracks in Abeokuta, not long after independence. The traditional hospitality of the people of this State has not waned a bit. Today, I am “Omowale” (which literally means a child who returned home) and very happy at this homecoming to meet my brothers and sisters whose goodwill I have always enjoyed. Thank you.’’
He also congratulated the people of Ogun State for having such a “focused, deliberate and inclusive Administration under the watch of Prince Abiodun”, urging them to continue to support the governor for the successful implementation of the “Building our Future Together” Agenda of his Administration.
‘‘The reward for success is more hardwork 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.’’
Governor Dapo Abiodun then presented a big symbolic key to President Buhari, bestowing on him the ‘‘honourary indigeneship’’ of Ogun, and for which the President was very happy.
An elated President Buhari enthused: ‘‘It is also with a sense of responsibility that I receive and cherish the honourary indigeneship bestowed on me as symbolized by the presentation of the key to the Gateway State by Governor Abiodun. I will leave Ogun State with fond memories and look forward to enjoying the privilege of my honourary indigeneship.”
President Buhari did not end his speech without canvassing support for Governor Abiodun.
He said: “I congratulate the people of Ogun State for having such a focused, inclusive and deliberate Administration under the watch of His Excellency, Prince Dapo Abiodun. I enjoin you to continue to support him for the successful implement of the Building Our Future Together Agenda of his Administration. Your support is required to ensure more delivery of projects that will ensure social and economic development of the State and individual prosperity of the citizenry.”
The Chairman’s of Ogun State Council of Obas, who is also the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Adewale Ajayi, who spoke on behalf of all the Royal fathers in Ogun State, thanked the President profusely for the visit.
The royal father did not fail to pour royal blessings on the presidential endorsement of Prince Dapo Abiodun.
The Akarigbo said: “Your Excellency, Mr. President, we want to assure you that Ogun State is in good and indeed safe hands of our son. This is a man that is just, a man that is fair, a man that is credible. I am bold to say that the development in Ogun State (during the current Administration ) is unprecedented.”
It was indeed a glorious day. For about the eight hours or so that Mr. President spent in the state, the good people of Ogun State knew that we had an August visitor. From Ogun East to Central and West, everywhere had the feelings and trappings of a carnival, nay festival, with people adorning either the yellow or blue adire and caps to match. They sang, danced and leapt for joy, not just for the landmark projects that were being commissioned but also the peace, security and tranquility that pervaded the Gateway State.
Many recalled with nostalgia how tortuous the journey to Oke-Mosan was for Governor Dapo Abiodun. Fortuitously, some of those who said “nay” were among the people who joined Governor Abiodun and other well-meaning citizens of Ogun State to welcome Mr. President. They witnessed the commissioning of the landmark projects by the President even when some of their hirelings had gone to town with rumour that the President would not honour the state’s invitation. For a moment, one wondered what would be going on in their minds as the President not only came and commissioned landmark projects but capped it all with uncommon commendations and endorsement for Governor Dapo Abiodun for a job well done – for the people and posterity.