By Bolu Adeosun
There are many reasons President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Nigeria’s Gateway State on Thursday is a memory to treasure. His last visit to the state, made during the 2019 campaign period, had been all but pleasant: political forces intent on foisting an unpopular candidate on the people had turned the MKO Abiola stadium into a battleground, throwing objects at the Number One citizen in a fit of comedic anger. And recently when he postponed his visit, the naysayers jubilated to no end, saying that they had aborted the visit with their influence. But Buhari’s coming proved just the opposite: he is his own man, he belongs to everybody and to nobody, and would not be railroaded into precipitate decisions. His interest is the good of the land and wherever he sees honesty, probity, transparency and accountability, that is where he goes. He attested to that much when, during the thick of the coronavirus pandemic, he turned down the request for N5 bn by the Kano State government, saying that he gave that sum to Ogun and Lagos because he saw their sincerity of purpose in tackling the scourge.
And so on Thursday, basking in the traditional warmth of the people that brought back memories of his days as a young infantry soldier, the president, who arrived at the Mojoda inauguration venue in Ijebu-Ode area at 11:37am and was received by Abiodun, governors of Yobe, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun states, among other top government officials, literally rode into the state in a blaze of joy. And he said just as much. As the chief host, Prince Dapo Abiodun, made clear, choosing the five projects the president would commission out of hundreds of projects was a herculean task. All his projects “have the inputs and are informed by the needs of the people as expressed by them at different engagement fora that we provide. This is because we anchor our “Building our Future Together” Agenda on inclusiveness, equity, fairness, transparency, accountability, justice, and obedience to the rule of law.”
The president inaugurated the Ijebu-Ode-Epe road , a strategic arterial road that links the Lekki / Epe corridor of Lagos State to the eastern corridor of Ogun State at Ijebu-Ode, provides a ready alternative to the Lagos/Ibadan expressway for those going to Lekki and adjoining areas, and which, in Governor Abiodun’s own words, is set to boost socio-economic activities in the South East and South South zones of Nigeria through the linkage of the road to Sagamu-Benin Expressway for easier access by motorists to Lagos, Nigeria’s largest economy. He commissioned the 42 km Sagamu Interchange-Abeokuta road, the main arterial road that leads to the state capital. It comes with a dual carriageway with streetlights, median and other road furniture, vastly redesigned and reconstructed to address the daily challenges being experienced by commuters, and to make commuting between the state capital and other parts of the State and, indeed, the rest of the country safe, secure and pleasant.
The president did not leave out the Gateway City Gate, an architectural masterpiece made of composite materials towering to a height of 27m and warmly welcoming visitors to the state, and neither did he fail to commission the two Housing Estates for low, medium and high income earners at Kobape and Oke-Mosan. Kobape has 300 units of one, two and three bedroom flats described as a “Smart City” where people can live, work and play, complete with solar streetlights, sewage system, primary health centre, drainage, water, electricity, tarred road and a police post. Kings Court Estate, located in Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, has CCTV cameras, perimeter fence gated with security personnel, connected drainage and interlocking complemented by uninterrupted power supply, walkways, pipe-borne water, package sewage plant and recreational parks, among other features, and completed the five wonders Buhari officially unveiled for the good of the Ogun populace. Of course, there are many projects awaiting completion, including the first phase of the Ogun State International Agro Cargo Airport at Ilishan and the Atan-LUSADA-Agbara expressway which leads to Agbara Industrial Estate, the industrial nerve center of Ogun State, Nigeria and indeed, the entire ECOWAS Sub-region.
The Ogun helmsman could not hide his joy at hosting the president: “Some naysayers had said, Mr President, that you were not going to come but I knew that you were going to come and I want to thank you personally for coming.” And Buhari, baptized with a new name, Omowale, basked in the welcome by a large crowd. “The traditional hospitality of the people of this State has not waned a bit. Today, I am “Omowale” and very happy at this homecoming to meet my brothers and sisters whose goodwill I have always enjoyed. Thank you,’’ Buhari said at the Gateway City Gate. To him, the Gateway City Gate is not just a park beautification project, but one that depicts that something new is happening in Ogun State.
He thumbed up Prince Abiodun’s delivery of visionary and trail-blazing projects for the people, even in the midst of prevailing and challenging circumstances occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the lofty projects he commissioned could not have materialised without the state government’s huge investment and commitment to security of lives and property, which he said had Ogun State one of the safest and most peaceful states in the country and investors’ destination of choice. The president was particularly impressed by the quality and standard of the road projects, and the creative way the governor had deployed resources to reconstruct and rehabilitate them. His words: ‘‘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 masterplan that connects Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital to Kano, with Ogun State having more rail stations, along the Lagos-Ibadan rail corridor.’’ The housing programme of the Ogun governor, he added, fostered inclusiveness, cutting across different social strata and capturing low, medium and high income earners.
Thrilled, the president assured that the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta and the Sango Otta-Idiroko roads would receive Federal Government attention, that the Federal Government would consider extending tax credit as funding option for the reconstruction of the roads, as done for the 100km Sagamu Interchange-Papalanto-Ilaro road, and would consider approving the reconstruction of Sagamu-Ogijo road by NNPC Ltd under the tax credit scheme. His concluding remarks will linger in memory: ‘‘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.’
’ That was spot on because, beyond these physical projects, the Ogun helsman has a series of fiscal and policy reforms, including the reinvigoration of the Security Trust Fund; establishment of Public-Private Partnership Office; the Ogun Digital Economy Infrastructure Projects, and the Ogun State Land Revenue and Management Systems (OLARMS). It is no surprise that Ogun State now ranks 4th on the scale of Ease-of-Doing-Business in Nigeria. And it’s set to become number one very soon.
*Adeosun contributes this piece through email@example.com