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Notes From Osun At 30, OPINION

Notes from Osun

Notes from Osun at 30,OPINION

On Thursday, September 9, I participated in a Colloquium titled “Osun at 30: Celebrating a Milestone, Building a Prosperous Future”, which as the title indicates was a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the creation of Osun State. On August 27, 1991, the Babangida administration created nine additional states: Abia, Delta, Enugu, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Osun, Taraba and Yobe, bringing the total number of states in Nigeria to 30. The states were carved out of existing states, Osun for example was part of the old Oyo State, Delta was carved out of the defunct Bendel State, Jigawa used to be part of the old Kano State, Yobe state was carved out of Borno State, Enugu State from Anambra, Taraba state from old Gongola. Kebbi from Sokoto state. Four years earlier, the same Babangida administration created two states: Akwa Ibom and Katsina.

The politics of state creation has been one of the most volatile issues at the heart of the national question in Nigeria. From Gowon who created 12 states in 1967, to General Murtala Muhammed who added seven more states in 1976, General Ibrahim Babangida who increased the number first to 21 and later 30, and General Abacha who added six more states in 1996, giving us the present 36-state structure, the argument has always been anchored on the need to bring government closer to the people at the grassroots level, address the concerns of ethnic minorities who feel marginalized or dominated by numerically stronger neighbours, promote national unity, and ensure a more equitable distribution of national resources. Today, there are still many groups demanding the creation of more states. A cost-benefit analysis shows that states creation may have created more problems than it has solved. It has heightened the politics of difference, disunity and protests about the distribution of resources and advantages. But for me the bigger challenge is the viability or non-viability of the states.

The invitation from Professor Niyi Akinnaso, the moderator of the Colloquium was accompanied with an explanatory note about objectives and expectations. The keynote speaker was identified as Chief Bisi Akande, former Governor of Osun State. Panelists, 10 in all, from the UK, USA and parts of Nigeria were asked to interrogate issues raised in the keynote address and feel free to go beyond Chief Akande’s submissions. The chair of the occasion was His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto. It all looked enticing enough more so as Professor Akinnaso made it clear that the Colloquium will be by both physical and virtual participation. I opted for the latter.

In his keynote address, Chief Bisi Akande, who had been part of the history of the development of Osun State, as a Local Government Councillor in Ila Orangun, Secretary to the Government of Old Oyo State, and as Deputy Governor of Oyo State, and later, Governor of Osun State (1999 – 2003) provided a historical background to the creation of the State. But his central argument was about the concept of “the Optimum Community”, with emphasis on people-oriented development using education: primary and secondary schools in rural and urban centres as catalysts for the creation of optimum communities, even, all-round, development within the state, and the provision of basic infrastructure: potable water supply, electricity and energy, health facilities, housing, agro-allied activities. Chief Akande’s submission was a subtle reminder of the original purpose of state creation in Nigeria as earlier defined and the imperative of people-centred development.

There were echoes in this regard of the concept of “OptiCom” developed by Professor Akin Mabogunje, Africa’s first Professor of Geography and his friend, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, the renowned economist. In the 80s, Mabogunje and Aboyade launched “The Awe Opticom Plan” in a rural community in Oyo State called Awe. Their focus was access to credit. It was an attempt by the two scholars to move beyond classroom theory to demonstrate that there is indeed a connection between theory and praxis, and between ideation, abstractions and quotidian reality. Their key message was that development energies should be redirected in a manner that would result in the empowerment of the people through decentralised governance and poverty reduction initiatives. The Awe Opticom Plan was later adopted for the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, a rural development framework established in 1986, in which Mabogunje was a major player. It also inspired the establishment of community banks by the Babangida administration. Professor Mabogunje was Executive Chairman of the National Board for Community Banks (1991 -1994). Years later, Professor Mabogunje in his autobiography, A Measure of Grace would state that he felt the Opticom development option met with “minimal success”. But the problem was not with the concept. The problem is with Nigeria itself: our tendency to politicise everything, the lack of continuity in governance, policy somersaults, and endless opportunism about the common good. Chief Bisi Akande did well to remind us all of the value of optimum development for the people’s benefit. Most of the discussants took their cue from his keynote address.

I was in no doubt that Osun State had a lot to celebrate not simply because it emerged as a state, but for its historical significance and enormous resources. Osun is the heartland of Yoruba history, the home of so many landmarks – Ile Ife, the cradle of Yoruba civilization, Osogbo, a cultural epicentre and a global destination for tourism, Ilesa, Ede, Igbajo, Oke Ila, Ila Orangun, Iree – major theatres of war in Yorubaland, especially the Kiriji War (1877 – 1893), and home of iconic legends: Timi Agbale – Olofa Ina of Ede, Ogedengbe Agbogungboro, Ogunmodede of Ilesa. Oduduwa, the eponymous progenitor of the Yoruba race is from Osun State. In more contemporary times, Osun state has also produced some of the most prominent figures in Nigeria in virtually every field of human endeavour: it is the state of Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, General Alani Akinrinade, civil war hero and pro-democracy activist, Chief Bola Ige, Orlando Owoh, Duro Ladipo, Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin, Davido, Christopher Kolade, Femi Fani-Kayode, labour leaders, the Sunmonu brothers. Stepping on every piece of land in Osun State is an imprint on the sands of history.

It is also a state rich in culture: the Osun Osogbo grove, the Erin Ijesha waterfall, the annual Olojo festival in Ile -Ife. There was so much talk about education and the development of the human potential. Osun State is where the Obafemi Awolowo University formerly University of Ife is located. Other institutions of higher learning in the state, many of which were established post-state creation in 1991 include the Osun State College of Education, Ilesa, Osun State Polytechnic, Ila Orangun, Osun State College of Technology, Esa Oke, Osun State University, Adeleke University, Ede, Bowen University, Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Oduduwa University, Redeemers University, Kings University …I pointed out that given the milestones of Osun State in the education sector and its reputation as an incubator of skilled labour, there is no reason why going forward, the state should not continue to invest in human development through education as pointed out by Chief Akande. Incidentally, while the COVID-19 pandemic raged in 2020, the first major genome sequences research in Africa was carried out at the Redeemer’s University in Ede, Osun State by a team led by Professor Christian Happi.

The Colloquium took place at a time in Nigeria when there was great “war” between states and the Federal Government over the collection of Value Added Tax. Revenue sharing has always been a problem in Nigeria. Nobody talks seriously about adding value or the value chain or a serious commitment to GDP growth at sub-national levels, the people just want to share any part of the proverbial national cake be it proceeds from crude oil sale or multiple taxation. Compared to the other states created along with it in 1991, Osun State gets a comparatively low share of Federal Revenue. Internally Generated Revenue in the state may have increased over the years, currently about N13 billion per month, owing perhaps to increased population and economic activity but whereas a State like Akwa Ibom gets more than N34.8 billion, Osun could receive something as low as N1. 7 billion due to deductions at source for inherited loans. While the controversy over fiscal federalism, restructuring and VAT rages on, I argued that there is no reason why a state like Osun, blessed with abundant natural resources should be at the mercy of the politics of the national cake. Beyond its rich agricultural space of over 9, 000 km, Osun is also rich in mineral prospecting potentials: Gold, Kaolin, Talc, Iron Ore, Columbite.

The people of Osun have “riches beneath their feet” including over 15.3 million ounces of minimum gold deposit. But all the resources beneath their feet in Atakunmosa East and West, Ife East, Ifewara, Ibodi, Iperindo have been left at the mercy of illegal and artisanal miners, I said, at great cost to the state. I was aware of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the present Adegoyega Oyetola administration in the state and a company called Badger Mines. I wanted to know the status of the MOU. I also drew attention to tourism as a major revenue earner for the state, post-COVID. The resources are available as low-hanging fruits but they have not been properly harnessed. Nigeria is one of those unlucky countries in the world where the people sit on great wealth that can transform their lives but they are happy doing nothing about it. They talk about it, they quarrel about it, but they lack the motivation to act. Governor Oyetola would be seeking a second term in office in 2022. I wanted him to pay attention to the take-aways from the Colloquium. We had very useful conversations

I had hardly signed out of the event when my phones began to ring. It was Funke Egbemode, Osun State Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation on the line. Before going to Osun to serve her state, Egbemode was Managing Director of the New Telegraph newspaper, and President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. She wanted me to join other participants at the Colloquium and some media stakeholders for a physical inspection of how Governor Oyetola was already addressing some of the concerns raised and the significant progress made. After much persuasion about the security situation in Osun State, I agreed. And so, I spent a part of the weekend in Osun State.

Very early in the morning, we joined the Governor, and some of his key staff, on a journey. I am often reluctant to praise a Governor for constructing roads for his people. It is part of his job to do so. But I saw in Osun state, an unusual level of commitment to infrastructure development. From Alekuwodo in Osogbo, to the Olaiya flyover Bridge at the centre of the town (which the Governor said was prompted by an accident scene that he witnessed and on the spot decided to address the problem), to the newly rehabilitated Osogbo- Kelebe-Iragbiji road, Ada to Igbajo, Ikirun to Eko Ende and other roads in the state, the Oyetola touch was evident. We visited the Osogbo General Hospital, now being reinvented and expanded, and primary healthcare centres across the state that have been revitalized, transformed from being abandoned units into new facilities, which are now being used for COVID-19 vaccination in the communities. The Commissioners of Works and Commerce and the Chief Press Secretary were very detailed in their explanations. We also visited the Dagbulu International Trade Centre/Customs Bonded Terminal, a dry port/free trade zone initiative by the Oyetola Government. Everywhere we went, the Governor was received by crowds chanting “Leekan si, 4 plus 4”. If that was meant to be a road show or show boating, it worked.

For me however, the high point was our visit to the Omoluabi Badger Mines Gold Buying and Refining Centre at Osu. Osu in Osun state is known for its special bean cake – Akara Osu. But today, it has been turned into a gold refinery centre by the Oyetola administration. Osun State has always been known for its vast gold deposits in the Segilola Gold mines, the Ife Schist Belt, Iperindo and the Eastern Ilesha Belt. About 25 years ago, Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola (as he then was) got 17 mining titles from the Obasanjo Federal government – 12 of which are for exploration. For 25 years, the licenses were kept in the files. One month left for the titles to expire, the Oyetola government waded into action. In 2019, it entered into a Joint Venture with Badger Mines. Twenty months later, Badger Mines working on 73 exploration belts, has found gold at between 200 – 300 metres. Badger Mines CEO and his officials took us through the gold refining process. High grade technology at work! And right there in our presence a 25 kg gold bar worth about 120, 000 dollars was produced. We asked all the necessary questions: alignment with the Federal Government, community and regulatory issues, derivation, and security for the gold refinery. I was impressed.

But I was also worried. The moment Osun State begins to talk about its gold refinery, its future elections could become war by another name. Everyone would struggle to lay their hands on the gold. Oyetola, a man of few words and a quiet mien, seemed to be more interested in development, job creation, making sure salaries are paid and his continuous affirmation that he has not borrowed a penny. We asked him to talk about his reported conflict with his predecessor and former boss, Rauf Aregbesola. He refused. He said they are brothers! Oyetola wants a second term of course. But he should be ready to put up a serious fight to achieve that 4 plus 4 ambition. You can’t build a gold refinery and expect your opponents or the Federal Government not to show interest. And that is how politics spoils everything. On our way back to Osogbo, we saw the Osogbo Steel Rolling Mill, now in a decrepit state, overgrown with weeds. We also saw the Nigeria Machine Tools – now a shadow of its former self. The Gold refinery was an indication of new possibilities and a statement about the future of Osun State, but the once flourishing industrial efforts now in ruins are painful reminders of the past.

On my way back to Lagos, I could not but get upset seeing the poor state of the Ibadan-Ife road, a Federal Government road leading to the heartland of the South West, in such terrible condition.

AUTHOR: Reuben Abati

Development

Governor Abiodun Meets Tinubu, Commends President for Honouring Awujale With GCON

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu receives Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State at the Presidential Villa, Abuja

Ogun State Governor Prince Dapo Abiodun has expressed gratitude to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for conferring the highest honour in the land, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on the Awujale of
Ijebuland, Alaiyeluwa Oba (Dr) Sikiru Kayode Adetona.

Prince Abiodun, who visited the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday evening, also commended the President for directing the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, Jos, to take over the operations and management of the Sikiru Adetona School of Governance at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye.

Governor Abiodun also spoke on the commitment of his administration to the ‘Renewed Hope’ vision of the Tinubu-led administration to ensure a better Nigeria.

Prince Abiodun said: “I had the honour of meeting with our dear President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, to express my deepest appreciation on behalf of Kabiyesi, the Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland, and the government and good people of Ogun State.

“I conveyed our gratitude for the honour accorded to His Royal Majesty by the high-powered Federal delegation that attended the commissioning ceremony of the Sikiru Adetona School of Governance at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, in celebration of the 90th birthday and 64th coronation anniversary of His Royal Majesty, Alayeluwa, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona, GCON, Ogbagba II, the Awujale, and Paramount Ruler of Ijebuland.

“During the meeting, I thanked His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, for the presence of His Excellency, Senator Kashim Shettima, GCON, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, CFR, at the event, which added grandeur and importance to the occasion.

“Of particular significance was the announcement made by His Excellency regarding the conferment of the National Honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on Kabiyesi, the Awujale of Ijebuland, and the directive for the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, Jos, to take over the operations and management of the Sikiru Adetona School of Governance. We expressed our appreciation and humility for His Excellency’s display of magnanimity with this announcement.

“I highlighted the kind remarks and encomiums showered on His Royal Majesty in a tribute letter addressed to Kabiyesi by His Excellency, which were indeed heartwarming.

“As Governor of Ogun State, I reaffirmed our commitment to aligning with His Excellency’s Renewed Hope vision for a better Nigeria, as evidenced in his socio-economic transformative initiatives and policies aimed at putting our nation on a sound footing.”

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Development

Abiodun Seeks Collaboration Between Royal British Architects and Ogun Tertiary Institutions

L-R: Mother of the President, Royal Institute of British Architect, Mrs. Laura Oki; President, Royal Institute of British Architect, Arc. Muyiwa Oki; Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun; Muyiwa Oki's father, Prof Makanjuola Oki, and the President, Nigeria Institute of Architect, Mrs. Mobolaji Adeniyi, during a courtesy call on the governor by President, Royal Institute of British Architect on Tuesday.

Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun has solicited for collaboration between the Royal Institute of British Architects and tertiary institutions in Ogun State, offering architecture as a course of study.

The governor also challenged the Nigerians Institute of Architecture (NIA) to design a competition that would inspire architecture students in the country to sharpen their skills and come up with masterpieces for the development of the country.

Governor Abiodun spoke on Tuesday when he played host to the President of the Royal Institute of British Architect, Mr. Muyiwa Oki, in his office at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.

Muyiwa Oki is a Nigerian-born British architect who, on September 2023, emerged the 80th President of the Royal Institute of British Architect, thus becoming the youngest and first black president at the age of 32.

The governor, who described Mr. Oki’s feat as uncommon, having defied all odds to become the first black man to lead the institute, urged him to ensure the felicitation of such collaboration in such areas as research and development.

He said: “We believe that through your office, you should support your home State (Ogun). We have in some of our tertiary institutions Department of Architecture and I believe that a collaboration with you and your office in terms of research into how to build more sustainable and affordable housing units will go a long way.”

The governor said that his administration has constructed about 3,500 affordable houses at Kobape, a suburb of Abeokuta and turned the area into a bubbling town, noting that similar projects have been executed in Sagamu, Ota, Ilaro and Ijebu-Ode.

“We have done this believing that beyond making people landlords, we look at the entire value-chain, the entire eco-system which starts with architecture that design our sustainable and affordable housing but also the workers in terms of the artisans, bricklayers, carpenters, painters, among others and this created jobs for the people,” he said.

The governor noted that his administration is embarking on renewal through the Urban Renewal and Rejuvenation Process across the state, beginning with old Abeokuta housing scheme, saying new and more sustainable housing projects are being put in place in conjunction with the United Kingdom Development Office.

While commending Mr. Muyiwa Oki for making the state and country, Nigeria proud, Governor Abiodun said: “We consider this your elevation as something that we can benefit from. The kind of synergy can exist between you, the organization you represent, the position you hold, and your home state. You have distinguished yourself in your chosen career.”

Earlier in his remarks, Muyiwa Oki commended Governor Abiodun for giving him an audience, even as said that he has lined up three areas of interest to address as the president of the institute

Mr Oki stated that he would use his new office to promote the importance of architecture as a profession that plays a major role in the lives of the people; address the challenges created by climate change and promote unity in diversity being the first black man to attain such a position in the history of the institute.

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Development

80% of Lekki buildings have no approval, says Lagos Govt

Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr Oluyinka Olumide, stated that 80 per cent of buildings in Ibeju Lekki have no approval.

He disclosed this in a recent interview with newsmen.

He said, “Just last week Thursday and Friday, myself and the team were in the Ibeju Lekki and Epe axis and you would agree with me that anybody passing through that corridor would see a lot of estates marked. We went there, and I can tell you that from what we saw, over 80 per cent of them do not have approval.

“The procedure to get approval is first to get the planning information, as to what those areas have been zoned for. In this case, what we have is agricultural land, and people now go to their families to buy agricultural land. Of course, those lands would be sold because those families do not know the use such land would be put to.

“The next thing to do is the fence permit. If you missed the earlier information on not knowing the area zoning, at the point of getting the fence permit, you would be able to detect what the area is zoned for. After that, the layout permits a large expense of land follows.”

Olumide noted that a layout permit cannot be obtained if it is not zoned for the purpose it was designed for or for the purpose it was being requested.

“So, you can see all these layers, but people still go ahead to start advertising. Some have even gone to the extent of displaying the sizes they want to sell. Imagine someone in the diaspora who wants to send money without any knowledge. Then, no approval is eventually gotten. Even if they pass the assignment and the survey to them, we would not grant the individual permit, because that area is not zoned for that purpose,” the commissioner explained.

In the same vein, the Chief Executive Officer of Octo5 Holdings, Jide Odusolu, said Lekki Peninsula’s masterplan got distorted post-2010 due to rapid development, with newer estates sidestepping old regulations.

He said, “The Lekki peninsula had a master plan which was originally launched when Bola Tinubu was the governor and updated under Babatunde Fashola. Almost all large estates along the Lekki corridor, especially those developed between 2000-2008, have approved layout plans. It was obligatory and rigidly enforced by the state government.

“However, starting in 2010, the plans became distorted with accelerated development, and many of the smaller schemes that sprung up deliberately sought to avoid the large infrastructure burdens carried by the legacy era developments.

“I am sure investigations with developers such as UPDC (Pinnock Beach), Trojan Estate, Aircom (Northern Foreshore), Cityscape (Buenavista), Howard Roarks (Lake View) and Octo5 (Ocean Bay) will reveal how they all spent huge sums providing infrastructure with zero support from the government while still paying punitive taxes.”

According to Odusolu, the government weaponised planning and titling for internally generated revenue, and that disincentivises compliance, leading to chaotic development.

Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Fame at Oyster & Co. Nigeria, Femi Oyedele, said most of the estates had layout plans that were not coordinated to form a planned city.

He noted that the communities that were not planned were the historic settlements that the government excised in the scheme.

“To do Lekki better, those estates which have been approved on the west and east arterial roads, which go down to Awoyaya on the east side and to Akodo on the west side of Lekki-Epe Expressway, must be demolished to make way for the planned roads.

“The kind of restoration done to Abuja by Nasir El’Rufai must be done in Lekki. Lekki Peninsular and Victoria Island have a population of over 3 million people. Glasgow has a population of less than 2 million people with twice the roads of Lekki Peninsula,” he enunciated.

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