Two years and seven months after his last visit, President Muhammadu Buhari is set to embark on an official visit to Ogun State come Tuesday 21st December, 2021. The last time the president paid a visit to the Gateway State, his host and then governor of the state, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun, practically staged a presidential visit four days to the termination of his administration to save face and downplay the series of humiliation and embarrassment he had suffered.
In the then governor’s condescending idea, President Buhari arrived Abeokuta, the state capital, on May 25, 2019 “to inaugurate some developmental projects” executed by his administration.
So, what were the “projects” the president came to Abeokuta to inaugurate 96 hours to the end of Amosun’s government? The president was taken to inspect, rather than commission, a white elephant 250-bed hospital which had barely got off the ground. Buhari was also taken to a fictitious housing estate cleverly named after him but which, in reality, was nothing but an acquired piece of land. Amosun even broadcast from an “ultra-modern” Ogun Sate Television (OGTV) studio newly set up, except that there was no ultra-modern studio anywhere. Like Gen Z will like to put it, Amosun was referring to an “audio” studio!
Interestingly, suspicious timing and deceitful projects were not the only highlights of the president’s visit to Amosun’s Ogun. There was the reprehensible event which happened at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta, three months before. On February 11, 2019, the president’s campaign train stopped at Abeokuta and just as the All Progressives Congress (APC) Party’s flag bearer for the governorship election – Prince Dapo Abiodun – was being symbolically handed the party’s flag, hundreds of hoodlums belonging to the makeshift political vehicle, Allied Peoples Movement (APM), infiltrated the venue and started throwing stones and other dangerous objects onto the podium. One of the objects flew in the direction where President Buhari was sitting and he was only saved by one of his security operatives who took the hit for him.
For context, APM was the party Amosun’s allies who lost out in APC primaries ran to and were being backed by the former governor who, ironically, was a senatorial candidate of the APC he deceitfully led his blind flock away from.
Two years and 10 months after that forgettable chain of events, Mr President is returning to a very different Ogun State. In less than three years, Ogun people have put their past behind them and are now building their future together. This state visit is a stark contrast to the previous disastrous and lackluster two for many reasons. This time, Buhari has not been invited all the way from Abuja to commission ghost or stillborn projects. The president has not been hurriedly invited to shield humiliation or to prove political relevance. And on the streets of Abeokuta and beyond, this time, the president has not been invited only to be pelted with stones by goons of the same fellow whose seemingly highest badge of honour is a parasitic and unfaithful relationship with the president!
At least five existent and completed projects embarked upon by Governor Dapo Abiodun will be commissioned by President Buhari. These are not just projects carried out for the sake of cutting ribbons with scissors; they are projects tied to the developmental philosophy of the Abiodun administration captured under the ISEYA (Infrastructure; Social Development and Wellbeing; Education; Youth Development and Agriculture and Food Security) mantra.
For instance, Mr President will have the honour of commissioning the 14km Ijebu Ode-Mojoda-Epe Road, which was completed in record time. Work on the road commenced in February 2020 and completion date was set at November 2022. But the economic importance of the road, which connects Ogun to the fast-growing Epe-Lekki axis of Lagos, meant that speed was added to its expediency. Now completed and dualised, over 30 communities have been reconnected and economic development boosted. Potential for investment and industrialisation has also been enhanced with the completion of the project.
Road users and residents of the state can barely hide their happiness and appreciation, as evident in the words of former Ogun State Chairman of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Engr Ahmed Apampa: “I have no doubt that the Ijebu Ode-Epe road will contribute to the economic development of our dear state. The governor has done beautifully well in turning the state to the economic hub of the country, especially through infrastructural development.” Head of the Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN), Engr. Mutiu Odesanya, also attested to the quality of work done on the road. “I want to commend the governor for not compromising quality in the projects being carried out in the state. We at COREN want to encourage the government on constant maintenance, because this Ijebu Ode-Epe expressway is second to none,” he said.
Another project Buhari is expected to commission is the 42km Sagamu Interchange – Abeokuta dual carriageway. The interchange is both symbolic and significant, being the gateway to the capital of the Gateway State and stretching through critical business and residential districts. After years of literally scratching the surface of the road in the name of rehabilitation, a proper and absolute rehabilitation has led to increase in both industrial and residential urbanisation of that corridor. What’s more, the road is the site for the first phase of the “Let There Be Light” project, which is aimed at lighting up all major roads in the state.
Chairman of Obafemi/Owode LGA, Adesina Ogunsola, whose local government falls within the 42km stretch of the interchange, was upbeat about the benefits of the rehabilitation of the road. “The completion of the interchange will bring positive development to the local government and state in general. I believe that the local government has a lot of benefits from the completion of this project. This is a right step in the right direction, especially with the investment drive of the Abiodun administration.”
Strategically, a new Kobape Housing Estate, located along the Sagamu Abeokuta Interchange, has been constructed by the administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun under the Affordable Housing Scheme to further open up the Abeokuta outskirts of the road. Constructed in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Future City Project, the Kobape Housing Estate is a deliberate effort to ease housing deficit in Abeokuta by opening up new ‘Greater Abeokuta’ districts. The first phase of its already subscribed 300 housing units will be commissioned by the president, while work on the second phase, comprising 226 housing units will commence in earnest.
An excited Olu of Owode Oba Kolawole Sowemimo said Governor Abiodun has shown how to creatively manage resources and diversity. “He is the archetypal creative manager and purveyor of new development. I consider myself the luckiest traditional ruler on this State visit because three of the five projects to be commissioned– Kobape Housing Estate, Sagamu Interchange and the Gateway City Gate – are within our community here. Governor Abiodun is not isolating Egba from Ijebu or Remo from Yewa. He is everybody’s Governor.”
During his visit, the president will also commission the first phase of Kings Court Estate, developed by the Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation (OPIC). The estate is an upscale housing facility located at the highbrow Oke-Mosan area of Abeokuta targeted at creating a conducive living environment for would-be investors and upwardly mobile residents as part of efforts to scale up ease of doing business in the state. The Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, said about the estate and other housing projects completed and ongoing in the state: “The construction of Kings Court Estate in Ogun State demonstrates the commitment of this government to bridging the housing deficit gap we are having in Nigeria. I am happy that within two years, this government has been able to deliver on housing. What OPIC has done is very good.” Former President Olusagun Obasanjo captured the essence of the project when he stated that, “I am delighted at the quality of construction here. Indeed, this is the Banana Island of Ogun State!”
President Buhari’s busy state visit to Ogun will continue with the commissioning of the Gateway City Gate, a park and garden monument which welcomes and bids farewell to residents and visitors, while also serving as a recreational rendezvous with aesthetic and environmental values.
Although these and other projects cutting across all the 236 wards that are people-centred and are as a result of a developmental template the governor reeled out on May 29, 2019, there is no doubt whatsoever that commissioning them in a secure environment with cheers from the pleased people of Ogun, who have joined hands with Prince Abiodun to collectively build their future, will serve as a restorative balm which will soothe President Buhari’s memories of his last two horrendous and lackluster visits!
Ogun State could even show President Buhari more projects to be commissioned, if he had more time. That would have convinced him that raising Prince Abiodun’s hand on February 11, 2019 was more than a political ritual, it was a gesture that cynics has come to accept as a desideratum and that so much can be achieved within two years after close to nothing was achieved in the preceding eight years by the same party in the Gateway State.
The president might even have a reason to visit again anytime soon to commission more groundbreaking projects which have reached advanced stages of construction, such as the agro-cargo airport, Ilishan-Remo and the Attan-Lusada Agbara road which leads to West Africa’s largest industrial hub.
Certainly, by the time President Muhammadu Buhari exits the Gateway City Gate after his visit to the new Ogun State, his impression about its condition, people and leadership would neither be nightmarish like in February 2019, nor uneventful like in May 2019.
“This piece was written before the postponement of the state visit”
Kunle Somorin is the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media