Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Just about a week ago, the atmosphere in Ondo state was delicately electric with political rallies and activities. The customary music and good-natured banter on the airwaves were drowned in the din of political jingles and advertisements from political parties promising the people of Ondo state a better deal. The vitriolic attacks and counter attacks saturated the environment, affected relationships and created palpable tension in the land. The quixotic peace that we knew was constantly assaulted with sirens and hoards of campaigners from neighbouring states and Abuja. The target was Government House, Alagbaka; that sprawling gem piece that seats on acres of rolling hills and symbolises the power, hopes and aspirations of the proud people of Ondo state. Your adversaries sought to create a sweeping impression that you had not earned your keep in Alagbaka while you pointed at your endeavours to convince the people of Ondo you were worthy of further investment of faith and hope.
That is all a vote counts for; faith in the candidate and hope in his person, world view, programmes and power of execution.
On the 20th of October 2012, the people of Ondo state braved heavy militarisation of their homeland and trooped to polling stations to choose between you, Olusegun Abdulrahman Mimiko and two eminently qualified sons of Ondo state : Barristers Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and Femi Oke of the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Peoples Democratic Party. From Ilaje to Ilara, Irun to Ondo, Igbokoda, Idanre, Owo, and Akure, the people of Ondo state delivered a resounding acceptance of your leadership and voted you in for a second term as the popularly elected executive governor of Ondo State. We rejected the ACB franchise and the PDP hegemony.
This open letter comes first to congratulate you on this hard-fought and hard-won success. I deliberately avoided the word “victory”! This open letter also comes to challenge you by laying out an agenda, expressing the augmented expectations of the people of Ondo state. I am sure you know that the reward for good work is greater expectation. I am confident that this open letter will be read by a number of people who are your advisers and supporters in the cyber environment. I am deeply optimistic that they will transmit this letter to you.
Reconciliation and Integration
I am particularly happy with the congratulatory messages you have received from a broad spectrum of people, including members of the opposition. It should remind you of the goodwill of brotherhood in Ondo state and the elevation of our common good above all individual pursuits and political permutations. It is clear that you may not achieve acceptance from all parties to the election as the Action Congress of Nigeria might still pursue a needless legal jamboree which will ostensibly serve to distract you from the achievement of your programmes and perpetuate the bad blood that the election created.
In spite of that, it is time for you to repudiate the primordial instinct of vendetta and focus on peace-building and integration of all supporters of progress in Ondo state irrespective of opinion and political leaning. We need to repair our hitherto fine-woven social fabric, torn by acrimonious campaign jingles, reckless personal attacks and vituperations. In politicising everything over the past one year, the people of the state now see themselves more in their ethnocentric garbs and affinities. It is time for you to display the magnanimity of a man on a mission, and eschew the urge to lead only the people who follow you while alienating the people who dissent. Your widespread appeal in the last election is a double –edged sword, allowing you to lay claim to being the people’s choice on one hand while demanding that you display the openness to receive criticism from all quarters without being defensive. It is now time for the Iroko to provide shade for all.
Youth Employment and Engagement
Without fear of contradiction, it is clear that more than half of the total votes cast in the elections in Ondo state were cast by people under the age of thirty. This indicates that you have a large population of youths in the state whose faith you must recompense. Ondo state has an educated and energetic youth segment, ready and capable of gainful employment. I have supported your refusal to send graduates to expressways to cut grasses in uniforms under some ill-conceived scheme of underemployment while minting false political currency under the guise of “youth employment”. I am one of those advocating a more futuristic strategy for youth employment and engagement. Your government needs to show other states how to create wealth through human capital development especially in the youth space. First, the voice of the youth needs to be heard more in your government. I am aware that a sizeable number of your advisers are young and competent but it is time to create a team of youths whose main goal would be to proffer solutions to the challenges facing the youth.
The area of information technology is viable for investment and engagement for the youth. I foresee an Ondo state that will partner with the major telecommunications operators to provide contact centre solutions. I see data warehouses in Ondo and Akure, providing cloud computing services for people all over Nigeria. I see creative incubators like the Co-Creation hub in Lagos and Ibridge Hub in Ibadan, springing up in Oka, Ondo, Okitipupa and Akure to nurture bankable idease, linking enterprise with finance. I see application developers, graphic artists and software programmers, working out of purposely built youth centres in Ondo state. I see you leading a youth segment that is gainfully and joyfully engaged in what they love to do. We need to create an employability hub for graduates in Ondo state so they can clinch more jobs in the open market. Currently I observe sporadic youth engagement in the form of speaking engagements and once-in-a-year conferences. Our state actually requires a workable youth engagement strategy, crafted by youth for youth and driven by dynamic people. I would have said “progressive” but that word has undergone “progressive” degeneration in Ondo state. Kayode Ogundamisi and Gbenga Sesan are two notable Ondo exports who come to mind out of numerous who have blazed the trail in information technology and advocacy. We need to sit down with all stakeholders and discuss how to put the youth to work.
Iroko, most governments treat the youth as necessary nuisance, gullible enough to become election thugs and independent enough only to use facebook and twitter in voting on game shows. You can change this perception. Your investment in education sets a solid foundation for the profitable employment of the youths. You may have to look at the Indian and Philipino models. It is time to build a wide area network in Ondo state. I have been talking about this since 2009.
I have listened to you share your vision for the educational sector in Ondo state and I am convinced of your good intentions and sound judgement. I can see the excellent educational infrastructure that you are creating. Students from Ondo state have emerged tops in national examinations. Your resolve to provide quality education in Ondo state is very evident. You created a quality assurance development for education! It is indeed one of the shining jewels of your administration. I however feel that your brick and mortar investments must be complemented by other soft elements.
First on this list is teacher training and re-orientation. I have witnessed a South west state which provided internet connection for schools under a world bank funded scheme and the modems, routers and other hardware were locked up in the principal’s office. I have seen overhead projectors locked in filing cabinets so teachers will not spoil them. I have seen teachers preferring to use chalk and blackboards instead or Microsoft Powerpoint. In Nigeria’s educational sector, we now have students who are more adept at sourcing information and researching using information technology while their teachers carry outdated textbooks. Our ministry of education needs to provide training in twenty-first century learner profile and teacher competencies, capable of educating young people who can take on an increasingly technical and ICT –driven job space. Ondo must lead the way in training teachers who model the new teacher’s roles as defined by UNESCO. Our current crop of teachers needs to be retrained. We also need to inject new blood by making teaching interesting for young graduates. They must be IT –savvy, young and dynamic to use information technology tools to teach subjects in an engaging and fun manner.
The school curriculum needs to change from a model that merely utilises ICT to teach, to a more futuristic model that embeds ICT in daily learning. Our current curriculum emphasises literacy in English and Mathematics. I envision an Ondo state that defines ICT literacy as important to modern day life and provides the curriculum to empower her citizens to use ICT to solve problems and create new value. New policy must be created to support this new reality. You cannot wait for the federal government to do this for you or with you, as Iroko you need to do this alone.
To support this curriculum, Ondo state needs to invest in ICT infrastructure for its education sector. We require internet in all schools beginning with Megaschools. The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board just announced that the examination for admissions into Nigerian universities will now be a computer-based test. This is a wake-up call to discerning governments to provide internet facilities in schools and embed ICT in learning. You would have done well in 2016, if all schools in Ondo state enjoy internet access and we have built our own learning management system that standardises curriculum, teaching practices and learning experience. The “Sunshine Learning Portal” is possible. There are several strategic partnerships that offer direction and assistance in making this possible.
Industrialisation and Investment Drive
I recall with nostalgia, the interior of the Lagos office of the Nigerian Romanian Wood Industry (NIROWI), a building that still stands on Campbell Street in Lagos Island; right behind Freedom Park. The building was panelled and decorated with beautiful Ondo wood and furniture. The Romanians who worked with Mr. Sunmola came to our house to eat pounded yam with relish before hurrying back to Ondo to continue their work. It is therefore disheartening to me that we have allowed the Nigerian syndrome to defeat NIROWI. With an unrivalled forest belt and immense timber reserves, your administration should resuscitate the furniture industry under a Public Private Partnership that guarantees employment for Ondo youths and exports furniture products nationally and internationally. The defunct NIROWI needs to become the new Ondo Furniture Village, producing quality products and bringing additional income to Ondo state. With our proximity to the Abuja Market, we should compete in the furniture market.
I highlighted the plight of NIROWI to underscore the baggage of moribund industrial opportunities that you inherited and need to turn around and harness. The movement towards and Industrial giant that Ondo can be is filled with challenges but I am sure you were born for a time like this, filled with setbacks, political twists and policy turn-arounds. You need to set up a task force of eminent Ondo state indigenes and industrialists to identify Ondo industries that require attention. A proper asset audit, feasibility study and market analysis needs to be carried out to arrive at a clear strategic direction for these industries. Your administration needs to forge strategic alliances with investors and industrialists who have the competence, technical and financial resources to fulfil their obligations.
Ondo state needs to come up with a fiscal policy that makes Ondo state an investment destination of choice in Nigeria. We must create tax breaks, policy framework and investment incentives that create value for anyone who has legitimate investment ambitions in Ondo state. The federal government already makes business difficult in Nigeria, Ondo should lead the way in making business friendly and sustainable.
In clear departure from the normal practice of state governments in Nigeria to spend huge amounts of money on international travels in a bid to “woo international investors” and participate in overseas exhibitions to no gain, you must plan and organise an Ondo Investment and Industrialisation Exhibition where you will showcase the immense resources and opportunities that are available in the Sunshine State. This high-level event should also showcase your policy framework, fiscal incentives and overall industrial and investment strategy to stimulate interest in our dear state. With Dr. Rotimi Adelola and other capable men and women, I am sure this is achievable.
Ondo has immense potential to provide power which will sustain the industrial revolution that I propose. Because Ondo is an oil producing state, we must embrace and harness the gas resources which currently waste due to flaring. We must invest in Independent Power Projects in conjunction with private investors who will provide power to drive the engines of growth. Other areas of power generation open to Ondo state include solar energy which you already champion, hydro energy which is currently under-utilised and wind farms which should benefit the rural communities in Ondo State. There are several alternative energy companies who are trying to secure investment opportunities in Nigeria.
My recent trips to Ondo state allowed me to buy a cocoa pod for my children. I bought the cocoa pod in Ilara Mokin to remind myself of that time in the history of the old Ondo state when all villages produced cocoa and other crops in significant volumes. I know your government has established four farm settlements in order to boost the allure of agriculture in Ondo state. Laudable as these investments are, I believe it is time to call in the big guns. All over Southern Africa, there are large agricultural organisations and investors waiting to foray into the West African market and I think of no other place to tempt them into Nigeria than the amazingly fertile lands on Ondo State. Kwara state has a Tshonga Pategi model initiated by Bukola Saraki. This programme needs to be replicated in the several sectors of agriculture. Ilaje and Ese Odo should focus on fisheries while the Ondo,Ilaje, Ese-Odo and Ifedore Axis should focus on crops. Akoko should become a hub for animal husbandry and poultry. A few investors like the Botswana Meat Commision are making enquiries about Nigeria. Ondo State should pitch for their investment. Ondo state must use the God-given resources to attract and retain large scale farmers who will make Ondo state an agricultural giant. We must also strengthen the partenership between us and research institutes which provide high grade agricultural inputs and technical expertise.
I have been in several meetings where you have spoken passionately about your vision for a health system that works in Ondo state. In your campaign moments, your achievements in the health sector resonated more with your audiences especially when numerous foreign organisations including the World Health Organisation have endorsed your health strategy. The implementation of your health strategy needs to move from piloting to overdrive. You need to replicate the Mother and Child hospital in all the zones and provide the necessary medical and infrastructure support.
You must upgrade the health facilities in all areas of the state to meet international standards. The doctor-patient ratio in some hospitals must also be improved. The people of Ondo want to show that it is not an accident that an Ife-trained medical doctor was chosen by God to improve the life expectancy of the people of Ondo State.
With Dr. Dayo Adeyanju championing your health agenda and the completion of the medical village complex, I am sure Ondo State will surpass the MDG targets that are related to health by 2016. He will have the task of replicating the Trauma Hospital in Laje and the Ambulance Base Station in other areas of the state.
I am confident that Ondo state will lead Nigeria in health by 2016.
Urban Renewal, Roads and Tourism
My friends who travel to Akure now marvel at the amount of work that has been done in the metropolis. I have noticed your attempts at incorporating aesthetics into urban spaces. It is high time you replicated this across Ondo state, creating little oases of development in our patched nation. Like every other area of governance, you will need to partner with PPP investors to move at a faster rate, creating jobs and investment opportunities for your citizens.
Having looked at your current model critically, Ondo state town planners must include open spaces, parks and gardens in their urban renewal strategy; creating liveable metropolis which provide wholesome wellness to its inhabitants. Our current model of concrete configurations could be enhanced in order to provide recreational facilities for everyone.
Rural roads did not feature prominently in your first three years. This was used poignantly by your former adversaries. While I understand the need to pilot the new urban renewal direction in the capital, my Akoko homeland would welcome new roads linking our small villages to boost trade and social cohesion. I am sure more rural communities feel the same way.
Importantly too, you must redouble your efforts at providing portable water for more people in Ondo state before you leave office. Water borne diseases still contribute to hospital occupancy in Ondo state, contributing significantly to mortality rates.
I must also alert you to the immense opportunities that exist in tourism which have been harnessed only in a very haphazard manner. First, you must set up an agency to register, standardise and regulate the practice of hoteliering and hospitality management in Ondo state. I am a frequent guest who has seen very good hotels and ridiculously sordid hotels. I say boldly that some hotels in Ondo state compete favourably in terms of facilities and service but this cream of the crust cannot cope with the potential deluge of tourists that should stream into Ondo state to enjoy the warmth and friendliness of our people.
We must find a service chief who will drive the tourism ministry in Ondo State, synchronise tourist attractions in Ondo state into a calendar and market the calendar in a planned marketing-savvy way. You must take a cue from Cross River state and create an Ondo Tourism brand. I recently witnessed the Ijesu Carnival in Ilara Mokin and was thrilled by the applause it garnered from a few foreigners who witnessed it. We should make money and create wealth through tourism.
Sports and Youth Development
Your love for sports and football has been amply demonstrated in the huge investment you placed in Sunshine Stars who dazzled on the continental stage and represented Nigeria creditably. To support them, you must enlist the populace in Ondo state by finishing the Akure Township Stadium so we can watch them bedazzle their visitors. You must also upgrade the Ondo township stadium and other facilities. Your transformation of the Akure Stadium swimming pool signifies that you are capable of making this a quick win project.
Away from football, we must create a strategy for the development of other sports especially the engagement of that strategy as part of the educational system. Schools in Ondo state should play Basketball, Volleyball, Handball and Table Tennis as part of physical education. I believe youthful exuberance projected through alcoholism, drug use and other dysfunctional behaviours would reduce if we linked sports and physical exercise to education and urban renewal.
We need to build eight youth development centres across Ondo state. These development centres will provide vocational training, sports facilities, counselling services, computer training, employability and career development training to the teeming provide vocational training, sports facilities, counselling services, computer training, employability and career development training to the teeming population of youths in Ondo state. The model also provides counselling on adult reproductive health and educational counselling under the same roof. It is a great tool to engage your youths and cater to their unique needs, creating a new skill set while providing social services.
Security and Safety
Your organisation was rated very high on this index during the campaign season. Even your political adversaries agreed that Ondo state is one of the safest places to be in Nigeria. I think you should move that up a notch by partnering with the private sector to launch the Ondo State Security and Emergency Fund. This fund would assist the government in providing world class security and emergency services to the people of Ondo state. It will enable your government to buy more armoured personnel carriers to secure the Ondo-Edo border communities and improve on the policing in the Akungba to Okene stretch. It will fund new security gadgets to police the Ilaje, Ese-odo and Igbokoda, Ilu Titun areas while ensuring that our stretch of the Ore-Ondo-Akure highways remain crime free.
Importantly too, this new fund will enable the new Ondo State Emergency Medical Services Agency to acquire a new fleet of first class trauma and life support ambulances to save lives and prevent unnecessary death on our highways. The fund will also enable Ondo State Emergency Management Agency to respond more proactively to emergencies.
I have written you this long letter to highlight the expectations of your people who stood up for you when you needed us! You must quickly unite your house and offer a hand of friendship to everyone who participated in the electoral process. You must listen to your critics; they serve the purpose of reminding you of your mortality. You must humour opposition; they serve the purpose of refining your thoughts, actions and outcomes. It is a democracy. Do not listen to praise singers alone, GBASIBE has served its purpose, Ise Takuntakun needs to resume in earnest.Lastly, you must handle Ondo state as one and lead with conviction. You have our support.
My dear Dr. Olusegun Abdurahman Mimiko, in all you do, do no harm.
God bless you and the beautiful state you lead.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Nigeria’s fifty-second independence anniversary should be an opportunity to thank God, ordinarily. Our traditional agenda for this programme usually includes prayer sessions at mosques all over the country, attended by muslim faithful and leaders whose propensity for looting bears a stark dissemblance to the ideals of Islam. The Christian churches also witness joyful services, hosted in big churches where overfed priests thank the Lord for giving us good Christian leaders who have nothing in common with Christ.
This year has been different however, mosques are no longer safe nor churches the peaceful sanctuaries that they used to be. Churches especially, have been hardly hit. Houses of God have been transformed into military zones where people have to be screened thoroughly before they come into his presence. I cannot dwell on how this has affected tithe, offerings and the ministry in particular. The most visible of this change has happened inside clergymen, they have started criticising the president. One of them even went as far as to construct and vocalise a prayer on corruption which embarrassed the president. One of them even dared to contest an election and continues to make “inciting” statements about the leadership of our great country. Obviously, men of God are no longer cosy with the establishment.
The focal point of my piece is not to dwell on the fluidity of Nigeria’s theology and religion in these times. My goal is to offer thanks on behalf of Nigeria to everyone whose action and inaction has brought us thus far in our national sojourn. I am mindful of the fact that some of you might wonder why this piece was not published on the first of October, let me quickly explain the delay in simple terms. I did not have electric power and there was fuel scarcity on Independence Day. My generator was bad too. The generator repair man could not get fuel to power his motorcycle so I spent the day in darkness except for the intrusion of my Blackberry phone which kept broadcasting the rantings of some endangered species of bloggers, activists and concerned Noisegerians. For this lack of electric power, I would like to thank Professor Nnaji for telling us there would be more megawatts of power while arranging his cronies and companies to buy up all our power plants. We owe him and his predecessors eternal gratitude for enabling generations of Nigerian children shout “Up NEPA” anytime the light flickers, even when they are outside the shores of Nigeria.
Let me quickly apologise for breaking protocol by not addressing myself to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. I must thank His Excellency, first for his decision to hold the Independence Day celebrations in Aso Rock Villa rather than the stately and regal Eagle Square where the convention that eventually produced his ticket to the presidency was held. Your prudent (some say cowardly) capitulation has sent victory signals to every member of Boko Haram group that our leadership is afraid and cannot make adequate security preparations to host a military parade. I am sure all your service chiefs and military high brass all supported this directive, afterall, who would not recollect how our police headquarters was bombed. I am sure that you have set the right tone for negotiations with the dreaded group.
I would also like to like to thank you Mr. President for the inspiring, visionary and prayerful Independence Day speech. Let me note that unlike 2010, it did not embarrass us with your inept use of teleprompters when neither you nor your aides had tried it out to test its adaptability to our dynamic environment. This year, your speech called for prayers and provided budgetary allocation for calling the almighty to come and solve our problems. Let me quickly remind you that Saudi Arabia, Isreal and Italy all lay more direct claims to our God yet they invest in people and put institutions in place to achieve societal change. They hardly budget for prayers. Your speech created a buzz for the “armchair critics and activists“in blogosphere for whom Dr. Reuben Abati has so much angst. You quoted a phantom report from an organisation that announces it reports globally. The authentic report was just a few clicks on any decent browser. I want to thank you for confirming the veracity of some claims (in blogosphere) that your Doctorate Degree in Zoology must have been a gift from the University of Port Harcourt. If I were the Vice Chancellor of that institution, I would refund your tuition and withdraw your doctorate degree in order to protect the brand of that institution. I am sure the Vice Chancellor will dare not! That is why I can never be a Vice Chancellor.
Your speech also confirmed that you are not given to intellectual rigour or cerebral exertion. I am thankful to you for encouraging the youth in Nigeria who would rather skip school to become musicians. They have a reason to believe that holding a doctorate degree makes no difference to personal intelligence. My eternal thanks also go everyone who had a hand in the speech. They confirmed our submission that you do not read whatever is given to you. You just go ahead and blurt it out!
I want to thank the Vice President for being a passenger in this democratic dispensation. I guess he realised that adding his voice to this cacophony of ineptitude would overwhelm the average Nigerian’s threshold for rubbish. Without any clear constitutional schedule of duties, I appreciate his ability to do nothing, say nothing and stand for nothing. He could have towed the line of a certain Abubakar Atiku who attempted to invent a job description for the position. We all know how that went down.
I would like to thank the Senate and House of Representatives for deliberations that have led to no improvement in the lives of Nigeria. Aside tossing out Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s five thousand naira note, the legislature has been more concerned with increasing an already anomalous remuneration. They have proven that human greed overpowers reason. They have also proven that amongst thieves, compassion is not a virtue. Unless he wins his re-election bid, Barack Obama would gladly consider their salaries if he could apply!
I must thank all the ministers in Nigeria especially the Coordinating Minister of the economy. A brilliant woman, her inability to explain anything in clear terms has helped me to understand how smart people behave when they have incompetent bosses. Her inability to explain the performance of the 2012 budget clearly indicates she is a good manager of information. I also salute her courage in sitting with chronic debtors as members of her national economic committee while she expects AMCON to take objective decisions on their indebtedness. Special thanks must be giving to the Minister of Labour for continually embarrassing this administration in the media. His lack of processing abilities makes the Minister for Water resources look extra-terrestial. Labaran Maku deserves our thanks and pity for assailing our ears frequently with not-well-thought-out representations of the government. I am sure David Mark conveyed our gratitude more poignantly!
I would like to thank all governors for the increase in the number of cars in their details while hunger pervades the land. I will like to thank the southern governors for asking for more money from the federation account even when most states have not utilised their allocations for anything productive. I must single out Uduaghan for attempting to retrieve his cousin’s fifteen million dollars from the EFCC. Blood is indeed thicker than governance. I must also thank Dickson for providing the first lady with a decent salary and pension via her appointment as a permanent secretary. Who knows where such gratitude could take him?
I would like to show appreciation to the northern governors for laboriously connecting Boko Haram to monthly allocations from our commonwealth. We now know we created Al Majiri to set the North back economically and politically. We are the reasons why polio still ravages the North.
The Eastern governors must be applauded for agreeing that Igbo presidency is the only panacea to the litany of problems facing Nigeria. We are yet to receive a blueprint for the eradication of commercial kidnapping and other crimes which continue to fester in their states . I must thank Orji for institutionalising non-performance. His billboards clearly advertise his personal dereliction. I will like to thank the Western governors for the gift of propaganda. They have taken the art form to a new level closer to mass hypnosis.
I must thank Nigerians for putting up with the current leadership, afterall we voted them in and collected their money to mortgage our future. I must thank all the market women who participated in all the rallies and all the people who sold their voter cards. I am grateful to all the people who continue to keep quiet and hide their heads in the daily humdrum of torture that our lives have become. They are the reason why the evil darkness grows in temerity.
We do not have to thank God for the turn of events we have brought on ourselves. He has given us the will and mental fortitude, to seek out the truth and set our minds free. We have a God-given gift to demand more and better from our leaders. I thank the few Nigerians who exercise this right.