Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) has received accolades from unexpected quarters for his giant strides in infrastructural development in the last three years. DAMISI OJO reports.
IT was yet another feather to the already decorated cap of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu when the Ondo State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) conferred on him the prestigious award of the Best Governor in Infrastructural Development last week.
Akeredolu was selected, the NUJ said, for the award for his outstanding accomplishments in various sectors, despite the paucity of funds. Members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm could not have put the situation in the state more succinctly. On assumption of office, a little less than three years ago, Akeredolu met Ondo in a very troubling state.
On assumption of office in February 2017, Akeredolu met a disturbing state of affairs. The workers were being owed a backlog of seven months salaries. Children were sent out of school because their parents could not pay their fees, and families separated because the man could not perform his responsibility of catering to the needs of his family. The civil service was on the brink.
Today, despite having cleared six of the seven months backlog of salaries, the Akeredolu administration has ensured prompt payment of salaries in the last 32 months. Workers are promoted, leave allowances are paid and various capacity-building pieces of training have been organised for public servants. This is in addition to the appointment of 44 permanent secretaries, righting the wrongs that have been done to many top civil servants by past administrations.
Expectedly, workers are happy. They have moved on from a season when they looked to the future with little hope and their children were sent out of school because their parents could not pay their fees, to a new season of abundance and hope.
The education sector is up and running again. Despite the huge amount purportedly spent on education by the former administration, many public schools were in shambles, with roofs blown off and dilapidated buildings. Expectedly, the state, which once stood as the pride of the Southwest region, dropped in ratings of many examinations bodies.
The abysmal performance of students from the state in national examinations captured the picture painted by Governor Akeredolu of the education sector, while addressing the people of the state. The governor had lamented that failure of the curricula to address the challenges encountered by the society had reduced education to what it is in most societies.
With proper planning and strategic execution of policies, the administration has constructed or renovated more than 800 public primary schools. Aside from wearing new looks, the schools now boast of modern facilities to make studying attractive to the young minds.
The most significant testimony from a private person of the impact of the new education policy was from the Chief Imam of Akure, Alhaji Yayi Akorede, when he spoke on the newly-reconstructed Muslim Primary School in Akure, the state capital.
Akorede said: “The school was abandoned for several years by successive administrations. Most of the parents have taken their children away to other schools and most of us thought the school would die. But, despite being a Christian, the governor ensured that the school was reconstructed with new and modern facilities, when he came on board. Today, enrolment has improved and the Muslim community is happy.”
Without doubt, the state has never had it this good in infrastructural development. For the number of roads this administration has constructed since coming on board, the people now call the governor Mr. Road.
The new name may not be out of place. Since he took oath of office on February 24, 2017, Akeredolu has embarked on serious infrastructural development. The governor had promised, prior to his election, to correct the infrastructure imbalance in the three senatorial districts. In keeping to that promise, more than 100 roads spread across the state have either been constructed or renovated.
In Ikare Akoko, Governor Akeredolu did what many thought was impossible with the construction of a dual-lane where the mythical Oke Alabojuto hill once stood with its deadly toll on human lives. The hill, which has claimed a countless number of lives in the past, finally gave way to the bulldozers deployed by Akeredolu, leaving the people marvelling.
Other major constructions include the opening up of Owo with dual carriage ways. Akure, the state capital, is wearing a new look, with the dualization of major roads in the city. It is the same story in Oke Ogba, Iwalewa, Abusoro, Isarun, Idanre, Igbara-Oke and many other towns across.
Perhaps the icing on the cake in the infrastructural development of the state so far is the construction of the Ore interchange bridge along the Ore-Benin expressway.
The determination of Governor Akeredolu has also given room for a fresh of hope for the people of Ondo State. Aside from raising the state’s internally generated revenue to enviable heights, the Sunshine State has equally joined the elite club of industrialized states in the nation.
The efforts of Akeredolu for the creation of a deep sea port in Ondo State have finally become a reality, with the recent approval of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). It will be recalled that Akeredolu, while pitching for the port, said: “The port will offer between 7000 to 10,000 job opportunities, while the Free Trade Zone will offer between 9,500 to 10,000 employment opportunities.
Already, five companies — a paper mill, an ethanol plant, medium density fibre board, high-density fibre board, ply wood and a textile company have sprouted from the mustard seed that was planted when the state signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Linyi municipal government of the Shandong province of the Peoples Republic of China.
The industrial revolution in the state has taken a very strong foothold with the ethanol plant in Ore. A special specie of cassava is being planted in-between the Gmelina which will be used to feed the ethanol plant.
More than 1,000 people have been employed for the ethanol factory for direct jobs. The plant is also expected to provide jobs for more than 10,000 people, particularly cassava farmers and traders. Local farmers are excited about a ready and lucrative market for their goods. Shehu Oladapo, a cassava farmer in Odigbo Local Government Area was full of praise for the governor.
The WinWin Textile factory located inside the park commenced production of textile thread a few months ago. With 300 workers already employed, WinWin Textile has helped to ease the problem of unemployment on the people, especially the locals, who for the first time have found a worthwhile venture outside the civil service.
The Weewood Plywood/HDF factory is already bubbling with life. Young men and women, who would have been roaming the streets, are busy with one task or the other. The company’s products, high-quality fibre board plywood are already in high demand in local markets across the state, while the state is being positioned to earn foreign currency through the export of the product.
A short distance away, the expatriates are screwing the nuts and putting finishing touches to the giant paper mill factory. Jack Sun, Business Development Manager for Weewood, said the factory is now about 80 per cent completed.
On completion, the paper mill is expected to employ more than 3000 direct staff, while many more are expected to benefit from jobs created down the value chain.
The paper mill, like other factories in the Ore Park, is structured to create more indirect jobs for the locals. For example, long before the machines for the mill began to arrive the shores of the country, Weewood commenced preparations by planting the trees the will form the primary raw materials for the mill.
Today, the almost 10,000 hectares of land allocated for the Weewood afforestation project by Governor Akeredolu is beginning to yield the expected result, as the trees continue to grow into maturity.
The story is a win-win situation for Ondo State and its people. The company will employ residents on the farm to plant the trees. It will go on to employ people in the factory and other auxiliary jobs that would be created.