Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) is marking his one year in office. Correspondent DAMISI OJO examines how the All Progressives Congress (APC) governor, who took over from Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on February 24, last year, has fared since his assumption of office.
SHORTLY after Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) was sworn into office, as the helmsman in Ondo State on February 24, last year, he stood before the crowd at the Akure Township Stadium and promised to fulfill his campaign promises, by serving the people creditably.
The governor, who inherited a backlog of seven-month salaries, told the people that he was prepared to deploy the mineral resources available in the state to lift the people out of poverty, saying it was as a result of mismanagement of public funds by previous administrations.
The former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) had promised that he would usher in a new dawn, by listening to the voice of the people to provide good governance. He said: ?We stand before you to pledge, with the guidance of God and our resolve not to renege on our promises, that your welfare shall form the basis of all our activities.?
Akeredolu said his administration would lead a patriotic, highly-inspired and competent team to rescue the state from poverty. He promised to rebuild the state?s economy, resuscitate damaged infrastructure, restore hope and return Ondo State, which has been nicknamed the Sunshine State, to a prosperous land. He said: ?We are determined as an administration to break down the barriers that have made stagnation possible.
?We will break down the barriers to honest leadership, to comprehensive development, to physical growth and social security. These we intend to do through the promotion of transparent leadership, the rule of law, extensive consultation, quality and accessible utilities and social security; all in a sustainable manner. We acknowledge the enormous challenges faced by the state and the severely limited resources available to meet these ever-increasing and compelling demands.?
The governor broke his administration?s plan into a five-point agenda tagged: ?JMPPR.? This stands for: job creation through agriculture, entrepreneurship and industrialisation; massive infrastructural development and maintenance; provision of functional education and technological growth; provision of accessible and qualitative healthcare and social service delivery; and rural development and community extension services.
Although the state has been plagued by challenges of the economic recession, like other states, Governor Akeredolu has managed within the last one year to make some positive impact. For instance, observers have scored the governor high in the area of workers? welfare, infrastructural development and putting the right policy in place to attract investors.
Many of them are of the opinion that the governor deserves some commendation for the little he has been able to achieve, because of the poor state of the nation?s economy when he assumed power, which led to a sharp drop in the monthly allocation from the Federation Accounts. At least, he has not reneged on his promise of promoting workers? welfare.
Besides the prompt payment of workers? salaries since he took over power, he has equally settled three months out of the seven months salaries he inherited from the immediate past administration. This was what impressed an analyst, Mr. Julius Alade, who said the governor had improved the frosty and battered relationship between the state government and the labour union.
Alade, who claimed he has been monitoring activities of the government since its inauguration, said the it is focusing on its mandate of deploying public resources for the benefits of the greatest number of the people. He said Governor Akeredolu?s achievement is in the area of economic and social service, such as payment of workers? salaries and pensions from February 2017 to date, as well as the settlement of August and 80 per cent of September 2016 salaries.
The analyst also said Akeredolu?s achievements include the reinstatement and restoration of all benefits to politically victimised staff of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, and the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, respectively.?
In the area of job creation, Akeredolu had made it clear during his inauguration that he would use agriculture to solve the problem of unemployment, particularly among the teeming youths of the state. In the last one year, some of the jobless youths have embraced his administration?s ?Youths for Agric Value Chain Empowerment?.
Also, the administration has distributed palm seedlings to farmers across the state in its bid to reactivate the 10,000 hectares afforestation project at Araromi, in Ondo South Senatorial District. The disbursement of N210 million to farmers? co-operative societies, under the FADAMA scheme and the establishment of various poverty alleviation programmes and the engagement of over 300 youths under ?FADAMA GUYS? programme, the Akeredolu-led government has mobilised no fewer than 35,000 farmers for the Federal Government?s Anchor Borrowers Scheme in the state.
Akeredolu has also made some remarkable achievements in the infrastructure development. During the electioneering campaign period, the governor used to describe the state of infrastructure in the state as depressive. He had pledged then to fix the infrastructure to enable farmers and interested investors have access to markets in the towns and cities in the state.
The Nation?s investigations at the state Ministry of Works reveal that the governor has started rehabilitation and total reconstruction of many roads across the three senatorial districts.
A supporter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muyiwa Gbeminiyi, said the reconstruction of the notorious Oke-Alabojuto Road in Ikare-Akoko and the construction of a new access road from Akure to Idanre are among the most important intervention of the governor in that regard.
Though the Ikare road is yet to be completed, Gbeminiyi hailed Governor Akeredolu for deeming it necessary to mobilise contractors to fix the road, after many years of neglect. He praised the governor for spreading the developmental strides to the three senatorial districts.
Other roads rehabilitated or reconstructed are the access roads within the state Spe...t Hospital, Akure; the 1.5km Iwalewa Road, Akure; the 1.2km Abusoro Road, Akure; internal and access roads within the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), Okitipupa; the 2.5km Sabomi Road, Ese-Odo, and others.
On security, Akeredolu has tried to live up to expectations that it is government?s responsibility to protect the lives and properties of the people. Shortly after assumption of office, he initiated moves to resolve boundary issues between Atijere and Makun-omi community, to douse rising tension between the two communities. The decision, observer noted, has enhanced interpersonal and peaceful co-existence among residents of the once restive communities.
The governor has also sought and received approval to have more police area commands in addition to the existing three ones, to reinforce security in some parts of the state and thereby forestall kidnapping and armed robbery.
The State Security Council has also directed authorities in several communities to ensure regular clearance of bushes on the verges of roads that link Ondo State with the neighbouring states, to stem the activities of kidnappers and other criminal elements.
Militancy, with its attendant destruction of lives and public properties, was the order of the day in the Ese-Odo Local Government Area before Akeredolu assumed office. But, all that has become history, due to what a security analyst, James Binuyo, termed as the governor?s deep understanding of leadership role and strategies.
Binuyo said: ?Governor Akeredolu deserves commendation for bringing to an end the era of militancy, which was responsible for loss of lives and properties in the riverine area. Since the governor proclaimed amnesty for the militants, the restiveness among the youths in the area has subsided.
?There was a time militants held the riverine communities to ransom. The nation?s water ways and the creek became a no-go area for even the boldest military men. From their fortress in the creeks, the militants launched deadly attacks on petroleum pipelines, which is used to transport the nation?s economic mainstay ?- oil.
?Also, there was a time hoodlums robbed banks, carting away several millions in cash. In recent times, kidnapping of family members of wealthy people had become a fad for the criminals. Militants, mainly youths, had resorted to such unlawful means of agitation, because of the perception that their area is underdeveloped, because of neglect by the different levels of government.?
In an attempt to curb the criminality in the riverine area, Akeredolu set up a committee headed by his deputy, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, to disarm the weapon-bearing youths. Ajayi, who incidentally hails from the area, quickly swung into action with members of his committee and they were able to get the militants to sign an agreement to lay down their arms.
Thus, to reciprocate the gesture, the governor on November 9, last year proclaimed amnesty for them, with 21 days to submit their weapons, so as to be listed in the expanded amnesty programme of the Federal Government. Akeredolu, while addressing the militants, said his government was determined to ensure the programme succeeds and administered only to those it was meant for. He said only those who submitted weapons would be listed in the amnesty programme.
Akeredolu?s commitment to good governance is also paying off in the area of sound healthcare delivery. The governor liaised with the World Bank to facilitate $500,000 to enhance primary healthcare across all the 18 local government areas. This move attracted the benevolence of the People?s Republic of China, which donated 40 imaging medical items to the state medical village in Ondo town
The governor has also tried to create a conducive atmosphere for governance, by ensuring that a cordial relationship existed between the executive and the legislature. On assumption of office, he met a factionalised state House of Assembly. The crisis centred on the 2017 budget, which the immediate past administration could not pass before it vacated office.
But, the speed with which Akeredolu rallied members of the House of Assembly to sheathe their swords, in the interest of the state, facilitated the quick passage of the budget.
Also, majority of the House of Assembly members, who were members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) became fascinated with the governor?s leadership style and consequently defected to the APC. In their interactions with reporters, the lawmakers hinged their decision to defect on Akeredolu?s vision for the development of the state
In sports, enthusiasts have lauded Akeredolu for reviving the state?s football team, Sunshine Stars FC, which was on the verge of relegation.
The only challenge confronting the administration is the paucity of funds. But, Akeredolu is poised to confront this challenge with aggressive revenue generation, proper management of resources and financial prudency. Many residents of the state have also urged the governor to encourage job creation for the teeming unemployed youths, ensure regular payment of workers? salaries and also create a conducive environment for traders, artisans and others to work.