Elections 2011 in Ogun State: Securing the keys in building a sustainable future to Nigeria’s Gateway
For a couple of months beset by what is no doubt a dose of 'writer's block' I have watched from the sidelines the season of electioneering and all that goes with it. However not letting one to pass is the future of my beloved home state, Ogun State that has of late been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Still fresh in the mind is the brutal murder in 2010 of Otunba Dipo Dina governorship candidate for Action for Democracy (now Action Congress of Nigeria A.C.N) which sadly to date the investigation into this tragedy has not yielded any significant leads at solving the crime. The frequency of political violence, attacks and mayhem within the last year in the run up to the elections has made Ogun State synonymous with such adverse factors. These challenges coupled with the hapless, inept and ineffective governance of the state by the out going administration makes the state a poster candidate for the 'wooden spoon' award for the brand of governance championed by the Poverty Development Party (PDP) a.k.a People's Democratic Party or Papa dump pickin or Pickin dump papa (apologies to Senator Ibikunle Amosun!).
Geo-politically Ogun State is in a strategic location aptly described as the gateway to Nigeria due mainly to its very close proximity to Nigeria's commercial nerve centre, Lagos and Nigeria's busiest seaports in Apapa and Tincan Island and the busiest airport Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja. However despite its strategic location the present government has not harnessed this potential for reasons other than amateurish political bickering because there is a different political party, A.C.N that is the governing political party in power in Lagos state. Ogun state is a state that is blessed and endowed with an abundance of human and natural resources including deposits of fossil fuel, bitumen, limestone, clay, cash and economic crops including cocoa and kolanuts. In writing about Ogun State and the significant irony that is the poverty of political leadership in Nigeria and indeed in Ogun state, the state that has a distinction of boasting of numerous 'firsts in Nigeria'. Today the state is a basket case - the worst example of bad governance within the present fourth republic. This is remarkable given that the state is the home state of one of Africa's foremost Nationalist, Statesman and visionary leader - the revered late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Ogun state has produced 'firsts' and pioneering feats including the first newspaper published in Nigeria, the founder of the oldest published private newspaper in Nigeria, the first lawyer, the first Chartered Accountant, first Chartered Certified Accountant, the first Nigerian Professors of Medicine, Psychiatry, Geography and Philosophy, the first African Nobel Literature laureate, the first African Under-Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), the first African Executive Directors of the two specialised UN agencies, the first African Deputy Director of a UN specialist Agency, the first Nigerian Executive Director at board level of a leading Wall Street, United States (US) based leading global Investment Bank who also happens to be the first non-American Clerk to a US Supreme Court Justice. Apart from the numerous firsts there are other captains of industry, finance, telecommunications, banking and law who also hail from Ogun State. In considering the achievements of these distinguished individuals one is left often to wonder why their success stories have not mirrored and transcended to those in charge of governing the state for the last 8 years. Indeed if success of an administration was judged only on self-serving advertisement boards and grandiose white elephant projects then Ogun State would be a gateway to paradise on earth. Far from being a gateway to paradise, Ogun state is a state where the legacy of the great Chief Awolowo has all but disappeared and where the progressive first republic Action Group party's slogan of freedom from disease, squalor, want and ignorance resonates today.
The intricate and interwoven nexus between good governance and the economic development transcends the global world from the developed North to the developing and under developed South. The leading economist Professor Adebayo Adedeji, an illustrious son of Ogun State opined that, “people will never comprehend Africa's crisis so long as they continue to assume that it is mainly an economic one, what we confront in Africa is primarily a political crisis, albeit with devastating economic consequences”. The Economist magazine of September 7 – 13 1996 quoting Professor Adedeji approvingly reported that the respected authority, 'knows from experience that Africans cannot hope for sustained economic progress until they achieve good governance'. This is a lesson that applies in large measure to Ogun state. In transcending the development of the state and to achieve long term economic sustainability, quality of life, social justice and a descent future for all, it is imperative that voters going to the polls on Saturday 16 April see the 'wood from the tree' so to speak and only elect a governor that can rise to the challenges confronting Ogun State.
I say that by matching precept with action there is no excuse for bad governance and ineffectual leadership in Ogun State. The leader we need in Ogun State is a leader who feels the pulse of the state from the rocky rolling hills of Abeokuta to the wet lands of the riverine Ijebu waterside. My childhood memories of visiting my home town during an era of relatively good governance and prosperity is one that I remember the escape from the hustle and bustle of Lagos with a sense of nostalgia of going to rural tranquillity, the fresh smell of clay soil, fresh kolanuts, cocoa beans, coco yams from the farms hot pepper green stew, fried plantains, ofada rice, steamed cooked mash cocoyams ('ebiripo') and cooked kidney beans ('adalu') served in the local 'ewe eran' leaves - childhood memories I hope would be replicated again for our future generations.
It is quite strange that a state reputed to have the biggest industrial zones outside Lagos state in Agbara, Sango-Otta and Shagamu axis is not a beacon of economic empowerment of its citizenry. The state of disrepair and absence of what is basic infrastructure in water, good roads network, rural development, flood defences is glaring and ironic given the current administration has at its helm a man who is supposed to be a Civil Engineer by trade. It is high time that the keys are reclaimed for the state back from those who have long taken the people for a long ride and long forfeited their right to govern. We should also ensure that the personalities of the past with no distinguished record in a state of emergency administration, military rule and peacekeeping are not handed the reins to the gate. This is no disrespect to the elders in question but the era of the elders ruling in the next dispensation is long gone and should now be a thing of the past. Those elders should take a back seat, take their dogs for a work, go hunting, retire to their farms, go on holiday, chair foundations, play with their numerous grandchildren and play the doting husband to their long-suffering wives.
Ogun State is at a critical juncture since its creation in 1975. The state requires a distinguished individual with vision, ideas, and clarity of purpose, drive, intellect, integrity and character to be at the helm of the Gate. The distinguished Senator Ibikunle Amosun is best placed to be the most accomplished and most qualified candidate to lead Ogun State to date out of the State's present abyss. His professional background as a Chartered Accountant, Financial and Tax expert and record of exemplary public service as a Senator puts him at a unique advantage, head and shoulders above his rivals to lead the State. Senator Amosun embodies the self-reliance, bootstrap, strong work ethic that symbolises the people of the state. Senator Amosun personal story is that of the Yoruba archetypal Omoluabi' a noble person of good character, self-development and taking ownership of one's destiny in achieving success in his career, family and public seervice that are strong positives in seeking public office. Senator Amosun can lay claim in succeeding to the ideas, ideals, values, and vision and leadership qualities of Chief Awolowo in his plans, programs and strategies in transforming Ogun State and driving government as a vehicle of social change in the society. Senator Amosun is a true progressive who is carrying the touch and flame of Chief Awolowo. As the flag bearer of the broom symbol progressive left of centre A.C.N for the office of governor of Ogun State, Senator Amosun selection to contest on the platform of the A.C.N in Ogun State shows that the party is leaving no stone unturned in winning Ogun State to create a renewal of progressive politics from the West, South and East of the Niger to the heartlands of the North of the Niger and Middle belts. Senator Amosun's selection as A.C.N governorship candidate in Ogun State was made in recognition of his genuine popular grassroots appeal all over the state and a man that unites the Awori, Egba, Egbado, Ijebu, Remo and Ilaje communities in the nook and crannies of Ogun State. Proponents of zoning in Ogun state in particular and Nigeria in general have no response to the scenario of having no plan B when there is no viable or qualified candidate from a so-called preferred zone. Ogun State voters could not care less which zone their candidate comes from but in Senator Amosun they have a candidate they can trust based on his experience, pedigree and record.
Senator Amosun impeccable credentials in his professional practice and record in public service as a Senator in the at the forefront at ground breaking legislation in driving business and the economy in his capacity as the Chairman of the Senate's committee on Commerce during his term in the Senate. Ogun State is currently the only state in Nigeria that is not subject to any form of legislative scrutiny and accountability. With the tacit support of a conniving executive government to a minority ragtag band of renegade legislators masquerading as honourable members to the detriment of the majority legislators who have been supported by the people of Ogun State and its treasury who continue to pay allowances, salaries, emoluments to legislators and public officials of the State House of Assembly who have not had a single legislative session or seating for the last 18 months. In essence we continue to pay the state legislative body for doing no work! This cannot go on forever and with the coming elections it's time these legislators and administration are voted out of office, they no longer deserve our trust to hold office anymore.
Senator Amosun's work as the next governor of Ogun State is cut out due in no small measure of the out going administration neglect of education, law and order, rule of law, crime, rural development, health, power generation, the environment and wealth creation. The government should restore to the state public service the virtues of integrity; honesty, fairness and impartiality, invest in providing qualitative education at all levels from primary to higher education; reform the justice service including Criminal and Civil procedures changes, prisons decongestion, victims' compensations, health including primary care, developing integrated transport links combining roads and rail to the seaports in Lagos. Ogun state's capacity to achieving sustainable development in these areas hinges on to a large extent on generating power. It is worthwhile to note that the A.C.N presidential candidate Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in a good performance mastering his brief and providing policy facts during the presidential debate of 18 March was the only one of the presidential candidates to mention alternative sources of energy as a means of solving the crisis bedevilling the country's power sector. The trend in recent years given the challenges of the power generation sector in Nigeria has been the deregulation of the electricity power market with the Nigerian Electric Power Policy of 2002. The lack of investment and the increasing need to sustain investment in the electricity sector occasioned by the shortage in capacity of electricity power supplied by the state has envisioned the need to seek viable alternatives to power generation. The alternative to power generation that is green, eco friendly and environmentally sustainable is a right of the citizens of Ogun State. Environmental sustainability is a fundamental requirement under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. These provisions are set out in Chapter II Fundamental Objectives and directive Principles of State Policy Section 20, which states that, “The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria”. Ogun State in attaining the UN millennium development goal of ensuring environmental sustainability through integrating sound principles of sustainable development into power generation policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources. The next administration in Ogun State led by Senator Amosun should adopt the UN strategy of ensuring immediate action is needed to contain rising greenhouse gas emissions. In achieving this goal Ogun State challenge is to reduce the state's dependency on oil and carbon fossils for power generation. A comparative analysis of costs, low carbon emission and short-term development that is sustainable and capable of generating the required energy output. A strategy of low and zero emission that is green in developing electricity generation whilst this may sound controversial is what is required in the state. Indeed we should prepare the state for the future of life without carbon fossils fuels. It is of vital strategic importance to Ogun State given its geo-political location as the gateway to Nigeria that the state's economic, social and security future should be to harness the abundant green natural resources in developing capacity to generate electricity through green energy. Though this is lacking in Nigeria, Ogun State should take heed on what is generally agreed by environmental experts that the future of green energy is the development of wind, solar, hydro, wave and tidal energy to generate electricity. According to leading Environmentalist Lester R. Brown in his book PLAN B 3.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization (London and New York: Earth Policy Institute, 2008) the fastest growing form of renewable energy is wind and the world leader in total capacity is Germany, followed by the US, Spain, India, and Denmark. Measured by share of national electricity supplied by wind, Denmark is the leader, at 20 percent. Hence much as these countries have set targets in achieving renewable energy in delivering the total output of their electricity generating capacity, Ogun State as a gateway state should do the same.
The Wind option is envisaged as the core model of renewable energy. Not only is wind widely distributed, it is abundant, low cost, scales up easily around and can be developed quickly. The acknowledged leading wind energy African country is Egypt with existing total capacity of over 1500 Megawatts. However wind energy is practically non-existent in Nigeria though there are enormous potential. The environment in Ogun State whilst of a significantly average wind speed than the countries of Europe and the US has comparable wind speeds in its costal areas. Hence opportunities for developing in the short-term small and medium projects are vibrant in the costal parts of the state coupled with the presence of industrial zones Agbara, Shango-Otta, Shagamu and the closeness of Ikeja and Ogba industrial zones in Lagos. The ever-increasing demand for electricity generating capacity in high density populated areas of the neighbouring Lagos state creates the ideal market conditions for private public partnerships to invest in Ogun State through the benefits of renewable energy. The benefits of wind through the available technology to capture wind efficiently lower project development costs when compared to other forms of power. The costs of maintenance are minimal and it can be used to readily provide rural electrification for areas not currently connected to the National Grid. The wind turbine uses land minimal compared to the cost of other fossil fuel generating plants. Furthermore the damage to the environment is minimal and it is generates clean energy. The social, economic and health costs cannot be overemphasised as carbon dioxide emissions accounts for significant increase in urban centres worldwide for respiratory illness such as asthma and bronchitis. The costs in terms of time spent on health costs and absences from work for the working age of the population places a considerable strain on the government's limited financial resources that could be spent on other areas. The green case for wind in Ogun State is blatantly obvious!
Given Nigeria's current overall energy generating capacity is significantly low for a population of over 150 million and a landmass of 923,768 square kilometres and within it, Ogun State with a landmass of 16,409.26 square kilometres and a population close to 4 million. The decreasing capacity from 3700 megawatts to less than 2000 megawatts currently at the national level is grossly insufficient for our energy needs particularly when compared to the official US goal of one day getting 20 percent of its electricity from wind means developing at least 300,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity. Since 1 megawatt of wind generating capacity can supply electricity to 300 U.S. homes, wind development on this scale would satisfy the needs of 90 million households. In France, a newcomer to wind energy, the government target is 14,000 megawatts of wind by 2010. Spain, which already has nearly 12,000 megawatts of capacity, is aiming for 20,000 megawatts by 2010. The state of Texas comparable in size to Nigeria has plans to develop 23,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity, enough to satisfy the residential electricity needs of 7 million homes. The United Kingdom has a 1,000-megawatt offshore wind farm, the London Array, under construction in the Severn Estuary and a 1,500-megawatt wind farm, the Atlantic Array, off the coast of Devon, in the planning stage. Germany is planning several offshore wind farms of a similar size. Wind energy will no doubt enable Ogun state to meet the targets set in the National seven-point development of which declaring an emergency in the country's power sector is a part and develop its wind farms. The plan envisages a target of 6000 megawatts for the entire country by December 2009 and 10000 megawatts by 2011.
The so-called contract promised in 2003 has failed to materialise after the woeful two terms of the present administration. Senator Amosun in my view has shown that he has the vision to achieve tangible goals for the citizens of Ogun state and secure the keys in building a sustainable future to Nigeria's gateway. Voters are reminded that there is one choice when they go to the polls on Saturday 16 April to elect the next governor of Ogun State by marking the broom symbol on their ballot paper and voting for Senator Ibikunle Amosun through which we secure the enduring golden future of that our state rightly and truly deserves.
Omoba Oladele Osinuga Esq. Solicitor and Advocate Supreme Court of Nigeria, International Criminal Lawyer works in the Mission of a leading International Governmental Organisation in Europe writes from Dagenham, Essex UK.