As a loyal citizen of Ondo State and the pioneer Director of Rural Development and Rural Infrastructures in the State, and a very vocal supporter of candidate Agagu when he ran for Governor in 2003, I believe I have earned the right to praise or criticize him when such criticism is constructive and called for. At the risk of being immodest, I keep repeating that the Governor was my junior at Ibadan Grammar School. According to our tradition in that school, “once a senior, always a senior”. I reserve the right, like the village headmaster in Oja village to look the Governor straight in the face, and to praise him where I think he has done a good job, and to draw his attention or even chastise him where I think he needs to do more. I am able to do that, because I don’t need any favor from him, but I do have a stake in his success or failure.
This column was one of the first, if not the very first political punditry to predict Agagu’s landslide victory against former Governor Adebayo Adefarati, at a time many arm chair critics had thought he could not make it, because they have concluded, like most Nigerians that Ondo State Voters would vote en mass for a goat, if you could hang the Awolowo label on its neck. I made my prediction then based on scientific analysis, and probability theory, and I came to the inescapable conclusion that Agagu would not only win big, his Party, the PDP, in spite its innate contradictions and poor track record, would still win for lack of a better alternative.
Why? Because, I was convinced by my analysis that Ondo State as a political force and a no-nonsense state in the Nigerian Federation, was already tired of playing a second fiddle, and being forced into opposition, all the time, because of her peoples’ loyalty to the old Action Group Government and his amazing leader, Obafemi Awolowo, whose dynamic leadership and imperishable legacies on Free Education, Rural and Economic Development, Agriculture and Farm Settlements, have helped in turning our own neck of the woods in Nigeria, into the intellectual power house of Nigeria, at a time, Oil and natural Gas have not become the albatross it has now become for our Nation’s economic growth and political emancipation. Once Nigeria has hit the black Gold in huge commercial quantities in the Delta region of our country, and a few other places close to the Atlantic coastal belt and creeks.
That was a period in our history when Nigeria was the highest producer of Palm Oil, Cocoa, Groundnut, Rubber and Timber, and when the coal and tin mines around Enugu and Jos were some of our priceless mineral resources. Once Nigeria became an oil producing country, our country’s blind leadership and followership had progressively turned their backs on Agriculture which had been the mainstay of our economy before our Oil doom. Because of that development our country’s political panorama and future progress and stability now appear to increasingly hinge on Resource Control which is fast polarizing our country, as the oil-producing states of Nigeria now argue that no less than 50% of the Revenues coming from Oil which now stands at roughly 95% of the nation’s total revenues, should be theirs for the asking, as the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg.
Awolowo was undoubtedly the first of our leaders to see beyond his nose, and to lay a very sound foundation in the right places in the old West, thus giving all Yorubas, the clear edge we still enjoy till tomorrow. The people of Ondo state in particular of all the other Yoruba states were the first to recognize and deify, so to speak, the achievements of the late sage, by forever believing in him and whatever was associated with his name. The AD party which claimed it was the reincarnation of everything that Awolowo had stood for, was therefore able to fool us for a long time. Our people kept voting for them for that reason. But by the time, the Ajasins of this world and the Jakandes and Bola Iges and Pa Rewanes of this world began to quit the stage, we all suddenly began to realize that we have been fooled for too long. There was a quiet resolve and revolution going on among the rank and file of our people that the new leadership of the AD like the Adefaratis of this world could not fully understand or appreciate. Hence it was easy for Obasanjo to completely fool most of the Yoruba Governors, in the 2003 elections, with the exception of Tinubu, the visionary Governor of “Eko Akete”, the legendary home base of wisdom in Oodua country.The ultimate outcome was a complete paralysis of the AD, resulting in a steamroller victory for the PDP in all the Yoruba States including Ondo State where the NPN Governorship candidate, Omoboriowo once had to be smuggled out of the state capital on August 16, 1983 in a woman’s dress for attempting to steal our vote.The development was a first in Nigeria History that habitual election riggers and manipulators would never forget in a hurry.
It is true that Tafa Balogun and his boys in uniform might have been used by Obasanjo and his PDP Government to pull a fast one on the other parties across the country, it was clear to me, however, from my scientific analysis that Ondo State was tired of being railroaded into an opposition party, and were more than ready for once to vote for change and to vote their hopes and not their fears. That was how come Agagu, the Balogun of Osooro land and the most famous son of Iju-Odo in Ilaje was able to emerge the winner, even though, many had suspected he could possibly have been an “obi we dorin, we dorin gaga” whose parents had lived far too long in Ilaje Ese-Odo area to pass for a Yoruba man, like many Ijaws and Egberi in our midst. Of course, he, Agagu, whatever that means, had also campaigned on a populist manifesto and platform that had set him apart from Adefarati who had thought he could continue to fool the people by merely turning the Governor’s Mansion at Oke Eda, Akure into an alternate Holy Ghost Camp, and shouting at the top of his voice he was the Akungba lost cousin of Jeremiah Obafemi. Awolowo.
Adefarati’s Government, for all we knew then and now, and as the probe by Agagu’s Government had proved, was arguably one of the most corrupt Administrations in our State, and I said so loud and clear at
the time, in one of my articles on Agagu, published a year before his election as Governor. I also went out of my way to donate a chicken change of 50,000.00 Naira to Agagu’s Campaign and that of his running mate, at a time very few people were willing to bet on them. I did that on my own without being asked, because I believed in their candidacy. In a Democracy, donating money to help the candidates of your choice is part of the rule of the game. I did so not because I was expecting anything from Agagu and his Deputy. I did so, because it was the norm of civilized politics and because I could afford it.
I said, at the time, that unto whom much is given, much is expected, and that if Agagu and his Government does not perform, I would be the first to say so, and to publicly campaign for his rejection at the polls, the next time around which is 2007. Because of that promise, I have therefore been paying close attention to the Governor’s performance in office. This midterm report card is therefore based on my assessment of how well the Governor has lived up to his promise, and in what areas he needs to improve as we approach the milestone for 2007, two years from now.
The assessment is mainly going to focus on three major areas I have paid special attention. The first is what Governor Agagu has made out of the change in fortunes of Ondo State as one of the 13 Oil producing States in Nigeria and how that has suddenly transformed Ondo State from being one of the poorest States in Nigeria in the Murtala Mohammed era to Shagari era, and in the Mohammadu Buhari era up to the IBB and Sanni Abacha era, to one of the richest states in our country today. It is as if the vigils kept in the Governors’ mansion under Adefarati’s Government had finally paid off. If you factor in the fact that more oil wells are now found in the territorial waters of Ondo State, it is a miracle that our state now rivals Delta state as the largest oil producing state in Nigeria. The revenues accruing to Ondo State today in one month from Federal allocation, is more than ten times what Ondo State used to get during Governor Olumilua’s days when the current Governor was the Deputy. In fact what Ondo State is now getting in one week today, is ten times more than what Governor Ajasin Government ever received from the Federal Government in all of his first four years in office. That was a time when the Federal Government under Shagari was publicly out to stand in the way of Governor Ajasin and to render his Government totally impotent, because Shagari and his NPN were just bent on punishing Ondo State for being loyal to his nemesis, Awolowo who had run against him for the big job in 1979.
The same scenario had continued under the military Government of Muhammadu Buhari and Idiagbon. I recall late Governor Commodore Otiko the first Akure son to be ever made a Governor in the history of our state, being sent to Ondo State, but with the Federal Government- led by Buhari refusing to release money owned to Ondo State because Ondo State was a “no go” area. Can you imagine any American Government ostracizing Massachusetts State, the home base of the great Harvard University and MIT for failing to play by the rule dictated by any Government in the Belt Park Way? I am not making up the story. The Ekiti people, the greatest beneficiaries of the Otiko short-lived Administration, because 60% of Otiko’s Cabinet were drawn from his alma mater, the one and only Christ School , Ado Ekiti. But that did not stop the Ekitis as a group, from sarcastically referring to the Commodore as Governor “Ofifo”, because the Treasury was virtually empty for the Governor to be able to do much for the State. I knew late Governor Otiko. he was my senior friend and brother-in-law, and a staunch member of the Akure Inner Circle to which I belong. He had really meant to serve his people, to the best of his ability, but he was starved of funds by the Federal Government.
The Banks were not even ready to bail Ondo state out because the Federal Government, at the time, had refused to guarantee the loans because Ondo State was regarded as a pariah state in Nigeria. I recall the Federal Government also refusing to let Ajasin Government set up the Owena Bank until Governor Ajasin and his Government had to be bailed out by some financiers from Dubai to get the Ondo State sponsored Bank off the ground.
Pa Governor Ajasin who had,so to speak, laid the financial foundation for the state was able to do so, due to his strong will power, and because the man was incorruptible..Now that Ondo state under Agagu is without any doubt, one of the richest states in Nigeria it makes sense to ask in this article what Agagu has done with this change in fortunes, plus the fact that he had been known to be a favorite of the Balogun of Owu and the Commander-in-Chief who had twice appointed him a minister in two of the most powerful and lucrative Ministries that many in Nigeria would kill to have. I guess my question is what has Agagu done with that limitless power and leverage and the billions rolling in from Abuja every month.
The simple answer is a lot. Although most of the projects he is using the change in circumstance and financial standing to pursue are all still on the drawing board, as far as I can see. I live in New York, but I can tell you i am very current on what is going on in my town and state because I care. I dare say that my state had not felt the impact of the dividend as much as it should, but I acknowledge that the Governor is doing something, especially in his own Local Government area of Ilaje Ese-Odo and Okitipupa area.. He has recently set aside the sum of 2 billion Naira for the Shore Reclaim Project for which he had set a deadline of 2007, to anticipate and fight the problems of Shore recession similar to the problems faced by the Federal Government in trying to keep the Atlantic Ocean from overflowing the coast line, and sweeping off much of Victoria Island when the Atlantic Ocean tidal waves often cause the Ocean to overflow into the Ahmadu Bello Way areas of Victoria Island threatening lives and properties.
If the federal experience is anything to go by, such projects are nothing but White Elephant projects that are often used by corrupt leaders to si
phon money from the state treasury. I hope the Ondo State Project on which the Agagu’s Government is sinking so much money, does not end up as a Pyrrhic victory for our state, when all is said and done. The same thing goes for the Bitumen Project that this Governor has made one of his cardinal priorities in office. They are all capital intensive projects where a lot of money can be thrown down the tube with very little to show for it.
I already take notice that no less than 36 independent Banks have since moved in to establish branch offices in the State Capital to take full advantage of the dividends coming from such projects. But I also observe that this Governor and his Deputy have not articulated how exactly they are going to develop their State Capital in readiness for the industrial take-off of our State. Maybe, the Government is doing something that we yet don’t know about. Half way thru his first term, I, personally, have not seen much to justify how much the Governor is doing to give Akure, the state Capital, the face lift, it needs to be seen as a worthy capital of our state.
It is true that his Deputy, Otunba Omolade Oluweteru is born and bred in Akure City and who should, therefore, be there to constantly remind his boss not to forget his own constituency. it is true that Agagu by picking him as a running mate, has already improved his chances to one day hope he might be Governor. But that can only happen, if Omolade appreciates, before it is too late, that Agagu alone cannot make him Governor. if all he ever wants to tell Agagu is what he thinks he wants to hear, he would never become a Governor, because charity as they say really must begin from home. Need I say more? If current observation in other areas of concern is anything to go by, it appears Agagu’s Deputy is much more concerned about securing his place in the ticket for the second term, than actually reminding his boss of his obligations to his State Capital in much the same way like Governors Ita David Ikpeme. Adekunle Ajasin and late Anthony Onyearugbulem of blessed memory, have made it a point of duty to pay special attention to developing the State Capital for the benefit of the entire State. Governor Agagu will be well advised to start thinking of the legacies and possible landmarks he wants to leave behind in the state Capital after he leaves office. By all means, let him help Iju-Odo and Ilaje Ese Odo by any means he can, because that is where he is going to return to, like Otunba Oluweteru will, some day, have no choice than to return back to his home front. I wonder what he would have to say that he did for his hometown that has given him so much.
The other area focused by this Report Card is the attitude of Agagu’s Government to Education and most especially University Education. I recently read an interview by the Ondo State University Pro-Chancellor, Dr Bode Olajumoke, a good friend of mine and a former colleague in the Federal complaining about the general neglect of University funding including that of his own University at Akungba. At a time our state is receiving heavy subsidies and multiple allocations from the Federal Government on oil revenues, and at a time our state is lead by an intellectual like Agagu, it is a disgrace, if Governor Agagu would not do what is required of him to make our State University a shinning example on how to run a first class University. Governor Agagu has no excuse neglecting the State University and starving it of necessary funds as needed. This is one area where the Governor needs to show more improvement in the second half of his term, and certainly before 2007 when I am told he is planning to seek re-election.
The last and the final area of great concern to me is how the Agagu’s Government has performed on Chieftaincy matters across our state. Here was a Government that came to office, pledging to steer clear of chieftaincy disputes,and to focus on what is important, for our State, like a laser beam. I was speaking, very recently, with a good friend of mine and a retired Secretary to Government of Ondo State, Mr. Rueben Modupe OmoOlorun, now a New York Attorney. Mr. Modupe who has seen it all in Ondo state has described chieftaincy matters as a potentially dangerous area for any Administration in Ondo State to toy with, and I have to agree with him, because he has served in the Ministry of Local Government as Permanent Secretary in charge of Chieftaincy matters and he knows what he is talking about.
Here is an area where I think Governor Agagu and his Deputy have done more harm than good, in the way and manner, they have dealt with chieftaincy matters across the state, starting from his own Ilaje/Okitipupa backyard where he would appear to have created more problems than he has solved. His administration has on several occasions, and in many places elevated village heads to the full status of an Oba, without due consultation and consideration for the history and traditions of the people and the far reaching consequences of his actions. He appears to have offered more confusions than providing real leadership and solutions to many of these problems. we all know that chieftaincy matter is a conduit pipe for unmitigated Corruption in our system. Many of the village heads now unilaterally elevated by Agagu’s Government are willing to spend their last card on bribing the Governor and His Deputy and any of his corrupt officials willing and yearning to take bribes.
With the active encouragement of his Government, in Okitipupa township alone, there are as many as three candidates wanting to polarize what used to be one Jegun of Idepe into three separate kingdoms in the same town, as we speak. By carving out these different little kingdoms and according them recognition by getting his Deputy to offer them instruments of office, Agagu’s Government is playing politics and trying to enlarge a Council of Chiefs in our State that most reasonable people think should be condensed or reduced in size, at a time the chairmen of Local Government Councils have rendered many of those titles really redundant.
By so doing, Agagu is robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak, and reducing the power and influence of some of the major Obas in the areas cocerned. I can see the p
ower of Rebuja of Osooro Land where the Governor holds a chieftaincy title, being eroded now, with some of the decisions Agagu’s Government has taken lately. With the Governor’s help, the Olorofun of Iju -Odo where the Governor comes from should now have his eyes on taking his seat in the Ondo State Council of Chiefs, side by side with the Rebuja of Osooro who is now going to be seen more as the Rebuja of Igbotako, just like the Abodi of Ikale has now become the Abodi of Ikoya, due in large part to the policies of this Government. Very soon, Erekiti village in the same area should be asking Agagu to recognize its own Oba. The Olufun of Ode Irele, Oba C. O Lebi, a former colleague of mine in the Federal Civil Service and a first class gentleman and Oba, should be feeling the heat as some small village heads under his kingdom now seek their independence, and wanting to claim equality with the Olufun. I guess the Olugbo of Ugbo and the Agadagba of Ijaw Arogbo, Oba Kukuruaga, should soon be feeling the same heat as splinter chiefs and village heads crave Agaggu’s indulgence to be upgraded into a full fledged Obas in our Council of Chiefs, as the season of Politics comes upon us or turns a full circle, with the 2007 Elections just around the corner.
The worse problem Agagu has created in the State Capital is currently being adjudicated in the Benin City Court of Appeal where the Government decision to recognize the Osolo and the Iralepo, in the absence of a substantive Deji has become so contentious that the whole of Akure community led by the Regent, Princess Adeyinka Adesida and the Olisa, Chief Elijah Folorunsho David, have now taken the Ondo State Government to Court.
I want to make it abundantly clear, going forward, that there is some merit in the decision by the Government to accord Kabiyesi Osolo and Kabiyesi Iralepo the recognition they have been seeking, ever since they have been appointed chiefs under the Deji of Akure at Isolo and isikan Quarters in Akure. Asking the chiefs to return to their former enclaves, if they want to be recognized as Obas is legalistic and tenable for purposes of an argument, but it would not solve the problem Akure now faces. there has got to be a better way for a rational Government to solve the problem.
What I am opposed to, and what I think the rank and file of our people are opposed to, is the sneaky way the whole delicate exercise was done by the Agagu’s Government, while a substantive Deji is still waiting to be selected and installed. Agagu and Oluwateru cannot create a king without delineating their kingdoms. If the Government is going to carve out their kingdom from the Deji’s current Kingdom, it makes a lot of sense to let the Deji and the whole Akure community have some say in the exercise. If the two parties are going ever to reach a consensus, it ought to be done on the terms laid down by Akure, not on the terms imposed on the Deji by an Iju-Odo intruder and chieftain who happens to be the State Governor at this time.
This is one area where his Deputy who happens to be an Akure man should have served him better, no matter what. To add more insult to an injury, it was the same Deputy Governor that was assigned the unpleasant duty of going to present the instrument of office to the newly recognized Obas. If Agagu’s Government has any modicum of respect for his Deputy and his feelings, and for the high institution of the Deji and the entire people of his State capital, he should have thought twice, before going ahead with that plan.
It is still possible to correct the blunder.The conditions under which the two Obas are now recognized must be revisited and worked out to the satisfaction of both parties at the minimum. That would be my recommendation for peace and tranquility to reign supreme in our town.
On the whole, I would give Agagu a pass mark on the first area of concern, a C minus on the second and an incomplete on the third. Agagu is only half way thru his term. There is a chance he can still turn things around before it is too late.
I rest my case.