The Spin Doctors Of Ogun State


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The Spin Doctors Of Ogun State




Adegbenro Adebanjo




November 21, 2006


The owners of the English Language may have to ask their lexicographers to redefine the phrase “white elephants” no thanks to the deliberate misapplication of the word by a tiny band of politicians in Ogun State. Ordinarily the word is used to refer to projects that are grandiose with little or no real benefit to the people. But in its blind quest to rubbish the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the opposition in the state has consistently tried to wear the toga of white elephant on the many people oriented projects and programmes of Otunba Gbenga Daniel.


The sweeping generalization began after influential citizens of Nigeria and unbiased residents of Ogun State started paying attention to the changing face of the landscape of the Gateway State and acknowledging the leader of the team behind the positive development.


At first the opposition thought it was a passing phase and the administration would simply go to sleep after a few flash in the pan projects. But they were wrong. From the successes of the Yewa International Market to the Redeveloped Olumo Tourists Centre, from the Gateway International Stadium in Ijebu-Ode to the Gateway trailer Park in Sagamu, from the new housing estates in different parts of the state to the country’s first University of Education and four ICT based polytechnics, from the over 300 communities which have benefited from rural water projects and road rehabilitation to the over 300 transformers injected to improve public power supply, from the modern brick houses built for villagers along the dualised Sagamu Siun Expressway to the rejuvenated Simeon Adebo Library and other multiple dividends of democracy, the people simply rediscovered the meaning of good governance through the Otunba Daniel administration.


Expectedly the opposition became discomfited when the people of Ogun State rose up in unison to salute a visionary governor who was not just building economically viable projects but was also reconstructing roads, building new schools and also generating employments in an unprecedented manner.

That was the time the opposition decided to brand all the projects white elephant to confuse the people and distract the government of Ogun State. One of the most vilified projects by the opposition is the redevelopment of the Olumo Tourist Centre. Before Daniel, Olumo Rock was just a sleepy tourists center with little or no concrete development. Its huge potential as a veritable tourists gold mine had been left largely untapped. But for the devotees, Olumo Rock was reduced to a site visited by just a few people during holiday periods and some school children on excursions. Expectedly the pay back to the government and the people was near zero. This did not overawe the Governor and he gave the go ahead for the commencement of a comprehensive redevelopment of Olumo.  The result of two years of painstaking planning and execution of the project is now a tourist’s site of international standard. Yet the opposition continues to insist that the redevelopment of this Rock, which the Egbas at home and in the Diaspora holds very dearly, is a misplaced priority.


But tourism experts say those who are criticizing the monumental changes that have turned Olumo into a tourist center of international repute miss the point. Israel, Saudi Arabia, United States, United Kingdom and a number of African countries including Kenya and Uganda reap a sizable chunk of revenue from tourists who daily flock to their countries. How can we improve the local economy and generate employment without a viable tourism sector?


When tourists come they spend money and lodge in our hotels.  Hoteliers and those who sell adire at Itoku market will not agree that Olumo Rock is a white elephant project. That is a fact. Just after its commissioning by President Olusegun Obasanjo, the human traffic at the historical site has increased by more than 100% with attendant upsurge in economic activities in the   area. Students from all over the world who recently attended an international students’ sports competition in Nigeria visited the site and openly commended the ingenuity of the Engineers who effected what many have described as a balance between modernity and tradition.


It is also obvious that the country’s leading sportsmen and women and their administrators would also completely disagree with those who dismiss the Gateway International Stadium Ijebu-Ode as a misplaced priority. For one sport is big business all over the world and any state which taps into its potential is building the future of its citizens who are sports inclined. All of us cannot be engineers, doctors or teachers, we have some who will make their fortune in sports, and they need the best facilities to excel. Governor Daniel should be saluted for his doggedness in using sports as a tool of social and economic engineering.


Months after the Gateway Games we are still counting its many gains. They include many new housing projects most of which have been sold to members of the public, first class sporting facilities in different parts of Ogun State, the recognition of Ogun State as a sports destination of choice which culminated in its hosting the finals of the 2006 edition of the prestigious Coca Cola FA CUP.  A former Governor of Ogun State, Major General Oladayo Popoola is one of the believers in the multiple gains of the Gateway Games. General Popoola has predicted that the rehabilitated M.K.O Abiola Stadium and the newly built Gateway International Stadium Ijebu Ode would boost social and recreational activities in the State. He said he was elated that Governor Daniel has successfully used the Gateway Games to reposition Ogun State on the path of growth. While saying he was confident that the Governor would continue to boost the glory of the state, the retired General also saluted Otunba Daniel’s resilience, courage, selfless service and determination which have helped him to achieve success and make Ogun a good example of state where good governance thrives.


The people of Yewa are of the same opinion. They have continued to salute the governor for the construction of the Multi - Million naira Yewa International market. Interestingly no known indigene of Yewa agrees with the opposition that the Ogun West Senatorial district does not merit an International market. Outsiders who do not mean well for the Yewas and who do not believe in equity are the ones criticizing Governor Daniel for the project that the people actually asked him to do for them. Past administrations simply shortchanged the Yewas by not building the market that was built for the people of Ijebu and Egba more than 20 years ago. Governor Daniel has balanced the equation by building a major market for the Remos and the Yewas.  It is obvious that the pace of business and commercial activities would never be the same again in Yewaland as the Gateway International market apart from giving the people a sense of belonging would also change their economic fortune.


Incidentally one of the incurable self-style critics of the administration recently questioned the rationale behind the concept of brick houses for the villagers whose mud houses had to give way for the dualisation. of the Sagamu- Siun Expressway. What he did not know is that the OGD administration does not foist its own idea on the people. The villagers were the ones who chose the style of the building and the facilities that accompanied it. Rather than build houses that would not meet the need of the people the administration simply deferred to them and made sure that it built houses that international organizations are now using as benchmarks for the relocation of displaced people.


Interestingly the spin masters are not telling the people about their own agenda. Apparently they are more interested in firing cheap shots to discredit the incumbent than providing alternative viewpoints that would engender good governance and deepen the practice of democracy. They just want to demonize Governor Daniel.


Unfortunately for the spin masters, whose stock in trade is painting white black in the name of politics, the people are not listening to them. And for good reasons too. Nowhere in the world would the building of schools, hospitals, the generation of more than 10,000 full time employments in government’s ministries and departments and other life changing initiatives and projects that have become the hallmark of the Gbenga Daniel area be described as white elephant. 


Adebanjo, a journalist is based in Abeokuta


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