Abiodun’s Riposte to Masses Suffering - oguncitynews


Saturday 24 February 2024

Abiodun’s Riposte to Masses Suffering

By Kunle Somorin 

On February 14, the people of Ogun State received a very unique kind of Valentine’s Day present, as the governor of the state, Prince Dapo Abiodun rolled out palliatives worth over ₦5 billion to reduce hardship during the current cost of living crisis and to better the lives of people. A week later at a stakeholders’ meeting, he further announced the purchase of 100 truckloads of rice to be sold at cheaper rates to residents of the state to cushion the effect of the rise in the prices of goods in the country, adding a proviso: the poor, the elderly, and the vulnerable would enjoy free allocation.

Prince Abiodun said his government was not oblivious nor insensitive to the challenges being faced by the citizens and would leave no stone unturned to ensure that succour comes to the people. While appreciating the perseverance, patience and understanding of all residents in the state, he assured them that the present economic situation is just a transient phase that will soon pass. He also appealed to the people to take things easy with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu: “The Federal Government is not only steadfast in its commitment toward creating a brighter future for all citizens, but it is also trying hard to foster a society where prosperity and well-being of the entire citizens prevail,” the governor said.

To address the challenges associated with the current cost of living crisis, a bitter but temporary pill necessary to address Nigeria’s dwindling economy surgically, the Abiodun administration has commenced implementing a series of phased initiatives aimed at alleviating these burdens on all our citizens.

These initiatives include the provision of a minimum of five exercise books for all 850,000 students in our public primary and secondary schools, as well as a one-off N10,000 education support grant for at least 100,000 pupils and students in our public primary and secondary schools in the state.

Students of tertiary institutions were not left out, as Prince Abiodun announced the provision of N50,000 each to all 27,600 of its indigent students in tertiary institutions nationwide as an education grant. In the health sector, the governor also declared that his administration would provide health insurance coverage for over 70,000 beneficiaries, including pregnant women, children, the elderly, market women and other members of the informal sector. Prince Abiodun was very specific about pregnant women, who, under his “Ibidero Scheme”, will enjoy free prenatal care, with an additional N5,000 per birth and free post-natal care in state-owned hospitals and primary healthcare centres across the state.

In addition, food palliatives, such as rice, vegetable oil and other items are going to be provided for 300,000 households across the state. Also, as part of the initiatives is the commitment of N500 million towards the offsetting of the backlog of deductions from civil servants’ entitlements inherited from the previous administration.


This, of course, is in addition to the payment of N10,000 transport allowance to all civil servants for the state. The allowance, first announced in July 2023, was extended in October of the same year to allow the state workforce to continue to cope with the effects of the subsidy removal. Prince Abiodun made sure that the transport allowance intervention does not only cover serving civil servants but also coverers pensioners, who are senior citizens. Recall that the governor had raised pensioners' gratuities to N1bn quarterly to deal with 16-year outstanding owed senior citizens who had served the state diligently by his two predecessors.

The state government also approved hazard allowance for health and medical personnel, immediate release of letters of promotion in respect of 2021 and 2022, payment of March and April 2023 leave bonuses for public servants and immediate cash-backing for the quarterly payment of gratuities to pensioners.

In the transport sector, Prince Abiodun was the first governor to introduce the E-Mobility and Gas Mobility Programme with Compressed Natural Gas-enabled buses and electric-powered tricycles and motorcycles as alternatives to petrol engines. 

These moves might be seen as not only politically expedient but deft to stave off the spiraling angst emblematized by protests by women and youths against high and harsh living conditions first on Monday, February 5, in Minna, Niger State, and spread to Kano, Sokoto and lately Oyo state. Abiodun’s unusual largesse reminds one of Rule 13 law in Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, “It Doesn’t Take a Hero”. 

In his exposition on leadership, the United States-Iraq war general exhorts: When placed in command, take charge. It is better to make a bad decision than to sit on the fence. While many of his colleagues in other state capitals are spending weeks and months planning, debating, holding meetings, forming committees, forming sub-committees, putting together proposals and tabling the proposals, and watching PowerPoint presentations, Gov. Abiodun seized the hour in the political sophisticated, yet highly volatile state. It was the same magic he deployed during the October 2020 #EndSARS protest that swept across the nation. 

If he had not promptly announced these measures, it is not unlikely that the people’s anger might have led to protests or in worse circumstances attack on public utilities like it happened in the other state capitals. Truth told it might not have been the best decision to reel out short-term measures in a situation where a well-thought-out strategy would have been preferred, but with these palliatives in place, he can continually make adjustments in alignment with other state governors and the government at the centre to bring assistance to the people.

As proud of these interventions as one would love to be, they are merely a fraction of the empowerment, social welfare and social development needs at this time. Everybody in a position of leadership at this time should understand the burden of statecraft. To paraphrase the words of Julius Nyerere, they should understand their privileged position is a call to duty to repay the sacrifice which others have made. They are like the man who has been given all the food available in a starving village so that he might have the strength to bring supplies back from a distant place. If he takes this food and does not bring help to his brothers, he is a traitor.

Prince Abiodun should also not be complacent because all is still not well with the people. He might have recorded some successes in the past like when in 2022, he empowered no fewer than 50,000 women in the state through the scheme known as “Oko’wo Dapo”. At one of the scheme’s validation exercises of ward facilitators, the governor disclosed that over N500m was saved via contributions by the beneficiaries in three local government areas of the state. The scheme has been hailed as intervening in the social well-being of traders, who constitute the backbone of micro and small enterprises in the state. The reality on the ground now is that the women “lifted out of poverty” then have since returned to penury. The removal of fuel subsidy has eaten into their little savings. 

Entrepreneurship has not been left out in the governor’s investment in human development and social welfare.  He launched the biggest Information Communication Technology (ICT) hub described as an innovation focal point that provides ideal conditions for entrepreneurs to collaborate, flourish and accelerate the growth of their businesses. The Ogun Technopreneurship Programme (OTP) was also created with the crucial objective of nurturing high-quality ideas in various industries to become tech startups and tech SMEs. But the people are waiting for the 5000 kilometres of fibre optic cables, and the spread of broadband to ensure access to the Internet across the state through the ambitious Ogun Digital Economic Infrastructure Project launched in April 2021.

Youth development and job creation have also so far received unprecedented attention in the state’s history. This must continue to be a top priority. The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has which has become the core around which youth involvement in agriculture revolves in the state must be strengthened to give practical expression to the promise of food security. As the current situation dictates, stakeholders are optimistic that the programmes will be scaled up to cover even more participants. After all, the governor during the electioneering campaign promised to turn the Gateway State into the Nation’s food basket. The governor is even on record to have promised that the state would ensure the hosting of the best National Sports Festival in the history of the games. We can wait because this would take restless youths off the junctions. 

Indeed, times are hard and the nation as a collective is passing through a lot, but we know a state where the foresight and anticipation of its governor has so far averted the kinds of protests being witnessed in other parts of the country. That state is Ogun, and its governor is Prince Dapo Abiodun who was crowned the Nation’s Best Governor by the SUN Newspapers last week.  

Somorin, former Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Dapo Abiodun writes from Crescent University, Abeokuta.

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