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Monarchs not doing enough to tackle Fulani herdsmen’s menace –Ogun PDP Chieftain, Segun Showunmi

Segun Showunmi has been part of the politics of Ogun State for some years now. Showunmi is currently the spokesperson of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organization under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The politician speaks on Ogun State at 45 in a no-holds-barred interview session with OLADIPUPO AWOJOB

How will you assess the development of Ogun State that was created 45 years ago in 1976?

First of all, let me congratulate the government, citizens, the indigenes, the settlers, the visitors and all men and women of goodwill, who have one thing or the other to do with Ogun State, including our citizens in the Diaspora that we have attained the adult age of 45 years from the early beginning on 3rd of February, 1976. I was also born on 3rd February. To God alone be the glory, we thank God and we pray that there would continue to be peace in Ogun State, God will continue to prosper Ogun State; both the indigenes, the traditional rulers, the kings, the spiritual leaders, the leaders all well and good. May it be well with Ogun State now and forever.

I think Ogun State has been luckier than most of the other states that were created 45 years ago. Look at some of the states created with Ogun like Kwara State and a few others. You would notice that in Ogun State, we have enjoyed the benefits of planning by the forebears, who are the architects of our state. You would find evidence on how well we were planned, and in the way our sections are laid out.

It is in Ogun State that you can say that there is laid out, structured markets, gated in some cases, well allocated and well built. If you also go round, you would see that Ogun State is one of the locations where you have carefully located mechanic villages that are built for those purposes.

You would also notice that if you go around Ogun, unlike some other states, where only one town is thriving, Ogun State has the benefit of close to 12 thriving towns. You have a thriving town in Ijebu Ode, an ancient city that commands some respects, you have thriving towns in Ago Iwoye and Ijebu Igbo axis because of our deliberate effort of siting the very first state-owned university there. You have a very thriving town in Shagamu because of its long history as an inter-change commercial nerve centre between Lagos and Ogun State corridor.

You have a thriving town in Mowe/Ibafo due to its proximity to Lagos and the Redeemed Christian Church of God and so many of what we have known as the holiness corridor cutting to the expressway. We have a very thriving town in Abeokuta and Abeokuta North because it is the seat of power, you have a thriving town in Ifo, which is growing steadily and you have a thriving town in Ado-Odo/Ota, you have a thriving town in Igbesa because of our deliberate effort of putting a well-structured economic zone there.

You have mentioned thriving towns in many senatorial districts in Ogun State and some people would tell you that the towns are thriving towns just because of the closeness of those towns to Lagos and that the spill over are from Lagos, whereas there are no infrastructural development in all the towns you have mentioned. They don’t have roads, they don’t have water… …

You must situate things properly; we will still do a critique of our state, but let us first of all situate our state for what it is. However, I do not agree completely or wholesomely that Ogun State is thriving only because of its proximity to Lagos State. Afterall, what exactly has Agege and Isheri contributed to the development of Ogun State. What I see with Ogun State is that you would notice that we can tell you the growth pole that was specifically put in that area to stimulate its growth. For instance, the usage of our land infrastructure around the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, making ourselves available to big universities, big churches and all that aided the growth there. Our special efforts are bringing in industries and attracting them there. You know, we accommodate The Punch, one of the greatest newspapers in Nigeria.

We have a specialised journalist village there on the express. If you come to Igbesa, what has the place got to do the with the closeness to Lagos, when it was us that put a full free trade zone there that is thriving. When you come to Shagamu corridor, what has the closeness of Shagamu got to do with Lagos, Ijebu-Ode same way. What has Ijebu-Igbo and Ago Iwoye got to do with Lagos. We are the ones, who put the university there. I am laying the architecture of Ogun State for you that the founding fathers of the state planned it well.

If you want us to skip all the efforts of some of the civilian governors and run straight into the critique of the day; we do not have good roads in Ogun State. One of the reasons we don’t have good roads in Ogun is because somehow town planners as professionals have failed Nigeria. It is the responsibility of town planners to do that.

Members of that profession comprehensively have failed the country and the import of their failure is clear in Ogun State in the sense that the towns are springing up very fast, settlements are springing up very fast and it is one authority that gives them approval for this development and an authority gives them approval for the ratification of their land, how is it that the authority that gives them approval is not aware that they have to provide infrastructure for them.

Even if the roads are not tarred, they can be plotted in a way that you will know that the place is planned and that duty falls on that professional body called town planning. There would be somebody that would be in charge to ensure that things are not haphazard. Again Ogun State has suffered from the general problem in the country such that they do not have the resources to do all of the roads that they want to do.

I am not convinced that Ogun State has used the best model to deliver road infrastructure neither am I convinced that Ogun has used the best building technique for roads infrastructure. I cannot accept that a state has a lot of limestone, quarry stone and a lot of those materials you need to do all these that their greatest desire is to give out big contracts to build asphalted roads that don’t last. An approach to concrete road would have been better for us.

In Ogun, within, Igbesa, Ipokia and Ode Omi corridor around Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu Ode and Ogun water side, we have the belt of the largest deposit of bitumen in the whole West Africa if not in Africa. Therefore, I do not see how building road infrastructure would be a big deal for Ogun State if they had taken advantage of all the human and natural resources that are available to them.

I also think that for a state that has a large population, I think it is not responsible for Ogun State to think that they should b u i l d roads at very expensive contracts. When in the real sense of the word, if we had encouraged our ministry of works, our state agencies, state engineers, local government engineers, by now the capacity to build roads of any standard would have been attained. But that is not what we found. Another thing that affected infrastructure in Ogun State is that I don’t know how we fell into this trap that Ogun State has to be following the others in Nigeria or Africa. You would have thought that Ogun would never be a state, given our own opinions on national issues, where we will not be giving local governments full allocations.

Probably that could have been because the state governors refuse to hold local government elections and you only see caretaker committees…

The most important thing is that you would have noticed that what I am doing is that I am speaking more consensually than in specifics. The reason I am speaking consensually is that I have come to realize that abusing them, criticising them and calling them all sorts of ugly names does not help; what helps is a narrative around persuasion that can make them see the advantage of the point you are making. The point I am making is that you cannot get any great advantage in not running effective local government, where the local government personnel like the chairmen are not having their money.

I accept that the local government elections have not been done, but even when they do the local government election… I am talking about releasing the resources of the local governments to them so that local governments can take on the responsibility that they are meant to handle.

After all, the Federal Government releases the money of the state governments to them. The Federal Government stays in Abuja and says they don’t trust the local governments to pay salaries and that they want to use an integrated payment system to help them to pay salaries. It’s not a responsible way to think. What I think has happened to us is that Ogun State has not been punishing its leaders because the state has not been reviewing its leaders. What is happening in Ogun State is that what has happened in other areas that has affected their development has crept into Ogun. Here, people would come and serve in Ogun State and they would not be told to come and give an account of their stewardship, even when they do so people would not see any punishment meted out to them in case of infractions or crimes. So every successive one was only trying to be worse than the previous one and abuse their offices and it is not helping at all. Now, that we are 45 years, we need to sit down and say Ogun State it’s time for us to reset.

That is why I have been singing and shouting this reset agenda from the thinking and collective point of view. Determine for ourselves that there is no reason that any great people in the world would be sitting down to see what they could do for their societies and Ogun State people would not be able to do it. We need to look at it, we need to change our educational system. I have noticed that they have reduced education in Ogun State to the colour of the roof of the school.

This one will come and do his own brown, this one will come and do his own green, another one, red, now we have yellow. When you go to a public school in Ogun State you will begin to see all kinds of colours of roof and you begin to wonder what kind of irresponsible repair, reconstruction and renewal model is this. You can stick to one colour, I don’t believe that the only way they can see you working is through the colours of the houses, which is affecting us. You can hardly find any standard school in Ogun now, especially in the rural areas.

I have not seen any school that are models that we can be appreciative of and happy with. We need to understand that great nations like the United States of America and Britain and as great as they are and as they could rely on ingenuity of good institutions such as their universities and the rest, they still spend a lot of time reviewing their education system and create all the advantage that they need to create. They are looking for how that educational process can work for everybody.

Can you say that the children of the poor are happy with the quality of education they are getting in Ogun State now, no, the cannot be. We said we will run six years primary school, three years junior secondary school guaranteed by the Federal Government then, what is the guarantee that we have in Ogun State now.

If Chief Obafemi Awolowo could send us to free primary school then, don’t you think Ogun State should send people to free nursery school so that the first four years from two to six years we can train them. We already know from signs that the quality of education you give people in the first three years of their lives is the most important for them. But we are lagging behind.

I am not happy with our health delivery philosophy in Ogun State. Although that is the delivery philosophy in the country, and like I always say, the fact that they are doing nonsense in other places does not mean Ogun cannot show them the way.

I have been asking myself, all of the efforts we put in health in Ogun State what does it mean to Ogun citizens. As far as I can see, the only thing we do with our health infrastructure and health budget in Ogun State is only accident and emergency.

By now, Ogun should have evolved to a level where even the health budget touches the citizens at a level that whether you are sick or not you will benefit from the system, but we are not doing that, except, God forbids, somebody has an accident and that is what we do, that has to change and I believe that if we begin to do the reset agenda that will change. Another area where we have problem in Ogun is the issue of Fulani herdsmen, and I tell you this, I have zero blame for anybody else except the traditional rulers. I have been asking myself, what exactly is the job of tier one, tier two and tier three traditional rulers.

In some places, you have ‘baale,’ in some places you have regency and in some places, you have chiefs, in some places you have ‘oloritun.’ But how can you have a system in place that allows some people to be traditional rulers of an environment and they would just be there doing nothing and they would not be in a position to tell the government or to call the attention of the government to issues before they become very big and there is hardly anywhere you go in Ogun State that you will not see people with beads and all of that claiming that they are ‘baales.’ Ogun must come to a point that it must find structured, measurable roles for these traditional rulers so that we know what they are doing, why they are there and what we can expect from them.

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