By Remigius Akinbinu
Forty years in the life of a person will certainly not be without events, history and development, how much more a state inhabited by millions of people with diverse culture and blessed with great human and material resources.
From a naturally endowed status of being the nation’s biggest producer of Cocoa, the only South west state with oil, rich bitumen deposits and vast forest resources to outstanding intellectual productivity of its citizens which has seen the state winning over 20% of the Annual Nigerian National Merit Award in the past 35 years, forty-year-old Ondo state was certainly carved out by man for development but designed by God for checkered history and greatness.
The aforementioned leaders have come and gone but each and every one of them including the incumbent have moved the state farther than where he met it.
STATE CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT: From a semi-urban little town of the Western state era with narrow roads, no dual carriage way and lacking in sights of sophistication that Akure was, the town has crystallized into modern city with such sparks of modernity like dual carriage ways, massive state secretariat, functioning streetlights despite the Nation’s acute power challenges, modern bus stops, parks, modern markets, an Automart, lovely roundabouts, official and private housing estates, an ultra modern shopping mall, modern event centers, and so on. Thanks to each succeeding administration which has always focused more on making Akure a capital city we the citizens of the state will all be proud of.
EDUCATION: With the conversion of the then Federal College of Science and Technology Akure to the Federal University of Science and Technology in 1982,Ondo state had its first university, the first polytechnic having been established in 1978 since the Federal Polytechnic which came into being in 1978 was moved to Ado-Ekiti now in Ekiti state.
Today, with the advent of private universities in the country, Ondo state now boasts of seven universities. The number of Secondary schools has also increased from less than 150 in 1976 to over 300 as at the last count in 2016.
Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin’s free education-at-all-levels-policy which took off on the 1st if October 1979 and ended when the military took over in 1983 was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to educational development in the state. The policy led to the establishment of more secondary schools thereby enabling so many indigent children to further their education beyond primary school level.
Such fears in educational populism though rare to find nowadays, are still in place in the state with such schemes as the Free-School-Bus-Shuttle and the mega school initiative which are tremendously bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.
With the introduction of the mega primary schools by the present administration the state has equally taken a big esp forward in complying with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) for primary education thereby taking the state to the forefront in the bottom-up approach to eduction development in Nigeria.
Nothing less than 50 of such schools have been completed across the state.
HEALTH: This sector appears to be one that has witnessed the most significant development in recent years. The Ajasin administration started the free health policy in 1979 but over the years each other succeeding administration has only been able to reduce the state’s health care charges while making it free of charges on some areas.
The current Administration has however been able to achieve a distinctive paradigm shift in the provision of health care services in the state with the introduction of free services for pregnant women from conception to delivery and children under the age of five. This, coupled with the establishment of the innovative Mother and child hospitals with standard facilities and the Abiye safe motherhood scheme, has ensured that the infant and maternal mortality ration in the state became lowest among Nigerian states.
From few General hospitals in 1976, major Health institutions in the state have increased formidably with additional general hospitals, so many basic health centres in rural communities and such new health care institutions like the Mother and Child hospitals, Gani Fawehinmi Diagnostic Centre, Accident Rescue stations, Accident Trauma centre, Disbetes centre, Kidney centre, Vaccine Storage centre and so on.
Today, the state readily comes to mind when mention is being made of the leader-states in quality health care provision.
SPORTS: The one year-old Ondo state participated in the 3rd National Sports Festival tagged Kaduna ’77 which was held in Kaduna in July 1977 and the state did well enough to place 7th out of the 19 states that participated with the larger chunk of its Gold medals coming from the Regina Figbele led swimming team.
Thirty five years later at the 17th edition of the festival held in Port-harcourt in 2011,the state was to record its best ever showing by placing 4th out of 36 states and the FCT.
Though the state has never really lagged behind in sports, it has moved from an average rating it used to get to become one of the states with strongest showings at sporting events.
The state has never stopped producing national, continental and world beaters in different sporting events.
In both male and female football, the state has emerged among the best in the country and arguably the best in the South western region, with its flagship club side, Sunshine Stars Fc which emerged from the shadows of Housing Corporation Fc being rated as the 4th best in Africa in year 2012 and Sunshine Queens Fc becoming the Nigerian Federation Cup champions in 2015.
To be continued