By Yemisi AKinmameji
The economy of any State or government at any level is crucial to development. Any State where economic rejuvenation is not pursued assiduously may only survive for a very short while.
With this consciousness, the governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, upon assumption of office identified as one of the cardinal points of his administration, economic development.
He reiterated the commitment to develop the Ondo State’s industries and make the Sunshine State a hub of economic activities in Nigeria.
He said that “Our state is particularly lucky. We have men and women of quality. We set the pace for others in the not too distant past. The country depended, to a very great extent on our resourcefulness.
“We contributed immensely, to the GDP of the country at a time when agriculture was the mainstay of the country’s economy. Our people were exemplars in virtually all fields of human endeavour”.
Considering the need and incessant calls for economic diversification, one could not but expect that the governor would make good his promises by ensuring that all economic potentials of the State are tapped.
The way to improve the massive and flourishing cocoa plantation and business should continue to gain government’s attention.
Thank God for the Commissioners that have been thoughtfully selected by the governor to man the various ministries in the State.
These men and women of proven integrity are expected to bring their experiences and expertise into the business of government.
The Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Otunba Timilehin Adelegbe , is a round peg in a round hole having made giant strides in the business world before his present political attainment.
While the government is aiming to pursue economic rejuvenation, it must bear in mind that line of the nation’s national anthem: “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain”.
Thus the previous efforts of past governors of Ondo State which culminated in the establishment of various industries: Owena Bank Ltd, Akure, Confidence Insurance Ltd, Akure, Ondo Premier Company, Ondo, Investment Holdings Ltd, Akure, Okitipupa Oil Palm Mill, Okitipupa, Araromi-Ayesan Oil Palm Plc, Ayesan, Okitipupa, Owena Motel, Akure, Oluwa Glass Company, Igbokoda, Nigeria Italian Ceramic Industry, Ifon. Ile-Oluji Cocoa Product Company, Ile-Oluji, Ondo State Asphalt Company, Akure should not be in vain.
All the companies catapulted the state to national limelight. Employment opportunities were created for the teeming youths of Ondo State and the sun was shining as people from neighbouring states came to the state to seek greener pastures. All the industries were not only functional, huge revenue also came to the State.
It is a statement of fact that some of these companies have gone moribund. These include the remarkable Oluwa Glass project.
The Company which was the cynosure of all eyes in the world is now in pitiable state and reptiles struggle to have offices of their own in the Ore premises of the defunct company.
The once vibrant Iron Sheet Ondo Premier/Company in Ondo town is now inhabited by Bats of various species, while Okitipupa Oil Palm Mill is down completely.
The industry established by the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati, Alpha 3ds in Ikare-Akoko to produce doors and other home appliances for the people of the State was killed due for political reasons.
This project suffered so much that all entreaties to revive it fell on deaf ear. Today, Ondo State indigenes that should be beneficiaries are awaiting for Godot.
Again, the Olokola Free Trade Zone that should have provided thousands of jobs for the people of the State was also jettisoned for political reasons.
The multiplier effect that the comatose industries would have made in the lives of the people of the State if they are functioning could best be imagined.
Rather than ensuring continuity of the companies, those manning them sent their cronies to serve as conduit pipe to kill them. The indifferent attitude of those sent to man the industries have continued to take its toll on the State’s economy.
Recently, Ondo State lost the largest private refinery to be established by Dangote Groups to Lagos State due to bureaucracy.
That refinery alone could have catapulted the state into international reckoning. The $12 billion refinery project with capacity to refine 650,000 barrels per day expected to be completed in 2019 is now being built in Lekki, Lagos.
The refinery is going to be integrated with a petrochemical plant, a fertiliser plant and a sub-sea pipeline project, making it the largest in the world.
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who recently visited the site described it as an incredible industrial undertaking, possibly, the largest in the world and the most ambitious on the continent. The Dangote phenomenon is truly inspiring but what a great loss to Ondo State.
Much as there is to say about failed industries, some of the industries established by past heroes of the State are still thriving and performing as expected.
Some of these include the Araromi-Ayesan Oil Palm company in Araromi Obu which just last year held its Annual General Meeting after several years of battling for survival.
The Ondo State Asphalt Company is also alive and functioning according to mandate. But of course, it could always be improved upon.
As the State, under the Arakunrin Akeredolu administration pursues economic revival, it should be brought to mind that a major reason some of the moribund companies failed is because of corruption and greed.
But there is much confidence in the present government that its plan to have zero tolerance for corruption would bring about a new lease of life to the State’s economy.
This is very important because all over the world, corruption and economic revival cannot survive simultaneously. The former is usually a clog in the wheel of the progress of the latter.
Another major reason is the effort by successive governments to frustrate the efforts of previous administration so that the latter would not be adjudged to have performed better by the former.
Indeed, poor attitude towards continuity in government programmes has remained a bane of development. This attitude should be jettisoned in this part of the world. There is no vacuum in government and as such, successive governments should see themselves as building on the strides of previous ones. Political arrogance should stop.
Again, the hope and expectations of the people of the State is that the present administration would bring about a huge difference knowing well that the man who takes the lead right now is a learned person and a man of much understanding.
After all, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has said in his inaugural speech said that : “The main mission of our administration is to lead a patriotic, highly inspired and competent team to rescue the ship of our state.
“We intend to help rebuild our economy, resuscitate damaged infrastructure, restore hope and return our state to a prosperous land. We are determined as an administration to break down the barriers that have made stagnation possible.
“I come to you this day, with a message of hope, a clear agenda of prosperity and a vision of life abundant. I believe the greatest expression of faith in our ability is to be strong enough to look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake our society to align with our highest ideas.
“The government will ensure that the environment remains peaceful and conducive for economic activities”. We pray for God’s guidance for him.
But to be able to achieve his goals, this government should loom into the problem associated with industrialisation and entrepreneurship in Ondo State.
Government must make the environment peaceful and conducive for investors to invest. Presently, the state is the most peaceful state in Nigeria, and Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu should use his connection to revive all the moribund industries.
He must put machinery in place to invite local and foreign investors to choose the state as their destination. The zeal must be there to call investors to see wonders going on in the state through Arakunrin’s efforts.
Government must look critically at the efforts put into Olokola and Omotosho Power Plant by the late Olusegun Agagu in industrialising the state.
A lot of fund had been sunk into the project, government must engage consultants, Ogun State government and the federal government on how to achieve the completion of the project.
Ondo State government should look critically at Ifon Ceramic and other comatose industries in the state in order to revive them.
Nigeria Romania Wood Industries in Ondo town is a shame of the state, this should be revived to provide gainful employment to our teeming youths roaming the streets in search of employment.
For the state government to succeed in this great venture, it must look into establishing it’s own power generation. It must follow the vision of states like Lagos and Cross River that now generate their own power and sell to prospective clients.
To add to this, if the State could generate it’s own power, many of the small cottage industries will buy into the idea and patronise the state government, and this will bring more revenues.
It should also liase with the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) in meaningful discussion to resolve the problem of power in the state.
That the Southern Senatorial District of the state was in darkness for the past four years and industries were completely in comatose should be addressed.
So many things to be done within a very short period of time, it appears! Yes. Like it has been already said, government is a continuum.
If this government starts from somewhere, it would be on record and then, the succeeding government would have a better place to start from rather than starting all over again from a contradictory dimension.
Government should also look critically at the issue of security in tackling the issue of entrepreneurship and industrialising the state.
Well, the State is peaceful, but splinter crisis must be tackled without leaving anything to chances. The security outfits in the State must be fortified, so that, the investors can see Ondo State as a haven to invest.
The governor has already assured that: “Security of lives and property shall be guaranteed. Our administration will protect all and sundry. We will act in the interest of everyone. We will be there for all”. So, all the people need to do is to pray for a successful administration.