By Adekola Afolabi
When Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, performed the foundation laying for the construction of a new Governor’s Lodge at the Alagbaka Government House Grounds, Akure, the lofty idea was greeted by accolades from right thinking people in the state. This is because having a befitting and presentable Governor Lodge is long overdue. There has been none apart from the old Colonial structure which the military people inherited.
Undoubtedly, the project, when completed would join a league of several other iconic projects initiated and completed by Governor Akeredolu led administration since assumption of office in 2017. Some of these high class and legacy projects include but not limited to construction of Ore flyover interchange, construction of Ultra-modern Internal Revenue Service Headquarters in the state capital, construction of Ore Industrial Hub, construction of Modern Guest Chalets in the Government House Grounds, construction of UNIMED Teaching Hospital facilities in Akure and Ondo Complexes, face-lift of the State House of Assembly Complex, modern office block for ODBPP and Multi-Lateral Relations Agency, completion of the Accountant-General Headquarters Complex, restructuring of VIP chalets and renovation of many public buildings across the State, to mention but a few.
This is apart from several other life- transforming projects recently commissioned to mark the 100 days of his administration’s second term in office. Suffice to say, so many life-changing projects including roads, water supply schemes, mini grids and many others were commissioned by the Governor during what could be referred to as marathon commissioning of projects to mark the 100 days. The Governor said his administration would continue to focus on its core mandate and promises for the good people of Ondo State, hoping for grace and capacity to do more.
As iconic and important as all these infrastructural developments are to the social and economic prosperity of the state, one very vital project the state has been lacking for years is an ideal Governor’s Lodge that befits the status of the Sunshine State. The Governor’s Lodge is absolutely necessary for the ease of governance in the state.
The quest for a new Governor’s Lodge did not begin with the present administration. Both Agagu and Mimiko made spirited attempts and toyed with the idea up to design level but lacked the political will to proceed.
It is absurd to note that the state does not have a befitting and ideal Governor’s Lodge. Ekiti State which came out of the bowel of Ondo State and with less financial resources has a befitting Governor’s Lodge. According to history, between 1988 and 1990, the then Military Governor of the state, Olabode George, built an extension to the old colonial Lodge with a new Banquet hall within the Government House grounds.
During his 8 years tenure and almost 20 years after, the former Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko upgraded what was meant to be an office for the First Lady, to Governor’s Lodge. This was completed but was later dumped by Dr Mimiko when serious structural defects were noticed in the building. This is even as the old Colonial Lodge was in the state of disrepair and termite infested. As a result of this, for a long while before the expiration of Mimiko led administration, he was shuttling between his Ondo country home and Akure, the seat of power.
Apparently determined to bequeath the state a worthy legacy, when the present administration came on board in 2017, a team of experts with long time experiences in property development was put up with the intention to look at the building and advise the Governor. As a Governor who does not believe in prodigious lifestyle, the ultimate desire at that time was to renovate the building but by the time the team of experts made their recommendations known it was discovered that the level of rot was unmitigated as the entire building was totally dilapidated and in the state of disrepair. It was termite infested and structurally defective due to age. It failed integrity test.
Our investigation equally revealed that prior to the inception of this government, technocrats have advised that the old structure should be demolished because to bring it to usable standard would be more expensive than building a new one with modern facilities. Government was then told that it was wise and more reasonable to build a new one that would stand the test of time.
The Governor laid the foundation of a new Governor’s Lodge as part of activities marking the first 100 days of his administration’s second term in office. Akeredolu explained his administration is embarking on the construction because the state does not have one, adding that shelter cannot be abrogated in human’s scale of preference.
While disclosing that the Governor’s Lodge built by the immediate past administration has several structural defects and poses a huge threat to human living, the Governor added that the poorly constructed building appears to be weak and may collapse anytime.
“Our first reaction to the ugly development was to involve the best of cost-effective steps to put to good use the facilities. In pursuant of this, qualified and experienced building experts were invited to work with our in-house professionals to carry out due diligence and survey on the structures. The objective of our action was to have a concise report on the adequacy of spaces, snags, building health and cost of remedial works. The report, thereafter, submitted by the experts revealed a humongous cost of putting the old lodge in a befitting status and yet it will not adequately compensate for the value of money to be spent.
“In our quest to continuously strive to fulfil our sacred vows to our people and leave a good legacy, a committee was set up to work on the experts recommendation and come up with a design for the construction of a new a Governor’s Lodge for Ondo State Government. The committee has turned in its recommendation and we are here today to formally commence the construction of a new governor’s lodge.
“The structure sits on approximately 2,000 square meters of land and measures about 18 meters from the ground floor to the tip of the iconic roof. The facilities will house a Banquet Hall to sit about 250 guests, Basement Parking, Indoor and Outdoor Kitchen, Swimming Pool, Sitting Lounge, Atrium Sitting Room, Bedrooms and other functional spaces. Information Communication Technology (ICT) software and gadgets will be applied in the finishing of this edifice while the entire environment will be adorned with both soft and hard landscape”, the Governor said.
Since the past four years, Governor Akeredolu has been making personal sacrifice of living in a 2-bedroom guest chalet with his family, which did not befit the status of the state. Even before then, the first family was shuttling between his Owo country home for some times for lack of the official residence at the Alagbaka Government House. Unarguably, there is no better time to build a befitting Governor Lodge that would meet the modern day and be comfortable to live in and work in than now. This would be another shining legacy the present administration would bequeath to the state. When completed, any Governor irrespective of political party would have a befitting and presentable edifice to live in and not a liability.
No critics of this very important edifice should be taken serious, either to score political point or for parochial interest. We must learn to applaud what is novel and not play politics with everything including human life in the interest of the state. The project is expected to be funded through Bond. The question is, will the state not build a Governor’s Lodge despite the inciting press warfare being instigated by opposition party in the state.
In her address at the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Governor’s Lodge, the Secretary to the State Government, Princess Oladunni Odu, saluted the Governor for the epoch-making event, marking the shift of Governor’s lodge from old fashioned structure to a modern edifice, situated in a safe, secured and serene environment. According to her, years after years, Governors of the State have continued to live in outmoded Governor’s Lodge, while the one upgraded by the previous administration has serious structural defects, making it unsafe to live in.
She explained thus, “as a result, our dear Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, since assumption of Office has continued to live with his family in the Government House Guest House. This is an uncommon characteristic displayed by Mr. Governor. It takes a humble man like Aketi to live in such abode. He is a man who does not care about opulence and materialism. Again, Mr. Governor has continued to virtually touch every sector of the State. As we are all aware, it takes a leader that is selfless to prudently manage our resources and look elsewhere for more to ensure Ondo State Citizens and residents get the best, not minding the economic realities around us. In the area of infrastructural development, he has made many landslide achievements that covers the three Senatorial Districts of the State.
“All these are too numerous to mention, however, we cannot but mention the Ore Interchange; and today we are here for the groundbreaking ceremony of another mega infrastructure in the State. A Museum and a great legacy for our Sunshine State. As a long-standing political office holder, I therefore feel delighted to be here today having examined the challenges non-availability of a befitting Governor’s lodge have posed to this present administration. This is therefore a great milestone and most importantly a demonstration of Mr. Governor’s commitment to urban development in our Sunshine State and part of his determination to leave the State better than he met it”
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