We have opened Ondo State to investors – Oyewumi
In the last three years of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s administration, efforts are being made to take Ondo State from a civil service state to industrialised one with many industries springing up. In this interview with Bisi Olominu, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Investment and Chief Executive Officer, Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency, ONDIPA, Mr. Boye Oyewumi
x-raythe developmental strides.
Governor Akeredolu’s administration will be three years old this month. What’s your assessment of the administration?
In assessing this administration, I will say that the administration has done well. Actually from my evaluation, I will say that the administration has exceeded my expectations especially where we are coming from. When the administration came into office, it met only two striving businesses or investment things, that is, the Shoprite and Rubber Plantation, every other things were in comatose, salaries were not paid, the road infrastructure was very poor.
Each of these deficiencies have been dealt with. That’s a good starting point. Since the government came on board, the amount of road infrastructure, the educational development, the development in the health sector have been unprecedented, they are not things that we should argue about. People ply the roads, students go to schools and everything is pointing to a better life for the citizens, because we take our responsibilities seriously.
You also know that the air corridor is something that this administration should be proud of. Before now it takes sometimes shorter and sometimes longer, like five to six hours to get to Lagos from Akure. That in economics makes you very uncompetitive because the investors knowing the state of our roads refused to come back to Akure, the state capital.
That’s just the narrative, the state government has improved on the air corridor; you now have two aircrafts going from Akure to Lagos and another two from Akure to Abuja every day. That is the sign that we are maturing and ready to grow the economy, that we are going from rural economy to sophisticated economy.
These airlines are self sustaining and with this we have the industries back in Ondo State in such a way that we have never seen before. We have the Toothpick Company in Akure that has started working. We have the Afo Granite, which is one of the largest stone dimension cutting plants in Africa in Afo Akoko, we have three private owned industrial parks: Ondo Wandong Free Trade Zone in Alape area of Ugbo Kingdom, we have Minco Industrial Park in Ore, we have the Bimbim Firms and Mills, located at Okeigbo, which has already commenced processing of kernel oil ,soya oil among others. We have just given them a thousand hectares to add to their plantations. They just told me that they have 6,000 seedlings that they want to plant in the plantation. This is a sign of good thing in the state; this is something that has not been done before. We facilitated the air corridor in the state and this has opened the state to investors. The land transportation too is important, we went into it with a private investor, Sunshine Travels, to operate intra and inter cities, and today it’s working very well.
We have the moribund Okitipupa Oil Palm Mill with a lot of unresolved issues, these we have resolved and the palm oil mill is back in operation. This year, we are going to divest some of our shares, so that, new investors can invest in the company. We are at advance stage of discussion with investors in Ifon Ceramic to revive it. We have the Auga Cattle Ranch that have been abandoned and outgrown with weed. The private investor is now in business, the ranch has been done and when all things are ready he could start selling to customers.
We have also resolved all the issues surrounding Ore Power Plant, (30megawatts plant). More importantly, bitumen exploration and exploitation will start very soon. The company in charge of it, a private investor that we brought is desirious to start work by next quarter. Their yards have been constructed, the administrative and technical yards will be ready and within the next two weeks, it will start tarring the internal roads within the complex. The equipment for the bitumen exploration are on ground and when all are put together, we are praying that in the second quarter of this year, President Mohammadu Buhari will come to launch bitumen exploration in Ondo State. It is not for us as a government to start but for us to press ahead.
We are patient with our achievements, we don’t believe in politicizing these. We continue to focus in delivering the basis to the people of Ondo State. We don’t believe in building markets that will not stand the text of time, but building lasting legacy that will stand at all times. What we are building now are things that can stand the text of all times, so that, we would not go back to where Ondo State was when Governor Akeredolu took over government. This state is called ‘civil service’ state, which shows that there’s no productivity. The government does not want the state to be called so again, this don’t lead to creativity, and until we change that narrative, nothing will happen.
With these development where do you foresee Ondo State in the next 10 years?
We don’t have to wait for 40years to be like Lagos. We have a road now that the government is about to construct, Araromi to Ibeju-Lekki, it is about 47 kilometres and it will just take you 40 minutes to land in Lagos. Constructing this road means that you have created a critical link to Lagos which is 40 minutes to move from one end to another. We are not comparing ourselves with Lagos, Lagos for all its attributes have some disadvantages like the chaos that has come along with the development. We want Ondo State to be developed, but we don’t want chaos. That’s why we have industrial parks and supports in different areas of the state. We don’t want to replicate what has happened in Lagos, we are going to copy from Lagos things that are working and things not working, we are going to work upon.
What value would Ore Flyover Bridge add to the state?
Our people are our greatest result, not the Flyover Bridge or raw materials on ground. We value lives being wasted on the road on daily basis, these are Ondo State citizens. The most value and important value in life is the security and safety of human life. Secondly, studies have it that one percent increase in infrastructure is one percent increase in GDP. So, that road is an infrastructural development, that would have consequential increase in our gross domestic product because we have flyover obstacle in concrete manner. That road is a symbol for us in Ondo State because they said build and they would come, but what are you building when the most important entrance to your state is a symbol of chaos.
Even in animal kingdom, it is even better than what you see in Ore. To fix that, government rose to the challenge. Government in different parts of the country make lot of noise about infrastructural development, but you must know loud music does not make a music, loud music is sweet but silence is the sweetest. What’s sweet is that you just delivered for people to see. We don’t want development on the pages of newspapers or billboards that are later washed away.
It is not about the longevity of the tenure, but about the quality of what you have put on the ground. We were once there many years ago when there was a ray of light but we reversed it. We now have another opportunity to recalibrate, this is very important. For me it is good if you want sustainability. Is like you plant something and it has started to germinate and another person promise you an oak tree and you bought into it. It is the direction you are facing that is important, not the promise made but unfulfilled. I feel that if I were the populace, I would ask myself if this trend should continue, I can feel and see what this government is doing, not the promising note that I have not seen.
Even if you want to put up a skyscraper, sometimes the foundation of the building is more important than the skyscraper. So, we have fortunately put up a strong foundation on the ground, these have started taking hold. Three years ago when you say seaport, some asked is it possible. We now have a Deep Seaport in the state; it is looking like we are almost there. When you have a governor and government that have courage, that channels the resources to where they would change the landscape, not to win elections and planting a tree on a shade. It is important for people to understand that shorterminism will evaporate. How are our children going to survive if there are no industries and companies in the state? If we remain a civil service state, what are our children going to do if the resources of the state are shared to vested interests? Four years is eight months in six places, if you don’t understand that and plan for six months consecutively, that’s why you hear some governors saying what have I done, for time waits for nobody. Fortunately for this administration, there’s a master plan, everything came from the committees that were set up before the inauguration of the governor where recommendations were made and they are now being followed. It is the strategic plan put in place by various committees set up by the government and now being actualized by individuals as their performance index. It’s leadership that defines everything.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, it is not the amount of money that matters but the creativity in you. This state has never been as broke like this before, yet we are talking about tarring of roads, building bridges, industralising the state. These are being done because the commonwealth is being used for the common man. That’s why there are changes in the state. There was a time oil price was high, how come there was no development in the state? Because the governor is not a parasite of our commonwealth, he does not like wastages, he is fulfilled and working for the glory, reason there are development in the state now.
You talk about leadership quality of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, is the dearth of this affecting Nigeria?
There’s dearth of leadership in Nigeria in many ways. What we have are pockets of leadership here and there and not in quantum to galvanize the country. We lack leadership in many areas in the country and without good leadership, there can’t be clarity of thought. The people that are being led have more vision than the leader, so, people have been led captive because leaders are limited. Once in a while we have one or two leaders. Dearth of leadership is the story of Africa. Our first eleven are never out on the field. We have a case now where the federal government is fighting corruption, who else is joining? So, if you have a good leader at the centre, what of the states? You derive your mandate from the people, not the government house. It’s what the people want that you represent. You can see it from Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu during Amotekun issue, he spoke to the power that be on the matter with boldness.
In what area(s) do you think government should develop more in term of infrastructure?
It is security infrastructure, and this is very important. Atimes, when we go abroad and the investors are talking about security in the country, despite giving us dates, they would not come. We should domesticate our security to influence activities around us. Without safety of lives and property, your strive to attract investors cannot materialise.
What’s your projection for the state in terms of infrastructural development?
Our projection is to finish all the projects we have embarked upon. All of us in the cabinet are working together to help the government. It is everybody doing his bit, driving the government forward. We have the Ministry of Works, Agriculture, Education and others joining hands together to move the government forward. Industrialization of the state does not reside with ONDIPA alone, we are all working together because we have our principal and we are all working for the success of this administration.
Ore is gradually becoming the industrial hub of Ondo State. What do you think the various industries being established will contribute to the economic growth of the state?
Aside Onitsha and Lagos, the next industrial hub in Nigeria is Ore in the next couple of years. Because Ore will soon have gas plant industries and it is the transit point to many parts of the country. Ore will have the highest industrial parks domicile in one stretch of the country, this is because we have Ondo/Liyin Industrial Park, Ore Industrial Park and Minco Industrial Park. These are three parks put in place less than two years. In Ore, something great is happening. We would soon have an avalanche of gas plants in Ore where industrialists would come to transact business. Once you have the gas plant, those in business will relocate there. Again, look at the distance between Ore and the proposed seaport, once goods come from the seaport, it goes directly to Ore for business transactions.