Understanding The Ondo Revolution
The ThisDay newspaper, in its recent rating of state governors in the country, rated Governor Olusegun Mimiko as being above average, a rating which immediately raised questions of awareness concerning the unparalleled development going on in Ondo State. While the ThisDay management is to be commended for its acknowledgement of some of the giant strides being recorded in Ondo State, it may be necessary to place in context, the programmes and policies of the Mimiko administration for better appreciation.
Dr Mimiko‘s coming into office three years ago was nearly dimmed by one major challenge: high maternal mortality rate, which may be an understatement because Ondo State, at the time, actually had the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. The governor was instantly fired with a zeal, declaring that, by the grace of God, never again would pregnancy be a death sentence to women in the state, whatever their social standing. The result is the evolvement of the Abiye (literally meaning “safe delivery/birth) programme, involving the creation of state-of-the-art Mother-and-Child hospitals providing world class services at zero cost, with free ambulance service to reach needy pregnant women in remote areas, etc, which has received acknowledgment by the World Bank, which sent a team to Ondo State to understudy the programme, as setting a benchmark for maternal care on the entire African continent.
To date, over 11,000 safe deliveries and over 4,000 surgery-assisted safe deliveries have been recorded through the programme. Ondo is, perhaps, the only state in the country where public hospitals boast better services than private hospitals, and where treatment is not only free but is also world class, efficient, timely and courtesy-driven.
Among numerous awards, the programme has led to Dr Mimiko being decorated as a fellow of the Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetrics (Nigeria), and the hospitals are used as teaching hospitals by many leading international institutions and agencies.
A unique feature of governance in Ondo State is the creation of community development agencies, a bottom-up approach which, if replicated nationally, even if not on a comparable scale with the Ondo system, may yet prove to be the vital linkage among the country’s three, largely non-cohesive tiers of federal, state and local governments. Shortly upon assumption of office, the governor immediately deployed a team of well-trained and highly skilled personnel to the various local government areas in the state to undertake community needs analysis.
Although at first resented by many of the members of their host communities arising from the lack of confidence which had gained ground, the change agents were soon to gain the confidence of the host communities. To date, over 450 communities in the state have benefited from projects requested by themselves, working in synergy with the host communities. Thus, the disconnect between government has been removed.
The government has, in the past three years, also initiated rapid urbanisation programmes, turning many hitherto rusty communities into centres of excellence, as a visit to many parts of the state will confirm. In particular, Akure, the state capital, now towers above any city in the country because of its sheer splendour. In addition to constructing new roads, the state government constructed state-of-the-art bus stops. In deep appreciation of the urbanisation efforts of the state government, the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), penultimate week, decorated Dr Mimiko with an honorary fellowship award, declaring that its decision was hinged on the urban renewal efforts of the Ondo State government which had transformed the state capital, Akure, into a model city. The town planners remarked that with just three and a half years in office, the Mimiko administration had been able to transform the state capital into a tourist delight, saying that the template has already been set for other major towns in the state to assume the same status.
“Roads in the metropolis are well asphalted while major roads in the city are being expanded into four lanes even as beautiful landscaping has emerged. Apart from the many beautification projects going on in different parts of the state, a covered pedestrian bridge has been erected at the popular Oba Adesida Road, thus giving the popular area a befitting look coupled with the well-defined vehicular marked routes,” the town planners said. While also commending the street lights adorning the long stretch of Fiwasaye to Federal University of Technology (FUTA) areas as well as those erected at Ondo road and other areas in the city, the town planners noted that the architectural design of the Mega Schools scattered around the state, with the well-planned auto market and the decision of the government to relocate motor mechanics in the state to a good location with the necessary amenities to make their operation easier, are all components of a well-laid out environment, were worthy of commendation.
Indeed, a core component of the urbanisation effort of the government is the utilisation of markets as tools for urbanisation. The government has built state-of-the-art neighbourhood markets, boasting of a police post, crèche, fire station, among others, taking peasant women away from the scorching sun,under which they had traded for years. The government also narrowed down the gap between the formal and informal sectors by empowering artisans. It created a mechanic village where mechanics could ply their trade with the best facilities around.
The Ondo State Wealth Creation Agency (WECA) inaugurated three farms settlements in Epe, (Ondo Central), Auga (Ondo North) and Ore (Ondo South) senatorial districts, with each of these three farms catering for the agricultural peculiarities of its host district. Uniquely, farmers were pooled from the sea of hitherto unemployed graduates who applied through the WECA.
The 1,087 graduates engaged by Dr Mimiko are being trained to acquire entrepreneurial skills in agro-related businesses of their interest with a view to becoming job creators and millionaires in no distant time. The scheme is structured in such a way that the graduates are co-owners of the farms. The government provided the land, the inputs, accommodation in the village and monthly stipends for the participants’ upkeep, while the participants tend their farms, nurture their birds and ensure the survival of their fingerlings. During the harvest, the participants will go home with the profits, while the capital is injected back into the business. In the past eight months, WECA had cleared about 10 thousands hectares of land in the thick jungle of Ore along Ore–Ijebu Ode–Lagos expressway, with three major agricultural pursuits; fishery; poultry and arable farming.
Dr Mimiko ensured that super chalets built to taste were constructed for the accommodation of the participants with provision of a bore hole, DSTV, with two sets of plasma TVs, two generators, table tennis and other games facilities for recreation. The participants have been able to plant over 6,000 hectares of maize, over 1million palm seedlings and also over 1000 hectares of cassava. The poultry section has about 30 large pens made up of three cubicles each, with over 700 layers and breeders, while the fishery has over 2000 large fish ponds with the least harbouring 2500 fingerlings.
Akinmade is the Honourable Commissioner of Information, Ondo State.