WHILE the Government of Ogun State is literally forcing water out of the rock to turn the state into the ‘huge construction site’ that it is now, there is a central government that sits over gargantuan resources yet all the federal roads in Ogun are in tatters. I do not speak of individuals here because the problem predates the Jonathan administration. I refer to this Unitary Republic of Nigeria disguised as Federal Republic of Nigeria. In a proper federation, majority of roads lead to the federating states but in Nigeria, all roads lead to the centre – Abuja. Even for you to breathe in the natural air, you have to obtain a licence from Abuja. If you discover gold in your bedroom today, you have to first run to Abuja before you can touch it.
A state government tries to ameliorate the hardship of its people on a federal road, the central authorities move in and say, “You can’t touch this, you can’t touch that!” If there is any menace I want to end in Nigeria today, it is the menace called federal road. Here in Ogun, the governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and his team are not just sacrificing time and energy, they are equally sacrificing substantial part of their monthly salaries in a bid to take the state from the 19th century status to the 21st century.
So much time has been lost, so many opportunities have been missed; it’s time to take the bull by the horns and change the face and status of our state. That’s the preoccupation of the governor and his lieutenants. Prof Dora Akunyili came to Abeokuta recently for the Conference of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and expressed shock at what she saw: “Ogun State has suddenly become a construction site; what a transformation! This is different from the state I saw a couple of years ago.” But it is only those that have equally visited Ogun East and Ogun West senatorial districts that will really appreciate the meaning of a “huge construction site” that Ogun has now become.
As we toured the entire state with the traditional rulers, market women, youths, community associations, road transport unions, farmers, professional groups like the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), etc, as part of activities to mark the second year of the Senator Ibikunle Amosun-led administration, one thought kept recurring to mind, “If only we could do something about this monstrous 52 per cent of Revenue Allocation that Federal Government sits on every month. If you divide the 26% being currently allocated to states from the Federation Account by 36, you have just 0.7%.
What manner of federalism is this?” I imagined what ought to be the situation in a true federalism where the centre only concerns itself with core federal matters such as foreign affairs, currency, maritime shipping, defence and leave the states, which are closer to the people, to become the master of the destiny of their own people. Sure, 25% is just okay for the Federal Government – just one institution. The 36 states could then share 55%. If Amosun could do this much with just 0.7%, imagine if that amount is doubled? But Ogun does not even collect up to 0.7%. When you consider the disparity in the allocation to states, Ogun will probably end up with 0.3% out of the 26%. And here lies the graveyard of the warped argument that the states should first justify what they are doing with the current allocation before asking for more. Such an argument makes me weep because it only makes sense in a unitary state not a federation. It is only in a unitary structure that the centre plays “the Big Brother”, not in a federal state. The Federation Account is for the 36 states and the centre. At any rate, has any central administration ever justified the disproportionate amount being cornered from the Federation Account every month? The accusation can go back and forth.
What is important is for the right thing to be done because Nigeria is not a unitary state but a federation. Therefore, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and National Assembly should end the current delay and give the federating states their due. It may interest the reader however that Ogun State is not relying alone on the monthly allocation from the Federation Account. From a paltry sum of N700 million monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) it inherited, the current administration has raised the IGR of Ogun to a record figure of N3billion per month. This is done without putting additional yoke on the people but closing the loop-hopes in the old system, automating revenue collection process, encouraging residents to pay their tax (to Ogun) as prescribed by law and removing bottlenecks in the interface of the public with government officials.
The story of the first international standard road, complete with all modern features – the Ibara/Totoro road – has been told. Also told is the first flyover/bridge constructed by any administration in Ogun, which was unveiled on January 24, 2013. What has not been underscored is the statement made by Dr AdedotunGbadebo, the Alake of Egbaland, during the inauguration of that bridge.
The paramount ruler said, “Today can be likened to the day electricity, pipe borne water and railway first came to Abeokuta. Amosun has changed the city from the status of 19th century to the 21st century.” That remark, for me, captures the essence of Senator Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun State. He is the modernizer of our time. Among the construction sites in Ogun is the landmark 107km Ilara-Alagbe-Tombolo-Ijoun-Tata-Egua road, cutting across four local councils in Ogun West senatorial district. That highway will open up the rural areas and increase economic activities in the state. The IloAwela road in Ado-Odo/ Ota local council is already on the world map because of the excruciating agony it inflicted on millions of Nigerians due to its derelict state for lamentable years