When Senator Ibikunle Amosun took the reins of government in Ogun State, having won election on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), it was an ascension celebrated by the elite within and beyond the confines of the state. So widespread was the celebration that his ilk in the accounting profession specially celebrated the feat.
The word in many quarters at the time was that a thoroughbred professional and visionary had been put in the saddle. And not a few looked forward with bated breath to what he would do differently.
Amosun, a chartered accountant with a Masters in International Finance, had first been elected as the senator representing Ogun Central Senatorial District in 2003 on the platform of now defunct All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). After a failed attempt for the governorship in 2007 on the platform of ANPP, by 2011, he had morphed into a member of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and enamoured the likes of former Governor Olusegun Osoba and a few other power brokers. Of course, like a beautiful bride, he soon waltzed to Government House.
Like the essential Nigerian politician out to achieve his ambition by all means, Amosun had sojourned through virtually all parties alive at the time just to see his dream come to fruition. From ANPP, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to ACN, he romanced with tact. He formed alliances and had friends of convenience. And unknown to many, alongside the newly elected governor of the state, Dapo Abiodun, he once was in the same camp with former governor, Gbenga Daniel.
Beyond election blues, however, on assumption of office in 2011, Amosun moved to bridge gaps – gaps that his emergence had created across the state and obvious gaps in the development and infrastructure landscape.
Not only did he reach out to mend fences across board, his administration also began to make giant stride in different sectors. He began transforming the state with his focus on development of infrastructure. New road networks sprang up just as old ones got expanded. Education and job creation were also top on his agenda.
Leveraging Ogun’s proximity to and with the rising cost of living and doing business in Lagos, he made conscious efforts to position the state as an alternative to Lagos State in investment calculations. Within the first three years of his administration, he was said to have attracted over 100 companies to the state.
Amosun created a ‘New City’ in Ogun State, which cuts across the three local council areas of Ogun Central Senatorial District, namely Obafemi/Owode, Ifo, and Ewekoro. He turned most parts of the state into construction sites, what with such infrastructure development in border communities such as Arepo, Ibafo, among others.
In an attempt to improve transportation and commerce in the state, he signed a N1.2 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Chinese company for the construction of a rail system. Upon re-election in 2015, now on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Amosun continued in his industrialisation drive with the construction of airport and aggressive rail transportation project, all with a view to boosting commerce.
Though a number of the projects are not near completion, and most Ogun residents find it difficult to relate with the advantages of Amosun’s development efforts yet other than for political expedience, his supporters share a different view.
Speaking of Amosun stride’s, one of his fans said, “irrespective of political leaning, citizens and visitors to the state agree that the governor has, in the last eight years, delivered an expansive transformation agenda that has seen the state capital and several other cities and major towns in the three Senatorial zones greatly remodeled.”
According to him, “From being one of the states with high notoriety for armed robbery, kidnapping, ritual killings and other sundry crimes, Ogun has been largely transformed under Amosun’s watch into a peaceful state where citizens’ safety and protection of business facilities are great priorities of government. That Ogun has become peaceful today owes largely to an effective governance style that promotes selfless and unbiased commitment to all segments of the state, fairness in deployment of state resources and a clear infrastructure re-modeling mission blueprint.”
Amosun simplified policies on investment-generation and the ease of doing business, hence the massive interest of industries to make it their home. A Commonwealth Forum later validated his claim when it disclosed that the state had 75 per cent of the Foreign Direct Investment that came into the country.
As he noted, “If any state or nation is going to develop, it must be private sector-driven; it must be in active support of the private sector. As a government, all that we have been striving to do is to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.”
During the recent electioneering campaign, Amosun further declared that his administration has developed a 50-year plan for the sustainable development of the state. He said the plan was one of the reasons why his government approached the World Bank for a $350 million grant at one per cent interest rate and a five-year moratorium. The loan is to impact largely on the master plan and cover majorly education and infrastructure, among other areas.
“Before we came in, there was Ogun State master plan but that one which covers about 30 years ended and what we did was to invite some development partners including World Bank, GIZ and we did what we called sustainable development plan. We have envisioned where we want Ogun State to be in the immediate, short term, medium term and long term, and that is why the World Bank is collaborating with us. And the next government will reap massively from this.”
But Amosun finished his race and still wanted to continue by other means. He anointed Adekunle Akinlade. The stakeholders, however, felt otherwise. Party elders in the state and indeed the party hierarchy at the national level, rebuffed the imposition and queued behind the alternative, Dapo Abiodun. It was a comedy of errors. Abiodun was a former ally of Amosun now turned foe. And interestingly, the arrowhead of the rebellion against Amosun’s succession plan was his former sponsor and greatest fan, former governor Osoba, who in the run-up to the gubernatorial election, had declared that he regretted sponsoring Amosun to become the governor of the state.
But Amosun felt insulated in his own reasoning. His choice of Akinlade was in furtherance of the principle of equity, justice and fair play. He wanted all the ethnic groupings in the state the opportunity to taste power. And so, overall, his was a question of good intention but poor execution of vision. He arrogated too much to himself and didn’t engage properly before springing his candidate on the people, hence the resistance.
Since the creation of Ogun State, the Yewa-Awori people of Ogun West have yet to produce a governor, a situation that has bred rancour and feeling of marginalisation. To placate the people in that axis and also help to address whatever infrastructural deficit they might have suffered over the years, Amosun magisterially settled for Akinlade.
He had reasoned that Akinlade’s ascendance would balance the political scales. But party bigwigs in APC kicked against it, stating their preference for Abiodun who hails from Iperu-Remo in Ogun East zone.
Since losing out with his succession plan and succeeding with his bid to return to the Senate, Amosun is said to be very sober. He has directed members of the Allied People’s Movement (APM), a party he formed after the acrimonious primaries, to go back to APC. But it is not going to happen so fast. There is resistance from some leaders of APC who say Amosun took too far his plot to play God.
Has Amosun betrayed the goodwill he had in the state when he overreached himself and attempted to hold together both the present and the future? Aside his suspension by the party, what other consequences await him from his people? Meanwhile,the backlash has begun. Only recently, Amosun employed over 1,000 persons and promoted 5,000 government workers. But that action has been greeted with muffled protests. In fact, a competent source, who is close to the governor-elect, said most of Amosun’s latest actions would be reversed or scrutinized. He also said some of his elephant projects may be discontinued.
All said, Amosun is not a newcomer in politics. He is also not strange to epic political battles. He’s been around for long. He has only suffered a tactical set-back. It is now left for him to deploy his robust arsenal, including his personal relationship with President Buhari to relaunch himself into reckoning in Ogun politics. For now, he seems down but not out.