Forty years after the February 3, 1976 creation of Ondo State, stakeholders, especially during the weeklong activities to mark the celebrations which climaxed last week, have engaged themselves in self-examinations with the aim of charting a new course of development for a state generally regarded as the most naturally endowed in the Southwest geo-political zone of Nigeria.
In his contribution to the discourse, Niran Sule-Akinsuyi, a lawyer and politician who was a member of the House of Assembly in 1991, told The Guardian during a chat, that the state could have done better than it is doing now if emphasis had been laid on building on the industrialization foundation put in place by its founding fathers.
Sule-Akinsuyi, who was Special Adviser to late governor Adebayo Adefarati on legislative matters between 1999 and 2003, stated.the first civilian governor, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, had mapped out a development plan that was jettisoned by his successors.
He said, “During the Ajasin era, giant steps were taken to industrialize the state. But subsequent political years and the military period did not follow these footsteps. The inability of subsequent administrations to sustain the industries led to their present moribund state.
“For example, I know as a fact that Oluwa Glass Industry in Igbokoda has been lying prostate before 1999. I know about the efforts of Adefarati to settle some debts to bring the factory back to life. But it is sad to note that 12 years on, nothing has changed. Today, we have not generated any revenue from the industry or create any job. These are shortcomings on the part of our government.”
He particularly regretted the recent loss of an opportunity in the 400,000-barrel per day Dangote Refinery saying if the multi-billion Dollar facilities have been sited in Ondo as previously planned, “we would have had the most significant event celebrating our creation as a state.”
As stated by him, “The refinery would have opened Ondo State as a new frontier of development for Nigeria and attract investments from multinationals, with the prospect of job creation for thousands of our youth.
“I was not in government when the project was conceived and dropped but what I can tell you is that we have not heard the last word on the matter. I believe we spoke the wrong language to the investors but what has happened was not the right punishment for that anomaly. Investment is based on returns and attraction is the word. We failed in this regard and the investment has been relocated to another environment. But development of a refinery and fertilizer plant at Olokola is still possible and this we intend to pursue and facilitate.
“The petrochemical and fertilizer plants and other industries related to the refinery must have been packaged together. It is the loss of a life time opportunity and by the time our people wake up to these realities and the gains that would have come with the establishment of these industries, our library will not be able to contain questions that will be asked.”
Speaking about the current Olusegun Mimiko administration of which he was the commissioner for Special Duties during the first term, Sule-Akinsuyi said, “At the very beginning of the administration efforts were made to structure programmes to improve the living standard of our people – a combination and socio and economic development programmes. But 7 years on, a greater part of our energy has been concentrated on the provision of social and political amenities. If you are not productive and you concentrate on provision of social services, of course there would be increase in the poverty level around you and the people may not be able to afford the luxury of recreation being provided apart from the problem of sustainability.
“For instance the preference for a shopping mall on the site of Owena Motel, one of the legacies of our founding fathers that I mentioned earlier, is a wrong choice.
In any case, by fact and reason, a state property has been converted in the name of a shopping mall. Also by fact and reason, the shopping mall belongs to Owena Motel and any position to the contrary will be difficult to explain. The motel is a going concern with revenue, staff and assets. The valuation of the motel in the shopping mall venture would determine this position that the motel owns the mall. Definitely, the last word has not been heard on the process that led to the conversion of the motel.”
While stressing that political leadership has failed the people of the state, Sule-Akinsuyi, who is now a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) said, “we have to create an environment of trust so that we can have a leader that we all can trust and respect.
“This new season and the approaching political climate offers hope and opportunity to search and enthrone a leadership imbued with courage and on whose shoulders we can build towers. It is not about politics alone, a society must have a leader at every point in time, somebody that can call situations to order. The governorship election fixed for November 26 this year is an opportunity for us as a state to remedy some of these problems particularly the ones about leadership.”