Two years into the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola in Osun State, Yinka Kolawole writes that the governor is building linkage with the people through infrastructural revamp as a platform for development
Osun State has often been likened to a cluster of small towns, each with its own distinctive social and architectural character.
Iwo is one such town, with rustic buildings, winding roads and acres of lands, making it appear to belong to the hinterland rather than a city near the capital; although Iwo is just ten minutes drive from Osogbo, the capital city.
But now, after two years of a new government in power, Iwo is having an appearance of a city near the capital. The application of infrastructure has transformed the atmosphere of many cluster towns in Osun State.
Kabiru Yekini, an indigene of Iwo who lives in Ilesa, another town within the state says, "It is getting better. The governor is dedicating his time to infrastructural development. It's still a bit rough, but we have seen development coming to us after decades of nothing."
When Governor Aregbesola arrived in Osogbo, exactly two years ago, he said: "Now is the time to repair our land and empower our people. Our programme for the redemption of our state is the same popular programmes that won your hearts during the campaigns, as a result of which you gave us a resounding victory. Osun must develop, I am committed to developing the state, but I cannot do it alone. I need every one of you to achieve my dream for our dear state."
And for a man who helped developed infrastructure of Lagos State as a professional Engineer and as a former Commissioner for Works in the state, he knew where to start first. It is the reconstruction of Osun State with many roads already in a state of disrepair.
For instance, an impassable part of Iwo to Osogbo road along the expressway that connects people travelling from Ibadan to Kwara State got a facelift. That particular portion of the road had caused many accidents that either killed motorists or left them with permanent scars for life.
Aregbesola had a report of how scores of people had died as a result of the poor condition of the road and he immediately awarded contract for its repair. Those who use the road regularly say the government has proved its mettle in a revamp of infrastructure campaign in the state.
And with the idea that Osun's economy will depend largely on agriculture and that road transportation is key in facilitating the movement of goods and services, the government has signed a N17.8 billion contract agreement with Sammya Construction Company Limited for the dualisation of the 45-kilometre Osogbo-Ikirun-Kwara State Boundary road.
The dualisation has been segmented into three that comprise of Osogbo-Dagbolu (International Market) to Alamisi Market in Ikirun (9.52 kilometres); Osogbo (Old-garage) to Ikirun junction road (20.5 kilometres) and Ikirun-Ila Odo- Kwara State Boundary road (16.55 kilometres).
In signing the agreement the Special Adviser to the Governor on Works and Transport, Mr. Oladepo Amuda said that in line with the agreement, the project would be completed within 24 months, of which the work had already commenced.
He said that the project was not the usual direct contract award, but a contractor-financing transaction which came out of the confidence of the contractor in the administration of Mr. Aregbesola, saying that the money for the contract would be repaid across 36 months after the completion of the project.
A development financial institution, the Infrastructure Bank Plc (TIB) which is the Transaction Advisor, Fund Arranger and Financier of the project, is working in conjunction with the construction company and other stakeholders to fund the project.
He further said: "The road will link the market hub at Dagbolu with a spur from the major road to the market and from there to Alamisi Market in Ikirun. The major one will go from Old Garage and directly to Ikirun and to Kwara State boundary. The road is crossing rail lines in two locations and as a result, we are considering fly-over at the locations as part of the second phase of the project."
Although, not without the demolition of some private buildings, the road construction project has been hailed by the residents as a positive move promised by Aregbesola in his inaugural speech, when he took the oath of office in November 2010.
Commending the people of the state for their understanding over the demolition of some buildings along the roadsides, Amudah said government would ensure that the best is given to the people of the state to justify the sacrifice they have made.
Yes, turning hinterland to metropolitan ambience may be a daunting task, but upgrading of major roads that will ease economic difficulties are ongoing in the state. The Osogbo-Ikirun Ila-Odo/Kwara boundary road project is ongoing.
This when completed will facilitate transportation of humans and goods towards Northern part of the country and enhance the economy of that area. The Osogbo, Gbongan, Orile-Owu to Ogun state roads is also aimed at easing transportation to Lagos and enhance the capacity of the people to move goods to the most promising markets in the South-west.
The government also awarded the rehabilitation of township roads in the six zones of about 83.66km in length which are 92.5 per cent completed; 26.35km Osogbo township roads rehabilitation which are 42.95 per cent completed and 29.709 km Ilesa township roads rehabilitation which are 45.36 per cent completed.
The upgrading include another set of six selected roads measured at 4.2km Igbajo-Oke-Irun-Iresi Road, 44.43km Gbongan-Odeyinka-Orile-Owu-Araromi-Owu-Ajegunde Road, Gbongan-Osogbo Ife-Ibadan express Road Junction, 6.8km Ijebu Jesa-Iloko-Iwaraja road, 10.2km Ijebu-Jesa-Ijeda-Ijesa-Iloko Ijesa-Ilesa/Akure express road and 74.1km Ijeda-Ijesa-Erinmo Ijesa Road.
Focus on Learning
Another characteristic feature of infrastructural revamp in Osun State is in its educational sector. From an educational summit in 2010 chaired by the renowned Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka that looked into the ways to revolutionise the sector and make education a major contributor to the development of individuals and the society as a whole in the state, the government moved.
It began the implementation of the summit recommendations by committing N30 billion to building 170 new model schools across the state equipping it with state-of-the-art facilities that will enhance and stimulate teaching-learning environment in order to replace the dilapidated buildings that stand as classrooms. These model classrooms are now springing up across the state.
Twenty of these schools are for the high school senior students. When completed, they will conveniently accommodate 3,000 students on the basis of 40 per class. Each of these structure would cost the state government a whooping sum of N700 million. The school would also have an examination hall that can comfortably seat 1,500 students and two e-libraries; one for sciences and the other for arts and social sciences.
The junior schools (50) in numbers with its model in Osogbo, after completion would accommodate 1,250 students and the elementary schools which would be 100 pieces across the state, would conveniently accommodate 900 pupils.
To further stimulate the interest of students to learning, the government is reducing the burden of having to go to school with bulk of a bag packed with books by replacing books with a computer tablets invented by the state government.
The tablet, designed in form of an iPod called Opon Imo, will contain the entire senior school syllabus, including Yoruba traditions. Past questions of WAEC, NECO and JAMB would also be included in the software design for the system. All these, is focused at reducing the phobia associated with learning and increase students' interest in learning; and completely turn learning into play in schools and at home.
For a start, students of the senior classes in public schools targeted for the pilot scheme would be given the computer tablet at no cost, however, government is investing close to N2 billion on the project.
And, in a bid to encourage the enrolment of children in public schools, government rejuvenated the school feeding programme and tagged it O'Meal, making the content of the food served to the pupils more nutritious. This singular act has increased the enrolment figure in public primary schools by 25 per cent in the last session and government is anticipating increase in the figure in the coming academic session.
In return for the taxpayers' largesse, Osun State government says there is no reversal of its policy to democratise development in the state.
Last August, at a seminar organised by the Department of Social Mobilisation and Guidance, Ministry of Information and Strategy in Ilesa, Aregbesola said, "our policy of backward integration is informed by the need to empower our people economically. This means that they benefit from the projects being carried out by their involvement in the execution process, and in many instances, supply the materials needed. We do not, as a government, embark on any programme without the participation of our people. The roads we are constructing in all the 31 local government councils and the area offices have the input of the people."
Indeed, residents are confident that the infrastructural revamp programme of government will endure. "This government is leaving no stone unturned since inception of the administration in 2010. I believe we will see more changes," says Comfort Oladele. "We are in our better days."
She may be right; Osun State government is on a smart move to development with progress made in infrastructure revamp.