Dr Soji Ehinlanwo (DSE)
Our Sunshine state has been the subject of so much media focus and attention in recent weeks. That focus has been due mainly to the face-off between the State Assembly and the Deputy Governor over the plan of the former to impeach the latter. Following this state of affairs, it has appeared as if discourse around governance and the overarching vision for transforming Ondo state into a land of greater opportunities and front runner state based on all indices of governance has been pushed to the back burner. It is imperative for all well-meaning Ondo state indigenes and friends of Ondo to resuscitate discourse and re-invigorate action around what is required to consolidate current achievements and bring Ondo state to a significant place of glory, especially in the light of the impending governorship election which should provide a veritable platform for interrogating the challenges of the state and mapping the way forward. It is against this backdrop and importantly to shift focus and attention to the more important challenges of governance that this writer once again reiterates and discusses key areas which we must seek to pursue vigorously if we are to achieve our grand vision of rapid development, growth and shared prosperity for our state and the people.
Vigorous Revenue Drive
While the recently released report from the National Bureau of statistics shows a good outlook for Ondo state for the year 2022 with a total IGR of 32 billion, especially when juxtaposed against the IGR for previous years and the IGR for a good number of other states in the year under review. However, compared with many of the other leading states such as Lagos, Rivers, FCT, Ogun, Delta and Kaduna – there are reasons to believe that a lot more concerted action and greater ingenuity are required to propel our state to where it should be in the coming years. Greater investments and efforts are required for an unprecedent growth in SMEs, revolution in Agriculture, a more vigorous drive for the exploitation of the mineral resources across the state, a greater push in respect of the opening up of the tourism potential of the state as well as urgent mobilization of efforts and resources to bring to fruition the Ondo Sea port project – amongst many initiatives. All of these will have the net effect of helping to provide more avenues for increasing internal revenue and ultimately leading to a much better IGR profile if vigorously pursued with the required urgency, ingenuity, focus and determination.
At no time in the history of Ondo state has there been such a huge imperative for a revolution in the Agric sector. While admittedly, the present government has provided some measure of support in the development of value chains such as Cocoa, oil palm, cashew and cassava – there is an urgent need to drive even more significant inflow of investments into these areas and other areas of food production such that there is a massive increase in farming output, storage and processing capabilities – with its implications on jobs and revenue generation. There needs to be a more vigorous mobilisation of the youth population towards engagement in Farming with considerable support in terms of finance and training facilitated by the government. A comprehensive agenda with specific milestones and productivity outcomes in respect of Agriculture growth will have to be aggressively driven to achieve the grand vision of the agricultural revolution envisaged.
Strategic and urgent exploitation of Ondo’s natural resources for collective growth
Ondo is home to a good number of natural resources which are waiting to be exploited to drive the prosperity of our state and the people. Ondo is believed to have one of the largest natural gas deposits in the world as well as the second largest bitumen deposits in the world. However, we are yet to get the massive benefits from the location of these resources in our state. The state is also blessed with tar sand, granite, marble, gemstone, gold, lignite, diorite, coal, dimension stone and kaolin in commercial quantities. There is an urgent imperative for concerted action to draw in and support huge investments into these critical areas with a view to creating jobs, wealth and rapidly enhanced revenue for government. Creating a grand plan of action, with measurable steps and expected outcomes, represents for me, not just a choice but an urgent and unavoidable course of action.
Maximising Ondo’s Tourism potential
Undoubtedly, Ondo state has tourism potentials that are yet to be fully exploited for the benefit of our state and the people. There are quite a good number of tourist attractions whose potential to bring massive number of tourists to the state can be enhanced, with the consequence of providing huge sources of revenue. We need to create and support meaningful investments and innovative marketing for these sites in such a way that they can become destinations of choice for local and foreign tourists. These sites include the Idanre Hills, Ebomi Lake, Araromi Beach, Igbokoda Waterfront, Igbo Eledumare, Cave of Ashes Isharun and Owo museum of antiquities.
Full exploitation of Ondo’s coastline and bringing to realty the Ondo Deep Seaport project
The vast possibilities and benefits of Ondo’s coastline remain not fully explored. The State’s coastline of 180km is the longest in Nigeria and has the capability to facilitate sea trade and more significant, structured and better enhanced fishing enterprise with huge revenue gains for individuals, companies and government. Variety of exotic fish and seafood such as catfish, croaker, sole snapper, mixed fish, and shrimps can be found within this coastline and opportunities for large scale production of fish fingerlings, fish production and processing abound. With more concerted action, we can create a fisheries value chain with a significant contribution to the Ondo state economy in a similar way as Norwegian Fisheries value chain contributes to the Norwegian economy.
Thanks to the effort of the current government, the goal of a deep seaport has moved from wishful thinking to the realm of possible realisation. This followed the approval by the federal government of an operating license for the Port. With a projected investment of one billion dollars – expected to be sourced via public private partnership – a vigorous drive for the mobilization of the required resources to bring the project to fruition is now extremely imperative. The potential for job creation expected to be well over 20,000, massive potential investments running into several billions of naira into the state especially to the host communities as well as the possibilities of very significant boost in revenues for individuals, companies and the government create an added urgency to make every push to fully bring this to full completion within the shortest possible time.
Economic/Industrial Hubs and support for a massive growth for SMEs
There is the need to create Economic/Industrial Hubs across the three senatorial zones in the state – hubs which should seek to draw in critical industries – with specifically targeted support, infrastructure and incentives provided by government. This would be done with a view to rapidly industrialising our state. The current state administration under Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has started very well with the Ore Industrial Park which has, at the moment, quite some number of industries – setting the pace in this regard. However, we urgently need to expand the inflow of investments/Industries, support and infrastructure in the Ore Industrial hub as well as quickly build new hubs in Ondo Central and Ondo North through a re-invented plan of action that showcases the opportunities available and targets big potential investors at home and abroad.
In more developed economies, small and medium scale enterprises have been found to be strong engines of growth. We must seek to empower our people – particularly youths and women – through various initiatives including the facilitation of credit facilities, relevant trainings etc to enable us to create such rapid growth in SMEs with the consequences of greater wealth distribution and significantly increased revenue for government.
Unleashing information technology for rapid growth
The Potential of ICT in individual empowerment and as a source of enhancing government revenue is not in doubt. However, that potential remains largely unexplored. We must now urgently start to tap on the energy, creative talents and potentials of our young adults to create new opportunities and possibilities which ICT can provide. We must unleash the power of information and Communications technology for the growth of our state by providing required impetus and investments to grow and expand on technology hubs. We would need to replicate in Ondo state the commendable initiative of the Ekiti Knowledge zone – indeed ultimately expand on it – hopefully creating the outcomes of an information technology empowered economy providing significant revenue inputs for individuals and the state.
Dr Soji Ehinlanwo (aka DSE) is a senior information technology consultant and manager. He was the Governorship candidate of the defunct CPC in the 2012 Ondo Governorship election. He is believed to be aspiring for the Governorship of Ondo state in the impending 2024 Ondo Governorship election.
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