By Samson Owoyokun
We live in interesting but frankly tough times occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic that’s currently holding the world by its jugular.
Nigeria, the most populous black nation of the world, is not immune from the ongoing destruction – human and economic caused by the pandemic that has no curative solution in sight yet.
Expectedly, the global crude oil market is suffering from a great shock, which invariably, has led to a significant short fall in petrodollar, which is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy.
As a result of the drastic reduction in the earnings of Nigeria from the sales of its crude oil, revenue to the 36 States of the federation has also dropped, thus, forcing the states to look inwards in order to raise their internally generated revenue.
Osun, a state dubbed to be for civil servants majorly, with many privately owned and public tertiary institutions yet with just one notable manufacturing company in Ilesa. In his determination to promote industrial harmony, the governor of the state, Gboyega Oyetola has kept to his pact as regards prompt and timely payment of full salaries to both civil servants and pensioners despite the huge deductions from FAAC accrued to the state on a monthly basis. Analysts have alluded to his professional background as a financial reengineering wizard to be the catalyst for this astonishing feat.
Oyetola has put governance on steady path of progress, running the essential social services in health by revitalizing 332 primary healthcare centers and upgrading of general hospitals, reinvigorating the educational system, ensuring peaceful coexistence among the people and upscaling the security apparatus of the state through both the conventional and non conventional outfits (Amotekun); these are the propellers and enablers towards progressive growth and development to industrialize Osun, which is the foresight of the Ilerioluwa prodigy.
Following from the foregoing, therefore, Governor Gboyega Oyetola, of the State of Osun, a former boardroom expert with years of cognate experience, has repeatedly emphasized the fragile economy of the 29year old state, both in his declaration and inaugural speech of 5th June and 27th November 2018 respectively to bring fresh innovative ideas to transform the state towards abundance and prosperity for all by concentrating on three thematic areas – agriculture, tourism and mining codenamed Osun ATM.
The Governor unveiled the tripartite economic agenda during the Osun Economic and Investment summit he organized November 2019, it was an eye opening three days event unleashing the immeasurable potentials embedded under and on the surface of Osun soil, the gains of the summit are already reflecting on the economy: though not yet uhuru, there’s significant push in agriculture as a private initiative of 507hectares of farm konnect limited was berthed in Wasinmi, Irewole local government area of the state which will take a thousand unemployed youth off the streets, another $10m of African Red Crest in rice revolution in the offing. For the first time in thirteen years, one of the rusty and dusty seventeen mining titles of Osun brought in N100m as sign up fee under the pragmatic leadership of Oyetola.
The Q1 to Q4 of year 2019 was impressive with a noticeable increase of 56.4% from the previous year amounting to N17.9bn, an outstanding feat in a business calendar year for the first time in Osun. The magical wands of Oyetola expanded the tax net, plugged fiscal leakages, automated and digitalized components of IGR collection, strengthened fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability, granted administrative autonomy to the state IRS. He has made it a trademark for his closing remarks everywhere that he shall continue to market Osun to local and foreign investors until there’s a revolutionary trend in the economic dynamics of the state in agro allied, processing and manufacturing sectors.
Also, the Governor recently reiterated his convictions about a working Osun economy during a maiden virtual public lecture organized by the State’s Ministry of Regional Integration and Special Duties under the headship of Olalekan Abdulrahaman Badmus to herald the 29th anniversary of creation of the state. He spoke on the topic ”Unbundling Osun Potential towards prosperity in Agriculture, Tourism and Mining.
The Governor used the occasion of the virtual engagement to reel out some of the fundamental achievements of his administration in the last 21months since assumption of office as the state helmsman, saying the repositioning of the state economy is his topmost priority. He promised to reclaim missed business opportunities for the state. He assures anyone interested in doing business with Osun that their investment will be guided religiously. He made public the amenities, infrastructure, enabling atmosphere and accommodating spirit of our people to make any business to thrive.
Henceforth, the Governor declared that agriculture, tourism and mining will form the engine room of his economic governance agenda. His commisoners for agriculture and food security, culture and tourism- Adedayo Adewole and Dr Obawale Adebisi did not fail to impress on the participants the momentmental milestones of their ministries and the projections and revitalization of Osun economy via the three pivotal sectors.
Because of his illustrious background in the private sector spanning decades of immaculate practice, the Governor knows the vitality of resource persons to the actualization of any management policy. Hence, in trying to achieve his objectives, the three guest speakers at the event including the Director General of IITA Ibadan, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, represented by Dr. Richard Okechukwu, a tourism expert, Chiamaka Ifediora and Former Special Assistant to the former Minister of Petroleum, Najim Animashaun, spoke extensively on the need for the state to properly harness her potentials in the areas of agriculture, tourism and mining.
For Okechukwu, IITA Head of Station in Onne, Rivers State, the relationship between IITA and Osun is that of brothers. He said for Africa to fix its food problems, Africans must fix systems, technology, policies, political will, financing, marketing components and infrastructure. He said all these must be narrowed down to Osun in order to unluck its massive potentials in the state.
Against the backloth of the above, Dr Okechukwu said that a good masterplan is key in achieving the set objectives. He submitted that there is a need for a good agricultural master plan that can be institutionalised to survive government after governments; that will be passed into Law by the House of Assembly so that whatever government that comes in will continue to push it, saying this will help to solve the problem of policy somersault which has held the state back for a long time which in the process kills good ideas. “A four year tenure is not enough to solve the problems of a sector that has gone bad for a long time. Policy somersault destabiizes the farmers and the investors in the value chain,” he said.
Continuing, the researcher said solving the agricultural problems in Osun goes beyond the ministry of agriculture itself. The ministries of education, water resources, commerce and industries, finance, works, transport and housing, health, environment, human resources, information, local government and chieftancy affairs, women affairs, regional integration, youth and sports, science and technology must embrace certain policy changes and their specific contributions must be mentioned in the master plan.
For Oyetola to achieve his lofty aims in agriculture, there is a need for farm mechanization to attract the youth and also the usefulness of improved seeds cannot be overemphasized much as there is a need for a lot of quality control to eliminate fake and substandard herbicides and insecticides. Access to credit by farmers and those involved in agro-allied business is also key. Osun truly needs more micro, small and medium enterprises to prosper.
Dr Okechukwu also hammered on the need for proper tracking and recording of farm produce that comes out of Osun every year. Such data, he submitted, can be used to forecast, plan and negotiate with local and international partners. In summarizing his position on the subject matter, he said there’s a need to end multiple taxation and look for subsidies for farmers, charging Governor Oyetola to embark on aggressive land reforms which will enable more people to come into the agricultural space.
Chiamamaka Ifediora – Principal Consultant of Merging Borders International, encouraged the Governor to pursue tourism as a business to make profit. In order to achieve this, she said Osun governemnt must focus on three concepts (1) Plan: (sustainable policies, consistent and sustainable growth process, pricing, revenue target, near accurate data of tourists), (2) Product: (how to sell tourism product – packaging like spiritual, religious, adventure and Eco tourism) and (3) Promotion: Osun residents to patronize Osun tourist attraction sites first then Africans tour Africa more to attract foreigners, local community needs to show what they have to offer; their Oduduwa origin (Osun state); aggressive state wide orientation through different mass media by the state government to embrace roots, state should engage the educational sector especially public and private schools to study roots; culture and assets of state which enable them to spread information wherever in the world they may go; states should endorse film bodies like Nollywood and music entertainers for promotion as well as BBC major media channels; TV and online influencers; advertisement; celebrate indigenous people or people affiliated with the state to boost interests in tourism. Without an atom of doubt, if carefully followed, Osun will be the better for it, she concluded.
By and large, tourism, if properly harnessed, will help create new jobs for the people of Osun State, stimulate trade and entrepreneurship especially small business and will generate funds for infrastructure for the development of the state.
The deputy chief of staff to the Governor, Adeyanju Abdullah Binuyo, gave a brief summary of what the state is doing in the Solid Mineral and Mining Sector. At the moment, the state has 17 mineral titles- 10 gold assets, 4 quarry leases, lead, zinc, telsa, quartz, marble. In all, there are 9,000 registered miners in the state. According to Binuyo, by the first quarter of next year, all the 17 assets should be active in commercial partnership.
Under the leadership of Governor Oyetola, there has been a business restructuring scheme after identifying all the 17 assets across the state. Going forward, in order to actualize the mining dreams of the administration, the state will need partners to support primary exploration of the assets. To estimate the resources, the state carried out what is called reconnaissance of assets using aeromagnetic reports.
The Inisa-born management consultant said the state is already building and equipping a buying centre to engage the registered miners to be able to buy off all the gold and minerals they are able to produce, a replica of gold souk in Dubai. Also, the state government led by Governor Oyetola is going to start a lapidary to train youths, teach them about jewellery making, stone cutting and polishing, all for their economic empowerment.
Again, good times are here for the people as the state government is poised to invest in education for artisanal and small scale miners while seeking the Federal Government assistance in technical and vocational training centre to be located in Osu, Atakumosa West LGA in addition to emplacing a governance structure set up for consents, permits, waivers to avoid encumbrances. There is now an operational joint taskforce for assets security against illegal miners.
Not neglecting the environment where the minerals are explored, the state will embark on sustainability project via environmental impact study before the commencement of exploration. It is already in the pipeline that the state of Osun will partner with the FG on the recently launched Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Initiative (PAGMI) which will help to teach the youth skilled ways of mining responsibly.
There is little doubt therefore that the sector will be a major contributor to infrastructure funds for the state in the future as envisioned by the Oyetola administration.
On gold mining, the state is host to Segilola project (Only global standard goldmine in Nigeria) who confirmed deposit of about a million and half ounces of gold. This is a real jackpot for the state. In order to maximize the benefits derivable from gold mining, plans are under way to integrate all artisanal miners to ensure formalised relationship, train and partner with them, buy off their gold mineral to support the local economy. The multiplier effect of this cannot be overemphasized. There is also a plan to turn Hassan Alajoku park at Gbongan into a regional gold buying and commodity centre. Najim Animashaun dwelled more on the evolution, history and economic indices, should Osun show pay more attention to its mineral deposits, the figures in naira and dollars are mouth watering, he equally suggested pathways and realistic mechanisms for Osun solid minerals development programme to attain its set goals and objectives .
There is so much to say about the Osun ATM (Agriculture, Tourism and Mining) agenda of the Oyetola administration. The virtual public lecture is a marketing concept to sell Osun to industrialization for potential investors. It’s an unfolding evolution that will keep stakeholders and concerned members of the public talking in a long while to come. Luckily for the people of Osun, the Governor has the political will, administrative acumen and professional competence to see to the actualization of the agenda for the betterment of the people of the state. It is visible that the last twenty one months of the Oyetola APC led administration are good times again for the loving people of the state.
Owoyokun is the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties