By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye
One irrefutable fact is that Ondo State is endowed with economically viable natural resources by God. Unarguably, the state is one of the most resourceful in the country. In summary, the state is resource-blessed as some economists will prefer to call it.
Crude oil, which has been the livewire of the Nigerian economy for over half-a-century now, is found in abundance in the state. It is the reason for the inclusion of the state in the nation’s oil producing states and its qualification to partake in the 13 percent derivation fund reserved for those in the Niger Delta hemisphere of the country.
Is it the gigantic swathe of Bitumen found in the southern belt of the state, which makes it one of the biggest deposits across the globe? The tourist potentials of the Araromi beachside are uncountable not to talk of the coastline in the Ilaje Local Government Area in the state , deeper than that of Lagos and is about the longest sea route in the entire belt of West Africa. One can only imagine the humongous business opportunities having an Ondo Seaport will attract to the state and the south-west region at large. The Idanre Hill, a major tourist site, in the central senatorial district of the state is a big money spinner.
Kaolin, limestone, among several others, are also found in commercial quantities buried beneath the earth that straddles the entire length and breadth of the state, especially in its northern senatorial district. Does anyone remember the fact that the state is also gifted with Forest Reserves boasting of some of the very best trees for industrial use? The state remains a leader in the palm oil plantation business.
It’s also a truism that these God-given resources have not been optimally explored for the overall benefit of the people state which is still jocularly, and rightly so, described as a civil service state. The state is still essentially poor in spite of the abundant natural resources nature has blessed the state with. Who knows why? The answer has been hanging in the air for quite a while now.
Yet, the state remains a civil service state with or without these resources in the sense that a preponderance of the people are civil servants who depend on their monthly salaries drawn from the state’s coffers. One take away from this label is that only an infinitesimal number of the people are engaged in other productive activities other than working in ministries, departments and agencies of government.
But, the good thing is that the dominant narrative that everyone in the state is most likely to be a government employee is fast changing because of the relentless efforts of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, towards rerouting the economy of the state along the path of private sector domination.
It’s the contention of the Governor, who is in his second term in office, that the private sector should take the lead in driving the economy of the state while the state government should be concerned principally with making the investment climate of the state business friendly by ensuring adequate and efficient security system, removal of administrative bottlenecks to ease business facilitation coupled with investment in critical infrastructural facilities such as quality good roads and electrification.
In order to make the state an investment haven, the Governor has been working round the clock since he came on board in 2016 to see that the Ondo Seaport becomes a reality. Analysts have opined, and seriously so, that the Port, if approved, will solve the perennial Apapa traffic, and also develop the economies of Ondo and Ekiti States and plus the decongestion of Lagos high population density and that of Ogun State. That almost the entire wealth of the south-west is concentrated in Lagos alone is not even safe for the state.
Apapa is a complete lockdown. The roads are down due to overuse. Customers of Flour Mills in Apapa can’t Access Apapa by road due to bad roads caused by congested ports. For these and many more cogent reasons, it is imperative that the Federal Government should approve the Ondo Port for fairness, equity and economic redistribution.
A lot has been said and written about bitumen exploration and how it can change the economic fortunes of the state for the better. There’s no better qualifier to describe the bitumen in Ondo State other than the fact that it is a hidden wealth largely untapped for years. Nothing is more appalling than the fact that in spite of the large quantity of bitumen in Ondo State, the Federal Government via the Central Bank of Nigeria still spends an average of N300 billion annually on forex to import bitumen. What a huge irony for a country that has been mouthing economic diversification for years.
There’s little doubt that the quasi-federal system of government the country is practising is a big hindrance to states developing on their own accord and according to their own devices. The conundrum around bitumen exploration is the more reason the country should follow the path of restructuring or better still constitutional amendment to allow the states control their resources for the economic well being of their people. After all, what’s the essence of having a resource that’s not serving the people it was gifted, in the first instance?
In all of these, notwithstanding the obstacles and other impediments, both foreseen and unforeseen, Governor Akeredolu is trudging on, doing the little he can based on the resources at his beck and call to rewire the economy of the state along the path of productivity and prosperity for the people of the state and beyond.
To this end, the Ore Industrial Park situated in Ore, the commercial nerve centre of the state, is a haven for all myriad of investments which have significantly contributed to the revenue profile of the state as well as generated jobs for some of the teeming youths. It’s the same thing with the Ondo Liyin Hub. Investors, both local and foreign, are moving in to take advantage of the opportunities that abound in the hub. The economic multiplier effects of this can only be imagined. The Governor has also revitalized the Okitipupa Oil Palm Company through the public-private sector partnership. Oil Palm is more or less the red gold in the state now due to the seriousness attached and the incentives provided for the farmers investing in its plantation and production on a commercial scale by the state government. The chocolate factory in Idanre is also a testament to the Governor’s ceaseless quest for a rapid industrialization of the state.
Be that as it may, one good news for the citizenry of the state is that more investments are coming in no distant time. Investors are taking advantage of the proximity of Ore Industrial Park to Lagos as well as the proximity of the Araromi seaside to Lekki-Ajah axis where the Dangote Refinery is located. The relative peace and stability in the states, all thanks to the Governor, have also boosted the confidence of investors that their investment is safe in the state.
All the same, it’s not yet Uhuru as the state government still needs to do more in connecting the rural parts of the state to the urban city centres for the purpose of wealth redistribution and employment creation for the unemployed young ones. All these will add to the human capital development in the state, reduce crime and add to the overall well-being of the people.
Adeleye sent this piece from Magodo, Lagos