Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Unique features of Ogun State

I am not a native of Ogun State but have been privileged to school in the state and was recently there to observe its 2012 Local Government election. I am enthralled by the state’s many unique features and its primacy in the historical calendar of the Yoruba race. Ogun State occupies an exceptional position in the political economy of the South-West geopolitical zone, and indeed Nigeria, as a country. The state is comprised mainly of the Egba, Ijebu, Awori, Egun, Remo and Yewa; all Yoruba speaking but with different dialects. Among the major towns in Ogun are Abeokuta, Sagamu, Ilaro, Ipokia, Ifo, Ota, Ijebu-Ode and Ijebu-Igbo. The uniqueness of Ogun State derives from the role some of its indigenes have played in the politics, economy and even the social life of Nigeria.
The tertiary institutions in Ogun State include the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta;  Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye; Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo; Crescent University; Covenant University, Ota; Redeemers University, Tai Solarin University of Education; Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro,  Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ojere; Federal College of Education, Osiele; to mention but a few. The Aro Neuro-psychriatrist Hospital, the foremost hospital for the treatment of mentally challenged people is located in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.
Similarly, the indigenes of the state have scored a number of firsts in Nigeria. The first Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was from Ikenne; the first woman credited to have driven a car in Nigeria, the late Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, hailed from the state; the first Nobel Laureate for Literature in Black Africa, Prof. Wole Soyinka, also hails from Ogun State as well as the first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief Ademola Adetokunbo. Others include the first western trained psychiatrist in Nigeria and Africa, Prof. Adeoye Lambo; the first Nigerian lawyer, Alexander Akintola Sapara-Williams; the first Nigerian Supreme Court justice, Hon. Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu; the longest serving Nigerian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1976-1979; 1999-2007) are all from Ogun State. Though the Yoruba generally love to party, however, the Ijebu people are unrivalled when it comes to elaborate partying popularly called “Owanbe” or “Aaremise”. Besides, Ogun is where the journalism profession started in Nigeria more than 150 years ago when Reverend Henry Townsend published the first Nigerian newspaper titled, “Iwe Iroyin fun awon ara Egba ati Yoruba”, in 1859.
The Gateway State, as it is popularly known, is also the state of the late Bashorun Moshood Abiola, the martyr of Nigerian democracy, who hailed from Abeokuta, the state capital. Likewise, Chief Ernest Sonekan who headed the Interim National Government in 1993 after the annulment of the 1993 presidential election; and former Chief of General Staff and second in command to ex-Head of State, Sani Abacha, Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya, is also from Odogbolu in Ogun East senatorial district are from Ogun State. The immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Saburi Oladimeji Bankole, is also from Abeokuta.
The point being made here is that even though there are six Yoruba-speaking states making up the South-West geopolitical zone namely: Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti states, Ogun State alone has produced all the political leaders of Nigeria coming from the zone. Is Ogun State the most politically savvy state in Nigeria? I don’t think so. The state possibly derived its pre-eminence from the salutary influence of the early missionaries who settled in the ancient city of Abeokuta and introduced western education to the purely agrarian society. Ogun State also benefits from its proximity to Lagos with which it shares a common boundary. Lagos is the economic nerve centre of Nigeria. Many indigenes of Ogun State daily throng Lagos for their economic survival. They migrate there to live or to labour or both. Many even live in Ogun State and work in Lagos State. These two factors may have played a role in the early civilisation and business acumen of Ogun people; but the factors alone will be inadequate to explain the dominance of Ogun State in the political leadership of Nigeria. After all, Oyo State is also close to Lagos State. It would seem that providence just favours the state which was carved out of the old Western Region in 1976.
Ogun State is also the home state of foremost industrialist, the late Chief Adeola Odutola who pioneered tyre manufacturing in Nigeria. It is the state of Otunba Subomi Balogun, a renowned banker; Otunba Mike Adenuga, a notable telecoms operator, is also from the same state. Fola Adeola who co-founded Guarantee Trust Bank with the late Tayo Aderinokun is also from the state. The state is also the home of the great educationist, Tai Solarin, who established Mayflower School, a foremost private school that has churned out academic and industrial giants.
In the music genre, Juju maestro, Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi; Fuji Exponent, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal; Waka Queen, Salawa Abeni; ace musician, Tunji Oyelana; folklore singer, Jimi Solanke, are some of the living legends from Ogun State. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Afrobeat king; Apala king, Haruna Ishola; Yusuf Olatunji (Baba Legba); Ayinla Omowura (Eegun Mogaji); Adeolu Akinsanya (Baba Eto), are some of the great musicians from Ogun State who are no more. Renowned thespians from the state include the late Chief Hubert Ogunde; the late Chief Akin Ogungbe; Olu Jacobs; Charles Olumo (Agbako); Taiwo Hassan Ogogo, and many others too numerous to mention. In sports, football legend, Mathematical Segun Odegbami and the late Green Eagles midfield maestro, Muda Lawal are from Ogun State. Prince Bola Ajibola who was a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and who for many years represented Nigeria as Judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands, is a native of Egbaland.
The famous Olumo Rock is to be found in Abeokuta. The batik, tye and dye craft popularly known as adire  produced by Abeokuta people is of international repute. Large deposits of limestone have attracted two giant cement factories to the state. These are Ewekoro Cement Factory and more recently, Dangote Cement, Ibeshe. Agbara Industial Estate is also located in Ogun State.
However, while Ogun State has produced political leaders for the Yoruba race and Nigeria at large, it has yet to have an inclusive governance formula that could ensure that power oscillates seamlessly among the three senatorial districts namely Ogun Central, Ogun East and Ogun West. Since the time of Chief Bisi Onabanjo as the first executive governor of the state (1979 – 1983), the pendulum of governance under democratic dispensation has been swinging between the Ijebu and the Egba leaving out the Yewa in the Ogun West. One of the  best chances the Yewa had was in 2011 when the Peoples Democratic Party ceded its governorship slot to the Ogun West people. Unfortunately, ego and muscle-flexing between the two prominent politicians of the PDP who were candidates of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former governor Gbenga Daniel respectively made both to lose to the incumbent Ibikunle Amosun of the Action Congress of Nigeria, an Egba man. Will the Yewa be lucky to have the number one position in 2015? Time will tell.