By John Adenekan
World’s second richest man, Bill Gates gave a damning verdict on the execution of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Federal Government of Nigeria at an expanded National Economic Council meeting to which he was invited to recently in Abuja. He criticized what he termed “prioritizing physical capital over human capital.”
But there is a man whose philosophy of governance is very much in tandem with Bill Gates’ proposition. He is Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD), a former governor of Ogun State who served between 2003-2011. For OGD, the people must be the centerpiece of all government policies and programmes. Like Mr. Gates, Daniel believes that the foundation for sustained prosperity can only be laid by providing opportunities for the people to develop and express their potentials. Many of his policy thrusts were strategically focused on developing and optimizing the state’s human capital for sustainable development. An investigation into the programmes and policies of his administration will verify the foregoing assertion.
As much as the Otunba Gbenga administration Daniel believed in human capital development, he matched it with infrastructural development. One of his landmark move in that regard was the establishment of the Ogun Road Management Agency (OGROMA) and his decision to deploy only home-based engineers to tackle the challenge of road construction in the state. That feat was unheard of. Engineers and engineering equipment which were then made redundant at the state’s Ministry of Works for lack of schedule were challenged back into productivity.
Prior to his coming, the only way to get any project done was to award contracts to multinationals, which were usually manned by expatriates. But with Daniel’s new initiative, cost of projects reduced considerably. Job opportunities opened up for local contractors, skilled and unskilled workers got employed and the state’s economy got a positive hit as a result of recirculation of money within the state. In no time, OGROMA perfected their trade and began to win road construction contracts in other states of the federation, all thanks to the foresightedness of the man, Gbenga Daniel.
Mr. Gates, in his address to the Nigerian leaders emphasized investment in education. And true to type, investment into the education sector is where the Daniel administration made landmark achievement. To attract quality teachers especially into the short-staffed schools in the hinterland of the state, a Voluntary Teachers Scheme (VTS) was launched. The scheme absorbed 2000 Volunteer Teachers in each of the 8 year reign of Governor Daniel. These teachers were subsequently given permanent appointment at the States Teaching Service Commission after a year of learning and developing on the job.
In the spirit of offering a better quality education to the nation, the Daniel regime scored a milestone in establishing the first university primarily dedicated to churning out high quality professionals to administer the education sector- Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu Ode. A few other states of the Federation have followed suit, borrowing a useful leaf from Daniel’s pace-setting ideas. Still in similar fashion, the government of Otunba Gbenga Daniel established four ICT polytechnics (Gateway Polytechnic, Igbesa; Gateway Polytechnic, Sapaade; Adegbenro Polytechnic, Itori; Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic, Ijebu-Igbo) to prepare topnotch human resources for the emerging age of information and communication technology. Some of the products of these institutions have moved on to achieve globally recognized feats in the ICT sector.
In a bid to develop critical manpower for the public sector of the state, over 200 citizens of Ogun State who made first class in their studies were sponsored by the OGD administration to study for their Masters and PhD degrees at selected universities in the United Kingdom under the Human Capital Development Programme (HUCAP). Many of the HUCAP beneficiaries are today back in the service of the state contributing in no small means to the development of the state in areas such as: Contribution to the planning and implementation of the State ICT policy; Development of software and database for computerization of the Examinations and Records Department of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago – Iwoye via the GICT team; Designing and development of a central database for Ogun state and the revitalization of the State Web Portal; Conceptualization and designing of Computerized Housing Information System (CHIS) due to be implemented for the Housing Ministry; Designing of management information system project for the Ogun State Agricultural and Multi-purpose Credit Agency (OSAMCA); Participation in the training programme for the staff of Regional Plan Office; Preparation of the ICT manufacturing strategy for the State as contained in chapter 12 of the State regional plan; Development of a user-friendly search engine for the Regional Plan office; Participation in the formulation and development of the Ogun state food and nutrition policy and the development of strategic work plan.
Not ignoring Secondary education, data from Ogun State Ministry of Education, Science & technology (2011), indicate that the Otunba Gbenga Daniel administration complemented its free education policy at the secondary school level with direct payment of West Africa Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination fees (WASSCE) for all students of public secondary schools in the State without regard to state of origin. The sum of one billion, fifty eight million, eight hundred and fifty six thousand, three hundred (N1,058,856,300) naira was expended in the payment of the fees from 2004 to 2010.
Ogun State Employment Generation Programme (OGEGEP), created by the state government trained over fifty thousand young men and women in both agricultural and non agricultural vocations between 2003 and 2011. Non-agricultural areas included; soap, paint, cream and chalk production, tailoring, bead making, hair dressing and fashion designing while the agricultural vocations were crop production, fishery, piggery, snail production, rabbit rearing, and poultry production. OGEGEP had two centers; non agric vocations center at Sagamu and Agric vocations center at Odeda and Eweje. The training of young men and women by OGEGEP reduced the unemployment level in the State considerably given the multiplier effect of the indirect employment that would have been generated by the empowerment of over fifty thousand young people. Surely, the beneficiaries OGEGEP programmes were empowered and made financially independent for life by the thoughtful inclination of the Daniel administration.
These mind blowing feats are not without there criticism rightly or wrongly. A society which has been set to value physical development above human development may not readily appreciate the timeless initiative of Otunba Gbenga Daniel which are clearly calculated to build human capacities, with a view to regenerate and reinvent the socio-economic levers of the state with multiplier effects. But one thing is certain, after almost eight years out of office and turning over one more year of his impactful existence, Otunba Gbenga Daniel can look back and breathe in a air of fulfillment, convinced that he has offered his best to his dear state and testimonies abound from the direct beneficiaries of his many visionary exploits in governance. He can be rest assured that there are thousands of souls (including the writer) who as a result of his novel leadership are celebrating him on the occasion of his 62nd birthday. OGD is the type of man Bill Gates would want at the helms of this nation.
Note: Opinion expressed is solely that of the author