“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others”
– Jonathan Swift
He means different things to different persons. To some, he is one stubborn Owu man, who wears a trademark long cap. To others, he is one daring governor who has a penchant for embarking on projects that many of his predecessors and contemporaries would naturally shy away from.
Some see him as bold and courageous, yet others see him as ambitious. But in the midst of these diverse descriptions, who really is the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun?
For me, Governor Amosun, who turns 59 on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, is one visionary who is undeniably driven by a mission. His mission is to rebuild Ogun State and make the Gateway state the envy of others in the comity of states in Nigeria.
This perhaps explains his passion and the unmistakable resolve with which he pursues his vision. It may also explain why he is seen by some as stubborn. And it could not have been otherwise if truly “vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others,” like Jonathan Swift, the Anglo-Irish satirist, poet and cleric aptly put it.
Indeed, the ability to see beyond today is one thing that distinguishes visionary leaders from their peers. And often times, it is the same reason they are initially misunderstood but later venerated.
For instance, when the late sage, Pa Obafemi Awolowo, decided on the construction of the now popular Cocoa House, Ibadan, history has it that the project was not considered popular or expedient. Many who were around then didn’t see the need for a 25-floor building at a time when even a two-floor building was considered to be a wonder.
In the same vein, the late sage was criticised for ideas like the establishment of the first television station in tropical Africa, then known as the Western Nigerian Television and Western Nigerian Broadcasting Service, WNTV/WNBS, which began broadcasting on October 31, 1959.
At that time, those ideas were criticized and considered over ambitious. Yet they were visionary just like the many projects currently being undertaken by the Senator Ibikunle Amosun-led administration in Ogun State.
In this respect, a good example is the ongoing construction of a 10-lane major expressway. The expressway connects Abeokuta, the state capital, with the Lagos-Ibadan expressway through Sagamu Interchange.
Now, for some people, this is uncalled for. They wonder why the state government would bother to expand the existing expressway and not just leave it as it is. But the visionary in Amosun would not allow him to simply toe what appears to be the easy way out. “I have heard people ask why did we start another road project? It is because we are resolute that we need to improve our infrastructure. No sane investor will come here if they know that infrastructure is not in place if the environment is not conducive to do business. That is why we need to continue to push to make sure that our infrastructure is in place,” the governor said recently.
Indeed, perhaps unknown to some of the critics of that project is the fact that a considerably large number of international conglomerates, including Coca-Cola and SAB Miller, the world’s largest brewer, have concluded plans to locate their factories, including in some cases residential quarters for staff, along that road.
None of these businesses is investing anything less than $100m in Ogun State. In fact, some are investing in the range of billions of dollars.
So, as far as Governor Amosun is concerned, now that there is still ample space for expansion, is the time to think ahead and put a world class road infrastructure in that corridor rather than wait until these factories are fully built and then have the course to demolish structures for road expansion.
Knowing that in order to achieve massive industrialisation, there is the need to support road transportation with rail transportation, Governor Amosun has also concluded plans to have the groundbreaking ceremony for the state’s light-rail project within the first quarter of 2017.
The first phase of the proposed Ogun Light Rail Network is approximately 102.3km and consists of two lines namely: Abeokuta (Panseke) – Sagamu Interchange – Sagamu Town (49.8 km) and Ogere Town – Sagamu Interchange – Berger (52.5km).
This first phase of the rail line was selected to take advantage of the existing traffic on the Lagos to Sagamu section of the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, which is the busiest road in Nigeria with an Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) of over 40,000. This phase also connects Abeokuta, the State Capital to the rapidly growing industrial zone of Sagamu and commercial zone of Ogere.
Now, that is visionary thinking. It is the same visionary thinking that ensured that some of the housing estate projects of the state, including the likes of AAK Degun Estate, Orange Valley Estate, HID Awolowo Estate, PMB Estate and the new Makun City, to mention a few, are located along that same axis.
So, while he is vilified, criticized and misunderstood, Amosun remains focused knowing that according to the Cambridge English dictionary, a visionary is “a person who has the ability to imagine how a country, society, industry, etc. will develop in the future and to plan in a suitable way.”
And he is sure about his place in history. “I know that generations yet unborn will remember us, not just me but all of us because in the next 10 years or 20 years, people will begin to see the benefits of all our efforts. Ogun will then be the benchmark for other states,” he often says.
Soyinka is Senior Special Assistant (Media) and spokesman for Governor Amosun