Cablegate: Ah, the "O's!" - a Visit to Ogun, Oyo, Osun, And

Published: Thu 10 Jun 2004 07:29 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary. This is the first of a four-part report on
ConOffs visit to four of the five former Alliance for
Democracy Party (AD) States, that were taken by the Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2003 and 2004 federal, state
and local elections. After one year under new
administrations, all four States seem to be making progress
in delivering critical government services such as free
education, poverty alleviation and infrastructure
improvements. The AD and its primary founding organization,
the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, seem
to be floundering in their effort to find political
significance in the southwest before the elections in 2007.
Ogun State, more than the other three, was able to show
progress the new administration made in only one year.
Despite its proximity to AD-controlled Lagos State, we found
AD had almost no visibility in Ogun. End summary.
2. (SBU) Ogun - "The Gateway State" and Home State of
President Olusegun Obasanjo
Ogun State surrounds Lagos State on the north, east and west,
seeming to crowd Lagos south into the Bight of Benin. Ogun,
like the other three States visited, was once part of the now
defunct Western Region and assumed its current borders only
in 1976 when it was formed by the merger of the provinces of
Abeokuta and Ijebu. The majority of the population is ethnic
Yoruba or from Yoruba "sub-ethnic" tribes such as the Oyo,
Egba, and Ijebu. State officials told us that the State has
now equal numbers of Christians and Muslims. However, our
casual observation of the numbers of women wearing distinctly
Muslim head coverings and men in white Hajj skullcaps on the
streets and in the markets gave the impression that Muslims
are in the majority. On the main road leading into the
capital city, Abeokuta, the first place of worship visitors
pass is a well-kept, possibly new, mosque. There is almost a
one-to-one ratio of mosques to churches in Abeokuta.
3. (SBU) The Right Honorable Titi Oseni, the only female
Speaker of a State House of Assembly in Nigeria, arranged a
formal presentation for PolOffs' visit on May 17. In our
meeting were the Commissioners for Information and Strategy,
Economic Planning and Development, Communications,
Agriculture and Tourism. Oseni also invited fourteen members
of the Assembly, including the lone, remaining Alliance for
Democracy (AD) member, and a dozen press persons.
Yosolaoluwa Akinbi, Special Advisor to the Governor for
Economic Planning and Development, and one of two women in
Governor Gbenga Daniel's cabinet, gave a lucid and detailed
account of what this year-old administration has done already
and plans to do. She pointed out that the State government
has saved 2 billion naira in the past year in awarding
contracts for government services by imposing a system of
transparency and accountability. Akinbi said that Ogun is
unusual among Nigerian States because only about twenty
thousand of its five million residents work for the
government. Job creation by the private sector is, therefor,
a priority economic issue for the Daniel administration.
The State has established the Ogun State Employment
Generation Programme to train unemployed youths for
agricultural and nonagricultural jobs. While in training,
the youths receive 600 naira per week to encourage them to
stay with the program, and are given favorable loans or
grants of money and equipment to start up businesses after
completing the program. Five thousand men recently completed
the program at a cost of 80 million naira, and, according to
Akinbi, this will generate 45,000 future jobs.
4. (SBU) The Governor's goal is for all his administration's
projects to be fully funded by internally generated revenue
at the end of his four year term. Describing some of the
steps the administration is taking toward that goal, Akinbi
said Ogun is cooperating with neighboring Ondo State to
develop a Free Trade Export Zone. (Comment. The Ogun State
government has contacted the Foreign Commercial Service in
Lagos to discuss what assistance the USG can give to this
project. End comment.) The State has also granted Agip Oil
development contracts along its coastline. Speaker Oseni
added that Ogun has already begun advance planning for the
oil industry in Ogun through infrastructure improvements and
environmental impact studies. She said Ogun would not be
overrun by tanker trailers and pollution as other
oil-producing States had been. Agriculture and tourism are
also high priority areas where the State hopes to attract
investors and create jobs. Ogun has begun to rehabilitate
old or abandoned citrus and cocoa plantations as well as
establish new plantations. It has made large purchases of
the federal government's price-subsidized fertilizer for
distribution to Ogun's farmers. The State claims many scenic
areas or historical sites, but there is, as yet, insufficient
support for the 300% growth in the tourism industry that the
Governor has demanded. Although the roads in Ogun are some
of the best-maintained that we have seen in southern Nigeria,
there are no hotels, restaurants, etc. either along the road
or in Abeokuta that would meet minimum Western standards.
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5. (SBU) Commissioner for Information Niran Malaolu said the
Governor's main public information message was "The PDP's
(Peoples Democratic Party) taking over in Ogun is not just a
fluke; it is a good thing for this region and will bring us
together." Governor Daniel wants improved government
services delivered to all the people. The governor is
advertising Ogun's history of peace and security as a way to
entice investors and create jobs. Daniel is focusing on
housing, especially for the low income families, by offering
"micro-mortgages." According to Malaolu, the administration
is completely caught up on all salary back payments for state
civil servants, pensioners, health care workers, and
teachers, and has sufficient budget allocation to continue
free primary education in the State. In another move to
improve services and enhance transparency and accountability,
Daniel has let contracts to an information technology company
to install "e-government" systems to handle state government
communications networks, payroll and pension systems, and
contracting. Malaolu said these systems will "create easy
access between the government and the governed."
6. (SBU) The Right Honorable Oseni then took the floor to
describe the political scene. She said that the House of
Assembly has 26 members representing 20 Local Government
Areas (LGAs). Ogun did not create any new LGAs because,
according to Oseni, they "didn't need them." During the past
year in office the Assembly has passed 158 resolutions and
seen 12 legislative bills signed by the governor. Ogun was
the first State to pass a Children's Rights Bill that
guarantees its citizens such things as free primary
education. The House holds its session in the Yoruba
language every Wednesday, and has "Governor Explain This"
meetings once every quarter where legislators are allowed to
quiz the governor on his executive actions. All general
sessions of the Assembly are open to the public and records
of all sessions are published and for sale to the public.
Oseni said some of her priorities are improving Assembly
staff benefits and refurbishing the Assembly's public spaces.
She invited us to sit in briefly on one of the Assembly's
sessions in its newly refurbished chamber. In closing, Oseni
said the legislators are very interested in US exchange or
training programs for legislators.
7. (SBU) Biographic note: Justus Olugbenga Daniel was born
April 6, 1956. He is the son of a Protestant clergyman. He
was educated entirely in Nigeria and holds a degree in
engineering and an MBA. In 1990, after holding managerial
positions with several international engineering firms, he
founded his own successful company, Kresta Laurel, that
produces lifting devices and power generators. Daniel has
established a non-profit organization, Gateway Front
Foundation, that benefits, mainly, the people of Ogun State.
He is married to Yeye Olufunke Daniel and has four sons and
one daughter. Daniel has been active in politics since his
undergraduate days at Lagos Polytechnic and University of
Lagos. But he decided to apply his business management
talents to running a state government only shortly before the
2003 elections. In 2004 he was named Best Performing
Governor in Nigeria for 2003. He carries the traditional
title of Otunba Adeoti of Omu-Ijebu. End bio note.
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