How To Make Ondo’s economy self-sustaining – Olusegun Abraham

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Four decades after the great state of Ondo became a sovereign state in her pride, she is still breathlessly dependent on Abuja money. And, this is not normal, strange even. The grinding poverty and grim livelihood that is consequent to this heavy dependence on federal allocation attests to its undebatable insufficiency, and clearly raises the need to immediately create a self-sustaining economy that is key to developing a better livelihood in the state and for her people.

It is a fact, that Ondo state has every resource within her reins, both in natural and human ounces, to become an economy that is practically wealth-generating, job-creating, and that can essentially sustain itself; making oil revenues from federal allocation be just a bonus and not the main stay of the economy.

But, the great reality of the moment are a vivid reflection of the crisis of governance and leadership which have been the bane of our existence in the recent time. The monumental challenges of poverty and underdevelopment that rear their ugly heads at us today are products of several decades of unconscionable governance that were bequeathed on Ondo’s supposedly virile and prosperous situation by the do or die political apostles and their desperate counterpart politicians, who are hostile to our peace and progress in the time past and whose democratic expediency is replete with orgy of maladministration, corruption, debacle, nepotism, favoritism, politics of exclusion, and a continued dearth of purpose and responsibility. While all these continue unabated, we see dis-articulated economy, we see a mono-cultural oil dependent economy at the detriment of the industrial sector of our economy, we see education grow old and our teachers suffusing in the inclement condition of hardship resulting in mass illiteracy in geometric proportion among people, doubled with the general social convulsion.

A report from the Nigeria Socio-economic Indicators in 2012 said that, as a resource-rich state, Ondo has no reason to have an extremely high poverty incidence level of 70%. This, and other telling factors provide a basis to pursue in all honesty, a thriving economy for a state that boasts a plethora of bliss when it comes to natural resources ranging from agricultural and industrial. There is poverty in the midst of unmatched but concealed wealth, and this should not be so.
In my thoughts, I firmly affirm it is high time the leadership in Ondo state stoke a reprieve to put everything she has to use in order to make her prosperous and create an economy that is practical, productive and people-based.

How should this be done?

1. Experienced-guided economy.

Judging by the ruderless leadership of late that has somehow perennially missed out on maximizing resources, it is clear that for the Sunshine state to possess a shinning economy, she needs a leader experienced in the real practice of making things work, a leader with tenable substance beyond rhetoric. It is high time sentiments are abandoned in the consideration of a form of leadership for this great state. The state needs an experienced leader with business acumen who understands how to leverage on the rich natural resources and the already existing but latent skills and talents of the people. In the past 7 years especially, it is clear as daylight that not much have been done to practically use what the state has to make it sit in as place of pride among growing economies, the situation is so bad that a recent report stated Ondo s one of the worst places to start a business. Apart from the political will needed to make things work in the state, Ondo needs a leader with requisite experience and refreshing expertise in business to activate her rawness to practical wealth.

2. Knowledge-driven economy.

One of the ways to create a self-sustaining economy in Ondo state is by addressing the knowledge deficit amongst the majority of her citizens. There’s a mantra that says you cannot give what you don’t have; this mantra simply underlies the truth that the grinding poverty and tasteless economic situation sadly evident in Ondo is directly proportional to what I call “ineffective education”, that breeds ignorance and joblessness. The way it is right now in Ondo and even in the country at large, our educational syllabi isn’t strategically tailored towards our needs, and that’s one of the reasons why we rely on the import of expensive expertise at the expense of our economic growth. A major way to do this involves un-isolating the classroom from the out-of-the-classroom learning environment in a structured way that integrates real life scenarios with curriculums in an effective way – the idea of schools without walls. Installing this method of learning will empower the people with the practical knowledge on how to look inwards, master the prospects of the wealth around them, and eventually become stakeholders and vital parts of a flourishing economy aiming to be self-sustaining.

3. Agro-allied Industrialization of the economy.

Ondo state is blessed with a lot of agricultural products that it irks to see them lay waste and untapped. In this foretold era of oil doom, any wise government will deem it expedient to grow revenue and wealth from other sources. When oil prices started dwindling fast in 2015 September, most of us didn’t know that at the same time, the international price for Cocoa tor example, rose about 100%. The world has grown has gone green and organic; and there lies the wealth for any economy that possesses materials to fuel this new trend. This makes agriculture in a arable land like Ondo, an alternative to the monocultural oil-dependent economy making use of the available and abundant resources to do so. And, apart from merely encouraging this, government must practically create the interest in agriculture by heavily investing in a structure that suits its practice. A structure that ensures mechanization of the processes of creating variant organic products from the farm produce, and most importantly that ensures easy commercialization of the output.
For this, a first of its kind Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment can be set up to first oversee the processing, packaging and exporting farm produce here in the state, and also serve as a liaison point between our commercial farmers here and the industries needing their produce overseas. The body will serve as the port to make industrialization and commercialization of agriculture seamless for profit.

4. Localizing expertise to build needful Infrastructure.

The aim of bridging the knowledge gap via unisolated learning among the Ondo polity (especially the youth) is to develop homegrown expertise in place of ineffective education, in order to create wealth, wealth creators and profitable employment in bulk. This is very pivotal to creating an economy that can sustain itself. We don’t really need to spend borrowed money to import expertise to build our state, when we can wisely spend less to develop ourselves to develop our raw materials and then develop our state. Urban renewal to create an ecosystem around the economic transformation of the state and modern cities and town, making use of at least 90% local raw materials, is achievable. For example, if the administration is rehabilitating schools, industries should be set up to provide roofing sheets, materials and other education infrastructure with at least 90% local content. Developing local expertise via pratical 2-3 month trainings is an indicator towards the encouragement of Small Business, which serve as a key engine of growth and job creation. Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) and Micro SMEs should be the key focus of the any administration aimed at encouraging global competitions, innovations and inventions for the sake of her economy.
This would provide a strong support for the economic and educational transformation of the state.

5. Wooing foreign investment with virtuous leadership

The amount of foreign investment in Ondo needs to increase in the place of borrowing. Most of the solutions listed above definitely needs some form of government funding to kickstart them, hence, the need to seek partnership with foreign investment. Getting investors into Ondo isn’t the main issue, the reason why the state hasn’t enjoyed such influx is the lack of integrity within the ranks of leadership. From my experience in professional and personal dealings with serious foreign investors, I’ve been able to decipher their interest in the criteria of integrity in order to partner productively with any leadership in view. As it is a truth that this ingredient of foreign investment is germane to cooking the economy Ondo state to palatable satiety, the onus lies on the enfranchising Ondo indigenes to vote credible leadership at all levels of governance.

Without mincing words, the way up for Ondo state is via a healthier, growing, debt-independent and a self-sustaining economy. In this present world dispensation where economic diversification is the way to go, possibilities of wealth, job creation, vast and fast development of Ondo and her people lie in this truth, and any well-meaning Ondo indigene should embrace it.

Olusegun Abraham

Olusegun Abraham is a frontline All Progressives Congress gubernatorial aspirant in the Ondo 2016 election, and he wrote from his hometown in Ikare, Ondo state.

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