Jan 26, 2011
Here at allOndostate.com, we will be raising the bar of the intellectual & political debate in Ondo state by our interviews.
We present to you the first in the series: One on One. With Olatunji Ariyomo – the former , pioneer coordinator & Agency Head, Ondo state Information Technology Development Centre (SITDEC).
Mr. Ariyomo is currently the MD, Q7 Engineering Limited
Your Wikipedia page notes correctly your inputs towards the creation of the Ondo state SITDEC. If you were to run SITDEC today, what key areas of improvement would you definitely introduce to the outfit ?
SITDEC is the Ondo State Information Technology Development Centre.
Our administration recognized Information Technology or IT as a powerful tool that could help to accomplish effective political and bureaucratic leadership in governance and the allocation and monitoring of resources.
Today, I think one of the things required is the enactment of the enabling law for SITDEC and its effective transformation into SITDA – the State Information Technology Development Agency. It is the law that will make it in point of fact SITDA. Once this is in place, the organ can become more accountable to the public and can be better scrutinized.
Now, I know this may appear absolutely irrelevant since your question is purely hypothetical, but it is good to state that I would not wish ‘to run SITDEC today’. The reason is simple – aside from my private business, I am more inclined at this time to be part of an opportunity to frontally change the fortune and destiny of this nation in a manner that will affect a greater majority of Nigerians in a way that will be irreversible and irrefutable.
While our states are a good platform to implement several change driven strategic programmes, it is becoming a herculean tasks to sustain positive changes at the state level and showcase them as models for other tiers of government to emulate because our political immaturity revels in wilful policy reversals.
Apart from Lagos State for instance which is also a peculiar example because Tinubu and Fashola have been able to evolve a way to work together despite the serious temptations in favour of hostilities, most states, after change of baton would go back to square one to begin afresh thereby abandoning progress made so far by previous administrations no matter how noble such efforts were.
I have argued before that were SITDEC a national organ, it would have been utterly impossible for our successor in office to secretly abandon the projects that we implemented for the state with tax payers’ money. That is because the audience scope of an organ of government at the national level is wider. For this reason, apart from my private business, I am more inclined to work where the output of my service will be obvious to all and where such can inspire others.
Also, we note that SITDEC has no publicly accessible website, Isn’t that a disgrace ?
A publicly accessible website? We cannot call that a disgrace.
It depends on the priority of current handlers of SITDEC. Mind you, when we came on board, the entire Ondo State did not have a website and typewriters were the major tool for word processing in the state. There was even no SITDEC.
So it was our primary task to put in place that, which never existed for the benefit of a greater number of our people by laying a strong foundation for e-Governance first as pioneers, set up SITDEC, gets the people to understand and appreciate ICT, revolutionize speed of service delivery in the state by reducing time required to complete responsibilities such as enterprise tasks involving state’ human resource management, payments and tax collection administration, eliminate mediocre systems and archaic tools including typewriters and primitive application of technology and generally make the state civil service the most sophisticated in the country.
Part of the first steps taken was to also create an online government to citizens’ platform, a website and portal system for the entire people and government of Ondo State. That was our primary concern as pioneers.
You may want to say that having passed that initial stage, the current handlers by now should have a personal website for SITDEC. Well, that question can only be answered by them.
On your way towards setting up SITDEC – what was the hardest challenge(s) ? and how did you overcome them ?
The greatest challenge we had while setting up SITDEC was to convince the leadership of the Civil Service that it was necessary.But once convinced, they became our greatest advocates.
I remembered that the head of the State’s civil service personally led the compliance drive that was authorised by the State Executive Council when Ministries, Departments and Agencies in the state were reluctant to accept the automated platform for the administration of salaries and nominal roll that was put in place by SITDEC.
Through such support from civil servants in the state, my team was able to accomplish a reduction in payroll processing time from 26 days to less than 2 hours and reduce time expended on personnel data search and record update from endless and tedious number of weeks of work to less than 10 seconds before we left government.
Gov. Mimiko’s government appears to be into spending a lot of cash on certain infrastructure in the last two years, If you were governor, what do you think Alagbaka is building that you won’t be building and what would you rather build ?
If I were governor, I would not build a mega school for 1,000 kids within 4km radius. I believe it is sheer punishment for little kids to be subjected to the painful experience of attending schools 4km away from their homes simply because we passed through that same tortuous experience. I believe it is also wrong for a primary school to have a population of 1,000 pupils.
I believe it is wrong to assume that the problem with our education lies in the size of our schools; that our kids underperform because they did not attend schools with colossal structures. I believe excellent physical infrastructure is not a function of huge size.
I have seen schools in France, UK, USA and Canada that are designed with excellent physical infrastructure but for optimum numbers of pupils in order to maintain a good pupil:teacher ratio and a good pupil:administrator quotient.
If I had the privilege, I would first create a set of policy stipulates that would recognize and enforce school districts and their distances as well as guide both the government and the private sector to build secured and standard gated schools that would accommodate a maximum of 25 pupils per class, a maximum of 2 classes per level coming to a maximum number of 300 pupils in any school at any given time.
I agree that some contend that there is no clear correlation between class sizes and pupil performance.
I however support the school of thought that asserts that reducing the number of pupils in classes is one of a range of measures that can help improve the quality and standard of our education.
More importantly, there is a need for quality teachers. I would love to have in addition to a standard classroom teacher, a teaching assistant per class so that greater attention can be given to the pedagogic need of an average child in our primary schools.
I also believe that the remuneration of our teachers should reflect their critical contribution to national education and manpower development.
To improve the quality of our education, we will need to improve the quality of our teachers and their training because high quality teachers, assisted by dedicated teaching assistants are critical to the foundation of learning that the primary schools represent. Teachers cannot be on strike while we are building mega schools. Won’t mega schools be managed by people?
I like the market stalls being built by the current government in Alagbaka. I particularly find the one in Isikan to be very beautiful. But I would let the local government authorities build them. Why, you wonder? If I did everything there is to be done, then what role would the tier of government closest to the people play? I mean the local government.
If you have been in government, you would agree with me that the average Nigerian governor has an enormous capability to persuade the local government chairmen in his domain to implement projects in the people’s interest.
By so doing, we would have a saving close to N5billion, money purportedly used to build those markets by the state government, and we can utilize that as part of a seed fund to create a modern and well planned central business districts in the 3 senatorial districts of Ondo State starting with the state capital.
My idea of a central business district in Akure for instance involves creating a triple carriageway combined with a boulevard scheme on ‘roadblock/Shagari Village/Ado-Ekiti junction’ axis with extensive setback that would accommodate modern walkways and a median that has enough space to accommodate built-in facilities that are aesthetically pleasant.
The middle carriageway would be dedicated to thoroughfare connecting Ibadan with Benin while the side roads will function as service lanes majorly for the district, meaning people who have no business in the district would experience no traffic delay at all. Both sides of the new highway beyond the setback would then be populated with rows of well equipped and modern business centres structured into hubs for various business interests of the people.
Because of my background in civil and structural engineering, my personal work on the Akure/Ondo road and my personal knowledge of what Ondo State government gets as revenue, I would definitely explore the feasibility of an additional carriageway to connect Akure, Ondo and Ore. If you know what I know of the state’s revenue, you would agree with me that such massive transformation of the state is doable and easy within limited time. Once that is done, the Akure-Ondo-Ore road would become a dual carriageway. I want you to take particular note of my choice of words – that I would build an additional carriageway.
I did not say I would turn the existing one into a dual carriageway because the existing road belongs to the federal government. But there is no law that stops a state government from building a parallel road to an existing one and that is what I would love to do to save the lives of our people and link our cities together. I would also love to actively lobby the federal government to extend the dual carriageway that terminates currently at Iloko Ijesha to pass through Ondo State and link up with Benin while two nodes could branch off to Ekiti State and Ikare via Ado Ekiti and Ikare junctions respectively. Given such a privilege, I would also want to be at the centre of getting the regional governors in the southwest to jointly explore the possibility of introducing networks of railway system to aid people and cargo movement in the southwest.
From my personal experience in government, I can tell you authoritatively that these and many seemingly impossible tasks are all achievable if they are of prime importance or rank higher on the priority list of the man in the driver’s seat.
I appreciate the concern of our people to exercise fear and doubt these days because we have become perennial victims of drivers who failed woefully at the simplest tasks or those who got into the saddle but continue to play politics as if the elections are not yet over. While my team was promising to implement certain technology driven reforms in HR management, tax collection automation and the likes, we met people who told us they were impossible.
To God be the glory however, with careful planning and an excellent team, we achieved and surpassed the targets.
We were the first to apply biometric scanners to collect over 13,000 workers’ fingerprints with a consistent turnaround time of about 4 minutes. You can appreciate that today if you notice what is ongoing with voters’ registration in this country considering the fact that ours was even about 5 years ago.
I remember the computerization we implemented once caught red handed a man that colluded with an official of government to inflate his salary by over N200,000. He was ordinarily entitled to a little above N10,000. I also remember that we caught certain bank officials who were in the habit of withholding state’s funds after tax collection for personal use. Positive changes can happen in this country, if we believe and pursue them with our God given talents, vigour and sincerity.
With the ongoing redevelopment of one of the capital’s major metropolitan road, Arakale Road, what is your general comment on the
implementation of the original Masterplan of the Akure metropolis, given that buildings and structures have evolved in places
that are not in strict adherence to the Masterplan. Is the current physical structure and layout of Akure sustainable ?
Dual carriageways are good and I have heard the argument that the reason Arakale road is being made a dual carriageway is because the traffic on that route is becoming more problematic.
Again, this is another issue I would address differently if I were governor because I have seen dual carriageways that still face serious traffic problems – the Oba Adesida road is a good example.
While it is simplistic to assume that solutions to traffic problems is to enlarge the roads, you can only come to that conclusion after commissioning appropriate transport analysis and surveys, taking into consideration all routes’ nodal conflicts and competing alternatives with similar measures of effectiveness.
For example, Arakale road, being one of the best road structures in the entire Ekiti, Osun and Ondo States means that we are not facing any immediate challenge of carriageway failures. Arakale road section is 7+30 which makes it a standard road. I am sure you have seen longer stretches of roads in the UK that are not as wide as Arakale road. What I would do would be to transfer every business activity on the entire stretch of Arakale and Isikan, in non-commercial designated places, to the Central Business District on the ‘roadblock/Shagari Village/Ado-Ekiti junction’ axis thereby making the houses on Arakale road purely residential in accordance with the certificates of ownership issued to their owners.
Once you eliminate commercial or trading activities on the Arakale/Isikan axis, you would have drastically reduced the effective traffic density on the route. The implication is that government would achieve the same result without spending a dime. Again, the over N6billion allegedly being spent on that road will become an asset that can be utilised to fix the very many roads that are urgently begging for attention in Akure.
I will expect for instance that the ‘roadblock/Shagari Village/Ado-Ekiti junction’ will form a ring with the existing ‘FUTA/Oba-Adesida/Fiwasaye’ while a second outer ring road will encircle the state capital and terminate at Idanre Road. I will also expect that walkways will be added to all carriageways in the town as an acknowledgment of the rights of people who walk. I will expect an upgrade and proper modernisation of the dilapidated Flagship/Oke-Ijebu/Ijomu road. I will expect the upgrade and completion of the Oluwatuyi and Ijoka road as well as the several link roads in the Ijoka axis. If you have being to some places in Akure, you would feel like crying at the state of road infrastructure decay in those places.
Another comment I have on the road is the speed of job delivery. I observed that it took the entire 2009 for the median of the Oba Adesida road, which is approximately 7km to be built while Fiwasaye to Ado-Ekiti junction, a distance of less than 2km has taken about 2 and a half years. It is interesting to note that the construction of the entire length of the Oba Adesida dual carriageway, considered the best carriageway in the whole of Osun, Ekiti and Ondo States took just a little above 1 year when the road was built. My professional seniors like Engr. Akinjo, Engr. James Olusoga and others who worked on that road are still very much alive.
Do you think Ondo state can develop and implement a private power utility company if & when the decentralisation of PHCN goes through ?
But Ondo State does not need to wait till PHCN is completely unbundled. A state that averagely earns N6 billion per month and in some instances N9billion per month is more than capable to develop its own Independent Power Plants in conjunction with the private sector.
Ondo State earned N7.7billion in January 2010 under governor Mimiko.
The state earned N9.6billion in April 2010 while the least the state got that year was N3.3billion in the month of March which was a rarity.
That gives you an idea of the state’s revenue profile and its spending capacity. Since by the Federal Government’s extant position on energy management, it will encourage and provide frameworks and logistic support for such a state that is interested in investing in electricity production or installation of electricity distribution infrastructure, then nothing stops a state like Ondo from getting involved. So, it is an issue of whether the current leadership in Ondo State sees it as an issue of priority.
For the larger picture of the nation’s electricity however, I commend the federal government for the steps taken so far.
My only concern is that the Federal Government seems to depend upon the unbundling of PHCN as a major trust of our electricity sufficiency and distribution agenda. While that is okay, I would however have expected it to be merely a by-line instead of being the big deal. I concede that I have not seen the new national policy on electricity generation, transmission, local distribution, management and sustainability. I assumed that there should be such a document.
If there is none, then we are in trouble really. The caution here is to note that the learning curve gained from the successful privatization of the telecommunication sector under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo suggests that privatization performs better when investors apply their own money. We got it right with our telecommunication back then even though the private investors at that time relied on the backbone provided by NITEL for some of their operations. The experiment with NITEL and Pentascope should however be very fresh in our memory.
Since PHCN has been variously described as having obsolete equipment and ill-staffed, it is expected that private investors would be legally empowered to independently set up their power distribution companies with modern equipment and qualified staff using their own funds while providing them access to the existing distribution backbone in their respective areas on a concessionary basis.
In essence government of Nigeria will continue to own the distribution backbone in thrust for the Nigerian people while the serious jobs of its day to day maintenance and management will be competitively outsourced to qualified private sector players for a specific period of time. Also, I would expect that existing energy companies with demonstrable expertise in electricity production like Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco and other similar players who have benefited immensely from the nation’s oil wealth would be encouraged via incentives to become active players in electricity production for the country.
if you were to formulate a policy for the government at Alagbaka that will create 10000 jobs within one year, how best will you proceed given what you know of ondo state resources human, natural and your background in Energy engineering?
For a start, it would be inadequate to project for employment of 10,000 people when the population of Ondo State is 3.4million. But Kolade(our reporter), as experts, if we provide ideas free of charges to government, how are we going to be able to pay our staff, pay the bills and what have you?
What is your assessment of our Local Government Authorities in terms of what governmental impact they offer your community ?
Fact number one, Local Governments in Nigeria are not truly independent tiers of government. Let us adjust our constitution first in a way that the local government can actually be for all practical purposes an autonomous tier of government that is independent of the state and the federal government and that is directly accountable to the people.
Also, let Local Governments’ service delivery philosophy be that there cannot be a reduction in the quality of the service they provide but only a reduction in the quantity or reach because of the size of their scope. When this happens, then we can talk about assessing them.
The open secret on the streets is that you have to be educated abroad to stay any chance of a decent employment in some of the emerging high tech and high paying jobs in Ondo state and in fact Nigeria. This is clearly an indictment of our education policy over the years. What do you think the administrators of Ondo state University Akungba Akoko can do differently in this regard ?
I am not aware of any emerging high tech job opportunities in Ondo State and will therefore not be in the best position to answer that question. I know there are banks in Ondo State. I also know that these banks employ graduates from Nigerian institutions.
There is a general feeling the OSRC has become a permanent underperformer since its glory days during Pa Ajasin’s Era. Is this a correct assessment of public broadcasting in ondo state ? and if you were to recommend progressive measures, how is good quality public media to be resuscitated in Ondo state ?
I am not holding brief for OSRC, but I think the station is performing at the level of the challenges she is exposed to – the level of competition she faces. OSRC is still the best TV station in Ondo State. Its broadcast reach is wider than that of the local NTA.
I think the mindset behind your question is really the issue because you are actually comparing OSRC with BBC, CNN and the likes if I am correct. That would be unfair on OSRC of today. A part may find it difficult to be better than a whole.
OSRC is a typical Ondo State outfit that would require a truly vision driven leadership to transform.If Ondo State itself is superbly transformed today in terms of, the quality of lives and the quality of living of its people, then OSRC and other outfits would naturally get transformed as well.
Year in year out, everybody knows that OSRC is the propaganda tool of the reigning government. All governments are guilty of this. It is a fact.
Staffers of OSRC are civil servants who can be tacitly punished or beaten to line if they try any CNN stunt that does not favour the incumbent government.
In the meantime, what we should look forward to is for more players to emerge from the private sector and set up TV stations in the state. The presence of such competitions that pose direct threat to OSRC’s revenue profile could fire its leadership into rapid innovative action
Do you think revamping the quality of Ondo state’s Healthcare system is down to building more hospitals ?
I have tried to emphasise the need for a policy thrust. It is the policy that will determine our healthcare programme and its sustainability. There is no way we would not build more hospitals because relative to our growing population, it is very obvious that the existing facilities can never be adequate. But we must have a policy in place first and how to ensure that policy and programmes are sustainable. It is the policy that will determine the numbers of new hospitals if any, the sizes of such hospitals, the subvention to such hospitals, equipment and the time such must be replaced, personnel and how to ensure the hospitals remain healthcare institutions that give care and comfort to our people. This is beyond sloganeering. It is a serious job.
In what ways of policy do you think Alagbaka can be more impactful ?
I think we should allow Alagbaka to address that. When it is our turn, we will address that.
You are one of the youngest politicians to work with both the Adefarati & Agagu administrations – what do you consider their respective biggest personal weaknesses?
No man is infallible so I will rather talk about their strongest points.
Papa Adebayo Adefarati was very passionate about development. He was a workaholic and an exemplary leader.
My cadre attempted to change the composition of his second term ticket in order to fortify his government for re-election.
We carried him along in all we did. We made him realise that the goal of making Ondo State a reference point for the type of development goals that would increase the quality of life of our people could not be realised with a bunch of lieutenants who were limited in their understanding of the problems.
Chief Sola Ebiseni, Bosede, Oyegoke and others were actively involved.
Our primary concern was an Adefarati ticket that would give hope to our people and that could translate the visions we have seen him espoused to realities in the manners of late Pa. Obafemi Awolowo. The people involved are still alive, hale and hearty.
Unfortunately, some people took advantage of that to strain our relationship. Even back then and till now, I have continued to maintain the facts as I knew it about him, he was a great leader and a straightforward personality.
With regard to Dr. Olusegun Agagu, I will say he is one of the most brilliant people that I have met. Easily able to understand seemingly complicated concepts. He is a very thorough person who is immensely patient. I have seen his passion for a methodical development of the state.
Dr. Agagu also possesses a leadership maturity very uncommon in this clime. I will cite two examples. In 2003 some people lobbied him to relocate the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko from Akungba to either Ikare or Okitipupa arguing that he needed to cut his predecessor to size. His response then was that if he made it his business to cut his predecessor to size by tampering with his legacies, what time would he have to develop the state.
Also, on another occasion, a committee set up by Dr. Agagu hinted at recommending that the new University of Science and Technology be sited in Agagu’s home town of Iju-Odo, but he told them no way.
My regret is that I could not be part of his civil infrastructure development team which I consider my primary area of competence. In retrospect, I strongly believe I would have made a lot of difference and that such a difference could have averted the image crisis our government had in the central senatorial district.
Thank you for your time.
You are welcome.