Nigeria: 5 things to know about Dapo Abiodun, Ogun State Governor

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Monday, 17 January 2022 12:24, updated on Friday, 21 January 2022 10:42

Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun
Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun/ Photo courtesy Twitter.

Born into the royal family of Iperu on 29 May 1960, Dapo Abiodun was elected governor of Ogun State on the ticket of the ruling All Progressive’s Congress in 2019 and is rarely out of the headlines.

Former managing director of Heyden Petroleum and Chairman of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abiodun’s business ethics have come under scrutiny, with the Pandora Papers investigative journalism consortium identifying him as the beneficiary of an offshore bank account in the British Virgin Islands tax haven, a contravention of Nigeria’s code of conduct for elected office holders.

None of that has stopped Abiodun from voicing strong opinions about increasing judges’ salaries and initial support for the #EndSARS protests. He is set to run for a second term as governor next year. Here are five things you should know about him:

1. Tactics for success

A businessman turned politician, Governor Dapo Abiodun does not believe that state governments should raise more of their revenue internally and not rely so heavily on the Federal Government, prompting the The Cable to write: “Abiodun, being a big player in the economy, believes that Ogun State should rely less on allocation from Abuja…”

As a result, he is striving to make Ogun State a business hub that attracts investors, saying in April last year that his “government is committed towards the promotion of a private sector driven economy, industrial development, investment friendly environment, commercial activities and empowerment.”

2. Achievements as governor

Abiodun received the 2021 Award of Excellence at the Nigeria Cocoa Summit and Awards, due to his contribution to this industry within his state. He has backed interventions in the cocoa sector in his state, including fulfilling all pre-conditions for the state’s participation in the CBN Cocoa Development Initiative, designating land for prospective investors in primary production, and distributing 100,000 cocoa seedlings to farmers in 2020-1.

Other achievements include increasing access to water (which has been scarce in the state for several years), building many roads, improving drainage, providing funds to women-run small and medium scale enterprises. At the end of 2021, he approved a 200% increase in the basic salaries of judges in the state.

3. Ambitions in the 2023 elections

Governor Abiodun is set to run for a second term in office in 2023. As long as he secures the gubernatorial nomination for the All Progressives’ Congress party (APC) he is likely to win given the party’s overwhelming popularity in the state.

Abiodun’s biggest problem will be the ructions within the party in the state. There is a faction of the APC loyal to the former Governor of Ogun State Ibikunle Amosun. But Abiodun’s camp seems to be stronger, arguing the current governor’s record is a marked improvement on that of his predecessor.

There is also a section of the APC called the Real Progressives Group, Abeokuta South Local Government which does not see Abiodun as the best candidate for governor. However, this group led by Leke Adebayo, does not currently have enough backing to damage Abiodun’s bid.

Abiodun has asked members of his cabinet who are eyeing the 2023 gubernatorial post to resign. That limits the number of opponents he might face within his party. The deadline for the resignations is 31 January 2022 but not all the cabinet may choose to obey the order.

The opposition People’s Democratic Party is also split in the state, with separate factions loyal to late Senator Buruji Kashamu and Ladi Adebutu. If the PDP is unable to come together behind a strong candidate for 2023, they will stand little chance of winning in Ogun.

4. Offshore banking questions

According to an investigation by Premium Times  and the Pandora Papers consortium in 2021, Dapo Abiodun is the owner of at least two companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands – Marlowes Trading Corporation and Heyden Petroleum Limited (separate from Heyden, Nigeria, also owned by him).

Running these companies is not illegal under Nigerian law, but Abiodun did not make his role public in the asset declaration he signed when entering office in 2019. That contravenes the constitution and the officials’ Code of Conduct. The Premium Times investigation also discovered an offshore account of Governor Abiodun’s, which is illegal for a public official under the Nigerian constitution.

5. #EndSARS involvement

In October 2020, Nigerian youth took to the streets to protest against the rampant police brutality in the country, culminating on 20 October when the police and military shot and killed unarmed protestors at the Lekki Tollgate and other areas in Lagos.

At the time, Governor Abiodun called for the release of all arrested protestors, seeming to stand with citizens unlike Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

However, human rights lawyer Festus Ogun sued Governor Abiodun in December 2021 for refusing to make a report submitted by an #EndSARS panel available for public viewing.

The report was submitted to the governor in July 2021 and is said to recommend that about N218m be awarded to 42 victims or families as compensation for the police brutality suffered. The report has still not been made public and is now subject to a Freedom of Information request.

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