As the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world thereby obstructing almost every sector of human livelihood across the planet, Afolabi writes on how the State of Osun can recover from the economic damages the pandemic has caused.
The Coronavirus pandemic that struck the world in 2019 (COVID-19) is arguably the greatest plague of humanity. No fewer than three million people have been infected across one hundred and eighty-eight (188) countries.
At least two hundred and fifty thousand people have been killed by the virus, an equivalent to five hundred plane crashes in one day.
Nigeria itself has identified more than two thousand infected persons with eighty-five confirmed deaths of which Osun state has a total of thirty-six confirmed cases with three death- cases so far.
Beyond its health complications, the spread of the virus has hurt several economies. The impact is deeply felt in every state, where travel restrictions and distancing measures have disrupted supply chains. This of course resulted in reduced economic activity. And sadly, the educational sector is almost non-operational.
However, in a place like The State of Osun, the good news is that the infection rate is being stalled by measures put in place by the government. While infected persons respond smartly to treatment.
Steps Taken so far by the State Government
Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, the governor of the state and his cabinet has sensitized the people of Osun state and provided palliatives to some residents.
As part of measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, the governor signed the Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020 to enforce the lockdown order on 2nd April 2020. The government also ensured the closure of borders to stop people from gaining access into the state.
An example of such case is the popular ivory coast returnees case, the Oyetola led administarion also setup isolation centers, one at Asubiaro Specialist Hospital, Osogbo to isolate and treat reported cases of the virus in the State.
When COVID-19 pandemic eventually subsides, individuals must be prepared to adjust to new realities. Lots of businesses will need to re-strategize for survival, the government at all levels will be confronted with difficult questions to answer and hard choices to make.
It is on this background that this article suggests practical ways which would quicken Osun State’s economic recovery, from pandemic to prosperity and repositioning the state towards economic development.
Self-sufficiency through Agriculture
Agriculture, which is Osun state’s biggest sector, the state is blessed with the right conditions for multi-crop cultivation.
Being largely an agrarian economy with fertile and expansive landmass, Osun is the most- suitable location for agricultural investment. With a Land Bank in operation and a strong avowed commitment to making Osun the major hub of agriculture in South West Nigeria.
If adequate partnership is sought to further open up the agriculture sector via investment on large scale crop production, beef chain development, establishment of seed companies and develop farming services in the areas of quality seedling supply, as well as development of financial and extension services to farmers, among others, there would be a boost in the food production in the state, which would also pave for exporting same to other states of the nation. Thereby generating income for the state.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of the state. The importance of the sector to the state is evident in several ways, including provision of food, employment, raw materials for manufacturing and processing industries, income to farmers, sustainable revenue to government, foreign exchange earnings, and market for industrial goods such as tractors, agro-chemicals and equipment.
The vast potential for development in the agricultural sector can be harnessed by facilitating the provision of credit facilities for farmers at zero or low interest rates, curtailing the menace of herdsmen, providing market linkages, facilitating value addition, proper storage, effective training of personnel’s, assisting farmers in accessing genuine inputs, and generating accurate data for decision making.
The state has a high potential for becoming self-sufficient in food production and becoming the agricultural hub of the South-West of Nigeria. It also has great prospect of transforming from the traditional subsistence agriculture to a modern, productive and commercial agrarian economy with the application of advanced technologies in production and processing agricultural commodities that can guarantee maximum returns on agricultural investments and capable of attracting youths, and corporate bodies into the sector.
Another sector that Osun can diversify to is the infrastructural sector, which is responsible for the design, construction, rehabilitation, maintenance and supervision of infrastructure in the state. Such infrastructure includes: roads, bridges, government buildings, offices, staff quarters, land regularization/documentation and land charges, and so on.
The infrastructure sector provides plenty of opportunities for employment and training. For instance, the construction industry engages large numbers of people with requisite skills in the state. The state has several qualified personnel in the sector.
The sector often requires the services of people without any special skills to provide manual labor. The development of good roads across the state has also impacted in modest industrial development in the state.
Apart from providing facilities to aid human activities, the infrastructure sector can be a major source of revenue to the state government if the potential for development is properly harnessed. Access and deeds to shopping malls and filling stations will continue to be a major source of IGR to the government.
Substantial income can also be made by government from access permits and right of way permits. Contractors working on the sector’s projects should be required to pay taxes to government. The potential for revenue generation in the sector will be further maximized during the implementation of this SDP.
Furthermore, the tourism and culture sector, which for decades put the state on the world map, Osun, with its diverse iconic tourist’s sites and cultural events, is a globally- acknowledged destination of choice.
Osun is said to be the cultural and traditional center of Yorubaland. It is blessed with attractive, natural and world class tourist sites. In the Yoruba nation, no state has the number of the eye-catching natural tourist sites like Osun. The state has not less than 60 tourism centers.
Some of the tourism centers are historical and spiritual. Tourist centers like Osun Osogbo Sacred Groove, Osogbo; Oduduwa groove and Oranmiyan staff (both in Ile-Ife); Kiriji war site; Oluminrin waterfall, Erin-Ijesa; Ayinkunugba waterfalls, Oke-Ila; Imesi Mysterious caves and movement rocks are some of the major tourist sites which can alone turn around the economy of the state.
The citizens are also noted for their historical expertise in merchandised products such indigo-based textiles, crafts work and expressive arts such as dance, painting, and other arts. For
the full utilization of this, onus is on both the government and the citizens: the government by showing the prerequisite support for Citizens of Osun and providing a safe environment for the practice of same. And the citizens by showing interest in same, in no distant time, this would be a boost to the state in terms of revenue, and also reduction in unemployment rate.
To reposition the tourism sector to maximize potential and generate viable employment, the government should work with investors in the establishment of a Destination Management Organization (DMO) through Public-Private Collaboration; establishment of a Yoruba World Heritage Centre in Ile-Ife; promotion of of Indigenous Products and construction of markets in major cities and towns, among others.
What is most important is for the state government to partner with entrepreneurs and investors in tourism sector, and take the advantage of the money-spinner tourism potentials. Osun will soon be competing with other more economically viable states as it embarks on a determined journey to harness the potentials in tourism.
Beyond cultural projection, there is the economic imperative of culture. We can build a thriving economy around our culture and monuments after the Covid-19 pandemic. The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Jerusalem and Rome are distinct economies that sustain these countries. Osun is the centre point of cultural tourism vibes in Nigeria, if positive step is taken towards the tourism sector, Erin-Ijesa, Olumimrin Waterfalls or any of our grooves can be the Mecca or Medina of Osun, with the generation of a huge income and employment opportunities, and this would be a boast to the state in its entirety to transform same to prosperity after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Educational Sector
The focus of the education sector is to provide education that would produce individuals who are literates, critical thinkers, problem solvers, innovators and virtuous citizens. This as a practical solution to lift the state from pandemic may not be immediate, however for future purposes, the above discussed sectors cannot thrive well without a functional educational sector. Is it not that same Educational Sector that would produce Governors, Senators, Honorables and Commissioners? What then would happen if there are lapses in this sector?
In view of this therefore, it behoves on those at the helm of affairs in Osun to diversify the economy by revamping not only the Agriculture sector but also other sectors such as Culture and tourism, Infrastructure sector and above all, Education. By so doing, Osun, will, in no distant time after the Covid- 19pandemic, recover to economic prosperity.
About the author – Afolabi is a Final year Student of Laws at the University of ilorin, and an enthusiast in media and Communications.