Sen. Iyiola Omisore
Senator Iyiola Omisore was Osun State Deputy Governor from 1999 to 2003 and Senator for Osun East senatorial district on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party from 2003 to 2009 when an election tribunal annulled his election. Now, he plans to contest next year’s governorship election in the state. In an interactive session with some journalists in Lagos last week, Omisore spoke on the affairs of state in the state and his governorship ambition. He also tried to set the record straight on some controversies surrounding him. Vincent Obia brings excerpts from the session…
What is your plan for 2014, when Osun State will go to the polls to elect a new governor?
2014 is around the corner and the procedure of electioneering is for every political party, since there is no room for individual candidature, you must go through a political party. So all efforts we are making now are towards ensuring that we secure the ticket from our political party, the Peoples Democratic Party. By the grace of God and the will of the people, they would give me the ticket.
The next thing is to highlight our position in 2014. We are all aware that we have a present government in Osun State by the Action Congress of Nigeria that came through the court pronouncement, which is yet to win election through the ballot. We are trying to create a better alternative for the people of Osun State, because they are being oppressed by the present government, either by its actions or inactions.
Can you say with complete conviction that you are the best person for the governorship job in 2014?
With my experience, being a deputy governor for four years and senator for eight years, different political exposures and national outlook, I believe I’m more suited for the job than any other person. My manifesto and policies will be people-oriented. I will focus on the status of my people, to create wealth for them, to improve education, the health sector, commercial sector, human capital development, roads rehabilitation, agriculture, and other sectors of human endeavour.
Were you surprised that you and other bigwigs in your party, like Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Isiaka Adeleke, lost elections in your senatorial districts, something many had thought was almost impossible?
Interestingly, we are in court reviewing the electoral process. ACN lost in the court of first instance, they are at the appeal court. Elections were manipulated by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in my state. We went to court even before the election to complain that he was not a fair umpire, that he should be disqualified from conducting the elections. Obviously, the court gave instruction that he must not conduct the election, but they went ahead. That was why the election was nullified at the lower court. They have appealed at the Court of Appeal. So the issue of elections won or lost at the last election in Osun State remains a ruse until the determination by the court of record.
When they came into government, the machinery of government was used, and the INEC people, too, were writing results and announcing for them. At the end of the day, when we are through with the process and the elections are nullified, there would be another election.
But the governorship election is just next year.
It does not matter. When you are in a legal process, you try to create an impression, to make a point. What they are doing today is trying to find methods of scuttling the court process. At our last court date, they said they were going to bring voters to join, just to delay and enjoy four years of unmerited mandate. But all the same, even after the election, the court can still make pronouncement, for record purposes. That is court process for you.
What do you think the incumbent governor is doing that you would do differently if you are elected governor?
One, the ABCs of government is the civil service, the civil servants. As we speak, they are on strike. A state that cannot pay the minimum wage, can afford to charter a plane for the governor from Lagos to Ibadan airport – not Lagos to Osun – at the cost of N400 million! A state that cannot pay the minimum wage can afford to pay N1 million as hotel bills for Lagos guests. These are facts that are sacred, which they have no answer to because it is the government that approved the money. A state that cannot pay salaries, cannot afford the minimum wage, but can afford to buy helicopter of over N7 billion. That is unnecessary in our state. A state that cannot pay salaries can afford to award a federal government road initially cost at N7.7 billion at N19 billion. A state that cannot pay salaries can afford to award Western Bypass road for N15 billion, when the original costing was N7.2 billion, to contractors that are unknown. A state that cannot pay salaries can afford to ask the governor, who is a technician, to go and deliver lectures at Harvard University in American and spend over N200 million of state funds. A state that cannot afford salaries, last month they got about N10.9 billion, but told the people they got only N2 billion. All monies paid to states are published in the newspapers.
You seem to give an impression of widespread disarray in the state.
Today, many things in the state are in disarray. The situation of Osun State is calamitous. The Western Region was known for education, and the vision of Chief Obafemi Awolowo was that education must be near to the residents; he didn’t want children to walk four or five kilometres to go to school. But Aregbesola, in his own wisdom, has now collapsed schools. So you have to walk from Odiomu to Orelowu to go to school, about five kilometres. He has collapsed schools at Osogbo road; you now have to walk for kilometres to go to his mega schools.
The problem we now have is that Aregbesola was a commissioner in Lagos State. He does not understand the difference between Osun and Lagos states. In Lagos State, for instance, when you build a mega school in Surulere, it will be populated immediately. The population is there. Secondly, land in Lagos is costlier than land in Osun. In Osun, land is almost free. So we encourage schools to be built closer to the people. But because of the desire to make money, he awarded a block of classrooms for N537 million and took a bribe of 40 percent.
In the last two years, we have gone down in NECO results by more than 42 percent. Enrolment into universities has gone down by about 37 percent. In WAEC results the state has gone down by about 25 percent.
Now he is forcing students to wear the same uniform because he needed to give the contract to his friend in Lagos to the tune of about N5 billion. A state that cannot pay salaries of N18, 000 has to sow uniforms of about N6 billion for students?
He is giving students minicomputers. To download textbooks from the minicomputers is costing the state about N11 billion. Even when you buy complete textbooks, it is less than N6 billion by our calculation. But he is looking for where to make big money, not how to improve the state.
Resources are scarce and as a governor, you have to prioritise your state’s budget.
So what would be your priorities if you become governor?
If, for instance, by God’s grace, I’m elected governor of Osun State next year, and I want to spend N200 billion on road construction in my state, I have to sit down and consider what roads are of greatest importance to the people. For instance, Iwo-Osogbo road today is in a bad state and that road if it is fixed will serve about 11 local governments. That’s more than 45 percent of the people in Osun State. But in his own wisdom, Aregbesola awarded Osogbo-Ilaodo going to Kwara State, which is mainly for people passing by.
There hasn’t being any improvement in the health sector since he became governor. In a rural state like Osun, we should have primary health centres feeding a secondary health centre, then a tertiary hospital.
There is total confusion in my state. The man says he wants to beautify Osun State, now planting flowers from Asijire to Ile-Ife. He has spent over N15 billion on flowers planting and till date, there is nothing to show for the money.
What is view on the employment generation drive of the state government?
He came to the state and said he wanted to empower people. He employed 10, 000 OYES (Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme) men. Now those 10, 000 have been relieved of their employment. He has taken another 10, 000 people. Is that empowerment? It is destroying the fabrics of the state; giving the youths a wrong sense of direction. You employ people and send them away after one year, and those 10, 000 people have been turned into gangs. He is using the people for political tutelage and thuggery.
A governor ought to sit down and look at the indicators for the survival of his state. Commercial, human capital, agriculture, etc, indicators. This is the standard. There must be a plan.
He is now in his second year and he is already panicky.
What is your view on the controversy over Aregbesola’s qualification as an engineer?
When he first came to Osun State, he was calling himself Engineer Aregbesola. But when we tackled him that he should give us his number in COREN (Council for the Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria), that day, he shut down all the systems in Osun State. He replaced his title in all government offices to Ogbeni. He spent about N12 million to do that.
But there should be projects you can at least credit the Aregbesola government for.
The last time he addressed the press, he showed them things that had not been done. They say they have tarred about 500 kilometres of roads. Where are the roads? The physical things you can see today in Osun State are federal government projects. Osogbo-Ilesha is by the federal government, Ondo-Ife, Ife-Ibadan, etc, are all federal government projects.
But PDP was in power in the state for nearly eight years. Did you also take time to advise the Oyinlola government on these points you have enumerated?
We came into government after the Alliance for Democracy, in 2003, and it is what we did that is still visible on ground. All the current government is doing are just plans. In 2005, for instance, Osun State came second in NECO. That has been lost, we have no position anymore.
I don’t like criticising government on sentiment; I talk based on facts and figures. All I’m saying is for them to go and improve because the state belongs to all of us. Oyinlola was there for seven and a half years, the whole money he borrowed was about N18 billion, and he only withdrew N9 billion out of it. In the last two years, Aregbesola has taken N181 billion. Who will inherit those debts? The problem now is the squandering of our resources.
Osun State is the second most peaceful state in this country, why do you need to buy a helicopter? He uses it to convey himself from Lagos to Osun every weekend.
He is fighting over centre for art and culture. These things are not necessary. I won’t talk about religion because in my family, we have Christians and Muslims. My grandfather was a Muslim before he converted to Christianity. So those children he bore before he converted to Christianity are still Muslims till today. The ones he had after his conversion are Christians. And we are all living peacefully.
Don’t you think the PDP crisis at the national level would affect you in 2014?
How would PDP crisis in Abuja affect us in Osun State? What concerns aeroplane with bad road or pothole on Lagos-Ibadan expressway?
Now, PDP is a structured party, and it is a large party. In any democracy, there will be innuendos, it’s not unusual. Our main concern is what is happening in PDP in Osun State. Osun PDP is the most peaceful chapter in the country today. In the South-west today, it is the only chapter that has one state executive. So the issue of PDP at the national level is a national problem. Besides, in its usual way of doing things, PDP at the national level would soon resolve the disagreements. It had happened many times before.
How would you evaluate the opposition All Progressives Congress merger?
It is dead on arrival. There are about three APCs today struggling for registration. Today, APGA in Anambra is not in APC.
But ACN remains the party to beat in the South-west. Don’t you think it would be very difficult for you to dislodge ACN in the zone?
What happened in Ondo State shows they are not a threat. They came a distant third. By God’s grace, in 2015 ACN would hit zero in the South-west.
How optimistic are you on winning the PDP governorship ticket?
I’m praying to God that I should get the ticket. With the network of grassroots support I have, my past record, and the calibre of individuals that are supporting me, I think I’m best placed to secure the ticket of PDP in my state. I’m doing my best to follow due process. I don’t want to be like ACN in Ondo State that picked its candidate out of the blue, and the party scattered in one day.
Don’t you think you could be hindered by the negative sentiments arising from your alleged link with the death of Bola Ige, because only recently, one Afenifere leader said he could not sit at a reconciliatory meeting because you were there?
Well, the Afenifere member you are referring to, Wale Osun, had been expelled from Afenifere. I was at the meeting when he was expelled by Pa Abraham Adesanya. Adesanya would have to wake up from death to restore Wale Osun’s membership of Afenifere.
Now, we are trying to come together again to know who the true son is and who the bastard is. Recently, we, members of Afenifere, went to pay a condolence visit to Mama Hilda Awolowo following the death of her son, and the likes of Wale Osun were not there, they cannot be found there. He was accused of taking money from Tinubu and polarising AD in Lagos State by approving two different locations for its congresses. People like that are cheap blackmailers.
Chief Bola Ige was my mentor and leader. Chief Bisi Akande had said in 2002 that Bola Ige’s death had nothing to do with Osun State crisis. Yet we were herded into prison where we spent about three years. We were tried, discharged, and acquitted. And I have won elections in the area after the incident.
During the trial, they brought detectives from the FBI, led by one Mr. Clegg. The man interviewed us and gave us a clean bill of health. He gave us his card, and said, “Take this card, these policemen are funny here, if there is anything, call us on this phone.”
But why do you think you were mentioned in the Bola Ige murder?
The only reason I was mentioned in Ige’s death was an interview in the TEMPO. When we got to court, the TEMPO editor said he did not write that in their report, that it was their publisher who put it in the paper. And they didn’t know that Bola Ige was going to die anyway. That was the day TEMPO went into extinction.
They thought they could rope us in through sentiment. But the people are better informed. We have been winning elections in the area out of sympathy garnered from this crisis. My people felt that why could they be punishing someone innocently. They voted for me to prove a point.
The Keyamo and Fryo side they brought into it fizzled the same day. Fryo denied the same day he was brought to the police station, he denied his statement and said it was doctored.
You see, that is why murders are never resolved in Nigeria. There is no sincerity of purpose.