You are a late comer to the governorship race in Ondo State; don’t you think this can affect your chances on Saturday?
Coming in late to me, has not brought about any disadvantage. Within the period, I have been able to touch all the communities. This is the man they have always known; this is the man they can believe. This is the man they can trust. In any event, it was after I came in that Mimiko declared for second term. It was when I came that the ACN candidate was jostling to be candidate, he wasn’t candidate. So, all the political parties picked their candidates during the period that I was also picked. I am not new in the politics of Ondo State. I’ve occupied many positions, representing the people. So I’m not new.
As member representing Ondo State in the National Political Reform Conference and member of the Stakeholders Committee on Niger Delta, the Committee that brought about peace in the Niger Delta by recommending the Amnesty Programme to the Federal Government, my delivery, my commitment, my contribution and my performance which has been unprecedented and unparalleled, recommend me to the people of Ondo State. I’ll be in charge. I have a good understanding of the issues.
But your party is divided in the state, so, how do you intend to manage the situation for the election?
Divisionism is not peculiar to any political party. It is in every political party. Let me tell you, Labour Party is more polarised today than PDP. That is the truth of the matter. People that disagree openly are better than those who disagree, subterraneously. In actual fact, there are no serious divisions in PDP.
Before I came on board, PDP went through some internal crises but I didn’t know I was working for myself. At one point as the National Legal Adviser and the most senior officer of the party from the state, I felt it was obligatory on me to intervene in the crises and I did. Unknown to me, I was actually providing a platform for an aspiration that would come up later.
We were able to narrow the disagreement to less than 5 percent. And unless someone is looking for a graveyard agreement, I believe that PDP today is 95 percent united, strong and virile. And the few people that disagree with us are known. They do not hide their disagreement. So, we concede that percentage as opposition percentage. We add it to the strength of the Labour Party, to the strength of the ACN. Take it that we have 95 percent working. And since I came on board, we have expanded the strength of PDP by drawing not less that 25 percent of the strength of Labour Party. ACN, after the choice of Akeredolu, has become polarised, and we got not less than 35 percent of ACN. And on daily basis, we receive Labour Party decampees. On daily basis you have more ACN coming into our party. So, let me therefore correct the impression that PDP in Ondo State is divided.
What are the things you want to do differently as governor?
As a political party, we have manifesto. I would adopt and adapt it to the needs of the people. Unless you know the ailment and you diagnose it, you cannot prescribe appropriate therapy.
Ondo State people today are very poor because wealth is not being generated. The only institution that employs, that gives out money today in Ondo State is government. There are no industries; Micro-economy is completely nose-diving or paralysed. And you know the consequence of poverty is corruption. People, today, are poor in their pockets and they are poor in their heads. Because poverty compromises integrity, it compromises your pride as an individual.
Ondo State as I mentioned earlier is the most blessed state in the South-west, and I say it without any reservation. Why are people poor?
People are poor because of government policy which does not create alternative employer of labour, alternative generator of wealth for the people of the state.
Agriculture used to be the pride of our economy before the advent of oil. During the administration of the PDP in Ondo State, we intervened majorly in the agriculture sector and the products are supposed to be coming out now, and they have come out in the case of cocoa where, for instance, Ondo State is clearly leading comfortably by providing 40 percent of cocoa production. That cannot be an event of today. It happened some six years back when PDP administration was there. As soon as we left government, that intervention which was meant to boost agricultural production, you know, government gains a lot intervention from grading cocoa; that one has stopped. Nothing is being done. So, the boost we currently enjoy is bound to nose-dive in the next two to three years, unless there is intervention.
During our administration, we conceived an agric project, Youths in Agriculture, and a number of projects, and we were beginning to open up the rural roads, because you cannot take graduates and go and put them inside bush. No roads, no light, no water, no infrastructure. No matter how well you pay them, assuming you pay them well, they won’t be there. Because, having been exposed to opportunity in this ICT global village, they know the good things and you now suddenly remove them, put them in mosquito invested environment, they would not stay.
What we were trying to do then was to build agricultural villages. Wherever you have such farmlands, you’ll have roads, you’ll have water, so that when people are in the agricultural village, they would have advantage over and above those of us in the urban centres because there would be no pollution. And they would enjoy all the good things, like roads, light and every other thing enjoyed in urban areas. Above that, they would be close to nature, because they would consume not frozen foods, but fresh. They would be healthier. So, that would be attractive. And of course, they are not going to use the old system, it would be mechanised farming. That was what we were preparing.
Third, when we came to power, the pupil/teacher ratio was 90:1. We succeeded before we left in reducing it to 61:1. Our mission was to bring it to the United Nations standard of 30:1.
Since we left, there has been no further recruitment of teachers. Teachers are retiring; some of them are being frustrated out of service. New ones are not being recruited. So, our education sector is suffering.