Mr. Akinboye Oyewumi is a governorship aspirant in Ondo State on the platform of All Progressives Congress ahead of the forthcoming election in the state. The 52-year-old business mogul, in this interview with Femi Ogbonnikan, expatiates on his ambition and vision for the Sunshine State. Excerpts:
What are those things you think the incumbent governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, has not done well, which you would like to improve upon or change if elected governor?
I have always seen government as a continuum. And when you are forward-looking you will have to be conscious of the temptations to always look back. Whatever has not been done to satisfaction, we will improve upon them, but at this time, at this juncture, we are approaching the primaries. It is not yet time for party politics between the PDP and the APC. Like I said, government is a continuum, the present government has recorded successes in some areas. There are some areas that are evident that not much has been done. We hope to build on what they have succeeded at doing. And the areas that we know there is cause for improvement, like education, we will improve. The failure rate is quite high, we still have two out of three children in Ondo State not having five credits in WAEC. Those are the issues, the class sizes, the educational infrastructure, the fact that monthly remunerations are not paid.
How would you rate Mimiko’s administration since he came on board eight years ago?
The truth is that I have not assessed him, because you can’t look at something from a distance. It is when you get there you will have a proper perspective. But what I know is that the people are crying for a change, and that is the change that I am representing. I know people want fresh ideas. I know the people want probity. I know they want accountability, they want undiluted service, and that is what we are bringing to the table.
Why are you vying for the governorship of Ondo State?
It is not just a case of vying for the governorship, but a platform for me to touch the lives of the common man. If I had gone to the senate I would be using my little God-given skills, and I will not impact on the welfare of the common man. There are two positions that allow you to do that in this country, either the local government or the governorship, that allow you directly, if you have a vision, to impact on the quality of life of the common man. So, my vision is to, as much as possible, eradicate the abject poverty that our people live in, to increase the quality of education, to maintain and increase the health care delivery system, there has been some progress there, but we can still take it to another level. That is why I said earlier that government is a continuum. Everything that is working with the present government, we will keep. Everything we will need to tweak, we will improve upon. And that is the way we want to govern.
What are some of your programmes for the people of Ondo State?
Most of the people in the state, 70 to 80 per cent, are in agriculture-based businesses. So we must make sure that we make agriculture attractive. And who do you make it attractive to? It is not to the old, it is to the young who must see value in agriculture, who must see reward in agriculture, who must be sensitised by implements, by tractors, by a price mechanism that allows them to get what they want from the system. A situation where half of their produce gets rotten before they get to the market is not acceptable. A situation where there is no cooperative Society to look after their interest is not acceptable. A situation where there is no price or commodity board to assist is unacceptable.
A situation where the government is not able to intervene in setting up farms or assist them with farm lands and all the seedlings, fertiliser, is not acceptable. We will need to move a whole lot of people from the unemployment sector into the productive sector of agriculture, because once you get into agriculture, you are not likely to come out of it. If you are a farmer, you cannot starve, and you can always exchange your crops for money. But they will have to be encouraged, they will have to be sustained, and they will have to have price guarantees. As much as possible, we will have to discourage middlemen, so that those who toil for six months or more on the farm get proceeds of their toil.
Many of our people whose children are farmers have made it well in life. Once you are on the farm, you are almost guaranteed a certain quality of life, if the government intervenes properly. Farming has gone beyond 12 by 12, if you are talking of plantation farming. And, thankfully, we don’t need irrigation as such in this part of the country.
A lot of produce that Ondo State has are actually quite exportable and once the quantity is assured, it is just a packaging that is missing. The exposure to do that is something that we would do through an export agency, which will allow farmers to export their produce. We will have to open up that channel for them, because I once used to do that business, where I exported cash crops to Europe. There was just not much in it. We have clean produce, we have clean banana, no stains; you package it well, and send abroad. And you can never send too much, never, but the exposure to that market is not there, and that will come through a private-public sector engagement.
Seeking elective office in Nigeria is expensive. Do you have the financial muscle to slug it out with other contenders in the governorship race?
When you say financial muscle that portends that everything is cash-and-carry, but I beg to differ. If you look at the presidency in this country in the last couple of years, those who made it, eventually, didn’t have the financial muscle. If you have a product that is good, you will attract finance.
So, those who have the finances have often fallen at the last hurdle. I think once in a while we should be children of history to understand that in every race, there is a David. And a David in a race does not need to come with heavy armour. I think I have said enough there. I have never thought of it, that I would need financial muscle.
What I need to have is a conviction to deliver quality service to be driven by passion, to believe in myself, to explain our programmes to the electorate. The electorate are not stupid. If people give them money, they will be encouraged to take it, but they will vote according to their conscience. Very many times in this country, it has been clear that people vote according to their conscience. In the last presidential election, money was awash. But the people still voted according to their conscience.