Peoples Democratic Party governorship aspirant in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede, was last week in Lagos to talk about his dream and vision for the state and also clear insinuations about his candidacy. Shola Oyeyipo presents the excerpts:
Do you agree that there is crisis in the PDP?
I agree that there are challenges in PDP leadership now especially at the centre, and it is a contention for power. It has always been there. I hold the view that it is still a dispute within the party. First as a legal practitioner, I can confidently say that this won’t be the first time that there would be disputes or crisis within a political party. It’s not going to be the last but then I also believe that each of the political parties has a means of resolving its disputes and that is the legitimate way to resolve political disputes.
Now, speaking as a professional, as a senior lawyer, I hold the view that intra-party disputes are best left for the leadership to resolve. I also hold the view that in intra-party contentions, the courts generally have no jurisdiction. In other words, the court ordinarily should not interfere except, of course, where you have specific provisions in the law that gives an inroad to courts to resolve the disputes and that is where you have election petition cases; the election matters that are specifically provided for in the Electoral Act.
Even when you do primaries, it is only those who participated in the primaries that under the law have the right of access to court. Now, the principal observation that I made, the courts have no business interfering with politics and that is what is happening now. The courts are interfering in politics.
So, I believe that the matter will be resolved within. If it cannot be resolved within, it would be resolved somewhere and I concede that because of the timing, only because of that, there is need to accelerate the resolutions. I am confident that the law is not likely to change now ultimately and I also do not see it as dangerously affecting my chance running on that PDP ticket because it would be resolved at the end of the day.
Why do you want to be governor?
All along as we progressed in governance since 2009, I made up my mind that if I am going to contest at all, it will be for the governorship seat or nothing. And when I was Attorney-General, it was not as if there were no suggestions that yes, you can contest for Senate or shift to another Ministry but I was never excited with it because I know exactly what I want and that will answer your question; yes I want to be governor.
So, since when did you start to nurse the ambition?
Specifically, since about a year and a half into the Mimiko administration and I said yes, if I have something to offer, perhaps I can give it a shot if the atmosphere is okay, if the whistle is blown. Some people have seen my trying to operate within the rules as an indication of reluctance and I said I am not prepared to do it the way everybody does it.
Before I resigned my appointment even though a lot of people knew that I was a major contender for the post of the governorship seat, you were not likely to hear me talk about governorship seat and secondly you were not likely to see my poster anywhere in the state, yet you will hear, you will perceive that he is positioning himself to run for the governorship.
So, I’m in this race because I want to be governor, because I want to serve, because I want to bring some little bit of difference into the way it is done, I want to do more of governance and less of politics and if I can’t do it, I don’t think anybody can do it. And I am not saying this to scale up myself; I’m saying this because I know my nature, I also know that some of these things you talk about that are very important are not important to me. I can tell you if God says it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.
And I have few ideas about what I think I should do and I know that if you take the politics out of it and do it the way it should be done, our society would be better for it. And like I said before, it’s going to be triumph of integrity over partisan politics; it’s going to be triumph of merit over partisan politics. We must learn to understand this, the fact that you don’t make so much noise or the fact that you say look, you want to do things your own way, because of your nature does not make you a weakling.
I cannot be Mimiko, Mimiko cannot be Jegede; he is a doctor, I’m a lawyer. He is from Ondo, I’m from Akure. He is a professional in politics; I am a technocrat in politics. So, we have quite a lot of differences. But at the same time, we have the same visions; just a matter of style. So, if I don’t do it your own way, if I don’t escalate, if I don’t dramatise it, it does not mean I’m not interested. It only means I have a different approach to it. And if my approach is effective, then by all means let it be.
Is this what you really want or you are doing this because someone wants you to be his lackey?
The notion of somebody saying somebody is a lackey, you know it is also contrived by those who believe that Mimiko has no right to support a person to be governor. First, Mimiko is a delegate in the PDP primaries. He is a delegate, so he has the person that he will likely vote for. Now, for God’s sake, why should Mr. A who is a delegate say I prefer Kayode and don’t want Mr. B who is the governor to say I prefer Tayo? For God’s sake, Mimiko is the governor; he has the right to express himself.
And at my level, at my age, I’m not a young man, I think it will also be insulting to say that you are somebody who is a lackey or you are somebody who is hushed. I’ve seen that written about me on a number of occasions in the new media and I said that well, each person is entitled to his own opinion. Mimiko has a right to want good governance for his people. He has a right to say look, I will support someone I know will sustain the vision of the Mother and Child Hospital, someone who will preserve those globally compliant Mega schools that dot the landscape of Ondo State.
About two years ago, I on my own, was trying to look for a site where we would build shopping malls and I was talking to some people who are developers about Shoprite and I drove round and I did this for about three months until I met the governor who said he had also been thinking about it. Today, the Mall is a reality and apart from the revenue it gives to government, it also opens a vista of employment and later on, it will revert and become Ondo State property.
The story of the Mall is just by the way but I raised that because my concern is for us to have an improvement in the way we design and implement our policies. I am saying this so that people will know that I am not anybody’s lackey; I have added value to this administration.
Also, look at the International Events Centre. This is an uncommon edifice in this part of the world. I also played a huge role in its conception and implementation. I played a role in arranging special flights with Overland Airways to provide services for our people. No one can doubt the fact that I have positively contributed to the success of this government.
So, it is not right to say I’m somebody’s lackey. I am not. Not as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. I cannot be a lackey. I have no desire to be a lackey. I have a desire to run a transparent government – a government that is accessible, a government that would engender growth, a government that would do some other things that have not been done by Mimiko. I’ve been there so I know the weaknesses, I know the strengths.
So, I want to build on it and that’s that’s why I am in this race to do more of governance.
What’s your impression about the belief that public office holders are corrupt?
All of us are not corrupt. That is the truth. So this perception of saying everybody in the public service is a thief is not right. There are people who went there and remained untainted. Seriously, I am saying this because we must learn to help our leaders. We should not categorise all of them as people, who are fraudulent. I’m not saying some public office holders are not; they are! But we should not paint everybody with a black brush and I think it is only fair and the Bible recognises it that you should pray for your leaders.
Somebody said Mimiko’s administration has not done much, especially in his second term and that could affect you. How do you react to that?
That Mimiko has done well is not in doubt. Some people asked me sometime before the second term of the administration what could be credited to Mimiko as achievement. I mentioned the community development programmes that affect the people at the grassroots directly. I told them about how many things he has done for each community. As a resident, you cannot pretend not have been affected by the Mimiko Caring heart programmes.
Unless you don’t have your child who is attending school or you don’t have a child who is paying little amount of money, or you don’t have a small baby who goes to nursery school. And I gave examples, unless your wife does not trade because when we came in 2009, all these markets were slumps. At the end of my discussion with that group, they started reminding me of other intervention in health, sports, urban renewal and security among others.
Mimiko as far as I am concerned has done so well. Nobody can beat his record in the health sector, not in this country. So if anybody says Mimiko has not performed, take health sector and tell me any state in the 36 states which has done half of what Mimiko has done and I say so with all pride. It is not only because people like us judge; it is also because we’ve been judged by other international organisations and it is not a fluke.
In terms of production, what are you going to do to boost the industrial base of the state and taking into consideration, the fact that you equally have some measure of oil in your state? Also, what do you make of the statement by a former governor of Oyo State, Adebayo Alao-Akala that he does not envy anybody that wants to be governor now?
Yes, you talked about industries. This has been an issue that has been on for some time. My take on this is that the problem is not in establishing industries; it’s in sustaining them and making them to run. To build an industry is a very simple thing; it is easier than to build a school. Just build a warehouse, import machines, and then get people who are technical to start operating it but you need power, you need the raw materials, you need to sell at a competitive price before you can sustain the industry.
That is why I said well, as a civil service state, we are going to disconnect financially from the centre hopefully. It will take some time but it can be done and the industrial base will also be created in the southern belt. This government, already, we are talking about free trade zone, we are talking about Olokola. It has been there for a number of years; it has practically failed. But we now have Ilaje industrial zone. There was a license that was given to the government in May 2013. So, we must concentrate heavily on where we think the industrial base of the state should be and it is in the southern belt; it is because they have the longest coast line.
Go to Ilaje, you will see their sands; if you stay up and there is sun, it will be shining like gold. You take it and use it for glass and as soon as you take a dip and leave it, few hours later, it will come back. Those are the kind of economic strengths that we want to leverage on and it’s in the south and at Ore axis, 250,000 vehicles pass through that axis in a week at a minimum and you cannot go to the North without passing through Ondo State; it is not possible. You cannot go to the East without passing through Ondo State; it is not possible. You must pass through Ore and go to Benin. You either go through Awka to the North or you go through Benin and go to the East.
In all these instances, you pass through Ore. So, we must learn to build a political economic advantage from that zone. Even if it is only small eating areas you are going to build, if you are going to find a way, legally you can regulate it and bring in more money and get employment for our people. Those are the kind of things I am thinking about. It is not so much about the old things. There must be new ways to solve these problems.
And you claimed Akala said he does not envy anybody who wants to be governor at this period. He was there and I recall then. If you ask him now does he want to contest, and I am saying this with all due respect to him, tomorrow he will say he wants to contest election if the opportunity comes. After all, he struggled to contest even this last one. And the economy is not good but the economy will be better. When Obasanjo came, it was not as if it was fantastic but the cost of crude then was quite minimal; it was low, but at some point, it went up. For God’s sake this is not going to last forever. In the next few months, I hope and pray it may likely improve.
Do you think it is smart to want to be governor at this trying time?
Why do I want to be governor at this period? I say it with all sense of humility that these indeed are challenging times and they need some extraordinary measures. Somebody who is a little bit bold and might look gentle or mere in his face but he does not think that political considerations should be for everything. We must learn to live and get things done the proper way so that we can get advantage in future.
To tax people is not an easy task. But then if NURTW and Okada riders can collect money and you see them, driving SUVs with “Tokyo One” as the number or “Okada One” in an SUV and I’ve seen them, it is because they have a little bit friendly way of collecting taxes, friendly in the sense that the money they pay is small, and they also have effective ways of enforcing because they have people who are enforcers.
Now, enforcers will not go down well with our people but the friendliness will go down well with them. All I am asking today is that, look, make the tax minimal so that it can be a little bit friendly. And you don’t have to wait to collect taxes once in a year; you can do it every month, you can do it every quarter, and you can make it as small as possible to encourage positive response.
I’m in this race because I want to be governor, because I want to serve, because I want to bring some little bit of difference into the way it is done, I want to do more of governance and less of politics and if I can’t do it, I don’t think anybody can do it. And I am not saying this to scale up myself; I’m saying this because I know my nature, I also know that some of these things you talk about that are very important are not important to me. I can tell you if God says it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen