Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko recently addressed the media on the state of the state especially as it concerns the present governorship impasse in his party, the Peoples Democratic Party. Shola Oyeyipo presents the excerpts:
In the last couple of days particularly in the last three weeks, there appeared to be a kind of misunderstanding within the PDP family in Ondo State, people are confused and unsettled. What is the situation like, and the way forward?
It is important to thank my good people of Ondo State. I want you to rest assured that I appreciate you. You have comported yourself in very commendable way. Your peaceful but rugged and persistent resistance in the last three and a half weeks would go down in record as the new Ondo State way. You are all aware of the bizarre development in the politics of Nigeria, in the body politics of this state in the last three weeks. Again, if you will recall, the name of Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) of PDP was elected in an open free primary monitored by INEC and all the security agencies. Suddenly, we woke up on the 27th of October, 2016 to find out that the name has been substituted by somebody who as at that time could not lay claim to being a member of the party whose primary was conducted outside the geographical enclave of Ondo State specifically in Ibadan, neither INEC, SSS nor any of the security agencies was there to witness what happened there.
So, there is no question about the fact that what happened on October 27th was a contrived conspiracy of sort because the decision of INEC cannot find comfort in justice, in principle, in law in morality. Ordinarily, in many climes, there could have been violent uprising, but in this state you people stood up to make it absolutely clear, that that will not stand but you managed to ensure that you have not truncated the peace that we have enjoyed in this state in the last eight years.
It’s been a lot of investment all the way, being able to engender the level of peace that we have put in this state and I’m particularly appreciative of you, the people of this state that in spite of this very provocative conspiracy you have not in any way truncated the peace in the land. After this, I believe the proper thing to do was to seek redress through the normal constitutional channels.
Redress has been sought by the candidate himself, Eyitayo Jegede, by PDP, the party and major stakeholders. We have no doubt in our minds that justice will be done, because like I said, this level of impunity will definitely not stand. I want to assure our people in Ondo State, especially, the PDP, now I am talking as a leader of the party in the state, I want to tell you that we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that you get justice.
Let me again appeal to you that while you demonstrate your resistance to this injustice, we must ensure that we keep the peace. It is the peace that God has enabled us with to emplace in this state that has engendered the development that we have enjoyed in the last eight years. I beg of you that we must remain peaceful.
A few days to the election, what is the way forward and what hope for your candidate?
Let me repeat what I have said again, the injustice will not stand. Eyitayo Jegede will contest election on the platform of PDP. I’m talking as a leader of PDP in this state and also with what is on the ground in terms of what Eyitayo is bringing on board. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that Eyitayo Jegede will be the next governor of the state.
Also, a couple of days back, you met with President Buhari and there were insinuations that you had met with him, possibly to cross over to the other side of the divide. Is that true?
You know that in politics, conspiracy theories abound, let me just bring us back to what happened on October 27, like I said. The substitution of Eyitayo by INEC was a joke from the blues. You live in this state and you saw the spontaneity in the reaction of the people. Like I said, we never saw it coming. The decision can find no comfort in law or in the guidelines of INEC itself.
This is a situation where somebody without INEC, without security went to Ibadan to conduct primaries, then brought some very controversial court order and declared the candidate. What this means is that somebody can go to Enugu or Onitsha; he doesn’t even have to be a citizen of Ondo State, bring an order to INEC and you substitute a duly elected person.
It was something bizarre, something abnormal, something without precedent in politics and because of the provocative nature of that decision and because it was not based on any law or guideline, the next person to see is the president, who is the chief law officer, the chief executive and the chief security officer of the country. And I met with the president and presented the fact to him and he gave his commitment that he would look into it and that he would ensure that justice is done. I have no cause to doubt him. It wasn’t about APC, PDP. It was about the president being the chief security officer of the nation.
If I, as the chief security officer of my state sensed danger ahead in terms of something that can truncate the peace in the state, I thought I have that responsibility and I had a very encouraging response from the president. I have no cause to doubt him. He has said he would look into it and if there is any injustice in this, he would ensure that justice is done at the end of the day.
So, it’s not about crossing over?
No, it’s not about party at all. I’m in PDP. By the way, I also heard a lot of rumours making the rounds about me going to APC or making alliances with other parties. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing like that. I want to assure the people of this state; I want to assure all members, officials of PDP that this gubernatorial election, Eyitayo Jegede will contest as the candidate of PDP.
I have no doubt about it and again, like I said earlier on, we’ve been here for some time, we know our people and they know us. They know what we’ve put on the ground, they know our challenges and they know what Eyitayo is capable of doing to advance the cause of development in this state. As for me, I have no doubt in my mind that Eyitayo Jegede will be the next governor; John Ola Mafo will be the next deputy governor of this state.
Talking about governance, what do you have on the table?
One thing is that while politics is going on, we have not in any way stopped governance itself. You all know that in this state, all the signs of good governance are on: the shuttle buses are running, mother & child hospitals are running, our hospitals are running, our cities remain clean, the environmental officers are up and doing, the state is running very well. There is security, the security agencies – Police, SSS, military – everybody is up running. In fact, governance is on-going.
As I speak with you, some of our capital projects are going on. You will recall that recently, we embarked on the rehabilitation of Owo-Ikare road. That has been completed now. As I speak with you, we have concluded arrangements to bring down the Oke-Alabojuto in Ikare – to expand that road and ensure that at the entrance in Ikare, in terms of the road, is modern and befitting. We are into many other things. The road that will link Irele with Okitipupa, the Ayeka bridge and the extension of the road is ongoing.
Many of these critical capital projects are ongoing. The mega schools being built recently – I was told that the Igbekebo, Arogbo Mega Schools are being completed. Many works are going on and governance has not stopped. I want to assure the people of this state that we will continue to work until the last day and our prayer is that we will also handover to Eyitayo Jegede, who will also continue and expand and deepen the development paradigm that we have embarked upon in the last eight years.
There’s the need to explain the determinant factors of your policy action because some people feel that it is politics and that’s why you have to go and begin to tackle those areas like Owo/Ikare Federal road because election is around the corner?
People are just being funny. I got here as governor because of politics. I got elected the second time because I gave a good account of myself. Is that okay? So, everything we do – whatever anybody feels, you may say its politics. I don’t know what they mean. I came in through politics; I have a covenant with my God and with the people. I made it absolutely clear from the first day that I will work for the people.
Second term, at my inauguration, I told them the work has not been completed and that we will continue to work and I have made it absolutely clear that we will work till the last day. Whatever anybody says does not bother me. What is important is that I know that my people are thirsty and yearning for development and if so, as long as God has made it possible for me to direct the affairs of this state, I will continue to put in place all the choices that will engender development in Ondo State.
There are certain things that have become recurring decimal in your administration and these things are issues that touch on the lives of the people. Free shuttle, the Mother & Child Hospital, the Abiye programme, the Mega School, the Urban renewal Initiative and so many. Major ingredients of development and growth reside within the realms of sustainability and continuity, what are you doing to mobilise the people, to ensure that sustainability and continuity are really brought to the front burner in ensuring development and progress?
Let me first of all appreciate you for acknowledging the fact that our programmes are targeted at people, because in the cacophony of political sloganeering, people may actually not know that the import of all of these is about the people. Any policy that does not contribute and add direct value to the people is not worth it and you will look through all our programmes, is it urban renewal, health, education – everything is targeted at how to ensure that we add values to the lives of our people and I keep saying this especially those that need the help of government most are the people at the lower rung of the ladder.
The people who cannot afford decent transportation for children to school, you remember the spectacle a few years ago, where we have between four/five school children on Okada – afternoon and morning – those are the people that need help. Our free shuttle is targeted not only at the poor, of course the whole of the society, but specifically those that need government help are those disabled by the social arrangement in the society. The people who need government are people who will continue to bleed to death from pregnancy because they can’t afford decent hospital care.
The people who need government are people who cannot afford tertiary education for their children, because they are asking them to bring N250,000, N350,000 – these are people who actually need government and I can’t tell you that the most important sustainability factor of any programme is to have the buy-in of the people and if a programme is about the people, you can take the buy-in for granted. I can’t see any government coming now and say that as a matter of policy I will stop free shuttle bus – the people will be up in arms against them.
But it is possible that they don’t have the necessary commitment and competence that will allow them to continue to run shuttle bus and is one of the reasons you must vote Eyitayo Jegede, who has been with all of these from the beginning. Now, can you imagine somebody coming now and saying that he wants to build schools and build these squeeze-size cow sheds of those days that we call school. They would expect a 21st century infrastructure like we are building now and people have keyed into it and that is another factor of sustainability.
If somebody wakes up tomorrow and says no to Abiye and people who need Caesarean section will have to look for N100,000 – our children, our women will have to bleed to death because they can’t afford it; people will be up in arms against them, or somebody comes in tomorrow and you have your child with malaria – he is having diarrhoea at night because you cannot afford a few thousand, the child stops breathing and that’s it. A major and most critical factor of sustainability is the buy-in of the people and people will buy into a programme if they can ascertain the direct benefits they get from such programmes.
Having said all of that, number one most important factor of sustainability is the buy-in of the people. Number two and this is very important, what we are trying to do is to actually legislate some of these programmes. For examples, the free shuttle buses programme had already gone through legislation and what that means is that you cannot administratively stop it. You must have to go through the House of Assembly to repeal the law. As I speak with you, UNICEF, by the way UNICEF B Zone is here in Akure, they are excited about the ambience, the peace and the functionality of our city and that is why UNICEF has opened a B zone office here – they are collaborating with us.
We have put together a law that will encompass all our social safety net programmes – Abiye, Free Bus Shuttle, New Paradigm of Urban Renewal. We are putting all of them together into a law, so that nobody comes in and just go funny about all of these. UNICEF is excited. In fact, they think that what we have done in terms of social services should actually be documented, not only for Nigeria, but for the developing world. We are working on all of these to put these together. Again that is another sustainability factor.
Let me just say this and it is very important, if you want this state to continue to be peaceful, we recall what we went through in 2009. We take the peace for granted now but it is a lot of work that has gone into it. It’s a lot of sacrifice on the part of government. If you want this peace to continue, if you want development to continue – our free shuttle bus, if you want us to complete our power plant which will revolutionise industrialisation in this state, if you want this trajectory, this steady development to continue, the most important issue is to ensure that you vote for somebody who cares, somebody who has been there, somebody who has been part of this development paradigm, who we can vouch for, in character, in learning and in competence – somebody who has been part of the thinking, the philosophy, the ideology behind the free shuttle, the programme is unlikely to stop.
For example, this government, in spite of the financial challenge we have, free shuttle bus continues to run because its first charge. As money comes in, free shuttle bus is its first charge, street light continues to light in spite of the challenges, because we are making choice in areas of critical priority. Two, if you want all of these to continue and taken to higher realm, you need to vote for somebody, who has been part of this team, those that are conspiring to get Eyitayo Jegede off the ballot know what they are doing.
It is not as if the person they want to use to replace him can win election, and we all live in this state – if there’s any way he can win election, but they believe in their own calculation that if Tayo Jegede is not on the ballot, then, they have a chance of winning but I say foul because Tayo is going to run and he is going to be the next governor of this state, by the grace of the Almighty God and the good people of our state.
The passion with which you support Eyitayo Jegede is curious. What exactly is driving this passion?
Let me tell you one thing, whatever anybody says, in the last almost eight years we have worked very hard to change the story of this state, from one provincial backhood stage to a stage that is coming to benchmark many programmes, not only for Nigeria but Africa. When development issues are being discussed in Nigeria today, Ondo State definitely has a place. We have done a lot to bring about peace in Ondo State; we have done a lot of gender development; we have done a lot to ensure that the people are proud to be Ondo State indigenes.
When we started the Dome project, our vision was very clear. We said we wanted to make Ondo State the number one event destination in Nigeria. We are not there yet, but there is no question about the fact that we are near perfect. It will get to a stage that there will be no event that is actually called an event, if that event has not taken place in our international event centre, and we are on the part to it. This vision that is unfolding before us is not completed yet. Let me give you an example, we looked at industrialisation for example, we did a very thorough forensic analysis for what became of the industries that existed in this state before.
Two things and the most important and critical is power. It got to a stage that the products could not be competitive because of power. Look at Oluwa Glass, for example, the furnace has to be run on diesel, black oil non-stop. It got to a stage that was no longer competitive. There is also the administrative part of it – too much government in it and they messed it up’ but the most important, look at them all, is it Ifon Ceramics; the most common factor that supersedes all of those factories had been Power.
When we came on board about four years ago and we did a thorough analysis of all of this, we thought we wanted to do something about power. That was even before reforming the power sector and we signed many MoUs with many private sector people, even the power purchase agreement so complex, so complicated. When the power reform started around 2011 or so, we just decided to take the bull by the horn and let us set up our full independent power. Let’s put it in an industrial park. Let us put it in Ore because of the strategic advantage of Ore, just a few hours from Lagos, which is the biggest market in Africa.
Let’s put it in Ore because Ore is just sitting in the middle of the country between the East and West or even going to the North you have to go through Ore and we predicted that if we could put that there, industries will work on their own feet to Ore park and we started. That power plant, the turbines, had been installed and it is the first tri-fuel power plant in Africa. Turbine installed, everything is set, what we are agreeing now is make sure that we get gas into the place. When this is completed and this 85%-90% completed, industrialisation will just come and sit.
I was sitting somewhere and somebody said he would revamp all the industries that are dead in Ondo State. I just laughed because they don’t know what they are talking about. Those could be snowball’s talk, but when it comes to reality, the facts on the ground, there are some critical steps that must be taken. We have taken those critical steps. Tayo Jegede is part of all these processes. Tayo Jegede is all about the thinking that went into the Dome, into the Power plant, into the larger industrial city. All of these and we need somebody who knows all of these; who has competence and who has the heart of the people to continue to drive. That is why I am passionate about this candidate. I have no doubt in my mind that judging, I have said it, he is a guy that has a very good heart, so he will drive this state very well.
What message to the people in lieu of the present situation?
Again, let me greet my people of Ondo State. I’m very proud of you. I thank you for your support and I thank you for your confidence all the time. I’m not perfect, but somehow, you have given me your support in spite of my shortcomings. You have demonstrated time and time again that you have confidence in me and this administration. I must thank you for all your support and all your prayers. I can touch the prayers, I can feel you. I want to thank you and I want to assure you that I will continue to provide leadership for you.
In every season, in spite of challenges of the moment, no matter how critical those challenges are, your interest will continue to be the number one driving force of all activities and all decisions and all choices that I make as your governor. Three weeks ago, we have this incredible challenge, this provocative ruling of INEC, but you have kept the cool, you have kept your cool, you have shown that you can demonstrate principle and resistance without actually going violent. I want you to continue along that path. There’s nothing to benefit, absolutely nothing to benefit from violence.
Have confidence that as your governor, I will ensure that the injustice is redressed and that it will not stand. Tayo Jegede will contest this election along with others from other parties. All the candidates – is it APC or AD – all of them will contest this election. I know what I know that Tayo will win anyway but one thing I want to appeal to all of us is that we must be peaceful; we must go about our electioneering process in a civilised manner. We must avoid planning to rig election.
Removing somebody’s name from the ballot unjustifiably is technically the beginning of rigging, but like I said, we resist that and it will not stand. Justice must be done in that case, but even when the name is restored and we go into the real election, let’s comport ourselves in the most civilised manner. We should avoid thuggery, intimidation, ballot snatching and all of that. Let’s have a clean election like we had in 2012 and I’m sure by the grace of the Almighty God, Ondo State will continue to develop, move in leaps and bounds. We will eventually be leader of states in Nigeria.
Let me also thank the press, because in all of these, the story you tell to the people and the way you colour it can actually cause a breach of the peace. I have monitored the press in the last three weeks of this crisis and I have found out you have been very forthright, honest and very responsible the way you have handled news I must thank you because you are part of our success story.
I also appreciate the security agencies. They have been so wonderful – the Police, SSS, Military, Civil Defence – they have handled the affairs of security in the state in the most responsible manner. I have to thank them and I want to assure them that as a government, we will continue to partner them to ensure peace and I also want to let them know that there will be challenges ahead but they must continue to stand up to ensure that they protect lives and property in Ondo State.
Eyitayo Jegede will contest as the candidate of PDP. I have no doubt about it and again, like I said earlier on, we’ve been here for some time, we know our people and they know us. They know what we’ve put on the ground, they know our challenges and they know what Eyitayo is capable of doing to advance the cause of development in this state. As for me, I have no doubt in my mind that Eyitayo Jegede will be the next governor; John Ola Mafo will be the next deputy governor of this state