Princess Nubi Joy Olagbegi-Apampa is the daughter of Oba Olateru Olagbegi II, the Olowo of Owo and former minister without portfolio in the First Republic. From her New Jersey home in the US, Princess Olagbegi-Apampa reflects on the problems of Ondo State and how it has fared under its leaders asserting with the new governor Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State will experience growth and good governance. She spoke with Nduka Nwosu
What are your expectations of Rotimi Akeredolu as the Governor of Ondo State?
Rotimi Akeredolu is God’s answer to the prayer of the people of Ondo State. He has the intellectual capacity, exposure and discipline to take us to the Promised Land. Akeredolu is not the type of governor who would send workers home empty-handed to meet their families.
Thank God he has set up a panel as I had earlier predicted, with a promise he would not receive a salary until workers are paid their outstanding salaries. A few years ago when he visited here in New Jersey, we discussed the fate of the Ondo worker and his family. He was agitated and today he is transforming that agitation to action.
This is an act of statesmanship. It is inhuman to allow a worker go home with an empty hand for the family. This is obviously the dawn of a new day for Ondo people Many of the governors who have been privileged to be in power have had the American exposure at various times. They see democracy at work here and its high level of efficiency in running an orderly society where every department of human endeavor is all inclusive. They come back home and leave these things behind. Akeredolu is urbane and cultured. He does not belong to the school of embezzlement and will definitely get it right. Akeredolu’s governorship will open a new chapter for the people of Ondo State.
In New Jersey where you live, the law is sacrosanct and works for every level of society right up to the governor who gets sanctioned where there is a breach. Why is our case different?
In New Jersey and elsewhere in the US, nobody is above the law. Any case of corruption attracts a maximum penalty no matter who is involved. Until our countrymen and women learn to respect the law, we will have a long trek to get democracy and its tenets on track. I know that both President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice Professor Yemi Osinbajo are trying but as the saying goes, a tree cannot make a forest. Governance calls for contribution, not avarice or squandermania. We need to borrow from the US to strengthen our institutions and let people know that once they run afoul of the law they will be dealt with. The law at all times must be above everyone.
Until people know that they will be made culpable once there is a contravention, corruption will continue to hold the country down.
Are you optimistic that things will change for the better someday?
I am convinced we are headed for a brighter future. We need to come together and reason together. Here in NJ taxes are paid religiously because it attracts sanction once there is a default. Governor Akeredolu should evolve an efficient system of taxation at all levels.
Tax revenue expectedly should translate to efficient provision of public infrastructure, institutions and services. The tax code must be efficiently operated and everyone should be encouraged to pay taxes including corporate organisations. Without taxation these things would not work. Public utilities and infrastructure in general are sustained through taxation.
I had suggested to him the need to operate an employment insurance system, which back here is a fall back provision for those who have either ceased to work or have temporarily lost their jobs. A worker can fall back on his employment benefits pending when he gets another job.
How do you re-order and convince a reluctant tax paying society both at the individual and corporate levels on the need to pay taxes?
You don’t blame the attitude of the average Nigerian who believes his salary is poor and needs no taxation, who is suspect tax revenue does not benefit citizens through infrastructure provision and maintenance, and who thinks the collective revenue of the people gets appropriated by the managers or custodians of public funds. So as long as there is this belief that government cannot deliver on promise it becomes difficult for government to provide needed infrastructure to the people. However, we cannot escape the fact that no government survives without appropriate taxation whose revenue goes to serve the provision and maintenance of public utilities. The Lagos State Government remains a reference point back home while in the US, taxation helps to sustain the huge public expenditure needed to build and maintain public infrastructure. Ondo people must support Akeredolu who is eager to rebuild the state through the provision of new infrastructure, renovation and maintenance of existing ones.
What would you consider to be the problem of Ondo State?
Lack of jobs remains the most important issues of public discourse for the people of Ondo State. The governor already knows that because while he was here, the need to create new jobs was elaborately discussed. He knows he has to learn how to create new jobs. My organisation here, is an academy of training and employment. We create jobs through a training programme and then we go the extra mile to get jobs for people. Here we have nursing homes which are not very common in Nigeria. The elderly people need nurses to take care of them, not necessarily by confining them in old peoples’ homes but by providing them with nurses in their homes. The same nurses will take them to adult day care centres where they will have access to both medical and recreational facilities as well as socialise with fellow elderly people. This type of awareness will provide jobs for hundreds of people.
Additionally, there is need to think of a turnpike or huge expressways built through a public private partnership (PPP) arrangement, a large corporation with staff strength of different categories. This will provide jobs for hundreds and reduce crime that grows through joblessness, while the toll from revenue will maintain the roads and create additional revenue for the building of more infrastructures.
Are the auxiliary nurses same as para-medical personnel who work on the major expressways to help accident victims?
Yes and we can add fire fighters stationed in major towns such as the state capital which should have revitalised firefighting stations and brigades expanded in such places as Oshogbo, Akure, Okitipupa, Ijebu Quarters, Owo which deserves as much as four fire-fighting stations, Okioda, in Akoko and the other towns of Ondo State. We are not praying for fire outbreaks but we must be prepared to nip in the bud such incidents while providing jobs through these new outlets.
Do you have tourism outlets that can partner with the state government or act as examples of what the state can do to boost its tourism potentials?
We have the Six Flags Great Adventure where one of the attractions is a bus ride or a coaster ride known as the Safari off Road adventure, a kind of cruise to the wild games; the cruise enables you to view 1200 wild animals. In Ondo State we have such equivalents or nature’s glory that can be developed as great tourist attraction centres. There is the Ikogosi Springs whose warm water is famed for its healing powers and could be transformed into great tourism centres of global significance.
What can the present generation of leaders learn from your father and others who fought for Nigeria’s independence?
My father Sir Olateru Olagbegi the Second was a founding member of the Action Group and was privileged to have the party launched in his palace. He was later appointed a minister without portfolio in Chief Ladoke Akintola’s cabinet. Oba Olagbegi was the President of the Yoruba Council of Obas with the Ooni of Ife as its vice. He and Oba Adesoji Aderemi who was the governor of Western Region until 1967 were the only Yoruba Obas knighted by the Queen of England Elizabeth the Second. They were both active delegates to the London Constitutional conference that led to the independence of the country.
Corruption for this specie of leaders was anathema; it was not the order of the day. Their good name mattered so much to them and our present crop of leaders need to go back to these founding fathers of Nigeria’s independence to find out what made them unique, why they were so committed to the fatherland and shunned material acquisition in preference to their good name and image.
Don’t you think part of the reason corruption thrives in the polity relates to the burden of expectation and dependency from those privileged to hold public office by their relations and cronies?
The crop of leaders I just spoke about, our founding fathers, had similar expectations and the dependency syndrome was an all familiar issue they coped with without putting their hands into government treasuries. Today, government treasury transfers to the bedrooms of those privileged to be the custodians of the commonwealth. That is why I am happy that a new dawn has taken shape in Ondo with the governorship mantle coming to Chief Akeredolu. There is hope in the land.
We here in New Jersey-my husband Chief Bola Apampa of Oyo State and I, my sister Grace Dupe Olagbegi-Gbadamosi and her family as well as the Ondo community in NJ wish the governor a tenure that will help re-write the people’s expectations on a positive note.
What is the present status of your Dream Heritage Foundation?
It is on course and currently accommodates as well women who have suffered from cancer related problems needing our assistance by way of treatment or rehabilitation either in Nigeria or the US.