Segun Oni: Fayose’s Utterances Have Been Unreasonable

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A one-time Governor of Ekiti State, Segun Oni, is eyeing a return to the state’s Government House. In this interview with Adedayo Adejobi he talks about his love for the art and why he wants to be Ekiti governor again. He also speaks about the posture of the incumbent Governor Ayodele Fayose towards President Muhammadu Buhari

You’ve left the Ekiti State Government House for a while. What has changed and would you want that life back?
I wish I still do. Once you’ve been a governor, you have lost that privacy forever. When I wasn’t governor, I could share a beer with friends. But if I do that now anywhere people would recognise me. What we have to do is to live with it as we’ve lost that privacy forever. I don’t know whether I would wish to have it back because I know it’s not even feasible to want to have it back. Once people can recognise you, having it back is out of it.

What are the memorable lessons you learnt in office?
Be good to people. See power as service to people. The way to look at future is to put your future in God’s hand.

You seem to be spiritually inclined. What do you owe to that?
I’m a Christian and I was brought up as one.

What prevents you from dipping your hands?
Dipping my hands into dirt is not a possibility because the values I was brought up with, and have become a part of me, will not allow me to do that. There’s no chance of me trying to dip my hands into public coffers. No matter how difficult or challenging, I can’t see that happen to me. That’s the way I was brought up.

What kind of childhood did you have?
I had an exciting childhood believing the future will be great. I didn’t lack confidence. I believed in God and hard work, and that continue to be part of me.

What type of child were you?
I would not say I was a good boy. I was a bit rebellious. I was outgoing. And I played all the pranks but I did everything in moderation.

Do you find time to bond with your wife and Kids?
I never had enough time, especially when my children were growing up, because I was in the corporate world. I lived outside Nigeria working. I left my family in Lagos so as not to disrupt my children’s education and social orientation. By the time they got to boarding school age I was fortunate to find a very good school that could inculcate in them the right values. They went outside Nigeria for their university education. They are old enough to contest elections now and it doesn’t matter how much time I spend with them. But I thank God that when I lacked the time, God made up that for me. The relationship with my wife is normal, cordial as it should be.

Who’s more romantic?
I’ll probably agree she is.

How will she describe you?
She’ll describe me as good.

Do you still have time to do those naughty things you did as a young man?
Of course; we have time once in a while but nowadays I get occupied by so many things. I don’t even take vacations for now.

Your space speaks volume. What sparks your love for arts?
I love works of art. I used to keep a few paintings. But what I do is I give out my paintings, as they put a hole in my pocket. If have a piece of painting, and no matter how much I cherish it, and somebody admires it, I can give it out. What makes me happy is when I go to such people’s homes and I see it where it’s hung, I get a feeling of satisfaction. But I no longer have as much money to keep buying and giving out.

Politicians are considered greedy, selfish and self-serving. What inspires you to give?
It is to create happiness for others because whatever I do that will make someone else happy I always want to do it.

What inspires you apart from politics?
I’m a service-oriented animal. I find opportunities to help and uplift people; to create value for people and to assist whenever I discover people are in need.

You sure have a simple dress sense. What’s the story behind it?
Maybe because my mum had me at a very old age after she had waited to have a male child. I am the last born. So she liked to dress me up when I was young. I was always trendy courtesy of my mum. I am however not flashy. For example, I don’t wear jewelry. I remember when I got a traditional title from my community, they said now it’s time for me to wear beads. I said to the King that if the only way I can continue with this title is to wear beads, they will have to replace me with another person. I like to appear simple. I don’t think a simple appearance is inferior to anything.

How was your orientation growing up as the only boy amongst girls?
I come from a polygamous family. My mum had a girl 19 years older than me. She’s old now in her 80s. I was pampered.

Did you experience the usual polygamous family drama?
No. Ours was much different and because my parents were also advanced in age and I had love from everywhere I turned.

Should you come back to power, what’s your dream of an ideal Ekiti?
The ideal Ekiti should be a state where we drastically reduce unemployment and make everybody productive; where we are able to fund our budget reasonably and not depend on statutory allocations from Abuja. I will want to create an Ekiti where there’s a future for youths through sports, education, and entrepreneurship.

With the election year approaching, you are planning a comeback to Ekiti State Government House on the platform of the APC. Why?
First, I consider people’s opinion. There’s is pressure on me from people who believe I still have a lot to contribute. I’ve been urged to run, and I have cause to say the majority would go in my direction. If I refuse to run, I reduce my party’s opportunities for a resounding win. Nothing else will make me happy than to have this party in power. I also believe we can do things differently. I’ve been there and I believe there’s a lot we can do over and above what we have done before. We have to build a party that will be capable, big enough, organised to produce the kind of stability Lagos enjoys. I believe we can do a lot more. The youths are disappointed; their expectations are not met and no one is thinking in their direction. When I was leaving the university, there was a 70 per cent chance I would get a job in the late 70’s. Today, it’s less than a 10 per cent chance that a school leaver would get a job. We are not creating alternatives for them so they are frustrated. I believe the world needs a master plan for the youth. We can make ourselves a guinea pig for a new social and economic order. I don’t have all the answers but we are working and it’s a challenge. I believe it’s going to be an opportunity to do something new.

What will be your economic agenda for Ekiti State?
It will be serious drive for entrepreneurship, investment, and economic growth premised on agriculture and agro-processing. I believe we can do better than we are doing now. We’ll try our hands on information technology. This economy will be different substantially from the way it is running right now. The new social order would confront the frustrating challenge of inequity. We can settle these inequities by showing examples. Part of a new social order is getting young ones to take the future seriously in their hands. I lodged at a hotel recently, and they said if you are paying with a debit/credit card you pay less than paying cash.
I confronted the owner of the hotel that it should be the other way round since it’s cash. He said no, that cash will be stolen.

Is there a unique idea or strategy that can help a state like Ekiti to generate wealth and investment to build the state?
When I was the governor, we were looking at green fuel. We had almost concluded a deal with some Chinese investors and a Nigerian consultant for a refinery to produce ethanol in Ilemosho in Oye local government area. We had done the test and they had double more than expected yield because it’s a very fertile environment. They would have been producing about 30 megawatts of electricity, and the GDP of Ekiti State through that investment would have doubled. It’s a small economy. If we can do that, we’ll produce the kind of economic environment that people want to see. We are thinking. I constructed roads, primary health care centres with equipment. To conserve lands so there’ll be playgrounds. We brought flowers to primary schools. I built the first and best eye hospital and the teaching hospital. So, we have shown that we can do all this. That’s not the excitement I’m going back to. I’ll like us to have a situation where there is stability and continuity in Ekiti.

Electricity supply is terrible in Ekiti. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel very bad. When we did solar power for streets, we knew that electricity was hardly available. If solar power was well maintained it wouldn’t have been a total blackout. We are starting a new stable, sustainable social and economic drive that will be enduring. We are learning.

What’s your honest assessment of Ekiti State since you left power?
I don’t want to talk about what has and hasn’t happened when I was not there, because it won’t be a fair assessment. We are brothers and were in the same party. We’ve identified a problem that’s not a direct criticism of anybody. It’s a response to the gap that we have seen and this is a gap about the frustration of the youth being reared into poverty not because of their inadequacy or lack of preparation but the society has not made available the sufficient opportunities for them. This is the problem we are going after.

The serving governor has been very critical of your party especially the President. What’s your view on that?
Everybody knows the utterances of my governor, has unfortunately been very unreasonable, and without mincing words, we are unhappy. People he thinks he’s talking for, are setting him down the slippery terrain, watching him slide downward. I want him to learn. As Ekiti people, we are not happy he’s representing us that way; because the governor is the face of the state and whatever he says is said by us; whatever he does right is done for us. I want him to stop (his utterances) especially now that Buhari is back. By God’s grace, he’s hale, hearty and we are all very happy.

Fayose has announced his presidential ambition, do you see this as a ruse or reality?
I will not talk about that. Anybody can have a presidential aspiration. It depends on whether that person is saying it because he wants attention or he’s saying it because he really wants to be president of this country. I don’t think he’s saying it because he wants to be president of this country. I’m a politician and I’ve been in this business for a while now. I don’t have a crystal ball but I know what is doable and what’s not. I know what’s feasible and what’s not. I’m not God, but I don’t see it as a project of reality. It could be that he wants attention and from the process of getting attention, he may get something else.

If you look back, do you feel totally fulfilled as a one-time Ekiti governor?
Not totally, but I feel fulfilled. I am fully convinced that one of the greatest opportunities that God can give anybody is that of ruling a state because you can affect people you know and you don’t know in a way that the impression can last a lifetime. If you do it well, the goodwill is forever; if you mess it up, the anger against your person, generation will also be forever.

What would you have loved to do differently?
I ran a micro-credit scheme that didn’t succeed. I wanted to use it as an opportunity to create wealth, but I missed out a gap. I should have first created a very solid cooperative system before setting up the scheme. It didn’t succeed and I feel that is a failure. However, we didn’t steal the money.

Two years down the line Nigerians can’t see positive change APC promised. Why is it so?
The people on the streets should remember very quickly where we are coming from.  When Buhari came into power, we were flying the flag of Boko Haram, but today we are very proud to say there’s no territory in this Nigeria flying other flags aside the green white green. That’s an achievement and Nigerians. Those destroyers would have overrun two or three states today. Before Buhari came, corruption rode on horses, limousines and private jets. Today, the story is different. Recently, 56 properties were seized from a former minister. If someone in government less than a decade has 70 choice properties to show for it, this is a rape on all of us. People are not looking at it what could be the alternative solution to where we are now if that had continued.

You were in the same party before. Does being on the opposition now make you approbate and reprobate in your own court?
No. Even in the PDP then, it’s not all of who were part of the stealing gang. I did not steal, and if anyone knows anything I stole, they are free to say it. Leadership is the face of any entity and what it condoles or frowns at is what the entity imitates. It’s unfortunate, but the PDP didn’t do well. Decent individuals had no opportunity to correct things, so they are judged on the performance of the leadership.

What is your position on restructuring?
Let us see what good idea will come about what to restructure, how to restructure, and when to restructure.

There have been projections that seven APC governors may lose reelection in 2019. What do you think?
I don’t believe that we would lose any state; rather, I believe we would add a few more to what we have.