Kola Lawal is one of the governorship aspirants of Ogun West stock. In this interview with Femi Ogbonnikan, Lawal, fondly called KLM, and the current Ogun State Commissioner for Forestry, bares his mind on his governorship ambition and the entry of Ogun East aspirants into the race, among others
Is it possible for Ogun West to have a common front in form of a consensus candidate for this governorship project?
It is very possible, provided the process to the effect is transparent and fair to all concerned. It must not be done under deceit or on the platform of any fictitious group. Yes, there could be endorsement from anybody or any group for an aspirant but that should not be appropriated to mean the collective decision of the good people of Ogun West as a consensus governorship candidate. Currently, we have many notable, credible, respectable and seasoned party leaders and elders working behind the scene to ensure that we have a consensus candidate that will be credible and acceptable to all.
You just debunked ever appearing for screening before Ogun West Consultative Forum, can you shed more light on this?
Yes, I never appeared for screening but an interactive session before the forum. Honestly, I knew where majority of the members of Ogun West Consultative Forum belong before attending the meeting but I still went ahead to honour their invitation and unfolded my plans for the State. They even commended me for my brilliant performance. Little did I know they wanted to use another aspirant to formalise or validate their premeditated plan. How can an interactive session be termed a screening whereby an aspirant will be picked as the consensus candidate for Ogun West?
What is your message to the people of Ogun West?
We should all see this as a collective aspiration that must be achieved. It should be viewed as an opportunity that we must all harness our resources to accomplish. It must not be about me, or I must be the one at all cost. If any credible aspirant, devoid of any controversy whatsoever, knowledgeable, exposed, experienced in the art of politics and governance, most importantly loyal to our great party and its leadership, is eventually picked to fly the flag for us, we must all be ready to give our support and cooperation…
In other words, your ambition is not a do nor a die affair?
No, my ambition has never been and will never be a do or die affair. Look, I had a good job in Exxon Mobil with very good remuneration until I elected to retire early in 2010 to seek for a bigger platform to serve my people. I felt being in government will afford me the opportunity to be closer to the people, to enhance our act of giving back to the society. I contested for the Ogun State governorship seat in 2011 but when it did not go my way, I accepted the wish of the party and supported the candidate that the party picked. Currently, we are working and praying believing that, it is only the Almighty Allah that gives power with the strong faith that I will be the candidate. I therefore challenge our party and the good people of Ogun State to please send me…and I shall deliver.
Let us narrow down Forestry, can you share your success story in the Ministry?
The Ministry of forestry used to be under the Ministry of Agriculture until 2004 when it became a separate ministry for better administration and management. It is a ministry that has over the years grappled with the challenges of illegal farmers, illegal felling of tress and other forms of encroachment that destroy our trees which have had tremendous negative impact on our bio-diversity and consequently our ecosystem. Successive governments have also not done enough in combating these anomalies. We have, however; since taking over, confronted these challenges headlong. We are into tree planting. We have adopted private-public partnership policy to pursue aggressive plantation establishment programmes by investors because the government can’t do it alone. Our obsolete laws that are not robust enough to handle these challenges have also been reviewed and are currently undergoing the required enactment processes at the State House of Assembly. We currently have nine forest reserves across the State. The degraded ones have been earmarked for regeneration and reforestation. Our policy is to regenerate our forest resources at a rate higher than exploitation. I mean planting of more trees to replace the ones harvested. For sustainable forest management, you must plant four trees for every one tree felled. In the area of tree planting. we have done over 1,500 hectares in our reserves and we have given out about 100,000 free tree seedlings of different species, both exotic and indigenous, to private individuals who ask for it. In the area of revenue generation, we have achieved about 64% of our target. And for this year, we have accomplished about 70% year to date with potential for more by the end of the fiscal year.
What are the challenges confronting the ministry?
They are illegal timber exploitation which leads to deforestation, illegal farmers, encroachment into government forest reserve and of course paucity of funds because for some time now, the country has been in recession. And this has made the federal allocation, due to the State, falls drastically. In fact, we must continue to thank God for the ingenuity of our Governor, His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who has clearly demonstrated mastery and efficiency in the management of the State’s financial and other resources. He has within the last six years increased the Internally Generated Revenue of the State to between six to seven billion naira monthly.