Lawyer turned politician, Kunle Adegoke who is seeking to be governor of Osun State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress has faulted the preference for zoning when choosing candidates, saying it is a strategy to narrow the political space to favour a weak candidate. He spoke with Femi Ogbonnikan. Excerpts:
Why do you want to be governor?
I am a political activist and I know that the people of Osun and Nigeria as a country deserve better living condition than what is currently obtainable. There is the need to improve the living conditions of the people, which I still find appalling at present as the economic condition of the masses is a thing of great concern to me. I am an activist who pays detailed attention to the socio-economic existence of the people vis-à-vis the opportunities available to them to have a hope for a brighter future. The present situation calls for the altruistic intervention of all men and women of good orientation and selfless instincts. That is why I have made myself available more so when I realised that failure to intervene would only make me a perpetual complainant at the pleasure of the less qualified in power who will continue to pulverize the psyche of the people.
I am driven by the consuming passion to serve and improve the lives of my people. I have served my party to a large extent through my legal expertise and I consider that, at this juncture, it is time to give back to the people generally. It is imperative to use my knowledge, energy and resources to positively contribute to the society under a system that can guarantee better living conditions for the people, improve their economic existence, guarantee social welfare, provide future assurance via qualitative education, sound health and security of lives and property. It is incumbent on me, having taken so much educationally from the state, to ensure that I use my trainings to ensure a just and egalitarian system where no one shall be denied his dues.
What are your plans for the people of Osun State?
Economically, I observe that the economic downturn in the country which has affected several states and the inability of most states to rise beyond rentier status of beggarly collector of federal allocations have subjected the people to a state of economic relegation. The biggest slice of our problem is economic. Solve the economic problem and you would discover that other challenges can be easily catered for. It is most necessary to ensure that the IGR of Osun within the next three years is nothing below 15 billion Naira a month. The low hanging fruit I intend to exploit is agriculture. We must turn more than 330,000 hectares of land lying fallow in Osun to productive farm settlements where thousands of youths can be employed. We have nine federal constituencies, nothing stops us from ensuring that there is a farm settlement in each federal constituency.
Attainment of maximum production of food accompanied by application of food processing and preservation to bring about the value chain in agriculture will make Osun the food basket supplying food to many other states and countries where our people regularly patronise but without good markets for our food supply. It is my intention to generate nothing less than 9 billion Naira monthly from the Lagos food market for Osun while I ensure that our forex earnings from countries like Saudi Arabia on food supplies increase astronomically. Thousands of Nigerians and West Africans perform lesser hajj to Mecca and Medina every day whereas no hotel serves Nigerian dishes. I observed that an average Nigerian palate can hardly survive two weeks outside Nigeria without relishing our local delicacies. I therefore started negotiations with some big hotels in Mecca on the need to include Nigerian dishes in their menu list. From the market available in Saudi Arabia, Osun stands to make several millions of dollars periodically as Saudi is not an agrarian country but imports most of its food needs. Currently, Osun has no single strand of banana in any Saudi market stall.
I want to ensure that I improve the internally generated revenue of the state to nothing less than 15 billion naira a month from agriculture, tourism and industrialization within the next three years. We have about 63 undeveloped tourists sites in Osun whereas we are lamenting under crushing poverty despite our natural and human endowments. The recent 173.9 billion Naira budget of Osun for 2018 confirms our long-held opinion that for the state to effectively take care of its people’s needs, the income of the state cannot be less than 15 billion Naira a month. If you divide 173.9 billion Naira budget by 12 months in a year, it gives you about 14.5 billion Naira as what the government itself realises monthly. We have made this prognostication way back in August, 2017 when we were crafting our manifesto.
Upon good improvement in the economy, we shall be in the best position to address the malaise of shortage in payment of salaries and provision of adequate welfare for the civil servants and the people in general, improve the standard of education through provision of adequate welfare, training and re-training of teachers and ensuring discipline in schools in a bid to make education available to all. Once we tackle the economic problems, there shall be beneficial improvement in infrastructural development and maintenance. The unemployment problem in the state by which vast majority of our youths have been turned to idle hands shall have been effectively addressed. The above encapsulates our 4-point agenda as contained in Our Roadmap to Prosperity.
Why is the governorship seat your interest?
With the vision that I have, with the knowledge God has afforded me, with the passion with which I am imbued, I can only attain the vision that I have for the society in executive capacity. Anything below that cannot achieve the kind of historical mileage that I want to cover.
I am not interested in political appointment. I could have struggled for that 7 years ago when Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola became the governor of my dear state. I did not. My intention is to serve my people in the best capacity possible to effect a positive change in their lives and secure a permanent judgment of acquittal for myself where others are convicted.
You hail from Osogbo which doesn’t fall within Osun West Senatorial District to which the governorship seat may be zoned.
I don’t believe in zoning. Neither the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria nor that of APC favours zoning of governorship to one side of the State. There is no sense in zoning. When was it agreed in the annals of Osun that governorship would be zoned? If it was ever so agreed, was it based on senatorial districts or the six zones of the state by which each senatorial district is composed of two zones each? Which governor has ever been chosen based on zoning in Osun before? If zoning is part of our system, why has it never been used before? If it is part of our system, why don’t we use the federal constituency structure or the six zonal structure of Osun by which Osogbo and Iwo zones become most prominent among the “cheated”? It is clear that Osogbo Zone has never produced governor before despite being the state capital with more than a quarter of the votes of the entire state.
The irony of life is that when a section of the ruling elite sells a dummy to favour one of them or a section of them, the mass of the people, the hoi polloi, who will never derive any benefit from the scheming, will parrot the idea slavishly forgetting that they were never meant to benefit from the class scheming being foisted by that section of the ruling class.
We have never chosen a governor based on zoning before. I challenge anyone to mention a governor elected based on zoning. It is a strategy to narrow the political space to favour a weak candidate whose credentials cum political and intellectual capacity cannot withstand a fair contest to produce the best. In the current economic situation of Osun, do we just need a governor based on zoning or we need the best material for the job? When the zoning governor comes in, simply on wishy-washy sentimentality of zonal equity but destroys the economy, we all must then endure mediocrity for eight years simply because we desire a laughable turn-by-turn arrangement which is antithetical to democratic evolution and development. Which forward-looking society practises that?
Let the best material emerge even if he is from the same ward or local government area with the current governor. No governor by zoning can pay workers’ salaries, put food on our table, improve our educational standard, health status and infrastructural malaise etc. simply based on his place of origin. No civilized democracy orders political succession based on zoning.
As regards the primary election of my party, APC, I am greatly confident that I am the anointed of God. I am going to win the primary election, God willing. I have been on the field since March, 2017 talking to the delegates and officers of the party as well as the people. This time, they must take their destinies in their own hands. I have covered all the local government areas in the state. I am not resting on my oars. I am addressing the people that really matter in the best language that addresses their concerns without making crazy promises but verifiable projections that can advance their lot. Our people are not crazy. They are sensible people.
Seeking any elective office in Nigeria is very expensive, let alone the governorship office you are vying for. Do you have the financial resources to prosecute this ambition?
The least of my concerns is the financial fear that most good people impose on themselves by which they vacate the political space for the less competent but financially stinking elements who only turn around to milk the people to perpetual poverty. I have been in the trenches for more than a year now and I have been spending money without running bankrupt. It is a function of eternal blessings which Yoruba people call “alubarika” coupled with perspicacity.
Many men and women of goodwill have been with us in this journey and we assure you that we shall defeat the biggest of all pockets in this election. Many of our friends have been wonderful as we have been financing our campaigns by their unceasing support.
How close are you to the grassroots that form the bulk of the electorates, that their votes count?
I am a grassroots man. I am a man trained in the sophistication of human relations among the people of the grassroots. I grew up in Osogbo. I had my elementary, secondary and Advanced Level education in Osogbo. I acquired the distinct diction of my people steeped in effective communication and superlative interaction at the feet of my blessed mother and the paternal guidance of my sage father. All these I have employed in relating with the people of the grassroots and they know that I really understand where their shoes pinch. I have traversed the length and breath of Osun, studying the peculiar problems confronting each locality and taking note of their needs in the midst of the abundance of their resources. I have a detailed understanding of the people as I have been on this project for many years using the compass of clinical economics to effect differential diagnosis of the problems confronting the people and proffering solutions to them. I have a good notebook on the socio-political challenges of the people and my interactions with the grassroots are changing the political consciousness hitherto premised on immediate monetary gratification by which unscrupulous politicians always purloin unwary public endorsement.
In the current economic situation of Osun, do we just need a governor based on zoning or we need the best material for the job?