Only those who have the capacity to tackle extreme poverty should aspire to be governor of Oyo State, an All Progressives Congress governorship aspirant, Francis Rotimi Adeniji has said. He spoke with Tobi Soniyi. Excerpts:
Why do you want to be governor in Oyo State?
That is a very big question but it is not really big. For me, politics essentially is for service and a primary understanding of your intervention is important. What are you doing before you go into politics matter? When you say you come into politics, what roles specifically do you want to play? My own reason for coming into politics is to impact essentially on the people’s lives. And I take my paradigm from the the simple statement of Jesus Christ – that those who will lead you must be your servants.
As a private entrepreneur, I have done a lot for my society, but I discovered that for you to make the impact that will be substantial and record breaking you need to be in government because government has an octopus role on people’s lives.
Wherever you are you can be of service to the people. You don’t have to be governor to serve. What have you been doing to serve your people?
I agree that primarily service is a daily thing as an individual and as a group. Indeed, you could take the argument further. The theory of group that developed into political group is that as an individual you have a role to play. When you come in as a group, the role becomes bigger.
For example, I have been contributing my own little token to take care of people. Like indigent students, in terms of giving them scholarships. That is a role, but when you are talking about what they call authoritative allocation of resources, when you talk in terms of acute poverty that we have in our society, how do we use the material resources of the society to benefit the maximum number of people? As an individual you know you cannot do that. You need to annex the resources of the state to make bigger impacts. That is what we are talking about.
You are running on the APC platform?
In recent times, the parry doesn’t seem to be doing well. Do you think your party still stands a chance of winning in Oyo?
With respect, I think I will humbly disagree. We stand a very good chance. And the background to it is that – I have said if you want to assess the APC, you will need to compare APC with the party that left power at the centre, PDP. The PDP was in power for 16 years, my own party, at the federal level, we have only have intervention for just three years specifically. In the state, the incumbent governor, Senator Ajimobi is running a second term, which is about to end. If you compare the administration of Senator Ajimobi’s seven years with the total 12 – 16 that the PDP governors had done in Oyo State, Ajimobi will walk top over and above all the PDP governors. That is number one.
The level of development within the Ajimobi administration cannot be equated with the totality of the PDP governors. And if you take that to the federal level, what President Buhari has done, specifically in terms of accountability, also in terms of making Nigerians to realise that government is a serious business, not a money making machine, then square it with what we have gotten from the PDP, can we really say that people want to go back to Egypt?
They say all politics is local. I am aware of the agitation by the Oke-Ogun people for them to produce the next governor. Moreso, when the governor had earlier given them an assurance, how do you hope an Ibadan person will scale the hurdle?
I would say that I agree absolutely with any part of the state presenting a candidate for governorship or any office for that matter. So, the demand of Oke-Ogun people is legitimate. Equity, lawyers will tell you is equality, but I will not want us to reduce the contest to the office to what I call primordial values – values that are personal. They are attached to certain things. The opportunity should be for everyone, wherever you come from.
It is about what do you have to offer the people? And I would say it is because our people have not been getting maximum good values from governance.
If you want to look back, when you had the administration of late Chief Bola Ige in Oyo State – in the old Oyo, late Chief Ige was from Esa Oke, nobody was thinking of where you come from. When an administration is good, you hardly talk of this man is from there, because he is going to be the governor of the entire Oyo State, not Oke-Ogun, Ibadan or Ogbomosho states. The argument of limiting it to a particular zone, I think is begging the question. I disagree.
If equity demands that Oke-Ogun should seek governorship and it appears primordial at the same time, how do we balance the two?
Justice demands that we should be fair to everybody. Where a candidate comes from is not important. What is important is, what do you have to offer? What is your character? These are the fundamental principles that people should be asking. It does not even mean if I am from a particular zone I will do better for my people.
What make good governance is the character and the mission of the seeker of that office, and should not be based on such sentiments like he is from us, he is not from us.
But you agree that everybody should come into the race?
It is every comer’s race. Let the bests come.
What are the challenges you have noticed in the governance of Oyo because as the capital of the old Western Region, a lot of people expect that it should be better than as it is now, what are the challenges and how do you intend to go about those challenges?
With the benefit of hindsight, I think the greatest challenge we have is acute poverty. Oyo has a massive population, a massive land mass, but our people are still very poor. So, from the sincerity of heart, I think we need to tackle poverty head on.
How do you intend to do that?
I understand that you have paucity of fund as an hindrance but there is what you call comparative advantage – the strength of my people, I believe, is agriculture. We have the preponderance of good soil from Ibadan. It is because of that you have citrus fruits in the 11 local governments in Ibadan. Mangoes are grown in Ogbomosho to Oke-Ogun I, Oke-Ogun II. There is no part of that place you cannot plant root crops
The tragedy is that the military destroyed this comparative advantage. The struggle for oil money brought everybody to the city and led to the abandonment of where naturally, God had endowed us to display wealth.
I see that we need to look at that area critically. In the past, we used to have Fashola Farm Settlement in Oyo. I think it was revived by Lam Adeshina. If government invested heavily in that sector, actually wealth will come to the people.
The agricultural sector is a multifaceted sector. I will give you another one, timber! You go to Oyo State now, Chinese are there planting timbers. These are the areas that we need to sit down and make our people to get their money from. That is just a tip of the iceberg.
Most time, politics tend to stand on the way of development, if you become governor, how do you intend to navigate the state’s political terrain?
Our people have a rich history of being democrats and lovers of transparency. If you go back to the old Oyo empire, Oyo people want to have their say. They want to determine things and they want to hold their leaders accountable. These are values that are part and parcel of our lives. So, any leader that offers them transparency, accountability, they naturally gravitate towards that leader.
It is not for fun that Awo ruled for a long time. That you have people like Chief Bola Ige. People loved him. That you have people like late Baba Alayande, Chief Adedibu – they were with the people! They were living with the people and they were accountable to the people.
So, naturally, people give out their support to leaders that are sincere. That is elementary, but if you apply it even now, a lot of people will love you.
And you intend to do that?
We would, by the grace of God – exceedingly transparency and accountable to the people.
Oyo has a massive population, a massive land mass, but our people are still very poor