Former Executive Chairman, Lagos State Public Works Corporation, Architect Olugbenga Akintola, is the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governorship candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in Osun State. In this interview with Jonathan Eze, Akintola who bemoaned the condition of his people, promised to lift the state to an enviable height if elected governor. Excerpts:
Why do you think you are the most suitable person to lead Osun State, especially in terms of academic qualification and experience?
I trained academically as an architect with further specialisation in Project Management, Building Surveying, and Road Maintenance. My 30 plus years’ work experience is in the UK and Nigeria where I have served in senior positions requiring leading and motivating people to deliver quality results. Additionally, I am fortunate to have public service experience as a result of recognition of my professional competence by serving in the cabinets of the governors of Lagos and Oyo States. While what I have done in the past are good, the real question is how do these training and experience add value for the much-desired development of Osun State? My academic training conditions me to conceptualise, design, and build. Osun needs someone who can conceptualise a better future, design the steps to achieve such future, and together with the people construct a state that will be the envy of all Nigerians and beyond. In this construction, my training and work experience in Project Management implies attention to details in operation especially for monitoring and evaluation – this is important in service and program delivery in government. My public service experience enriched me to know that a chief executive’s role is all about strategic visioning and assembling a competent team to deliver on results. Additionally, the international and national exposure, to which I was privileged, gives me a broader view of other comparative best practices that are relevant for moving our state forward for the betterment of our people.
The Osun State governorship election is only a few weeks away. Given this short period, what are your chances?
I am a democrat who firmly believes that the decision rests with the people. Furthermore, I trust that our people are competent to make a right choice and I will be insulting them to postulate that their choice will be based on ‘political chances.’ On September 22, I believe that they would remember the good old days of Awolowo/Bola Ige and compare it to what improvements, or lack thereof, they have seen in their lives particularly in the past eight years. I identify with the aspirations of our people and our ‘Atunse’ Agenda is about them.
What is your motivation for taking part in this contest, and why do you think the people will vote for you?
Simply put, constructive dissatisfaction. Growing up and with all my entire schooling in Osun, I noticed how our citizens are of the most evolved character with a strong pride of self-reliance. Fast forward, more recently, I realised that there is high degree of hopelessness as our people were being compelled to a condition of dependency on handouts because of half-salaries and lack of economic opportunities. Can you imagine the hopes and aspirations with which we took off, in the 1960s, and if our development trajectory had continued in an upward swing? Today, we talk of how Osun’s equatorial climate makes our land very fertile for agricultural cultivation with two major ecological zones of rainforest and savannah; we have over one million ounces of gold under our land as well as talc and feldspar not to talk of water resources for the generation of hydroelectric power. All these remain a potential and I begin to wonder when they will become viable reality to create economic opportunities of jobs, industries, and wealth for Osunians. Look, a ‘potential’ is a liability if you don’t know how to exploit it. The problem is neither our people nor poverty but rather series of bad governance that have impoverished instead of enrich the people. The values that I was taught by our elders are fast eroding and we are failing ourselves by not producing with all development indices leaving a lot to be desired.
So you believe people will vote for you?
I have passion and love for Osun people and know that they desire to be wealthy in good health. Past failed promises have left them jaded and their cynicism is a manifestation of a deeper and more diffuse malignancy: poor governance. So, this malignancy can be corrected by honesty in governance and an effective government that addresses the welfare of the citizens. I, therefore, look at it this way, the people have a lock, I have the key; why will the people not open the door when they hear my plans and development agenda? I have trust in our people to make the right choice when they hear my message of solutions to our collective problems.
What is your major agenda for the state if elected?
My vision is that of an Osun State that is capable of creating wealth for its people and my goal is to contribute to Osun State’s ability to fulfil all of its obligations towards its people through a capable workforce for industrialisation. To achieve this goal, I will work assiduously on an Àtúnse (rebuilding) Agenda of economic development and human capital investment. My focus will be how to maximise the human and natural resources for Osun State to prosper. More specifically, we will follow the cardinal agenda of our party’s (AD) manifesto with the following programs: firstly, gainful employment to all with our priority on workers’ welfare by ensuring that they are paid in full as at when due. We will link agriculture to manufacturing and provide incentives to SMEs to upgrade their capacities; secondly, integrated economic development by shifting our budget emphasis for industrialisation. Our solid minerals will be explored and developed to create jobs. We will increase funding for technological advancement in equipment manufacturing and accelerate the development of Omoluabi Free Trade Zone; thirdly, quality education by improving the standards and quality assurance as well as ensuring better management and utilization of funds while also improving the relevance of curriculum for the 21st century. We will improve teachers’ welfare for motivation and ensure that our tertiary institutions move from theory to application of knowledge; fourthly, quality healthcare with an increase in budgetary allocation for primary healthcare services and shift emphasis to preventive healthcare. Our primary healthcare centres will have the appropriate supply of medication and adequately staffed with medical service providers; and finally, human capital investments with a particular focus will be on making human beings the determinants of all economic and social change. Our skills training for industrialisation will be complemented with entrepreneurship education so that those who complete secondary and tertiary education have the practical skills for self-employment and our youths can unleash their innovative talents.
The AD has been in political limbo for some time now; do you think the party has the wherewithal to upstage both the APC and the PDP in this election?
You see, more than you can imagine and more than they are given credit, Osun citizens are increasingly more enlightened and taking back their power to elect very seriously. As I move around the length and breadth of the State, from Odo-Otin in North to Ife North in the South, from Ayedire in the West to Oriade in the East, what I hear is the nostalgia of the agricultural production and farm settlements of Awo or the education and healthcare policies of Bola Ige. When I travelled from Ejigbo to Iwo, people could not stop talking about the roads built by Baba Awolowo; go and travel between Apomu and Ode-Omu and you can assess its horrible condition. Our people, creditably, understand the nexus within an economic cycle that salary arrears or half-salary, for civil servants, implies that there is no more disposable income with attendant effect on the woman in Lagere market, in Ife, or even the family that used to buy 10 eko for a family of five now has to contend with five thereby reducing the profit margin for Iya Eleko and cascade effect that goes through the value chain all the way to the quantity of maize that a farmer in Ago Owu can sell. The other day, I heard from a plantain farmer in Esa-Oke whose post-harvest loss was not because of climate condition or storage but more because the demand has greatly reduced from Ikire because dodo Ikire is no longer selling as much because consumers have reduced purchasing power. Recently, I was speaking with an octogenarian Baba Sadia, in Ikire, who is seriously concerned about his children instead of enjoying his old age. If you follow the discourse of our youth, particularly on social media, they are talking about the hopelessness of coming out of school without a job as much as how the quality of their education does not even prepare them for the current labour market much less the 21st century. These are the real issues that centre on putting people at the heart of development; no other political party has a clear and stated commitment to this goal than Action Group whose grandchild is AD. The truth is that our people know this as much as they know that there is no shortcut to prosperity other than economic development and human capital investments.