SDP Will Restore Osun’s Lost Glory, free the People from Economic Bondage, Says Omisore

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Iyiola Omisore

Senator Iyiola Omisore, a former deputy governor in Osun State, former Chairman Senate Committee on appropriation is the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the September 22 governorship election in Osun State. He speaks with select journalists on his ‘Restoration Agenda’ for his state, why he is advocating freedom for the people and a shift of power from the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) government to SDP; the good chances of his party in the election. Excerpts:

 

Your party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) earlier before now, released your manifestos called the ‘SDP Agenda for Restoration in Osun State,’ with a focus on five thematic pillars, first of which is economic management and accountability. What do you think is wrong with Osun State’s economy?

 The Osun State economy is, no doubt, the worst in this country acclaimed by everybody and I believe that transparency, accountability and people-oriented policies will drive safely the economy to yield results. At present, there are lots of wastages, a lot of leakages, a lot of money has been wasted through consultancies, a lot of high and inflated contracts, a lot of undone jobs already paid for. These are enough areas I’m going to block. I will block all leakages and ensure that the money in Osun is spent for Osun people. The idea is to further establish linkages with national processes in a way to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals. Then, for the implementation of our programmes, we are going to maximally harness the Osun State’s human and capital resources to lay a solid foundation for an enduring turn-around of the state as an economically prosperous, socially harmonious and a model in democratic governance in Nigeria. Our goal is to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to inputs to thrive, and assets to protect human dignity.

You talked about the issue of inflated contracts, meaning that money had been taken out unjustifiably. Do you have any plan to retrieve the money back, or would there be any form of probe into government activities?

 Well, contract jobs have been done, but there are a lot of avenues for wastes which we need to block. The leakages are there already, but its blockade will be done carefully so as not to slow down the government, and talking of probe, that is not an issue. We are going to look at all these positions professionally without minding whose ox is gored, and without being biased or without any sentiment, fear or favour. We will review all activities critically and ensure things are done correctly.

You also highlighted the issue of professionalism and performance, and if we look at the civil service generally already heavily criticized for slowing down the processes of governance, but with a peculiarity to Osun now, and the issue of salary payment, are these also bothering you?

 To whom much is given, much is expected, and to whom less is given, less is expected. You can’t expect optimal performance, and what we call optimisation and leverables from workers who are not paid for over 36 months or are paid half salaries. So, basically, their morale will be low; their drive to work will be low; efficiency will be low, there is no doubt about that. So, you don’t expect much from them. This is why I think the driving force for any economy, any business, any office and any development is human capital development. Hence, we are going to reinforce human capital development to ensure that we increase performance and ensure we drive them and encourage them, motivate them, professionalise them and train them, so that they can deliver our goods, our manifestos and visions.

As you said, workers are being owed for 36 months, one of the reasons being Osun government saying there was no sufficient funds to run the state; how are you going to resolve this to ensure salaries and pensions are paid?

As rightly said, ‘Osun says there is no money,’ they are trying to let the public know there is no money.Where as they just collected about N17 billion Paris Club funds, and the wage bill is about N2 billion per month, and they said they are paying half salary, which means that over N16 billion can pay for 16 months. But, there is no courage; there is no will. There is no sincerity to defray the costs, rather, the government prefers to use it for bogus contracts, bogus expenses and mainly for election campaigns. Now, it is evident to everyone in the state that Osun state situation is comatose, and it is not in doubt that its current APC leadership has admitted its inability to cope, which is why the second term of Governor Rauf Aregbesola is being completed with a serious increase in hunger and poverty among people in the state and the private sector is nearing collapse, likewise the citizens are collapsing. Similarly, the confidence and motivation in the public sector is eroded and now at its all time lowest since Osun State was founded. Everyone is frustrated and the increasingly restive people of Osun State, including the aged, pensioners and our youths are calling for urgent action. Surely, the September 22 election has provided a democratic opportunity for action, an opportunity for people to vote Omisore of the SDP as the new governor of Osun State.

Similarly, the government had also added to the employ of the state, the O’YES cadets, said to be earning N10,000 per month, which at a time you spoke against. What will be the lot of this people under your administration?

The O’YES people recruited from Osun and who are Osun indigenes will be given gainful and pensionable jobs. We are not going to sack anybody, but we are going to make employment across board. Teachers will be recruited, likewise other categories of staff. There are so much vacancies but the government is not interested in empowering the people, employing our youths or getting them engaged is a major one for us.

The concern of your party is also in the area of equity in access to services, such as education, health, gender equity, agriculture and others, in what form will this take?

This is in the area of distribution of wealth across board. The distribution of infrastructure will be across board, health will be across board, and on the overall, it will ginger equality. There is no single clinic in Osun State that has drugs, but we are going to ensure that our hospitals are reawakened and well stocked. Our schools are brutalised and teachers are being thrown out of schools. This will be corrected; we are going to distribute the amenities across board. There is no water in Osun State. These are issues we want to address, because the public infrastructure has collapsed. Presently, there are challenges already identified which are long standing obstacle to economic growth and investment in the state, especially in agricultural area, a very critical sector which engages more than 75 per cent of the population of the state, and its neglect is impacting negatively on the economic yield of major cash crops and produce. But we will engage in partnership drive implementation to build sustainable investment linkages with the private sector and strengthen the engagement of other providers, including the civil society and community based organisations, because, at present, Osun State is under an intensive care unit (ICU). But given my courage, my experience and my pedigree, by God’s grace, we will ensure we bring back sanity to Osun State.

As an engineer and a builder, it is already said that there are lots of ground to cover in infrastructural development. Talking of local contenting and innovation, as part of your campaign programmes, how do you want to go about this, especially in boosting Osun State IGR?

 The issue is we are going to encourage local contending to ensure that jobs, contracts, sub-jobs, that can be done by Osun indigenes are not given to outsiders. Of course, there can be major jobs given to major contractors, but we will ensure that our people here, the carpenters, the plumbers, the goldsmiths, the iron benders of this world, are all engaged to ensure that the money goes back to the state. All we need to boost the GDP is half of the money being wasted on contracts. Before the advent of oil, we all depended on agriculture in the whole of the old Western Region, and when we talk of this, the major focus was on the cash crops, and the majority of these cash crops were from Osun State. So, we go back to our cocoa farming, we go back to our oil palm and cassava farming, and ensure we encourage the farmers. We do all the roads network, we give access to rural and community projects; we will encourage them and offer them high yielding seedlings that won’t take time to grow. We will do that to shore up our IGR and also encourage people to go back to farm.

You have also raised concerns on the issue of security, in what form will this take?

Security may not necessarily be physical, but the physical security is good. However, we also have job security, food security, health security, and so on. But, it is security in all paraphernalia we are talking about. In this regard, we are also focusing on neighbourhood to neighbourhood watch. We have people with  goodwill with us, but a good government also should focus on security, and with this, there won’t be hunger. There won’t be greed; there won’t be lack. People will be happy, and the people are safe generally. So, security is very important; it is a matter of concept and things of the mind. A good government will create rooms for innovations aiding success and sustainability. This is a very important area, since the encouragement of local content earlier mentioned is fuelled by innovations in specific areas, which will in turn make an impact on every other pillar of the agenda for restoration. Basically, our challenges in Osun State require quick thinking and innovations in implementation, which has already been taken care of in our robust manifestos.

The outgoing government has put some policies in place which had been criticised, for instance, the merging of schools and same uniform for all schools in Osun State, what will you do with this?

The issue of uniforms is not too good because it is unprofessional. The school ethics start from uniform, and I believe every pupil has a pride, so as to know how to behave. When you give everybody the same uniform, you allow for hooliganism, ‘commonerlism’. It encourages lack of belonging, which can also lead to lack of knowledge. If different uniforms are given to schools, they will have their own pride; they will check whoever is misbehaving among the students and this will give us a better society.

But the incumbent APC government is clamouring for continuity, because it said its enormous ongoing projects already started in the state must continue, if you assume power, what will you do about these said projects?

All projects in Osun State in eight years are still in progress. There is no single project that has been completed in the eight years of APC government. Look at the Gbogan junction, look at the Ring Road, still under construction. Their campaign for continuity is to cover their fraud and ensure they perpetuate themselves in government; there is nothing continuous in this thing and it is nothing more than a cover-up. They have auctioned the state and they have milked it dry. That is why they are desperate. So, as earlier said, all projects will be reviewed on merit. I won’t stop any project, but we will continue with all projects under good terms and conditions which will not negatively affect the people of Osun State.

You contested in 2014 but did not win, though you said you were rigged out. And now, you are contesting again; the wrongs that you said robbed you of victory, have you perfected them in a way that will give you victory this time round?

The most important things is the issue of rigging of votes. But with vigilance, which I think will go a long way for us now, we are going to be victorious. We won in 2014; we were in the tribunal, but things were manipulated, and better still, we are going to be more vigilant now.

Some people are still linking you with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which you have left, with an insinuation that you may still go back to the party. How will you address this?

The issue is, it is the PDP that is telling lies. I am not in PDP. I am in SDP, and on their part, that is a sign of failure. When you see the opposition using your name to campaign, that means you are popular and they want to use your name to win election. So, if they want to come and join us, they are welcome. We left the PDP with 70 per cent of its structure, and today, SDP is the largest party in Osun State. PDP is fragmented; APC is fragmented, and SDP is the only party that stands firm. So, we are in SDP and for real.

Earlier before now, you expressed concerns over the insincerity of INEC to conduct a free and fair election in the state, yet, you are taking part in the election. How will you marry the two together?

We are going to watch and I’ve told the international community to watch out for INEC too. We have told the people to be the watchful, on the lookout. Even, their plans to rig the election is all over the place, but we will insist that it doesn’t work out that way. Our people will be more vigilant and they have been told to remain resolute to protect their votes. Nothing will happen contrary to our victory. We are sure to win, and we will only ensure that we remain more vigilant and ensure INEC does the right thing.

Are you also satisfied with the level of security put in place for the election?

There is nothing in place yet; it is still a proposal, but let’s wait to see how it is done, believing that if they can man all the polling booths by the security personnel as they have promised to do, there won’t be any problem.

Then the issue of vote-buying as was the case in Ekiti State, what are you doing about this?

 Vote buying is an electoral offence, and INEC and the security people have been mandated to arrest anybody found with money on them, and I’ve told my agents too to resist anybody found with money on them, collect it and throw them out of the polling units. The resolve of Osun people is to have Omisore as their governor and just in a few days’ time their dream will be fulfilled. The people must be resolute and be resilient, tolerant, enduring, focused, vigilant and ensure that the election of Saturday, September 22, is well protected, and ensure their votes are well protected and secured They should monitor proceedings at the polling booths across to state and ensure that SDP candidate, Omisore, is declared as the governor of Osun State.

The summary of your campaign if critically looked at is your message of restoration of Osun State and giving of freedom to the people, how did you arrive at this?

The people already know that the government has put them in bondage. The colonial masters, Aregbesola, at the helm of affairs in the state has put the people in bondage. Just recently, Bola Ahmed Tinubu was here and he started harassing them, abusing them, and he insulted them. So, they are in bondage, and basically, what they need is freedom. The economy has collapsed; workers are not paid their salaries, same for pensioners. There are no jobs; there is nothing in the state. Markets are not selling; everything is in total collapse. Osun State is in ICU. So, we are going to restore Osun State back to its glory and the people on the streets are already aware of that and we are all working towards this.