Nseobong Okon-Ekong encounters, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Osun State who is confident that his clarity of vision and rare sense of service can add value to the people
Will it be true to say that Governor Rauf Aregbesola has positioned you to cover his track, after leaving office?
What has he done? You see we have this funny insinuations. I want to say categorically that the governor is very transparent. There is nothing to cover. It’s just that he believes that majority of the members of the party believe that I should continue the transformation agenda of the state, having worked as Chief of Staff for eight years. With my experience in the private sector, spanning over 30 years, I think I have what it takes to run the state and I have been very much involved in the running of the state. It’s natural to say in a situation where you know somebody who is that experienced, he should be given the opportunity to take over. I emerge as the flagbearer through a very free and transparent process- direct primary, which allowed every member of the party to participate. I came first. I had 127,000 votes. The second had 21000. Looking at the result, you are talking about someone anointing me, maybe it is God who anointed me but I can assure you that I worked very hard to be where I am today. I visited all the wards, we have 332 wards, I visited all the local governments. I have coordinators in all, the 332 wards, and in all the local governments and I have canvassers in the units that are seriously engaged with the structure of the party. I am not surprised that I did very well in the primary election.
Are you bothered in any way by the challenges that you will be confronted with some of which you are very well aware of-the issue of debt, salary arrears; what really are you continuing?
Life itself is full of challenges. In your life, you have challenges. If you have several companies, you have challenges. What is important is for you to prepare yourself for these challenges. The way to go about it is to identify those challenges and prepare to tackle them. They are not insurmountable. Debt is a necessity, sometimes, when you want to do massive restructuring. You can’t save the money you use on roads. How many years will it take you to have such amount to build a road? You borrow to look after projects; that is expected. What is not good enough is for you to borrow for your personal project. There is nothing bad in borrowing. What is important is what have you applied the fund to. Is it capital project? Don’t forget that if you don’t do those things at that time, there is no way you would have started doing that by now, given the foreign exchange content. When you look at the vulnerability of the exchange rate, by the time you start looking at when the exchange rate was N150 or N200 to USD1, then. Now, you are talking about N360 per USD1. The cost would have been 600/700 per cent more. The challenge is such that you continue to service the debt and creatively find a way of generating more revenue to ensure that you are able to meet your obligations in terms of repayment, to meet your obligation to workers and expenditure of government. What we are trying to do is to seriously develop our capacity to generate more revenue internally. We want to ensure that we block all the leakages. You must keep the economy at a level that you expect your people to have a level of revenue coming from their state. One of the ways is to look at the agricultural sector. This state is an agrarian state. If you are able to develop agriculture reasonably, particularly commercial farming, agriculture will be very profitable. Then you look at the value chain in agriculture, ask farmers to plant cassava, you should be able to provide a kind of value addition by encouraging processing plants where you can convert cassava to starch or ethanol. A few areas like that will bring some reasonable revenue which invariably will allow your people when you empower them to be able to contribute meaningfully to your idea. Another area is the area of tourism, there are lots of sites that have not been developed. The government does not have the resources to develop them. In any case, I don’t believe that government should even spend so much. What the government should do is to provide an enabling environment and allow the private sector to take over business. Government has no business in business so my concept will be PPP: Public Private Partnership. You will be able to do this to have good revenue. Again, we have mineral resources untapped; because of the huge capital. We go the same route of PPP. When you do some of these things, you cleverly develop your economy and have revenue coming from those areas that will allow you to meet some of your obligations. Challenge are very necessary. If you don’t have these challenges, you don’t have to be in government.
With your position as Chief of Staff, is it that you did propose some of the things you plan to do to Governor Aregbesola?
We have done reasonably well in that area. For instance, look at the issue of internally generated revenue, when the governor came in, the revenue was as low as N200 million. We have grown the revenue to about N800 million. We’ve applied some of these things, but there will always be room for improvement. If I can’t bring in innovations, why do I want to be governor?
Where is your IGR coming from, majorly?
For now, it is majorly from workers payee and a little bit from the private sector. We have actually not gone into those serious areas. We don’t have much industries and that limits the volume of payee. What makes Lagos State, and even Ogun State is that they have a lot of industries, a lot of payee that comes in, so we must grow by even encouraging agro allied industries to spring up, create industrial parks with amenities and allow the investors to recognise the fact that we have 14 or 15 hours of electricity supply every day in our state. Don’t forget Dunlop relocated to Ghana because of power. We’ve not been able to take advantage of that. That’s why what I am planning to do by the grace of God. We will have an economic summit where we will now look at, and bring out incentives, and all these things that will bring opportunities for people that want to set up industries.
Which industry is almost ready; that you can hit the ground running with in Osun?
We have proposals coming regularly, particularly agro allied industries. We are more inclined to them because it ensures value chain, it creates job opportunities and our state is an agrarian state. I’m looking forward to more of that. There have been quite a number of proposals in the areas of hospitality, health, diagnostics centre. We are trying to see if we can really work on Dangote to reactivate the machine tools industry. That is a major investment that is wasting away. We have models that are behind it. These are some of the areas that we are looking into now. I’m going to put it up at the coming summit, where experts will be coming in with various proposals that government will look at to attract many investment.
The other parties in the contest, which of them do you see as a threat?
Why do you say so?
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun State is very strong. The government has done very well. We have a lot to show in eight years. We have a good structure and a good candidate. Conduct your opinion poll and see how great the people in the party are. Do a rating of the party and the candidate. I can say that without sounding very immodest, that we are the candidate to beat. Go to some of the campaign offices, do you see this kind of structure anywhere? We are seriously committed to what we are doing. We run it as if we are running a company. That’s why we are able to deliver.
Where is campaign slogan ‘IleriOluwa’ coming from?
What inspired it?
It means God’s promise. It’s difficult for me to explain. Because you are very inquisitive. I dreamt and I sang one song. I ended with IleriOluwa twice. The thing came like that. That’s where I picked the name from my dream. I believe God gave me the name.
How have you expressed this God’s promise
Let me say that it is a brand that is selling. When did I start my visitation? I started ward/local government tour on April 7. After they conducted the opinion poll by the end of May, we were leading. We had the best structure. We did the most engaging campaign, and so I was not surprised we really won squarely. There was no contender challenging that result. I really see the hand of God in what we are doing. It’s difficult for me to explain to you but that is the inspiration and it is really working for me.
What will be the immediate steps that you will take when you hopefully win the election?
First of all, I want to concentrate majorly on the economy and the first thing I really want to do is have an economic summit, to bring in experts that will sit and plan how the economy could be revived. I don’t believe in starting without serious planning. We have the template. We know what we want to do and how to do it. But the economic summit first.
What number is Osun in the revenue table now?
Almost, at the bottom.
Where do you hope to take Osun to in the next four years?
I will want to ensure that there is more allocation from the federal government. I will rather want us to look inward and develop the IGR to a level we can conveniently sustain our activities. We will block the leakages which is very much around, we can raise the 800 million to N3 billion in four years.
What you have done about aggrieved members of the party who have since left?
When you have a contest, somebody must win. Reaction differs. Some will take it as one of those things, others will insist they want to actualise their own dreams using another platform. I want to say that majorly most of the contestants that come around are together now. We are going to be doing our campaign together safe for the Secetary to the State Government who decided to defect to another party. And others, a permanent contestant decided to go back to PDP, he just went back home. He came from PDP anyway. People that are not seriously progressive will not understand how politics is played in the progressive camp. Once they don’t get what they want, they move. In progressive camp, if you try to get what you want, but don’t get it, you allow the politics to take care of it and subsequently you are going to be remembered. What is important is to ensure that the process is free and fair. Some defected but others are joining us. We are just not making so much noise as. It is not that they were popular, but that was the only way they can give effect to their ambition. When somebody withdrew from a contest simply because he had bought some delegates since he didn’t hold the delegates ground, he was afraid of humilation.
Will you continue Aregbesola’s Omoluabi philosophy?
Absolutely yes. In fact that is what makes the Yoruba race. It is an embodiment of morality, value that have been lost. In those days, you leave your wares on the road, drop the price there, people will buy and leave the money there. We are trying to say it’s going to be tough even with the primary challenges that we have, ultimately we will get there. It curb corruption and other vices. You should be your neighbour’s keeper. We are talking about a communal life that is devoid of violence and things like that.
The importance of ‘IleriOluwa’ (God’s promise) is that it must come to pass. Some people allow themselves to be led by God to actualise His will. I’m confident that I am going to win the election in good health and look forward to my people supporting me. I’m here to serve, nothing else. I’m not running because I want to eat but to serve in a higher capacity.
IN THE MIRROR
*Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola is a certified insurance broker, entrepreneur and politician
*Oyetola hails from Iragbiji in Osun State. He recently celebrated his 60th birthday
*Possesses cognate experience in political administration and governance, having served in Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s eight-year administration as the Chief-of-Staff since 2011
*Widely acknowledged as the strategist and pillar of support that helped Governor Aregbesola confront the challenges of the lean revenue, indebtedness, contractual obligations, collapsed infrastructures and unpaid salaries
*Area Manager, Leadway Assurance Company Limited between 1980 and 1987
*Underwriting Manager, between 1987 and 1990 at the Crusader Insurance Company Limited before he joined the Alliance and General Insurance as Technical Controller till 1991
*Established SilverTrust Insurance Brokers Limited
*Appointed Executive Vice Chairman at the Paragon Group of Companies, with interests in Oil and Gas, Mining and Real Estate from 2005 to 2011
*Oyetola was Chairman of Ebony Properties Limited, having served as a director at Pyramid Securities Limited