Governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party in Ogun State, Mr. Olatunde Rotimi Paseda tells Femi Ogbonnikan that one of his intentions, if he wins the 2019 elections, is to run an administration that offers free health services to the deserving
You were the Ogun State governorship candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the 2015 general elections, why do you now represent the Social Democratic Party (SDP)?
UPN was the formative party for me. I came into politics with a strong passion for what I saw when I was growing up which was the era of late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I felt that resuscitating the UPN then, would help bring back what was attainable within our state. I registered the party and we contested the 2015 general elections. I then realised that quite a lot within our voting age have been eroded from what I would describe as ‘history-education.’ A lot of them don’t even know who Chief Obafemi Awolowo was. The ones who had a vague idea of Obafemi Awolowo were in their 30s, while the ones in their 40s and above knew Obafemi Awolowo. To the youths of these days, we had to explain who Chief Obafemi Awolowo was. He did not register with a lot of them. They were easily convinced when you talk about Osoba. They did not even know Bisi Onabanjo.
In order to increase the chances of our getting into office and providing a better platform for more people understanding the concept of what I need to do, we had to move to another political party, that has a bigger spread nationwide and that is well known by the people, and as well shares similar ideologies as that which I previously identified with. The SDP readily fit into this. If you pick up the first word; it is about social empowerment, social enablement and social welfare. That is what the UPN was all about. If I am not in the UPN, I should be in the SDP, because they share the same ideologies. That is why I took a chance of going to a party where I don’t know anybody. I have no godfather and I went in there to vie for the governorship. Thank God, they saw my qualities and I won the primary.
Are you still promoting Awolowo’s legacies?
I eat, sleep and drink Awolowo’s legacies. I am an Awoist. I am an unrepentant Awoist. When you hear of Paseda’s government come 2019, you will start seeing the true Awoist in me. I intend to bring back the good old days when things worked; where our people were given the opportunities they deserved, like access to social amenities. Decisions were not made unilaterally by a select few, like governor’s friends and his cohorts but that were made by the citizens and the people of the local communities. I believe one of the success stories of Awolowo was because he took governance down to the people. For any project to be done, town hall meetings must hold and people must make up their minds whether things are being done the way they are expect or not. My manifesto is completely Awoist; not by lip service. I have been consistent with that since 2014 when I entered the political space.
You sprang surprises in the 2015 general elections when the name ‘Paseda’ became a household name. Do you still think you can repeat the same feat in the 2019 governorship election?
I don’t have to do anything anymore. Last year, I did a few projects. The last local government election in Ogun State was my litmus test, to check and to confirm the acceptance and likeness of my people. I achieved what had never been achieved in the history of Ogun State. I single-handedly challenged the incumbent governor, Sen Ibikunle Amosun, who happens to be a brother and a friend and hopefully, who is to hand over to me. In the local government election, I fielded about 300 candidates, approximately and surprisingly, we won councillorship seats but unfortunately because of the tradition and for whatever reasons, we were only able to hold on to two councillorship seats. Today, the unthinkable has happened in Ogun State. Paseda has two councillors in Amosun’s government. It has never been done before. We have two UPN councillors who obviously are now SDP councillors because they moved with me to where I am now. I have already done it through the local government election. The people have accepted me. I am very well-known. I am a different politician. I am a Christian politician and I believe faith must come with whatever you do. We have stability and direction. We are there for our people and our people know that Paseda is the man to beat. Whatever anybody says, I will give it my best shot and leave the rest to God.
What are your programmes of action for the good people of Ogun State?
I got involved in politics, believing that education must be free at all levels, so that people would have a choice of being educated or not. But they are being restricted, because they can’t afford it. Education must be accessible to all and sundry. The only way you can make it accessible is to make it free, so that everybody, regardless of who you are, can access it. It would now be a choice. If you want it, there will be no limitation. That is what I have been advocating for. I have done my research and I have realised that it can be done. I will declare free education, on the very first day of my swearing-in. We would do financial re-engineering, taking my steps to research as to how to fund it, to cut cost. A lot of politicians think it is impossible. But today, at least, two of them are saying they are going to declare free education. Where were they, four years ago, when I realised it could be done? I am talking of providing enabling platforms for institutions to self-generate income by providing services for the local communities. They will help us with policy formulation and research. If you are doing recreation or tourism in your community, you will have to be part of our tourism sector to be an income generating agency. If you have mechanical engineering in your institution, there is no reason we cannot have an array of service stations within your university where students will learn, and as well, provide services to the people. You can take your vehicles there, because there are diagnostics equipment and you would know that you are getting the best. We can bring expertise from the likes of like Ford, Toyota and so on. When the institutions are self-generating income, they would sustain it. There would be less burden on the state. It is going to take time, but it will happen. It has been my dream. Career development training, welfare of staff of educational institutions will be given priority. In those days, as a lecturer, you were entitled to car loan. Welfare is very terrible now. These are just the snippets of what I want to do. I also intend to return all missionary schools, every single one, the Baptist, Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and the Muslim schools, they must go back to the original owners. Not only will I do that, I will make sure that it is a law and that it would be impossible for anybody to undo it. I understand that there is a case in court. The last governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel did a fantastic thing. He returned the missionary schools and a new governor came to reverse it. That is one of the target for me as governor. When we make a policy in the best interest of our people we will enact a law to back it.
We are going to return that to them and they will now allow private schools to thrive. There would be a choice. Growing up, I went to Baptist Academy, Obanikoro, Lagos. I believe it stood me in good stead. There were state schools. There were missionary schools and there were private schools and you had a choice. You could go to which ever you wanted. If I return schools to the religious bodies, the burden of maintaining them would ease off on the state and we can now concentrate on state establishments. We took over the schools from them and we can’t fund them. It was an unwarranted move. If we return the schools to them, we will have a limited number of responsibility, in terms of maintaining them. I don’t believe in building new schools. I am not going to build new schools in my eight years in office. I am going to maintain them. I am going to refurbish where it is needed, nothing elaborate, but just to make the schools functional and make them acceptable and they don’t have to be fully air-conditioned. They don’t need marble floors. These are not what give us quality education. These are just the fabrics. What concerns us are the welfare of the teachers, resources for the students. If you are studying IT and you don’t have computers, what kind of IT is that? These are the things that give us what we need. That is my target, nothing too complicated, but very simplistic and effective. And in terms of construction, from my own understanding, you only build bridges in three types of places, where there is water, marshy land and where I would call spaghetti junctions or a conglomerate of junctions, where you have about five or six roads meeting, because they become a huge a cluster. You can put two overhead bridges so that we can have free flow of traffic. But where that is not there, what is the essence of putting bridges on solid ground? It is a waste of resources. What the current governor has done which looks good, I will finish them completely, but I am not building new ones. I am going to maintain what we have. In terms of roads, why must I build four lanes when I can do with two solid ones, that are functional and I can now use that resources to build other internal roads, linking villages.
Concerning health, I am bringing free health care services. It will be completely free. It will only be free for the people that are in the lower income bracket; like students, aged and retirees. Those that are in the employment will pay for the health care services, no health insurance. Health Insurance is designed to steal money. As far as I am concerned, it is a waste and a lot of people don’t get the benefits of the so-called insurance scheme. If you are working, you pay. If you want to have a health insurance scheme then, go and get your private insurance scheme. The state has no business contributing to an insurance policy for anybody. Health care is a key thing and you must be able to access it, no matter where you are. The only thing I intend to do is what I would call, ‘curriculum redesign’ which means that we have School of Health in Ilese-Ijebu and also, we have universities that are offering nursing and medicine courses. Which means, in every single ward, there would be primary health care centres. There would be a small consultation billing where frequent illnesses that would be treated. We will have a situation where students who are in their final year, apart from doing their medical practices, would have to, serve in a ward. So, the nurses have to serve in the wards. If you have malaria parasite, you will just have to walk in there and you will get the diagnosis right there and then. Mini tests will be done there free, there would be doctors on-call on duty 24-hours. If something happens it is not going to be on the patient’s bill to start running around and the doctor on duty has a duty or responsibility to accompany that sick emergency case to the general hospital and to make sure that the patient is treated. If it is a critical or emergency sickness, it will be criminal to turn down the patient because he does not have money. You are practically killing that person. In my state, it is going to be a criminal offence to turn down an emergency case in any hospital. It means you have committed murder and that is not going to be acceptable in my state. We will change that. We are not going to allow private hospitals to be short-changed because we know that it is going to cost them money for treatment. We would find a way of compensating them for taking those emergency cases, since we say that health care is going to be free for the poor.
What programmes do you have for the traditional institution?
That is one of the very sensitive parts of my agenda. My name is Otunba Olatunde Rotimi Paseda and I am Adeneye 1 and that translates to royalty. I am a Prince. I should actually be called Prince Olatunde Rotimi Paseda (Adeneye 1). If I were to become a king, I will be called Oba Olatunde Rotimi Paseda (Adeneye 1). I would be the first of the Adeneye to be king. I am only trying to give you the synopsis of where I come from. If I want to be a king, there are certain things that I will not do today as a king. I understand that when the white men came to our country, they met our paramount rulers. Even the colonial masters deferred to the kings. They would go to palaces and sit on the floor and talk to Obas. All of a sudden, they turned it around and Obas became subservient. I am not going to be that type of governor that Obas take their caps off or bow for. And this idea that the governor becomes involved in who becomes an Oba or who they give a chieftaincy title to will be removed completely from state laws. Anybody that the ruling or royal house approves as Oba, so be it. The governor should not be dictating who should be an Oba to the people. If there is dispute, the dispute must be settled within the monarchs. That will be more effective. And if the Oba says he wants to give somebody a chieftaincy title, it is not government’s affair. They must have rights to make those decisions. Technically, they are the leaders within their communities. To circumvent an Oba, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs is a big insult. That thing called Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs will be split. There will be Ministry of Local Government that will deal with the affairs of local government administration and there will be Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs and that Ministry will be headed by an Oba, not a civil servant or a technocrat. It has to be headed either by one of the four Paramount rulers in the state, the Alake of Egbaland, Awujale of Ijebuland, Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland or the Akarigbo of Remo. They will take turn to head it. They are going to be the head of that ministry. In that ministry, you will see nothing there, but monarchs, apart from the public servants who will be in-charge of the administrative side of things. All matters relating to them will be dealt with, by them and within themselves. The state will just put a stamp. They will be part and parcel of the government, not outsiders that will be used as a willing tool whenever the governor needs to use them. It is an insult to the traditional institution.
IN THE MIRROR:
- He is royalty from the Adeneye ruling house in Omu-Ijebu and holds the titles of Garkuwan Hausawa and Ezi Onyi Ndigbo in Ogun State
- Paseda is the founder of the charity known as Paseda Legacy Foundation; that is making landmark strides in education, law, the aged, health care, low cost housing, women and youth empowerment
- He started and ended his career as an employee in PZ. He was the longest serving staff in his era
- Paseda attended Baptist Academy in Obanikoro-Lagos for his O’level. Thereafter travelled abroad for his university education. He attended the University of London, UK where he studied Transport Management and later got his Masters Degree in Tourism and Recreation Management from University of Cardiff, Wales.
- He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Transport, United Kingdom, and worked briefly as European Air Tour Operator with Euro Skylup International before establishing Skylink Travels and Tours over 25 years ago. This marked the commencement of his self-employment
- Afterwards, he established his own company in UK which is currently being managed by his wife.
- He stumbled into a company in Mexico that manufactures heavy duty equipment. He bought into it and it became one of his main businesses. It is a big firm in Mexico and he is one of the three partners in the company. He is also into fire engine construction, which sells mostly in Eastern Europe and Asia and Latin America. He has successfully established two engineering firms that are into fabrication and building of heavy machinery; they manufacture water tankers, fire engines, garbage /compacting trucks
- Paseda owns four major companies across the world (UK, US, and Latin America). In Nigeria, he owns a couple of hotels spread across different parts of the country
- He was awarded, alongside, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Governor Olusegun Osoba as Most Influential Industrialist among 100 Most Influential Ogun Indigenes