Femi Ogbonnikan meets the Ogun State governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, Mr. Oluseyi Olufade-Olowookere, who bares his mind on his aspiration
You have thrown your hat into the Ogun State governorship ring, what are those things you intend to bring to the table?
It is true that I have thrown my hat into the governorship ring of Ogun State. People need to be given more and better options. We have come to find out that the choices are from the choices from a few that present themselves. I am looking at the political landscape of Ogun State and I realise that, at that time, which is about one year and a half ago, the options that were available were the same old band and who want to replicate themselves or some godfathers who want to perpetuate themselves. The third reason is that, I know that I have the experience, the capacity, the competence, the network and the energy to leapfrog the state into its next level of prosperity and better life for everybody, especially for the larger population of the residents and indigenes of the state. I am also thinking that I will be bringing some hope and succour, particularly for the youths that form between 60 and 75 percent of the population. Everywhere I have gone, I have encountered them and also interacted with them, they have told me, that they are encouraged and motivated to even do more and have someone like me in the race. Before now, it has been made to seem to be a contest for billionaires or people who have stolen money or for people who have godfathers. I use to tell people, that God is my only godfather.
Specifically, what change do you intend to bring to Ogun State?
Change is a word that has been thrown around a lot. We are going to bring about a true change. Change can also be relative. The kind of change we want to bring to Ogun State will be five-dimensional. One is to bring about change, the experimental lifestyle at the grassroots level viz-a-vis health care, education, agricultural input and output, infrastructure, the general wellbeing, and sense of belonging and participation in government. We are going to run a bottom-up inclusive and adaptive kind of government which is about, what do you want? What do you think? What do you want from what we are doing? What do you think about what we are trying to do? Or what we are thinking to do? And what is uppermost or important for you as indigenes or residents or grassroots persons? These are the questions we are going to be asking ourselves. And this is the kind of government we are going to run. That is a change, because the people would feel included. They would feel carried along. They would feel there is a government that hears them or that listens to them. Because one thing is to listen and it is another thing to hear.
There are three things and they are part of our change. Access to good health is a fundamental human right. At least, within a five kilometre radius from where you live, there will be a health facility. Right now, that is not the case in Ogun State. Over 50 percent of the population do not have access to health care within a five-kilometre radius or within a five-minute drive in the event there is an emergency. Also, over 50 percent of the population do not have access to quality education, especially government provided free education. We want to be able to implement these. We want to ensure that there is a functional hospital or primary health care centre in every ward of the state. We want to ensure, that there is a functional technology-enabled school, especially primary schools in all the 236 wards of the state. We also want to ensure that every child of secondary school education level has access to quality education in each local government. The content being taught must be qualitative; the tools being used for teaching must also be qualitative and technology driven; and the environment safe and sound for learning. In terms of infrastructure, it is sad that a father who was able to go to farm last year or five years ago, is unable to do so anymore because he doesn’t have access. The roads are bad or the motorcycle he used is spoilt. These are the things we want to change. We want to make things different. People should have access to their means of livelihood. In a very simplistic manner, we do not have to build very complicated roads. And sometimes, what people need are graded roads or simply called “access roads” which are functionally done to stand the test of time. I am not talking of an access road that you build now and soon it becomes useless. It is possible to make access roads that will endure for two or three years. Infrastructure can also include transportation and it can also include access to good water. In terms of agriculture input and output, we want to also be able to move from a 20-kg yield to say a 100-kg yield. Because of the prevailing circumstances, some are only able to harvest 20-kg of cassava, we want to encourage him to harvest more than three folds. We want to engage them at the grassroots level and ask them, those things that are hindering them from doing more? Is it the input? Is it the environment? Is it the access to credit? And we want to be able to provide these things that would enable their output or yield to increase, because we know that once their yield increases they will have a better life. There is more to sell and their lives will be better. This is the kind of change that is essential. Capping all that, the overall ranking change for us, is going to our style and approach to governance. Our governance would be simple. It would be innovative. And of course, we are going to take courageous steps to impact on the lives of the people.
What do you think are wrong with those policies that are currently in place?
Well, I have come to realise that a lot of people in authority actually have good intentions. Or they have good ideas, but how to implement them is the problem. I dare say that, the current government in Ogun State is one of those that perhaps, started with a good idea, because I am a scientific person and I try to see things from empirical or evidential perspective. You can see from the capital of Ogun State, Abeokuta, a lot has been done in terms of infrastructure and all of that. Fair! But what is wrong is, you may have a good design or plan and all that, but not have the know-how or the capacity to implement it. So, this is what I think is wrong. They don’t have the capacity and political will and this can be, both individual which has to do with the capacity of the individual or those in authority, and it can also be systemic. It is a combination of both, because if the person in authority knows how to do things or get things done, he or she would adjust the system. Or, he would bring about change in the system that would make implementation easy. But if the person doesn’t know or lack the political will or he is too distracted or has other ideas, particularly inter-personal or parochial ideas or he is limited in terms of exposure then, you can’t give what you do not have. So, what I think is currently wrong, we have had a government that has not been broad-minded, in terms of approach. And the reason I say so is this. A government should impact positively in every nook and cranny of the state. A state government that doesn’t allow local governments to function, at least up to 60 percent of how they are allowed constitutionally, is not a government that is broad-minded, because from the centre, there is only little you can do. Project management or implementation requires hierarchical approach and it is what is called work-breakdown structure. The only tier of government that has access to visibility of small pockets of job, that needs to be done, is the local government. So, one thing that is wrong, first and foremost is, that the state government has not promoted or encouraged local government autonomy in anyway. All I hear is that what the state government does to the allocations, is just to give them a stipend, I read somewhere, N2 million for salaries. How can a local government function with that? Why won’t we have faulty roads, faulty health care, with all these things local governments should do? That is one thing that is definitely wrong. The other thing that is definitely wrong in this current government is the concept of priorities. Your concept of priorities inform your cost benefit analyses. It is how you do things and how you spend government’s money, and that is priority. The third, I think, there is an over-politicisation of issues, especially excessive partisanship. When I become the governor of Ogun State, I become the governor of everybody. I hear in Ogun State, that there are about 39 active political parties and I would become the governor of all the 39 parties. Therefore, we will put that behind us, yes, that the party is supreme. They would say, party loyalists should be first beneficiaries but that does not mean, that I would run the state, as though the party belongs to them and the rest are not human beings and should not have the benefit of government.
Education and health care services form part of your policy document, what do you think is wrong with these two sectors?
I can speak more about education, and what I know that has gone wrong is that, there has been a couple of unrest in certain parts of the education ecosystem in the state, especially tertiary institutions-Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) and Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY). And that is very worrisome, because the education of a child or the education of anybody is not something that should be joked with. That is what enlightens the mind. I think that anybody or any group of people in a position of leadership or a position of authority that will do anything to limit the potential or the capacity of people to seek or access knowledge are not doing well, both for themselves and for posterity sake. What I think is wrong is that, that unrest that has to do with the payment of teachers and workers salaries or raising the status of the schools and all that, should have been a priority of any government. This is going to be a high priority for our government and we will ensure that the issues on ground are sustainably resolved. It is one thing to come to the table and say, TASUED, we are going to do this for you, just for the purpose of politics. We want to face it once and for all, just to ensure that it doesn’t rear its ugly head again. We are going to do it sustainably. We are going to think multi-generationally, in the sense that what happens five or 10 or 20 years from now, how do we ensure that the schools grow from strength to strength and do it sustainably? The health care sector, I think it has been a perennial problem. General hospitals are not functioning up to 25 percent capacity. We have very limited resources, particularly the professionals, doctors, consultants. Nurses, I am told that no new set of nurses have been employed in almost 20 years, if I am not mistaken. And nursing schools have been largely abandoned and that is pathetic. These are fundamental to a good life and dignity of every human. As a government, this should be a priority.
How prepared are the people of the state to embrace the realities on ground?
It is a bit of a worrisome scenario, because human behavioural psychology is such that we get easily used to current realities, especially in this part of the country. I personally have experiences where it is obvious that this person is poor or he is being stricken by poverty. And it is also obvious that the kind of conversations that you are having with the person, the light you are trying to show the person, is going to help the person, or bring the person out of poverty or make the person’s life better. But you will begin to see by the person’s actions or inactions that it seems like what the person wants, is to stay in that poverty situation. And you will begin to wonder. An example is, if you have gone for consultations in locations where I was summarily told, we have heard these kind of things before. They asked, “what do you want to do for us now? We don’t trust politicians anymore. This is the reason we would take N10,000 from you and vote. We know that N10,000 will cook good soups for us, for two weeks. And we may not see you anymore”. That is pathetic and worrisome. That is the mindset our leaders that have driven people to, by long years or long duration of poor or bad governance. So, they have resigned to fate and said, “look, I don’t know about what happens at the centre anymore. All I want is, when it is time for elections let me go and collect my N10,000 and vote.” No! So, this is a major challenge that our people are facing. Whenever I meet them, I try to show them the light and always tell them that, this government is going to be different. “Just try us and give us a chance”. What they do not realise is that, whether they like it or not, change will happen. The question is, whether, it is going to be a good one or bad change. A bad change is bad. I do not think that people are sufficiently prepared, but I think, that we are doing our own little bit to keep them engaged, that something new is about to happen. We are trying to educate them that these politicians do not have much to offer. So, look very closely, be vigilant and wise, and make your choice and determine which change you want.
How do you want to re-channel the energy of the teeming youths that are jobless?
That is a critical one. Because it is a keg of gun powder that, whether, we like it not, will explode at some point in time. But do we want to allow the explosion to happen, with control or out of control? Or do we want to cause the explosion to happen? Like you may know, even in blasting rocks which is part of infrastructural development, they use dynamites which you can call a gun powder. That is an explosion that is caused to happen for a good cause. We have also seen explosions that happen, like what happened at Odo Iya Alaro bridge, Ojota, Lagos recently. It was there a fuel tanker exploded. That is an explosion that is waiting to happen. Someone, somewhere, in the health and safety regulatory agency, is not doing his job well. That was about the third or fourth time, this would happen in Lagos State. Why? What is happening with our health and safety regulatory agencies? We think, that it is a very potent fire power, I say fire power, because, it is a keg of gun powder. Because youths have energy, and they are dynamic, adventurous and also have the capacity to change things, to seek new things, explore new things and are innovative. When we are not allowed to do all these things, we will remain restless. Sometimes, we tend to become available for negative purposes. These are the energies that we want to consciously channel. It will be unrealistic to say, we are going to channel all, but we are going to channel most of these. First of all, we are going to restructure our vocational and technical skills or acquisition framework in the state. We intend to revamp them to be more effective, such that youths from their university level are able to gain skills. One thing is for you to gain a skill and it is another thing for you to be useful. I say that, a lot of times, people say, unemployment, the issue most times is not an issue of unemployment, it is an issue of employability of our youths to have the capacity, to have the skill. The world has moved on, and things are about technical skills now. We are going to ensure our youths have the capacity to meet up with the current trends in technology, even in all sectors. We are going to ramp vocational and technical skills. We are going to cause a significant leap in the SME sector, especially as it relates to technological services, software development and all of that, by encouraging ICT hubs, media hubs and all sorts. These are the areas where youths have interest these days. Rather than go into “yahoo-yahoo”, we would create an enabling environment for them to be able to convert that energy, that idea, that innovation, that they have, to do more and better things. One thing is, when they see results, it would give them a better lease of life. You will be able to become a boss of your own. If you are able to employ more youths and it is more sustainable, they would do it. They are going to be usefully and gainfully engaged. We have a project that we are going to build recreation centres in many communities as possible. We haven’t detailed that out yet, but we are looking at the 236 wards, that we are going to have five outside pitches and game centres, because the young people need an avenue to expend their energy usefully. We will organise settings that allow for community engagements and all that. Two, it would also be a source of revenue for the community, because when we build it, through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework, we would hand it over to the community and all that. When you come to play, you would pay N10, N20 and all that, and within a week, they can have up to 50 matches and if you put the numbers together, that will be something. And that money can go back for the maintenance of the game pitch and all that. These are the things we want to do. And two of them are critical for immediate implementation, like showing them how to create jobs and making them capable to get jobs or do good for themselves. The other has to do with, making them usefully relaxed.
Do you have any fear about the upcoming general elections?
I can be quite confident and courageous. But to say, that I don’t have fears, I would be lying. For the simple reason of what we have seen and what we hear every day, if an APC stalwart or a party stalwart would look at me in the eyes and say, “we are going to rig it, that we are going to write results. Or look me through my eyes and say, “you should forget it, we have a budget of N5,000 or in some places N10,000, per vote, Seyi, can you match it?” It makes you worried. And if you look at the extent of desperation, it is being kept under wraps. But we have heard news of some killings here and there, some attacks on some people here and there, and that is indicative of desperation on the part of certain political camps. You also begin to worry about security and safety of people. These are my fears. And All of these may inadvertently produce people that are inferior or unqualified in positions of authority or leadership across board, from the State House of Assembly to Representatives, to Senate and even to the governorship.