Hon. Adekunle Abdulkabir Akinlade, a serving member of the House of Representatives from Egbado South and Ipokia Federal Constituency, is the governorship candidate of Allied Peoples Movement (APM) in Ogun State. From a relatively unknown background, his profile has risen to a point of intense public reckoning less than one decade that he started partisan politics. From being the Senior Special Assistant on Taxation & Revenue to Governor Ibikunle Amosun to going to the House, he was hitherto the issue in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), before defecting to APM to realise his governorship bid. In this interview with Gboyega Akinsanmi in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, Akinlade reeled off his governance blueprint with a central theme of sustaining the current agenda of making Ogun the epicentre of socio-economic activities in Nigeria and Africa. Excerpts:
Given the emerging status of Ogun State as an industrial hub and the infrastructure it needs to attract investments, what exactly are you bringing to the table?
If you look at where we are today and juxtapose it with where we were coming from, we have a state that has transformed immensely in terms of infrastructure development in the last seven and a half years. Before now, Ogun State had no basic infrastructure, especially road infrastructure. But because of the size of our roads and the level of development we witnessed in the last six years, it became necessary to sustain what the administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun started.
Of course, that attracts a lot of people to the state. Wherever you have development is where population growth starts from. By implication, that brought about the expansion of our roads in the capital. Now, we are going to approach governance differently in order to make other towns and local councils in the state economically viable. Once we make other towns and councils economically viable, we start to see population growth in those areas naturally.
Our vision is to make sure we complete all roads that link Ogun to Lagos and other neighbouring states. Ijoko road is a good example. Another example is the road linking Ota to Ojodu Berger. We will expand all roads that link Ogun State to other states, especially Lagos State. This is to make sure that as development grows, it flows into Ogun State easily.
Ogun State, especially Abeokuta, is a huge construction site. With different projects going on simultaneously, what is your sustainability strategy?
It’s very simple. We cannot develop the state without money. One of the things we will do is to increase our internally generated revenue (IGR) from N7 billion to N12 billion. To realise this, of course, we want to look into our rural areas. We are predominantly farmers in Ogun State. Over 60 per cent of our population is farmers. We will look at different ways we will invest in and grow the economy of our rural areas. Once we are able to do that, we will be able to have enough resources to sustain the development you see today.
If you look at Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, to attract certain kind of investment anywhere in the world, you need to have a capital that people can see that you are actually serious. That is the trend globally, if you look at the history of the United Kingdom, China, the United States and all these big cities that are fully industrialised. To really attract the attention of investors or the big players, we need to have a befitting capital.
As Senior Special Assistant on Taxation and Revenue between 2011 and 2015, what we discovered was that the top management staff members of the companies you see in Ogun State live in Lagos. They do not live in Ogun State. Only the junior workers live in the state. So, what we need to do is to create a state that will enable such individuals to live here. We do not want Ogun State to be a state, where people come to work and do not live.
The tax law is very simple. It requires that you pay your tax where you live and not where you work. That is what we are trying to do differently. We’d make sure we build the capital of the state. Once the capital is fixed, we will attract the right investments all over the world. After South Africa, today, we have one of the biggest breweries in Africa. When we have companies that give us N400 million monthly, that tells you that things are getting different. But we simply need to provide enabling environment for them, not just to operate, but also to live.
That is why we have all these new housing estates we are developing now. The essence is to ensure that people, who work in Ogun State, can also live here. For us, it is a win-win. First, we need to have a right state capital that the big players will know that we are serious as a state. We can now tell all these big businesses that they can actually work and live in Ogun State. With what we have done in Abeokuta, you can see we are going to expand all roads in the capital and all major cities within the state.
There were complaints that some of the policies of the Amosun administration did not really touch rural communities and suburbs. How do you intend to address this concern?
We strongly believe we need to create enabling environment for our communities and towns if we must develop. It is part of our blueprint. That is what we are going to do. Already, we have the blueprint to ensure we make our communities and towns economically viable. We have a plan to dredge our rivers and streams to create an economy for those who are living in the riverine communities. Like I mentioned earlier, we have great plans for the rural dwellers.
In 2011, Amosun held a meeting with his Lagos counterpart then on the need to remit taxes of Ogun residents that work in Lagos. Did the meeting yield any result? If not, how do you intend to get Lagos comply with the tax law?
I was the Senior Special Assistant on Taxation & Revenue between 2011 and 2015. What we did then was to ensure that every state surrounding Ogun State complied with what the tax law says. The tax law stipulates that every tax payer remits his/her tax to the state, where he/she lives and not where he/she works. Then, we sat with former Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), now the Minister of Works, Power and Housing. Both Amosun and Fashola held a meeting and had an understanding.
But the Lagos State Government said we needed to prove that these people, who work in Lagos State, actually live in Ogun State. One of the things we did then was to get cameras. We went to Sango-Otta and Ojodu Berger to capture the movement of Ogun residents into and out of Lagos State every day. By 4:00 a.m., we were there, waiting vehicles coming into Lagos State and very few people were going out of Lagos at that same period. By 3:00 p.m., we went back there again, many vehicles were returning to Ogun State and very many people were going into Lagos around the same time.
Physically, we could see the trend of movement. But they rejected that proof, because it was not empirical enough. Lagos State argued that the video footages did not translate to the fact that the people were actually living in Ogun State. We went back to the drawing board. Then, we started door-to-door enumeration. We later developed an App to capture the details of Ogun people with focus on where they live in Ogun State, where they work and their home addresses.
We put a notice that every Ogun residents should text where they work, their home address, phone contacts and other details to a particular number. We told them that they would get an alert of N500 airtime for the text they sent. The App was designed in such a way that once a message entered into the system, the sender would not be able to send it again. We got so much data through the App that we were able to present empirical evidence to the Lagos State. As a result, Lagos agreed to start remitting, though did not remit taxes collected before we were to provide evidence about Ogun residents, who work in Lagos State. I was aware then that Lagos State made some remittances.
However, I do not have details of what Lagos State remitted to the Ogun State Government. During the Fashola administration, we got remittance from Lagos State. At a point, I think we got about N1billon annually from remittances. When the new government came in, I left Ogun State. Presently, I am still in the House of Representatives. I do not have the details of what happened. Once we come on board, this is one of the areas we are going to look at.
Can you shed light on the political intrigues to change the tax law at the House of Representatives to allow every tax payer remit their taxes to the state where they actually work and not where they live?
It was really an interesting episode. At the House of Representatives, there was an attempt by Hon. Wale Raji from Epe Federal Constituency to amend the tax law. Hon. Raji brought a motion to amend the law that taxes should be paid to where you work and not where you live. As representatives from Ogun State, we stood our ground and told the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara that the bill would not see the light of the day.
Of course, we know our position today as an industrial hub of Nigeria, if not Africa. We are quite confident that Ogun State will survive. But what about the states like Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger and these small states surrounding Abuja? People live in these states and work in Abuja. But if their residents pay their taxes to Abuja, what happens to these small states? When we put our position forward, the bill was eventually stepped down.
An attempt was made by a representative from Lagos State to change the law. For those who understand the politics between Lagos and Ogun will know where we find ourselves. The good thing is that I am a son to them in Lagos State and not a friend. I know I will get better deal when we come on board.
Recently, you were quoted as saying, “The exploits in the area of infrastructure development, foreign direct investment, youth employment, agricultural revolution, health and cultural reawakening, which Ogun has witnessed under Governor Ibikunle Amosun should not be abandoned. Our commitment to the people of Ogun State must remain eternal.” Is this not a mere political statement?
To be honest, it is not a political statement. I am from Ipokia Local Government Area in Ogun West. I am one of Ogun indigenes that believe strongly in the welfare of our people. We have started from somewhere already. And because we have started, it is like digging a well. You spend so money to carry out environmental impact assessment. We dug the well. We have started seeing water. Yet, the water is not fully clean. But we have dug the well. We have invested money, our state’s monies and everybody’s monies.
I believe we have to get to the last dig where clean water will come out and all of us can now drink. I will not sit down and abandon that well and start digging a new well. It is not going to get to my generation. That is what we are saying. We must sustain what they have done. We have seen what is happening in Abeokuta. We have seen what is happening around our industrial hubs. Look at Agbara and Sagamu Interchange area. That is the first industrial hub in Ogun State.
Nothing much has happened in terms of infrastructure in that sector. After we have done this, I will not abandon the well Senator Amosun started digging. We must get to the final stage of the well, where all of us can get clean water. We must sustain what we have done to make sure development gets to Ogun East, Ogun Central and Ogun West. I believe it will be in the best interest of our people. We cannot start afresh. It is not in the interest of any person if we are going to start afresh.
So, it is better we sustain what we have and make sure we get to the last dig so that when the water comes out, all of us will drink. It is not even viable for us to borrow money. Those who borrowed us money in 2015 cannot borrow us money now, because most projects we use the money to execute are not for profit-making purpose.
The roads are not tolled. We service every loan we borrowed from our IGR. If our roads are tolled, every person will give us money, because they know they can get their money back every day in terms of concessions. If you have clear understanding that these are social projects for people, everybody that knows what they are doing will sustain it rather than abandoning it and starting afresh.
There is no doubt that you have lofty programmes, but the platform on which you are contesting is considered rather weak. Do you stand a chance on this platform?
No, our platform – the Allied Peoples Movement – is not weak. Rather, it is very strong. I might have shared the same concern two or three months ago. After our primaries on October 2, 2018, we had some interests, who wrote results and announced some people. We thought it was not possible. But it took us time to come to realisation that they were not going to reverse that decision. We realised that it was beyond Ogun State. It was beyond me as a person. It is a bigger game. It is all about 2023 presidential game. We understand the position of the APC that only the National Chairman and National Secretary can actually sign our forms and present us to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
When we realised that they were not going to change anything, we came back home. The mistake they made was that they undermined the goodwill of Amosun in Ogun State. I work closely with him. I cannot deny the fact that he is my mentor. People clearly know my vision; what I want to do in Ogun State; that I believe in Ogun State and people believe me. We realise it is not the time to go after any person. We realise it is the time to come back home and let the people understand what actually happened. All I did was to change the cap I was wearing before now. It does not take anything away from my head or who I am.
It is still the same Kunle you know. I served as the Senior Special Assistant on Taxation and Revenue. I interfaced with every union in the state. We started what we called voluntary compliance. I used to call them then when I was in Ogun Internal Revenue Service (OGIRS). I called the associations to assure them of our readiness to listen to their complaints.
Sometimes, I would tell them: “If the law says you pay N10, 000 annually as tax, there is no problem about that. I negotiated with them. How much can you afford to pay? And they would tell that they could only afford to pay N3, 000. I would tell them that the cost of collecting N3,000 was high. But I would agree to collect N3, 000 from them if they agreed to pay directly into the state coffers, because I realise the cost of collecting every N1, 000 is a lot of money. I would equally tell them I would collect the N3,000. But their associations or unions should collect the money from every member of your association or union and pay it into the state coffers.”
That tells clearly that the people know what I stand for and who I am. It is about Ogun State. It is about our people. It is not in any way about the party to be honest. Likewise, it is not about me. The party is not the platform. We do not have the structure at the state level. We do not have the State Executive Committee. We do not have Local Government Executive Committee. We do not have the Ward Executive Committee.
What we set up is campaign coordinators and teams to help us win this election. Yet, people know me. Yet, they are driving my campaigns in all local councils without giving them money. But the language has not changed. Who I am has not changed. I have served in Ogun State. They know I am a serving lawmaker at the House of Representatives. For me, we have made a name. Nobody knows this party. We have turned it to household name in this state
With the rising profile of the APM in Ogun State, don’t you think the decision of some aggrieved aspirants to contest on this platform will jeopardise Buhari’s re-election?
If you go around the state really, you will discover there is hope for us. I went to Yewa North on Thursday. I just came from Ikenne on Wednesday. We are going around Ogun State. We have been to seven Local Government Areas already and have covered over 60 wards as a result. We are going from ward to ward to campaign. You need to see the way people are coming out in droves to receive us. These people are enlightened. They voted in the primaries and saw that it was a case of injustice.
People are telling us not to lose our sleep. They are not asking for money. Yet they are ready to support and work for us. Actually, we are stronger than major parties in Ogun State today. I campaign for Buhari’s re-election anywhere I go to in the state. If I do not campaign for him, they will not vote for the APC. I have to tell them to vote for Buhari. I have to tell them Buhari would have helped if not for where he finds himself.
When I visited the president recently, he was happy when he saw me. He was almost apologetic. He is like a father. You know your son was cheated and as a father, you can’t do anything to help him. But he is proud of us and what we have been able to do with our platform. He wondered where we got our energy from. He said: “As young people, you can stand up; take a position and stand by it.” For me, we are stronger than what you think.
You sound very confident about your victory. Where is that coming from?
Simply put, it’s the people of Ogun State. They are the source of our confidence. It is not Senator Amosun. Even, the governor gets his confidence from the people, because no matter how much you put out there and no matter how brilliant you are, it is still the people that will determine who wins the election at the end of the day. So, it is the people. When I go out every day, I see them; I am tired and my voice is gone.
When I wake up in the morning, I see people happy coming out. I do not give them ten kobo. People sleep outside. They followed me for two days when we went to Yewa North. They follow me everywhere I go. I do not have a hotel. People will sleep in their vehicles. I cannot even leave them alone. I sit with them. All of us will play till the next morning. Then, you can see that there is hope for us in Ogun State.