With just about ten days to the governorship poll, the flagbearer of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) in Ogun State, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade has reeled out a five-point agenda that will be the focal point of his government if elected in the March 9 governorship contest, Gboyega Akinsanmi writes
The Ogun State governorship race has never been this competitive. As if the drama going on in the state has not been funny enough, the ruling party has just suspended the state governor, Ibikunle Amosun.
At least, three reasons show the dynamics of interest the Ogun politics has generated in the last one year, which almost cost the APC victory in the last presidential poll in the state.
First, the APC is riddled with internal rift rooted in the conduct of its congresses and primaries in 2018. The rift eventually produced two different governorship candidates – Hon. Adekunle Akinlade from the faction of the incumbent governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Mr. Dapo Abiodun from the camp of the state’s former governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba.
However, the APC National Working Committee (NWC) simply accepted the outcome of the process that produced Abiodun. The NWC accepted the outcome on the ground that the Osoba faction held its primaries for various elective positions in line with its guidelines. Rather than assuaging the aggrieved members, the decision fractured the fabrics of the APC.
This decision culminated in the second dynamics that edged the Amosun faction out of Ogun APC. It, also, led to the adoption of the APM as an alternative to the APC in the state, which Akinlade claimed, was chosen to fight injustice he and thousands of Ogun people that voted for him during the APC primaries the Amosun faction conducted on October 2, 2018.
Eventually, the APM, a purely unpopular political platform in Ogun State until its adoption, nominated Akinlade its flagbearer for the March 9 governorship contest. His nomination has earned the APM, not just state-wide acceptance, but also national recognition given its irresistible force and the resolve of its promoters to produce the state’s next governor.
The third dynamics revolves around the highly convoluted interest the governorship contest has generated in the state. Like the case of the APC, the state’s chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) produced two factional candidates – Senator Buruji Kashamu and Mr. Ladi Adebutu. Till date, two of them are still horn-locked in series of legal battle to determine the legitimate candidate.
Away from the intrigues in the PDP, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) produced Mr. Gboyega Nasir Isiaka. Unlike other contestants, Isiaka is a two-term governorship candidate in the state, first on the platform of the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) in 2011 and later on the PDP in 2015. The Action Democratic Party (ADP) fielded former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole as its candidate, whose nomination indeed x-rayed the intense race for Ogun House.
Amid these political dynamics, Akinlade said he “remains a governorship candidate to beat in the state.” Also, he claimed his vision for Ogun State “stands him out among other governorship candidates.” Besides, he said Ogun people “have been an impetus for him since the race began. We are simply on a mission alongside Ogun people.”
Succinctly, the APM candidate revolved his aspiration around the people and the state, even though critics said he would be a stooge of the incumbent. However, he explained that nothing was really driving him in the race for Ogun House outside his vision for Ogun people; his conviction to directly touch the lives of ordinary people and the popular support he claimed the people had accorded him in virtually all local government areas (LGAs).
With this mindset, Akinlade said the governorship contest “is not about me in person or my ambition to govern one of the most strategic states in the country. It is not about my boss, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. It is not even about the new platform we adopted to realise my aspiration.
“Rather, it is about thousands of people that voted for me during the primaries. It is about the future of our state and its teeming population irrespective of their ethnic and religious backgrounds. It is all about the injustice that forced us out of the party we laboured to build together. It is all about our vision to put Ogun State on the map of the world.”
Even in the face of this injustice, Akinlade said his vision was never blurred; neither had his blueprints for people-oriented governance lost its originality or its content. Rather, according to the APM candidate, “our vision for new Ogun is ever clearer; our resolve always stronger; and our conviction for the next government in the state is still unwavering.”
Akinlade’s passion for Ogun people, in reality, belies the argument of his critics that he is a political puppet and that his government will be an extension of the Amosun administration if he wins the March 9 governorship contest. He never denied that Amosun brought him to the government. He however, said he would complement Amosun’s programmes and projects.
Unlike other political gladiators in the South-west, Akinlade claimed that Amosun had no plan “to make him stooge in government. My leader is not that kind of person.” Rather, the APM candidate explained that Amosun “is just fighting injustice to secure the future of Ogun State and its people only in the spirit of continuity and popular will.”
In a somewhat persuasive approach, the APM candidate recently reeled out his vision for the people of the state. He, simply, christened it Agenda for New Ogun. In part, his vision is clearly an article of continuity, which x-rays his conviction to continue with Amosun’s programmes and projects and which other governorship candidates have not identified with.
In other part, Akinlade’s vision is a horde of fresh ideas, which in truth will distinguish his future government from the previous governments in the state. He wrapped this vision in five broad points – rebuilding education system, developing strategic infrastructure, creating jobs, boosting internally generated revenue (IGR) and attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs).
Unequivocally, Akinlade cited the strategic importance of a robust education system. Two reasons informed Akinlade’s decision to make education the nucleus of his governance blueprints for the state. First, he ascribed it to teenage pregnancy, which he said, was on the rise in the state. Second, he cited the challenge of unemployability among the fresh graduates.
Contingent on these challenges, the APM candidate said education “is a priority to us. It is a priority because the growing trend of teenage pregnancy, now a major challenge in every part of the state. Besides, it is a priority due to the need to make our graduates and youths employable.” He, thus, emphasised the need to partner industries in the state “to improve the employability of the youths irrespective of their academic status.”
Apart from rebuilding education system, Akinlade pointed out the need to develop strategic infrastructure projects, which according to him, will impact directly on the lives of ordinary people – artisans, farmers, traders, among others. He admitted that the Amosun administration concentrated on the state capital and other major cities, which he justified.
He, thus, defined his objective of developing strategic infrastructure, first to complement what Amosun started and also to meet the need of the people. He gave an example of such need. He said majority of Ogun people “are farmers living in different localities. It, thus, becomes strategic to build roads that will lead to farm settlements across the state.”
He cited the example of border roads “linking Ogun State to other neighbouring states, especially Lagos State.”
He recognised the burden the rising rate of unemployment placed on the state. In other states of the federation, he observed, this burden has exacerbated security challenges, forcing some youths into some heinous crimes. At this instance, Akinlade promised to create at least, 25,000 jobs annually.
He mentioned two major sources through which he would create jobs. He, first, cited the need to develop the capacity of farmers in Ogun West to boost crop production and food security. He, also, identified the centrality of aquaculture “to the people of Ogun East, especially those living in the riverine communities. We must invest in these two areas to create more jobs.”
Aside, Akinlade underscored the significance of boosting IGR, which according to him, was at the centre of his vision for new Ogun. His first mission would be to raise the state’s IGR to N15 billion or N20 billion. For his critics, that might sound impossible. But he said he had devised two main strategies to realise this ambitious goal.
Specifically, Akinlade cited different statistics, which showed that Ogun State “has the highest number of industries in the country.” However, according to him, this has not transformed to wealth because majority of the people working in these industries do not reside in our state. And tax law requires that citizens must pay tax to states where they are living.
Given this retrogressive trend, the APM candidate promised “to create an enabling environment, where companies can profitably operate and where their staff members will choose to live. So, we will implement programmes and projects that can make Ogun State a choice state of residence, especially for the people working here, but are residing in Lagos.”
He disclosed his plan to leverage on the instrument of voluntary compliance to boost the state’s revenue profile. He said the policy was similar “to the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAID) introduced at the federal level when Mrs. Kemi Adeosun was the Minister of Finance. We will encourage it to enable us generate more IGR.”
He equally placed premium on attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) to the state. He explained three major ways to make Ogun investment destination, not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa. First, Akinlade cited the need to improve the state’s security environment. Second, he revealed the plan to invest in strategic infrastructure. Third, he promised to improve the state’s easy of doing business ranking.