Eromosele Abiodun and Nume Ekeghe in Lagos and James Sowole in Akure
The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election in Ondo State, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), thursday outlined the priorities of his administration, if he wins, to include a reduction in tuition fees in the state’s tertiary institutions and cheaper Medicare.
Jegede, while featuring on ARISE News Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said his administration would prioritise the people’s welfare by reducing tuition in state’s tertiary institutions and bringing back free maternal care.
He said: “We have divergent positions on a lot of things. While the All Progressives Congress (APC) came in and increased the tuition in all our tertiary institutions, we believe that should not happen. I believe that the fees should be made affordable to all our students. I believe that Ondo State can afford that because it has been done before. I believe that we should bring down the fees.
“While the APC government believed that they should hike the fees that are payable in all our health institutions, I will not share that view. I believe that people should be the focus of the government and those high fees in the name of IGR (internally generated revenue) should come down because access to Medicare should not be a matter of IGR.
“Akeredolu’s government believes that our pregnant women should pay high fees when they want to access maternal care when they go to the hospital for delivery; I do not share that view. We believe that our pregnant women should have access to free maternal services.
“Akeredolu’s government believes that people do not need help and that they can help themselves. But we believe that we should be able to assist those who are in the business of commerce, those who are in the business of industries for them to take off so that they can provide the much-needed employment for our people.
“I believe industries should be established by the government and private sector. I also believe that there should be infrastructural development in our state.
“I believe that the southern part of the state needs more attention. I believe that the seaport should be a major focus of the administration not only for the state but for the federal government.”
According to him, the increase in tuition is counter-productive for the state universities because it has actually reduced the number of students that could pay.
He said: “When the Akeredolu’s administration thought that they wanted to increase fees, it was because it reduced subventions that go to universities.
“Now, if you reduce subventions and increase the fees, your hope is that you will be able to reduce the gap, but they did not take into account the principle of supply and demand.
“Once you increase the fee, a lot of people will not be able to pay. That automatically reduced the income of the universities. When that happens, you find out that there is going to be a lot of crisis
“Now some of the students in our state universities are now moving to a state university in Kogi that is charging less amount of money. In doing that, you find out that the money that is supposed to come into our university from the plurality of students does not come again.
“Government must be able to identify its priority and save money. Those fees being charged are too high and we are going to bring them down.
“I have said, and I mean it, that a fee of N150,000, N200,000 and N350,000 as against 35,000 that was being charged initially is too astronomical.
“As far as we are concerned, the welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government. That does not mean that other sectors would suffer. “When we are able to manage our funds, and when we are able to do it honestly and transparently, we will be able to reduce areas of leakages.
“We will also ensure that money that is coming from the federal allocation and IGR are properly utilised for the people.”
However, Jegede said he would not probe his would-be predecessor, adding that his focus is how to serve people and make a difference.
Jegede said it is the people of the state that would determine who should be the governor at a point in time and not any governor or any person.
“It was wrong for any person to say it is somebody’s time or not. I appreciate the kind words of my brother and colleague, Akeredolu.
“Governorship election is not a senatorial election. The entire state is the constituency of the governor. Each senatorial district has its own senator and the entire state is for the governor,” he added.
The Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, while appearing on a previous edition of The Morning Show, had eulogised Jegede but added that having come from the central part of the state that produced his predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, the time isn’t ripe yet for the PDP candidate to be governor.
The candidate said he lost the 2016 election due to an intra-party crisis within the PDP.
He berated the former All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman in the state, Mr. Isaacs Kekemeke, over his comment that may spark violence.
“A few weeks ago, it was in the news about a former chairman of APC who went in the open to say they are going to tear posters and that he has not seen anything yet which he was referring to PDP and myself. And he had mentioned things like federal might and something about AK47 and I say while we are going high, they are going low. In this 21st century, people are arrogating themselves on how they would tear posters and inflict violence.
“We are preaching against violence and those who are preaching violence and saying that violence would come because they have federal might and AK47 and also calling themselves militants also have wives and children and would he like that violence to be inflicted on his children that they have kept safe somewhere? Why do people grandstand on things that are so demeaning? It gives people like us a lot of worries.”
Jegede was also optimistic that he would emerge victorious in the election, saying that he has the support of people in the APC and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).