Jimoh Ibrahim is the Best for Ondo, Says Odere

Femi Odere is the Senior Legislative Aide to the Senate President on Stakeholders’ Engagement and Mobilisation. Before his present portfolio, he was the Senior Special Assistant to the former Governor Kayode Fayemi on Diaspora Affairs. As a stakeholder in the All Progressives Congress in Ondo State and an Akure indigene, he sheds light in this interview with Segun James, on the politics of the state in respect of the party and its aspirants in the coming April 20 primary. Excerpts:

The Ondo State governorship election is already knocking on the door with the APC primary slated for April 20th. What’s your own take?

Well, my take is, and has always been articulated based on two major pedestals. And these pedestals are from the point of view of the party and the aspirant that has the best chance of securing victory for the party. From the party’s standpoint, the APC must take a critical interest in its primary in Ondo State, as well as the election proper in November of this year because, first and foremost, elections in Ondo, and Ekiti, her sister state, are almost always peculiar and unusually challenging.

The governor has also thrown his hat into the ring. Shouldn’t other aspirants simply rally round him since he is the leader of the party in the state?

That’s only in theory and not in practice, especially against the backdrop that the governor has not acted as the father of the party in the state. The party is seriously factionalised as we speak, no thanks to the governor with the past war of attrition between him and the late Governor Rotimi Akeredolu that has left many collateral damages in its wake. Governor Aiyedatiwa should not have contested for this election. That should have been his best and wisest decision in the overall interest of the party. So, by being in the race, he’s going to make it difficult for the party to win the November governorship election in the unlikely event that he wins the primary because I don’t foresee the other faction voting for him as the party’s candidate. This is one of the dangers of his being in the race. The party needs unity and cohesion going into the election. Unity and cohesion are sine qua non for any political party in an electoral contest to even have a fighting chance of winning an election.

What other dangers do you foresee for the governor or the APC?

Well, the factionalisation of which he was the major cause I had mentioned is huge enough for the party to come to grief in the main election. Aside this, not a few people are saying that his academic credentials are not nothing to write home about. This is a red flag, it seems to me. We definitely, as a party, don’t want the opposition party to simply wait in the wings and use this against us in the courts of law. The case of Bayelsa State should be fresh in our memories.

Who should the party send to the election battlefield then if you’re saying that the governor should have recused himself from this contest?

The party should simply send Senator Jimoh Ibrahim from among the pack of aspirants because he stands out on several fronts. Let’s first look at his aspiration from the point of view of the party. Senator Jimoh Ibrahim it was, with the late Governor Akeredolu, who stood behind the then presidential candidate Tinubu like a Rock of Gibraltar in Ondo State and secured the state for him when most others played both sides of the fence. His loyalty to the party and the president is without question. Don’t also forget the fact that no APC senator has ever won the South Senatorial district since the beginning of this political dispensation in 1999. Senator Jimoh Ibrahim was the first APC senator ever to emerge from that district, widely regarded as PDP base. That’s a huge plus for the party and it should be seen as such. Now, from the point of Jimoh Ibrahim as an individual, Ondo State must change the narrative by putting a sound mind in the saddle of governance. Governance in the state over the years has been pedestrian, lackadaisical and uninspiring. Senator Jimoh Ibrahim is aware of what the developmental issues of governance are. He’s extremely brilliant. He’s someone who can think on his feet and get the desired results. He’s deep in his thinking. I believe it was the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo who said that it takes the deep to call to the deep. The state and its good people would be better for it, developmentally speaking, when a sound leader is in the saddle because he would only attract other sound minds instead of the pedestrian mindsets that presently prevail. Senator Jimoh Ibrahim is a tremendous asset to the party and the good people of Ondo State in several unprecedented ways.

What does Senator Jimoh Ibrahim have for the people in terms of his programmes?

There’s actually a basket full of programmes that have already been articulated by the aspirant himself. And I will mention a few here because of space. As a business guru and captain of various industries, it goes without saying that the socioeconomic development of the state is the strongest suit of Senator Jimoh Ibrahim. It’s important to note here that no Ondo State senator since the beginning of this dispensation in 1999 saw it fit to use the instrumentality of legislation to harness the natural resource endowments of the state for development purposes until Senator Jimoh Ibrahim became a senator of the 10th National Assembly. 

The bitumen bill, which the senator sponsored has gone through the second reading in the Senate and it’s now waiting for the third reading after which it would be signed into law by President Tinubu. Ondo State has the largest bitumen deposit, perhaps, in the world. This singular act by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim will undoubtedly transform the economic and infrastructural fortunes of the state and her people. The senator has talked about education. As someone with seven degrees and two PhDs whose university in his senatorial district is under construction, it also goes without saying that Senator Jimoh Ibrahim is very big on education. He has articulated the strategy with which he will transform the state’s education sector. Reducing medical tourism to a considerable extent by Nigerians is also one of issues that the senator has touched on. I can go on and on.

What are the major developmental challenges facing Ondo State?

Well, it’s unfortunate that Ondo State is still found wanting in those developmental indices despite being an oil-producing state with its 13 per cent derivation. Ondo State truly has no reason to be poor. But it is relatively poor because we have always been unlucky to have pedestrian and uninspiring Chiefs of State. We have had leaders who were threatened by the power of ideas. The state is still behind the eight ball of infrastructural development majorly and this is what Senator Jimoh Ibrahim will tackle head-on when he mount the saddle. Akure, the state capital, doesn’t look like a state capital as such.

It seems as if Governor Aiyedatiwa has a lot of momentum going for him most especially in the Central Senatorial district, particularly among the Akure people. They see him as their shortest route for their son or daughter to become a governor. This is because Aiyedatiwa can only spend one term if he wins the primary and the subsequent governorship election. What’s your take on this?

It will be quite unfortunate if Akure progressive political leaders should have embarked on this dead calculation in supporting the governor. It will mean that they have been sold a lemon that they cannot even make lemonade out of. Granted that the governor can only do one term in the unlikely event that he wins the election, what makes them think that the people of the South Senatorial district would not insist that they too must spend eight years just like the governors from other senatorial districts. Who’s to say that somebody else would not emerge to complete the district’s eight years? It’s better to have an aspirant from the south without any of these encumbrances to do a straight eight years in order to avoid future political rancours. And this is more of the reasons Senator Jimoh Ibrahim is uniquely placed to represent the south in particular and gift the people of the state a superlative performance as a governor. In any case, the people of the central senatorial district, particularly Akure, where I am from, will have a better deal under a Jimoh Ibrahim administration.

There’s a group that calls itself the APC Aborigines whose members have collectively endorsed Governor Aiyedatiwa for the party ticket. What are your thoughts about this?

The so-called APC Aborigines are actually strange political bedfellows. How can they call themselves the Aborigines when most of them are like migratory politicians who just happen to perch on the APC rope for now? You see, Nigerian politics sometimes baffles me. Here you have some people who actually worked against the party in the recent past still shamelessly waxing lyrical that they can dictate to the rest of us who should clinch the party’s ticket. It is odious and patently incongruous to call themselves elders of the party while they have declared their support for a particular aspirant. They are not helping matters in bringing unity and cohesion into the party with this crass and unfortunate move. And this is one of the reasons why I have been shouting from the rooftop that the party hierarchy should rein in these different centrifugal political forces so that we don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by the actions and inactions of some elements in the party who may not want the best for the party. I strongly believe that this thoughtless move is already dead on arrival.

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