Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, spoke with journalists on the ‘state of the state’ since he took over the mantle of leadership, the political crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party in the state over the party’s candidate, among other issues.
IN the last couple of days particularly in the last three weeks, there appeared to be a kind of misunderstanding within the PDP family in Ondo State. People are confused and unsettled. What is the situation? What is the way forward? People want to hear from you.
It is important to thank the people of Ondo State and I want them to be rest assured that I appreciate them. They have comported themselves in very commendable way. Their peaceful but rugged and persistent resistance in the last three and a half weeks would go down in record as the new Ondo State way.
You are all aware of the bizarre development in the politics of Nigeria, in the body politics of this state in the last three weeks. Again if you will recall, the name of EyitayoJegede (SAN) of PDP who was elected in an open free primary monitored by INEC and all the security agencies.But suddenly, we woke up on the 27th of October, 2016, to find out that the name has been substituted by somebody who, as of that time, could not lay claim to being a member of the party, whose primary was conducted outside the geographical enclave of the state specifically in Ibadan, neither INEC, SSS nor any of the security agencies were there to witness what happened there. So, there is no question about the fact that what happened on October 27th was a contrived conspiracy of sort because the decision of INEC cannot find comfort in justice, in principle, in law and in morality. Ordinarily, in many climes there could have been violent uprising, but in Ondo, the people stood up to make it absolutely clear, that that will not stand and they managed to ensure that they have not truncated the peace that we have enjoyed in this state in the last eight years.
It’s been a lot of investment all the way, being able to engender the level of peace that we have put in this state and I’m particularly appreciative of you, the people of the state that, in spite of this very provocative conspiracy, they have not in anyway truncated the peace in the land. After this, I believe the proper thing to do was to seek redress through the normal constitutional channels. Redress has been sought by the candidate himself, Jegede, by PDP and major stakeholders. We have no doubt in our minds that justice will be done, because like I said, this level of impunity will definitely not stand. I want to assure our people in the state, especially, the PDP. Now I am talking as a leader of the party in the state. I want to tell them that we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that they get justice. Let me again appeal to them that, while they demonstrate their resistance to the injustice, they must ensure that we keep the peace. It is the peace that God has enabled us to emplace in this state that has engendered the development that we have enjoyed in the last eight years. I beg that they must remain peaceful.
With the election coming in a couple of days, possibly for the umpteenth time, one will ask what is the way forward and what hope for your party’s candidate? What hope for the people?
Let me repeat what I have said. The injustice will not stand. Jegede will contest election on the platform of PDP. I’m talking as a leader of PDP in the state and also with what is on ground in terms of whatJegede is bringing on board. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that Jegede will be the next governor of the state.
You met with President Muhammadu Buhari and there are insinuations across that you have gone there to parley with him, possibly to cross over to the other side of the divide.
You know that in politics, conspiracy theories abound. Let me just bring us back to what happened on October 27, like I said. The substitution of Jegede’s name by INEC was a joke from the blues. You live in this state; you saw the spontaneity in the reaction of the people. Like I said, we never saw it coming; the decision can find no comfort in law, in the guidelines of INEC itself. This is a situation where somebody without INEC, without security went to Ibadan to conduct primary, then brought some very controversial court order and declared the candidate and what this means is that somebody can go to Enugu or Onitsha; he doesn’t even have to be a citizen of Ondo State, bring an order to INEC and substituted a duly elected person. It was something bizarre, something abnormal, something without precedence in politics and because of the provocative nature of that decision and because it was not based on any law or guideline, the next person to see is the president who is the Chief Security Officer of the country. And I met with him and presented the fact to him and he gave his commitment that he will look into it and that he will ensure that justice is done. I have no cause to doubt him. It wasn’t about APC, PDP. It was about the president being the Chief Security Officer of the nation. If I as the Chief Security Officer of my state sensed danger ahead in terms of something that can truncate the peace in the state, I thought I have that responsibility and I had a very encouraging response from President Buhari. I have no cause to doubt him. He has said he will look into it and if there is any injustice in this, he will ensure that justice is done at the end of the day.
So, it’s not about crossing over?
No, it’s not about party at all. I’m in PDP and by the way I also heard a lot of rumours doing the rounds about me going to APC or making alliances with other parties. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing like that. I want to assure the people of the state, members and officials of PDP that this gubernatorial election, Jegede will contest as the candidate of PDP. I have no doubt about it and again like I said earlier on, we have been here for sometime. We know our people and they know us; they know what we have put on ground; they know our challenges and they know what Jegede is capable of doing to advance the cause of development in this state. As for me, I have no doubt in my mind that Jegede will be the next governor;John Ola Mafo will be the next deputy governor of this state.
That brings me to the issue of governance because governance continues and aside from the heavy politics in the air, what do you have brewing on the table?
One thing is that, while politics is going on, we have not in any way stopped governance itself. You all know that in the state, all the signs of good governance are on, the shuttle buses are running; Mother & Child Hospitals are running; our hospitals are running; our cities remain clean; the environmental officers are up and doing; the state is running very well. There is security, the security agencies – Police, SSS, Military, everybody is up running. In fact, governance is ongoing. As I speak with you, some of our capital projects are going on. You will recall that recently we embarked on rehabilitation of Owo-Ikare road that has been completed now. As I speak with you, we have concluded arrangements to bring down the Oke-Alabojuto in Ikare – to expand that road and ensure that at the entrance in Ikare, in terms of the road is modern and befitting. We are into many other things. The road that will link Irele with Okitipupa, the Ayekabridge and the extension of the road is ongoing. Many of these critical capital projects are ongoing. The mega schools being built recently – I was told that the Igbekebo, Arogbo Mega Schools are being completed. Many projects are going on and governance has not stopped. I want to assure the people that we will continue to work until the last day and our prayer is that we will also handover to Jegede, who will also continue and expand and deepen the development paradigm that we have embarked upon in the last eight years.
There’s the need for you to explain the determinant factor of your policy action because some people felt that it was politics and that was why you have to go and begin to tackle those areas Owo/Ikare Federal road because election is around the corner?
People are just being funny. I got to office as governor because of politics. I got elected the second time because I gave a good account of myself. Is that okay? Whatever anybody feels you may say its politics I don’t know what they mean. I came in through politics. I have a covenant with my God and with the people. I made it absolutely clear from the first day that I will work for the people. Second term, at my inauguration, I told them the work has not been completed and that we will continue to work and I have made it absolutely clear that we will work till the last day. Whatever anybody says does not bother me. What is important is that I know that my people are thirsty and yearning for development and if so, as long as God has made it possible for me to direct the affairs of this state, I will continue to put in place all the choices that will engender development in Ondo State.
There are certain things that have become recurring decimal in your administration and these things are issues that touch on the lives of the people. Free shuttle, the Mother & Child Hospital, the Abiye programme, the Mega School, the urban renewal Initiative and so many that one can rarely continue to count. Major ingredients of development and growth reside within the realms of sustainability and continuity. What are you doing to mobilise the people, to ensure that sustainability and continuity are really brought to the front burner in ensuring development and progress?
Let me first of all appreciate you for acknowledging the fact that our programmes are targeted at people, because in the cacophony of political sloganeering, people may actually not know that the import of all of these is about the people. Any policy that does not contribute and add direct value to the people is not worth it and you will look through all our programmes, is it urban renewal, health, education – everything is targeted at how to ensure that we add values to the lives of our people and I keep saying this, especially those that need the help of government most are the people at the lower wrung of the ladder. The people who cannot afford decent transportation for children to school, you remember the spectacle a few years ago, where we have between four/five school children on Okada – afternoon and morning, those are the people that needs help. Our free shuttle is targeted not only at the poor, of course the whole of the society, but specifically those that need government help are those disabled by the social arrangement in the society.
The people who need government are people who will continue to bleed to death from pregnancy because they can’t afford decent hospital care. The people who need government are people who cannot afford tertiary education for their children, because they are asking them to bring N250,000, N350,000 – these are people who actually need government and I can’t tell you that the most important sustainability factor of any programme is to have the buy-in of the people; and if a programme is about the people you can take the buy-in for granted. I can’t see any government coming now and say that as a matter of policy I will stop free shuttle bus – the people will be up in arms against them; but it is possible that they don’t have the necessary commitment and competence that will allow them to continue to run shuttle bus and is one of the reasons you must vote Jegede, who has been with all of these from the beginning.
Now, can you imagine somebody coming now and saying that he wants to build schools and build these squeeze-size cow sheds of those days that we call school. They would expect a 21st century infrastructure like we are building now and people are keyed into it and that is another factor of sustainability. If somebody wakes up tomorrow and says no to Abiye and people who needs Caesarean section will have to look for N100,000 – our children, our women will have to bleed to death because they can’t afford it; People will be up in arms against them, or somebody comes in tomorrow and you have your child with malaria – he is having diarrhoea at night because you cannot afford a few thousand, the child stops breathing and that’s it. A major and most critical factor of sustainability is the buy-in of the people and people will buy into a programme if they can ascertain the direct benefits they get from such programmes.
Having said all of that, like I said, number one most important factor of sustainability is the buy-in of the people. Number two and this is very important, what we are trying to do is to actually legislate some of these programmes. For examples, the free shuttle buses programme had already gone through legislation and what that means is that you cannot administratively stop it. You must have to go through the House of Assembly to repeal the law. As I speak with you, UNICEF, by the way UNICEF B Zone is in Akure and is excited about the ambience, the peace and the functionality of our city. That is why UNICEF has opened a B zone office in Akure – they are collaborating with us. We have put together a law that will encompass all our social –safety – net programmes – Abiye, free bus shuttle, new paradigm of urban renewal. We are putting all of them together into a law, so that nobody comes in and just go funny about all of these. UNICEF is excited; in fact, they think that what we have done in terms of social services should actually be documented, not only for Nigeria, but also for the developing world. We are working on all of these to put these together. Again, that is another sustainability factor.
Let me just say this and it is very important, if you want this state to continue to be peaceful, we recall what we went through in 2009; we take the peace for granted now but it is a lot of work that has gone into it. It’s a lot of sacrifice on the part of government. If you want this peace to continue, if you want development to continue – our free shuttle bus, if you want us to complete our power plant which will revolutionise industrialisation in the state, if you want the trajectory, this steady development to continue, the most important issue is to ensure that you vote for somebody who cares, somebody who has been there, somebody who has been part of this development paradigm, who we can vouch for, in character, in learning and in competence – somebody who has been part of the thinking, the philosophy, the ideology behind the free shuttle, the programme is unlikely to stop. For example, this government, in spite of the financial challenge we have, free shuttle bus continues to run. As money comes in, free shuttle bus is its first charge, streetlights continue to be on in spite of the challenges, because we are making choice in areas of critical priority. Two, if you want all of these to continue and taken to higher realm, you need to vote for somebody who has been part of this team. Those that are conspiring to get Jegede off the ballot, they know what they are doing. It is not as if the person they want to use to replace him can win election, and we all live in this state. If there’s any way he can win election, but they believe in their own calculation that if Jegede is not on the ballot, then they have a chance of winning. But I say foul because Jegede is going to run and he is going to be the next governor of the state, by the grace of Almighty God and the good people of our state.
I was going to come to that but again you have spoken it the way you see it. But something I see in you is the passion with which you support Jegede. What exactly is this driving passion?
Let me tell you one thing. In the last almost eight years, we have worked very hard to change the story of the state, from one provincial backhood stage to a stage that is coming to benchmark many programmes, not only for Nigeria but Africa. When development issues are being discussed in Nigeria today, Ondo definitely has a place. We have done a lot to bring about peace in the state. We have done a lot of gender development; we have done a lot to ensure that the people are proud to be Ondo indigenes. When we started the Dome project, our vision was very clear; we said we wanted to make the state the number one event destination in Nigeria. We are not there yet, but there is no question about the fact that we are near perfect. It will get to a stage that I said then, that there will be no event that is actually called an event, if that event has not taken place in our international event centre, and we are on the path to it. This vision that is unfolding before us is not completed yet. Let me give you an example. We looked at industrialisation, for example. We did a very thorough forensic analysis for what became of the industries that existed in this state before. Two things and the most important and critical is power. It got to a stage that the products