WHAT is your take on the impression in some quarters that you are going to be incumbent Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s lackey if elected governor?
The notion is contrived by those who believe that Mimiko has no right to support a person to be governor. At my level, at my age, I think it will be insulting to say that I am somebody who is a lackey or who is hushed. I’ve seen that written about me on a number of occasions in the new media and I said that well, each person is entitled to his own opinion. Mimiko has a right to want good governance for his people. He has a right to say look, I will support someone I know will sustain the vision of the Mother and Child Hospital, someone who will preserve, those globally compliant mega schools that dot the landscape of Ondo State. About two years ago, I, on my own, was trying to look for a site where we would build shopping malls and I was talking to some people who are developers about Shoprite and I drove round. I did this for about three months until I met the governor who said he had also been thinking about it.
Today, the mall is a reality and apart from the revenue it gives to government, it has opened a vista of employment and later on, it will revert and become Ondo State property. The story of the mall is just by the way, but I raised that because my concern is for us to have an improvement in the way we design and implement our policies. I am saying this so that people will know that I am not anybody’s lackey; I have added value to the current administration. Also, look at the International Events Centre. This is an uncommon edifice in this part of the world. I played a huge role in its conception and implementation. I also played a role in arranging special flights with Overland Airways to provide services for our people. No one can doubt the fact that I have positively contributed to the success of this government.
So, it is not right to say I’m somebody’s lackey. I am not. Not as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. I cannot be a lackey. I have no desire to be a lackey; I have a desire to run a transparent government; a government that is accessible, a government that would engender growth and do some other things that have not been done by Mimiko. I’ve been there so I know the weaknesses, I know the strengths. I want to build on it and that’s why I am in this race to do more of governance.
Somebody said Mimiko’s administration has not done much. How will you react?
That Mimiko has done well is not in doubt. Some people asked me sometime before the second term of the administration what could be credited to Mimiko as achievement. I mentioned the community development programmes that affect the people at the grass roots directly. I told them about how many things he has done for each community. As a resident, you cannot pretend not have been affected by the Mimiko Caring Heart programmes; unless you don’t have your child who is attending school or you don’t have a child who is paying little amount of money, or you don’t have a small baby who goes to nursery school. And I gave examples—unless your wife does not trade because when we came in 2009, all these markets were slumps. At the end of my discussion with that group, they started reminding me of other interventions in health, sports, urban renewal, security, among others.
Mimiko, as far as I am concerned, has done so well. Nobody can beat his record in the health sector, not in this country. If anybody says Mimiko has not performed, take the health sector and tell me any state among the 36 states which has done half of what Mimiko has done and I say so with all pride. It is not only because people like us judge; it is also because we’ve been judged by other international organisations and it is not a fluke. We’ve seen it; I gave examples of Mother and Child. Here is a government that came in February in 2009 and a year after, fully completed Akure Mother and Child Hospital and later commissioned another one in Ondo. Look at what we’ve done in education. Look at the schools that were built – the mega schools, The headmaster’s office is like a VC’s office; it is big, it is neat, it has ICT facilities, a library, a football field and many more.
When Chief Obafemi Awolowo built the University of Ife in those days, they said it was too expensive. When he built Cocoa House many years ago, 25-storey building; tell me who has built any other one since that time. If he had been frightened or alarmed by all the talk about spending so much money, he would not have done it. That is the man that is now being celebrated today. So, what are we talking about? You must just be focused; do what you have to do. The reward may not come now, it may come thereafter.
If you go to Akure where I come from, the axis where we have events centre, the shopping mall, as far as I am concerned, it is comparable to any place in Lagos. By the time you put on the light, on the left is the event centre; on the right is the shopping mall. And it still has to be developed. Now when you talk about Central Business District, that is what we are looking at. Create the new zone where people can go and pay extra money and pay extra tax, let it be tourist centre. Let people come and just drive round.
There is a way we do it in England. When you get to England you say you want to go see Buckingham Palace. What is there to see? It is just the beauty; it is just the history. So you can come to Akure and say you want to just go and drive to our own avenue, just the beauty, to attract tourists and spend so much money. It will develop the economy. That is the idea I have; it is not about being anybody’s lackey. It is a person who has a genuine idea to change a lot of things. But it is going to be done with less of politics and more of governance. That is the difference.
What are you going to do to boost the industrial base of the state, taking into consideration the fact that it equally has some measure of oil? This is an issue that has been on for some time. My take on this is that the problem is not in establishing industries; it’s in sustaining them and making them to run. To build an industry is a very simple thing; it is easier than to build a school. Just build a warehouse, import machines, and then get people who are technical to start operating it. But you need power, raw materials. You need to sell at a competitive price before you can sustain the industry.
That is why I said, well, as a civil service state, we are going to disconnect financially from the centre, hopefully. It will take some time but it can be done and the industrial base will also be created in the southern belt. This government, already, we are talking about Free Trade Zone, we are talking about Olokola. It has been there for a number of years; it has practically failed. But we now have the Ilaje industrial zone. There was a license that was given to the government in May 2013. So, we must concentrate heavily on where we think the industrial base of the state should be and it is in the southern belt; it is because they have the longest coast line. Go to Ilaje, you will see their sands; if you stay up and there is sun, it will be shining like gold. You take it and use it for glass and as soon as you take a dip and leave it, few hours later, it will come back. The place will fill again with the same substance.
Those are the kinds of economic strengths that we want to leverage on in the South. In the Ore axis, 250,000 vehicles pass through in a week at a minimum and you cannot go to the North without passing through Ondo State; it is not possible. You cannot go to the East or North without passing through Ondo; it is not possible. You must pass through Ore and go to Benin. You either go through Awka or go to the North or you go through Benin and go to the East. In all these instances, you pass through Ore. So, we must learn to build a political, economic advantage from that zone. Even if it is only small eating areas you are going to build, if you are going to find a way, legally you can regulate it and bring in more money and get employment for our people. Those are the kinds of things I am thinking about.
Then why do you want to be governor now at these trying times?
I say it with all sense of humility that these indeed are challenging times and they need some extraordinary measures; somebody who is a little bit bold and might look gentle, but does not think that political considerations should be for everything. We must learn to live and get things done the proper way so that we can get advantages in future.