In the last few months, some communities in Ogun State have been troubled by the activities of suspected militants that have left many people dead and rendered others homeless. The state government, through its Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dayo Adeneye, speaks with SEGUN ADEBAYO on efforts being made to secure lives and property of the people and prevent further attacks.
Communities in Ogun and Lagos states have reportedly been deserted following the invasion by suspected militants that attacked them. People were said to have been killed and scores of residents have fled for safety of their lives. How has the government been tackling this problem?
If you have been observing our reactions since this problem started, we have been very careful not to label them as any particular group. They have been committing criminal acts, wanton looting, vandalism, unnecessary and unprovoked attacks on communities that have been very peaceful and law-abiding. We call them criminals and miscreants. Some people have come out to say that they are from this region or that region. But we have been very careful not to say they are from this particular region or area.
Our response has been quick and swift. Immediately we heard of some of these attacks, the Baales and chiefs in these communities informed us and we moved our security agents to those places to restore peace and calm the people. But unfortunately what we thought had gone down resurfaced again, and soon as we got words, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the State Government, a few commissioners and security agents and experts in Ogun State moved to the locations to assess the damage done by the miscreants. What we saw was quite disturbing and we found out that they are not indigenes of the state. They come around to cause mayhem and escape mostly through the creeks. That was why we had to call on the Federal Government, because the resources we need to avert further attacks has to come from the Federal government. We need air surveillance and naval patrol regularly. Now that the federal Task Force has been put in place, we are already seeing the result of their presence.
It is believed that some of the militants, who were flushed out of their creeks in Niger Delta relocated to these communities, have you been able to establish why they have turned Ogun communities to their new abode?
The tendency is to think along that line but I cannot do the job of the security agencies that are currently investigating actions and inactions of these people. Like I said, we are working to unmask them and to know why they are in those places. What if we say they are from this particular region but at the end of the day, we discovered that they are from another place. So, the best thing to do now is to remain calm and allow the security agencies conclude their investigation before we make a public announcement on who they are and why they are in our communities. But the affected people are need to be assured of their safety. The truth of the matter is that we are all Nigerians and we will like to appeal the adjoining communities that the government is standing by them because they are citizens of Ogun State but they are Nigerians. We need to understand that the people who are disturbing those communities are Nigerians and we have to get to the roots of the problem. We need to find out what exactly is forcing them to do these things. If you flush them out of one area, they will regroup and move to another territory and they may even be more deadly. We have to identify the causes. I think our security agencies are working tirelessly to unmask them. The people should remain calm.
This is one problem that the government did not prepare for and it is believed that the threat the militants pose are higher than what was first thought. What do you think about this?
Well, the truth is that no government can prepare for all eventualities. Look, government has responsibilities – we have schools and healthcare system to provide for. Of course, security is very paramount and that is why we have Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) stationed in one of those communities. Our response to such attacks is the most important thing. But we don’t sit down expecting that somebody or some group of persons will come and attack us. Nobody thinks like that. On this particular one, I think we responded quickly.
You were in the entertainment industry for many years before you got this appointment. How well prepared were you for this position and how have you been able to discharge your responsibilities?
I think this is something I have done all my life. I am mass communicator and I actually have a degree in it. I have always been a radio and TV person. I have always been talking about what government does and how best the government can serve the people. People ask me why are you going into politics, but I always tell people that we are all political animals in one form or the other. Some of us may not be as active as others. When you sit down inside your room or at the drinking joint where you talk about what government is doing and what it has failed to do, you are invariably being political. This is democracy and people have to participate because the government is for the people in the first place. I have been prepared for this because it is something that I have done all my life.
Ogun State is one of the few states in the country that its workers still receive salaries as and when due.How has the government been able to achieve this?
Yes, there might be some entitlements that state has not paid but when you consider our wage bill, Ogun State has probably the highest wage bill than any state in Nigeria. Our wage bill is a little over N9 billion. Meanwhile, what we receive from the Federal Government is almost a billion naira. When you consider the fact that the number of civil servants in the state is less than 50,000 and it has a population of 7.2 million and we still have to build roads, run the hospitals and other things. That means the money has to come from somewhere. From day one, this administration has always looked away from Abuja. The government has always been looking for ways to diversify its economy. When the administration came in 2011, I think Ogun was rated 29th or 30th in terms of the ease of doing business. We decided to open our industries and allow investors to come in and partner with the government. We have about 400 industries in the state today and more are still coming up. We opened our roads and made it possible for people to come in and acquire lands for industrial purposes. I am happy to tell you that Ogun is rated as one of the top four states after Lagos and probably Rivers states in the country that its internally generated revenue has increased in the last four years. We have been able to diversify our economy through agriculture, and today Ogun has become the industrial hub of the country and probably West Africa. For us to be able to attract and keep those companies, we must have been doing something good. The road network is not where we want it to be, but we have started. That’s how we have been able to increase our IGR and improve the well being of our people, especially the workers.
You have been working with the governor and serving as the mouthpiece of the state for almost a year now, what have you learnt in office about governance and the people?
Let me start by saying I appreciate the governor’s vision and tenacity. The governor does not like to hear the word that something cannot be done. He doesn’t believe that something is not possible. It will interest you to know that the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which the Federal Government introduced, actually started in Ogun State. I have learnt the value of hard work. Not that I didn’t know what the value of hard work is before I joined the government. I look at the governor and how much work he does to make sure things get better for the state and the people, and sometimes I wonder why anybody would want to be governor. This job is a thankless one. You do all this work and the next day people forget you have done but I have learnt tenacity and diligence from Governor Ibikunle Amosun-he’s a workaholic.
What have been the success stories of this administration since you came on board?
Like I said, this administration came in with five cardinal programmes- qualitative education, affordable healthcare, infrastructural development, industrialisation and agriculture. We have also invested heavily in security. When this government came in, there were cases of robbery, car-snatching and other anti-social vices were the order of the day, but today, Ogun is relatively peaceful. The state has been peaceful in the last five years and this has attracted a lot of investors into the state. These positive things have helped to transform the state. Three months ago, the state commissioned over 40 projects. We actually had about 68 projects to be commissioned. We had 13 schools, a couple of hospitals, numerous roads, flyover bridges. If you can drive round the state, these projects are there for people to see. There were other numerous housing projects that were commissioned. The HID Awolowo housing project was also there. We commissioned 40projects to mark Ogun at 40 anniversary.
While you were in your private business, what was the misconception you had about governance that has changed now that you are part of the decision makers?
I have to say that as a journalist, I was one of those who used to throw stones inside. But now that I am an insider as you people would say, I have a better understanding of what governance is all about. A community that says they want borehole, another community that wants hospital will also be there calling on the government. Before you solve that problem, another community will be clamouring for security. It goes on like that. So, the government needs to set its priorities right. That’s why we serve as the link between the people and government. Take for example now, the people of Sagamu want government to build their schools, the government will not go there to build roads. We have to listen to the people and let the government know what next step to take. I have been able to manage the image of the state. People say that I am the number one spokesperson but I tell them no, the governor is the number one spokesperson.