The senator for Ondo Central district, Donald Omotayo Alasoadura, in this interview by HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, speaks on his governorship ambition and some other issues. Excerpts:
Why do you want to be governor of Ondo State? Is the Senate not enough to serve your people?
That is a very big question. When God looked at the affliction of human beings, He asked His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to go and save them. That was why Jesus came here. Jesus abandoned his kingdom. He left everything and came to rescue mankind. Ondo State has been bastardised. Ondo State has been pushed back for another 20 years. Ondo State has been pillaged. Ondo State has been ruined. Somebody has to have the courage to come and say we can do it better. I served under the late Dr Olusegun Agagu, a patriot, a man who loved his people, a man who used his intellect to improve this state. No patriot can see the way things are now and not feel sorry for Ondo State. I can’t fold my arms just because I am in the Senate and allow things to go the way they are going. It will not be good for me; it will not be good for the people of Ondo state; it will not even be good for my children. I can still add value to what we are doing in Ondo State. I can still reverse this ugly situation we are experiencing in the state. Here I am offering myself for service. If Ondo State people believe that I did well in the past, if they believe that the administration of Dr Agagu under which I served did well, if they believe that I can reverse the ugly situation in which we have found ourselves and they give me the mandate, I will definitely perform and ensure that at least we stop this our going back to the dark ages and start moving forward again.
If you get the ticket of your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and eventually the mandate of the people, what do you have for the state?
When we were in government, we had what was called Roadmap to Progress which was well documented. We had policy papers that were prepared for all sectors in this state. Is it agriculture, education, health or industrialisation? We intend to bring them out. If there are areas to make changes, let’s make changes. If there are areas we need to add, let us add. We have to industrialise this state. We started Olokola but the present government ensured that it was killed. We are going to revive Olokola. Free trade zones are one of the effective development strategies in the world today. Dubai was a desert. They started building free trade zones here and there. The country has now become the cynosure of all eyes. It has become the economic hub of the Far East. Everybody goes to Dubai now to buy this or that. Even people go there to rest.
When I come back as the continuation of Agagu’s government, we will stretch our naira to the limit where it will almost break, as the former governor used to say. That means we are going to ensure that we use the little resources we have for as many projects as possible. There will be no room for people to steal our money as it is being done now.
Why do you think you are the best for the governorship ticket of APC?
The aspirants are all good people. But they don’t have the experience that I have. That is why I am better. And for you to win elections, you must have experience, you must have your structure, you must have some requirements. I think I have them. The other aspirants are all good people. They are contributing to the development of our party. They are all welcome into the race. To me, the more the merrier. I like challenges. It makes me stronger, it makes me work harder. At all times, through the grace of God, I have always overcome any challenge that comes my way. I like challenges like the one we are having now. I am happy about it. I always perform better at a time like this.
What are the chances of APC in the forthcoming governorship election?
APC must be careful. We must pick a grass-roots politician. We must pick a politician that can give it to the opponents the way they come. We must forget about this notion that the [Peoples Democratic Party] PDP is dead in Ondo State, that nobody loves the present administration anymore. We saw what happened during the House of Assembly election and that should teach us a lesson. We need somebody who can win elections. Winning an election is an art. It is not for anybody to win. It is for people who know how to win elections to win. So, APC has a very good chance if they don’t make a mistake of picking a wrong candidate like it was done in the past.
You were in charge of the finances of the state as Commissioner for Finance in the late Dr Olusegun Agagu’s government. How did you manage the state’s finances in those six years?
I became a chartered accountant in 1974. Over the years, I have gained a lot of experience. I know that if you husband your resources very well, it will be enough for you. When we came, what we met was incremental budgeting. In this type of budgeting, we may say last year, Ministry of Education had N200 million for it to execute its programmes and projects. This year, let us add 10 percent. It goes up to N220 million. But when I became Finance Commissioner, I said, ‘no, what are we using N220 million for? Let us see what they need in the Ministry of Education. Is it renovation of classrooms? Is it getting chairs and desks for pupils? Is it writing or educational materials that we need money for? Itemize them. Let us cost them. Let us know the specifics.’ For example, if it was a telephone, what was the cost? We knew that government would award it as a contract, we would add the profit element to it and then we would know how much money we would get the telephone that you wanted to buy. With that, we were able to reduce the waste that usually accomplishes incremental budgeting to the barest minimum.
We put in place a policy that when you wanted to execute any project in the budget, you had to come and defend it at the exco. If you said you wanted to buy, for example again, a telephone, we would ask you what happened to the telephone that you bought last year. For us to approve another telephone for you, you must show cause, why another one should be bought. If you do that, you just find out that a lot of people will chicken out, knowing full well that questions will be asked.
We decided also not to let local governments waste their funds. Such funds would come to me as the Commissioner for Finance and I would fix the money. We would release only monies that were for recurrent expenditure to the local governments to pay salaries. We would keep the rest for three months. By the time the money was released to them, they would have had their programmes and projects. The proposed programmes and projects would also be reviewed by us so that the local governments didn’t use the money for frivolous purposes. Within three months, if I kept N5 billion, you know how much that would earn for the state and the local governments. So, it was an interplay of prudent financial husbandry and ingenuity.
How do you feel seeing projects embarked upon by the Agagu government abandoned?
I feel bad. If a stadium was to be built in my town and it is now abandoned, how do you expect me to feel? Extremely bad. I spoke with my governor then and let him know that my people were suffering lack of water in Ifedore, Akure South, Akure North and Idanre where people call Akure division of Ondo State. I was able to persuade him to have pity on my people and he decided to provide water for them. The contract was awarded for about N13 billion and 30 per cent mobilisation was paid. But another government came and stopped everything that could have given my people succour. How do you expect me to feel?
We embarked on a project that could have given our youth jobs to do, that could have industrialised our state. That could have made our state an industrial destination of people outside Nigeria. Such a project is now abandoned. How do you want me to feel? An administration came, instead of using the money we left behind to complete the projects we embarked on, he used it to build a roundabout and other frivolous projects. How do you want me to feel? I feel bad. I feel offended. I feel angry.
There has been this story that you once chased away the monarch of your town, Iju. What is your own side of the story?
The truth is that such a thing never happened. The oba is my cousin. It was just like giving the dog a bad name in order to hang it. But I thank God today, the oba, who is my cousin, is one of my best friends. There is no problem between us at all. So, the story was a creation of some people. It was a creation that was magnified by my political foes who are now in the doldrums. I am at peace with all my people, including the oba.
However on a lighter mood, whenever I hear the story, I always say people should worship me. If I am so strong and powerful to the extent of chasing away the oba of my town, then I think people should worship me. Those who say I chased away my oba are putting me in the news all the time, especially when they think it will harm me. I enjoy it because I am always in the news. It got to a stage when many people wanted to know who this Alasoadura is, that is so powerful that he chased away his oba. I must confess that I am enjoying the free publicity.