Dr Rotimi Olulana is a former governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in Lagos State. He speaks with BOLA BADMUS on how the SouthWest has fared in the last 17 years of democratic dispensation. Excerpts:
WE want you to reflect on the South-West in the First Republic, what will you say about the impact the regime headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo made in terms of meeting the needs of the region and its people?
I can tell you that even though I was very young then because I was in the primary school or thereabout, I cannot fail to appreciate the free education policy of which I benefited from. That was the legacy that Chief Obafemi Awolowo left behind with the establishment of free education in spite of the paucity of funds then in the South-West. There was also free health to the oldies and rural development programme through the establishment of several farm settlements across the region that allowed the people to be fully engaged as a way of addressing the drift of people from rural to urban centres.
It was the resources then being realised from cocoa, palm produce, rubber, timber and other farm produce that the Action Group used to provide structures such as the first television station in Africa, the Liberty Stadium, and the University of Ife now named as Obafemi Awolowo University, which has remained a leading citadel of learning in the country. All these we can still see around till today.
Talking about the Second Republic, we can see that the policy of free education for which the South-West was identified and which has made the region a leading region in the country became part of the 4-point Cardinal Programme of the administration of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) under the five governors that we had then, including Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Michael Ajasin and Prof. Ambrose Ali.
Quite a lot of schools were established from nowhere. Several teachers were engaged and through that, a lot of people who thought they had missed the opportunity of going to school because their parents had no means to send them there abandoned the various training they were learning and enrolled in various schools and became students once again. Today, many of them are leaders in their chosen professions.
Today, all those are history because people don’t even know that local governments exist anymore. These are things that can be considered as enduring legacies of the Second Republic. Don’t forget there were housing estates in Lagos, which are today referred to as Jakande Estates and the price tag for each flat was affordable then to the buyers. In Ibadan, you cannot stop to marvel at the New Gbagi Market that was established by late Governor Bola Ige and so on.
Can we now talk about 17 years under the current dispensation?
Show me what we can say about the governments that have been in place since then, you can’t see anything; 16-17 years of democracy in Nigeria is a fallacy, it is about stories. The only legacy you can see is overwhelming corruption, that is what we have at the end of the day.
But if we look at the process, I mean the transition from the Second Republic to present stage, you will discover that the military intervention in politics of the country created the problem. This is because the military are dictators and they rule by decrees; this has impacted on our political leaders generally, particularly those who took over from them.
So, people who took over leadership from them are people who made money through them. And if you look at the military leaders that were in government then, including late Sani Abacha who was poised to take over the wealth of the country as he planned to transmute into civilian president, you would not be surprised that corruption is now part and parcel of the political leadership in the country today. You can see that Abacha looted funds are still being recovered till today. So, today, we have absolute corruption in the land, that is why we are facing this economic problem currently.
Have the people of South-West fared better in the last 17 years?
Sincerely, I will tell you about my state, Lagos and about Ondo State as well. But let me say that South-West has been able to achieve just a little bit than other states of the Federation. For instance, I can say Lagos was able to achieve under former Governor Bola Tinubu, though his government would have achieved more and performed creditably well, if he was not deprived by then President Olusegun Obasanjo who failed to release money to it because Lagos created some 37 local council development areas (LCDAs). It was only released under former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who succeeded Obasanjo and that is what assisted former Governor Babatunde Raji-Fashola to have good footing in Lagos and because he happened to be a sound administrator, he was able to do better.
If you want to talk about South-West generally, I would say we benefited better under the governors that served in this dispensation better than the rest of the country because look at Ondo which was ruled by Labour Party, you can see the hand of the incumbent, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, everywhere. He touched everywhere and people can actually feel his impact on health, good road network, education, among others. One can say that he performed well and the people of Ondo appreciate him as a lone ranger being the only governor on a different party platform in the whole of South-West where the rest was ruled by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as of then. Also, Oyo State also tried, but sincerely, South-west has been able to do well.