I Will Empower Youths -Folarin
SENATOR Teslim Folarin is a two-time senator of the federal republic of Nigeria, representing Oyo state and he was at a point the House Leader of Senate. He is the PDP flag bearer for Governorship election in February.
Why do you want to be governor of Oyo state?
I am convinced that I could be an agent of change that the state needs at this point in time. If you look at the history of state since 1999, the state had four governors in which three of them are seeking to come back again at the age of 65 and above. And I don’t think these guys have what it takes to take this state to the next level. They have had their times and they are over 65 years of age. The state needs a young mind like me who understand the state of things in Oyo State and how to solve different challenges facing the state.
There are lots of issues facing the State. There are two major issues that are of great importance to me: Education and unemployment.
Look at education for instance; I listen to the governor one day reeling out some of his achievements in education even without any meaningful output. He was talking about how they built classroom and others but in terms of output, there is nothing to write home about Oyo Education. Oyo State still came 23th in WAEC result even behind a state like Borno that is currently fighting Boko Haram. It is not for me to list the output. I am not a teacher but I know that something is fundamentally wrong.
It is surprising to find pupils carrying desks; teachers have not been paid; classrooms are overcrowded. Teachers’ salaries have not been paid and pension has not been paid. I know a teacher who will be retiring in months’ time and he is already depressed because he knows what other pensioners are facing out there. Do you now expect such teacher to impact knowledge on students? That may not happen. When you don’t pay pension; workers are demoralized.
These are the thing we need to right, I don’t have a ready answer but we are going to welcome ideas from all stakeholders, students, civil society groups and parents to chat a way forward.
Youth’s unemployment is an area that all the states of the federation need to pay attention. It is unfortunate to see the population of the unemployed soaring. Looking at what this government has done, it does not make sense to me and we need to start thinking outside the box. Leaders need to let these students know that there is no job out there. No job out there and no banks would employ. They should be encouraged to think of what they could do for themselves. The good thing is that some of these students are very smart with the advent of Internet and they could find opportunities if encouraged. Many of them have lofty ideas; all they need is encouragement to be an employer of labour.
What programme of action have you laid down to improve the educational system in Oyo State?
Basically things like improving the infrastructures; reduction of number of students in the classrooms and creation of good learning environment are achievable. But one of the problems we have in Nigeria is that we always want people to promise what they can do; even when they can’t do it. Somebody may pretend to have a solution to an issue even when they don’t have what it takes to do so. There are fundamental issues begging for attention of all. To me, the fundamental issue is funding. We want to face issue holistically by inviting all stakeholders to chart way forward. Any contestants may claim they want to do so many things. We desire to do something out of the box.
Funding is going to be a very serious challenge. How do you plan to fund some of your programs?
We need to begin to look at radical ways of solving the nation’s problems without necessarily depends on oil. Advent of oil has made us all lazy whereas a lot of developmental projects that were done in the then Western region were done with agric money. This means that we need to diversify our economy through agriculture.
And in terms of funding, we need to promote a lot of Public Private Partnership (PPP) because the money is not there. The issue of education for instance, if missionaries says they want their schools back, there can be dialogue over that. There will be an absolute participation of the people in my governance. I don’t believe in the ideology of “I know it all”. Government is about the people and the governed must be allowed to participate in the act of governance. I have very strong civil service background because I worked in the civil service for 12 years and I understand the power of interaction. No one knows it all.
Your party is fractured and some of your key members have been taken away. Shouldn’t that make you feel jittery?
When you say our party is fractured; I don’t know what you mean by that. APC lost two of its senators as well. One came to PDP and the other to Accord part. Are they not fractured?
What is your source of confidence?
It is because we are firmly connected with people because we go around every day. We don’t deceive ourselves in PDP
Chief Adeojo, Gen. Rasaki, Senator Lekan Balogun, Prof. Adedoja, Alhaji Gbolaranmi and Prof Adejumo are still in PDP. The leader of Ogbomosho Saka Balogun is also in the party.
Ibadan is the stronghold for any party that want to win election, how grounded is PDP in Ibadan and what is the population of your followership?
Oyo State is a PDP state because of our party structure. Before our primaries, we would have at least four group holding meeting and at the end of the day; we merge them.
Even with the current APC sitting government?
Yes. PDP owns Oyo state. PDP is the only party that has not changed his logo or name. We have many well-respected members in PDP and we are sure we would win again. The sitting administration is gone.
With the level of infrastructure development in the state presently, don’t you think this progress might work in favor of the ruling party?
The development at what cost? People’s property have been destroyed without due compensation. I challenge this current administration to bring data of how he compensates those whose properties were destroyed. I agree that sometimes politics requires some hard decision but the interest of the masses must be considered.
Is it true that you are given a directive from Abuja to win the State at all cost?
It is not a do-or-die affair. But PDP is prepared to win and we would win this state by God’s grace.
If you are able to win this election, you are going to be confronted with shortage of funds because of the dwindling crude oil price. How are you going to generate fund to finance your programme?
I will be looking at agriculture because of the expanse of fertile lands in Oyo State. I will diversify the economy through agriculture. Oyo has marble at Igbeti and Oke-ogun area is an agrarian society.
My government will explore every available opportunity in agriculture. Youths will have access to set up their business. The government may not have money but we would go to banks. We are going to set up a department to manage small and medium scale business, which is the strength of any nation’s economy. I will encourage people to be independent by creating employment for other. I won’t promise any youths but encourage them to think outside box.
Once small and medium scale businesses spring up; we are going to have a better economy without crude oil. I have been speaking to many youths and they have been coming up with many lofty ideas that if well nurtured; it could turn this nation to an Eldorado.
What blueprint do you have to industrialize Oyo State?
I will industrialize the State by making investor friendly-policies that would entice investor. I think any responsible government should create a business friendly environment to grow.