We Need To Sustain Development We Have Achieved In The Last Four Years – Ajimobi
Incumbent Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi is seeking re-election through the February poll. He spoke to AJIBOLA AMZAT, OLAWUNMI OJO and LAOLU ADEYEMI on his agenda for the people of the state ahead of February 28 elections. Excerpts:
WHY do you think it is necessary for you to return to Agodi House?
Essentially, for any state or nation to develop, it must have peace, security and safety. Oyo state has not had atmosphere of security for quite a while before my administration. Since I came in 2011, we have been able to establish peace, security and safety of lives and property in the same Oyo State that was characterised by brigandage and violence to the extent of being perceived by outsiders as pariah state. That achievement must continue. Those who had the opportunity to rule the state in 2003 to 2007 and 2007 to 2011 gave the state a bad name because of the violence that prevails at that time. But for Oyo State to be developed and to continue with the development we have started, it is important that we come back and sustain the peace and security we have established. That is one reason.
Second reason is that, having established peace the next level in our pyramid of development is to provide social infrastructure, that is, water, education, and health. Our water corporation was producing less than 10 percent capacity when we came in. Today, we are producing at about 82 percent capacity, which is a major improvement. Similarly for health, we started by ensuring that we clean our environment. Environmental sanitation is key to the health of the society. We therefore ensure that cleanliness is taken serious. Remember that Oyo State used to be regarded as one of the dirtiest states in Nigeria and Ibadan in particular was regarded as one of the dirtiest cities in Africa. We therefore ensure that our people take environmental sanitation seriously. Health delivery is about preventive action as against reaction. We then believe that our health service should be tied to sanitizing environment and to provision of amenities and infrastructure. For example, we introduced ambulances that were tailor –made for our environment, the type that can access the nooks and crannies of the state. We introduced free health medical services that take hospitals to the doorsteps. So far, we have been able to treat close to 1 million people free of charge with free medication and, free consultation, free treatment in general.
We also tried to sign MOU with some development partners where we are being supported by those development partners who prefer to work with NGOs, so we started an NGO where we have provision for foreign countries that later resulted in having a foundation with mobile clinics all over the state where we are treated close to 7000 people in a month, free of charge. So what we are saying therefore is that apart from rehabilitating our hospitals, apart from employing over 30050 medical personnel including doctors, rehabilitation and provision of free medical service, we believe that doing this progress must not stop. We must continue to consolidate on these achievements. If you see Lagos State today, it has developed tremendously because over a period of time, the state has been able to sustain the development. We also believe that we must sustain our development.
Lastly, because of what we are doing in the environment because of providing social and physical infrastructure such as modern roads in all major entries to Oyo State, business and commercial activities have improved. And by the publication of the Federal Bureau of Statistics, investment flow into Nigeria has reached over 200 percent. In Oyo State, it grew by almost by 700 percent. Many big companies are now coming to our state to do business. Our economy is improving; our environment is improving. This must continue. If we must not break the cycle of this progress, I think 8 years is the minimum to bring this development to maturity stage. After eight years, we will ensure that only quality people replace us. So continuity is essential. We need to sustain what we started.
How do you plan to generate funding for your programmes in the face of the dwindling global oil price?
States have been depending so much on the handouts from the FG; we should stop that. Every state must create an environment for growth. If agriculture is your area of strength, develop it. We are a gateway to Lagos. Once we create conducive environmet, our IGR will grow. Why do you think Lagos survive even without allocation from the Federal Government? The state has companies and factories; it has a lot of people working in Lagos. Oyo State is the largest state in Southwest in term of landmass. We have 28540 Square meters spread. With this resource, we can take advantage of our agriculture. We will also take advantage of our proximity to Lagos. We will ensure that we continue to develop our economy.
The largest soya beans factory in Nigeria is in Oyo State; the largest edible oil and margarine is here; the largest producer of bred flour is here. The activities around these establishments have multiplier effect on Nigeria because these activities generate income. The fact that our IGR grows from N1.5bn to N10bn shows that our economy can survive without the allocation from FG. What does FG give to us anyway? They give token fee of N2.9bn. Wee should forget the oil that is already drying up.
What will be your policy thrust if you get re-elected?
It will be continuation of what we are doing. Now that we have laid solid foundation, we are now to nurture the seed that we have planted. We have been able to change the environment. We have provided roads; we have made our environment cleaner and better. We have made Oyo state more attractive to investors. We must sustain it. For instance, we want to establish logistic centre in the state, I want to establish an industrial park in the state. This would hasten our development. What will change is more of consolidation of our achievements.
Your achievement is said to be not widespread. Would you also sustain this kind of imbalance, especially Oke-Ogun is considered marginalized in term of development?
I don’t believe that the allegation is true. Oke –ogun has been given one of the best supports from the state. What did we do in Ibadan that we did not do in Oke-Ogun? We provided daulised roads in Oke-Ogun and Shaki.
We gave Oke-Ogun the best NYSC cap in the federation. We don’t have such in Ibadan. We have upgraded the satellite camps of the Polytechnic Ibadan in Oke –Ogun to full fledge polytechnic. We have sited a big model school in Oke-Ogun. The Soya bean factory has its farm in Oke-Ogun. The same thing we dualise the road in Ogbomosho. Notwithstanding, don’t forget that the capital city always have it more than other towns within the state. Why is Abuja for instance more developed than other towns around it? That is because it is the capital. What you must do in every area is peculiar to the area. Oke-Ogun for instance is an agrarian society. We must develop agriculture there.
We must look at the peculiarity of the each area and develop it accordingly. That is what they do in other places such as China. They look at an area and say ‘what can we put in this area that is best for the area.’ The only thing we can do is to continue to develop each area depending on the peculiarity of each area. For an agrarian society, we have bought a lot of tractors, graders, and bulldozers to open the rural area to the rest of the state. In fact, we gave more to Oke-Ogun than Ibadan. But if, for instance, we want to distribute aircraft, we can’t give to Oke-Ogun.
People whose properties were affected by the dualisation of roads you constructed complain you have not paid compensation. How true is this?
We have given them compensation. At least up to 60 percent of the compensation have been paid. We evaluated their property and paid accordingly. The report is in the national dailies. So it is an incorrect allegation.
Among the APC states, Osun, Kwara and Lagos has the lowest level of unemployment in Nigeria and your state is not mentioned. What measure do you have in place to reduce the level of unemployment in Oyo State?
What we are doing is what we would continue to do. We would create opportunities for employment. Government would employ some and other industries will absorb many as well. We engaged 20,000 youths just as Osun did. We have absorbed some of them into ministries, departments and agencies. We now have about fourteen thousand left. We recently employed 5300 teaching and non-teaching staffs. The largest ICT service provider is here in Ibadan employing many youths. The population and the available resources are also important factors to consider. Oyo State population is higher than Ogun and Osun. So if we are mentioned as one of the states with higher unemployment; it is understandable. Those that couldn’t get job in Osun, Ondo and Ogun come to Oyo. Oyo State is seen as the centre of Yoruba in Nigeria. It has the largest concentration of Yorubas in Nigeria.
You recently demolished school structures in the name of creating model schools without replacement. And most of the receiving schools are now over populated. Why?
It is not true. Firstly, in siting a model school; one must consider infrastructure and proximity to students. Model school is not a factory that could be sited in the bush. Those schools selected had reasonable proximity, opportunity and rooms to absorb the students. I have been there to see how things are and the students are comfortably accommodated. Those students are in school. We did our survey before relocating them. We contacted the school heads, asked them how many students they could absorb before relocating them. Basically our educational policies are very sound. We have employed more teachers. When Ladoja claimed he was doing 1 teacher to 30 students; he lied. He was doing 1 to 37 students. He was implementing the federal government policy of articulation which allow up 11 schools in one compound with one teacher teaching 12 to 15 subjects and the policy failed. Today, we are doing 1 teacher to 32 students. That was why the FG had to go back for re-articulation. And that is what we are doing now. We now have a policy that allows one school in a compound and students can concentrate and focus properly. Comparatively speaking, we have done well in terms of education. Education policy stands on a tripod of teachers, students and structure. We have done more for teachers than the past administrations. Their salaries and wages tripled from the time we came in and we don’t owe any salary. Whatever we told you, please find out to help educate people better because some politicians are very mischievous.
But some civil servants are still owed salaries.
No, we paid them December salary. Oyo is one of the states that have paid upo to December. Before now we did not owe salaries. Teachers get their salary first, civil servants get next and political appointees get last.
On infrastructure, much has been done and we would do more. We are building schools. We have rehabilitated many schools. Money recovered from Ladoja administration was used to start some of those restructuring. We have built many science laboratories that were not done by any administration before. We have provided furniture, chairs and cabinets for teachers and students. We have also improved on ICT. We have trained teachers on computers usage and provided them computer system. Most of our teachers are computer literate. We have also trained over 83000 teachers. We have face-lifted graduate teachers in primaries school. Those that were in primary schools were stagnated before but we have removed the bar. Graduate teachers can now go any level as against the usual level 14 where they are always stuck. All these happened because we removed the barrier.As for the students, we are training the students and during holiday we do vocational training. We give them bursaries, allowances scholarship and extra mural classes. I think we have been able to satisfy our conscience on the tripod the education stands on.
You said the money recovered from the Rashidi Ladoja administration through the EFCC is what is being used as seed money, but Ladoja has also denied that he ever returned any such money to EFCC. What are the facts?
You saw the cheques in the papers. He said he did not personally refund them, does that mean he was not part of it. We saw his statements with EFCC, so what are we saying. They said some stolen goods were found at your backyard, you say you know nothing about them. You are the governor and you must take responsibility for what happens in your administration. More so, when you have been invited, detained and taken to court. So, he cannot tell us that he is not part of it. Besides, he said he is taking us to court; let us meet there.
Are you not worried having two former governors as contestants in your re-election bid?
Why should I be worried? I have defeated them before.
What do you think is the attraction for them to want to come back?
You know some people are just obsessed with power; they do not want to be on the sidelines or be sidelined. And then, some do not know that things have changed. I think we should ask them really, because if I have served the state before, why would I want to come back.
That takes us to political hooliganism in Ibadan, which seem to have been curbed to a large extent. How did you manage that?
For any state where you have the level of brigandage and violence that we had in the past, it means the governor does not know his work, he is incompetent or he is part of the violence by proxy sponsorship. For us, we were determined to say no to it, so we put in place structures required to check it and it worked. It is a matter of management, commitment and courage; it is not about wishful thinking.
The thrust of your party’s campaign has been anti-corruption. How would you respond to allegations that some of the tractors you claimed to have bought as brand new were fairly used?
That is not true. A renowned company, Mantrac, supplied those tractors. The past administrations were the ones that bought equipment with used engine vehicles. I have also just bought some brand new bulldozers and graders from Caterpillar, go and check. The same people said I did not employ 20000 teachers, that I only employed 3000. Why would I do that? Well, Oyo people are now wiser; we can no longer be hoodwinked with this kind of lies.