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Integrity, not deep pocket will decide Ekiti governorship election, says Segun Oni

By Muyiwa Adeyemi and Jesutomi Akomolafe
19 April 2022   |   4:13 am
It was not really a consultation. I am in a new party and we know that people have shifted to where we are. We believe that it was right for us to go and meet them as a way of familiarising ourselves with one another.

Oni

Former Ekiti State Governor and candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Segun Oni in this interview with MUYIWA ADEYEMI and JESUTOMI AKOMOLAFE explained factors that will define the June 18 governorship election in the state and his strategy against monetary inducement of voters.

You have been consulting and selling your candidacy in different parts of Ekiti State, what has been your experience?
It was not really a consultation. I am in a new party and we know that people have shifted to where we are. We believe that it was right for us to go and meet them as a way of familiarising ourselves with one another. This is the first time most of us were coming together as one. And we believe that it is necessary we meet with them in their terrains and encourage them to continue to be one.

How do you intend to build a winning structure with SDP, considering that the party is not popular in Ekiti State?
I hope to build a structure because people are already in it; they are already for it, that’s why we had to go around to encourage them to continue with what they are doing. Right now SDP is the party to beat in Ekiti, even as we are just starting. My major concerns are thuggery and insecurity and that’s what we experienced in Efon Alaye. We are appealing to the law enforcement agencies to stand up to their calling because, it is not difficult for anybody to procure violence but I don’t want it.

We are saying don’t let us destroy lives of the young ones. I have been to such situations a couple of times; they don’t even know what these young ones suffer. We are appealing to the law enforcement agencies not to let them waste our young ones. The government created poverty that they are battling, how much are the thugs paid? Because they don’t have anything to do, they would risk their lives. If security agencies do their jobs, the propensity to thuggery and violence will reduce.

You’re contesting against established parties and politicians in the state, do you think you can defeat them?
People are on this side and they have the will power to surmount any principality or anybody or group that regard themselves as power and principalities in Ekiti State. And if anybody thinks he can push the people aside, who will he embrace? Politicians are always quick to forget the fact that without people, there will be no politics.

People have made up their minds that this is what they want, what are you going to do to that. I think the right attitude was to learn from Bill Clinton as governor. He was running for a reelection and he lost. What he did was to go back to ask the people and say, ‘I must have done something wrong. What exactly did I do wrong as your governor that made you said No to me?’ The Nigerian politician, instead of adopting that attitude would believe that it is the people that were wrong. This people that are saying “O to ge!” what I expected them to do is to go and find out what they did wrong and why are people saying, “O to ge” to them?

The Nigerian politician will believe that ‘maybe we have not given them enough money, maybe we did not deploy the rigging tactics that we should.’

We are waiting for them. You see, their antics will not win against the people, because politics is about the people and people have made up their minds to do what they want to do and that is why I put a billboard, so as to let them know what they have done wrong. What we wrote on the billboard saying, “We are on the right side of history.” They are the ones, who unleashed poverty on our people by their misrule. We intend to place people at the right side of history and if anybody wants to remove us from the right side of history, it is not by thuggery.

What makes you so sure that you are on the side of the people?
We listen to them and we hear them. We are all Ekiti people and we live there. We know we are on the right side of the people. People are saying it and flaunting it and that is the beginning of a revolution to come.

There have been surveys that confirm our position with the people. Nobody can be in this business without survey. Whether you want to accept it or not, they want a new terrain.

Are you not concerned about vote buying?
I am concerned about it, we believe that is one of the evils that we have to uproot. But don’t forget, these guys have afflicted people with extreme poverty. That one meal to some people is life and death. Therefore, if you go to people and say, “Dibo ko se’be” translated to mean “vote and cook stew,” they will listen. But enlightened people will now begin to ask questions: this vote you want to buy from me, how long will it take you to utilise it before you come back for a renewal, four years. The stew that you want me to cook, how long it will take me before I cook another one, maximum of four days? So you want me to trade four days for four years? That is when they will know that they have really got it wrong. We are going to continue educating them. Politicians that afflicted our people with poverty know that it is by compromising them during election that can keep them in the system.

What do you want to do differently, considering that Ekiti is landlocked, with little IGR and at the bottom of FAAC?
Let me try and say this, I believe that all politicians that want the good of Nigerians will be in my support because they know that what I represent is political development. My unique selling point is my integrity and the fact that I think, and I must tell you that it’s not empty boasting, I think that many of these problems you imagine one fixations of people in government. I believe that we can change Nigeria and we can make it better. It is not difficult. The activities of human beings made Nigeria, as it is now. The activities of human beings can reverse it and change it for better.

We went to school because we believe that through our education and experience, we will develop the terrain better. We did not go to school just to learn and not change anything. We are prepared always and that is the attitude I took to governance and we changed a lot of things and a lot of things improved and they are asking for more.

What do you intend to do regarding the economy of Ekiti State?
I boosted the economy when I governed the state and let me give you some statistics. Human Development Report, published in 2009 analysed Nigeria state by state. You can go to the library of UNDP to find out. At that time Ekiti was number 34 on the table of statutory allocations, monthly statutory allocations out of 36 states. The Human Development Index (HDI) called us No 24 on GDP per Capita. If our GDP was only on allocations, of course we would have been probably 34 or 36. It means there was a very reasonable level work done on IGR. And moving further, the same HDI that gave us No 24 on income per Capita and let me tell you, it is a paltry $360 per annum when states like Bayelsa and Rivers were well over $5, 000. The same report made us No 10 in overall HDI in Nigeria, so you will know that it goes beyond money. It also had to do with what people who can think. No 34 on allocation, No 24 GDP per Capita, No 10 overall HDI and I can tell you that at that time Ekiti was rated to have the highest average life expectancy in Nigeria. We didn’t have UCH, we didn’t have LUTH. But people were living longest in Ekiti. We were applying our thinking. You see we try to water down the capacity of human beings to help themselves and to improve their own lot. Most of the time we are concerned with money, but we were prepared to go as high as we could and we believed that No 10 was not as high as we should go. We hope that UNDP will do another human development report by the time we are there for two to three years. We hope they will do that and see where we are and compare us to other states.

This job requires a lot of thinking, innovation, and developing processes that will make things happen. Most of the time we go back to fundamentals to solve problems, people will not even know when we started solving them.

We brought digital experience to schools because we wanted the child to become friendly to computer. The first thing we did was to say we must bring back boarding schools. When we said that, our opponent, then ACN was going round to tell parents “don’t put your child in boarding school”.

Those schools that agreed to have boarding, we gave them computers because we can’t give a laptop to a child, who is going home every day. Within a week they would have, at least stolen half from them or when they get home, there won’t be electricity to power it.

So, when boarding schools started we installed VISAT in every school and gave them laptops. The teachers said we haven’t taught them how to use it to teach. We said it wasn’t about teaching; it is about the children finding their way, becoming friends of the laptops we have given to them. Nobody thought Zuckerberg about what to do to arrive at Facebook; we said these children would find their way. And of course, we programmed school contents on it and we didn’t tell them. We know that when they search they will get the school contents. And they were discovering those contents.

Our vision was that in three years of staying and being addicted to your laptop, some of them might stumble on ideas that the world may need and the world may be willing to purchase. I am very happy hearing about the Fintech apps that made a breakthrough recently. This is the kind of thing I was expecting Ekiti boys and girls would be doing that made me put that programme in place more than 12 years ago.