‘Vote buying not good for democracy’
In this interview, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming Osun State governorship election, Gboyega Isiaka Oyetola, says he relies on the understanding of the electorate to win not on vote-purchase, an act he claims he detests. Niyi Bello reports.
Why are you in the Osun governorship race?
I have been part of this government for almost eight years now and I share the vision that government should touch lives. First of all, the essence of government is the security and welfare of the people. I have seen that a government provides a platform for you to be able to serve a greater part of the society; and having been in government for about eight years, I believe there is the need for continuity. We should not stop at where Governor Rauf Aregbesola does, after the expiration of his tenure. The state should continue to enjoy the kind of infrastructure and socio-economic development that have been put in place. I believe I am well positioned to be able to continue to build on the foundations already laid, especially with my experience both in the private and public sectors, over 30 years; and the public service, almost eight years now. Combining the experience in the two sectors, I will be able to effectively lead this state.
Though we are growing in terms of infrastructure, we are yet to get to where we want to be; and I know precisely those things that will help the state, and things that can impact positively on our people. The people must continue to enjoy the dividends of democracy.
We have not had this type of development-oriented opportunity until the coming of the present administration. So, we must ensure continuity of this positive development. I know how demanding running a government is; and that it takes a very experienced hand to manage scarce resources of the state to attend to numerous needs of our people. But I also very believe that, with my experience in the private sector and in public service these past eight years, I am the best to continue from where Governor Aregbesola stops.
What challenges of governance do you expect?
Well, first of all, there is a challenge of finance or funding. But this is not peculiar to our state. It is a general problem. But there is hope it will soon be over. All over the country, only a few states are financially viable. All others states have the challenge of fund paucity. But we must think creatively to survive. We must be able to think out of the box. Challenges are actually made for man and we must be able to face them. One of the ways to address the funding challenge is ramp up Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) through innovative ways. First, we need to block all the leakages, particularly in tax collection. When we talk of increasing IGR, I am not talking of imposing higher or more taxes on the people, no! But we can ensure efficiency in the collection of taxes. If I ensure all other people, now avoiding tax, pay because it is a civic responsibility, then the revenue base increases. So, once we are able to do that, we can clearly increase the revenue without necessarily imposing high taxes on people, particularly the poor.
Again, when you go into some other areas like agriculture, we will provide a value chain. For instance, if we encourage farmers to plant cassava and there are cottage industries where cassava can be processed into starch and ethanol, we will be creating jobs and empowering our people. So, it will not be difficult for the people to pay taxes which I will ensure are very insignificant, in proportion to their profit or income. Thus serviced, the people will be ready and proud to play their own part by paying tax, as their civic responsibility. Government will make the environment conducive for their trade and businesses to thrive. We will support the artisans. We will also ensure we attract investment, both local and international, to the state. Our policies would make products of the manufacturers very competitive and when they enjoy very high turnover they will pay taxes that will bring more money into the coffers of the government. When we empower our people to exhibit their talents and flourish in their trade, they too will not hesitate to pay a token in form of taxes into the government coffers. So when the people are supported in their trade and in making their income, they will be willing to pay taxes. It is more of a reciprocal gesture if you empower your people and ask them to make the contribution to the funding of the services they enjoy.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is determined to take over Osun, are you not threatened?
I welcome them to the ring. It is going to be a good contest. Threatened? Not at all. The APC government has done very well, these past eight years. There is no threat from any party. I see victory around the corner. We have demonstrated to the people that PDP is not a choice. Our stewardship is evidential. Our commitment to the welfare of the people is unquestionable. Our developmental strides are unparalleled in the history of the State Of Osun. Because in the past eight years, we have had to make difficult decisions in order to lay a solid foundation for now and the future. We have encountered a few challenges but have never been defeated. The PDP cannot rise from the dead. No. Not in Osun. My people are beyond being hoodwinked. They have seen the light and no one leaves light for darkness. Let the people decide. I am confident they know their friends and their enemies.
Are you not afraid that vote buying could come to play in Osun as was witnessed recently in Ekiti?
I don’t encourage vote buying. I will never participate in it. I don’t like it and I believe it is not good. If you are popular, go out there and sell your programmes. If the people believe in you, they will vote for you. I think that is what should be encouraged. This was why I even preferred the direct primary adopted by my party, the APC, to elect its governorship candidate. I am not for vote buying. It is not ideal and I will never participate in it because I don’t believe in it.
What then can guarantee fair contest?
First of all, we must have adequate security. When people know that they are provided with adequate security, they won’t allow miscreants to hijack the process. So, voters should be allowed to exercise their civic responsibility, freely without any intimidation or harassment.Even the presence of security operatives around will guarantee safety; and would encourage a lot of people to come out to vote. Once we are able to curb violence, people will naturally and voluntarily come out to vote. So, there won’t be a question of vote buying.
Before your emergence as Osun APC candidate there were the controversial issues of zoning and the process of the primary election. What effects do these have on your campaigns?
Usually I don’t enjoy talking about zoning but I will be guided by the fact that zoning is not in the APC constitution. So, as long as it is not in the constitution, every zone is free to contest the governorship position. And historically there was no time that zoning had ever been introduced; starting from the day the state was created in 1991. So, it is in line with the constitution of the party that every zone should be allowed to compete and whoever wins should be supported. Having said that, I believe all the zones in the state should compete freely for any elective position albeit democratically.
On the primary process, well, direct or indirect, let me say this: there are three options because I took my time to study the constitution of the party. There are three options through which a candidate of the party could emerge, we have direct, indirect and consensus. The direct primary gives room for party members to participate in the choice of the flag bearer. Direct primary is open and it is more embracing and the outcome is always the expression of the wishes of the majority of the members of the party.
All the party members are given equal opportunity to choose their preferred candidate. In this system of selection, majority of the members of the party are allowed to speak as opposed to indirect primary where just a fraction, less than two percent of the entire membership of the party, would decide the fate of all others. Indirect primary is cumbersome, more expensive and it gives rooms for a lot of manipulation. If you have money you could easily pull through. So, I will endorse direct primary any time, any day because it is so transparent.
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