I am sure you are aware that this is not my first time of running for the office of governor in Ondo State. I have done so twice. I contested for the first time in 2003 and the second was in 2007 when I became the governorship candidate of the Action Congress in the state. I have always known that I was born to lead; born to put smiles on the faces of my people. And since leadership is a responsibility, all my life, I have never had any doubt on my mind about my capacity to lead. So, I set out since then to know what politics is and to practice it the way it should be done in order to make life better for the common man.
I have been a member of the Ondo State House of Assembly and contested on two occasions- first in 1997 and second in 1999. I started this governorship ambition of mine in 2003, though people thought that I was too young for the position. But because I have a vision, that I was born to do this and I have this burning desire in me to make a difference and leave my footprint on the sands of time. So my vision has never changed, my focus has never changed. I want to be governor of my state because I know I have the capacity to make a difference.
What are the changes he intends to effect in governance?
My stance in politics is to always be circumspect about analysing other people. Dr. Olusegun Mimiko came into office in 2009, and I suppose he has done his own best. But to the best of my mind, Dr, Mimiko, no matter how well-intentioned he is, could not do it all. It could be his style or anything, but today; my people in the state want a change in the style of governance. There are so many areas where Mimiko has done well. First is in the area of health where he put up one of the best trauma centres in the country in Ondo town. I did not want to go there but sometime ago, I had a good reason to go there. I have been to many hospitals in Nigeria and abroad, but I can sincerely attest to the fact that it is a world class hospital. But I still believe that we should have such hospital in every senatorial district in the state. Today, if people have to come from Ikare Akoko to Ondo for treatment, that is not good enough. We need standard hospitals, world class, at least, three of such in Ondo State. Akure as we speak, does not have a standard hospital. I intend to address this by bringing such to the people and ensure they are well-managed, well run hospital in each zone. Right now, the General hospital in Akure is nowhere. If you go there, you will be amazed. A lot of attention has been given to Ondo, which should not be so.
In the state, civil servants are owed upwards of five months salaries. What do you intend to do in the area of welfare?
By the grace of God, I will ensure that the welfare of my people is given priority attention. Right now, I think the state government is owing about six to seven months’ salaries. And you know what that means, particularly in a civil service state. Government is the major spender, the biggest spender because when the civil servants get paid, everybody benefits from it. I am not a civil servant but I feel it, because my wife is one. Naturally, she contributes to the running of the house. There are sometimes when I am not at home, she buys diesel and a couple of things, but now she cannot do that because she has not been paid. Other parents suffer in similar manners because they cannot pay their children’s school fees, cannot pay for other services. So it permeates the whole system and that has crumbled the whole economy in Ondo State. That should not be so.
I am sure that if Dr. Mimiko has prioritised his spending, alongside federal allocation and internally generated revenue, Ondo State would not have been like this. Take for instance, Ondo State is the only oil producing state in the whole of the South-West. So, we earn higher federal allocation than states like Ogun, Osun, Oyo and Ekiti states. So, we should not be in the class of states that cannot pay salaries for upwards of six months. So, we are going to look into that. Already, I have set up a team to look at the issue of IGR and they are already working. We know that the decline in the price of all has led to reduction in the revenue that accrues to Ondo State, so we are looking at how to soar up our IGR so as to be able to do well in that area like Lagos State, which is doing marvelously well. Many people have property in Ondo State, for instance, and nobody is asking them about tenement rates. This will be addressed. I also know that if the current developments in the international oil market are anything to go by, oil price will go up. We have no reason not to pay civil servants in Ondo State and by the grace of God, I will ensure that these civil servants get paid as at when due. I am a welfarist and by the 30th of every month, if my driver and security men are not paid, I get worried. Hence, I will be more worried if civil servants are not paid.
How strong and united is the Ondo APC?
Dr. Mimiko was in the Labour Party and he joined the Peoples Democratic Party later. I have no doubt in my mind that APC has the structure, a dynamic chairman, leadership and scores of other people are defecting to the party. I am also aware that even people who were no members before are joining. But one fact that cannot be ruled out is that having lots of party members does not translate the party into an election-winning party. We need to make APC an election-winning platform in the state. Let me give you an example, we had a popular candidate in person of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and I thank our party leaders like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who did the magic for us. But you would recall that just a week after that election, during the House of Assembly election, there was a drastic turn-around such that our party lost woefully.
What was the cause?
I think it had to do with the quality of candidates. I am not saying that most of those candidates were not quality people, because APC will not field candidates of low quality. But they were not politically experienced, not politically exposed. They did not know much about mobilisation and strategising. Now, we were aware that a lot of money was rolled into it, but Ondo people are very progressive people, people whom money cannot buy. Now, I know there is high level of poverty in the land, but I know that people of Ondo and Ekiti are principled people. When they make up their mind, they stand by it. What I am saying is that at this stage, APC needs a politician as candidate, a politician who knows his onions; whose name is already a household name in the state- it does not matter where he comes from. We need somebody who has seen the good and the bad sides of politics; a man who knows how to mibilise people; a man who has contested elections over and over again whether he has won or lost, and I tell you that is where I come in. And for these reasons, some leaders and members of the party in the state, even some civil servants have urged me to join the race. And of course, more importantly, I happen to come from an area which has the preponderance of the voting population in the state, which of course, will translate to victory. I am not going to tell you that Ademola Adegoroye is popular, but how many politicians are more popular than me in the state?
Which area is that?
I come from Ondo Central- Akure in particular- a place that has never produced a governor in the history of the state. But mark you, I am not predicating my ambition on the Akure Agenda. Of course, I believe in the Akure Agenda, I believe there must be justice and equity. I believe that Akure is the only division in the state that has not produced the governor. Ondo has done, just like Ikale has. Owo and Akoko have done. So Akure North, Akure South or Ifedore should produce the next governor. That is now left for us. If we want it, we must fight for it. However, I am only saying that is an additional advantage that I have. Besides, my political experience, I know how many politician in Ondo State, who has the kind of experience I have in politics – I am sorry if I sound immodest, but I know how to strategise for election, how to mobilise people, how to make people to work for that election. By the grace of God, with me taking the ticket of APC, the party can go to bed rest assured of victory.