The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Osun State governorship election and senator representing Osun West Senatorial District, Chief Ademola Adeleke, speaks with MOSES ALAO on his ambition to govern the state, his plans for its development and the controversy surrounding the Senior Secondary School Certificate he submitted ahead of the election.
Less than two weeks to the September 22, 2018 governorship election, Osun voters are facing the critical challenge of electing a governor that will lead the state for the next four years. Why do you think you are the best man for the job?
I am the best man for the job for several reasons. Our people have suffered so much from a heartless leadership for the past eight or so years. So, the state needs a compassionate leader who will not deny the people their rightful dues. Osun needs a governor who will listen to the aspirations and voices of the people, a true democrat who will accept that the main goal of government is the wellbeing of the electorate. I am the right man for the job because I am a responsive candidate who listens to the people, who knows where the shoe pinches the people and who is ready to put food on the table of our people. I realise that the needs of people are basic; the leader is simply expected to tranform those needs into reality. That was what I did as a Senator. I did constituency mapping before I was elected. From the report, I identified areas of needs of my constituency and my constituency projects were tailored specifically to meet the needs of the people. So far, I have executed about 18 projects spread across Osun West. They are in the areas of school, power distribution, health facilities and youth empowerment, among others. I also realise that the worst crisis facing our people is youth unemployment and engagement. Hence, I concentrated my legislative attention on sponsoring a bill to provide compulsory care and stipends for young graduates. The bill is still undergoing processing.
Osun people are fed up with poverty inducing plans and policies .They want the man with practical experience of providing solution to take charge. I am that man for the top job.
For a man who will take over from Governor Rauf Aregbesola, a man who has been commended and condemned for his administration’s policies and programmes in the last eight years, there must have been a lot of stock-taking. In what areas do you think this government has succeeded or failed and what definite action plans do you have to address the challenges?
Aregbesola government failed on several fronts. Let me start from ouset by saying that what people called his achievements were also his worst sources of failure. Those few big schools and some roads are actually designed to siphon money and defraud the state. Kilometres of roads were executed in the range of a billion naira per kilometre. A school building attracted a cost close to a billion Naira; irrelevant monuments were built with unbelievable amount. What I am saying is that those few structures which the APC government showcases as achievements are indeed conduit pipes for stealing state resources.
Now to specific areas of his failures; I will give you a long list. First, he failed for neglecting and abandoning the first task of any government- human welfare and development. Pensioners are dying in droves. Gratuities and workers’ salary are unpaid. Workers’ cooperative fund is tampered with. Public service workers are treated like slaves. Inhuman taxes are slammed on the people, with mobile courts extorting and fining indigent citizens. Okada riders face hell. The APC government takes joy in inflicting pains and suffering on the people.
Secondly, he mismanaged the state’s finance, thereby plunging the state into huge unsustainable debt. As of today, the figure of the debt is a subject of debate. Even the APC deputy governorship candidate asked Osun people to go and google the total debt owed by Osun State. Owing close to 400 billion naira according to many reports is a sign of reckless management of the state. You borrowed to the level that deduction for debt reduces federal allocation to less than 100 million naira? That is a serious failure. The worst part is that the loans were taken to finance those over-inflated contracts in education and roads. So, in effect, the loans that created this huge debt overhang were siphoned through the backdoor. And generations yet unborn will still be paying. This is inhuman as it is unfair.
As for me, I have a well-thought out six point agenda, which will restore normalcy to the state.
In clear terms, what areas will receive the major focus of your government if you are elected as the next governor of the state?
My blueprint for the governance of Osun State has as a main focus citizens’ and workers’ welfare. Of my six point agenda, eradicating chronic poverty hunger and maltreatment of public service workers are critical .The purpose of every government is the welfare of the people; my government will place people and workers’ first. Any government that succeeds in tackling human development has laid solid foundation for all other societal needs either infrastructure or economic management.
I have a vision of a state where our people can afford a decent living; a state where government workers work with pride and dignity and are paid regularly and promptly; a state where the opportunities to grow and thrive will be accessible to every son and daughter of Osun. I have a vision of an Osun State where the mother and child receive good quality healthcare and our aged/elderly receive the adequate care they deserve; a state where our students rank as one of the brightest and best in Nigeria, educated by highly competent and motivated teaching staff. I have a vision of a state where our farmers are truly kings. Agbe l’oba, as the saying goes, benefitting from the fruits of their labour, producing good quality farm produce, using government provided high yield seeds, trees, land, farm implements and inputs including fertilisers. I would love see an Osun State where every corner is connected by a web of good road infrastructure; state that is economically buoyant with productive/gainfully employed youths; a state that will prioritise spending on people impact projects that will improve the welfare of her citizens instead of building wasteful monuments; a state with zero tolerance for corruption.
In order to achieve all these visions; I have what I describe as the six-point agenda and the centre on economic rejuvenation through debt restructuring, stimulation of local economy and investment drive in a safe operating environment. Two, if elected, I will embark on agriculture revolution to provide affordable food for all and to create local wealth by raising what I like to call AGRIPRENEURS. We will also ensure market linkages by creating produce bulk buyers and agriculture value chain development and processing centres. Also on our agriculture revolution programme, we intend to put in place an effective agric input services and farmers’ Micro Credit Scheme. Third, we will ensure a restructured educational system that delivers improved qualitative education. Four, our government will guarantee improved workers’ welfare and conditions of service by ensuring prompt payment of salaries, benefits and emoluments, training and development. Five, our government intends to raise the bar in the health sector by ensuring improved health care delivery with motivated and equipped health workers. Six, we intend to guarantee improved road and water infrastructure to cover the ignored parts of the state.
You are seeking to become governor at a period that the nation’s economy is suffering, leading to dwindling allocations to the states, with a paltry sum said to even be accruing to Osun State as a result of its high debt profile, how do you intend to confront the challenges of meagre financial resources to achieve your vision for the state?
First, I will ensure strict financial discipline. I won’t allow leakages. What we have now is what I will call “padded financing;” projects that ordinarily should cost N1 million goes for N5 million. That is the beginning of the economic collapse. I will not allow corruption. I will also not touch a kobo of government money except what is legally allowed for me.
When financial sanity is restored, I have plans to boost the state’s economy to generate needed funding for government’s projects. My plan combines public private partnership, state-business partnership and foreign direct investment among others as tools for the financial revival of the state. The debt portfolio will be managed in ways and manners that isolates fake from the real debt. We will deploy orthodox and unorthodox debt management methods to get Osun out of the debt trap.
How prepared is your party to face the onslaught of the ruling APC, with the power of incumbency at the state level and the federal might likely to be deployed in the election, especially in the face of accusations of militarisation and monetisation of elections?
Osun State is a peculiar one where political awareness is hyper-sensitive. Our people are ever vigilant and because our people love us, they are ready to protect their votes. This election is between the people and the oppressors; it is beyond me, Ademola. The people want to liberate themselves from those exploiters. So, the people will vote and ensure their votes count. Our power is people’s power.
We also believe the security agencies won’t allow themselves to be used to subvert the will of the people. The security agencies will align with the people, because the alternative is for them to turn their guns against their people. So, we are not scared of the incumbency factors or forces; we have the people and victory is surely ours.
There is the belief that you as an Adeleke are a moneybag and that you are ready to match the APC money for money. Is this true and what is your take on the vote-buying syndrome?
Vote-buying is an aberration of democratic order. I am not in support of it and I have always condemned anything that undermines the electoral process. What we have been doing is to mobilise the voters so that they can exercise their franchise; we have no plan to subvert the voting process. It is the APC that has been making vows to do anything to win. We rely on the people to win and we shall win convincingly.
But your party still appears to be facing the fallouts of its primary, with a large section of its members still aggrieved. How do you think this will affect your chances in the poll? Specifically, what efforts have you made as the candidate of the party to reach out to the Akin Ogunbiyi camp, as there are insinuations that there are sharp divisions in the PDP and there is a sense of winner-takes-all in your camp, which is threatening the cooperation in the party?
That is yesterday’s rumour, our party is united going into the election. Dr Ogunbiyi and I are one family. We have no further crisis in our party.
Your candidature has been surrounded by controversies over the SSCE certificate you submitted to INEC, with the opposition and even some PDP members coming after you over the situation. Are you under any pressure regarding this?
I am not under any pressure because the constitution is on my side. I have fulfilled all constitutional requirements to stand election as governor of Osun State. Two separate court judgments have also affirmed this fact. So, I am not under any pressure. I am busy selling my manifesto to the public. Our people want a solution provider and they know I can do it. They have seen my performance as a Senator. Our people see me as a practical administrator with clear understanding of what they need and how I can get it for them; they are not bothered about all those stories.
But are you not upset by the negative reactions the issue is generating and are you not afraid that the issue might haunt you after you are elected as governor?
Nothing will haunt me, because no illegality has been committed. All my conduct till date have been within the ambit of the law. So, my candidature is free of any baggage and our people know this. Competency is best measured by performance and our people have seen me as a Senator. I delivered a four year goal within a year. As a governor, I will perform governance miracle by God’s grace. I will hit the ground running and our people will see and experience peace and prosperity.
- TRIBUNE NEWSPAPER