An Osun State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial aspirant, who is also a former Minister of Youth Development, Senator Olasunkanmi Akinlabi, in this interview with Uhuru Times, argues that the hallmark of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s Administration has been propaganda instead of genuine performance. Excerpts:
The current Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, is believed to have turned Osun State around, and for this reason will be easily re-elected. Why are you running against such a person?
The question you asked is what the APC people want the whole world to believe. But those of us living in Osun (State), we know what is truly on ground, that Aregbesola’s Administration in Osun State has been a monumental disaster in the last three years. And I can give you series of examples. For instance, and I’ve said it at several other fora, in three years of Aregbesola’s Administration he has not being able to complete any significant project that has impacted on the lives of the people of Osun State. And we can go on and quote examples. Even though people said he’s been doing roads and so on, so many of the roads that Aregbesola’s Administration is constructing, apart from the fact that they are federal roads, the fact is that he has not completed any single one in the last three years, and I challenge them to prove me to the contrary. About a year when he came into office, he started Osogbo – Kwara (State) boundary road, as I am talking to you, that road has been completely abandoned for his new pet project of Gbongan – Akoda federal road, which they are currently working on. If Aregbesola has all the finances in the world, I can tell you that he cannot complete that project in the next two – three years because of the sheer magnitude of that road. Then, let’s look at the education sector. Aregbesola promised to build 170 mega schools, an idea, which he borrowed from Lagos State Administration. Before doing that, he demolished about 3,000 structures in 60 schools in Osun State. Number one, you don’t need to destroy (existing structures) before you build schools in Osun State because, we’ve said it before, Osun State is a rural state, where land is not a problem unlike Lagos. So, what a reasonable government needs to do is to leave the structures you met on ground and build your own. Secondly, he said he’s is going to build 170 mega schools, he has only completed one, which is not even in operation yet in Osogbo. Now, if he builds one mega school in three years, how many is he going to build in four years? Meanwhile, don’t forget, he has used government funds to demolish 3,000 existing structures. Then, in terms of health services, I’ve never seen what Aregbesola has done in the hospitals that we have in the state. He has never built any new health centre to the best of my knowledge. The only visible thing that he’s been doing is demolishing people’s structures in other to expand the roads. And he is planting flowers. Beautification is good, no doubt about it, but how does planting flowers in Osun State put food on the table of the people? Now, what I am telling you is that Aregbesola’s Administration in Osun State is a monumental failure. And the people of Osun State are ready to send him packing come November this year.
Picking the PDP gubernatorial ticket, for you, is another matter with Senator Iyiola Omisore being considered the most likely person to get it because of his formidable political machinery. Why run against him?
Well, perception is different from reality. Myself and Senator Omisore, we know ourselves very well. We were in the senate at the same time, 2003 – 2007. And, as a democrat, I don’t believe anybody should just have (bulldoze) his way. And, I believe that if he has that political structure, let us go to the field and prove it. This is why I am advising our party leaders at the state and national levels that all (PDP gubernatorial) aspirants should be given a level playing field for real democracy to take root and give our people the chance to pick who will lead them to face Aregbesola in November. I am not going to respond to whether he has a (superb) structure or formidable. But as a democrat, the party should provide a level playing field for every aspirant to serve the people of Osun State. I know that I’ve served at the senate. I’ve served at the Federal Executive Council. I know my pedigree. And I know that I have what it takes to rule Osun State. And I have a programme that I am going to implement for the people of Osun State, through our party. So, it is left for our party in Osun State to decide who should represent them.
Why are you running for governor? What is it you feel you can do differently from what is on ground today?
I want to start by thanking Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for putting me in charge of the Youth Ministry, when I was a member of the Federal Executive Council. Being in that ministry for four years has really opened my eyes about the problems of this country. I am sure you know that the number one problem of this country is about our youths? And there is no way you can talk about it without talking about youth unemployment. So, being at the helm of affairs at the Federal Ministry of Youth Development was really an eye opener, and I believe that once you are able to tackle the problems of youths from the point of view of unemployment, you have solved 70 – 75% of the problems of the country because it is going to have a multiplier effect. Number one, you have to have education. That is my number one priority. And after education, the next thing is, of course, employment. It is easier to employ, train and retrain, somebody who is educated than somebody who is not educated. Therefore, the cornerstone of my administration will be youth and women-focused. And I am talking about both groups being gainfully employed. Because when they are gainfully employed, they will be able to bring their families out of poverty level. Once that happens, their purchasing power will increase. Their productive capacity will subsequently increase. If you have a graduate, as the current administration is doing, and regardless of the course he/she read in school, and you make such street sweepers, grass-cutters … that is the kind of employment that Aregbesola’s Administration is generating. That kind of employment, in economic terms, is categorized as under-employment. But you can actually segment a number of employments into graduate disciplines. You look at what the person did in school and retrain them towards that area and make them more productive. You make them gainfully employed. And, that, in a nutshell, is what I want to do differently from what propaganda Aregbesola Administration is doing in the state.
The attempt by President Goodluck Jonathan to run for a second term seems to be at the heart of the crisis in your party. Why should he go for a second term if that will destroy the PDP?
I am a believer in the rule of law and the Nigerian constitution. I believe it is the constitutional right of Mr. President to go for a second term. And, I think some people have even gone to court to challenge him on this with the court ruling otherwise. As far as I am concerned, even if he has some pact with some people, I believe that pact cannot supersede the constitution of the country. Our constitution that we currently operate states that a president is entitled to two terms of office. And it was in 2011 that we elected Jonathan. The administration before then was that of President Umaru Yar’Adua. Apart from this, if you look at the people at the forefront of Jonathan not going for second term, how many times did they serve in office? Why do they want the president to breach the constitution of Nigeria, which he swore to uphold? I believe it is his constitutional right to go for a second term and I believe the people of Nigeria will vote for him overwhelmingly.
The APC leadership believes President Goodluck Jonathan should be removed from office for gross incompetence. What is your reaction to this?
Is it for the opposition APC to determine the competence or otherwise of Mr. President? I think that should be left to Nigerians to decide. And that is why I believe in the constitution, democracy and rule of law. If you don’t like his face, you can use your voting rights. The APC have been presenting themselves to the Nigerian people right from 1999 and the people have been rejecting them. So, they should not go through the back door to get power. Let them articulate their programmes and present to the Nigerian public in 2015. Let them convince the people of Nigeria to vote for them in 2015 rather than looking for cheap ways through the back door to remove the president from office. This is their stock in trade. How ddid they win the election in Ekiti in 2010? Through the back door. Through the instrumentality of the courts. How did they win their election in Osun in 2010? They are used to winning elections through the back door because they know they are not popular with the electorates. But that is not going to work with that of Mr. President, because the Nigerian public is not going to buy their usual propaganda.