Secretary to Ondo State Government, Dr. Aderotimi Adeola, has said the state governor, Dr. Segun Mimiko is facing enormous challenges. According to him, they hinge on transforming Ondo to modern state because the people have never experienced development.
In an interview with VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA and VINCENT KALU, the SSG reeled out programmes enunciated by the governor to bring this dream to fruition and noted that in the fullness of time, the state will no more look towards the cenre for statutorily allocation.
Five months after Mimiko’s second term, how has it been?
It has been impressive. This is the period of planning and envisioning for the second term. It is challenging, we have just recently sworn in the commissioners.
Why was Mimiko’s re-election possible in spite of the formidable PDP and ACN?
First, Dr. Mimiko is a performing governor. In his first term, there were evidences of performance; masses oriented performance. He is the first governor of the state, whose programmes touch the masses and the down trodden.
These programmes are designed to give benefits to the majority of the people, to ensure that the poor are lifted from their positions. What we did in the first term were things that are mass oriented.
Let us start from the area of market, which people are talking about. If you look at our society, there are places that people go everyday. There is no household that doesn’t go to market in a day or at least in a week.
The traders are mostly the masses. There is no household that doesn’t go to hospital; there is no household that would not go to the motor park. These are where you have the masses. There is no household that doesn’t have a child who goes to school.
We design our programmes in a way to benefit the masses. This is the first time we have governor in the state who has passion for the people, and actually empathises with them. These were actually what people saw in him and gave him overwhelming votes at the last election. This is the governor who can truly liberate the people from hardship and shackles of poverty. When the opposition came, they had no alternative. They were only criticising his programmes but had no alternative. People saw the difference, even at the debate, people saw that the opposition didn’t have anything to offer; no alternative solutions.
Other states being managed by opposition are only busy copying what we are doing in Ondo State.
The fact is that in Mimiko, the people see a governor who is compassionate, visionary, and performing. All his efforts are to ensure that his programmes are not elitists but masses oriented and the masses are the majority of the voters and that was why they followed him.
The governor is building and renovating markets everywhere, does he want to make everybody in Ondo a trader?
Those markets have been in existence. In human society, trading is integral part of it. Anywhere you go to in the world, people trade – they buy food to eat, clothes to wear, etc. No household that would not go to market at last ones in a week.
The fact is why must we allow our women to trade in mud and swampy environment, under the sun and in the rain? Can’t they have the benefit to do their trading in decent and cozy ambiance? More so, when most of these market women are the sustainers of their families. The market women are very effective. On the average in Africa today, the income of the mother is significant in a family economy. So once, you displace a market woman you have displaced a whole family and when you make the market decent you are lifting the family.
Now, if you go to any of our markets, you can just drive in park your car, buy what you need and drive out, but if you go to markets in some places, you need rent rain boot.
Our markets have solar lighting, the traders can use and plug their electrical and electronics gadgets, tele facilities, police post etc.
We are human beings for Gods sake, why do we treat ourselves as animals. What is the function of government if not to take decisions that would benefit the masses?
It is not a question of everybody being a trader, people going to markets is part of our tradition, so we are making the markets to be comfortable and convenient for the sellers and buyers alike.
Now you can see a permanent secretary, leaves his office and drives to the markets, and buys his needs but before like in Mile 12 in Lagos it was a major project, where you have look for parking space, rent rain boots to wade through the marshy environment to buy what you need.
As first time visitors to Akure, we saw a model motor park, ultra modern markets and massive constructions going on in the state, the governor seems to be in a hurry, where is he taking the state to?
His vision is to make Ondo a modern state. He has many ideas. The difference between him and other governors is that he has his master plan. He is not a governor who entered office without knowing what he wanted to do and that is why he hit the ground running the first day.
Before we won the case at the Appeal Court, he already had a design and located site for the general hospital. He has his entire plans ready.
For a long time, our people have been denied development, there was no development; government doesn’t perform and people don’t trust government. So we need to do a lot to not to fail the people who sent us there, and will repair the bond between the governed and the government.
That is why we have so many projects in every local government in Ondo. In our community development projects, we have done more than 100 projects and we are still counting. These are top quality projects.
The focus is to make Ondo a modern state where the masses would believe it is our government, where the bond between government the governed would be recreated and strengthened and time will now come when people believe government will do what it promised.
Governors are crying over lack of funds, did the government obtain bank facilities for these projects?
It is prudence. As my governor will put it, it is a matter of choice, once you choose A, you cannot choose B. We make choices on behalf of the masses. We rather choose to do a general hospital where pregnant women will go and deliver baby at no cost, free of charge even cesarean section that is designed to ensure there is no maternal mortality in the state to do programme that is elitist.
So it is a matter of choice. We rather put on the road buses that take children to and from school everyday to do programme that is elitist. That is the difference and prudent management of financial resources.
The state is very rich in agriculture and cash crops, how are you harnessing them to create wealth and employment?
We have been doing that. We started with Agric Business Cites. We have three of them now, one in Ore, Epinmi and Oka. What we have is a farm settlement where graduates are trained to be the owner-farmers in fisheries, arable farming and poultry.
We have even gone a state further in food production. Here at Ogbese, we have partnership will Malaysians concern to grow rice in large-scale; rice that will grow within six-months period and before the end of the year, Nigerians will be eating rice grown in Ondo State. We are doing it massively.
Three weeks ago, the government launched cocoa revolution. Ondo is the highest cocoa producing state in Nigeria and we want to go a step further by looking at the entire cocoa value chain from seedlings. Now, we are trying to raise more than a million seedlings of cocoa – new hybrid that can germinate within a short period of time. We are also going to raise out-grow farmers as well as outfit that will process our cocoa so that we won’t export raw cocoa abroad. Before cocoa leaves the state, it would be processed or semi-processed before exported.
Within the next few years, our position would be reemphasized as home of cocoa in Nigeria even West Africa. For oil palm, at Ore, we have more than one million seedlings of oil palm that have been planted. They were brought from Malaysia.
We are equally encouraging other farmers to also grow oil palm. A lot of people are now moving into our state to invest in oil palm, cocoa and rubber.
We are investing directly into the project to ensure that we really look at the value chains of each of the tree crops of the commodity. We also have timber and very large forest reserve. People came here, get license, cut woods, and export them. Most of the planks used in Lagos are from Ondo State.
We are also planting more and in the past year we have planted more than three hectares of trees, which within four years would grow into timber.
How is the security situation in the state, Okada still ply in the state capital unlike in other states, where they have been banned?
Ondo is very peaceful. The security agencies have been very cooperative and have a very strong synergy; they share intelligence and work together to ensure that there is no crime in the state.
We have invested in security and in prevention of crime through education, providing security agencies with machinery to do their jobs, motivating them and enlightening people on what they should do in case of crisis.
Our people are also very peaceful. Some times we have security challenges but we amount them easily. People are engaged and there is that Ondo State contentment sprit – people have the mentality that work is the panacea to poverty and we have been promoting this since 2009 and people have keyed into it. People believe in dignity of work though there are some few exceptions, but security agencies are up to the task to really checkmate them.
Some states have started paying stipends to the aged does Ondo government have programme for the aged?
We have not started giving stipends in Ondo State, but have a programme through our Women Affairs ministry to take care of the aged however, we have not started giving them money.
We are focusing on mothers and children. We also have programmes for the youths. All the agric programmes I talked about are targeted at the youths.
We are going to set up a state of the art technical schools and graduate conversion programme that will make our graduates to become self –employed and we back them with credit so that they can stand.
This is part of our programme for youth employment.
Our university curricular is structured in a way that people are trained not to work with their hands; they are trained theories. You see a mechanical engineer that does not want to do vulcanizing work or open car bonnet. There is scarcity of technicians to the extent that for ordinary POP (Plaster of Paris) and tilling you have to bring Togolese to do it. There are no more carpenters and masons.
Most of the jobs that we take for granted are no more in existence and they are things we should be able to do. We want to start graduate conversion programme and have many graduates trained on specific trades and we help them to set up trades.
When you look at the unemployment index, you will find out that most of the unemployed are those who went to school mainly graduates while those who learnt trades are working.
The university and polytechnic graduates are unemployment because they were not trained to use their hands. So that is what we want to achieve with graduate conversion programme so that at the end, the state would have enduring peace, more employments for the youths and wealth. In this way, a youth can start his or her own business and employs one or two persons like we have in the Agric business cities, where some of the owners have about two employers working with him.
From what you have said on harnessing the agricultural potentials of Ondo, which is an oil introducing state, if you take away oil and statutory allocation can its survive?
Certainly, the state will survive. Agricultural is the way to go –not only in Ondo but the entire Nigeria. Before the advent of oil, the defunct Western Region depended on cocoa. What Chief Awolowo did in the First republic was through cocoa not oil. He established the first television in African and many things with cocoa not oil money. That is why we started the cocoa revolution, the oil palm revolution and the entire value chains, not only planting but also processing. So, before the oil dries up we are ready.