Rose Ejembi, Makurdi Executive Secretary of Benue State Teaching Service Board (TSB), Prof. Wilfred Uji, has disclosed that over 300,000 school children have been displaced by the incessant Fulani herdsmen invasion of the state since January this year. Uji disclosed this in a chat with newsmen in his office on Tuesday. He said those affected…
Alhaji Fatai Akingbade is the pioneer chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Secretary to the Osun State Government during the tenure of erstwhile governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he speaks on his aspiration to contest the September governorship election in the state on the platform the PDP. He says he has the magic wand to turn around the fortune of the state.
You are one of the aspirants seeking for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State. What is your motivation for wanting to rule the state?
Like you all know, I have been in Osun for quite sometime. And I have been in government, I know every nook and cranny of the state, I know what and what the problems are, I know the peculiar needs of each settlement. I believe I have the solution to whatever may be the problems of Osun State generally. That primarily is my motivation.
There are some apparent dislocations in the state, especially in the education sector. How would you get around some of these challenges if you succeed in picking the ticket and eventually emerge as the governor?
There is a Yoruba proverb that says, “A rat that has its own path in the bush will continue to run without missing its track.” I this case, I have been in government for a while. I have served as a commissioner, I have served as Secretary to the Government, and I know how government runs. Like you said, there are so many dislocations in the state. The education system is wrong, which is why we are almost the last on the ladder in WEAC examinations. The health service too is nothing to write home about. In Agriculture, nothing is going on there in the last eight years. There are so many other things. Honestly, if anybody goes there, he may not know where to start. But for me who has been part and parcel of the foundation of the state, all I need to do is just to build on that foundation. I know quite well that things are not normal; I know that things are not going on well in the state. But the problems are not insurmountable. By the grace of God, I will fix them up almost immediately.
What is the assurance that you will also not end up giving reasons you cannot meet certain expectations when you get there?
This is the more reason why somebody like me has to be the next governor. When you look at the system, you know where money is being wasted. Transparency and accountability are the basic things here. When a government is transparent, open and follows due process, you will discover that what you think is not sufficient will be in excess. By following due process, the cost of what you do will be considerably low and you will get better quality performance because the fear will be in the minds. If the contractors know that you are not going to ask for anything, certainly they will do the job to the utmost quality. And I have that record of transparency. When I was commissioner for works, we followed what we called due process in the World Bank project that we did then. That due process gave us opportunity to do a lot of roads with small amount of money. Most of those roads are still there today. Sonnel Bonel, which is now the RCC got most of the jobs. They would tell you we got it because the lowest bidders got it from among the best contractors selected. That is why I am grateful to my boss then, Navy Captain Anthony Udofia. Each time I went to him, he would say look, Honourable, let the man go and do the job. I don’t need anything. From him, I learnt a lot. The contractors would go and do the best job. If they took a job for say like N26 million then, the next contractor would be like N60-something million and they would do it better than even anyone of them. What I am saying is that I know how to save a lot of money through effective cost management.
What would be your solution to the backlog of salaries owed workers by the present government?
Before you can succeed in governance, you must take civil servants very seriously. Why most governments in this country are not doing well is because they under rate the civil servants. I want to assure you that wherever the present government stops paying, we take it up from there and clear the backlog. Besides, if you look at how much they are claiming to be paying as salaries, you will discover that it is not true. We know how many civil servants we have in the state, we know how many new jobs have been created in the last few years and we also know that more than 50 per cent of the workforce has retired. We will get to the root of all the cost. We just have to pay off workers before we embark on any meaningful project because they are the drivers that will drive the government.
There is an insinuation about the alleged dismal performance of the government which you were a part of. What is your position on this?
Let us be specific. There are lots of agencies. When you marry available funds with projects, then you know who is performing and who is not performing. It is on record that we did the school feeding better than they are doing it now. The vendors were making the food in the schools. We built kitchens for them in all schools and they were being properly supervised. So, what they are doing on education is not new. During our time, Osun State was number 8 in WAEC examinations. We changed all the school building in the entire state to new classrooms. Some of them have been demolished but majority are still there up till now. Not only that, we paid salaries of teachers and retirement benefits regularly. We even went to the extent of giving textbook to the students and we encouraged the teachers. In the area of health, we spent well over N100 million monthly to procure drugs for all hospitals in the state. In terms of infrastructure, we did more rural roads than the present government. In Agric sector, we did so many things. We bought over 300 tractors to boost production. Ask this government how many tractors have they bought? We opened up agric settlements and increased the number from two to seven. We started the free trade zone. It has been abandoned by this government. There was what we called Scale G, through which we equipped schools with laboratory equipment to improve both science and technical education. Go to our technical colleges, all these things are there undistributed by this government. Because they want to discredit the past government, they locked them up till today and they never added anything to it. It was the previous government that dualised Oke-Fair to Iwo road end, Old Garage road to Akoda which is about 27 kilometres was also dualized at a very reasonable cost, less than N2 billion. Now, they are using more than N39 billion and they have not even done up to 50 percent of it. The very day this government took over, Governor Rauf Aregbesola abrogated the due process law which would have been his guide and guard. It was the first bill he sent to the House. They just reintroduced it last year and it has not been followed in all the road projects they are awarding. No single job in Osun was advertised. If anybody is saying the government I participated in did not perform, I want that person to come and tell me what he meant by that.
Are you saying the PDP can dislodge the APC in the state in the next election?
Osun is very sophisticated. It was their sophistication that brought in this man because they were deceived. Nobody can be deceived again because they have seen what they can do. And nobody does above his knowledge. They have discovered that they can never do better than that. We have been tested and trusted. I am very proud of my participation in the last government. And I can account for everything I participated in. It is unlike this government that is being run by consultants. Civil servants are not doing anything.
Looking at the contending forces in the PDP today, can you confidently say that the ticket will come to you?
No politician will say that. One, Osun is blessed now because there are varieties of good alternatives. Two, PDP is parading the best candidates in the state today. We have people like former Speaker contesting, we have Akogun, we have Iyiola Omisore and many others. I am also in the race. Let anyone come out and say he is more qualified than I am. Today, the slogan: Fatai lokan (it’s Fatai’s turn), resonates everywhere in the state. I have the experience, the pedigree, and transparency to lead the state out of the woods. Nobody has ever accused me of any shoddy thing. I have never in my life involved myself in any corrupt practice.
When I was party chairman, I never took anything from anybody. And as a public officer, I have never taken any bribe and I never bargained with any contractor. The records are there. And people know how hardworking I can be. Everybody is qualified but the public is there to judge all of us. I will only appeal to the qualified aspirants too because no one among them has not passed through me at one time or the other. We so much appreciate ourselves. I was the former chairman and I mid-wifed the coming of the opposition. Whatever it is I believe in God that I will make it. I think we have already learnt our lesions. We are in the opposition and we cannot afford to fail. I am sure everybody is aware of that. There must be understanding that only one person will be.
What do you have in stock for the state?
I want to bring about good governance, the governance that will have the fair of God and will cater for everybody. I will ensure we build more middle class members in the society. Everybody will have something to do. We will provide an enabling environment for every business to thrive. We will provide sustainable employment through agriculture and massive industrialization. We will make Osun as a model of a productive state. We have the potential for it. Everybody may not be a millionaire but they will live well.