From Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
Ambassador Dare Bejide was Nigerian envoy to Canada and ex- Secretary to Ekiti State Government (SSG), serving three consecutive state governors.
A pioneer state secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Bejide in this interview speaks on why he yielded to pressures from those he referred to as elders in PDP in Ekiti to contest this year’s governorship poll.
You are aspiring to govern Ekiti State, what do you think makes you qualify for the exalted position?
You are aware of the agitation of Ekiti South for governor Agenda in the state. You are aware that we have had two governors from the central, and three from the north. And since the creation of Ekiti, we in the South have not been given the opportunity to produce a governor. The agitation to have an Ekiti man from the south is on and our people have been saying fairness is fairness. I am from the south.
Apart from the issue of zoning, in the PDP in Ekiti, I am the most senior member. I was there when the party was founded in 1998 and I am not sure whether any of the aspirants can boast of that record. I am the pioneer secretary of the party and I have been around for quite a long time to understand the state’s needs. Apart from the three years I spent abroad as Nigeria’s ambassador to Canada, I have been living in the state since my birth. I had my primary and secondary education in the state and would have had my university education in the state had there been a university at the time I went to the university.
Since my graduation from school I have been here in the state. My chamber is here. So, I am a homeboy. I have the required experience. I was the first governorship candidate of the party. I secured the ambassadorial appointment when I was commissioner in the state and when I returned I was appointed as Secretary to the State Government and I got reappointed to that position three times. I have paid my dues to the socio-development of the state. So I see myself as the only PDP aspirant that has the capacity to bring back all the PDP members that defected to APC. They left the PDP because of the mismanagement of the affairs of the party. I have interacted with them and they have assured me of their readiness to return to the party if I become the flag bearer of the party.
What is your agenda for Ekiti when you become the governor?
I believe the most important thing in Ekiti is to get rid of poverty which is so endemic here. I believe a responsible government should bring up programmes that would, if not completely eradicate poverty, reduce it drastically. And I believe the best way to beat poverty is to encourage and improve on agriculture. Agriculture provides food for the people and anyone who has no food cannot do anything.
Apart from using agriculture to provide food for ourselves, we should also be able to provide food for others. Ekiti is strategically placed between Lagos and Abuja. We have fertile land that makes the environment good for agriculture, all we need is government’s support.
Developing agriculture also guarantees employment opportunities. All we need do is to support agriculture in such a way that we make agriculture attractive to our young people. If an average youth knows that going into agriculture can fetch him enough money as much as what he would get in government employment, he would be interested in it.
As a home boy who understands the environment very well, what were your achievements as SSG that has now made you more prepared for governorship?
I will start from my own immediate constituent as a member of PDP. I made tremendous contribution to my party. As SSG I made sure that all party members had access to government. My office was open to everybody and I was fully in charge of the welfare of all party members and I can assure you all our party members agreed that I did very well.
In my local government, we recorded the highest number of political appointments during my tenure as SSG. Two major roads in my LG, Ilawe-Igede, Ilawe-Igbara-odo road and even a new road was constructed; the road from Ilawe and Erijinyan. We also did the road from Ogotun and Iponle, so that all the communities can benefit. We empowered many during my time at all levels. I did my best as the officer in charge of implementation of all government projects, and the records are there. That is why I am able to come out to contest today. I am aspiring for governorship so that I can do more for the state.
A few months ago, Governor Fayose openly endorsed his deputy who is from your area; don’t you see that as a big stumbling block to your chances?
One thing you should know is that if an individual is raising a candidate’s hand up and presenting him as the next governor, such a candidate should realise that such development is a minus to his aspiration. If it is one individual that is presenting an aspirant to the whole of Ekiti as their next governor, the person so presented should know that he is already a failure. Democracy is about the people and a person who would lead us has to be elected by all of us through a democratic process. The process of getting a flag bearer in the PDP is very clear. It is through an election to be conducted at a particular time by delegates from all the wards and until that is done, nobody should be thinking of any flag bearer.
The governor has the right to support anybody, but the people also have the right to support or reject such choice. Until Professor Eleka became the deputy governor, we didn’t know him in this state. He was not a registered party member until he became the deputy governor. As a matter of fact, he had no voter card before he became the deputy governor. So, for somebody to now say he would succeed him is not only ridiculous but immoral. I am ready to challenge him because the party belongs to us.
The nominator and the nominee met me in this party. Nobody can hijack our party. All the leaders of the party have resolved that we will go to the primaries and I am ready. I have advised my supporters to ignore the nomination by the governor as it is illegal, immoral and unacceptable.
In the event that close to the election or on that election, you discover that the nominator wants to impose his nominee on the party, are there ways you can tackle this?
I can assure that this time around, it would be very difficult for anybody to manipulate the primaries. It was very easy in 2014 because they had people in Abuja supporting them. But at the moment, there is not godfather, no federal might or President as it is the APC that is at the centre. It is not going to be easy for anybody to manipulate the system, because if such happens, it would result into giving the APC easy access to win.
What plans do you have for the teeming Ekiti youths, majority of whom are unemployed, idle and who easily fall prey to politicians who use them as thugs?
As you said, youths are very key to the development of any state. Their interest is very paramount as they are the leaders of tomorrow who should be developed well for a greater tomorrow. Our concern is the level of mass unemployment. And factors responsible for such unemployment include lack of skills for self employment. There are graduates among them who also should be trained. In civilised countries, less than 20 percent of the labour force constitutes the government service, 80 percent of them are private owners of businesses. Our youths require special skills to get to that level. We will improve on agriculture business to attract graduates who, even though would work on the farms, would still appear like those working in blue chip companies.
We will restructure the curricular of our schools by including entrepreneurship skills in the school’s curriculum. We will deepen the school enterprises business so that every school would run an enterprise and students would learn to be self employed through these enterprises.
Also for the artisans, and others with one vocation or another, we will engage them in training and retraining to update their skills in their vocations so that our people who require their services would not have to take such jobs to other states because many of these mechanics, vulcanizers and bricklayers and others have outdated skills. We will establish special departments in our technical schools to train these artisans for free to update their skills.
We will promote the interest of our women, especially those already relegated to the backgrounds as a result of our cultural norms. We will increase their visibility in governance and encourage them to participate and have more representation in government so that their interests can be taken care of. The local women would also be assisted. Many of them just need as little as 20,000 or 50,000 to start a business. We will provide this for them, for those selling yams, vegetables, pepper and so on.
Against the background that Ekiti women and the Muslim community are now asking for meaningful inclusion in the government, will you be choosing a woman or a Muslim as a running mate?
Issue of running mate is a very important aspect of election that has to be handled carefully. I was once a running mate to a gubernatorial candidate in our party and we contested for it before I won the slot. This is not going to be an individual decision, but one which deserves collective efforts of all stakeholders who would assess the personality of the governorship candidate, identify his areas of strength and weakness and decide on a running mate who can take care of those areas of shortcomings for electoral victory. You also have to consider the candidate of your major opponent and his running mate to balance your own ticket. One would also need to consider the relative voting strengths of each community or zone and the personality of the person being considered as running mate. There is also the religious and gender angles and it is all encompassing, this is why it is strictly a party affair.