From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure

Akinfolarin Mayowa Samuel, a two term Deputy Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly and former member of the House of Representatives representing Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo/Odigbo federal constituency of the state is a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He spoke on various issues in this interview.

Why are you interested in the governorship race?

I have held public offices for a while and in all the elective positions, I have always advocated for policies, projects and programmes that directly and positively impact the ordinary man in the society, especially in Ondo State. I know every administration in Ondo State inside out. So, I can tell you that over time, there seems to have been a lot of gaps between the government and the people of the state and please don’t get me wrong, I did not say those who governed before now did not have their own impact but I am a practical person. I relate well with the people at the grassroots, young and old people and even high flyers across Ondo State.

I know where the shoe pinches, I have some home-grown solutions to our problems. What works in Lagos, Abuja, Rivers and the likes may not work in Ondo State because we have our own peculiarities and I speak the language of the masses. I am prepared to serve my people and I am able to undertake the task ahead.

What are your chances considering the number of aspirants in the race, including the current governor of the state?

We both know that only few of them are serious. The APC is a progressive family and so it is within the fundamental human right of every member of the party to vie for any office, but we know those who are serious and those who want to run just to mark register that they were once aspirants.

Of all the people jostling for the number one seat in Ondo State, I can tell you that I am the most experienced and the one with the strongest grassroots appeal. Like I said earlier, I have been a political player of note for a while, I was twice a Deputy Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly and for two consecutive terms, I was a member of the House of Representatives representing Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo/Odigbo federal constituency of Ondo State in the National Assembly. I am a people’s politician and I have earned the trust of my people over time.

Are you saying you will defeat all the aspirants including the governor?

Every major stakeholder in APC in Ondo State today is on my side and 90 per cent of them have been my friends for decades and they all know that I do not promise and fail. Otherwise, you will not see the calibre of politicians that were present at our last stakeholders’ engagement meeting that happened within a very short notice. These are politicians who command large followers in their respective domains. They are all looking for someone they have access to and I am no stranger to them and indeed to the people of the state.

What is your blueprint for developing the state?

My approach to governance is quite different. I believe in a bottom-up approach to governance. My plan will be to assemble a creative team of technocrats and politicians and we are going to be delivering programmes that address businesses at local level. Call it micro-economics, you are right, because those small-scale businesses that are often neglected are the bedrock of every developing society and ours is no exemption.

We will be focusing especially on farmers, artisans, traders, entrepreneurs and the likes. When elected, our government will create the enabling environment for them to thrive. We are going to deliberately empower our young people to be job creators and not job seekers, our market women will be given access to loans and grants in a very coordinated way. Let me also say that the young people are like the driving force behind every one of my projects. They took ownership of my governorship project from day one, I am familiar with their thinking and for the first time, the government will be attending to their needs in practical terms not just on paper.

The civil service will be repositioned for productivity and the welfare of all workers will be the best you can get anywhere in the country. We are in a hurry to make our people trust government again. Under my watch, education, healthcare and infrastructure will flourish. I will ensure the development of all the sectors of our economy in the state and in no distant time, under my watch, Ondo State will be envy of other states in the country.

All aspirants talk about young people during their campaigns only for them to renege once elected. How will yours be different?

Some of these aspirants just go on google and download ideas from all over the world even when some of them are not realistic. I have walked the talk before and I will do it again. I feel so worried seeing Nigerian graduates roam about the streets after their National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) programme and that was why I sponsored a bill to establish the National Youth Service Corps Trust Fund to ensure that these young people who have acquired one skill or the other during their service year get enough resources to stand on their own and become employers of labour, rather than looking for jobs.

Ondo State is an agrarian state, what are your plans for farmers in the state?

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Food security is key on my agenda. I am a son of a farmer; I am also a part-time farmer and most of the farmers at the grassroots in the 18 local government areas of the state are people I relate with regularly, so I know their plights.

We must be able to feed ourselves before talking about industrialisation. Government must be deliberate and invest massively in agriculture.

We cannot be doing the same thing every year and expect a different result. This time, we are doing it differently with the common people at the heart of it.

What are your plans for the industrialisation of the state which many stakeholders are clamouring for?

First thing first, we must prioritise agriculture in all ways and find a better way of improving on the techniques through partnership and exposure. We are going to do agriculture on a large scale and even export. We must critically have a look at infrastructure, security, education and healthcare including power, among others. We don’t want to pay lip service to industrialisation. Those before us had failed in this regard because they failed to answer the critical questions before jumping into industrialisation. Are we going to industrialise? Yes. But we are going to take it one step at a time and definitely we shall get there.

How do you think the economy of the state can be best managed?

The state’s money will be used for the people of the state. Every penny we make in this state will be spent in this state. No capital flight, I can assure you of that. We will also discourage wastage and ensure that our people come first. We will prioritise things that matter to our people and not waste money on white elephant projects that have no positive impact on the people of the state. What is important is that we will be transparent and accountable.

What is your relationship with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu?

The president is my benefactor and I say it everywhere. His leadership prowess is immeasurable and his knack for excellence is second to none. One thing you must know about the president is that he listens and you must have seen it from the way he listens to Nigerians and addresses issues swiftly, regardless of ethnic and political affiliations.

President Tinubu is a compassionate leader who means well for Nigerians.

The Renewed Hope Agenda of the Tinubu’s administration seems to be making life more difficult for Nigerians, what’s the way out?

Firstly, let me appreciate the President for taking the right steps since he assumed office on May 29, 2023. He has demonstrated that he understands issues affecting every Nigerian and he is attending to them with a lot of commitment. Looking at his antecedents as Lagos State Governor, I know Nigerians will soon start smiling. I can assure you.

Nigerians are becoming more impatient with the present administration because nothing has really changed in the country. What is your take on this?

You can’t say nothing has changed. In about six months, the President has displayed purposeful leadership by reinvesting the money saved from fuel subsidies in health, education, job creation and infrastructure. For the first time in a long time, states received almost double of their allocations and none of them is complaining about payment of salaries. They can now do more at the state level, which is taking governance close to the people. Nigerians just need to be a little patient because some of the plans in the renewed hope agenda have long-term goals while some positive results will begin to manifest very soon.

What should the people of Ondo State expect if you become the governor?

Our people should expect nothing less than accelerated development and inclusive government. We are going to run a government that has something for everyone in the state.