*‘How gov, his men rule from Lagos’
*Says state surer for PDP than Ekiti
By Dapo Akinrefon
Senator Iyiola Christopher Omisore is the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Osun State in the gubernatorial election that holds in 20 days time, specifically on August 9. In this interview, Omisore bares his mind on the Aregbesola administration, his electioneering campaign, his plans for the people of the state and what INEC must do to ensure a hitch free election. Excerpts:
What are your expectations from security agencies and political stakeholders in Osun State as the election draws near?
There is so much hype on the election and the noise is coming from the APC. I do not know why they have to be noisy about it. The governor of Osun State has not hidden his tendencies for violence and thuggery.
He has said it many times that people should go to the polling units on election day with knives, cudgels and charms; which I think is uncharitable. With the Ekiti experience we had where security personnel were on ground, the election monitored properly, thugs arrested, miscreants barred from causing confusion, we came out with a peaceful, fair and credible election and the turnout was tremendous and unprecedented in the history of this country.
I believe that INEC can ensure fair and free poll in collaboration with security agencies. I have been campaigning from ward to ward because this is where the votes are. I am not interested in calling noisy rallies. Rather, I go to the villages and towns because these are where the votes are.
If votes must count, there must be security to protect everyone coming out to cast his vote. The APC governor is causing fear everywhere because he used that successfully in the 2010 election when people were chased away from polling units. But now that things are being sorted out, there won’t be any harassment; there will be security to ensure that people are free to vote their choice.
What has been your message to the people in the course of your electioneering campaign?
I am doing a rigorous campaign, I have visited 332 wards in the state and my message to them is that they should vote peacefully on the day of election and ensure that their votes count. I have appealed to people that there should be no violence, no thuggery and they must obey the Constitution of the land; they must not compromise on any issue. I have also appealed to our people to comply with the Electoral Act.
There are 19 contestants vying for the position of governorship. Do you feel intimidated?
It makes it easier so that there will be lots of interest groups. They should sell their manifestos and let the people decide what happens. I actually want INEC to make use of youth corps members in the August 9 election.
I am not unaware that there will not be enough corps members in Osun State because we have about 4000 polling units. That means they have to look for corps members outside the state. If they try to employ electoral officers in the state, they may end up employing thugs, political activists and there will be confusion in the election. No money is too much to be spent on a credible election because all the plans of the APC is to cause confusion and violence in the election.
APC is totally rejected in the state because there are no teachers in schools, students are being taught under trees; there are no developmental projects anywhere the state. All ongoing projects have been stopped because of over invoicing and capital flight to Lagos.
What makes you think you are the best out of the contestants?
My pedigree; my experience; my exposure and the love for my people is evident everywhere in the state.
It is natural to be a gap between a sitting governor and an incoming one. How far have you been bridging the gap?
It is an albatross for Aregbesola because he has initiated anti-people policies throughout the state. Everything he has done in this state is anti-people and so, it has become an albatross for him for life.
It is a problem for him to be an incumbent governor, it is unfortunate for him because he is rejected throughout the state completely and that is why he is desperate. He is even claiming that I am a street urchin, I am not a street urchin; I have a good pedigree because I have a very good background.
There is no doubt that there some members of your party who are aggrieved. What efforts are you putting in place to bring them back on board?
Well, maybe they were aggrieved few weeks ago, but now, our party is one. If you attend any of our rallies, you will see all of us there. All the aspirants are together, we have been campaigning together. As a matter of fact, PDP in Osun is the most peaceful state chapter in this country.
What of the former governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola?
It is between him and the national secretariat of the party; it is beyond Osun State.
There is this allegation by the APC that you intend placing implicating materials around the house of Senator Isiaka Adeleke. Kindly clear the air on that.
I am not aware. I am just hearing this. Maybe that is what they are planning in the APC. Adeleke should be very careful too because he is going to a place he does not know, it shows the kind of people he is working with, they can put problems on his head.
Are you saying that what happened in Ekiti State can also happen in Osun?
Osun is surer than Ekiti State because Aregbesola is the worst governor in this country. His policies have been anti-people. The education sector has been bastardized, Opon Imo falsified, road construction has been abandoned, no rural settlement, no agricultural project, nothing to lay hands on.
Recently, one of the schools constructed by this administration collapsed, that shows the inferiority of what he is doing. It is an albatross and a major problem for us in this state.
But some people keep talking about various attempts at development under Aregbesola. For example, the Opon Imo you just mentioned, the O’Yes programme and so on.
Which are all blatant failures and cause of his disaster as a governor…
So what fresh ideas do you have in mind?
That’s just part of the make-believe of his administration and perception of those outside the state. These awards were bought.
The truth is that the so-called O’Yes participants have not been paid for the past eight months; in that regard he has failed.
Opon Imo has been withdrawn. I join other well-meaning people to demand for its withdrawal all over the state because Opon Imo has 17 subjects and 87.7 errors, that’s the reality. On Opon Imo, the governor spent N8.4bn. He gave the contract to one of his sons. Doing this is not the problem, but the reality is that a dangerous work, capable of destroying our students, was done. It has 17 subjects, and 84.7 per cent errors. For example, in mathematics, algebra to be specific, there is no single graph inside Opon Imo, no single diagram and so on. I am a mathematician, you cannot teach mathematics without illustrating figures. It’s not possible. No single table, when you go to physics, same story. And in chemistry nothing. The idea was driven by profit, Opon Imo, in chapter 4 (history), says history of the Songai Empire, what you will read in the body is the history of Mali. That’s the character of Opon Imo, I have written to the British government, that they should withdraw the recognition of Opon Imo: I have gone to the UNESCO. It’s an embarrassment. They’re being withdrawn from schools now. In O’Yes, he’s owing them salary.
You don’t know government by slogans, it’s not by sloganeering. But the reality is that, at times, one cannot really run away from the reality of the level of the governor’s education.
A good and effective governor must focus on developmental issues. You must be driven by developmental issues, developing human capacity, the people’s capacity and not by misapplying people’s money. Can you image a governor sewing school uniform for N14bn, depriving the small traders, the clothes sellers on the street, depriving tailors on the streets? He’s taken food from one million Osun indigenous, men and women. These are people who voted for him. All because you wanted to siphon money. All these things have made him to fail. He came to Lagos Airport Hotel to showcase Osun Airport, spending about N4bn, but nothing on the ground to show for it.
What do you have for the people of Osun?
Unlike Aregbesola’s government that everything is Lagos arrangement, even carpenter, bricklayers, welders are brought from Lagos. I have two principles -equity and accountability-and four strands of development: develop viable human capital, arrest technology for commission and leadership, partnerships, promote regional operation and national integration.
Then you now go to my eight cardinal programmes. The first is education. Education in Osun State is in comatose, the merger of schools, St. Mary’s with Ahmadiya Grammar School, St John with Baptist Boys High School. There is confusion. Now, children have to walk four or five kilometers going to school. UNESCO said you encourage student to school within one kilometer distance of where they live.
No single health center is in any of those rural areas up till now; no pipe borne water. The only health centre we saw in Ioke-Ila was the one erected by one of the House of Representatives members.
Ironically, these people ruling Osun are not based in Osun State. They don’t know our communities.
On gender equity and youth development, our women, our children are our legacy, gainful employment and wealth creation; that is not the O’Yes kind of slavery. Gainful employment for youths. You engage and encourage students, graduates, entrepreneurship, small and medium enterprises, not putting them and using them to work as slaves. There is no hope for them. No hope.
So, what we are expecting from you now is a fundamental shift from the present state
I have a pact with the people. I don’t want to take you through the whole stories. But I have visions, principles inside my progammes that cover education, health sector, gender development, human capacity development, youth evolution, agriculture, infrastructure, commence, transparency in governance and accountability in governance and traditional rulers involvement in governance, I have it all in what I call eight-point agenda.
For instance, Osun State is a rural state based on agriculture. You have root crops, cash – etc. Aregbesola has not invested one kobo in rural roads in three and a half years; that is the mainstay of Osun’s economy. And you know in Nigeria, most of our fruits are seasonal – they are perishable items. They will all perish in the farm, thereby impoverishing the farmers who cannot bring their produce to town to sell, that is why he’s going to lose. My people don’t believe in most of those things you guys talk about, they don’t read your newspapers or use your televisions. They are not interested. Everything has been done in newspapers, on television or radio, but nothing on ground to support the claims. The reality must come to bear. You can’t pretend about people who haven’t been paid salaries, teachers have not been paid since February. Teachers are being owed, pensioners are being owed. Schools are being closed. What do you say? You want them to vote for Aregbesola? They are going to vote him out, they are determined.
How do you intend to handle issues concerning public schools in the state?
They have destroyed the children’s psychology. What we saw in Baptist High School, Iwo, where some students were wearing masquerade dress, some wearing choir dress and some wearing hijab only portend chaos. It is destroying the psychology of the child. He’s destroying the future of Osun State, so he must go, he must be removed.
How do you intend to tackle that aspect?
I will return schools to the owners of the schools and stop the merger of schools; I am going to announce immediately by August 10 that all schools should go back to their owners.
I will return the schools to missionaries and private school owners, except where they don’t want them. Then, I will cancel the sewing of school uniform by government. We don’t have to deprive people of their livelihood.
So, we want to continue our economy in Osun State and make government transparent.
The plan of this present government is to continue to deceive the people and eventually perpetuate themselves in office by using things to rig the election, but I can assure you we are going to resist rigging. They have failed; they did it in Anambra, they failed;,they did it in Ekiti, they failed and they are going to fail in Osun State as well. One-man-one-vote must count and I can assure you that Aregbesola will lose in every local government.
In a broader sense, what kind of education policy do you intend to run?
We are going to have organised, free education up to the secondary school level and even the tertiary institution. We are going to have scholarship for brilliant students, empower indegent ones so they can pay. When you are paying N10 and parents are not empowered, how can they afford education? The GDP has gone down below four per cent in the last three and half years, but there is capital flight to Lagos from Osun.
How do you intend to improve on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR)?
Osun is a civil service state. I’m sure you know that. There’s no Cadbury in Osun State, no Texaco, no Chevron, no Coca-cola, no Seven-up, so you cannot force revenue. When you say people should pay high taxes, you are just hurting them the more. It is better for you to manage what you have for the people in that state and they would understand you.
So, I am not going to engage in any high tax regime. Aregbesola is now saying he would withdraw the taxes because he wants to win election. That means he’s unfocused; you see a government that just wants to fumble and wobble. Aregbesola lost the Osun election over a year ago, nothing can salvage him. No amount of Bola Tinubu, Bisi Akande will save him, he’s a drowning man and he’ll drown.
People are being made to believe that you are a violent person. What can you say on that?
They are trying to make people believe that I am a violent person. Behaviour is like smoke. When you hide it, it will still come out; people have now seen that Aregbesola is a bad person. They have also seen that I am a gentleman per se. With my pedigree, my educational qualification and exposure, I cannot be a violent person.
People already know; they cannot be deceived anymore, that is why I have massive support in the state. We are trying to let them know that we know more than they do, we know the fake and the original.
People have seen beyond them, they have seen that Omisore is the best for this job. I believe that the best should lead the rest.
You have been going round the state. What are the specific demands that the people are making?
One, they told me that they want the sewing of uniforms to stop. “Omisore, gba aso iya lorun wa; awa o fe mo (Omisore, rid us of the clothes of suffering. We don’t want it),” is the song everywhere. Two, the schools should be returned to their original owners, for those who want them back. We are going to run a people-oriented, people-based government. Workers’ salaries will be paid promptly. Professionals who are useful are going to be brought in to restore pride in the people.
All the tertiary institutions will be reopened; they have been on strike now for over five months. A lecturer handles as much as 12 subjects because Aregbesola did not employ enough hands; no teachers, no bursary, no scholarship. So, the economy of this state has become comatose. They are all foreigners here; they come from Lagos on Tuesday and go back on Thursdays. They come with their soap and drinking water. ..The people of Osun are visibly hungry and very angry.
There’s been some controversy over the debt profile of the state, but the Debt Management Office has said Osun State’s debt is sustainable. What is your take on the issue..?
How much is this sustainable debt? The government should come out with the debt portfolio of the state now. Any government can borrow money, but it is the right of the people to know how much has been borrowed and what it has been used for. The point is, what has he used the money for? There is nothing on the ground to show for it. You borrow money to do what? To steal? That is the problem. Even the allocation from Abuja, about N613 billion in the last three and a half years now cannot be accounted for with what is on the ground. The roads that are said to be ‘ongoing,’ the government has not done 60 per cent of those roads. They are not up to N200 billion in totality. So, where is our money? A state which cannot pay salaries can buy helicopters for N4 billion for surveillance. Osun is the second safest state in this country but they now bought helicopters for N4 billion, to be patrolling the state. This is money that can be used to pay pensioners for years. It would pay civil servants for two consecutive years. Sustainable or not, how much is the debt profile? What have they done with our money?
Why the debt in the first instance? What is the necessity for the debt? The government has done no single rural road, and Osun is an agrarian community. Most farmers ride bicycles to the farms. That is why the hungry cry all over the place. The farmers are poor; they can’t even transfer their goods to town because there are no good roads. I have traversed this state in the last one and a half months. There are bad roads everywhere. When I got to Atakumosa West…my vehicle broke down; I had to board an okada (motorbike) to get to my campaign ground. That is the kind of thing we have. The roads are so bad. But you see, the beauty is that Osun indigenes know this and they will decide on 9th August.
Some people said your riding Okada was to imitate former Governor Ayo Fayose
My vehicles got stuck and I just took okada from that point to my campaign venue. That is all. Fayose takes Okada in Ado-Ekiti now and then. It was the only option available to me to get to my campaign venue. And I took it. I even take Okada in Osogbo. They must find fault. I was passing and market people blocked me. I came down from the vehicle and had to address all of them. Even people going to church or coming from the mosque would stop me. It is very common. Some of the women would give me corn. It was their show of love and acceptance. And I always accept such graciously. On a particular occasion, I was passing by Sekona market and the people gave me corn, pepper, tomatoes and what have you. It is what they have. Fayose goes to the market in Ado Ekiti. If I am in Ede on a market day, the people would stop me. I have to stop and address them.
The other time you said “There will be security in Ekiti.” And your major opponent, the sitting governor, a tough man, said that he is a street man. You are also a strong man. Do we expect war on election day?
I’m not from the streets. He is from the streets. I have a good pedigree. I’m from a good home, a comfortable home, and very good parents. I’m not from the street o. I’m just courageous and strong in my will…The governor has said it himself that he controls thugs now, the State Boys. He is saying it everywhere, openly. Look at what happened in Ekiti; all thugs were arrested. Let our votes count. It is too late for him and he must know that he can’t use violence to win election in Osun. The last election we had, they snatched ball boxes from polling units. That is what he is used to, but he will be shocked. Osun people have decided to shock him with this election. In fact, he is going to lose every local government in this state.
Osun has 30 local governments.
He is going to lose every local government. Go and mark it down today.
Including where he comes from, Ilesa, East and West?
He’s a (potentee?…) in Ilesa. Go to Ilesa and find out. He’s from Arigidi Akoko. So, the Ijesas know themselves. I’m an Ife-Ijesha man. We know ourselves very well.
Are you saying that Governor Aregbesola is not from Ilesa?
I don’t know. Go to Ilesa and find out. Maybe his parents should answer that question. He may be Ijesa abroad.
From what you have seen now of the ongoing projects, it means that you have a serious work to do if you are eventually elected as governor. Are you not worried that, given the state of the economy of Osun, you may not have the wherewithal to solve the people’s problems? And, what magic are you going to use?
One, the projects that are ‘ongoing’ are Federal Government projects. I’m going to beg the Federal Government to take on the projects and pay for them. Being a sitting governor, I will have access to them. Two, all other problems are things he (Aregbesola) caused. I would just return the schools to their owners, allow school uniforms to be sewn by those who were sewing them before. Everybody will be free. There will be peace in the state immediately. And any bank that he ‘over borrowed’ money from should go and look for Aregbe where they sacked him.
You won’t stop the ongoing projects?
No. They are Federal Government projects, basically, and I think it is easier for us to fund them from the Federal Government purse. Osogbo ring road, Kwara boundary to Osogbo, Sekona to Gbongan are all Federal Government roads.
But the Minister for Works said recently that his ministry is not going to be involved in any urban renewal programme of any government, that what the ministry is going to concern itself with are inter-state roads, which means that the roads linking one part of Osun to another will not be…
We have the necessary road documents and their geographical locations. It is not that the minister that will tell you. I know much more about the roads in the country. I was in the Senate Committee on Appropriation and I know the roads physically. It is not about ministerial discretion. We know the federal roads in every state. They are mostly inter-link state roads. Before state creation, some of them pass through the states. That was long ago when we had 12 states. Now that we have 36 states, some of them are now inside the states and in the towns. So, that is not a problem at all. We know federal roads everywhere in Nigeria.
How do you see the trend of Yoruba politics between now and 2015?
Well, Ekiti has gone to the PDP. Osun is going to the PDP in a few weeks time. Oyo, Ogun and Lagos will follow. That is the trend now.
Why do you think this is happening, because we need to distill it, ..
You know, people have been deceived for a long time. These people (APC) are mere hypocrites. Yoruba people are wise people; you can’t fool them for long. They will pretend to look at you. In fact, what is happening in Osun State, I’ve not seen it in my life. A two-year-old, a four-year-old with tell you what is happening to Aregebesola. “Ole ni o, o ko owo wa lo s’ Eko. A o fe mo! A a ni teacher ni school wa’ (He’s a thief, he carried our money to Lagos, we don’t want him again! We don’t have enough teachers in my school). I’ve never seen this in my life. It is a lifetime experience. My reception by the people has been massive. You have to come and see the massive turn out for yourself. If you are just imagining it, you might just say “O popular ni” (He’s just popular) but it is beyond that. Yesterday, I just passed through Iwo by chance and for two minutes, the whole place was in an uproar.
My own worry is this. You have gone through the state and you have seen the massive turn out. Quite so often, all the places you have touched have challenges and people have been talking to you about these challenges, issues that they expect you to begin to address. Are you not scared that, “At the end of the day, will I, Omisore, be able to meet the people’s expectations’? Two, if inside one or two years by reason of bad economy in Abuja, your state is affected, how prepared are you to revamp the economy of this state to the extent that you would not have done your permutations based on whatever you would be getting from Abuja? Again, people would profile Omisore, saying that ever since you came into politics, you had just one ambition, to become governor; that even when you were a deputy to Chief Bisi Akande, you wanted to be governor. Is it just about being credited with being the governor of Osun State? What is the driving force? One, going through this state with the myriads of problems can be scary initially. But with a sense of leadership and purposefulness, the problems are surmountable. A lot of money has been collected in this state in the past three and a half years; it has not solved the problems of the state because of capital flight. Our main problem is capital flight; there is no transparency in governance at all.