By Dayo Johnson & Dapo Akinrefon
Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr Ranti Akerele. In this interview with Vanguard, he berated the former Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Agagu for alleging that Governor Olusegun Mimiko falsified a security report to win the governorship tussle at the election petition tribunal. He also bared his mind on other sundry issues. Excerpts:
How would you react to the recent alleged submission of fake security report made by immediate past governor Olusegun Agagu?
As far as we are concerned, it is an act of desperation on the part of the former governor. The furore over the security report was an antic employed by Agagu to distract him from delivering the dividends of democracy having seen the spate of developmental projects currently going on in the State within the past 18 months of Mimiko’s administration.
There is nothing to all these noise over security report. For me, it is an act of desperation to distract us. We went to the tribunal to challenge Agagu and the PDP that we won the election.
They responded and in trying to prove that what we said in our petition was false, they said that they will produce security reports that they won the election. His petition to this effect was signed by one of his lawyers, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). We got to the tribunal but they could not produce the security report.
You see, they got the report and they found out that it was not in their interest then, they kept it under the drawer. But somehow, this security report materialized at the tribunal and the judges, used their own judicial discretion, after cross-examination and a subpoena to the Director of State Security Services (SSS) to produce this report.
Will it not be abnormal for SSS to say they had no security report about the election when they were present in every polling booth and every local government of the State?
If they denied the existence of the report, then something must be wrong, but I think Nigerians should ask Agagu where are those security reports that they pleaded so copiously in their petition that they would produce.
Isn’t it laughable that three years down the line, after 22 months of judicial process and with the service of about 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), they just woke up suddenly to say some reports were fake, but I think that is meant to be a distraction.
What informed the decision of the Ondo State Government to embark on producing of identification cards for people of the state?
What we are doing in that regard is not really an identity card, it is a smart card that would have the basic information about the individuals. It is a biometric card that, the moment you slot it at the point of usage, we will know who you are and the last time it was used.
That will help us to reduce middle men. It’s also useful for the person who wants to access medicare; it is actually to be able to run government better. It is something that has never been done before.
It is the first of its kind in Nigeria. The idea is to have a social security card, we call it ‘card igbeayo’ and it simply means the card that will make you live abundant life.
So, what we’re doing in Ondo State, is to try to manage our meager resources and to make sure that, because certain things are free, people do not abuse them. And the only way to do this, is to put a measure of control in place.
So, that card, is going to be for every Ondo State indigene or anyone that is resident in Ondo State, so that it will be easier to access government services; it will also be easier for government to manage our meager resources.
When the current administration came in about 17 months ago, the expectations of the people of Ondo State were high, would you say government has met those expectations?
This administration has been very creative in its approach to governance. As soon as the governor got there, he did what we call ‘quick win projects,’ but the quick win is not only a community project, they are also in the markets that we have built.
You see market, as common as it sounds, is actually the hub of the economy of the average Yoruba town or city. That is where our market women trade and when you provide a conducive atmosphere for them, you do not only empower their economic activities, but also their economic base.
These things have sounded a clear signal that this government means business. We are building community projects in 150 new communities this year, having delivered 80 last year.
All these have brought about a connection between the government and the people because by the time we came in, there was a complete disconnection between the government and the people. They were used to being promised things and they did not get them.
I am not saying that we have one 100 per cent support in Ondo State, I believe that is not realistic in the kind of political environment that we have, but certainly, a greater majority of the people of Ondo State, are right behind this administration. They believe in the competence of this administration to address their own basic needs and that is happening.
How true is it that the governor is planning to return to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP?
The governor has already answered that question a number of times and I will want to recollect his last answer to that question. He said he is happy working for the people of Ondo State and that he was voted on the platform of Labour Party and that there is nothing that PDP will give him, that he is going to look for in the PDP.
So, the governor is happy, he was voted on the platform of Labour Party, he is using the platform of the Party to govern Ondo State, putting to work the manifesto and programmes of Labour Party. That is a statement that will come from the average Ondo state PDP man; but we in the Labour Party know that the governor is a man of principle and he has said it publicly that he has no reason to jump the ship.
The governor has been accused that instead of focusing on governance, he is busy going about to woo PDP members into the Labour Party…
It’s another of PDP’s statement. For instance, if I was in PDP, I would be worried that someone like Bolodeoku has left the party, I’d be worried that the speaker has left the party, I will be worried that quite a number of their best hands, even in the legislature are leaving. I will be worried that former Commissioners are leaving and coming to the Labour Party.
But then, that they are worried and they have not been able to find answers, shows that the PDP has lost it in Ondo. The truth of the matter is that the state PDP is out of tune with realities. The people have assessed this government and Dr Olusegun Mimiko and they have accepted that indeed, this is the kind of leader that we need for this hour. All these issues tell you of the huge disconnect between the PDP and the people of Ondo State.