By Demola Akinyemi
Dr. Mike Omotosho, fondly called Omo To Sure’, pulled a surprise in Kwara State in the 2015 governorship election when, as the candidate of the Labour Party(LP), he took the third position after the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Simeon Ajibola, who came second, and incumbent Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC), who won the election. Today, Omotosho is the National Chairman of LP after emerging at the last congress of the party. A sports enthusiast, he is the promoter of the Sure Babes Female Football and Omotosure Wheelchair Basketball teams both in Kwara State. As the first Governor of Toastmasters International, District 94, covering the whole of West Africa, he was voted the best Governor of Toastmaster worldwide, a feat never achieved before in Africa. Omotosho is Governor Emeritus of Rotary International District 9125 Nigeria who travelled almost 25,000km within 150 days to commission over 300 community projects. He spoke in an interview in Ilorin.
What effort(s) are you making to reposition LP ahead of the next general elections?
We are restructuring Labour Party in a number of ways but I will share the three most important.
First, we are relaying our foundation at the state, local government and ward levels. Men and women of impeccable character are being elected into leadership positions and are taking selfless responsibilities to build excellent structures that will win elections.
Second, a technical working committee is about to unveil a more robust, responsible and revolutionary manifesto that will strategically drive sustainable development in Nigeria and clearly define the hopes and aspirations of every Nigerian.
Third, the party has initiated a membership drive, a campaign to draft like-minded Nigerians, who are tired of the mediocrity and degeneracy of the state of affairs in Nigeria, to build a party for the people to stop the mess. Nigeria is blessed with intelligent minds and hard-working populace, we are pacesetters and innovators, Therefore there is no reason Nigeria should be tagged a third world country.
What are the current challenges of the party?
I am glad you used the word ‘challenges’ and not problems. One of the challenges the Labour Party had in the past was lack of enforceable party ethics. Under this new administration, our aim is to build a strong membership that will drive party strategy rather than individual agenda. Defectors from other parties seeking a platform for temporary gains will no longer use our party, because party loyalty is critical to creating the revolution we desire. Another challenge we plan to take head on, although not unique to Labour Party, is the increasing sense of anxiety and hopelessness of Nigerians in the multi-party system. We shall restore the hope and confidence of every Nigerian.
What are the chances of the LP in 2019 general elections?
There is a popular saying that ‘you cannot keep doing the same thing the same way and expect a different result’. It is crystal clear to Nigerians that the two big political parties have performed abysmally below expectation. Even though we term them as ‘big’, they lack strategy and structure to govern based on principles but rather on personal ideologies. This is where the Labour Party is different. We are competitively positioned as a party where principles supersede individual beliefs and where it is imperative for us to build strong sustainable institutions that are uniform across board. So 2019 looks good for the Labour Party because Nigerians are ready for intelligent intervention. So for those that are ready to walk the talk, young, middle-aged or old, male or female, the Labour Party is where you will be given a seat at the table.
What is the plan of LP to get the country out of its economic challenges?
I have always noted that the many challenges of the country, including our economic challenges, are the result of lack of leadership with innovative ideas to harness the abundant human and material resources to confront the challenges. Labour Party will find such men and women, both home grown and in diaspora, and bring them on board to harness the vast potentials of the country. It is time to begin to put round pegs in round holes and explore the creativity of youths.
The overdependence on oil must stop.
What is your view on the current anti-corruption fight of the Buhari administration?
The fight against corruption is a step in the right direction except that more needs to be done. Corruption cannot be fought without an effective judicial system; consequences must be enforced irrespective of social class and party affiliations. Another way of fighting corruption is to provide safety nets for the people. Issues pertaining to insecurity like poverty, unemployment and provision of social welfare must be resolved. These safety nets will assure the citizens of better life and guard against corruption that stems from frustration and fear.
How best do you think the fight against corruption could achieve maximum result?
The fight against corruption will achieve significant outcomes when government is able to provide the basic needs of the people. People will refrain from corrupt practices if their future is secure. Imagine knowing that your kids will attend school, have access to adequate healthcare, can afford to be fed tolerably and you can commute as required, the tendency for you to engage in corrupt practices will be drastically reduced if not eliminated. Government must therefore strengthen our institutions and provide safety nets for the welfare of the citizens.
Refer to current economic hardships being faced by Nigerians; do you think it’s avoidable? What’s the way out?
At the presentation of the 2017 budget to the National Assembly in May last year, the President named it Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth, which was meant to help the nation recover from the economic crisis and engender growth in critical sectors of the nation. He listed some of the priority areas as agriculture and food security, industrialization and SME development, macro and micro economic stability, energy sufficiency in the power and petroleum sectors as well as transportation. A critical look at these areas shows that a lot of progress is yet to be made and execution of government’s agenda has largely fallen below expectation.
The road to recovery may be long, but there is always a way out. Individual states must seek ways to generate revenue innovatively, initiate civil service reforms, build the middle class and ease ways of doing business, etc.
The Nigeria Bureau for Statistics (NBS) not long ago claimed the country was out of recession. What’s your view?
Our economy is still in dire state despite exiting recession by 0.05% a few months ago, and there is relative stability of our naira to the dollar. The micro economic and real sector is yet to feel the impact of the acclaimed improved macro-economic situation. Many businesses are still closed and more are closing, with many workers rendered jobless. The unemployment rate is high, and money has reduced in circulation. Many believe that the proffered economic solutions are mere rhetoric that may not be capable of revamping the economy. I must however congratulate the government in moving Nigeria 24 steps to 145th position in the ease of doing business. These reforms will definitely add to the ripple effects of development.