By Emmanuel Aziken
Special Assistant on Media to the Governor of Ogun State, Soyombo Opeyemi, speaks on developments in the state and 2019 elections…
The nation appears again to be gripped by 2019 election fever, bringing governance practically to a standstill in most parts of the country. How do we ensure elected public officials deliver dividends of democracy to the people till the expiration of their tenure?
I agree 2019 is around the corner and there are lawful political activities here and there, not campaigns. But in my own state, governance has not come to a halt. As a matter of fact, the tempo of services to the people of Ogun State continues to increase by the day. Just recently, you read about the rice revolution in the state. Rice, of course, is a major staple in the country. I do not know of a house where rice is not consumed almost on a daily basis. If you don’t eat, your children will eat. It doesn’t make sense for us to continue to spend two billion dollars yearly on rice importation, thereby developing the economies of other countries. That is why the Amosun administration keyed into the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to scale up rice production in the state. The governor believes in partnership with out-grower farmers, not political farmers. Government serves as off-takers. You remember the Commodity Boards of those days. Gradually, we are bringing back the good old days in the sector. We should plant, process and package what we consume. Our Mitros Rice is more nutritious than the imported ones and cheaper. The popular Ofada rice is now stone-free courtesy of the rice mills installed by the state government. This is a product of vision and has nothing to do with 2019.
At the last count, Amosun has inaugurated over 125 multi-billion naira companies in Ogun State. The frequency of this inauguration has not waned despite 2019. This is as a result of the enabling environment provided by this government. If your company is not in Ogun State, it is probably not in Nigeria.
Talking about the Mitros Rice, the opposition alleged in a recent advert that your government was involved in rice padding, adding some bags of sand to make a rice pyramid. How do you react to that?
And you believe that?
But the information is right there in the public domain.
The Ogun State chapter of Labour Party made the allegation.
Does Labour Party exist in Ogun State? Where are their members? A party that could not win a councillorship position, that could not even field candidates in most of the elections, you call that a party? We all knew it was disgruntled politicians at work, the merchants of Pull Him Down. Otherwise, how can anyone in his senses accuse a government of packaging bags of sand as rice? No focused government will be distracted by such inane falsehood. And that’s why no government official dignified such a foolery with a response.
Does Governor Amosun believe in restructuring?
Of course, he does. He believes in restructuring that will make Nigeria more united. He said that much recently. Even before the term gathered much traction recently, he had always talked about state police and fiscal federalism. A situation where Ogun State that is currently Number 2 in terms of non-oil contribution to the Federation Account is ranked a distant 26 out of 36 states in terms of revenue allocation from the same central purse is clearly not acceptable. The governor had spent humongous amount on federal roads, it will be good if these roads revert to states and the Revenue Allocation Formula is altered in favour of states.
Ogun APC is said to be in crisis due to the alleged plan by Amosun to shut out some candidates?
The line here is thin. This should be a matter for the party. But I do not see any crisis anywhere. Can you see any yourself? No one has been shut out of any elective race. And no candidate has even complained of being shut out. So this observation is quite strange. The party has thrown its doors wide open for all contestants from the state. Once you are a bonafide indigene of Ogun State, you are free to contest in any election. Democracy is a game of numbers.
The governor is alleged to be planning to install his Chief of Staff, Tolu Odebiyi, as his successor at all cost?
I don’t know what you mean by at all costs. Amosun has always won transparent elections. 2019 will not be different for the party. But the governor has the constitutional right to promote the candidacy of anyone. It is his inalienable right, you know. If you are from Ogun State and you are interested in contesting any election, and Amosun feels you have what it takes to deliver, why will he not support you? If the cap fits the Chief of Staff, why should Amosun not support him?
Do you think Tolu Odebiyi has what it takes to lead Ogun State?
He does. He is very competent to govern this state. Apart from his personal qualities that eminently qualify him to build on the very strong foundation laid by Governor Amosun, he has a rich political heritage, which clearly sets him apart. He will be a good helmsman.
Do you think the All Progressives Congress can win the governorship contest in 2019?
The APC remains the party to beat. The party remains intact in Ogun State. Unlike the opposition PDP, there’s no crisis in the APC. The Labour Party exists on the pages of newspapers while the PDP is torn apart. Above all, the sterling performance of the current Amosun-led government will result in overwhelming victory for the APC in 2019.