…I have what it takes to transform Ondo as governor
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Engineer Ife Oyedele, the executive director of Niger Delta Power Holding Company, NDPHCN, is one of the governorship hopefuls in Ondo State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview, he says that he is ready to transform Ondo State if given the mandate, lamenting that the state is suffering from infrastructure decay. He also speaks on efforts to reposition the NDPHCN.
There have been lots of calls for restructuring the country, what is your take?
I am sure you know that even right now restructuring is going on in various areas and the opinion of people on the issue of restructuring is as many as the number of Nigerians.
Restructuring will always be an issue because even in countries like America, some sort of restructuring are going on. In Europe for instance, Great Britain just exited from Europe. That’s a form of restructuring.
So, restructuring will always be with us and I don’t think we should create tension out of it. I know for a fact that this government has a policy of devolving more powers to the federating states. What somebody means by restructuring is regionalization.
You have seen some of the cooperation that is going on in various parts of the country – the security outfit that was brought together by the South West; the development agenda for western Nigeria for instance, is part of restructuring.
These are things that will continue to evolve as we go on as a nation. But what I detest about it is the fact that some people are deliberately mischievous and they want to create tension out of it.
We would always have restructuring with us, there would always be need to restructure as we go on.
Nigeria had 60 million people when we were practising the parliamentary system of government and so the whole of a region was not more than maybe, 10 to 20 million people but now we are over 195 million people.
There will be need to review the way we live together as a people.
As a founding member of the APC, how would you assess the performance of your party in your state?
That is a double-edged sword but let me put it this way, I desire more in my state. I desire that we should drive on good roads, I desire that rather than being on number 19 on the list of Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, I will want us to be number one, I will want us to be number one in education, in industrialisation, I will want us to have pipe-borne water in our homes. I will want us to have regular power in our homes.
I’m not too comfortable with where we are knowing where we used to be.
For instance, in the area of agriculture, even in the production of cocoa where Ondo State used to be number one, we are no longer number one.
I understand that we are now number two if not number three. I will want for instance that when we are cutting down our rich forestry reserve, we are immediately planting new ones.
I will desire a state where we can produce many sports stars, I will desire a state where the jobless youth can find work to do – where employment rate can be reduced to 10 percent so that government can have enough money to do projects and even the people can have enough money to take care of those who are jobless.
If elected as governor of Ondo State, what will be your priority?
I have my plan and I have always said that I am always ready. If tomorrow by appointment or by an election I come to a platform because God has given me opportunities and this country has blessed me, I know what I will do in every area.
As governor of Ondo state, I know what I will do in the area of sports, water supply, education, agriculture, and industrialization. I cannot begin to tell you one by one because it is not yet time for politicking, I have not declared my intention publicly.
I will just give you just one example. Let’s look at the area of education, I complained that there are so many schools that do not have laboratories.
I will group schools in various areas – four, five, six schools and I will build a biology lab in one school, a chemistry lab in another school, a physics laboratories in another school, and ICT centre in another school and I will ensure that the students can rotate, and go to do their practicals in other schools.
In Ondo State today, as I understand in so many other states, many of the secondary schools are short-staffed. They have three, four, or five permanent teachers all the others are what you call auxiliary teachers and they are employed not by the government but by the Parent-Teachers Association or individuals like you and me who have the needs.
Now, what am I going to do? In the first month of my being governor, I will call a conference of all the PTAs and thank them for their support and I will promise that for every N10,000 they spend, the state government will match it by the equivalent amount.
That will encourage them to do more and it will encourage them to know that the government cares about what they are going through and then I will lay before them my plans on giving their children access to standard laboratories.
Then I will go further and assemble all the auxiliary teachers and ensure that we train them during the holidays and at the end of the year, I will make sure that the first 100 depending on the purse of the government, will be given permanent employment. In so doing, their output will be better, they will learn how to teach our children better and be more productive.
In agriculture, there are so many opportunities that the governor will be able to create enormous employment in the field of agriculture. If you understand what is happening in the sector and you key into all programmes – the Anchor Borrowers programme the CBN is doing, the support from the Nigerian Export Promotion Council and so on and so forth, you help the farmers to get access to better seedlings and improved farming methods.
Are you now saying that so far Ondo State hasn’t really developed as you want it to be?
You should go to Ondo State and tell me what meaningful development you have seen in the state in the last few years. The truth is that if Ondo state was created in 1976, February 3, it is exactly 44 years after the creation of the state.
Is it right that a state that is 44 years old does not have pipe-borne water? When that state was created, we had pipe born water in many of the places.
Go to Akoko and tell the people that there has been any development in the state – there is virtually no one stretch of 10km of road that is motorable in the entire Akoko area.
A State at 44, we do not have a stadium where our football team can play football. Our state football team is not even recognized by NFF not to talk about the world football federation, so what are we talking about?
In the part of Ondo State where I come from, the students don’t sit for JAMB in those places, they travel as far as Akure or Ijebu-Ode to write because there is no JAMB compliance centre in any of those places. How many schools have standard laboratories in Physics, Chemistry, Biology or ICT centres in all of those places?
The level of unemployment in Ondo State is 37 per cent and if you are talking about 37 per cent it means that over half of the population are without a job because when you talk about employment, you are not talking about children between the ages of 0-10, or 0-16, you are not talking about adults who have retired.
So you are saying that if the level of unemployment is 37 per cent, virtually, one out of two young people doesn’t have a job.
What is your opinion on the issue of godfatherism in Nigerian politics?
Let me ask you, what is godfatherism? It’s mentorship. I mentor people, even in this place, I mentor people. But a godfather governor who wants to leave a legacy will pick a competent and reliable person to succeed him.
What we tagged godfatherism means many things to so many people. If godfatherism is being out of government and allowing the new person who has taken over from you to continue to take instructions from you, you must be deceiving yourself.
If it is mentorship, I will want to be mentored by people who have done good things in so many areas of life. I still go to people who I believe have good expertise, good knowledge, good wisdom to teach me, I go to them to learn.
So that’s my idea of godfatherism I have godfathers in every area – in business, engineering, character, in values, in politics and I know that I am godfather to so many people too who see me as their mentor.
How would you describe a situation where a godfather begins to dictate to the governor?
These are opinions and they depend on who you are. There is nothing wrong in anybody, who has had prior experience in an area to want to teach somebody on what to do.
Even if you have a godfather who is overbearing, if you are well- brought up, you will know how to relate with them in a way that they will be happy and they will understand your point of view.
Even we as parents cannot act as godfathers to our children. If you are overbearing, they will resist you, and that is a child that you sent to school, you paid his fees and you feed him.
Mentorship is a form of godfatherism and I recommend that to any person, there is no end to wisdom, to learning in this life. Sometimes your godfather may even be somebody who is younger than you, but has expertise, knowledge in a particular field.
Every month governors come to Abuja for revenue sharing while there are mineral resources in various parts of the country, what is your view on the issue of resources control?
The federal allocation is a right of every state, so they should get it. However, governors should concentrate more on developing their internally generated revenue.
The greatest resource that I believe we have in Ondo State is not the mineral resources you are talking about, it’s the good skilled people that God has blessed us with and there is so much to do in the state that can turn the fortune of the state around.
I recall that when Jakande was governor of Lagos State, he didn’t step out of the country for one day. I don’t know how many times he came to Abuja or maybe, then they don’t use to come to Abuja but he did not step out of the country for one day.
It is about individual goals, when you have ideas and know what to do, you will not put all your hope in Federal allocation and in any case, this federal allocation cannot pay all your bills.
It’s like salary workers, it’s a take home pay that cannot take you home. So the federal allocation is like the take home pay that cannot take any state home.
What Lagos is benefiting today is the fact that successive governments from the times of Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu increased the internally generated revenue of that state from a paltry one billion-plus to now about N32 billion monthly.
That is why when you see the budget of Lagos State, it’s so different from the budget of other states. Other states are talking about N144 billion or N200 billion, Lagos state is budgeting over a trillion naira.