By Dapo Akinrefon

Engineer  Segun Oni, the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the June 18, 2022 election in Ekiti State, spoke to journalists in Lagos, on the Efon-Alaye attack, his concerns ahead of the election and his chances among others.

We learned there was an incident at Efon Alaye a few days back during your consultation rounds. What happened?

It wasn’t consultation as such. We are at a new party and we know that the people have shifted to where we are and we believed that it was right for us to go and meet them as a way of familiarising ourselves with one another.

We believe it was necessary to meet with them in their terrain and encourage them to continue to be one. That’s what we were doing. When we got to Efon-Alaye we were attacked by some hoodlums. We thank God there were no serious injuries to anybody.

How do you intend to build a winning structure for the SDP considering its position in the state right now?

I hope to build a strong structure because people are already in it, they are ready for it, that’s why we have to go round to them and encourage them to do what they are doing. Right now in the eyes of the public, we are already number one even though we are just starting.

What are your concerns about the election?

What are my concerns? The major one has come out in Efon-Alaye and they are thuggery and violence. We are appealing to the law enforcement agencies to stand up to their duties. Everyone knows how to procure violence. It is not that difficult but some people don’t want to procure violence. I don’t want to procure violence. It is not because I cannot, after all, those who are procuring it are people like us, but they have a different orientation. We are saying don’t let us destroy the younger ones because you won’t be there. I have been in dire situations like that a couple of times, some of them have never been to any so they don’t even know what these young people suffer.

We are appealing to law enforcement agencies; don’t let us waste our younger ones. The government created the poverty that the young ones are battling. Just consider it, how much are they paid, how much is a thug paid? They’re on the job because they don’t have anything to do. Even in their own eyes, the worth of their lives is very small. So, we are appealing to the security agencies to do their jobs. When they do their jobs the propensity of this thuggery and violence will be curtailed.

You have Ayo Fayose and the PDP on one hand and Governor Kayode Fayemi and the APC on the other hand with federal power behind them. Do you think you can surmount them?

The people are on our side and with the people, we will surmount anybody who regards himself as principalities and powers. All these are about the people. And if anybody thinks he can push the people aside, who will he embrace? Politicians are always quick to forget the fact that without people there will be no politics and now, the people have made up their minds that this is what we want. What are you going to do to them? You must have the right attitude.

I remember Bill Clinton. As governor of Arkansas, he was running for re-election and he lost. What he did was to go back and ask the people, “I must have done something wrong, what did I do wrong as your governor that made you say no to me?” The Nigerian politician, instead of adopting that attitude, will rather believe that it’s the people that are wrong.

The Nigerian politician will believe that it is maybe we have not given them enough money, maybe we did not deploy the rigging tactics as we should. We are waiting for them. You see their antics will not win against the people because politics is about the people and the people have made up their minds as to what they want to do. That is why I put up a billboard to let them know they have gone wrong. We are on the right side of history. They are the ones who placed us there. It is their misrule that placed us on the right side of history and if anybody wants to remove us from the right side of history, it is not by thuggery and violence. It is by going to the people to find out.

 Are you concerned about vote-buying?

Yes, we are concerned about vote-buying and we believe that’s one of the evils that must be uprooted. Don’t forget these guys have afflicted the people with extreme poverty that one meal to some people is like life and death. Therefore, if you go to some people and say vote and cook stew, with education, the people will begin to ask questions, this vote you want from me, how long will it take for you to utilize it before you come back for renewal? Four years.

This stew that you want me to cook, how long will it take me before I am looking for another stew-four days maximum. So, you see, we can’t trade four years for four days and they know they have gotten it all wrong and nobody will want to continue to sink into poverty. But the people, who have afflicted them with poverty, know that is the only way to continue to manipulate the system.

You said you had the people behind you. What makes you so sure of that?

We know because we interact with the people, we all live here, we all are Ekiti people and we are on the right side of history. People are saying it and people are flaunting it. And that is the beginning of the revolution to come.

What is your unique selling point? Besides, we hear that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is supporting you

Let me start by saying that first I believe that all politicians that want the good of Nigeria, the good of society, will be in my support because they know that what I represent is politics of development. My unique selling point is my integrity. Any of these problems can be resolved by thinking.

I believe we can make Nigeria better. It is not difficult. It is the activities of people that created the problems of Nigeria today. The activities of human beings can also reverse or change and I believe they can be reversed, and changed.

That is the attitude I took to governance. We changed a lot of things. A lot of things improved. People saw it and they are asking for more.

What will you do to boost the economy of Ekiti state knowing that the IGR and the federal allocation are not much?

I boosted the economy the first time. Let me give you some statistics. The human development index report published in 2009 analysed Nigeria by state. You can go to the UNDP library to find out. At that time, Ekiti was number 34 on statutory allocation out of 36 states. The human development index called us number 24 on GDP per capita. If our GDP was only on allocation we will probably be number 34 or 36.

It means there was very in-depth work on IGR being done. Moving further, the same human development index report that gave us number 24 on income per capita with a paltry 360 dollars per annum when placed alongside states like Bayelsa and Rivers which were over 5000 dollars,  made us number 10 in the human development index in Nigeria.

So you can see it went beyond money. It also shows what people can do by thinking. Number 34 on allocation, number 24 on GDP per capita, and number 10 on the overall human development index. And I can tell you at that time, Ekiti was said to have the highest life expectancy in Nigeria. We didn’t have UCH, we didn’t have LUTH, but people were living longest in Ekiti.

 We just applied our thinking. We try to water down the capacity of human beings to help themselves and to improve their lot. Most of the time, the concern is money and so on. We were prepared to go as high as we can and we know number 10 was not as high as we should go.

When we go there again, we hope the UNDP will do another human development report that they will bring down to Nigeria. By the time we have spent two or three years, we will compare. This job requires a lot of thinking, innovation, and developing processes that will make things happen. What we do most of the time we have a problem, is to go to the fundamentals. By the time we arrive at the solution, some people will not know when we started solving them.

In this battle, you must agree that money is very important. How deep is your pocket?

Well, we don’t have a deep pocket. If we wanted to have a deep pocket, we probably would have stolen the place dry. Some people have a deep pocket because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do. There are governments in Ekiti that went all over the world in search of foreign investment. You journalists have not asked them, where the foreign investment is because if any foreign investment comes into Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria will know. Where is the CBN report on foreign investment?

Your moving from one political party to the other looks like desperation. Are you desperate?

Let’s face it, the way we are managing political parties now is still short of expectations. I was national vice chairman, very close to the top in one party. In another party, I was deputy national chairman, right at the top. What I can say is that these parties can be managed better. A party for example that has no sure source of revenue cannot be a political party. They will rely on governors to put down money. That money belongs to me and you. And that money means that he who pays the piper dictates the tune.

The truth is that these political parties have not done much on their revenue case. Yes, when a political party starts, it must rely on donations, but for how many years? Some of these parties have been here for over 20 years but they have no idea of how to raise their revenue base. No one is even thinking about it. And you will accuse someone of moving from one party to the other. In my case, it is because I was looking for a viable solution. That is who I am. I am looking for an alternative that will proffer the real solution and until we get there, there is no stopping us.
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