Governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria in Ondo State, Barrister Rotimi Akeredolu is optimistic about his chances in this weekend’s election in the state. He tells TEMITAYO ODUNLAMI how he intends to do it
In Nigerian politics, incumbency is always a strong factor in eleetions. How do you fancy your chances against Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, the incumbent governor of Ondo State?
Yes, incumbency may weigh on the side of a serving governor. But then, that will be a well-performing governor. It is not an impossible task to defeat an incumbent governor, especially when he has been an utter disappointment to those who hitherto reposed trust in him. Examples abound of incumbent governors that were defeated. For a governor that has not been performing, like in Ondo State, incumbency can only be negative. This is where my chances, and the chances of the Action Congress of Nigeria, are very bright. We will certainly defeat Mimiko.
What is the fulcrum of your manifesto?
We have five cardinal programmes: agriculture, education, entrepreneurship, technology and infrastructure. The manifesto of our party, the ACN, has 10 broad programmes, but we are collapsing them into these five. We have put health under infrastructure. We are laying emphasis on agriculture because like in Nigeria itself, we have become crazy and lazy about crude oil revenue and are just contented with going to Abuja, cap in hand, to collect money and that is all we spend. Our internally generated revenue profile here is nil. For industries, there is nothing to flaunt. This is a state that even the governor admitted has not been able to attract a single industry in the last four years. Not one; it’s a shame. Economic activities in Ondo State, in the real sense, are almost nil. There is nothing; that’s why Ondo people are suffering and hungry.
Agriculture is the best alternative to oil and had been proven to be so by the great sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The old Western Region was developed by him from the proceeds of agriculture. Unfortunately, we have neglected it. Properly and well-developed, agriculture will completely change the face of Ondo State. We will introduce modern techniques of farming. Emphasis on infrastructure aims, among other things, to open up the rural areas so farmers can access their farms conveniently and their produce can also be conveniently evacuated to markets. The roads don’t have to be asphalted, but we can have good roads well constructed with laterite and drains. The farmers will be happy to work in such an environment with modern machines and tools. We will also not allow a glut in their produce. Farmers must earn good money from their labour. There will be factories here and there that will always be buying off the produce from farmers so they can earn good money and live well. So agriculture is key to us.
Free education is a given. Ondo State people are known to cherish education a lot. We are giving free education from primary to secondary schools and we are offering scholarships to brilliant children and those who come from indigent homes.
We talk about entrepreneurship where we will be giving opportunities to people to be on their own and create jobs for others. We want to open a school of entrepreneurship to impart in people the requisite business skills that will enable them to be successful business people. It is important to give employment to youths. We promise that we will be giving about 30,000 jobs to youths within our first 100 days in office. Some will be deployed to areas where they can acquire skills. We are placing emphasis on industrialisation because of the inevitable importance of providing jobs for our youths. All these can be done. It has not been done because of lack of good, selfless and altruistic leadership for the Ondo State people. Where good leadership is lacking, a state is left floundering in high unemployment rate and economic problems generally.
How have you been able to mend the cracks that arose from your emergence as governorship candidate of the ACN?
Nobody of any political weight has split blood due to the process that produced me as the ACN candidate. It is important to say here that we all submitted ourselves to the process that would produce the lone governorship candidate and nobody protested against it. You cannot approbate and reprobate. So how can anybody later rise to kick against the very process he has agreed to conform with? Anyway, it is worthy to note that a majority of our people stayed back. Boroffice, Tunji Abayomi, Abena, Alasoadura, O yato, many others. All of us are working together.
But, of course, there are one or two who left. But then consider their quality, or rather absolute lack ot it. If somebody wanted to be governor in the ACN and then grumbled and left to accept deputy governorship in the PDP, was he worthy to be governor in the first place? Then Olu Agunloye. This is somebody who is good for study to truly know the kind of politician he is. This is somebody who has no scruples whatsoever. He was Special Assistant to Bola Ige. Bola Ige was killed and he moved to PDP. He left from there to Labour Party. He wanted to run for governorship and was not allowed and he moved to ACN. He wanted to be the governorship candidate of the ACN and failed and he went back to the Labour Party for selfish reasons that are easy to guess. I am sure that when he is done with Labour, for the same insatiable reasons, he will go back to the PDP. From the PDP, he will probably go to the Alliance for Democracy, AD. He is a traveller.
What is your vision of Ondo State under you in the next four years?
In the next four years, I would have made Ondo State a place where everything works. The ACN has a rich manifesto and we intend to see that through. Ondo State is a rich state and it has become more so under Mimiko. The money Mimiko has collected within three and a half years is a lot more than what Adefarasin and Agagu collected in 10 years. He is collecting so much money on oil. I was a commissioner here and I know that the money we collected in all the years I was a commissioner was not up to what Mimiko is collecting in a month. And what has he been doing with the money? Political thuggery. What Ondo State needs is a leader who will spend this money judiciously to industrialise the state, to build cottage factories, to provide jobs, to boost education, to effect agricultural revolution, to transform the state astoundingly. That is what I will do as the next governor of Ondo State. That is what the ACN will do in Ondo State.