I believe I am well positioned to be able to continue to build on the foundations already laid, especially with my experience both in the private and public sectors
Alhaji Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, is the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Before his emergence as the candidate of the party, he served as the Chief of Staff to the outgoing governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. He speaks on why his party will retain the state after September 22.
What is your assessment of the Rauf Aregbesola administration of which you have been part of in the last eight years?
The administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola has done very well. Take infrastructure, which had been in decay before this administration came on board. The Aregbesola administration adequately addressed this decay in many areas – new roads, new schools, better hospitals, revamped agriculture, better security, and so on. We constructed quality major roads, state and federal, as well as build flyovers never seen before in Osun. This was to ease traffic flow, and ensure faster movement of people, goods and services, to lay a solid foundation for the Osun economy, and expand economic opportunities, for our people. In practical demonstration of this quality road infrastructure, Osogbo now has the Oba Adesoji Aderemi ring road. If you are going to Ilesa or Ikirun or Ila, you can just do a bypass by this ring road, instead of coming to contest the traffic at the Osogbo city centre. In this area, the administration has done very well, far better than all previous administrations.
Talking about education, the kinds of schools that we have built in place continue to surprise most people, given the acute funding challenge that we faced. For every layer of our restructured school system: elementary, middle and high school, the administration has provided a very conducive environment for learning. In essence, the children of the poor now enjoy the same learning environment as the children of the rich, in these new public schools. The Aregbesola administration built no less than 100 elementary schools, 60 middle schools and about 11 high schools, all of them sparkling, ultramodern, and with bigger learning capacity and requisite learning aids. It is a legacy we are immensely proud of because it had never been achieved in Osun before. That more or less captures the picture on health too, since all the health facilities too have been renovated. So yes, we have done very well too in health infrastructure.
What really informed your decision to join the governorship race?
I have been part of this government for almost eight years now and I share the vision that government should touch lives. First of all, the essence of government is the security and welfare of the people. I have seen that a government provides a platform for you to be able to serve a greater part of the society; and having been in government for about eight years, I believe there is need for continuity. We should not stop at where Governor Rauf Aregbesola will stop after the expiration of his tenure. The state should continue to enjoy the kind of infrastructure and socio-economic development that have been put in place. I believe I am well positioned to be able to continue to build on the foundations already laid, especially with my experience both in the private and public sectors – private sector, over 30 years and the public service, almost eight years now. Combining the experience in the two sectors, I will be able to effectively lead this state. Though we are growing in terms of infrastructure, we are yet to get to where we want to be; and I know precisely those things that will help the state and things that can impact positively on our people. I know how demanding running a government is; and that it takes a very experienced hand to manage scarce resources of the state to attend to numerous needs of our people. But I also believe that, with my experience in the private sector and in public service these past eight years, I am the best to continue from where Governor Aregbesola stops.
What challenges can you foresee if you win and assume office?
Well, first of all, there is a challenge of finance or funding. But this is not peculiar to our state. It is a general problem. But there is hope it will soon be over. All over the country, only a few states are financially viable. All others states have the challenge of fund paucity. But we must think creatively to survive. We must be able to think out of the box. Challenges are actually made for man and we must be able to face them. One of the ways to address the funding challenge is ramp up Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), through innovative ways. First, we need to block all the leakages, particularly in tax collection. When we talk of increasing IGR, I am not talking of imposing higher or more taxes on the people – no! But we can ensure efficiency in the collection of taxes. If I ensure all other people, now avoiding tax, pay because it is a civic responsibility, then the revenue base increases. So, once we are able to do that, we can clearly increase the revenue without necessarily imposing high taxes on people, particularly the poor.
Again, when you go into some other areas like agriculture; we will provide a value chain. For instance, if we encourage farmers to plant cassava and there are cottage industries where cassava can be processed into starch and ethanol, we will be creating jobs and empowering our people. So, it will not be difficult for the people to pay little taxes which I will ensure is very insignificant, in proportion to their profit or income. Thus serviced, the people will be ready and proud to play their own part by paying tax, as their civic responsibility.
Government will make the environment conducive for their trade and businesses to thrive. We will support the artisans. We will also ensure we attract investment, both local and international, to the state. Our policies would make products of the manufacturers very competitive and when they enjoy very high turnover they will pay taxes that will bring more money into the coffers of the government.
Before your emergence as the candidate of the APC, some people were clamouring for zoning arrangement, they claimed it was the turn of Osun West to produce the next governor of the state, but you are from Osun central. How does this make you feel?
Usually I don’t enjoy talking about this but I will be guided by the fact that zoning is not in the APC constitution. So, as long as it is not in the constitution, every zone is free to contest the governorship position. And historically there was no time that zoning had ever been introduced; starting from the day the state was created in 1991. So, it is in line with the constitution of the party that every zone should be allowed to compete and whoever wins should be supported. Having said that, I believe all the zones in the state should compete freely for any elective position albeit democratically.
Don’t you think the zoning, which was not in favour of Osun West, would affect your chances and that of your party, APC, in the forthcoming governorship election?
I don’t think so. We have been able to reconcile almost all aggrieved parties. First of all it is important for us, as a party, to ensure victory. It is only when you are in government that you can think about positions. I have seen genuine efforts at reconciliation. Virtually all the contenders have actually congratulated me. We have been having meetings; they have resolved to work with me to ensure victory of our party come 22nd of September. And I believe they are very sincere except for an individual that has left the party. That should not be a reason for anybody to believe that singular episode would affect the fortunes of our party. It is a party affair now. The party cannot afford to fail. The APC has demonstrated a commitment to the people by making them the core of its governance. There is a unity of purpose. Very often when there are such disagreements, our internal processes seek a resolution, building a consensus and reaching a compromise. We are on track and will not be distracted. We are set to compete and to win.
People describe you as quiet. This is a sharp contrast with the incumbent governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola. And as you know, the two key ingredients of running a state like Osun require mastering skills in politics and governance. Do you see yourself coping in these two areas?
Let us give it to the governor. He is an enigma. He is a unique personality. But don’t also forget that two individuals cannot be the same, anyway. Yes, I realise that politics and governance are not exactly the same thing. Politics, yes the usual way of getting to an elective position and sustaining yourself in power. But governance is an act of giving services to the people and this is where you get the dividends of democracy. So, I have been involved directly in governance for eight years. I am also not less involved in politics as well. I have been in politics since the era of Alliance for Democracy (AD). I am not new in and to politics. The only thing I have not done, which is different from what I am now doing in addition to what have been doing before, is I have not gone for an elective position before. That is the only difference.
Are you not threatened by the PDP as your party’s major challenger?
I welcome them to the ring. It is going to be a good contest. Threatened? Not at all. The APC government has done very well, these past eight years. There is no threat from any party. I see victory around the corner. We have demonstrated to the people that PDP is not a choice. Our stewardship is evidential. Our commitment to the welfare of the people is unquestionable. Our developmental strides are unparalleled in the history of Osun. Because in the past eight years, we have had to make difficult decisions in order to lay a solid foundation for now and the future, we have encountered a few challenges but have never been defeated. The PDP cannot rise from the dead. No. Not in Osun. My people are beyond being hoodwinked. They have seen the light and no one leaves light for darkness. Let the people decide. I am confident they know their friends and their enemies.
I hope you followed the just concluded Ekiti governorship election with the attendant vote buying and selling saga. Are you not worried about this development being replicated in the Osun forthcoming poll? Or are you ready naira for naira?
I don’t encourage vote-buying. I will never participate in it. I don’t like it and I believe it is not good. If you are popular, go out there and sell your programmes. If the people believe in you, they will vote for you. I think that is what should be encouraged. This was why I even preferred the direct primary adopted by my party, the APC, to elect its governorship candidate. I am not for vote-buying. It is not ideal and I will never participate in it because I don’t believe in it.