Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Gboyega Nasir Isiaka, otherwise known as GNI, is the Ogun State governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC). He speaks on the political situation in the state ahead of the 2019 general election, his views on good governance and sheds more light on some of the items on his campaign manifesto.
Former Ogun State governor, Olusegun Osoba recently remarked that the political terrain in Ogun might be a bit dangerous, given the situations in the two major political parties. How has it been since you started your campaign?
I would describe the situation as very complex. I have been involved in the politics of Ogun State since 2011, I think the situation we have now is a bit more complex in my view than what we had in the past. I would want to concur with Chief Osoba’s in his observation, I think that he knows more than many of us and he has more experience. There are some other things he sees that we don’t see. From my own perspective, in one hand we have an incumbent governor who has declared that the candidate of his party is not his own candidate. We also have in another hand a party where the faction recognised by the INEC is different from the one the party gave its flag to. Summarily, I will say it is very complex, but for some of us, we have prepared our mind for some of these before now. It has not come to us entirely by surprise, which was why we moved away from some of these big parties into a movement about a year and half ago. And we have now moved to a registered platform. It is all because we had expected that some of these issues in these big parties were not likely to be resolved and that is exactly what is playing out.
While launching your manifesto, you said that if elected as governor, you would return public schools to their original owners, but this statement has generated a lot of controversies. What do you think?
Well, it is not particularly unexpected when campaigns get to this level, every statement one makes; people tend to read meaning to it, particularly from the opposition and some people who genuinely don’t get what you are trying to say. For us, in the first instance, that statement was not as definitive as it was being quoted all around the places. What we were saying is that we would try and encourage lot of other stakeholders to be involved in our education. And by this, we mean professors, private institutions, and religious bodies and so on. We would try as much as possible to encourage them. And in doing that, they would of course, have to operate within the laid down policies, rules and regulations and that is exactly what it is all about.
You also said there was a huge debt incurred by the current administration and people said you mentioned that as an alibi, peradventure you fail to deliver on your campaign promises. What’s your take on this?
In the first instance, I didn’t say the debt would impair on our development plans. I presented two things that day – I did an overview of the state on how governance should be and it was after doing that I now presented my campaign manifesto. What I did in the first instance was just to brief us on how we were as a state and how we have grown as a state. And in one of those, I just made reference to the quantum of debts that we have. I also made references to the state of education and some other things. So it was when I was talking about our fiscal state that I mentioned some of those. I didn’t make any reference to it at all when I was making my presentation on what and what we were going to do. As a person, I never said that debt is bad, what I have been saying is that it must be in relation to projects that are highly developmental or those that can make major difference in the state in terms of employment generation, social development and things like that.
One thing is certain, whether we like it or not, Senator Ibikunle Amosun must step down as governor in 2019 and somebody has to take over. Whoever is taking over and I pray that it is me, is taking over the assets and liabilities of the government. The responsibility I have is to make the best use of the assets and then see how I can turn the liabilities into assets and to also look at what we have. Clearly, the government has not come out to say what the debts are, but from our own research and findings, the external and domestic debt of our state is about N140b. That is what our own internal research says and if the governor has a different thing, let him say it. We feel that is actually a little bit on the high side looking at where we are coming from. No economy can jump itself into greatness, you have to find a way to expand the economy and one of the ways to expand the economy is to also rely on the people that believe in you, believe in what you are doing as a state and that want to invest in what you are doing as a state. So, your responsibility as the executive governor of the state is to ensure that the investment goes into areas that can actually double and enhance the economy of the state.
If you emerge as the next governor of Ogun State, will you abandon those projects you don’t believe in?
I am an apostle of not condemning projects or stopping projects on the ground of politics. I have to come out with different articles when this current government took over in 2011 and there were moves and attempt to jettison economic project on ground of politics. And some of those project, I even said in the article which I titled ‘Development of Ogun State, the Anambra Experience,’ that you cannot cancel eight years in the life of a state and that the responsibility of the next person that takes over governance is to make the best of the assets and turn the liabilities into assets.
That is where I stand, I will not want and I will not be part of the people that would want to abandon projects on the ground of politics. Projects can be reviewed. In the life of a government, you can start a project in year one and in the next few years, you will have the intention of redoing such project, maybe because of the economic situation and some other factors. But to say that I want to abandon projects on ground of politics is not my style and it is not what I want to do.