By Job Osazuwa
A governorship aspirant under the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State, Mr. Akeem Agbaje, has said that he is in the best position to sack the incumbent governor, Seyi Makinde of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is a lawyer, businessman and infrastructure expert. He has described himself as a grassroots person who daily feels the impulse of the common man on the street. He shares how he intends delivering dividends of democracy to the people and more in this interview.
Some persons are commending the present governor that he is performing. Do you agree with them?
The governor is only doing well on social media. The indices for judging performance of a governor is the impact on people, including security for lives and property. Everywhere in Oyo, the security of life and property is almost non-existent. You have herdsmen, hoodlums and all sorts of criminalities are on the rise. It is clear that this government has failed woefully. The recently assessment on the ease of doing business in Nigeria, Oyo was number 28. Any government first and foremost is about the individual, providing leadership.
Do you mean that Oyo fared better under APC compared with PDP?
That is the natural implication judging from what is happening at the moment. The past governor, late Ajimobi did well. The people felt the existence of government. Without leadership, irrespective of the political party, you can’t achieve any positive result. This governor is busy devoting billions of naira on streetlights even where there are existing functional streetlights. Robberies now happen in broad daylight.
What gives you the confidence that you will clinch the APC’s ticket at the primary?
APC is a democratic party. The door is open to everyone from every part of Oyo. It is now left for every aspirant to put in their abilities. Anybody could come up with a beautiful manifesto but the most critical thing is the ability to drive it and meet up with the expectations of the people. To do that, one of the most important things is that you must have lived and related with the people in the communities. You must have gone round the nooks and crannies of the state. This is not because election is near and you have money to throw around.
I have lived and worked all my life in Oyo. I have been to all the 33 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state and I have a relationship with all the people from these LGAs. Most of the leadership we have had in the past, the people never really lived in Oyo. This is why they were not able to address our basic problems. They might have achieved one or two things, but development is a value-chain thing, meaning you must connect every segment of the society so that you don’t leave one for the other. For example, when you neglect education, it will be very difficult to recover from it.
Do you have the financial muscle to compete with other aspirants, as money now plays dominant role in Nigeria politics?
Every political party has its strategies of winning election. There is peculiarity and procedure that lead to every election. Without deceiving ourselves, our politics has been monetised. But APC is a progressive party, which is not always about money. Our party is interested in who can project the values of the party. It is not always a matter of who has the biggest purse; nevertheless, money is a critical factor. The level of poverty in Nigeria is appalling. What message do you want to give someone tormented by hunger. The level of disappointments over the years has changed the understanding of the people to now quickly get what they can from the politicians.
But in the last election in Oyo, APC spent more money than PDP, though not in terms of vote buying but we still lost. The people just needed a change. Nigerians have become more intelligent and sophisticated voters. And the votes of the people are beginning to count.
You couldn’t secure the party’s ticket in 2019, what has changed?
In every election circle, the variables are different. In 2019, we were 22 aspirants. The then governor asked us to drastically reduce the number. But we the aspirants met and agreed that the party should choose three candidates from the 22, who would go for the primary. But for one reason or the other the party couldn’t. Some of the aspirants stepped down, others didn’t and there were a few that went to other parties to pursue their interests. The progressive way of conducting primaries is usually to reduce friction among the aspirants.
Why will your party and Oyo people trust you with their votes?
We need to increase the social value for the people, especially in the area of education, health, housing and employment. Each one is critical and dependent on the others. We also need to address infrastructure in practical ways.
For instance, the roads do not feed people. There must be good road network. It must be done in such a way that it adds value to the economy and to the people. You need to prioritise things that need urgent attention that can boost the economy. Fluctuating electricity is a big challenge that has led to low quality of life and unemployment. It also contributes to insecurity. I know electricity is on the exclusive list of the Federal Government but with a clear understanding with all the actors, things can be improved upon. In the electricity space, we have the issue of generation, distribution and tariff collection. The artisans and entrepreneurs are at the receiving end. No economy can grow this way. I believe the state can play a critical role in this regard.
Are you not concerned that the people might not fully accept you because of your lack of experience in public office?
For me, holding public office portends that the person might not likely be competent. This is because only a few people in this regard have excelled when given elective positions. If everybody has been doing well because they occupied public offices in the past, I am sure Nigeria shouldn’t have been where it is today. I have had relationship with different levels of government. A lot of people have clear understanding of what the solutions are but there is lack of knowledge and willingness of how to implement it.
Do you have confidence in INEC?
We need to be realistic; INEC has steadily continued to improve the electoral process despite the pressures from politicians.