By Agatha Emeadi
Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde recently spoke with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Yoruba Service, in the aftermath of the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In the interview monitored in Lagos, Governor Makinde, among other things, speaks about the cohesiveness witnessed by the party in the build-up to the convention, the need for unity within the country, declaring that the cohesion within the PDP has shown that the party can reunite Nigeria. Excerpts:
What is your general assessment of the PDP National Convention and what do you think are the implications for the country?
Everything ended well. This is because since we have been holding National Conventions in the annals of the PDP, we have not had anyone with this type of positive outcome. Out of 21 vacant positions available to be occupied, 18 of them were occupied through consensus arrangement. We already knew the majority of the candidates that were to occupy the positions and stakeholders from different zones had also endorsed them. The topmost position, which is the National Chairmanship, was filled by consensus, with Dr Iyorchia Ayu, as the National Chairman. We just affirmed his candidature at the convention. You know the major problem we have in Nigeria today is disunity. There is no unity and, in fact, we have never been divided like this since I grew up to start monitoring political activities in the country. For example, if you go to the Northwest, bandits are operating. If you go to the Northeast, insurgents are there. If you try to go to the North-central, it is farmers/herders clashes. And if you come down to the Southwest, it is the same thing.
Before now, we used to think Hausa and Fulanis are of the same ethnicity, but now, we have come to understand the fact that they are not. If you go to Yobe, Zamfara and Sokoto, people are saying that Hausa people are killing the Fulani and vice versa. But at the PDP National Convention, you saw a practical demonstration that the party can unite Nigerians, as we came up with different people from different zones and that too without rancour. So, one of the implications of the successful conduct of the PDP National Convention is that the PDP can restore the hopes of Nigerians for a safe and united country.
As an opposition politician in the country, if you meet with President Muhammadu Buhari today, how best would you advise him on the situation regarding disunity and insecurity in the country?
If I have such an opportunity, I will simply tell him that if he cannot trust those from other ethnic groups in the country to serve in the government, then we can never be united in this country. You see, it is very simple. Look at the Service Chiefs we have today. Why don’t we have anyone from South-Eastern zone? Is there no one in the military in that same zone that can occupy the topmost position? So, I will advise the Presidency to tone down the issue of ethnicity and seriously toe the path of unity in the country. I am saying this because if there is unity, we will experience progress in different sectors of our economy.
As governor of Oyo State, what are the three major things you have done since you assumed office?
In Oyo State, we have what we call the four service point agenda or four pillars, which our administration rests upon: these pillars are security, education, health and economic expansion through agribusiness. On education; we are operating a free education policy. I promised to ensure that our children, who have been ‘out of school’ and roaming the streets, return to their different schools. That was why we had to stop the payment of the N3,000 education levy they were paying before we came into government, because we observed some parents could not even afford the payment. As of today, over 50,000 out-of-school children are back in school. We gave them textbooks and notebooks. We organised free tutorials for those of them who were preparing for WASSCE and NECO – we recruited special teachers for them and got them paid. Today, it would not come as a surprise to our people that Oyo State is now in the 9th position as against the 29th position we occupied when we had a high number of out-of-school-children in the Southwest. Also, before we came in, I promised that our youths in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) would no longer waste years in school before they graduate. I vowed to take sole ownership of the institution for the state so that it could run as a proper university and it was achieved. On the issue of health, we believe that our people need to be healthy in order to be productive. So, on that, we felt where significant things can be done is at the primary health care level. We have 351 Electoral Wards in Oyo State and we said one functional PHC must be in each ward. Most of them are almost at the point of completion and we are equipping them as well. What this means is that wherever you are, you can access a PHC facility within one or two kilometres. Apart from our intervention in fixing and equipping one Primary Health Centre per ward, we have also made massive investments on health care service delivery at the secondary level too. We have fixed and equipped many general hospitals, including the Adeoyo State Hospital, Ring Road, Agbami Chest Centre, Jericho and the Saki Specialist Hospital, Saki. We have equally procured 10 ambulances and put in place a solid structure that will culminate in the overall improvement of the health sector. In the area of infrastructure, before we came in, at least, I campaigned everywhere and I saw the situation of the infrastructure gap in the state. For example, the Moniya-Iseyin road; when we came in, we had to award the road and it is completed now due to our intervention. Travelling along the road before now used to be almost three hours, but now it is about 40 minutes. Today, I am happy to tell you that we have also started the construction of Oyo to Iseyin and the Saki-Ogboro-Igboho road. In Ibadan, the Ajia-Airport road with a spur to Amuloko is being done. The Apete-Awotan-Akufo road, which is the first road to be constructed with concrete in the state, is also a major intervention by our government. The big one is the Circular Road, which has been re-awarded and before the completion of this government, 70 kilometres out of the 110 kilometres will be done. Sincerely, we met a state that was deep inside the hole, but we are coming up and we want to start running. Realistically, I will give our administration 60 to 70 per cent pass mark in terms of performance, because there is room for improvement on what we are doing.
But some residents in Oke-Ogun have raised concern over the issue of insecurity around that axis of the state and are of the opinion that you have not done enough for them as expected. So, what will you say about that?
First let me say that before we came in, there was nothing like Amotekun, it was the creation of this current government. And now, if you ask the people if they want Amotekun to be scrapped or not, I know they want it to stay. You can also experiment with that on your Facebook timeline and get the opinions of the people.
There are challenges in terms of security in Nigeria. If you compare the general situation with what we have in Oyo State, we will even be thanking God, because we are fighting it. In places where there was no coverage before, they are now being covered and we are pumping funds massively into the security sector. We have bought a lot of patrol vehicles for security agencies to ensure they perform optimally and we have noticed that there is cooperation and synergy among the security agencies. The truth is, we have never had it so good like this in the state, though we will continue to do more. It is in this same government that we asked the Inspector-General of Police to provide us a Mobile Police Squadron at Ago-Are. And now, from Ago-Are to Saki, it is a rapid response for the police officers who are there currently. We have applied for another squadron for Oyo town. So, the people know that we are doing well on the issue of security and we are not relenting. When you compare what we have here with the general situation in the country, you will agree that we are still the safest – or one of the safest – in Nigeria.
People like Sunday Igboho and others think little or nothing is being done on the issue of security, which brought up the clamour for Yoruba Nation. What can you say?
I think the best approach to take care of headache is not to cut off such head. There are better ways of addressing some matters. Our forefathers who negotiated this country sacrificed a lot of things. But some of these people who are clamouring that Nigerians should be divided, what have they sacrificed? Have they gone to battle at any war front? See, it is not just about sitting somewhere and clamouring for division when we can explore other means to achieve unity.
So, what do you think are the other means available to be explored to achieve that unity?
It is restructuring – all of us have to sit down and think of what is next. We see different things in different ways. So, we still have opportunity to all sit together and address some matters we feel are probably problematic to us. It looks as though things have fallen apart and the centre is not holding anymore. But I believe that the six years of APC so far have worsened the situation of this country. I am for restructuring and discouraging disunity, because our people will benefit a lot from a united Nigeria.
Some have said you are eyeing the Aso Villa in 2023, while some are of the opinion that you want to pursue the bid for a second term as governor of Oyo State. Which one obtains?
We have to leave everything to God, because only He knows tomorrow. For now, I am still executing the assignment which the people of the state gave to me and I am not yet through with them. Let us even spend three years in Oyo State and evaluate what and what has been done. If people decide to let us continue what we are doing, it is good. It is the decision of the people that will matter on this. I want the will of God to prevail. I believe if God says yes on anything, no human being can say God’s will won’t be done.
There have been different talks about you not doing enough for some of your party members, who supported you to become the governor thereby making them aggrieved?
What I want you to know is that I am also a man; I have flesh and blood and I make mistakes. Maybe there are some issues we need to address and we are trying to look at them. I know that wherever we need to make amends, we will definitely do that. I don’t want to believe that I did not do well with some members of the party, but some may feel I have not done enough while some may feel I have done the best. But those who think I have not done enough could be right and I think we need to evaluate all of these. Moving on, there is room for improvement.
Now that the PDP National Convention programme is over, what three significant things should the people of Oyo State expect from your government?
I have always said that Oyo State has a comparative advantage in the area of agriculture. So, we are focusing more on the upgrade of our farm settlements to what we call Agribusiness Industrial Hub and we will ensure that the ongoing works are fast-tracked. Secondly, another area through which we know we can expand the economy of the state is solid minerals. We are going ahead to map out the solid minerals in Oyo State, especially lithium. The state is a lithium belt and it is the gold of the future. We want to ensure we market it to the world. I was talking to the Australian Ambassador at the agribusiness summit we just held few weeks ago and we are planning a trip to go and woo investors. Also, we will work with local investors as well on solid mineral potentials.
What is your advice for the teeming youths who are leaving the country to seek greener pasture in foreign lands?
Actually, the youths of Oyo State are the bedrock of our activities on empowerment. We are training 10,000 of them on farming technologies. Once they are done with the training we are organising for them at CSS Integrated Farms, Gora, Nasarawa, they will come back and we will empower them to launch out as entrepreneurs. So, I think we have, so far, been able to make the youths in Oyo State begin to have interest in the potential in the state and Nigeria as a whole. Meanwhile, you cannot discourage some of them from seeking greener pasture, but I can tell you that most of them will come back if the right things are being done here. They will come back better because they would have gained a lot of things – talk of insight and knowledge. But I have the belief that with the programme we are doing for the youths in our state, they are well on their way to contributing their own quota to the development of the state.
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