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Former chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Dr Iyiola Omisore and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the August 9 Osun State governorship election speaks with a select team of journalists on a wide range of issues concerning the poll. Excerpts:
YOUR main opponent, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, has been pulling large crowds at his campaign rallies and the photographs of these rallies are regularly in the media. Are you not frightened, with the prospect of losing the coming election to him?
I won’t lose the election. From what I have seen so far, Aregbesola is gone in Osun. The crowds you see at his rallies posted on Facebook and on the pages of newspapers are make-believe. They (APC) did just that in Ekiti and lost. I am not interested in renting some crowds from Lagos and moving them, including underaged children, from town to town to come and dance skelewu. I campaign where the votes are. The votes are in the polling units, wards, villages and towns, and that is where I have been going and campaigning. On August 9, these are the people who will vote, not Aregbesola’s crowd of dancers.
Aregbesola’s developmental efforts do not go beyond two or three local governments. Twenty seven local governments are virgin areas with no government presence at all. All the roads he claims he is doing are Federal Government roads, and he only wants an opportunity to make money or steal money. Imagine the poor state of the Iwo to Osogbo road, the major road in this state. We passed through it last night when we were coming; it was like a dungeon. How can a governor ignore that road for four years, and he wants to win election in this state? That is the most important road in this state. Instead, he is digging holes, claiming he has been building a bridge on the Ife-Ibadan expressway, a project which is of no value. So, the government is being driven by profit, not by service. By profit, because it is where they can benefit and steal money, that is their condition for siting projects. A government must be driven by service and necessity. That is why there is mass rejection of this government.
Look at two instances. Look at school uniform, which is being sold at N2,000 per pair. It is N500 in the market. Be that as it may, on an economic scale, the school uniform being sewn for students has deprived over a million people of jobs and income: tailors, cloth sellers, middlemen and women. The policy of government directly sewing uniforms and selling them to students is adversely affecting the economy of this state. That is why there is mass rejection of this government all over the state.
Look at his mega school. It collapsed just before commissioning. Look at schools in Iwo. Pupils went to school in hijab, choir dress, masquerade dress. The sanctity of the schools is being destroyed. And Osun State people are too wise. I learnt they call them Osungo in Lagos. We are not stupid at all. We will tell them we are not stupid on 9th August. We will even tell them that we are wiser than Lagosians. APC has been deceiving the people of Lagos for the past 12 years but we reject them in this state. We are not stupid at all in Osun State; we know what we are doing. There is total, mass rejection of this government. The roads are bad everywhere; 95 per cent of those roads are bad. Completely bad.
The picture you have painted is a very bad one. But the government has been saying “We have built roads with tribal marks, roads that will become tourist attraction and so on and so forth.’’ But now, you are painting a different picture entirely. Why the disconnect?
The government is just propaganda, that’s all. Aregbesola’s projects are just on newspapers and TV. How can you have a government which awarded contracts four years ago and up till today, they are not more than 10 per cent completed? When he came in, he awarded Osogbo to Kwara boundary for over twenty-something billion and he has stopped work on it… He awarded Gbongan Junction to Sekona (phase 1); the work has not been completed. The /Osogbo ring road, the work has stopped on site now. The construction was awarded to a Turkish company. Even the artisans, including the drivers, came from Turkey. The mechanic came from Turkey. So, there is capital flight and poverty in the land.
He has not paid salaries of teachers, civil servants, teachers and pensioners for some time but he is trying to pay them quickly now. If they (Aregbesola and his cabinet) are not investors doing business with workers’ wages, would he just be paying them now? Where is the money coming from now? He is owing O-YES people he kept in bondage six months’ salary arrears but he has paid three months out of it now. Where is he getting money from, when he has not paid them for so long?
We are aware of their plan to do propaganda and rig election through violence and thuggery. But luckily for us, there is security in this state, so there will be no room for thuggery and violence at all. It’s going to be a very peaceful election: one man, one vote. There is nothing to show that we have government in this state; all you have are the so-called ‘ongoing work.’ I am an engineer. What is the ongoing work? Just excavation. When you are doing construction work, excavation is less than five per cent of the job. Up till today, not a single tar on the road. All the roads he is doing are “ongoing’ and he has spent up to N100 billion. So, it is for profit basically, not for service. Look at Opon Imo. N8.4 billion has been withdrawn from circulation. If they don’t fine-tune it, they should return our money back to us.
O yes, it should be withdrawn because there is no basis for it. One, Mathematics is there but there is no single illustrative diagram, no single table, no single graph. You can’t teach Mathematics without graphs, log tables for geometric analysis. Not a single line in the whole opon imo. That is the first fallacy. Two, the syllabuses of SS1 to SS3 are three. So, you are going to have failures in the next three years now. When you open History in Opon Imo, in Chapter 9, you have History of Mali as topic but the body of the chapter discusses the Songhai empire. That is a major problem we have with opon imo. Opon Imo has 17 subjects with 87 per cent errors. So, it is an albatross, an embarrassment for us. Opon Imo is a scam and this scam should be withdrawn from circulation.
Look at Fakunle Comprehensive High School in Osogbo, now demolished. Because you want to build a shopping mall for Bola Tinubu, you now share out students of the school to other schools? After August 9, we will bring back that school. There are lots of dropouts from our school now. Thugs are now made from schools. Parents who can barely feed now have to spend a lot of money to send their children to school. Students have to trek six or seven kilometres, between Akinlalu and Oyere, before they get to school.
You have been going round the state. What are the specific demands that the people are making?
One, they told me that they want the sewing of uniforms to stop. “Omisore, gba aso iya lorun wa; awa o fe mo (Omisore, rid us of the clothes of suffering. We don’t want it),” is the song everywhere. Two, the schools should be returned to their original owners, for those who want them back. We are going to run a people-oriented, people-based government. Workers’ salaries will be paid promptly. Professionals who are useful are going to be brought in to restore pride in the people.
All the tertiary institutions will be reopened; they have been on strike now for over five months. A lecturer handles as much as 12 subjects because Aregbesola did not employ enough hands; no teachers, no bursary, no scholarship. So, the economy of this state has become comatose. They are all foreigners here; they come from Lagos on Tuesday and go back on Thursdays. They come with their soap and drinking water. ..The people of Osun are visibly hungry and very angry.
There’s been some controversy over the debt profile of the state, but the Debt Management Office has said Osun State’s debt is sustainable. What is your take on the issue..?
How much is this sustainable debt? The government should come out with the debt portfolio of the state now. Any government can borrow money, but it is the right of the people to know how much has been borrowed and what it has been used for. The point is, what has he used the money for? There is nothing on the ground to show for it. You borrow money to do what? To steal? That is the problem. Even the allocation from Abuja, about N613 billion in the last three and a half years now cannot be accounted for with what is on the ground. The roads that are said to be ‘ongoing,’ the government has not done 60 per cent of those roads. They are not up to N200 billion in totality. So, where is our money? A state which cannot pay salaries can buy helicopters for N4 billion for surveillance. Osun is the second safest state in this country but they now bought helicopters for N4 billion, to be patrolling the state. This is money that can be used to pay pensioners for years. It would pay civil servants for two consecutive years. Sustainable or not, how much is the debt profile? What have they done with our money?
Why the debt in the first instance? What is the necessity for the debt? The government has done no single rural road, and Osun is an agrarian community. Most farmers ride bicycles to the farms. That is why the hungry cry all over the place. The farmers are poor; they can’t even transfer their goods to town because there are no good roads. I have traversed this state in the last one and a half months. There are bad roads everywhere. When I got to Atakumosa West…my vehicle broke down; I had to board an okada (motorbike) to get to my campaign ground. That is the kind of thing we have. The roads are so bad. But you see, the beauty is that Osun indigenes know this and they will decide on 9th August.
Some people said your riding okada was to imitate former Governor Ayo Fayose
My vehicles got stuck and I just took okada from that point to my campaign venue. That is all. Fayose takes okada in Ado-Ekiti now and then. It was the only option available to me to get to my campaign venue. And I took it. I even take okada in Osogbo. They must find fault. I was passing and market people blocked me. I came down from the vehicle and had to address all of them. Even people going to church or coming from the mosque would stop me. It is very common. Some of the women would give me corn. It was their show of love and acceptance. And I always accept such graciously. On a particular occasion, I was passing by Sekona market and the people gave me corn, pepper, tomatoes and what have you. It is what they have. Fayose goes to the market in Ado Ekiti. If I am in Ede on a market day, the people would stop me. I have to stop and address them.
The other time you said “There will be security in Ekiti.” And your major opponent, the sitting governor, a tough man, said that he is a street man. You are also a strong man. Do we expect war on election day?
I’m not from the streets. He is from the streets. I have a good pedigree. I’m from a good home, a comfortable home, and very good parents. I’m not from the street o. I’m just courageous and strong in my will…The governor has said it himself that he controls thugs now, the State Boys. He is saying it everywhere, openly. Look at what happened in Ekiti; all thugs were arrested. Let our votes count. It is too late for him and he must know that he can’t use violence to win election in Osun. The last election we had, they snatched ball boxes from polling units. That is what he is used to, but he will be shocked. Osun people have decided to shock him with this election. In fact, he is going to lose every local government in this state.
Osun has 30 local governments.
He is going to lose every local government. Go and mark it down today.
Including where he comes from, Ilesa, East and West?
He’s a (potentee?…) in Ilesa. Go to Ilesa and find out. He’s from Arigidi Akoko. So, the Ijesas know themselves. I’m an Ife-Ijesha man. We know ourselves very well.
Are you saying that Governor Aregbesola is not from Ilesa?
I don’t know. Go to Ilesa and find out. Maybe his parents should answer that question. He may be Ijesa abroad.
From what you have seen now of the ongoing projects, it means that you have a serious work to do if you are eventually elected as governor. Are you not worried that, given the state of the economy of Osun, you may not have the wherewithal to solve the people’s problems? And, what magic are you going to use?
One, the projects that are ‘ongoing’ are Federal Government projects. I’m going to beg the Federal Government to take on the projects and pay for them. Being a sitting governor, I will have access to them. Two, all other problems are things he (Aregbesola) caused. I would just return the schools to their owners, allow school uniforms to be sewn by those who were sewing them before. Everybody will be free. There will be peace in the state immediately. And any bank that he ‘over borrowed’ money from should go and look for Aregbe where they sacked him.
You won’t stop the ongoing projects?
No. They are Federal Government projects, basically, and I think it is easier for us to fund them from the Federal Government purse. Osogbo ring road, Kwara boundary to Osogbo, Sekona to Gbongan are all Federal Government roads.
But the Minister for Works said recently that his ministry is not going to be involved in any urban renewal programme of any government, that what the ministry is going to concern itself with are inter-state roads, which means that the roads linking one part of Osun to another will not be…
We have the necessary road documents and their geographical locaions. It is not that the minister that will tell you. I know much more about the roads in the country. I was in the Senate Committee on Appropriation and I know the roads physically. It is not about ministerial discretion. We know the federal roads in every state. They are mostly inter-link state roads. Before state creation, some of them pass through the states. That was long ago when we had 12 states. Now that we have 36 states, some of them are now inside the states and in the towns. So, that is not a problem at all. We know federal roads everywhere in Nigeria.
How do you see the trend of Yoruba politics between now and 2015?
Well, Ekiti has gone to the PDP. Osun is going to the PDP in a few days’ time. Oyo, Ogun and Lagos will follow. That is the trend now.
Why do you think this is happening, because we need to distill it, ..
You know, people have been deceived for a long time. These people (APC) are mere hypocrites. Yoruba people are wise people; you can’t fool them for long. They will pretend to look at you. In fact, what is happening in Osun State, I’ve not seen it in my life. A two-year-old, a four-year-old with tell you what is happening to Aregebesola. “Ole ni o, o ko owo wa lo s’ Eko. A o fe mo! A a ni teacher ni school wa’ (He’s a thief, he carried our money to Lagos, we don’t want him again! We don’t have enough teachers in my school). I’ve never seen this in my life. It is a lifetime experience. My reception by the people has been massive. You have to come and see the massive turn out for yourself. If you are just imagining it, you might just say “O popular ni’’ (He’s just popular) but it is beyond that. Yesterday, I just passed through Iwo by chance and for two minutes, the whole place was in an uproar.
My own worry is this. You have gone through the state and you have seen the massive turn out. Quite so often, all the places you have touched have challenges and people have been talking to you about these challenges, issues that they expect you to begin to address. Are you not scared that, “At the end of the day, will I, Omisore, be able to meet the people’s expectations’? Two, if inside one or two years by reason of bad economy in Abuja, your state is affected, how prepared are you to revamp the economy of this state to the extent that you would not have done your permutations based on whatever you would be getting from Abuja? Again, people would profile Omisore, saying that ever since you came into politics, you had just one ambition, to become governor; that even when you were a deputy to Chief Bisi Akande, you wanted to be governor. Is it just about being credited with being the governor of Osun State? What is the driving force?
One, going through this state with the myriads of problems can be scary initially. But with a sense of leadership and purposefulness, the problems are surmountable. A lot of money has been collected in this state in the past three and a half years; it has not solved the problems of the state because of capital flight. Our main problem is capital flight; there is no transparency in governance at all. The last regime of the PDP awarded contracts for roads at less than N93 million per kilometer; they (APC) are doing their own at N1.1 billion per kilometer, so they are stealing about N1 billion per kilometer. So, about N200 billion is lost. N200 billion is enough for the 30 local governments… If there is no capital flight and you spend Osun State money on Osun State, there won’t be any complaint. These roads are not trunk-A roads; they are rural roads, basically, just to carry farm produce from farms to the villages, and from the villages to the markets. That is all. You also need small water schemes. But because these people take our money to Lagos, we are in trouble.
Then the issue of being a governor or not being a governor, I wanted to be governor in 1999 but I was asked to step down for Chief Akande and I did. That shows the kind of person that I am. If it is the will of God for me to be governor, I will be. This last one, I was persuaded to go and run. Party people came to me and begged me to run. I said “If you want me to run for governor, then you must be ready for it.” I thank God that I didn’t even refuse to run, or the state would have been in a terrible state by now. It’s not about wanting to be a governor. No. It is a call to service, at any level. I am just a tool in the hands of God to help the people. I am not desperate, I am a professional and I have my job and I will..after the governorship.
You mentioned that you were asked to step down for Chief Akande in 1999. Does that mean that you were initially penciled in for the governorship?
Chief Bisi Akande was my coordinator before the election. I was running for governorship.
He was the party chairman; he was the one coordinating for me.
When you were asked to step down, was it in the understanding that you would take over from him?
That was the understanding. I think when we got to office and he started enjoying the perks of office, he decided to go further. And I told him at the time: “If you had told me that you wanted to run for a second term— I mean, I’m a young man—I would have understood. But you didn’t. You call yourself a progressive, and you went ahead to undermine my integrity and my life,” which led to the crisis.
If, on your way out now, you meet Governor Aregbesola, what would you tell him?
I would just greet him now, and tell him to be preparing his handover notes. I would greet him and hug him. He is still the governor of this state. At least, nobody can be governor without the will of God, even if it is a stolen mandate. I would still greet him. By God’s grace, we will meet again.
Finally, some of your co-contestants for the PDP governorship ticket are with you now…
We are together
But what is your relationship with former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola like?
Very, very cordial. Governor Oyinlola met with the President about two weeks ago to discuss some national issues. He spoke to me that he met with President Jonathan and they are trying to resolve the contentious issues. He said he’s still in PDP.
Have you approached him on a brother-to-brother basis on your ambition?
We have talked all this while. Every step he has been taken, I am aware of it and I am part and parcel of it.
What would you say about the people who have just been expelled from your party, for anti-party activities? A number of them are known to be supporters of Oyinlola
They are working in Adeleke’s camp now. I don’t think they are for Governor Oyinlola. Remember that Oyinlola said he is still in the PDP when he was being pressurized by the opposition people.
How strong is the PDP going into this election?
We are as strong as ever now. These people you spoke about, who were expelled, have already gone to the APC. During Adeleke’s defection, he mentioned Salaam; he mentioned Teslim Igbalaye. He mentioned them as people defecting with him. We should just give them time; maybe they would come back and repent.