INTERVIEW: ‘Osun Will Vote For Continuity’

‘Osun will vote for continuity’

 In this interview with MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE, Osun State Commissioner for Special Duties and Regional Integration Hon. Ajibola Bashiru speaks on the achievement of Aregbesola Administration and the governors’ re-election bid.

Why is Governor Rauf Aregbesola seeking a second term?

The justification lies in several aspects. Government has changed the fortune of the state and there is the need for consolidation. Secondly, the people of the State of Osun deserve the best, in terms of leadership and good governance. Thirdly, looking at the facts of history, the government has performed and, with all sense of modesty, he has used his position to serve the people. He has been able to deliver on his promises, which require consolidation by having a second term. He has provided leadership for the people and, of course, the people want the continuity of the leadership. The sustainability of good governance for the welfare of the people is very important at this point.

The opposition do not believe in the picture you have painted. They believe the governor has come to divide the state along religious line…

As far as I am concerned, what the opposition believes is outright derailment from the real issues.I would empirically demonstrate what the government of Osun State wants to do. It has come up with programmes and policies that have justified the pragmatic action of the government. I will like to comment on the intervention in the area of education. Before this government took over, the performance of the students in the educational ranking was 34 per cent. As at today, because of the intervention in the area of education, it has fast tracked the position.

The school enrolment compiled by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics indicates that Osun has the highest enrolment in this country. That is not unconnected with the intervention by the government. And what is that intervention? We have embarked on massive infrastructure development. New schools are either being completed or undergoing construction. They are schools that match training standard all over the world.

In terms of infrastructure, we are doing very well. It is only somebody who is a pathological liar that will say we have not made massive investment in that direction. We have the school feeding programme by which we feed the school children with nutritious meals. Aside the direct benefit of the nutritional quality, it has direct impact on their mental development. It also has some economic advantages. For instance, we have the food vendors with about 2000 of them recruited in the schools. That provides empowerment for the women. These women do not only serve as food vendors, they are equipped with modern facilities for them to be able to serve as community caterers.

So, aside from whatever they make from providing school services, they earn additional income, acting as community caterers. So, the school feeding programme offers the benefit of empowerment and economic development. Another aspect of that school feeding programme has to do with agriculture. It will impress you to know that the quality of products the schools children are taking have nutritional value. What we have done is to create a scheme by which we give day old chicken to poultry and even the supply of cows which are supplied for use. We created the enabling markets for agriculture which have help to advance the cause of making the state dependable and having food security. Let us also look at the school uniform programme, we have provided over 700,000 uniforms to students in our schools.

What are other areas of interventions?

Government has also started the Omoluabi Garment Factory. It is located in Osogbo. The factory employs over 2000 tailors that produce school uniforms, uniform for corporate entity and other departments. Through this, we have created an economy that is employing people to the scheme. That is another aspect of our intervention and it is affecting our people positively. Of course, the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) has provided youth employment. During its commissioning, government did not lie to anybody. It was clear in the advertorial that scheme will provide 10,000 jobs. It is to offer important services to the communities. We have been able to get 20,000 into the scheme. Out of the 20,000, at least, 15,000 of them have been engaged in one way or the other. Some of them were absorbed into the civil service, which we did with equity.

So, when I heard somebody says that the OYES scheme is not functioning, they are not fair in their comments. One of the things that the OYES scheme has done is to rekindle the spirit of entrepreneurship in our people. I want to say the first batch was taken to Germany for training and are now back. The second batch is going to leave by September for training in modern agriculture. So, what the scheme has done is to provide leadership training for the people. Fortunately, the world saw the wisdom in what we have done, even though the mischievous people said that we deceive the World Bank.

How could somebody even allege that a government of the state deceives the World Bank?The World Bank tagged the project as one of the best engagement and empowerment schemes that has ever been developed in this part of the world. So, in the area of education, what we have also done is to ensure that we have necessary facilities to train the students like the Opon Imo, which is celebrated worldwide. So, when I hear somebody say over eight billion was spent on Opon Imo, that is not true. Only N1.2 billion was spent and if we are to buy text books this will be costlier. That is we will need about N10 billion to provide text books for 150,000 students. So, aside the fact that Opon Imo is convenient, it is innovative. It also has cost savings effect of ensuring that materials are made available to everybody.

And when you talk about the so called segregation in our religious life, it is only in the imagination of mischief makers. This is a state that, for the first time, has provided a level playing ground for all religious organisations. We have traditionalist, there are Muslims and Christians in the state. I want to say we have predominantly Christian cabinet, even though the cabinet is not constituted on the religious ground, but those who have the competence to perform. Out of a cabinet of 30 people, not less than 24 are Christians. In the House of Assembly of 26, which will make law on every government policy, 15 out of them are Christians. Nonetheless, we still work in harmony. We still work for the best of the people. So, those people that are talking about religion are mischievous people.

What is your reaction to the emergency of Senator Iyiola Omisore as the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate?

One of the problems is the projection of questionable characters for our growing democracy. I believe that any political party that has the interest of the people at heart should not allow such a man to emerge as its flag bearer. The question you should ask is: what his pedigrees in terms of governance? This was a deputy governor who was impeached because of his misconduct. This is a man who was at the Senate for a period of eight years and did not deliver on anything. The road leading to his house was not even tarred. He could not use whatever influence he has at the federal level to tar the road. Even the road to his father’s house was not tarred. It means that the man is not even qualified to be a councilor and yet, he is gallivanting around that he will bring value to governance. As far as I am concerned, it is one of those dark spots in our democratic development for him to emerge in any political party, not to talk of the so-called ruling party in Nigeria.

The presidency is bent on hijacking the Southwest ,beginning with Ekiti and Osun states, and the Minister of State for Defence and Minister of Police Affairs have been coming to the Southwest regularly. What are your fears?

As you can see, these people that say they want to come and hijack the Southwest are either false students of history or they don’t mean well for Nigeria. If you go to the historical development of Nigeria, the First Republic collapsed because of the same agenda of hijacking power. How could they win? The only way that these characters can be able to get to power is to ride on the blood of the people of the Southwest and I know that will not be possible. In a free and fair contest, they cannot win. The facts are there. Senator Musiliu Obanikoro contested against Governor Babatunde Fashola in 2007. At that time, Fashola was still a dark horse in the political contest. But, he beat him with close to a million votes.

What is the level of confidence you have in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?

I will tell you that, from the records of INEC, one cannot say with confidence that it will conduct free, fair election. But, we need to be vigilant. We will ensure that we deploy the resources to compel them to conduct free and fair election.

How can you curtail thuggery, arson and violence during the electioneering?

I think we need to sensitise our people and we also possibly to caution those people that perpetuate this violence. If you want to serve the people, why must you maim them? Why must you distabilise them psychologically? But as I said, the PDP primaries in the state of Osun showed that some people are interested in causing trouble and thread on the blood of the people to get to power.