Governor Rauf Aregbesola is the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the upcoming gubernatorial election in Osun State. On August 9, he will be seeking a new mandate from the people of the state. In this session with journalists, Aregbesola speaks on his preparation for this weekend’s election, raises the alarm over the increasing militarization of the election process and also says he has a record that will guarantee the renewal of his gubernatorial mandate on August 9. Tokunbo Adedoja was there
Heavy security presence in the state
It is not just voting that is democracy. Everything pertaining to the capacity of the people to vote or not to vote and to freely decide what they want must be of interest to all of us. Whenever that right is abrogated, it is a total assault on democracy. And we cannot call that democracy. The fact that they disallowed air of freedom greatly affected the quality of the democracy we are talking about. The militarisation of the state is not one man’s job. We owe it a duty to let the whole world know what is happening here. This is against the right of the Nigerian people.
We’ve all forgotten that we pay the salaries of the security agencies. We don’t pay for them to wear mask in our towns. They should only wear masks when they engage terrorist and if they have to operate in a region where seeing them might compromise their own safety and security. What would they say is the reason for what they are doing now other than threat, shock and awe? So, what this means is that they want to conquer and cow our people, which is a direct assault on democracy. Yes, you ask for what I am doing. I won’t take gun against them but I will not be quiet. I believe that your supporting us to highlight this horrendous bent of the Nigerian federal authority to use all means at its disposal to cow our people must be condemned. We should all talk and condemn it because this is not about Aregbesola alone. You people may not have any press office to work with if this continues. Don’t think it will stop there. By the time they finish with the press, they can say you should not even go and buy yam to eat somewhere. Everything will be affected.
Ekiti election and preparation for August 9
The real issue is not about you as a candidate but the quality of the electoral process. Once the quality is good and high, whatever the people say because they are the ultimate decider of who represents or govern them. A democratic choice is expected to be correct, good and right but it is not always that the choice is good, correct and right. But to answer the question properly, I have prepared so well for the office in a way that going by the normal run, I should not be working as hard as I am working now for re-election. Why we are different from them is that we have always been with the people from day one of our administration.
How many governors walk the streets with their citizens? I have been doing that since the first month in office. How many governors create interactive forum in Nigeria before me? There is none. I was the first governor that devoted close to ten hours of continuous engagement on a quarterly basis with the citizens. The people ask any question in a no holds barred atmosphere. The Ogbeni till day break is a worldwide engagement because we take feedbacks from social media. The gbangba dekun is a monthly community interactive forum where the governor sits with all stakeholders in the community to ask or make inquiries on any issue. This is the picture of direct engagements that we are doing with the people that no government in Nigeria has ever attempted to do.
We also have a carnival like procession in walk to live where we just walk round the communities and it is too engaging and popular because everybody wants to be with the governor. Hardly is there any community in this state that I have not touched personally. In terms of physical and social services, this is the first government that will say that there is no household, be it PDP, APC and others, that our programme has not reached. I feed 300,000 pupils every school day at the cost of N3.6 billion a year, I have been doing it since 2012 and I have spent N7.2 billion on that. You can go to the school by yourself and access what the children are eating to be sure whether it worth what we are saying or not. I can tell you that nobody touches the money except those in charge. Long before we commenced the feeding arrangement, we empowered poultry farmers to produce poultry products so that the chicken and eggs the children consume are all sourced from them. We gave close to N600 million to the poultry farmers and also the fish farmers.
The only people we buy from now are the cattle rearers. We have the second batch of O’Yes cadets, the first batch of 20,000 has gone, the second batch of 20,000 is on and they are from homes. They work two or three days a week and they have the entire days of the week left for them to see what they can do with their hands and earn a living because they are taught entrepreneurial training but they earn N10,000 monthly as cadets. On this scheme alone, this administration has spent N9 billion. I tell people what this type of scheme means for national government. You have in that scheme a directly injected N9 billion to the economy that has no means of going out because a man earning N10,000, unless you promised to double his investment, he has no business travelling to Ibadan with that N10,000. If it’s not going to yield anything more, he won’t go to Ibadan. Every bit of the money is better spent here.
Every O ‘Yes cadet has a smart card and the issue of anyone handling or tampering with their money does not arise. We are one of the few governments that develop a meaningful programme for elderly citizen’s care. We are not into a blanket social welfare scheme for the elderly, we have a package that did an extensive survey of citizens that are 65 years and above, we have them in our database. We now identified those among them that are without any support that is the first time any government will so do in Nigeria. We identified 1,800 of such people state wide. The selection was purely based on their conditions, no primordial sentiment. We didn’t do the selection anyway, Professor Ogunbameru of OAU administered everything, gave us the list and the addresses. We have been giving them N10, 000 monthly since 2012.
Still along that line, before now the only usage of ambulances here is to carry dead bodies, whereas it is not meant only to carry dead bodies but the conception of it is simply as a morgue vehicle. We have ambulance points everywhere in the state now working 24 hours. We just launched debit card with cash between N100,000 to N150,000 with which they (farmers) buy their farm inputs by their doorsteps. They will buy on guaranteed credit and will pay back with either their commodity or they sell and pay back. I look at my engagement with the people, the products of my government which has not left any home unaffected positively, and I said if election is about acceptance, popularity and impact you have made on the people, we are waiting for what the dictate of democracy would be. In a credible, transparent, free and fair election, Rauf Aregbesola does not have any worry at all about what people will say about his administration.
His relationship with critical voting blocs
I will answer in this form: most people don’t even know how to assess relationships. They assess it from the complaint they get from dissatisfied section of a critical lot. It cannot be. It is impossible for humans to exist without conflict. The Yoruba has an idiomatic way of expressing it, they said teeth and tongue fights but they are always still together. A sociologist or human scientist would not therefore base his assessment of any sector on when there is disagreement. Let us look at what we have done and then situate our relationship within it, though some people for whatever reason does not just like you.
I was telling someone that what should concern you is not those who are opposed to you, especially as it gets to the run-up to the election. When you are still far from it, you may be bothered so that you can make it up. But when no matter what you do, that is their attitude, you just stay put. From the newspapers, there are not less than 20 parties seeking power, democratically. If you have 60 per cent, which does not mean you don’t have opposition. The 40 per cent who doesn’t want to see you and may cut your head if you are careless not only vote against you. If you have 60 per cent, you are home and dry.
In a struggle with other stakeholders, six is a good number. What we are doing is to ensure that each of these critical sectors don’t have any basis at all to be opposed to us. Let us start with the students. We met a condition when we came in that students were given a bursary of N3, 000 and they won’t even get the bursary on time and it was full of scam. They brought it to me to sign and I said why do I have to sign N3,000 for anybody? It’s best if we don’t give this bursary or we give it meaningfully. We raised the bursary to N10, 000 flat. For medical and law students N20, 000, while our indigenes in Law School get N100, 000. The school authorities give the money to students in their system. I don’t see how such students will hate us in the majority, I can’t see it. Whoever now hates us has something else against us not for the fact that we have not done the needful. The increase wasn’t solicited; we did it out of our own understanding of the reality of what the students are going through.
There was clamour for reduction of fees; we reduced the fees from a huge amount to something that is comparably affordable. Also, we have been investing in developing the institutions much more than any administration has done in the history of this state. Yes, we are having some challenges with the lecturers but it’s not peculiar to us but you just have to bear it. For Okada riders, they have no problem with us. They may want us to do things for them as we have done to some other groups, but it not as if they said compared to others, these are the problems. The roads here are appreciated even by those who used legs. Has any government succeeded in constructing 200 kilometres of roads in all nooks and crannies of the state? There is no part of this state that we have not constructed a new road and it’s not just any road but roads with concrete drainage, with stone base and thick asphaltic cover and above all when I get to campaign grounds, I say our roads have tribal marks. In all general roads, we have roads with marks. Before our advent, the civil servants never knew that salary could be paid before the end of the month.
For seven and half year, salaries were never paid here before the end of the month. But from when I assumed office, we changed that. Before the year ended when I assumed office, I paid 10 per cent of their basic as 13th month salary and paid December salary before the end of the year, the civil servants were dazed. Since that day up until December 2013, I pay salary on or before the 25th of every month. But as from January 2014, we ran into trouble which we explained to everybody six months before then. In July 2013, the Federal Government began a squeeze that they themselves know that nobody believed them. They said 400,000 barrel of crude oil is being stolen every day. We didn’t know problem was coming. Instead of collecting N4.6 billion, they gave this government N2.6 billion, 40 per cent slashed. We thought it will be temporary because after that month, they said the stolen crude had reduced to 200,000 barrel per day. When the oil being lost reduced, would you still expect a 40 per cent cut? From that July to now, the maximum allocation this state has ever received is N3.2 billion which was in November 2013.
I am not making up anything, simply saying the truth. Now ask me how was I able to pay up until December 2013? My people are called Osomalo. They are very deft in the management of money and I took this from them. I had been saving through the Omoluwabi Conservation Fund in which 10 per cent of all allocation must just go and rest. So, I had money in reserve, which was a build-up for my refusal to form cabinet for 10 months, I had the money. Whereas my income fell to N2.6billion at the lowest and N3.4billion at the highest for a month, my statutory expenditures which are expenditures that I have no control on once we have agreed on it, for instance salary, pension and they are N3.6 billion every month, I have no power over it.
I can’t say no, I am not paying. Between July and December, I augmented my income with N5.4billion. All in the hope that this thing will go, it didn’t go. It has not gone as we speak, it is even worse. Our teachers in the state are now very well motivated such that you cannot distinguished between them and bank workers. When you see a teacher in Osun before you know. They are so depressed, unmotivated and absence of facilities. Our teachers now appear corporate and well-motivated. It is not that there won’t be some of them who for whatever reason don’t like us but they are in the minority. Don’t buy the talk that you hear that teachers don’t like him, I don’t believe that. We do independent, scientific opinion poll does not support all these talks. You need to see how people respond to us everywhere, people just swarm around me. I have never been in a place where my presence does not generate euphoria.
You don’t get such reception if people have problem with you. I don’t really believe I have any problem with any critical sector. There is nothing that they have done to deride us. There is no household in this state that does not feel our impact. We are talking about how to make education the central focus of our administration because I am no longer thinking of now but we want to create a new sets of Nigerians on which a new society would be born and we can’t do it on what is there now. Mine is the first government in Nigeria to give free uniform to all students.
PDP allegation against Opon Imo (e-tablet)
The first government that will say that you don’t need to buy textbooks for your children in the high school, Opon Imo and it’s targeted at 150,000 students. One of the attractions is that it reduces the cost of book. With that number and with what it cost us to procure the e-book, N200m for 53 books. If you divide N200 million by 53, you will get the cost of per book on that basis. If you now divide the outcome with 150,000, do you know that the cost of the book will be N2? Opon Imo should be celebrated by all because it reduces the capital outlay on books. Tell me any government anywhere in the world that can provide eight textbooks free of charge to students. How many parents can buy all books required by their children, but we have changed this by putting into the hands of all our students in high school a library of 53 textbooks. Our students here keep it with them, go home with them, and sleep with them for as long as they are in school. That was why I said that we have saved our state N8 billion to procure these books for the students. Immediately they heard that I said we have saved the state of N8 billion naira, they said Aregbesola has stolen N8 billion. That was the genesis of the money they said my son took from Opon Imo. Let’s asked them where the N8 billion is.