Adebayo Ayoade Salami was elected Senator for Osun Central Constituency of Osun State at the start of the Nigerian Fourth Republic. He ran on the Alliance for Democracy (AD) platform. In the Senate, he was appointed to the committee on Public Accounts, Labour as Vice-Chairman. In this interview with journalists, he bares his mind on the administration of Aregbesola in Osun, among other issues. Excerpts…
You have been around for a while in Osun politics, and people here know that you are a progressive, what will you say qualifies you as a progressive? The first thing I will like to say is that you said I have been around for a while, but I will tell you that I have been around all the time. Before the creation of Osun state, I was a local government chairman in the then Oyo state. I also made significant impact in the creation of the state and I contested the governorship of the newly created state in 1991 with Isiaka Adeleke; so, it is not that I have been around for a while but I have been around all the while. You are also asking what the impetuses of a progressive are; I have seen all the government that ran through the state. You will see that when a progressive mind comes into governance, they believe the essence of government is doing good for the masses. Nobody has exhibited this trait in the history of Osun more than Rauf Aregbesola.
So you believe Aregbesola has lived up to the impetuses of a progressive with the way he is governing the state?
He has done a lot for the state and has been able to lift the state higher in terms of development, among the committee of states in Nigeria. His programmes have touched the lives of the people of the state in so many areas: the first programme he did looks small to some people, but to me that is the greatest achievement of this administration, changing the concept of our state to that of “omoluabi”. This is not physical but germane to the mind and being.
There is a great difference between being a virtuous person and a bastard, that’s one core value that every human being should have; the attribute of being responsible, good is what that concept has brought to Osun. It looks minute but great in the concept of growth. Let’s go on from there, it is very bad for a human being to wake up in the morning and find nothing to do. That will change him from a complete human being. So, what he did in his 100 days in office was to create an engagement for twenty thousand youths. If you wake up in the morning and sit down without having any where to go, you are no more a being, you will hate yourself, twenty thousand had been saved from such situation.
The ten thousand Naira they get may look small, but you will see that with that, about 200 million Naira is pumped into the economy of the state monthly. It is not an amount that can go to other state. If somebody is getting an allowance of ten thousand all he can do with such money is take care of his immediate needs, not one that he can travel out of the state with. Parents for the first time were relieved of the burden of seeing the child they have trained over a period of time sitting at home doing nothing productive, which is an achievement on its own part. He also came up with Osun rural entrepreneurial agricultural programme. Let’s clear the land and give it to people who are interested in farming.
That is an area where we have comparative advantage so that we can also be the food basket for this part of the country. We have reform in the education sector. Honestly, I, Bayo Salami, looking at my background as a capitalist, I was wondering how a government can continue to feed children in public schools everyday without being a burden on government but he felt differently about it, saying most of these children are from the have-nots and they also have a role to play in the development of the state. He held that they need the food at that particular age to aid their assimilation. So they now eat balance diet a day in the school. He decided to give them free uniform and he transformed the education sector at the higher level by giving them the tablet of knowledge “Opon Imo”.
And for the first time in the history of the state, infrastructural development is at the highest, the kind of road that we never imagined came up, roads that can last fifteen to thirty years and that is the practice world over. If you want to borrow money from banks it must show how lasting such projects must be; it must be able to stand the test of time. They don’t expect you to be spending money on maintenance.
Are you in agreement with people who believe the state is indebted to the tune of N350 billion?
Look, people who said he has borrowed N350 billion do not know what N350 billion amounts to. One thing is clear: no single entity can borrow more than 150 billion, no single individual, state, corporation, or what have you, can get more than N150 billion. People still capitalize on our ignorance; we can be subsumed by just rumour. You will wonder whether these people know what they are talking about? You want to make it in life and you don’t want to borrow?
Let me tell you something. America is the most indebted country in the world; there is no place people of the world want to get to more than America, how many people are struggling to take a Visa to our country and how many people want to get to America? They raise their debt ceiling year after year, so long they can produce that huge infrastructure in the US, and everything is okay with them.
Most of our leaders do not have what it takes to govern a nation. In this century and the one coming, it is not the mineral resources inside the soil that will make the difference, but the brain that God has endowed us with. That is what will make the difference – not your oil, but how you use your intellect to better the lot of the people.
You are a seasoned politician in this state, are you subscribe to the insinuation that the governor of the state abandoned local politicians while constituting his cabinet, and that the cabinet is made up of people from Lagos?
The people he has brought are Osun indigenes; some of them may not be necessarily domiciled in Osun as at that time, but for whoever cares to listen to me, the standards we have reached in the last three and a half years need sharp minds. I am not defending him. You need a sharp mind for sound ideas.
I can tell you now that politicians that are based here know the level we have reached, and I believe that by the second term of Aregbesola’s administration, politicians at home would have moved to the next level. Things are no more the same in the state. Our teachers are different nowadays; the mode of dressing and the work environment have changed. That is the level we have gotten to, we are no more doing things as it used to be.
If you were the governor of the state, would you have constituted a cabinet like Aregbesola did?
Maybe I will not even be that exposed to have those tall dreams that he has. My dreams may still be the dreams that we used to have about doing things, but I have seen the practical solutions to problems through him. Look at the kind of roads he is constructing round the state? We used to construct road too before, but hardly will you go there after 6 months and you will not blame yourself.
He has done all that is humanly possible in the last three and a half years at the expense of his own health. The good he has done is more than my expectation; that is why I have decided that whatever it takes, he has my endorsement and come August 9, we are going to win, no amount of 50 billion Naira PDP may bring to Omisore campaign account, money will not buy the conscience of an Osun person with what they have seen in the last three and a half years.
What are your fears about the coming governorship election in the state?
I, Bayo Salami, do not have any fears about the election. I am very sure that come August 9, we will win the election with a wide margin. Take it from me, we have a state that is heterogeneous not an homogenous one like that of Ekiti. I am not unaware that President Jonathan spoke with all the Obas in Ekiti on one on one basis before the day of the election; I am not unaware that he will do the same thing in Osun, but I am aware of the situation in Osun.
Our Obas are not illiterate, they are of sound mind and conviction that they know what is right. At the appropriate time Osun people will take their so-called ten thousand Naira which they have penned down for every voter and will still do the right. This is not a place that you come and preach religious differences; we have been living together as brothers so I am certain that APC will win the election.