Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), has been in both chambers of the National Assembly. Lanlehin, who was born into a politically conscious family with his father as the Nation Treasurer of the defunct Action Group, speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI on why he wants to govern Oyo State, the strength of ADC, among other things.
YOU aspired to govern Oyo State in 2011, but you ended up in the Senate. Now, your hat is in the ring again. What is actually driving this aspiration?
I have the passion to deliver service to the people of Oyo State. I have lived nearly all my life in the state and I experienced a good life growing up in the state. But gradually, things started changing and getting from bad to worse. In Oyo State today, we don’t deserve to be where we are. The situation in the state that made me want to govern the state in 2011 still endures and is even worse.
I have what it takes to governor the state because I have the education, knowledge of the state, experience and above all the passion to make a difference and leave a legacy. Most of the things that are working in the state now are things that were put in place a long time ago. If we could not maintain those things, we should not put them in jeopardy and have them deteriorate. Tell me one area since 2011 till now, where one can say there is an improvement in terms of added value. We owe a duty to the coming generation and I owe it to my conscience, having benefitted from the system, to run and govern the state progressively.
I went to a free public primary school. We had the children of who-is-who in the old Western Region in my class. We had the children of Ministers, General Managers of corporations, children of cooks and gardeners all in our class at ICC Primary School in Oke Bola. We left there and went to Ibadan Grammar School where we also had the same mix. Brother Wole Awolowo was there; the children of the Deputy Premier, Chief D.S Adegbenro, were there; the children of the Speaker were there and a whole lot more. We of the medium class as well as those of the low class were in the same school.
But now, where are the schools? The people who are in charge and are running the show don’t want to send their children to the schools they are responsible for. The education sector has deteriorated and instead of doing something that is reasonable and functional, the government embarked on building the so-called model schools whose usefulness is suspect. The model schools do not give the maximum amount of aeration, light and air. They are built like Scottish castles. If you hear the amount of money spent on them, you will marvel. The money spent can be used to build and refurbish hundreds of schools that will have football fields, tennis courts and fields for athletics. I don’t think this government has properly utilised the amount of money that has accrued to it either by federal allocations or Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the best way possible.
I have no doubt our people will look towards voting for somebody who takes their lives and living much more seriously and who, based on antecedents, can deliver. Anybody can say anything; anybody can pontificate, articulate and promise the whole world. But it takes a man who has the love of the people at heart to be the governor from next year. From my background and upbringing and given the benefits I have received from the system while growing up, it is only fair that I give back in terms of quality, progressive and masses-oriented service.
There are those who commend the government for giving the infrastructure in the state, particularly in Ibadan, a facelift. But you don’t seem to see it that way.
I don’t see it that way because everything has cost content. If you look at the amount of money used in building those roads, you will see that they are some of the most expensive roads in the world in terms of cost per kilometre. Some of these roads are not even that necessary now. Look at Gate-Iwo Road for instance. A lot of houses were demolished and up till now, compensation has not been paid. That road is already dualised and if at all there is any need to work on it, minimal expansion can be made to accommodate the need for increased traffic. I am told that most of the contractors used by government come from outside the state, bringing personnel and equipment and even raw materials into the state. I have heard local contractor complain that this government does not patronise them.
When he came in, he said he was going to tackle unemployment and started YES-O and employed 10, 000 people. Under one year, these youths were all disengaged, despite the fact that they were paid the most ridiculous amount of money- N10, 000 per month. We know how many times the governor travels around the world looking for non-existent investors. Let him tell us one investor he has brought to the state.
To address unemployment, we need to synchronise our agricultural potentialities and minimally have added value and in turn provide jobs for our people, reduce the army of the unemployed, reduce crimes. But what do we have? The other time, the governor went to Norway to understudy ranching method. There is no sincerity of purpose is the things he does and that is one key thing that his government lacks. His government has not been able to distribute the wealth of the state in a manner that is equitable and gives to the greatest number of people the greater amount of resources of the state. Instead of that, we have people from the United States, Lebanon coming in to cart away our resources in the state to foreign lands.
What are you going to do differently should you get elected as Oyo governor next year?
It is very important to me that the potentials of the state are maximised. And these potentials are in the areas of agriculture and mineral resources and human capital development. The people of the state are very resourceful and hardworking. So, I will put in place infrastructure that will make life abundant for them. If you go to Oke-Ogun, Ago Are, Kishi, Igbeti and so on, the roads in these areas are very terrible. And you see long stretches of uncultivated land. What stops us from providing the minimal tools for the youths and helping them develop agricultural strains with short life span like cassava, maize, cashew nuts and so on. It is not rocket science. It is about being able to get the research institutes to help us develop these strains that will grow to give better yield quickly in our environment. We will then provide infrastructure in these places. It is as a result of the lack of these opportunities in the rural areas that we have rural-urban drift and what do these young people get in the cities they move to? Nothing.
Instead of travelling all over the world looking for investors, the investors are right in the state and in our country. Our people are creative and innovative enough. The government only needs to give them the right tools and environment to thrive. I believe agricultural produce can be mass produced and moved to the places of need, areas where cottage industries are set up to process the produce, add value and get the finished products moved to cities and out of the country.
We will get our priorities right. What has happened to the hotel the government of Ajimobi says it will build behind Premier Hotel? What has happened to the money that has been paid upfront for the project? There must be sincerity of purpose and I think that is the most important thing to me. Providing good governance, for me, is not all about writing beautiful papers, bringing in consultants and at the end of the day, the papers that are presented are shelved. We have people in the men and material in the state that can be used to achieve these things. Our polytechnics are there. Institute a competition for simple innovations and tools that can help our people in agriculture and ask the schools to compete. Motivate the schools and see what they will do.
But go to the schools in Oyo State today. I am not even sure the schools have laboratories or workshops. With all humility, I have been in legal practice. I have been in government occasionally. I have been in the legislature and in the executive. I have a total understanding of how things work. The most important thing for me is that I want to leave a legacy and I know how to so do.
It is being said that you left the PDP with your leader, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, because you were afraid of competing with Seyi Makinde who is most favoured to clinch the governorship ticket. How true is this?
I left the PDP because I was not ready to engage in an unfair competition. We went to the PDP because we were of the opinion that the ruling party needs to be given a run for its money. APC is behaving like a big behemoth all over the place. APC does not have any qualms about using the power it has most times wrongly against the people. So, we felt the only way we could square up to APC in Oyo State was for the smaller parties to find a platform that will be big enough to cut APC down to size. But with all due respect to those in the PDP, we discovered that the party has not changed at all. It is still the old method of crass impunity when elective positions are for sale. So, why, when it is so clear to us and they have done it many times while we were there, should you wait until they chop off your head before you make a dash for the door?
If the PDP could do this to former Governor Ladoja with his status, experience and contributions and with the greatest amount of impunity change the list of officers that were legally elected through congresses that were conducted and supervised by the national headquarters of the PDP, it will mean either I don’t have plan for myself or I don’t know what I am doing if I remain in the PDP. So, we left for where we will get a better deal in a rancor-free atmosphere.
I am not afraid of anybody because the contest is about who is popular and who has given a service to the people of the state. Are you telling that the people they are touting have given more service to the people of Oyo State more than Senator Ladoja? Can they say they have given more service in Oyo State than I have given? So, it is not about naira and kobo. But unfortunately, the polity has been so corrupted and put in a state of commerce and bazaar that sometimes in some parties, money rules the day. I am not afraid of anybody. We shall all meet at a neutral ground at the polls and the common people of the state will decide and show their preference for me.
It is also claimed that in the ADC that you and others moved to, you have met a bigger problem than you left in the PDP, that there might be an implosion in ADC during the primaries.
What we have in ADC is a conglomeration of people who have the same experience. Most of the players in ADC, the Ladoja group, the Unity Forum people, the Labour Party people and others are coming from a background where they have been totally treated with impunity. Of course, when groups meet, there are bound to be teething problems which we had. But thank God we have all come to realise that we need each other to be able to send APC out of government. So, we sit down and discuss, dialogue and come to agreements that are mutually beneficial. That is what we have now. We have been able to put together a party that is basically united, has the geographical spread and spread in terms of people who have proven their mettle politically in the state. The major leadership in the politics of the state are today in ADC. We have Senator Ladoja, Chief Michael Koleosho, Dr Adebisi Busari, Chief Layiwola Olakojo and many other leaders in our party. Serving and non-serving National and State Assembly members in their large numbers are with us in ADC. I can assure you that a lot of people in the ruling APC and other parties are still coming to join us when they get their own share of the punishment that other who have joined got.
When it comes to primaries, we can’t rule out misunderstanding because when three or four people want the same thing, there is bound to be disagreement. But the most important thing is that there must be conflict resolution mechanism, which is being put in place in ADC today. Somebody must get the position. There are deep and wide consultations going on in ADC now as to what should be done in this regard so as to minimise conflict. I can assure you that we will be better off that the other parties which will experience second implosion.
There are those who say the strength of ADC is low in Ogbomosho and Ibarapa zones, compared to its popularity in Ibadan, Oke-Ogun and Oyo zones. It is said that ADC is wooing former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala to your fold. Your take?
ADC, as of today, I can assure you, will win any election massively even if conducted today because ADC has statewide presence. We don’t have equal strength in all the zones. There are some places that much more needs to be done. I agree with you on that and I agree also that there are some people that, if they come into ADC today, we will just go to sleep, though with one eye open. I, as a person, will be more than glad if Alao-Akala comes to ADC today. I will be one of the happiest because, give it to him, he is a grass root man. He will add value in ADC. He’s too much for where he is at the moment. That place he is [APC], is one man show. The governor is the Lord of the Manor, the Senior Prefect. When we were together, I begged him, told him. I said “Mr Governor, why don’t you leave the running of the party to the party leaders who, in any event, were the ones responsible for your emergence? It will be a win-win situation for you if you should leave the running of the party to them, which they are competent to do and then you face governance. You will have quality time for governance.” He said: “Yes,” but he didn’t do it. He wants to be leader of the party; he wants to be governor of the party and at the end of the day, jack of all trades and master of none.
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