I Was Begged To Come Serve Again – Alao-Akala
Former Governor of Oyo State, Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala is vying for the governorship position under the umbrella of the Labour Party (LP). He was Deputy Governor of Oyo State from May 2003 to January 2006 and became the Executive Governor of Oyo State in January 2006, a position he occupied till May 2011. He lost to the incumbent governor of Abiola Ajimobi in 2011. In an interview with AJIBOLA AMZAT, OLAWUNMI OJO and LAOLU ADEYEMI, the former governor expressed his confidence to win the February 28 election.
WHAT do you consider remarkable during your administration that gives you confidence to seek re-election?
I will answer the question this way. If you have passed through a route to a journey before and you are asked to pass through that route again, you are not likely to miss your way. In fact you will comfortably pas through it. I have occupied the office of governorship before. I have done a lot of good things while in office that I will like to repeat those things again and even do it better than the way I did the first time. People of Oyo recognized my performance and that is why they wanted me to run again. The people practically put me on pressure to do this. With due respect, I was begged to contest again. And who am I to refuse my people’s call to service.
The people who begged you to contest now why did they refuse to vote for you in 2011 when you contested against Governor Ajimobi?
It takes the terrible reign of a new king for people to appreciate the good reign of an old king. The people of Oyo remember my administration for its excellent performance after experiencing the poor administration poor administration of the present governor. In fact, it is the incumbent governor that makes me a hero in the eyes of the people because of his mis-governance.
Don’t you think it is obsession for power that is driving you to seek re-election as observed by your opponent?
I have been in power for decades. There is no power than that of a policeman. You have the power of arrest and detention. On mere suspicion, a policeman can arrest and detain. What I am saying is that I have tasted power before so I am not obsessed with power. From your observation when you arrived here (his home at New Bodija), does it look like I am a man obsessed with power? I rather enjoy mingling with ordinary people. In fact, it is the political office that tends to cut me off from the people, which I don’t enjoy. When I was in government, people will testify to it that I never oppressed anyone with executive power. That is why my people want me back.
Can you speak directly to two to three programmes you want to focus on if you are re-elected?
If I come back to the office, I will concentrate on education and youth employment. These are important for me because youth restiveness has caused a lot of havoc that we see around today. An idle hand is Devil’s workshop.
But your administration reportedly was marked with youth restiveness. How do you intend to sustain the relative peace in Oyo State now?
That is the opinion of some people, which is not true. Oyo State experienced peace when I was in government. If NURTW disagree among themselves because of leadership contest and fought, that does not mean that the entire Oyo State was not peaceful. People who are not member of NURTW were not disturbed by that crisis. And when their disturbances breached the peace of the state, we proscribed them. And peace returned to the town immediately. Remember also that it was only Ibadan that was affected, not the entire state. And I was not a governor of Ibadan; I was governor of Oyo State. If it were the present administration that was in government that time, they would have surrendered. I succeeded because of my experience as a trained policeman.
How do you intend to raise funding for your programme considering the slump in world oil prices which has significantly affected Nigeria revenue base?
That is your own forecast. I am leaving my own problem to God. And I know that my God will solve the problem. Within the limited resources, a responsible government can still accommodate any programme it chooses to accommodate. Our government will create atmosphere for youth self-employment. Agriculture loan is relatively cheaper; we will help our youth get such loans.
That loan will no longer come cheaper…
(Cuts in) What you are doing is an assumption. There will always be loan for agriculture. Iife must continue whether there is oil or not. This also goes to suggest that the mono economy we pursue is not good. That is why we need to embrace agriculture. Cocoa House was built with revenue from cocoa.
As a matter of fact, in those good old days, there is what they call Cocoa board which serves as an intermediary between the farmers and the outside world. The Board created by the government helps farmers to sell their products. They only know how much they sell their products; Cocoa farmers were among the richest in Nigeria then. The government has trade agreement with coco buyers. People were also selling cashew and our cashew was the best in the world. Cassava and all other cash crops have been neglected in the time past. There is need for us go back to farm. All farmers must shift towards farm mechanization.
Considering the achievements listed by the present administration; what would you do differently if elected and what would you like to continue?
The present administration is doing a lot of thing wrongly. I am going to pay attention to basic education because that is where to lay the foundation for education. You must build schools, I have done it before within two years and I was given an award.
Again, I will lay emphasis on technical education. A student can make a decision whether to go to technical college or to university based on their intelligence. It is a pity that all we want in Nigeria is that everybody should be graduates, this why we are not having good technicians in Nigeria. There are students who will do well as a technician than being a graduate from any university. Some of the expatriates that come into this country are not graduates but technicians and they come here to take contract.
I will support training of teachers of different background and provide a good environment for students to learn. Teaching profession should go beyond seeing it as means of survival. But government should rather see it as a profession because some applicants came into teaching profession only for survival purpose. I prefer seeing those that are trained and committed to teaching rather than those who see it as means for survival.
But did you pursue that policy when you were in power?
Yes I did, and encouraged the teachers who chose to be transferred to the rural areas and urban. I took care of teacher’s welfare. For instance I paid additional allowances to teachers in the rural areas because some teachers were discouraged to go to rural areas. But with the additional allowances for rural areas, I was able to distribute teachers effectively across board and not that we have more teachers in urban than the rural. If elected, that is part of what I will work on again. There must be evenly distribution of teachers especially in core subject areas. When I got there in 2007, I realized some teachers were more concentrated in some areas but I distributed them based on needs of all. Teachers’ welfare is key to quality education.
How do you plan to support agriculture programme?
When I was in office, agriculture has already been mechanized. The records are there. In 2011 because of what I did in mechanizing agriculture in the state, the Central Bank of Nigeria awarded me the prize as the Best Governor that was promoting agriculture in Nigeria. I paid more attention to mechanizing agriculture in the state. For instance, the popular farm settlement in Oyo state called the Fashola farm in the state was well taken care of.
The local farmers in Shaki even celebrated because I was the only governor that bought vehicles for them since the inception of Oyo state and I was very happy I did very well in mechanizing agriculture in the state.
But the current administration claimed that no previous government has spread development across the state as it has done. They claimed they have constructed more roads than your administration did including the roads in Ogbomosho. Do you agree with this assertion?
No I don’t. They have rather caused more havoc in Ogbomosho than goods. They did not do what the people wanted. They only did what they want in order to score cheap political points, that he has even done roads in Akala’s town. They are only interested in what they want and not what the people want.
Talking of evenly distribution of development, it is not true. My administration constructed 5 km feeder’s road in all the 33 local government in the state. People are waiting for us again on the 28th of February. I will invite you to celebrate my victory.