‘My record will stand me out at the poll’
Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 28 governorship election, is upbeat about his chances against a field that parades two former governors of the state. He based his optimism on his achievements in the last four years, which he shared with newsmen in his home at the weekend, writes Ehichioya Ezomon.
WHAT has been your experience in office?
My experience has been quite fulfilling, and challenging. It’s a mixed bag or a mixed basket of fruits in the sense that we have had our successes in all the areas of performance indicators.
Similarly, we have had political distractions in the sense that even when you have done well, you still see people who will look for faults in what you have done.
I will give an example. We believe that Oyo State, having been tagged the dirtiest city in Africa or in West Africa, should be cleaned up, first for environmental sanitation, second for health reasons, third for security reasons and lastly for welfare and investment reasons.
It was those four areas that informed our decision to clean up the dirty parts of the state, which was regarded as the dirtiest, at least in Nigeria.
In the process of doing that, we had to remove street traders who were on flood plains, who were disturbing the flow of traffic, and sometimes when there were accidents people were killed.
So, for safety reasons, we had to remove those people. However, we were not the first government to remove people from the streets; the previous governments — between 2007 and 2011, removed people from Iwo Road; between 2003 and 2007, Ladoja’s government removed people from Apeni, Elekuro and some other areas. But none of them built shops for those displaced; none of them provided alternatives.
We are the only government that removed people from trading on the streets and provided alternatives. We provided shops to accommodate close to about 7,000 traders.
We also gave them money to trade in some shops. We gave N20 million but in total, we have given close to N500 million in helping our petty traders, who were trading on the streets.
So, the mixed bag came from the fact that we are the first government to do all these; to provide alternatives, finance for our traders; provide infrastructure in terms of toilet, water and clinics in these markets; built modern markets and yet, the opposition will come out and say we are removing people from trading on the streets.
If not because of the enlightenment that we engaged in, they almost turned our good intentions, our good programme against us.
This is an example of what I mean by mixed feelings, where you have done well for the people and instead of the opposition to accept, they come out to turn it against you.
What are the factors that will determine your second term bid, considering the jinx that no one ever got a second term in Oyo State, and the fact that Senator Ladoja, a very formidable opponent, is also in the race?
There is always a first person to lose something. I’m the first one that will break the supposed jinx in Oyo State. And there is actually no jinx anywhere.
In some states, I think Kano, they never had the second term but Shekarau did it. In Bornu, SAS (Senator Ali Modu Sheriff) did it. So, if in Oyo State they have never had it, Ajimobi will do it. There is always a first time in anything.
I believe there is no jinx and I believe my chances are very high because the people of Oyo State, like all states in the federation, are getting wiser.
People are smarter and are no longer easily deceived. People now ask for your track record and once people see your track record, they vote for you.
And more and more, you will see that many things that had never happened are happening in Oyo State. I will give an example.
I went to the labour union yesterday (last Friday) and they told me that in the history of Oyo State, there had never been any government that did not have problems with the labour union.
We have never had problems with them; we have a very good relationship. We have worked for them. The teachers, two days ago, came and gave me an award. They endorsed me.
As media men from very reputable media houses, go to town and check; do your own media survey and ask people what are the issues; whom would they vote?
They will answer some of these questions you are asking because if I’m the one telling you, you will say the man has a sweet mouth but go out there and ask.
Saying that he (Ladoja) is a very formidable opponent — I have defeated them before. They were formidable; they were even more formidable when I defeated them as a sitting governor.
COULD you shed light on Senator Ladoja’s disclosure that some APC leaders came to beg him to join the party so that he would be given the ticket?
I think you raised three issues; the first one has to do with Ladoja’s claim that APC called him for a meeting to appeal to him to come and take the party ticket. He is lying. The man sometimes tells stories that are not true.
Our leaders, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Chief Akinyelure, former Governor Oni all met at Baba Obasanjo’s place and the purpose of the meeting was to get all Yoruba together and to appeal to some competing Yoruba to work together.
My understanding of the meeting, which I was not present but confirmed by different people, was to appeal to Ladoja and some others like him — those who are in there seventies, who have been governors or senators — to play the roles of elder statesmen; to step down for the younger ones and that all Yoruba must be one.
That was the purpose of the meeting. At no time did anyone offer him gubernatorial slot of the APC and it would be crazy to do so. He has been there before (as governor) and he didn’t perform well. I defeated him and I’m performing better.
So, does it make sense to you to take an incumbent, who is performing well and beg somebody, who didn’t perform well and was defeated by that same incumbent to have the party ticket?
Though I have told some of our elders to denounce him, they said there was no need to waste time arrogating to him what he does not have. I think it’s a lie and that is the truth and if he has anybody, let him confirm.
And subsequently, one of the elders at the meeting came to me and said we should go and visit him (Ladoja) and ask him to come and join us and play the role of an elder statesman.
We went to his house and at no time did anybody talk about him becoming a candidate. How can somebody, who, when he was younger, could not do four rounds of boxing, now say he wants to do eight rounds when he is older? Will people believe him? I think that is my answer to Ladoja.
The ‘Ibadan factor’ has always been crucial in every election. In the 2015 elections, there are at least four Ibadan indigenes — yourself, Senator Ladoja, Folarin (PDP) and Makinde of the SDP; how will the arithmetic play out? Will this not affect your chances?
If you know Ibadan very well, we are very republican. We enjoy competitions and we have always been many whenever we are contesting. If you remember the last time, we had many Ibadan that contested; I think about four or five and I still won.
The beauty is that at that time, I didn’t have the track record that I have now. It is no longer, ‘I will do this.’ They have seen what I have done; people are wiser and they know there are two major parties and those parties have presidential candidates in Abuja.
And lastly is the fact that when you look at the political scenario, you will see that like Bola Ige once said, “five fingers of a leprous hand,” the PDP is there; you have Accord from PDP and Accord is romancing the presidency and you have the SDP and they are romancing the presidency.
In fact, all of them were people who got dissatisfied with the PDP. So, they are just the offspring of the PDP and for me, I see them as one and I believe that with the record that we have now, we are in a very good position to defeat them.
There is the issue of contracts, which some of your critics are making issue out of. Ladoja said when he was in government, he constructed roads for N10 million per kilometre and that Akala did the same with N100 million but that you are constructing a kilometre with N1 billion…
I think those who are well informed and educated will know that the contract we have done in Oyo State are extremely cost-conscious and cost-effective.
Comparatively speaking, anybody who knows anything about economics will not say the price of cement in 2003 is the same price now, so also are the different materials used.
And there is what we call replacement cost in Economics and that is that you consider — the ongoing rates as at the time you are doing something.
Before I became governor, car loan to workers was N200,000 but today, tell me which car you will buy for N200,000? So, I increased the loan by over 150 per cent. I took it to N500,000.
The car you can buy for N500,000 today, believe you me, 10 years ago, you could get it for N200,000. I’m saying that the first thing is the prevailing market prices and the second thing is that when you are comparing prices or cost, you must compare likes with likes.
There is what we call inflation in Economics; those who are saying that should learn economics. The issue; did we go through due process? Did people tender for the contract? What was the price quoted for the contract? Are we saying that if all contractors quoted N100 per kilometre, we have made it N150? No!
When contractors quote, they go through tenders; then we have engineers who will look at them and everybody can go out and cost the prices. In our system, we have what we call prevailing market prices for all products.
Lastly, let me say this; when you are comparing prices, you must do comparative checks and look at how much they are doing the same project in Ogun, Osun, Lagos; in Nigeria as a whole.
When you compare prices, you look at the element in those cost build up. In our own case, do you know that in the cost of our contracts, close to 40 per cent has to do with consultancy, and we have increased the taxes we collected. It’s part of it.
The PDP governorship candidate, Folarin, has promised that if voted in, he would work to actualise the creation of Ibadan State. How would you react to this?
They will still get Ibadan State, even with me. I was one of those that sponsored Ibadan State. I fought for Ibadan and I have done a lot for Ibadan but what we are talking about is Oyo State.
If he wants to be the governor of Ibadan State, let it wait until we have Ibadan State. But for now, we are fighting for Oyo State and we don’t need a parochial governor.
We all want Ibadan State but we are not running for Ibadan State now. We are running for Oyo State and I’m saying we will continue to run for Oyo State.
I can assure you that the way things are going, everybody will vote Buhari in and you could see from the campaign, you could see from the endorsement and the question is: do we want things to continue the way we are?
If we do, vote for Jonathan, and if we want change and improvement, vote for the man (Buhari) who represents change.
I have always said we don’t know whether if we change things would improve, but for things to improve, we must change. So, if we want improvement then we change. If we don’t want improvement, we remain so.
But if the government in power is already improving things… it is like Oyo State; are you happy with the way I improve things? If yes, you continue.
Do you want to go back to the rancorous periods, and violence? Then you go back in Oyo State. Do you want to move forward or go back? I think these are the issues.
Talking about Buhari, some critics of the APC say he is too old to rule Nigeria. Don’t you share their views?
I think my honest position is that it depends on the individuals. I have heard of presidents in America that were older than Buhari and they did very well. And the Supreme Court Judges in America are in their seventies. So, it depends on the i
There are even some young ones, who are not as aggressive, agile and intelligent as older guys. But for me, the issue of age is only part of the considerations but is not the consideration; you have to add everything up.
It is like me now; when I was younger, there were things I could do, but now, there are things I cannot do but I have more wisdom; I’m able to see things from helicopter’s view more than somebody who is not exposed.
So, age could be an advantage in some cases and or disadvantage in some cases.