Alhaji Jamiu Ekungba, is a chieftain of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress in Ondo State. He’s one of those who believe that the re-election of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu would bring a lot of benefit to the people of the state. In this interview with the Publisher/EIC, BABS-OLURIBIGBE ADEOYE, suave politician and chartered accountant enumerated what the people of Ondo State have gained since the inception of Governor Akeredolu’s administration. Ekungba also spoke on national issues ranging from economy, security and the likely aftermath of APC when Buhari leaves power in 2023. Excerpt.
Assessing Governor Rotimi Akeredolu since 2016 till date
When people ask me to assess Akeredolu, I have problem, because we are from the same town and the same party. When I talk, people will then say is this person going to be objective. Akeredolu has been Governor for 3 years plus, not 4 years, so when you compare the 3 years plus, the only Governor you will have right to compare him with in the life of Ondo state is late Governor Adekunle Ajasin. Agagu would have done well but he did not start performing until after the second term and that’s why he left that colossal amount of over money #40 Billion when he was going, that money he would have used it to do something. So in my own assessment and I’m going to base it on the following two criteria; one, infrastructure and two, building the economy for the future and not for today. If you have a father that believes in consumption of today and not thinking of your future, then you don’t have a father. Likewise, when we have a Governor that thinks of himself and seeking popularity for the next election, such governor is not meant for the people.
Now infrastructure-wise, I challenge anybody to tell me that he (Akeredolu) has not surpassed all other Governors in this aspect. In terms of roads, he has done creditably well, I know of a road between Akure and Idanre, nobody knows about that road until now that Governor Akeredolu constructed it and that makes it to become an alternative road to go to Idanre. There is a street in Owo called Oshatari, it is from Otutu Street, and adjacent to Oshoporu street. I was born in Oshoporu street over sixty years ago, that road until now was not motor-able. These are some of the few things he has done. I don’t always like to talk about Mimiko because he’s my friend but started to disappoint me within his first 90 days in office, when he launched what he called quick win. Mimiko was building Mega Schools but what’s the value of those schools today? It is a waste of scarce resources of the state because utilization of most is less than 30% installed capacity. Conversely, Akeredolu has renovated over six hundreds classrooms all over the 18 local governments to international standard such that people now prefer to enroll their wards in public schools. Before Akeredolu, those classrooms then were not better than environments for rearing of pigs. I have visited some of the schools with toilets facility and their classrooms are better than some private schools’ classrooms.
On economy, maybe because I’m an accountant I want to say this one, you see there could be nutrient on the ground, but if you plant your seed without rain, that seed will not germinate and if it does it will not do well. If we human being do not drink water, eat good food and take oxygen we die. While water and carbon dioxide are means of survival for plants, so also food, water and air are means of survival for human beings. Therefore, the only means of survival of governance is money. You are going to provide services, you don’t use mouth to provide service. Now anyone who tells people to pay tax that person becomes unpopular and you will agree with me from time immemorial, that the only way government raises money to provide services is through taxation, known today as internally generated revenue. This man put his head on it, when he started I said, Aketi you are not going to be unpopular and he replied, “Am I here to be popular?“, I’m thinking about the future of this state, how can we be generating #600 million when our bills every month is over #5 billion. Today, from #600 million, the government has increased the internally generated revenue of Ondo State to over #2 billion per month. So you can never be popular if go into that but that’s the way Tinubu started in Lagos and that’s why Lagos is still what it is today. They are generating over #30 billion naira per month now in Lagos, whereas the federal government allocation is just about #5 billion, so if federal allocation comes or not, Lagos state will survive. Until each federating unit in Nigeria is financially independent of the federal government and able to raise internally generated revenue to pay their salaries, and run governance, they are not in business.
Apart from Baba Ajasin, tell me a Governor who has thought of industrialising the state. Mimiko was talking of Industrial hubs, yet no industry was attracted to Ondo state and we understood that Dangote first choice of petroleum plant was Ondo state. I don’t want to go to politics of how we lost it, Lagos State with a forward looking Governor, Precisely Governor Fashola, grab it from us. Today under Akeredolu, we have more than four running industries in Ondo state.
Lastly every government came and pay leap service to the issue of port in Ondo state. The Lagosians will say “ti oju o ba ti igbeti, oju o le ti Eko”. What is igbeti? The port of course. The economy nerve centre of Lagos is the Apapa Port. It’s the port that is bringing everybody to Lagos and that’s why the economy is expanding. While the port in Lagos has to be dredged every year to clear sand, there is a natural port somewhere in Ondo State, Nigeria, Olokola, that’s the deepest shore in all the coastal lands of Ondo state, yet all governments before Akeredolu has not taken it seriously. For that reason alone, I will prostrate for anybody in Ondo State to allow this man to continue. Now there is congestion in Lagos Port which is affecting all the social economic life of the state and they are finding it difficult to handle and they need assistance and that assistance can only be provided by an alternative Port in Olokola. Apart from Casablanca and Cape town, no port in West Africa can compete with Olokola because of its depth and the width. It is natural and this man is pursuing it, so whatever this man has done to anybody, I beg the people of Ondo state and indeed Nigeria, to allow him to serve another four years, so that he can finish this port for us.
Some people would ask what have you gained from this man and I tell them I have gained a lot, and that is his performance. Anybody looking at this from the angle of personality is not interested in the future of Ondo state. But as for me, this man will develop port for us, he will continue this industralisation and when he does that, the youth of Ondo state will get job, the economy will grow and even road-side sellers will sell more. More importantly, a port in Ondo state will boost the economy of Nigeria. Why? Ondo state is more or less like central between Lagos and Port-Harcourt, it’s more like a central to Abuja and the north and to the east. So between now and the time of governorship election, what I want to be doing is to go around and start begging people that lets forget about personality now but let’s think about Ondo state and its future and the future of Ondo state lies in actualising this port at Olokola.
Fear over the upcoming governorship election in Ondo State
I don’t have any fear. I was taught by my father when I was just 3 years old, he said “look at the future with determination, and don’t assume anything negative for the future, be positive about the future and work towards it”. Therefore, it’s not the case of been fearful of anything but for me to have the resources and ability to work towards 10-10-2020, so that Ondo state people will not make mistake. This is not about Aketi or anybody. Like I tell people, Eyitayo is our friend and brother, Agboola is our friend and brother, they are capable to be Governor but they should be patient and wait for the next opportunity. In September last year, someone asked my opinion about Akeredolu and I said we can see what he’s doing, a known enemy is better than any unknown friend, so all these other people that are promising us heaven and earth, they will just come and start something else, we know the weakness of Akeredolu and his strength, it is better we manage these than acquiring new “unknown friends”.
Performance of APC led government at the centre
The APC led administration at the centre is doing well and the parameter is that we are building a sustainable economy. For me, we have sixteen years of democracy before Buhari came to power and when he came, he had a challenge of health, fortunately God loved Nigeria, brought his health back and he began to work. Someone said he promised to do this and that, that he promised to put electricity in everybody’s home within a year. I said look, it took him one year to force Siemens to do what they need to do, because the previous administration hoodwinked Nigerians with the way they disengaged the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, (PHCN). It was dismantled, and were given to some powerful people, you cannot discipline them, and you think that is right? And everybody now criticise the Federal Government for not been able to provide light. It was reported recently that 8,000 Mega watts were rejected by DISCO, so how many Mega watts were generated during the Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan governments, just 4,000 megawatts. That is what they handed over to this government and Buhari government now is generating more that what DISCO can distribute and DISCO rejected 8000 megawatts recently out of what is generated, so how would light get to you when DISCO is reject the distribution of power that is generated. If Nigerians say that government should sack DISCO and pay them 14 trillion naira, The Government will surely do but mind you that, this amount is 3years budget for Nigeria.
Corruption has swept into Nigerians system, many Nigerians have seen corruption as a way of life and that’s why anybody who is fighting corruption should expect it to fight back and that’s exactly what is happening now.
For example, the acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu is presently under probe. Has there been a government that is courageous enough to probe a man they put in charge of fighting corruption? No, this is the only government that can do it.
In the recent pass, when our cultural way of living together was the order of the day, in your street, you know virtually everybody living there. Suddenly, during the military era, a new way of life that encourages me and my family alone was entrenched. It was this period rather during the recent COVID 19 that Social Distancing started in Nigeria. That was when the whole Social Security broke down totally.
All crimes originate in our community and are executed there. Let us look at some instances. Why is kidnapping rampant in Nigeria? Because it is not easy for armed robbery again in Nigeria. During Jonathan’s administration, the then Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lamido Sanusi introduced the cashless policy, so people don’t carry cash any longer, hence kidnapping as against armed robbery became the order of the day. But these Kidnappers live in our communities, operate within our communities; they will pass through communities while carrying their victims.
Unfortunately, whenever we are talking about crime, you journalists only talk about kidnapping, but you don’t talk about rape. Is that not a crime too? Infact this vice has degenerated to the lowest level in our community. The very small few that a currently being exposed is because of the new community awareness.
Let us talk about the Bigger brother of MEGA STEALING by political big wigs and technocrats. In Yoruba land it said that if your son is not a dry cleaner and is bringing clothes home, you should know something is happening!!! But today, we celebrate those with sudden wealth that can never be proved in all our communities!!!
The only way for Nigerians to stem this Security tide is to go back to our cultural way of living together, you are next to me even if you have a wall, let’s start talking to ourselves, to know the people living in my house and I know those in your compound too. If I’m not sleeping around 1am and see people through my veranda, passing on my street, I should be able to identify whosoever they are. The problem we have in Nigeria is not majorly about the federal government, the state government or local government but about the community, your street, my street. So what is governance? They call it democracy, the government of the people, by the people and for the people, so if we leave governance to Aketi alone in Ondo state, then it’s no more democracy. In summary we can get rid of crime in Nigeria when we all know that it is our responsibility to fight crime at the community level because that’s where it originated from. Until we see crime in Nigeria as a responsibility of a democratic government, which is a government of the people, by the people and for the people, which mean fighting crime is going to be because of the people, and be fought by the people, and be fought for the people, the problem remains. But the question is, has government fared well? I will say yes, because they review their strategies all along and each time a strategy fails, they look for another means.
Likely extinction of APC after Buhari leaves office
No I don’t share that view. The reason is that Buhari would not have wanted Adams Oshiomhole to be removed as the party chairman, but some people wanted that, and as a democratic leader, he agreed with them. Buhari is the leader of the party, he’s the arrowhead and he’s there by the grace of God and the party, the party loved him and he’s doing well for the party, so when his term ends, he will still remain one of the leaders, then another person will be nominated to contest for the presidential election. So the temporary pain of the restructuring which APC is doing, if Nigerians don’t want it, so be it. Remember thirty-six years ago, Buhari was in government and we were deceived, then this man (Buhari) was doing what he thought was good for Nigerians, in terms of building a strong economy but we were deceived. His then military government was overthrown and they brought us a smiling Government that assisted to institutionalise Chop I Chop Government. They also introduced Structural Adjustment Programme, which was like a peel of banana. We have since been on this peel of banana on a sloppy, and slipy ground since then. So if Nigerians want that kind of life again, so be it. In the interest of our children, I will advise and warn Nigerians to be careful of people sweet-talking them because of their selfish interest in order to find their way into government.
Uproar over removal of subsidy on PMS
Buhari felt this is the right time to remove it and found courage to do just that. I commend his courage and I want to advise him not to back out. When the government stopped the importation of rice, we shouted. People are eating less imported and more locally produced rice in Nigeria now, they eat more yam and garri and are we dying because of that? Subsidy has been removed from diesel, which is being used for economic purposes, since the last six years, whereas 60% of petroleum consumption in Nigeria are been used for non productive things. Diesel is used for production in Nigeria, people also using diesel to run generators in their homes, farm tractors, and plants used for production also use diesel, yet government is not subsidising it. Kerosene which is been used by our mothers for cooking, is not subsidised, and It is this kerosene derivatives that is been used to fly aeroplane, so why can’t we remove that of petroleum. I encourage Buhari to remain courageous to the end. This is the time to do it (removal of subsidy), we rather do it now or we will never be able to do it. Check the price of our litre of PMS with that of Saudi Arabia, are we producing more than them? So why must our petrol price per litre be cheaper than that of Saudi Arabia.