Prince Anthony Olatujoye, lawyer and former Director of Legal Services, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is a commentator on national affairs. In this interview with reporters in Lagos on what should be the priorities of the incoming administration in Ondo State, Olatujoye says the new helmsman, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), must deliver on his campaign promises, if he wants to make a difference. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI was there.
Some people have expressed fears that Akeredolu will have some difficulty governing Ondo State, because he lacks political experience…
Notwithstanding this opinion, the incoming governor is a man that has an insight into and an understanding of the problems of Ondo State. He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who has been actively involved in national politics from the inception of the Fourth Republic. He actively participated in a vast array of election cases over the years that have shaped the landscape of Nigeria’s political firmament. Furthermore, he served as Attorney-General of Ondo State between 1997 and 1999 and was also the Chairman of the Legal Aid Council between 2005 and 2006. His tenure as President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in 2008 was one of the most successful and productive. He has a strong grassroots presence in the political architecture of the state, having worked assiduously for his governorship election in 2012 and 2016. Thus, without doubt, he has a strong political structure. I do not believe that a person needs to have previously been elected to a political office to be a good politician. What is important is that a leader must have the ability and sagacity to achieve the tasks and goals of governance he has set for the state. I have no doubt that Aketi, as we call him, is robustly equipped to bring good leadership and succour to our people.
Akeredolu is coming at a time the Ondo State House of Assembly is dominated by the PDP. Will this impede his progress, as a governor elected on the platform of the APC?
A politician must be willing to cooperate with other stakeholders, if he wants to succeed. I believe that his experience as a learned SAN and a former Attorney-General would be instrumental in balancing the various interests, for the overall benefit of the people of Ondo State. His guiding principle should be the protection of the people and tranquillity amongst members of the House of Assembly, irrespective of political leaning. He should be able to manage the various competing interests that may emerge, based on his experience and legal training. The legislators are all indigenes of Ondo State; therefore their priority should be to work in harmony with the new governor to deliver good governance to the people.
What is your advice to the incoming governor?
To succeed, the cardinal thing which the new governor must put in place is a structure for good governance. He should work diligently to ensure that his administration is not only dynamic and robust, but also transparent and people-oriented. He should also try to keep faith with his campaign promises. He should stick to his manifesto, this is because the promises he made during his campaign remain the social contract between him and the people of Ondo state. His first shot should be to pay the backlog of salaries and pension arrears his predecessor would leave behind. Ondo State workers and senior citizens are yearning for Aketi’s understanding of their impecunious situation and the need to remedy this in good time.
As for the restive unemployed youth, the government should create jobs through massive investments in agriculture; the reactivation of moribund industries such as the cocoa, oil palm and cassava industries, as well as the Oluwa Glass Company in Igbokoda. He should also partner with private sector players to bring some other industrial initiatives to the state, as well as improve primary healthcare and sanitise the educational system, with a view to restoring the age-long tradition of educational excellence for which Ondo State is reputed.
Which areas do you think he should accord priority?
The incoming governor has to accord priority to areas of job creation and infrastructural development, especially roads and waterways as quickly as he can find the resources to do so, in order to strengthen and increase wealth creation opportunities in Ondo State. The electric power situation in various areas of the state is near comatose; especially in Ondo South Senatorial District and this situation has a disabling effect on economic development. Therefore, improved power supply should be given prompt attention. Prioritising collaboration with the Federal Government in providing social security for the vulnerable and the School Feeding Programme as is being done in some states should also be given accelerated consideration.
What are some of the pitfalls of his predecessor that he must avoid?
I would say probably the failure of the Mimiko administration can be linked to its inability to effectively and efficiently manage the state’s resources for the purpose of revamping and reviving the state’s comatose industries and factories.
The roads are generally in a sorry pass, the waterways are not properly managed hence their deplorable condition and the attendant non-economic value unnecessarily placed on the farmers and other users. If the entire infrastructure had been effectively managed or fixed, the internally generated revenue (IGR) of Ondo State would have significantly improved and the issue of irregular payments of staff salaries, among others, would have been minimal.
Successive governments have failed to exploit the state’s mineral resources, especially bitumen. Do you see Akeredolu falling into this trap?
Of course, you may be correct that the previous governments have been unable to exploit the mineral resources of the state to its fullest potentials. This may be because the authority to do that falls within the purview of the Federal Government. What the incoming governor has to do, however, is to quickly create platforms conducive for partnership with the Ministry of Mines and Steel, so that all mineral resources, particularly the state’s rich bitumen deposits, can be better exploited to the benefit of the state. Also, foreign investors should be invited and encouraged to participate in the mining of available solid minerals for the economic enrichment of the state.
How would you rate the outgoing Mimiko administration?
Mimiko has not done too badly, given the meagre resources allocated to the state during his tenure. But he could have done better if he had efficiently deployed the funds from the special allocation to oil–producing states (the 13 per cent Derivation Fund) towards the development of the state. Though electricity supply to the state is relatively poor, I would score a little above average in the provision of health services and education. Akeredolu needs to preserve and improve upon these initiatives. He also needs to collaborate with his counterparts in neighbouring states, particularly Lagos, with a view to adapting their successful economic strategies to the unique advancement needs of Ondo State.
What should Akeredolu do to ensure harmony between government and civil servants?
The new governor is expected to maintain a cordial relationship with the organised labour in Ondo State by ensuring that salaries are paid on time and by putting in place an effective/efficient workforce. This can also be achieved through proper training and re-training of civil servants in the values that would ensure a better discharge of their duties and responsibilities. Furthermore, he should find dynamic ways to block leakages in the civil service with a view to enthroning probity and accountability.
What is your view on the present crisis rocking the Ondo State House of Assembly?
That is an internal matter for the PDP, which controls the majority in the House to resolve. But, as a well-meaning indigene of Ondo State, I advise that the issue be quickly addressed, so that the incoming governor does not inherit a crisis-ridden assembly. It does appear however that some PDP members are considering defecting to the APC, to become more relevant under the new dispensation.
What kind of cabinet should Akeredolu put in place to succeed?
The new governor can have a cabinet that is not only inclusive, but moderate; one which is made up of people with proven capacity – with people who are honest and willing to serve the people notwithstanding party affiliation. Ondo State has 18 local government areas, but he does not necessarily need 18 commissioners that will work with him. Rather, he may pick his officers by zoning equal positions to the three senatorial districts. Indeed, he needs tested hands to assist him in making a difference as governor.