Honourable (Dr) Ajibayo Adeyeye, Special Adviser on Health to the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, is a former Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly. He currently an aspirant for the House of Representatives for Ondo Federal Constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He speaks on issues of national interest as well as his aspiration, in this interview with BOLA BADMUS. Excerpts:
YOU were in the Lagos State House of Assembly for eight years, but now you are in the executive arm as Special Adviser to the Ondo State governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, how will you describe the transition? Do you miss the Legislature?
First, let me say that I am a natural legislator and having played my role as a legislator in the Lagos State House of Assembly, I understand how independent I can be in my view, opinion and actions and it is very different from being on the executive side where you have to work with the chief executive himself. You have to be able to convince on why you are going in one direction or the other. On the legislative side, you can hold a minority view, like I held a couple of times, even when I was Majority Leader in the Lagos State House of Assembly. You can hold a minority view and you don’t really care what others feel about it, but you cannot hold a minority view in the executive, you just have to run with the Chief Executive as much as possible, I think those are the major differences. But so far, so good, I have had very good relationship with the governor and we have been working very well together, we have been getting along very well.
You must have had some experiences in the Lagos State House of Assembly, how will you describe those experiences now in your new role?
Oh! Very great, as Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly, I sponsored a bill on the State Health Insurance and I took the same bill to Ondo. I introduced the bill in October last year and by February the bill was already law. I brought my experience as a legislator to Ondo State, I was able to convince the lawmakers why that bill should be passed urgently. It is not a small feat to introduce a bill in October and by February, it was already accented to law, but I know exactly how to go about it if I want a bill to become law and that came because of my background as a former legislator of a state House of Assembly. You gain a lot of experience by being in the legislature; you see everything that is going on in government. They bring them to you and if you are now on the executive side, you can preempt how the legislators will reason and advise the executive not to go on the route they intended to go and rather go another route so that they can get things done faster.
You are going back to lawmaking, by aspiring to represent Ondo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, what are the challenges you see in the constituency that you want to attend to?
Ondo Federal Constituency is made up of two local governments, Ondo East and Ondo West. I am an indigene of Ondo kingdom, which comprises the two local governments. If you look at those that have represented us in Ondo kingdom, they tried their best, but they tried their best to the extent of their experience. Mainly, they were actually greenhorns by the time they entered the Federal Legislative House. You can imagine somebody who has never held any government position before, you will now say that person should go and represent a group of people at the Federal House. In the first place, what does he know about lawmaking? How does he relate with his colleagues to get result for his people? Does he really understand what it takes to lobby his colleagues for the benefit of his people? This much has eluded us as a people in Ondo kingdom and I have looked around and there are not a lot people of my age and caliber that have my kind of experience. It will be some kind of disserve to my people if I do not aspire to go to the House at this time. I mean looking at my experience as a former lawmaker in Lagos and having risen to the level of Majority Leader, it might not be a good thing for somebody like me not to aspire to represent my people at the Federal House.
We have a lot of challenges and some of the challenges cannot even be done by the state government. We have serious erosion problem; we have people packed out of a whole street in our kingdom and the state government does not have the capacity to solve that problem. It requires very major dredging and very major work. It can only be undertaken by the Federal Government. It is not like the state government may not be able to do it, but will you spend the entire state resources to solve the problem? You wouldn’t want to do that, but for the Federal Government, such projects are not too large for them to undertake, we only need a good representative to awaken the consciousness of the relevant government agencies to such problems, these are the reasons I think I need to move up to the Federal House to represent my people come 2019.
How will you assess the performance of Ondo State government under Rotimi Akeredolu?
When this government came on board, it was very careful and slow, coming up to speak about the state of Ondo State economy. This was because we were trying to gather the facts, but the moment the facts were available to us, the governor spoke about them when he was inaugurating his cabinet.
We met a debt of about N220billion and seven months of arrears of salaries and pension unpaid. We also met several billions of gratuities of staff that left the service of the state government, but have not been paid. But to the glory of God, the government of Akeredolu does not owe salary and pension. We paid as and when due. Of the arrears, we have paid four months out of the seven months, but we are not owing either salary or pension till date.
Despite all the burdens we met on ground, we have also started life-changing economic turn-around, probably before the end of this year, we will commission mining of bitumen in Ondo State. Since independence, we have always known the state has the second or third largest bitumen deposit. As I speak to you, the equipment for the mining are being manufactured and being shipped into the state for installation. We initiated that project when this administration came in, and we are already getting result.
We have worked on many roads in the state, we initiated processes to build a road from Araromi to southern part of the state, very close to Igbokoda to Ibeju Lekki, shortening the distance from Ondo State to Lagos, just 45minutes to be in Akodo. We have initiated that project with NDDC and we are going to contribute our quota to make sure that the road is completed. Even if these are the only two things we are able to do in four years, it will change the economy of the state, we are working very hard to ensure that we clear all the deficit we met on ground.
We are also operating a lean cabinet, none of the state commissioner was allowed to engage personal assistant outside the state civil service. All of us are working by ourselves and we chose civil servants as personal assistants, that was a deliberate attempt not to increase the state wage bill.
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