The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State in the 2015 general election, Mr Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (GNI), during a visit to the Tribune House, spoke on his ambition ahead of the 2019 general election, what he would do for the people of Ogun State as governor, his plans for Ogun the state of affairs in the PDP, among other issues. MOSES ALAO brings excerpts:
BY 2019, it will be the third consecutive time that you will be contesting to become governor of Ogun State; what is it that you are after, that has made you to continue to contest?
When I started in 2010 ahead of the 2011 elections, there were basic things that I intended to achieve and it was basically the desire to contribute my quota to the development of the state and to make life more abundant for Ogun State people. Yes, I have contested twice and I am planning to do it again and the major reason is because, those factors that I considered back then are still there and God has still continued to give me the strength and the wherewithal to seek the office so that I could make life better for the people. If anything, the reasons for my contesting have probably even increased now, given the general situation that the state is in now.
I feel that if the rationale is still the same, to serve the people and I still have the strength and God still gives me all that is necessary to become governor, there is no reason why I should not contest. So, the reason for my contesting again and again is because the rationale for coming out in the first place is still there and I still believe that I can do better in governing the people of Ogun State and contribute my quota to make our state better and make the people of the state to benefit from governance. What I seek is governance that will be pro-people; one that will truthfully look at the yearning of the people and make the next generation better for our people.
Ogun State politics, like Nigeria’s, is often not about your intelligence, what you want to do or the people you are connected with. Looking at the dynamics of politics in that state, the power structures and where you are coming from, what bridges are you building to ensure that the right structures are behind you in order to win this time?
I think the major bridge is that of the people. And given the experience, the length of time I have been around in the state and all I have been doing—I have been in Ogun State since 2004 and I have not left since then—I believe that we are building all the needed bridges. In 2015, I did a lot of that and now, it is even more. We have been with the people all this while, throughout the nooks and crannies of the state, we have kept in contact with the people. So, without being immodest, I will say that I have a clear edge and advantage in this area.
Talking about power blocs, of course the experience I have had in the past must tell me that there are some power blocs that I need to connect with and without mentioning names or disclosing the identities of some individuals, I can tell you that all of those are being taken care of. It is also important to add that it is about keeping a balance and not just about trying to satisfy some power blocs. One is required to be able to intelligently balance things among these blocs and the people. So, I am looking at the issue of building bridges from three angles; the first is God, the second are the people and the third are the power blocs or let me say major political leaders. We have done an analysis of what happened in 2011 and 2015 and what makes a man is being able to look at things and charting a fresh course, which is what we have been able to do.
There are insinuations on the social media that you now have the support of the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and that you are now his anointed candidate. Is that one of the bridges you have built?
Well, I am a PDP member and Governor Amosun is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), so there is nothing between the two of us beyond being from the state and operating in the political space. Of course, when you operate in a political environment, there are bounds to be talks, which may or may not yield anything. There can be a form of cooperation or collaboration too. But in this particular case, there is nothing like that. I am happy you said insinuations and that it is in the social media. Most of those things you read on social media are just rumours; some people take things beyond what is really happening. The fact is that I am a member of the PDP and I remain in the PDP and I am not sure Governor Amosun is willing to leave the APC now as well. So, in terms of talking with the governor on 2019 or having his support, there is nothing like that. All that is being reported is mere rumour.
The PDP appears to be a very weak structure because of the crisis it has faced in recent times. Compared to the past when the structure was stronger and you had a brighter chance but still lost the election, what do you think are your chances now?
Thank God, you said the PDP was stronger in 2011 but a supposedly weaker Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) defeated the party in the election. So, that is to tell you that what determines the winner of an election actually goes beyond people’s perception of the strength of his platform. In this particular case of 2019, PDP has its challenges but PDP is stronger today than it was yesterday. I believe it will be stronger tomorrow than it is today. Few weeks ago, there were two PDP national chairmen in Nigeria. Today, we now have one chairman, as the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, has put to rest the crisis in that regard. Now, the crises in the states are being taken care of. That is why I said we expect a stronger PDP. The APC held its state congress nationwide recently and I read in the media that a group in Ogun State questioned the result of that congress. So, that is to tell you that a lot is happening and a lot will still happen as we go into the election.
I am convinced that the PDP is on the right path and my chances are bright ahead of 2019. A lot is still going to happen in the parties, so I will just say let the politicians keep playing their game and we should wish that the best people will have their ways. In the case of Ogun State, we believe that we are the best. How it will be done, the strength of the platform and how we will strengthen the platform to win the election are things we will keep to our chests. But there is no cause for alarm.
But there is a deep schism in the Ogun State PDP, with Senator Buruji Kashamu on one side and Chief Gbenga Daniel and Honourable Adebutu on the other. With these two groups battling for the soul of the party, there is the belief that the tussle will signal the end of the PDP in the state. Do you see that crisis coming to an end?
I would not want us to start projecting or supporting theories based on feelings. The issue involves names and characters that I don’t comment on in public. But as I said earlier, the PDP that we have today is better than the one we had four weeks ago. Thank God we now have a national office that is not controverted. The Supreme Court has given the national office an enormous power and I am hoping and believing that the officers will use those powers to promote, project and make the PDP better in the 36 states including Ogun State. So, I don’t want to be part of the school of thought that will say because of this or that, the PDP will end in Ogun. Politics is about interests; there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. I want to believe that will play out here and I want us to give the National Caretaker Committee the chance to do its work. They have begun the reconciliation process. I read about efforts already made in Oyo, Osun and one other state.
When will it be the turn of Ogun State?
They are doing it one by one. I am sure it will be Ogun State’s turn very soon. I am not one of those who will say something will signal the end of PDP. Many people thought the crisis at the national level would destroy the PDP; that has not happened. I believe there will be some sort of solutions in Ogun State too.
Do you have a godfather in Ogun State?
I have fathers and leaders. I have elders and mentors and I have the people of the state as my overall bosses.
There are claims that Ogun State now has a debt running into over N273 billion. Given your experience, how do you see such debt profile and still want to be governor?
In the first instance, there has not been an official debt figure; we are trying our best to lay our hands on it. But since you have given me a figure of N273 billion, let me hold on to that for the purpose of this interview. What I normally say is that no matter how bad a situation is, no matter how bad the figure of Ogun State’s debt is, one person must take over from Governor Amosun on May 29, 2019. So, what we should be looking for is that person that will take over and bring the best out of what may be a bad situation? That there is bad situation on the ground does not mean we should allow it to go on or that people who can achieve the best out of the situation should fold their arms. Based on what I have done in the past, aside my experience in politics, I also have a background in financial management and I believe that in all of these things, the important thing is to look at things and make the best out of the situation.
When you contested in 2015, you promised to create 3,000 jobs within a year. It is commonplace for politicians to make promises but when they get there, they do a different thing. So how realistic is that promise? Secondly, you were the chairman of the Free Trade Zones Committee set up by former Governor Gbenga Daniel when he was still in office as Ogun State governor. You were equally in the state Economic Advisory Committee. Looking at the last two years, do you think the dreams you had about the Free Trade Zones have been achieved?
My promise to provide 3,000 jobs in the first one year was tied to what we called the four pillars of our manifesto. In each of the pillars, we looked at how we are able to create jobs and enabling environments for jobs. The first pillar was economic expansion. We said that we would expand the economy of the state, particularly around the border towns of the state.
We also mentioned the issue of agriculture. For instance, you talked about what we did in the Free Trade Zones; in the Free Trade Zones alone, about 3,000 jobs have been created. That was just one initiative out of many that were created at that time. What we are going to do is just to revisit some of those initiatives and take them to fruition. Around that time that we were leaving office, there was an industrial park on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway; there was the Olokola Free Trade Zone and so on. The idea will be to pursue those initiatives vigorously while we also look at those things that can take care of small and medium scale enterprises, because that is where we have a bulk of our people. We will provide the right environment and the right initiatives for them. These are some of the things we are looking at and they are things we still intend to do when we get there.
As you said, I was the chairman of the implementation committee on the Free Trade Zone. The last time I was there was during the last days of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, when he visited the state. Quite honestly, it was a thing of joy that those things that we started are still flourishing. There are quite a number of companies there and they have employed our people. But I am aware from what I have been hearing and my interaction the last time I was that these industries need more encouragement from the state government or perhaps the Federal Government in order for them to be able to expand their facilities. The fact that we are still talking about Free Trade Zones in the country and there are attempts to establish more around the country means that it was a good initiative and if can have only one in Ogun State and probably the only one in the South-West, then it is probably something that is worth pursuing.
You talked about economic expansion along the border towns. Tongeji Island is in the zone where you are from, Yewa and most governments at the state and federal levels have always pledged to explore crude oil in that island but no government has done anything tangible on it. If you become governor, do you have a plan for Tongeji Island?
Our idea of economic expansion actually means looking at all the opportunities available to us and sincerely, aggressively pursuing them. What you said about Tongeji is true but I have to tell you that major, life-changing economic programme can hardly be started and completed by one administration. What is required is continuity and sincerity by successive governments, so that they can all know that there are opportunities to be explored irrespective of where it is located. Tongeji Island is one of such opportunities, which I expect should have been a continuous project. It is not just Tongeji Island. Even in Ogun Waterside part of the state, the deepest side of the Atlantic Ocean is in Ogun State; that means you don’t need to dredge to have a good seaport. These are the kinds of opportunities that we need to conscientiously look at and look after and make sure they come to fruition. And as I said, they don’t necessarily have to start and finish in one year, because these are not the kinds of things that government will start putting money into. You look for investors and the right people who can drive them. But the important thing is that we must look into them and get things right. That is how we can truly provide for the people coming behind us.
You are from Yewaland, which has not produced the governor of Ogun State ever since it was created. The thinking is that the difficulty of the zone to present a common front has always been the reason for this. Recently, former Governor Daniel met with some aspirants from your zone with a view to taking a common position. What was the outcome of the meeting? In addition, there have been talks about zoning the governorship post, with people divided along two lines of those who think the zoning should be across senatorial district lines, Ogun Central, Ogun East and Ogun West while others insist that it should be along the lines of the two provinces of Egba/Egbado and Ijebu/Remo, what do you see to the argument about zoning and the clamour that Yewa should produce the next governor?
In the first instance, the meeting held at Governor Daniel’s house, which was reported, was not a meeting to agree on a common position for Yewaland. I didn’t attend the meeting; I sent in an apology. I also know that Senator Solomon Adeola didn’t attend the meeting. Honourable Ladi Adebutu was at the meeting; he is also a governorship aspirant and he is not from Yewa, so the meeting could not have been said to be a meeting of aspirants from Yewaland.
Talking about zoning and the divisions whether along senatorial districts or provinces, let me say up front that my aspiration to be governor is not predicated on where I come from; it is predicated on my abilities, capabilities and what I want to do for Ogun State. Where I come from can only be an advantage, because it is an area that has truly not produced a governor before and I think for the sake of equity, fairness and justice, it should be considered. But I am not one of those that will say some people should not aspire because of where they have come from. I am aspiring to be governor because of Ogun State. As a man born and bred in the state, I spent the first 16 years of my life in my village and in the last 14 years or thereabout, I have been in the state, first as the pioneer Managing Director of the Ogun State Investment Company and later in other capacities. I have been part of the state. I have been to the nooks and crannies of the state; there is nowhere I don’t have friends. So I know where the shoe pinches and that is why I want to govern the state. I have breathed poverty. I experienced firsthand what our people are going through and right from my university days, I have been at the forefront of efforts to make life better for the people. So, my aspiration is based on my credential and as a true born citizen of Ogun State.