Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr Kayode Akinmade, speaks on issues of governance, including the state of infrastructure in the state, the governor’s 3i initiative, among other issues. Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, presents the excerpts:
How would you describe the approach of Governor Olusegun Mimiko to governance in Ondo State in his second coming?
His approach is pragmatic and scientific. He is methodological in his handling of governance and implementation of government policies. That is why he has been able to carry everybody in the state along and we can all see the result. The people have been very generous with their support for the Mimiko government because they can understand the direction of the government. They share the vision and also believe in the personality of the man Olusegun Mimiko as a credible and sincere person.
He had been with them for a while before he became governor; they knew his pedigree and that was the reason they supported him to reclaim his mandate when he was robbed of it initially. Only a trusted leader could get the kind of support he also got to return to office for second term. Don’t forget, most people believe it was impossible for any governor to get a second term mandate in Ondo. But the people made it happen because of the trust and belief they have in him.
What has the Mimiko administration done to improve the agricultural sector?
When Governor Mimiko assumed office, he discovered that the agricultural sector was not what it ought to be and he set out immediately to implement the progamme he had to revolutionise the sector. So, in no time, he was able to make appreciable impact in the sector.
Initial 18 Mobile Farm Service Centres were provided across the state to attend to the immediate needs of established farmers in the state.Soon after, the government introduced a farm produce buy-back programme, through which N25million was provided for the buy-back of excess produce from farmers.The government procured 12 tractors with disc plough, burrow, ridger and tipping trailer and established agricultural villages to encourage fresh graduates to go into farming. The Agricultural Village initiative gave birth to the Agricultural Village in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area in December 2010, being one of the three integrated villages established in the state for crop farming, animal husbandry, mushroom farming and oil palm revolution.
In March, 2011, the Ore Caring Heart Agricultural Village took off with 1,500 graduate resident farmers. Other areas of intervention by the government in the agricultural sector include the disbursement of N32.8million loan to farmers across six local government areas, the establishment of Farmers Field School and training of 720 farmers, production of fingerlings, fish seed production and pond construction for 200 fish farmers, distribution of one million cocoa seedlings, 90,244 oil palm and 5,000 coconut seedlings to farmers, procurement of N3 million veterinary drugs and the payment of N60 million counterpart fund. Other areas include the building of Fadama Headquarters Office in Akure, the disbursement of N93.7million grant to Fadama farmers in 2010, and additional N42.6million grant.
The government also introduced Inputs Revolving Fund of N241 million to provide an unhindered fund flow for the purchase of inputs as soon as they reach reorder level. Government also increased the level of subsidy on farm inputs including fertilizer from 25 per cent to 30 per cent and 50 per cent on cutlasses and files which are considered as universal inputs, even as speed boats were procured for Ilaje and Ese-Odo riverine areas for community development .
The governor believes so much in curbing unemployment through agriculture and, because of this, the government has embarked on what has been termed cocoa revolution in the state.
Education is also key to the people of the state. We have seen the administration introduce the mega primary schools. What other efforts have been made on the development of the sector?
No doubt, the efforts of Mr Governor have yielded bountifully to the extent that the state’s laudable programmes have become a benchmark for Africa.The governor accorded the sector priority in his 12-point programme tagged ‘Caring Heart’. The aim was to reposition education and restore its lost glory.
This led to investing in physical infrastructure in schools all over the state with the realisation that the environment in which learning takes place has an overwhelming effect on the learning process. The structures in public primary and secondary schools inherited by the administration were nothing to write home about and could not guarantee the desired standard of education as they were in state of total disrepair. The walls in several schools had given way while many of the schools had had their roofs blown off.
Outstanding pension and gratuities of over 1,551 retired primary school teachers and the local government staff were paid while Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko was repositioned with improved funding.
Apart from the approval of 27.5 per cent Teachers Salary Scale (TSS), government has renovated and reconstructed over 100 dilapidated schools and N145 million paid for the registration of candidates for NECO/WAEC examinations in 2008/2009 alone.
For the quality of education in the state to be guaranteed, government established the Quality Assurance Agency. N330 million was spent on scholarship and bursary for 2008/2009 academic session while N77.03 million was set aside as running grants to junior and secondary schools. It is also important to mention that N23million was spent to sponsor 11 students of Ondo State origin on Seafarer Course B.Sc (Marine Engineering) in India.
The state took the first position at the International Olympic Literature and Essay competition held in Lagos and Mr Governor rewarded 18 outstanding teachers with N100, 000 each for their outstanding performance during the 2009 World Teachers’ Day.
Whereas four special schools in the state got N132 million for the purchase of instructional materials, feeding and maintenance, the state also sponsored a contingent to the Annual National Reading Competition which came first as the representative of the South- west Zone. Ondo SUBEB won the 2009 South-West UBEC good performance with a star prize of N100, 000, 000
The SUBEB also represented Nigeria and came first at the Junior Engineering and Technician Scientists (JETS) Exposcience International Competition held in Paraguay in 2009. All these feats were recorded at the inception of this administration, and we are all witnesses to how far the state has moved on since then. That is why every state in the country and beyond is now coming to understudy what we are doing.
We have also noticed the government’s efforts in the area of community development, how are you harnessing the gains so far recorded?
The 3is initiative of Mr Governor is one policy of government which derives from an enduring pact with the people. When Mr Governor assumed office, he perceived a disconnect between government and the people. The 3Is programme is conceptualised to bridge this disconnect so that government can crystallise the environment that engenders development.
The Labour Party, which he represents, is a social democratic platform. In the ideological spectrum, it belongs to the left. We believe that government has a responsibility to the people. We believe that government has to make the private sector thrive so that profit can motivate the people to grow the economy. We also believe that government has the responsibility to ensure that equitable opportunity is given to people in the society in a manner that they are carried along in the development process.
This is the first administration in Ondo State that asks the people what they want government to do for them and goes ahead to do same. Using the philosophy of the 3Is, the Ministry of Community Development and Cooperative Services ensures that every nook and cranny of the state feels the impact of government through the execution of self-selected projects.
It is no wonder then that the people have come to trust this government. They know that when Mr Governor says government will do something, that thing will be done. Since the projects executed are dictated by the people themselves, within the overall design of the state government to make the state a model for Africa, the disconnect between government and the people is eliminated, while cases of sabotage arising from dissatisfaction with executed projects are largely non-existent.
The 3Is initiative is unique in a number of ways. Since it is based on the concept of multiple stakeholder partnerships, its opportunities for collaboration include capacity building workshops for government officials and community representatives on community development tools and techniques and skills acquisition centres; baseline and needs assessment in over 450 communities by community change agents ; the Adopt-a-Community project, where companies, as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR), philanthropists, non-governmental organisations and international donor agencies are invited to focus on one community of their own choice in the state to ensure development in all sectors.
As the Commissioner for Information, do you think the Mimiko administration could be rated high in terms of information management and media relations?
It is not in our character to blow our own trumpet. We believe that the good works of Mr Governor eloquently speak for the administration, and the people are in the position to assess the government based on the transformation that has happened in virtually all sectors of Ondo State over the past five years that inevitably earned Dr Mimiko the sobriquet ‘ A Caring Heart’ Governor. Nevertheless, I and my team are doing well in terms of our relationship with the media. I am, in fact, proud to say that our input, output and outcome on media delivery is robust though there is still room for improvement, but by and large we are determined never again to wink in the dark so every activity of the state must be well projected.
The business of image making becomes easier with the performance of one’s client. How true is this postulation considering your position as the Ondo State image maker?
We have a good brand to market. Governor Mimiko is a brand that is sellable following his unmatched achievements in the state.We have a good brand to sell. A brand that is acceptable. He has integrity and character and that makes the job easier. When you are managing a performer in government, a disciplined administrator whose words could be trusted and a newsmaker then the job is as good as done and Mr Governor combines all these qualities and he is a journalist’s delight. The fact that he is an achiever makes our job as government image maker easier.
It has been praises all the way for the government over its urban renewal drive, what exactly has the government done in this area
Over the past five years in Ondo State, many old things have passed away and all have become new. Am talking about physical changes people could identify with. For instance, the traditional markets that exposed traders and their customer to inclement weather in various parts of the state have been replaced with the Caring Heart Neighborhood Markets.